Jm and I both agreed that we wanted to make the most of the trip to Japan, so we planned on spending two weeks less two days allotted for flying. We would have twelve glorious days to spend exploring Japan, but where exactly to spend that time? Tokyo was obvious, but where else would be fun and feasible to explore in the given time? Jm’s cousin had given us the National Geographic Traveler: Japan guide book about a year ago. We also picked up the Lonely Planet Japan guide book. After browsing through both, we decided to split our time between Tokyo and Kyoto and added the Lonely Planet Kyoto guide book to the pile. Kyoto was a fairly short train ride away from Osaka, so we hoped to get out there for a day also. Lonely Planet guide books have always steered us to great little restaurants and spots; I highly recommend them for any trip you take.
Armed with a general idea of the what, where, when (middle of May), and how long (twelve days), we went to our usual travel agency Milne Travel where Arlene provided us with the first round of information and pricing. Jm and I agreed that we mostly wanted to spend our time exploring Japan on our own, but there were a few day tours that looked interesting and would get us to areas a bit easier than trying on our own. We picked those out along with our hotels; Tokyo would come first and then Kyoto. It was only a matter of making the necessary bookings.
However, there was a bit of a wrinkle in the plans; the hotel we wanted in Kyoto was booked solid. We would learn later why it was booked, but this put the trip in a bit of peril. The only other hotel Arlene had in Kyoto had a room that was far more than what we had budgeted and wanted to pay. While Jm and I fretted over possibly switching all the plans around, Arlene worked her magic and found another hotel that was within our budget. Crisis averted… The bookings were made, and our itinerary was as follows:
- Depart Boston via United Airlines (wife has a frequent flier card with them) on 2005 May 06 at 9AM EST. Connection in O’Hare before continuing on to Narita.
- Arrive at Narita on 2005 May 07 at 3:15PM Tokyo time.
- Stay at the Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo in Shinjuku from May 07 to 14.
- Tokyo city tour May 08 from 9AM to 1PM
- Dinner & Kabuki May 08 from 5:20PM to 10:20PM
- Mt. Fuji/Hakone day trip May 09 at 8:05AM with bullet train ride back to Tokyo.
- Free roaming exploration May 10 to 13
- Bullet train to Kyoto May 14 at 9:21AM
- Stay at the Kyoto Royal from May 14 to May 19.
- Kyoto & Nara full day tour May 15 at 9AM
- Free roaming exploration May 16 to 19
- Depart from Kansai on May 19 at 3:25PM Tokyo time and arrive back in Boston (via San Francisco) on May 19 at 8:51PM EST.
Grand total for the adventure, including airfare, came to just under $6500. It was what we planned for, but seeing that much money go out still stings.
While I was planning on bringing along my various Japanese dictionaries and phrase books, I thought I would try to find a Canon Wordtank to try out on the trip. There are a number of models out, so I hit up the members of the Japanese Language & Culture forum on AnimeOnDVD.com. Got some good advice and something even better, an offer to sell me a used Wordtank. Took the guy up on the offer and had a IDF-4100 in my hands. Turned out to be the most useful translation tool on the trip but not necessarily because it was electronic.
As a departure from my typical travel style, I decided to buy some new clothes for the trip, and I decided to take the dress casual route. I picked up a few button down shirts and a pair of cargo khakis. Throw in a few collared pull-over shirts, and I was only lacking one other important item… shoes! Having flat feet has always made wearing new shoes an uncomfortable proposition. The arch support always kills me until I wear it down sufficiently. Went to Shoe Market to browse the selection. Found a brand called Merrell that promised to have me feel like I’m walking on a cloud.
I slipped on a pair and was amazed; their slogan was entirely correct. They were instantly the most comfortable pair of shoes I had ever worn; the price tag was more than I normally paid for shoes, but this was worth it. I’ve since worn down my first pair of Jungle Mocs and purchased a new pair; my feet will never go back to any other brand.
With all preparations made, it was just a matter of anxiously waiting for the departure day to arrive.