I have decided to leave for Tokyo, Japan, on December 9, 2011 which is Friday, and return on December 18, 2011 which is Sunday. My round trip ticket will cost me $1282. The outbound flight will last almost 12 hours and will bring me to Tokyo’s NaritaInternationalAirport on December 10, 2011, a Saturday afternoon. My $2500 sojourn in the chosen destination will officially start on Sunday. It would be a nerve-racking and at the same exciting time.
Since I would be visiting the foreign country for less than 2 weeks, I won’t need a visa. This privilege can extend up to 90 days and is called “visa-free” stays. When I get there, it would be important for me to take note of the U.S. Embassy’s address in Tokyo in case I lose my passport or find myself in a difficult, tight situation. No one knows what can happen in a foreign land, right? Anyway, the U.S. Embassy is located in 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420, and their number is 81-3-3224-5000.
It would also be prudent of me to enroll in a free service by our government, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will keep aware of the important security and safety announcements and help my family get in touch with me in case of an emergency.
Japan is a highly developed country, and Tokyo is its capital. Although it has widely available tourist facilities, some areas remain to be off limits, for example, the coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that happened last March, and also areas within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Radiation, however, is believed to impose low health and safety risks if exposure lasts less than a year. Occasional aftershocks, however, are reportedly common to be felt in all of Japan. As for terrorist incidents, there had been none since 1995. So, it is quite safe to visit Tokyo.
Before setting the dates for my long-awaited travel, I was told to visit our family doctor to have my health checked and get vaccinations that I needed before my journey. It was fortunate to plan this well over 6 weeks ago, so there was time for the vaccines to take effect. Routine vaccine shots I received were against influenza, chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. If I had planned to go to rural farming areas, I would have also received shots against Japanese encephalitis. Also, avian flu still thrives in Japan, so I was advised to steer clear of birds and chckens. Other suggestions my doctor gave me were to avoid unpasteurized dairy products, wash my hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based gel, especially before eating.
Japan’s language is Japanese, and their currency is Japanese Yen. One U.S. dollar is approximately equivalent to 78 Japanese Yen. Standard of living is definitely high and one of the highest in the world.
As for my itinerary, I will be spending 7 days wandering around Tokyo, and maybe spend a day or two in nearby Kamakura, Yokohama, and Kyoto. It is a winter time now, and Tokyo experiences relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall, so I imagine the weather to be really nice.
After arriving in NaritaInternationalAirport, I will catch the JR Narita Express to get to Shinjuku. I have booked a room in Rose Garden Hotel, which is a 3-star hotel, charging $34 a night which is not too bad, actually, it is one of the least expensive hotels in the area. This is where I will be staying for the rest of my trip. I have chosen Shinjuku since it is centrally located and has numerous links for transport.
Official Day 1: Sunday
I will start my day in Shibuya and go to Meiji Jingu Shrine which is a Shinto shrine located within a forest of 175 acres. This area is covered by 120,000 evergreen trees and visited as a place for recreation and relaxation in the heart of Tokyo. Around Shibuya there are major trendy shopping centers and it is considered the fashionable district of Tokyo. In the afternoon, I will have a chance to witness the fashion show in Harajuku which is purportedly a spectacle not to be missed. I will visit cafes and restaurants in the evening.
Official Day 2: Monday Kyoto
I have made reservations for a Kyoto day tour. My mode of transportation from and back to Shinjuku will be the bullet train. The tour will take me to Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which is a Zen Buddhist temple. It is one of the most famous buildings in the whole of Japan. Next to it is Heian Shrine which is another Shinto shrine. Then there is the Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera which is an independent Buddhist temple that has a great view of Kyoto from its soaring veranda. Next I will visit the KyotoImperial Palace that was the residence of the Imperial family until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1869. Then I am going to see the Sanj%u016Bsangend%u014D or the Hall of the Lotus Kingg which houses 1001 statues going as far back as the 13th century. And finally, my last destination is the Nij%u014DCastle which is a flatland castle.
Official Day 3: Tuesday
Day 3 will be another day tour to seeMt.Fuji through the bullet train. Lunch will be served on the famous mountain. Then I plan to attend a cruise on LakeAshi and ride aerial cableway at MountKomagatake while revelling the view of HakoneNational Park.
Official Day 4: Wednesday. Kamakura and Yokohama
This time I will be going to Kamakura and Yokohama via the Shonan-Shinjuku line to Ofuna Station, and transfer to Yokosuka line to Kamakura Station, then go to Enoshima Dentetsu line to Hase Station. From the Hase Station, it will be a 500-meter walk to reach the KotokuinTemple where the Great Buddha resides. Then I will visit Hase-dera which is one of the great Buddhist temples. Next will be Tsurugaoka Hachiman-g%u016B which is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. Then I will be off to Yokohama through the Rapid Airport Narita train to see the YokohamaLandmarkTower, Yokohama Museum of Art, the Ferris Wheel at Yokohama Cosmo World, the Nippon Maru - Sail training Ship and the YokohamaMaritimeMuseum.
Official Day 5: Thursday
This time I will head to the UenoPark which has the Toshogu Shrine, BentendoHallTemple, TokyoNationalMuseum, National Museum of Western Art, and the TokyoNationalScienceMuseum.
Official Day 6: Friday
Day 6 will be yet another day tour to Toshogu Shrine, LakeChuzenji, Nikko World Heritage, and Kegon Waterfall.
Official day 7: Saturday
I will spend my last official day in Tokyo in the center of the city. First stop will be the observation deck of TokyoMetropolitanGovernmentBuilding with its breathtaking view. Then I will enjoy the ShinjukuGyoenNationalGarden which is said to be lovely. Next stop will be Ginza for my final shopping before I come back to the US.
It was exhausting to plan this trip but I think it is worth the headache it had caused me the past days. I am excited to immerse myself in a very foreign culture, get to know a few of the locals, and see the world from a Japanese perspective. This will be enlightening as well as educational for me. I cannot wait.