For years now, I’ve talked about Japan as my personal fetish, the last, unexplored frontier that I don’t quite dare broach for reasons that were never quite so articulated. I knew that I’d be lost in translation, despite the successful trips that millions of non-Japanese have pulled off without knowing the language and the highly regulated etiquette that earn most gaijin -foreigners – the term “barbarians”. Tokyo itself sounds intimidating and the names of cities just sound the same to me, but I swore that I would plan for myself an ambitious, north-south tour of epic proportions that stretched from the national parks of Hokkaido to the memorial sites of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, to the fair isle of Okinawa.

But I’ve never done this before. By this, I mean, buy an air ticket for 11-12 days worth of travel in Japan beginning exactly a week later, still completely unplanned. Suddenly panicked by the impending holiday rush and seduced by fairly reasonably off-peak prices, I finally got my return ticket to Tokyo (Narita). It was quite good fun however, to get the reactions of those whom I told I booked a flight and was leaving a week later.

When the initial euphoria of cheap tickets and the first rush of exhilaration of going away again wore off, I realised I had absolutely no idea what else to do – is a Rail Pass necessary? Do I take the bus? Where do I stay and just how much will that cost?! The grandiose North-South plan is clearly in shreds, seeing as Hokkaido (sharing the same latitude as some Russian cities) hibernates under freezing wintry conditions and cherry blossoms aren’t quite out yet. I find myself now stuck in the midst of the most conventional route beginning Tokyo and ending in Kyoto with tons of day trips in between and a glaring 2-day gap that’s yet to be filled.

But thank god for the tons of information surrounding Japan, most of which come from equally clueless non-Japanese speaking tourists. I’ve had lots of online help.

For train connections and times: Hyperdia
General planning, random questions: Japan Guide

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