Category Archives: Tactical Wandering

Meta Notes: Japan Travel organized + upcoming *almost finished really* riffs

If you’re curious, I put together a category in my web archive for “Japan life/travel” to round up all the various riffs, transport videos, train rolls, diaries and museum galleries i gleefully assemble. It’s an ongoing process but hey, I’m not going anywhere.

Still have a lot more museums and train stuff to share (not surprisingly) but really limit my screen time too short sessions of productivity.

So much to share with you though! Especially some sorta olden stuff about:

  • Galleries, exhibits & museums in Japan, SF, & Nepal + a visit to Subpop HQ in 2010 (not to be confused with visit in 1999 ish)
  • Ayurveda treatment in India, Lanka & Pokhara
  • Artifacts from Palau, Yap and Guam which have been on my mind again recently
  • Tour with The Matinee in Ontario, 2017 (or was that 2018?)… 

Oh, I’ve also been tidying up an archive of Vancouver Olympic “meta coverage” meaning coverage about the coverage and media about media if you know what I mean… More to say about this in True North Media and Olympics category including a live twitter coverage of an interesting CBC panel #NoteToSelf

Also tuned up a section called Transit Chronicles which consists mostly of twitter riffs while rolling around Vancouver 2008-2012 ish.

In the meantime, here’s stuff about Japan so I have somewhere to point people to want to ask me about “where I am” “what to see” “how to do stuff” etc. etc. – keep in mind, I am a “inaka/country boy” – well really I live near a sort of forgotten provincial capital city which is just perfect in my mind, and don’t really know anything about Tokyo or Osaka and very little about Kyoto… but there are loads of resources about those places.

I know more about small cities, rural/farm experiences, scenic trains, remote hot springs, fermented foods, and post offices #theusual

Tips for airports & traveling chronically ill

Shared with respect and understanding that not everyone can do *this* – i have another riff about “why” to seek medical care or healing treatment elsewhere (not in US/Canada in this case). For now, use it if you need it, if not just pass along.

Request wheelchair service well in advance and use it proudly – Besides getting you around the airport, you fast track through security and immigration lines / You are usually be first on and last off the plane, be patient

Fly Tuesdays and Wednesdays mid-day, the airports are most mellow at this time (also tickets usually cheapest)

Dark glasses and earplugs/noise canceling headphones for when you’re in the airport

I use an aisle seat so easier to go to the back galley area and stretch if needed

Lavender oil, compression socks, eye mask and your most comfortable sweater for the flight, dress respectable to increase chance of upgrades (and because you are sharp like that)

When flying far, for me anything longer than three or four hours, book a hotel in (or close by) the airport at the other end – in some cases you can get wheelchair ride to the hotel to crash out and recover. Bonus points to get one with a bathtub

Check your bag, only take a small carry-on with comfort items, don’t try to be that “efficient business traveler” and / or save money with just a carry-on

Tumeric & aspirin and water water water – Did I mention noise canceling headphones?

Put on an audiobook or chill music… Keep the sensory stimulation low by not watching movies especially on the crappy seat back for the videos. For me, the fuzzy screens spin me out plus you see all the other anxiousness and activity going on

Get a credit card which gives you access to airport lounges… go to the airport early, find a quiet corner and hydrate and snack with protein rich foods so when you’re on the plane, you’re not eating the crap or being interrupted… Plus when using wheelchair service, best to go well in advance as some airports have a limited staff performing this service

When you board (using wheelchair you’ll probably be first on) introduce yourself to the flight attendants and mentioned that you may need extra water and make sure you are close to bathroom if you need a little sensory de-stimulation

Not all of these tips are applicable to everyone obviously but for me dealing with ME/Fibro find them to be critically handy

Oh one more thing, seriously don’t try to do a lot of stuff when you travel, for me I go places to find bookstores and quiet coffee shops and simply be somewhere else.  Just because you are a “somewhere else” doesn’t mean you suddenly have a bunch of energy to go out and about and meet lots of people. Avoid restaurants at busy times as well…

For me this is sensory overload. All for now, curious to hear your tips or any thoughts about the above. Also this archive is laden with other riffs about healing elsewhere and taking baths.

Japan: Travel primer / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan,” “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Japan Ramble Primer

Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines. 

Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.

Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.

Continue reading Japan: Travel primer / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

Japan: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Primer

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography“, “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Getting to Okayama, Japan

Airport

Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station.

The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home.

Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.

Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here.  Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic).  There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too.

Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.

