Japan – Part 1 – Preparing For My Trip

Welcome to Part 1 where I’ll be discussing my initial plans for my trip to Japan. I’ve done some research, but not as much as I like, so as I write these segments I’ll research as I go, and refresh my memory on what I had already planned.

Why Japan? What has drawn me there?

Japan has always been a fascinating country to me and I’ve wanted to visit for years. It’s been a dream of mine for a while. If I were able to, I wouldn’t hesitate in moving there. My only experience with the country is what I see in books, online and in videos from various YouTube presenters, but from what I have seen, it’s a wonderful place. The people, the culture, the food and the history are all things I’ve wanted to experience first hand for a long while.

When will I be going?

As much as I’d love to go to Japan during the spring and see the cherry blossoms, it wasn’t going to happen this year. So, my second option is for two weeks in September for my birthday, possibly in 2019. If something happened and I got to go this year, I would try for early September. My initial plan was to stay in Japan for about two weeks, maybe three if my budget allowed. The temps are usually in the 70-80F range, so it’ll be nice warm comfortable weather.

What to pack?

I’m going to attempt to keep my packing light with probably a weeks worth of clothes, that’ll fit in a small duffel bag or hiking backpack, and do laundry when needed. I’ll keep my shoes down to one pair that’ll be comfortable for all the walking I plan to do. I may pack a second pair, just in case, but I doubt it.

For outerwear, I shouldn’t need anything more than a hoodie for the cooler nights, and a light weight water proof jacket for the rainy days.

I intend on taking some of my camera gear for photos and video, so I’ll need to decide what lenses to take, and bring my action camera and tripod. I’ll need to pick up a smaller travel tripod and a more compact camera bag as well. I’m also trying to decide on bringing either a laptop or iPad for my photo/video editing.

I don’t fly very often, so I still need to double check what I can bring for toiletries that TSA won’t make me dump. It would all be in my checked bag, so I wouldn’t think I’ll have an issue.

How will I communicate with everyone?

Trying to learn Japanese has been a challenge. I don’t really have as much time as I’d like to dedicate to learning. And then what I do learn is lost since I don’t use it daily. So, I’ve been trying to learn from a few different resources.

I like to listen podcasts while I’m driving (my day job is as a truck driver), usually Japanese Pod 101. I was listening to a couple others, but I felt like I needed to be stationary so I could focus more on the lesson, or they just weren’t working for me at all.

I have a few books, but I keep forgetting to bring them with me while I’m on the road, so that doesn’t help. But, I’ll be sure to pack at least one for my trip and read it on the 13 hour flight.

What has been good though, are a few apps I use on my iPhone. One I love is Memrise. It has a ton of courses you can learn from, and they have review quizzes to help you retain what you’ve learned. Human Japanese is another one that has more of an explanation on how and where to use words and phrases. Hello Talk is supposed to be really good, because you can chat with native speakers who want to learn English, but I haven’t had a chance to really use it yet. Last in my list that I have only recently started using every day is Duolingo. There are a few others I use, but not as much as the others I mentioned.

What will I do about money?

For anyone who may not know, Japan’s currency is the Japanese Yen. As of this post, 1 Yen is worth about $0.0094 USD.

From what I understand, Japan operates predominantly in cash and not many places take credit/debit cards. But, card acceptance is slowly increasing. So, in my research, it is suggested to do an exchange while in your home country through your bank or closest currency exchange company. You can do the exchange when you arrive, but the exchange rate isn’t as good as at home, so you may lose a few Yen. In saying that, it seems to be the opposite for those in the US, like me.

If you find you’ve run out of cash, there are ATM options available that will work with a foreign card. Just about any 7-11 has an ATM that you can get money from, and some Family Mart ATMs are beginning to accept foreign cards. There are also Citibank ATMs/branches that should be able to help as well.

What is my budget and expected cost of the trip?

Since I’ll be going alone this trip, my intention is to keep the expenses as low as possible while still having the budget for a lot of fun activities. With my current plan, my budget is somewhere around $4,000 USD for a two week trip. But, I’m hoping I can cut it lower than that.

Here is what I have figured as a projected bare minimum so far, in USD:

  • Flight from Indianapolis(IND) to Tokyo – $1500
  • Lodging in capsule hotels and Air BnB – $1000
  • Food (I mostly eat light during the day) – $300
  • 14day Green JRailpass ($430 for standard) – $583
  • Pocket WiFi rental for two weeks (free with some accommodations) – $150
  • Shopping and Entertainment (I plan on doing a lot of free things)- $400

I’m sure I could trim some things a little more, so it’ll take some more research.

What is my ultimate plan/goal for this trip?

My goal for this trip is to just take in the culture and Japanese way of life, while learning more about the country through immersion. I would also like to find things to do for next time when I can bring my kids. There’s so much cool stuff to see and do though, I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit what I want to do in a short two weeks. I may also look in to more opportunities and information for a possible move in the future.

Well, that’s all for Part 1 of the series. Check back next Monday for Part 2 where I’ll be discussing the transportation plans. And if you have any tips or suggestions, please leave a comment here or on the Facebook page.

Enjoy your journey!

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