Okay. I am standing here, ready to complete the sentence; ” More Enjoyable…” than mine!
It all started with an irresistible temptation for Japan (Yeah… I am dealing with the Travel Bug!). I was ready to let myself fall for the Japanese and their culture… And I loved Japan. But, every good story comes with a bunch of funny anecdotes, right? My trip was filled with misadventures. So, please, learn from my mistakes. And make the most of your trip.
- Check the Weather
Easy basic stuff, I know. I give you the right to tell me that I am an idiot (it’s fine, I am broken). For my defense, I had checked (quickly) the temperature of the three major cities of my itinerary. So here’s what happened; being in Australia, where it’s hot (please read: too hot), my body was used to high temperatures. A simple 15 degree should have been manageable for a Canadian like me. But, I guess I was wrong. I think Australia made me a wimp. I was literally freezing cold every day. (And I had only one jumper with me.) Result: it looks like I have the same clothes on every picture. But this is nothing, really. This is the simple beginning of an epic story.
- Check your Map
An address should be enough, right? So… which part of the address should be okay? If I am a fan of Google Maps, I couldn’t trust it in Japan. You can’t count on it to walk to your destination (it looks like this: cross the street, cross the street, turn left) and there is no street name on the indications. So every time I thought I would be fine to reach my destination, I got lost somehow. Walking 4 km in the wrong way was not that fun. Then, every day I looked at Google Maps, preparing the next day. I’d love to tell you that it actually worked. But, I managed to get lost. And get lost again. If you don’t believe me, picture this:
As I was trying to understand the two simple lines on my map, I thought it would be easier to get a taxi. I left the map in my purse and I showed the address to the taxi driver, it didn’t exist.
- Ask for directions, even If you have a Map
So you have prepared your itinerary with Google Maps to get to your destination by public transportation, now what? You might have to confirm that you have the right directions with the employees at the ticket office. You could find out that there are short-cuts and probably some better ways to get there cheaper. They will be more than happy to draw you a map and it will be more accurate, trust me.
- Do not rush your trip
My trip to Japan was limited to eight days. Being excessive, I wanted to see as many places as possible. My itinerary was: Osaka, Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka. If we add to these eight days, the factor ” being lost” you might feel that you don’t have enough time to enjoy everything. Worse still, you might be exhausted and feeling like having an afternoon nap could be a great idea. Slow travel is the best way. If it’s not possible, try to enjoy every moment and don’t rush. I compromised, I booked two night buses. But, still… it was too much.
- Book at least two days for Mount Fuji
It was my first idea, and I changed the plan to appreciate Halloween in Tokyo. This change cost me money, time and satisfaction as I didn’t see Mount Fuji (the mountain was kidnapped by the clouds on a beautiful afternoon). Apparently, the best time to see it would be in the morning and late afternoon. See my disappointed face in this video summarizing my trip to Japan.
- Buy a day pass
I was surprised to realize that in Japan, the main attractions, icons, temples are scattered all over the city. It will be difficult to simply go for a walk to the “city center”. The best option will be to buy a day pass according to your preferences (bus, subway, train). Better for your wallet and… much easier. There is no way you would want to walk all over the city searching for these famous Japanese things. Please, be more clever than me.
- Lock your life
The lockers are a must if you do not stay in one place during your trip. What could be more painful than lugging your backpack all over Japan (and risk taking the wrong way at some point)? Inexpensive (between 300 and 500 yen) and valid for 24 hours, lockers turned me in a patient and happier person.
- Information center; your best friend
In Japan, information centers have become my best friend. Relief, sudden excitement, joy and tears; “Finally… there is a tourist information center!” Meeting the lovely Japanese kindness has been one of my favorite things during my trip. Don’t be shy… Every time I found an Information center along the way, I discovered the best feeling ever.
- Spy before ordering
Eating in Japan can become a great cultural experience. Most of the time, I chose the Japanese restaurants where there were no tourists. Result; no English menu and… a guess. To avoid eating something you might regret, it is easier to look around and order what appeals you on nearby tables. Also, if you don’t feel like trying the unknown, some restaurants (in touristy areas) can offer English menus. They also showcase their menu by displaying some cute fake plates of food.
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