Consider tracking flight options/prices with Skyscanner with a price alert or same with Google Flights and try Hopper (app) to see when best time to “pull the trigger” on purchasing flight. Flying from Vancouver? Check out YVRdeals.

Continue reading Japan: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Primer

“Akiya” abandoned, cheap/free* houses in Japan / annotations and resources

an Akiya (abandoned) building (former post office?) with a splendid postbox – taken from one of many sites i’ve dug around, sorry can’t remember which one… so many! if this is your photo, please tell me and i’ll add credit.

+ Cheap Houses Abound in Japan + 

Notes & Riffs

So many vacant houses in Japan – millions! “Akiya” houses (free/cheap abandoned houses)Sometimes the owner is unknown – sometimes there are mysteries, sometimes houses have businesses attached, sometimes from way back in Meiji or Edo period! Sometimes someone died in odd circumstances within, sometimes just died.

Often very very messy, always requiring work, a lot sometimes. 

Materials, labor and disposal can be really expensive in Japan so good to remember (speaking generally for anyone else who is reading along, not just you :-)). But hey, you are crafty right? Ha, its a whole other style of construction than “western” places. Tile roof! Foundations, plumbing, electric all different, Sometimes need boundary surveyed.

Importantly: Also, just cause you own a house, doesn’t mean you get a visa.

The situation in brief: The big cities are growing and the countryside is shrinking, fast. Young folks move away to the big city to work, old folks stay in country, working til they grow old and in Japan, folks grow very old. They die, the heirs are unknown or simply refuse the “inheritance” or they try to think they will go back and fix it up and enjoy the legacy but year after year paying property tax, they finally realize they won’t ever fix it up. Property/houses is generally/always a depreciating asset in Japan. 

Anyway, the laws of changed significantly in the last year allowing local governments to appropriate more easily so there’s loads and loads of these available, does definitely take some hunting around though. Indeed! It’s definitely a scavenger hunt…

Continue reading “Akiya” abandoned, cheap/free* houses in Japan / annotations and resources

Japanese Culture and Language Primer

A few notes and tips and phrases compiled for guests coming to wedding but likely useful for most anyone coming to Japan. 

Culture-ness

Remember you must always have your passport with you (stupid but hey… rules is).

Shoes are never worn in homes, change into slippers (which will never ever fit), then different slippers for toilet, don’t forget to change back (you will forget), socks only in tatami (straw mat) rooms.

Big stores / malls often offer tax-refund. Gotta take receipt, passport and credit card (if used) to special kiosk. They will stick receipt and stamp in passport, weird but hey, ya get money back.

Don’t walk and smoke. Hang in front of konbini store, pachinko, find smoking cage, or smoking section of resto or park. 

Can drink alcohol on streets and parks however… no sloppiness, penalties/jail harsh.

Language Primer

Handy Phrases:

  • Konnichiwa = Hello
  • Chotto matte = Just a moment/please wait
  • Hai = yes
  • Iie or Chigaimasu = no / different or wrong
  • Douzo = go ahead, please (this is super handy!)
  • Sugoi! = Great! Amazing! i.e.: How is Japan? Sugoi!
  • Suimasen = excuse me (used allll the time as is Go-men which is like “sorry”)
  • Kudasai = please i.e. “Kohi o kudasai” = “coffee please” 
  • Domo, Domo Arigato, Domo arigato gozaimasu = thanks, thanks a lot, thank you very very much
  • Jaa ne / Matta ne = See you / again
  • Toire (toilet) doko desuka? = where is the toilet (there are more trad words for toilet “benjo” and “o teirei” but the Japanese-i-fied english word is easiest
  • Konbini = convenience store (7-11, Lawson, Family Mart are plentiful & amazing)

Continue reading Japanese Culture and Language Primer

Journeying Notes for Travelling Youth

A dear friend’s teenage daughter was heading out on her first foreign adventure–as such, i passed along a few thoughts. Sharing as perhaps others will find helpful.

Pictogram (evidentally lost in dead letter space) to Z, H, E, W in Boise, Idaho
Pictogram (evidentally lost in dead letter space) to Z, H, E, W in Boise, Idaho

Hi E., It’s Dave here – and while I don’t have knowledge of all things, I do have a lot of knowledge about traveling… Not about fancy hotels and airline miles and gourmet restaurants but instead, grassroots travel where you immerse yourself in the culture and never really quite return home because much of your heart remains behind.

