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.
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.
Along our meandering honeymoon ramble, a spontaneous stop along the way – in an otherwise unremarkable corner of Ishikawa-ken at a 2nd hand shop – sparked two incidents.
The first was the purchase of a nearly perfect condition Olivetti Lettera 34 typewriter (note: the 33 and 35 are listed in Typewriter Database but the 34 is not as it is – perhaps – a Japan specific machine including a “¥ shift” key on the number row). Also noting UK Pound, various fractions and a margin release key.
Bought from the Granny shop owner for ¥2500 (about $22 US or $27 CDN) no haggling. (note: ribbon ordered as the one inside was dried out).
A few notes and tips and phrases compiled for guests coming to wedding but likely useful for most anyone coming to Japan.
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.
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)
On our Shinkonryoko (honeymoon) travel, we rambled around Japan via various trains, occasional rental car, trams, busses and a coach visited pals, museums, hot springs and natural locales while staying at an assortment of accommodation types (ryokan, “western” hotels, guest houses/minshuku, friend’s homes, resort hotel etc). Note: extensive documentation of all these elements elsewhere.
Anyhow, as is my routine, i gathered ephemeral papery items (tickets, brochures, maps, coasters) and glue/2x taped into a scrapjournal along with insta-photos, scraps of poetry/prose, words which stuck in my head (possible band names) and topped off with a few stickers, stamps and seals.
Then photographed the whole tome for archival and sharing purposes. (Some pages include “pop up/fold out” elements which may or may not be pictured. Provided as-is here without additional annotations as the purpose is emotional, not purely documentary.
Along our shinkonryoko (honeymoon) travel, there were many chances to sign guestbooks, write notes for folks, as well as fill our booklets with inky stamps to commemorate being somewhere. As it goes, here are a few mediocre snapshots of hastily scribbled words for archival purposes.
More artifacts may be added to this post later as sorting and curating continues. Carry on.