Prepping for Japan: Where Does The Time Go?

I’ve been a naughty gecko.

This space has been sorely neglected of late thanks to a scarcity of free time and a plethora of friends & family dropping by The Treehouse to visit. I spent so many years wishing we had a guest room, and now there’s always someone asking if they can sleep in it. The company is lovely, but boy can it be exhausting! My better half just gave his career a reboot as well, which I’m very excited about even if it does mean I’ll probably have to stick to salaried company work for the forseeable future. That’s okay. Really. Health benefits and a steady paycheck from at least one of us makes a big difference in predicting the household finances, though I may finally give up the responsibility of doing our taxes because they’re going to be much more complicated now.

What little time to myself I’ve had of late has been devoted to learning as much Japanese as my brain will accommodate before our big trip. I’m still feeling woefully unprepared, but the fact that I’ve recently had dreams where people speak Japanese must be a good sign. I’m finally starting to figure out what the pronouns are and where they live in a sentence. The grammatical construction of Japanese can really throw an English major off, but every day a little more makes sense. Now I just need to learn more than how to identify the members of my family and items in my wardrobe. I should probably learn to read Hiragana. Though let’s be honest:  With three weeks until we take off for the Far East, I’m probably not going to manage that. But I’ll still try.

One fun aspect of telling friends and coworkers about our upcoming adventure is that people who have been to Japan keep giving us their advice. The downside is that the more I hear, the more time I wish we were going to have in the country. With only three nights each in Fukuoka, Tokyo and Kyoto, we’ll be struggling to fit in everything we want to see and do. Though strangely, people keep asking why we’re going to Fukuoka. My response has always been a two part answer. Part 1: Shut up! There are tons of cool parks & museums, Japan’s first Zen temple, the nearby canals of Yanagawa, and the Kyushu National Museum. Oh, and let’s not forget the Yatai, which brings me to part 2: As the birthplace of tonkatsu ramen, this metropolis was on our must-see list from the start. Heck, there’s even a ramen stadium across from our hotel! We’re going to need some seriously magical soup to help us fight the jet lag of such a long journey, and the Yatais of Hakata-Ku are the place to find it. By the time we hit Tokyo, we’ll be fully acclimated and ready for some serious exploration.

Some things are nailed firmly into the calendar, like a visit to Kyoto’s Imperial Palace and seeing Ovo from Cirque Du Soleil, but I’m okay with the rest of it being played by ear. Chris is eagerly devouring a copy of the Lonely Planet Japan guide that I gave him on our anniversary. At least, I think he is. I mean I hope he is, since I haven’t had time to turn a single page on that darn book myself. I’ve rented a WiFi hotspot for the trip from Global Advanced Communications. $60 feels more than a fair price to have WiFi everywhere we wander during our trip. Some of the other preparations we’re making are a little more financially strategic. We’re opening a Schwab checking account in order to make sure we have access to cash without enduring a litany of withdrawl fees from our dearly beloved Citibank.

While fairly well established in Japan, Citi apparently only has one branch in Fukuoka, and one in Kyoto. Tokyo is filled with them, though. Their fee policy for ATMs outside their network however, is not very easy to figure out. Apparently it’s anywhere between $1 -$3 depending on when you use the ATM. And it *might* be free if your combined accounts have at least $10,000 in them. But only if your account is based in Japan. I think. Long story short, just get a Schwab account. Way less confusing.

One thing I haven’t done for our trip though is buy a JR pass. Why? Well, for us it really doesn’t make much sense. We’ve already booked a flight using United miles to move us  between Fukuoka and Tokyo, so the only long and possibly pricey train ticket we’ll need is for the Shinkansen to Kyoto (about $140 per person). Everything else is just $4 subway rides, and that’s only if we don’t opt for walking instead. I’m keen on the idea of just wandering around these cities above ground and finding what we find.

Really, the last thing left to do is figuring out what to pack. We have 21 days to plan our outfits, which is almost enough time to whittle all the options down into our carry-ons.  I won’t have evening wear options! And since we’re spending a few days in Maui on the way back home, I’ll probably only be able to bring one speedo instead of my usual five pairs. And don’t even get me started on limitations for board shorts. This is very unfamiliar territory for me. I don’t know how I’ll cope. Perhaps I can use this as an excuse to buy a bunch of new beach wear in Maui AND a cute new Dakine suitcase to ship it home in.

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