My first trip to Asia started with one week in Japan and will be followed by three in China. Over the course of this first week, I moved from Tokyo, by train, to Hakone at the base of Mt. Fuji, then to Kyoto, and finally Osaka. From Osaka, I flew through Shanghai to Beijing, where I am at the moment. I plan to write a bit more throughout this trip on Medium, but for now my personal blog should suffice. Unfortunately, although probably for the best, I haven’t been able to write this until traveling from Japan, but I’ll plan to write once a week going forward. I’ll put a few pictures in these articles, but most of the photos I’ve taken will be on Google Photos.
I don’t have any major goals for the trip, trying to get my feet wet over here seems like enough. I’ve spent some time traveling alone in the past, particularly a month studying in London, although my classmates soon became friends. After London I headed to Amsterdam for a couple days by myself before meeting some friends in Paris. So I actually haven’t spent too much time on the road alone. That trip and a year long excursion around the world by my buddy Chris were the impetus and confidence I needed for this month living out of a backpack. Also, I’ve never been to the eastern hemisphere, and up until recently hadn’t done much reading about its history and culture, so that plans to be a nice learning experience.
I only booked this trip in early March, one day before leaving my job. Over the next few weeks I was busy passing off my work to coworkers, planning the first week or so of my trip, obtaining a Chinese visa, taking advantage of health coverage, and saying goodbyes to colleagues. The busyness kept off any possible regrets or fear. Looking back, I probably should have researched a bit more before arriving so I didn’t need to do it over wifi at hostels and hotels, but too much planning can build expectations higher than I prefer.
My initial flight took off at 10:30am on Thursday March 31, 2016, set to arrive in Tokyo at 8:30pm after a 4 hour layover at Incheon Airport in Seoul. The first floor of the transfer terminal is nearly all duty free. I’m traveling with a 40L backpack, so avoiding buying too much that won’t be shipped home almost immediately. The second floor has a bunch of areas to help with the layover, some bars and food, a hotel, couches in front of TVs, and free showers that I used. I grabbed some Udon noodles before heading on the final flight, and arrived in Tokyo’s Narita airport, a one hour train from my hotel for the night.
I wasn’t initially going to come to Japan, but my brother loved the time he spent in Tokyo and the proximity to China made it an easy stop. I first planned to only stop in Tokyo, but decided that leaving from Osaka would let me experience the bullet train and see the city so intimately described in Ugly Americans. Luckily, this allowed me to visit Hakone and Kyoto, particularly the latter which is home to unbelievable shrines and the architecture I expected from Japan. I also lucked out with my timing, as the weekend I spent in Tokyo was the height of cherry blossom season, practically a holiday for the Japanese. Finally, the awesome food made the week unforgettable.
That’s the rundown of my plans so far. Next up, some details of my trip through Japan.