Nihon e ikimashou!

On Monday, July 30, I will be leaving for a two-week vacation in Japan. It will be my first time in Asia, though not my first overseas trip. Since I believe there are already some who plan on living this experience vicariously through me, I thought it might be a good idea to post a few of my thoughts both before and after the trip.

My primary reason for going is my interest in the Japanese language, and to some extent their culture. However, I would have gained neither of these interests were it not for anime. So I would say that another important reason for my trip has to do with all the scenes and people I’ve seen in the anime I’ve watched so far. What is this real country really like, out of which this phenomenon called anime arose some 60 years ago? What are the real people really like? Can I say anything in Japanese to a native without getting arrested? Questions such as these are on my mind.

Ready or not, this will be me shortly. Except I’m flying Delta.

I will be arriving at the Tokyo Haneda airport early in the morning on Wednesday, August 1, after losing a day when I cross the international date line. (I’ll get it back when I return, which thanks no doubt to some miracle of Japanese technology, will be before I leave Japan!) After clearing customs, I will need to activate my JR rail pass, and take the bullet train to Osaka, then a local train or subway to my hotel. That will be my “base camp” for four nights. Before I leave the US, I plan to practice my Japanese by writing an e-mail to the hotel asking whether I may check in early, since I expect I’ll arrive before the check-in time of 3:00 p.m. If I can only make it to my hotel in this sleep-deprived state and collapse for a few hours, that will be good enough for me. After that, I expect to find something to eat, check out the indoor hot springs baths (I purposely picked a hotel that had these, so I’d be prepared when I go to an outdoor hot springs with my tour group later), and try to get to bed at a reasonable local time.

I will then spend most of the next three days on day tours that I booked on my own, separately from the guided group tour of Tokyo and a few of the immediately surrounding areas. My idea was that I really wanted to see more of Japan than just Tokyo, although it will still be only a tiny part of the country. My “base camp” of Osaka will be conveniently located between the cities I plan to visit. I’ll be touring the ancient capital of Kyoto on August 2nd, Hiroshima and Miyajima on August 3rd, and Osaka itself on August 4th. I am no history buff (to my shame), but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Hiroshima, when I will be so close to it.

On August 5th, I’ll take the shinkansen back to Tokyo, and meet my tour group. We’ll spend most of the next nine days in Tokyo, mainly focusing on the anime-related areas of the city. We will have some free time while we’re there, during which I hope to meet up with Zeroe4, my fellow co-blogger. Then our tour group will spend a couple of days at a hot springs resort in Ito. I expect to return on August 14, unless it’s actually the 13th or the 15th. As I mentioned earlier, crossing the international date line sometimes involves time travel.

I do have some concerns before leaving. Although I’ve studied Japanese off-and-on for about five years, I still feel like I know almost nothing. Landing in a monocultural country with a language that different from English is bound to be stressful. Traveling on my own for four days is also probably somewhat risky, even though Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, with arguably one of the more advanced public transportation systems. Finally, it’s hard to avoid the fear or suspicion that I will forget something important, or something will go wrong during the trip. So I will appreciate everyone’s prayers and well wishes as I embark.

I realize that one of today’s laws is “pics or it didn’t happen,” so I will try to remember at least to snap a bunch of pictures using my cell phone. Hopefully some of them come out well enough to share. In the meantime, I hope you all are well, and I will be thinking of all of you while on my “fact-finding mission.”

Ittekimasu!

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About R86

R86 is a chemistry professor, which is the sort of job that probably made you stop reading already. He lives in Minnesota during the cold months and Texas during the hot months (true story). In his spare time, he enjoys music (flute/saxophone/clarinet and MIDI/Vocaloid synthesis), drawing, writing, and watching anime. Besides his posts here at Beneath The Tangles, he also keeps a deviantART journal, updated roughly once per week.

Posted on 07.18.2012, in Japan and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I am so excited to hang out, and I am sure you will love Japan as much as I do.

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    • I alternate between excitement and terror as I approach the trip. More on the excitement side. It will be fun to talk shop, whether on art or anime or the mission field in Japan or whatever. :D

      Also, R86-ojisan thinks you need a DeviantART page. ;)

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      • I am living near Edogawabashi in Shinjuku, so we will have to meet up some where once you know where you are going to be in Tokyo.

        Tokyo is super foreigner friendly, you will have no issues here. Onsen and Sento are amazing. Super Sento is even better.

        Also, I’ll have spent most of that week up near Ishinomaki, near Sendai, so I’ll have lots to talk about.

        As far as places to go, I know Ikebukero, Waseda University, Tokyo University, Shibuya, Iidabashi, and the area around where I live the best. I do love exploring Tokyo, so I can get you anywhere you want to go.

        Finally, I had a deviantart account in high school and didn’t really like it, so I deleated it. Now my username is permanently frozen and cannot be unlocked or reused.

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        • I figured it was something like that as you do have to tread carefully at dA. ;)

          We will be hitting Ikebukuro and Shibuya on the guided tour. If I am not permanently boiled already by that point of my trip, the sento sounds interesting. I believe the day we were supposed to meet up is the one where some of us will be visiting a gigantic video arcade, which even though I go back to the heydays of the 25-cent arcades with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, is unlikely to distract me for too long. :D

          Either way, I’m sure we’ll come up with something. :)

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  2. Probably not my place to cold-offer advice (shoot, I haven’t even commented on this site in months), but you could always try Anki (http://ankisrs.net/) to drill hiragana and katakana on short notice. The latter in particular will be incredibly useful (having been to Japan for three months myself on a research internship), even if you know nothing else of the language. Although, if you feel like digging further into the language when you get back, I found ajatt.com to be quite good for learning Japanese.

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    • That’s OK, I’m already a pretty heavy user of Anki. :) I’m using it to drill myself on vocabulary and kanji readings. I have been on ajatt.com, but not recently — I bet they have a lot of useful things too. There’s also the Reviewing the Kanji website, which was very useful when I was in the first volume of the Heisig series (yes, I’m That Guy), and I still drill myself regularly from there.

      Whether all of this will stop me from getting arrested if I try out my Japanese on a native speaker and mess something up, remains to be seen. ;)

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  3. Yay! Sounds like you’re in for an adventure, R86! I’ll be keeping you in my prayers, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. Japan is a fairly safe country, though I’ve heard the crime rate is “worse” in Osaka than in most of mainland Japan, so still be cautious (the main trouble is pick pockets, interestingly enough).
    I encourage you to do some studying on the Japanese culture before you go as well as the language (as you have been doing). This can help you avoid most problems and give you a better chance of being forgiven for being a foreigner if something does go wrong (and it will; it always does, I’m sorry to say, but don’t worry!) because you’re at least giving an honest effort to be courteous and mindful of the culture. If all else fails, just apologize a lot (“sumimasen” is a word you will hear and probably use quite a bit).
    But overall, as long as you don’t smoke (there are heavy monetary fines for smoking outside of very specific smoking rooms) and don’t run into any Yakuza, you’ll be fine. :>

    I envy you in getting to visit Hiroshima as well as an onsen. I sadly didn’t have time to do either during my trip. Definitely get a picture of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Do-mu)!

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    • Yakuza are not much of an issue. If you stay out of the red light districts, you will rearly see them. Not to mention, they don’t want to draw too much attention to themselves. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.

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