Now I don’t know all the details but I understand you’re going to a rather “developing” (hate this term but…) with a school group to do a humanitarian project – all that is awesome and, since I’m here, I’ll share a few random tips for you to consider while you ramble.

First off, all that stuff about packing light is very, very important. Consider your clothes a “uniform” and trust me, no one cares what outfits you wearing plus, one of the funnest things to do is buying clothes local and then you come home with a neat outfit. I take clothes which are quick drying, dark colors, and well-worn in so I don’t mind giving them away when I leave.

Since you have this extra room in your pack now you will fill it with something much more valuable: treats for the people. I don’t mean important expensive things but some of the things I take include: sets of pencil crayons, notebooks, pens and buttons with fun designs, postcards from my home town (remember agricultural people around the world love seeing photos of animals and farms and plants and so on), sometimes deflated soccer balls but those are a bit clumsy.

My last big trip I printed out hundred postcards of my art so I had something to give to people that really created that connection much more than a “Facebook friend.”

Document extensively but use cameras judiciously. What I mean by this is that photos are often the worst way to connect with the people (there are exceptions like instamatics), as it put something between you and them, and that something is also an expensive piece of technology.

Now photos are so important and I’m so grateful for the few foggy images I have from my first travel spots, my rule was to buy one or two disposable cameras, peel off the outer wrappers so is just a plastic black box and then I am limited by those 24 or 48 exposures so each shot had to be very important.

Sure lots of them turned out really lousy but the intention was a lot of fun. Now I travel with a sardine can film camera which produces hazy water-colored memories which sort of seemed like how memories fade.

Instead, I love to make notebooks, fill up journals, scrapbooks with all my travel artifacts (ticket stubs, postcards, brochures, signatures, sketches, maps,…) These give you an interactive talking point with folks as you meet them and, of course travel with a pencil bag so folks can sign and add their thoughts to the big jumbo book, plus flip through and see other artifacts of me and my journey.  I even throw in a few family photos and stuff like that before I leave to show new friends (as well as stave off the possible homesickness).

This one may sound weird but stay with me: I (usually) have a rule in which once I decide where to go, I learn nothing about the country.

This seems super counter-intuitive but, because traveling is so easy now (my first trip to Europe at 21 was before cell phones, Internet, ATMs, common currency etc.) so to keep that “degree of difficulty” up to snuff, I go in naïve so I can feel like an early explorer, there before the masses.

Now I realize that doesn’t fit exactly with the logistics of your trip but the thought of going with a clear mind and minimal expectations opens up so many opportunities. Think of the place as white paper or canvas waiting for your contributions rather than pre-coloured with the drivel of guide books and instagram stories.

Great examples is: “the most famous tourist site in every country” in which you can line up for hours to see something which you could go to another town and see something less crowded, perhaps not quite as magnificent, but almost wholly to yourself.

In other words, find your version of what’s awesome and discover the story(s) for yourself. Trust going to places you’ve never heard of or never expected, and you’ll find bits of magic which you can feel like you were the first person to document.

OK, health stuff… Like you, I’ve struggled with terrible migraines on and off throughout my life and now I’m dealing with a bunch of other crappy illnessess (fibromyalgia, CFS/ME etc). So, when I travel, I always have my little “safety kit” of killer soft eye mask, best earplugs, lavender oil, sticky heating patches from Japan for my shoulders and back, various ointments and magic to deal with onset of crazy pain.

Like your situation I suspect, once it hits, you are done and need to shut down until you sort it out. So make sure you have your emergency escape kit and don’t be afraid to take an extra day in a quiet room when you need it.

You are young, South America is just getting going (keep in mind it was a collection of “banana republic” – another lousy term, sorry – dictatorships for most of my life) so you can return again (and maybe again). The important point is to come home inspired and not battered.

Besides my beloved scrapbooks (if you want links to view photos of them just let me know) I also often take an audio recorder and love to record ambient noises of markets and streets and crowds or music or buskers and when I’m home and feeling blue, I put on my headphones and the audio drift you back better than any photo ever could (usually).

Also, with my travel artifacts besides scrapbooks I also make big “static montages” meaning a kind of wall-hanging collages with all my bits and pieces floating and stuck on, sometimes with some paint, and a bit of narrative on top.

Anyhow I could go on and on but mostly I’m just super excited to see you heading out on an adventure. Your Mom tells me so much about you and while I met you was a baby, I look forward to seeing you as an adult one day soon. I am constantly available to offer any bits of scattered wisdom or encouragement… At your leisure…

Obviously, daveo