Suitcase and World: Japan! Third Time's The Charm?

Friday, June 10, 2022

Japan! Third Time's The Charm?


ur trip to Japan was suppose to originally take place in April 2011. Back then I was working full time and didn't really have either the time nor the energy to plan a trip so I reached out to a company called Samurai Tours and worked with them to conceive a two week trip for my brother and I.  We were scheduled to arrive into Tokyo on April 9.  Barely a month earlier, the earthquake that was followed by a devastating tsunami, hit the country and we had to cancel our trip.  I was so incredibly disappointed that we didn't get to go but grateful that the country managed to recover from that unfortunate event.

Thankfully, both the tour company and the airline refunded our purchases.  I did lose a bit on some performance tickets I had bought but that was negligible in the scheme of things.

I had even set up a blog, detailing all the pre-trip research I had done and it was a LOT of research because Japan, at least culture wise, is so rich and complex that I felt I had a LOT of learning to do.  The header for this post is the header for that blog - Sakura and Zen.  I've kept the blog up all these years but going forward, will post Japan trip related stuff on what is now my master travel blog. 

Instead of going to Japan, we went to Mexico instead and had an absolutely wonderful time there.  It was the first time that my brother, my friend and frequent travel partner, Ayşe traveled together and we got along so well we traveled to Thailand and Myanmar together in 2016.

I was hoping that we would go in 2013 but that trip never materialized. 

Since 2011, I've traveled to many countries but Japan has never strayed from my mind. I am hoping and praying that we'll get to go next year.  Fingers are seriously crossed though who knows what the travel situation will be given the COVID pandemic.  As of now, Japan has re-opened its draws to small groups of foreign travelers but they are strictly controlling movement by only permitting foreign travelers on guided tours.  I plan to check the travel restrictions every few months to see if and how things will improve as I don't want to travel on a guided tour.  I hope they will lift their restrictions on independent travel for foreigners.  If not....sigh....I will more than likely postpone the trip yet again.

While I am using our 2011 trip as a starting point for planning, this trip will be a longer, more in-depth trip of the country.  Since both my brother and I are retired from the workforce, we have plenty of time to allocate to a trip.  Although he knows I want to do this trip, I've not really talked it over with him so I don't know whether or not he wants to come.  I hope he does.  Ayşe does want to come but she is still a worker bee and therefore, cannot afford to take too much time off.  While I will do my best to accommodate for her, meaning squeeze the trip in to a shorter time period, I am not making any promises.  I might try to structure the trip so she can leave part way through but will have covered most of the highlights.  

This time, we'll be going in the fall and yes, the plan is to attend the fall festival in Takayama - the Hachiman Matsuri.  I'm also researching other festivals as fall is a popular time of year to hold them.  Somethings have not changed in the 12 years since I last planned this trip but so much else has e.g,   cellular services and access to WiFi - I will have to re-research these topics to see what holds true for 2023.

Back in 2011, most of my trip planning was done by scouring through the internet.  There is so much information on Japan, on the internet, it's overload but I'm gradually whittling down to a few sites that I think are most valuable to me. The first is, of course, the Japan National Tourism Organization website.  Two other very useful sites are and JapanTravel.   

These days, however, I'm more likely to be watching travel videos on YouTube.  I often find that seeing and hearing things on a video can really add to the information value of the content.  So....lots of videos. NHK WORLD-Japan is my favorite channel. I've been learning a lot about various aspects of Japanese life and culture.  I have to control my YouTube viewing.  Hours can easily slip by as I get sucked down the proverbial rabbit hole checking out one video after another.

Oh....and I recently stumbled upon this Twitter tweet featuring a ginormous video of a kitty in 3D.  Even cooler night video of the kitty yawning and going to sleep.  I've already pinned Shinjuku station East Exit on my Google map.  So far, Twitter not as useful as YouTube....thankfully.

We're also very lucky to have a travel agency located nearby in downtown Washington DC - IACE TRAVEL that specializes in travel to Japan.  Once I feel I have a good itinerary in place, my plan is to arrange to meet with one of their staff to finalize the plan and to purchase whatever tickets (rail, performance, etc.) I can buy in advance for them.  I also hope they can advise on accommodation options for the places we'll be staying in.

As always, I am starting with my custom Google Map and beginning to place pins of all the places of interest. Over time, I will edit the pins to fit the trip into our desired timeline.  I've just started researching and planning so not a whole of pins yet. 😁