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.
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.”