So we keep talking about this big trip, and we’ve mentioned it’s a month long and to Japan, but otherwise we haven’t given details.
So… with 60 odd days before we go, here are some details about the big trip, and all the planning!
First off, we’re going in April… which is cherry blossom season. This wasn’t our original plan, but we ended up changing it just in time to start booking. And completely unintentionally we ended following the cherry blossom forecast up the country.
Apparently the full blossom lasts only about a week for the ‘sakura’ – Japanese cherry blossoms – and the trees will boom from south-to-north over April (usually, for most areas). The Japanese predict the week when blossoms will be in bloom in every area.And we will hit a few cities during their cherry blossom time because we just so happened to plan it that way without even considering the blossoms. This is both lucky – seeing the famous season – and unlucky, as hotels book up fast. By accident, we planned a week in Kyoto which also happened to be the week the blossoms are forecast to be there. Six months beforehand we were looking at hotels, and finding a non-smoking reasonably-priced hotel was near impossible… SIX MONTHS BEFORE. Luckily, we got a good deal for Tokyo, so we decided to spend a bit more in Kyoto.
Although Japan during it’s two high seasons (1. during the blossoms 2. during the fall leaves) is apparently a pretty special case booking-wise, if you are planning a big trip or honeymoon, first step is probably ask an agent what is high season for you potential locations and what that means for you. For Japan, it meant we had to book six months beforehand… and you can see why that may be a big deal.
We ended up with this time frame because we couldn’t make everything work with our first hoped timeline and the weather… something to consider in many travel locations is seasons of major weather conditions. Tropical places, especially have their rainy seasons – and we are starting in the southern island, Okinawa… which has a typhoon season.
Okinawa is sometimes considered ‘the Hawaii of Japan.’ Most people do not think of what Japan really is when thinking of Japan… most thoughts of Japan right now are ultra-modern, high-tech, super geeky… and maybe samurais and Fuji. But Japan is much more; Tokyo is a mega-city and the largest in world, but afterwards there aren’t any cities that out-populate Toronto (our biggest city) and after the top few, most are not tech-hubs. Japan is a cultural and historical treasure trove, but is also 80% mountains. It still loves art and is a foodie’s paradise. Oh, and there’s beautiful beaches. Like in Okinawa.Okinawa is probably best known for the battles that occurred there during the war. These battles mean that unfortunately a huge of the population (which had a unique culture to mainland Japan) was wiped out – some reports say up to 50% of the original 300, 000. The Americans stayed stationed there, and natives married main-landers or the Americans, wiping out the traditions even more. Nowadays the culture is a draw for tourists, so they’ve been attempting to bring it back.
After Okinawa we are heading to Naoshima, one of the small islands between the mainland and Shikoku that is hugely dedicated to art. With multiple museums and installations, anyone who loves modern art will have a good time.
Then we hit the mainland, with a couple major cities. First we will stay in Osaka and mostly see the nightlife, using the days for day trips- we are going to Kobe (with its European touches and expensive beef), Nara (a UNESCO world heritage site and known for it’s deer) and the UNESCO world heritage site on Mount Koya, eerie and historic. Than we’re off to Kyoto for history and culture galore, and our Taiko drumming class.We then have a couple days in Nagoya, which seems to have a whole bunch of hands-on and science-y experiences for us. It is also apparently a very well-organized city (even for Japanese standards) and embraces bilingualism, so it may be a break on our basic language knowledge and phrase books.
After that we’re deeper in the mountains, starting in Takayama (hopefully with a chance to see an amazing view from an insane viewing platform, a cool historical village and maybe the prettiest hiking area in Japan: Kamikochi), than we’re heading to the Fuji Five Lakes district and staying near the biggest and most developed of the lakes, Kawaguchi.Than it is time to hit the megalopolis. We have a week in Tokyo, taking one day to see Kamakura (tons to see there historically, culturally, street-food wise, and of course, the massive Buddha) and the others exploring the expansive area. We have tickets to a cabaret, classes in Kintsugi (the Japanese art of repairing pottery keeping the cracks evident but making it beautiful), and passes to get into the Ghibli museum! Oh man, an exciting way to end the big trip. Personally, my favourite form of a trip is half planned and half enjoy it day-by-day. I like to research and give myself (and, in this case, Edward) suggestions so that we can have a starting point to get a feel of the place, and then we can pick up from there and play things by ear. See what we can find.
Especially if we’re going somewhere new, researching Japan has made me understand more of what there is to see. We will probably not do or see half the things I’ve marked off and replace them with twice as many things we find but that’s the whole point – I just marked things off to know what’s possible and to keep an eye out for. Like knowing food staples of an area, or knowing that the city is known for a crafting specialty you might see being made in shop windows, or even a couple smaller towns or villages that are accessible and neat to see (and less tourist-y).
A few pre-booked things is also nice for anyone like me who needs some structure and organization. Knowing I’ve got to be somewhere on one day in particular usually makes me better with my time, and easier for me to make the most of it (even if it just means getting up early).
So we’ve got our basic schedule, outlined above, and a few good ideas – otherwise, we’re excited for the adventure to begin in late march.