Our Two Week Adventure in Japan
So here we are... Finally. We visited Japan for two weeks at the end of October/start of November 2017 and the trip was everything that we wanted it to be and more. Japan has been a place we've always talked about and was a HUGE thing for us so when we eventually plucked up the courage to book flights (we booked them in June 2017) we had to pinch ourselves. It might sound silly because we have travelled a lot in the past year but for some reason Japan was a big deal to us.
We intended to book the flights and make a rough plan of where we wanted to go all at the same time so we could secure our accommodation and then do all the fine-tuning afterwards. That didn't happen. We got busy, we got complacent about it and for one reason or another we had to prioritise other things so that 'planning Japan' got pushed to the bottom of our to-do list.
Two weeks before we were due to fly we finally managed to be in a position to sort it all out and so we ended up putting the whole thing together in about three days... Probably the three most stressful days that we've ever spent together and we vowed that next time we go to Japan (there will definitely be a next time) we would do things a little differently and of course we will share how after we've got the photos out of our system.
Advice: we got a lot of it. We asked for it and so many people helped us. People gave us recommendations for places to stay, to visit and no stone was left unturned and for that we are eternally grateful. In all honesty it also kind of overwhelmed us - in fact the whole idea of a fortnight in a completely different country with a culture that we'd never experienced before freaked us out and we didn't know where to start. With Japan always on our internal map we had a million and one places that we wanted to see for ourselves but it's such a huge place that seeing everything is really quite unrealistic, unfortunately.
"take recommendations, but find your own way". That was pure gold and made us realise that we couldn't possibly see the whole country in fourteen days and what one person likes we might not so we would have to do just that: find our own way.
One thing that we learned was that accommodation books up waaaaaaay in advance so most of the places people had recommended to us were full. All the 'discovered cool places' that were in the press had been secured months ago and even some of the towns we had on our list were a no-go because there didn't seem to be anywhere for us to sleep. It did mean however that it made the decisions a little easier because there wasn't much left to choose from so maybe a blessing too?!
We decided that this would be our inaugural visit and we'd do all the tourist hot spots as an initiation and then if we liked it then we'd just have to go back. A detailed version of our itinerary will come later on in the series but it went something like this: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo, with a day trip to Osaka in there too.
The most common thing people told us to do was to buy a Rail Pass before we went and that we did. It allowed us to travel all over the place and saved us loads of money too. We bought ours from HIS but there are loads of places to buy it from - it has to be bought before you visit Japan (it's only available to foreign visitors) but then redeemed and activated when you want to. And yes we will be collating all the info into one single post so it's easy to consume. ;-)
We landed in Tokyo and stayed there for a couple of nights at Andon Ryokan; a brilliant mix of contemporary B&B and traditional ryokan (Japanese guesthouse). We had a tiny tatami room to sleep in, ate a relatively western-style breakfast and enjoyed our half-hour every night in the private onsen. We thought it was a brilliant way to ease into the culture and still maintain a little of the familiar too. Our first few days were spent walking miles and miles in Tokyo, wandering through Asakusa, visiting greenhouses and seeing Shibuya Crossing with our own eyes.
As per usual we took a MILLION photos so we've divided our trip into sections because we just can't bear to keep them all to ourselves...