First off, I would like to thank those of you who sent your kind words on yesterday’s post. You don’t know how much it meant to me that I got so much blog love. It’s been a tough week, and knowing that your prayers and thoughts are with my friends makes my day. Thank you!
And now, back to regularly scheduled blogging. Today is the second installment of Travel Tuesday Takeover: Japan Edition. For a little background info, my friend Rebekah recently went on an exciting trip to Japan, and for the next few weeks she will be acting as guest blogger on Travel Tuesdays. Today’s post is Part 1, but if you need to catch up, check out her Prelude post. If you have any questions or comments for Rebekah, leave a comment (as always). Enjoy!
Adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun: Pre-Trip Tips & Mid-Air Musings
Once we decided on the cities we absolutely had to visit (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka), and knocked out other destinations we simply couldn’t get to in 10 days on the ground, I began furiously scouring the interwebs and pestering friends, colleagues, and acquaintances for anything they might know about Japan.
I researched. Everything. For months. I ferreted out blogs, twitter feeds, YouTube videos, articles, ex-pat networks, forums, instagram accounts, and myriad websites devoted entirely to traveling in Japan. I read up on language, religion, local customs, cultural norms, public transportation, bars, weather, and all the things I could inadvertently do that would offend Japanese people everywhere (pointing!). I dutifully learned my useful Japanese phrases—please and thank you (all 18 ways), yes and no, hello (for each time of the day), excuse me, and of course the potentially pejorative word for “foreigner” which my boyfriend and I would, in perfect American fashion, pronounce incorrectly for 2/3 of the trip.
We created a shared Google Doc that listed out our itinerary day by day. Under each city on our tour, we inventoried the things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go, local food we wanted to eat, neighborhoods to visit, stores, clubs, attractions, and general information useful for each stop. It was our travel-planning bible. I recommend this approach to anyone organizing a big trip.
Packing. The bane of my existence. After being in a long-distance relationship and traveling to New York City more weekends than I can remember, packing for anything gives me an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. It doesn’t help that I am a horrifically appalling short-term packer. If, for example, I am traveling home for a weekend (and by “weekend” I mean approximately 40 hours), I typically pack all of the tops that I own (or that are clean at the time), 4 pairs of flats, 2 pairs of boots, a pair of heels for good measure, many pairs of jeans, my curlers, a cocktail dress, a bathing suit, and 17 pairs of underwear. I usually forget to bring something I can sleep in. And I never bring my phone charger.
However, in an odd twist of fate, I happen to be an excellent international packer—a dichotomy I’ve chosen to accept, not question.
If you’re reading for travel tips, I’ve got a gem. Given to me by a good friend months earlier for a business trip to Chicago, the Perfectly Packed Checklist is an adorable and comprehensive list of everything one could possibly need for any kind of trip. It made packing for Japan a snap.
Once that bridge was crossed, it was on to keeping ourselves busy on the 14 or so hour flight to Tokyo after a puddle jump to NYC. All electronics were fully charged: two MacBook Airs, two iPhones, one iPad, and one iPod. (Apple fanboys, clearly.) We brought books, coloring books, snacks, cameras, and one Hello Kitty sleeping mask.
I stayed firmly rooted in denial for a good amount of time leading up to the flight and even a few hours into it (especially after two glasses of white wine and a beer with “dinner”). We thought a direct flight was going to be awesome. We were wrong. After a grueling number of hours using only a marginal percentage of our in-flight distractions and many failed attempts at awkwardly sleeping, I longed for terra firma. No, I do not want chicken and rice or pizza. I would prefer to just get off the plane. Lesson learned.
We did in fact land safe, sound, and exhausted at Narita International Airport. After 19 total hours of travel from the east coast of the US to the east coast of Japan, after finally making it to our hotel a world away, and on night one of our Grand Japanese Adventure in the great metropolis of Tokyo, we promptly… fell asleep.
We fell asleep at 6pm because we couldn’t physically be awake any longer and eventually roused at 11:30, still exceedingly groggy and feeling even more fragmented. Then, Travel Guilt set in (more on that later). “We have to get up!” I moan-yawned to my boyfriend, our punch list in the back of my mind. “It’s our first night in Tokyo, we have to get out and see the neon!” Begrudgingly, we got up, fumbled through our suitcases for clean clothes and tumbled out onto the streets of the Chiyoda ward a little after midnight. We managed to find a few open bars and Adventure Japan began in earnest.
Tune in next week to see the highlights of Tokyo tourist life, complete with high quality iPhone photos! (No really, not once did I take out my digital camera. Streamline your packing tip #248!)