Konnichi wa! For the past six months, I have been thinking about my upcoming trip to Japan. And I have been shopping, so this post is as much about stuff as sights. I leave in three days and I am ready!
One of the first things I wanted to do was learn a few words of Japanese, so I could say hello and thank you. Before we went to Cuba last spring, I studied Spanish and discovered that having a teeny tiny grasp of the language was really helpful! But Japanese is a different fish entirely. After months faithfully studying via the Duolingo app, I could recognize the sounds of some of the Hiragana characters, but I was hopeless on more than the simplest of words. When the app required me to download the Japanese keyboard, I gave up. So, now I’m taking a small phrase book and hoping I will understand more when I get there.
I have also been obsessing about what to take with me. My first find was a North Face rain jacket, which (bonus!) comes with a zip-in lining which doubles as a light jacket. And then I picked up a pair of Blundstones so I would have comfortable and sturdy all-weather walking shoes. To be honest, the Blunnies I’m taking are the second pair I bought — the first never stretched enough to be comfortable, a reminder that I should always follow my own instinct and not the clerk’s advice.
Then came the question of bags. We were told to pack light, which means a carry-on suitcase plus a backpack. I have a small rolling carry-on, but I knew that my knapsack wouldn’t have enough room for all my camera and daily carry items, so I spent a lot of time researching camera bags (as Janet wrote on her blog yesterday). I finally found a lightweight bag that features easy access to my camera gear, has room for a jacket, iPad and other small items, and fits under an airplane seat: the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25L Photo Daypack. Even though I haven’t been able to test it out properly — due to nasty ice on all the walking trails — I’m sure it will be the perfect travel companion.
In terms of what to pack, I want to leave a little room in my little suitcase for souvenirs so space is at a premium! I am relying on quick-drying synthetics, along with a half-bar of castile soap and a folding hanger, so I can handwash and hang most of my clothing to dry overnight. And I am also taking a merino pullover and wool socks, because wool is warm and breathable and doesn’t get all smelly from sweat (I love SmartWool and Darn Tough for their gorgeous washable wool socks). The temperatures will likely vary between 15 degrees celsius in the cities to near zero in the mountains, so I will be multi-layering on cold days.
Here is the outline of my Japan Adventure:
- Feb 10 – Departure – Flying to Toronto, then direct flight to Tokyo.
- Feb 11-12 – TOKYO – Photo tour begins: lots of walking, seeing sights, and street photography.
- Feb 13-14 – NAGANO – staying at a traditional inn, seeing snow monkeys and mountains! Next stop is Matsumoto to visit the castle.
- Feb 15-16 – KYOTO – geisha, bamboo forest, market, shrines and more.
- Feb 17-20 – TOKYO – time to explore on my own… woot!
- Feb 20 – Return home – Feb 20 x 2. Can you say jet lag?
The photo tour is organized by Mark Hemmings, a photographer from my hometown who also loves shooting with Fujifilm cameras. I chose his tour because of his itinerary, which includes the sights that I most wanted to see; his familiarity with the culture (he lived in Japan for a while); and the small size of the group – he limits the tour to seven people.
Following the photo tour, I will be staying in Tokyo for an additional three nights. This will be a challenge for me, as I am not used to travelling alone (Janet doesn’t want to travel so far, so she is staying home with the furkids). I have booked my hotel and flight, but I haven’t booked any tours or activities – I just want to get a feel for the city by walking and looking and taking photos. I have a map on my phone so hopefully I won’t get lost!
And what do I most want to see? The street life and vending machines of Tokyo, gardens (and hopefully a zen or “dry landscape” garden) and shrines and architecture both old and new, plum blossoms and snow-covered mountains – we will see Mount Fuji from the bullet train – and monkeys and geishas and a bamboo forest. And, oh yes, there will be some amazing food, I will be taking pictures of that too!
I will only have enough time on this trip to see some of the highlights near Tokyo, but I have already started thinking about what I would like to see on my next visit…! Here is a map of my trip so you can follow along:
p.s. I am not affiliated with any of the people or companies I have mentioned, and I have not been paid or otherwise compensated for mentioning their products. I am just writing about what works for me. Your mileage may vary.