Travelling Japan, How to Pack, and How to Choose Adventure over Anxiety.
Throughout October 2016, I will be spending most of the month exploring some incredible regions of Japan. This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a tiny Sally.
Japanese “culture” ran strong with me in very early years as my Dad represented Great Britain in the martial art of Kendo. He carried a lot of “Japanese Etiquette” around with him from his extensive training, and of course was exposed to traditional Japanese interaction through his Sensei and friends. He even taught me at a very early age to try an breathe “through my tummy”, which is a very eastern appreciated method of using all of your lungs to breathe, as oppose to the more adapted western way of only using your top section. The posh name for it is Diaphragmatic breathing.
Sorry, I digressed in a bunch of memory there. Japan has been on the list throughout my life but if I was going to go then I wanted to REALLY go.
Thu 6 Oct 2016 Flight to to Tokyo Narita
Fri 7 Oct 2016 Arrival into Tokyo
Mon 10 Oct 2016 Board the train to Matsumoto this morning. Explore the Crow Castle and Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock print museum (the best collection of traditional Japanese woodblock print in the country!).
Tue 11 Oct 2016 Boarding our train to the quaint postal village of Tsumago this morning. On arrival, we’ll take the bus or a taxi between the postal towns of Magome and Tsumago for a glimpse into a bygone era. Tsumago has a great museum which is worth a visit, we’re told!
Staying 2 nights in a traditional Ryokan
Wed 12 Oct 2016 Board your train to Kyoto this morning. On arrival, we are at leisure to begin taking in Kyoto.
Thu 13 Oct 2016 Explore Kyoto further afield. This evening, we meet a guide for a private evening tour of the Geisha district.
Fri 14 Oct 2016 The day is free to explore Kyoto further afield.
Sat 15 Oct 2016 Board the early morning train from Kyoto to Mount Koya. Here we will get the chance to visit the Koya-san monastic complex and spend a night in temple lodging.
This evening, we want to head over to Eko-in Shukubo and join the night tour of Okunoin Cemetery run by one of the few English-speaking monks on Koyasan.
Sun 16 Oct 2016
The majority of the day is free to explore Mount Koya further afield. Later this afternoon we will return to Kyoto using exactly the same route.
Mon 17 Oct 2016 Spending this morning at a local house to experience a traditional Japanese cooking lesson. We then spend the rest of the day exploring the nearby and ancient capital of Japan, Nara. Returning to Kyoto later this evening.
Tue 18 Oct 2016 Boarding the train to Hakone National Park in the morning. On arrival, we are at leisure to relax in one of the natural hot spring baths at yet another ryokan.
Wed 19 Oct 2016 The day is free to explore Hakone for some spectacular views of Mt. Fuji (weather permitting of course!). The open air sculpture museum is well worth a visit for us too!
Thu 20 Oct 2016 After spending the majority of the morning at leisure, we start making our way back to Tokyo.
Fri 21 Oct 2016 We will be picked up from our Tokyo hotel this morning and transferred to Narita airport for our flight back to the UK. Arrive later this afternoon.
Time to Prepare.
Both practically, physically, and mentally, preparation for this trip has taken more of a toll on me than I first figured. So many sudden thoughts started popping up in my head like, “Am I physically able enough to cover this much distance in a country I’ve never been to?”, “If I’m going to be travelling between so many places in quick succession, how do I pack?! I can’t carry over 2 weeks worth of ‘normal stuff!'”, and “WHAT IF WE JUST GET COMPLETELY LOST AND NO ONE EVER FINDS US!? WILL I HAVE TO CUT MY OWN ARM OFF IN A CAVERN?!”.
Then I catch myself and think, “But that’s the excitement surrounding it, and you sir (Mr head noises) are just big fat anxiety”. It can’t spoil this. I’ve been saving for years for the chance to do this, and my gosh, the force of the kick I would give myself if I bailed out based on irrational thinking would break both my legs.
So how does one prepare for this kind of trip? I’ll tell you my method. I can’t promise it’s the right way to go about it, but it might help if you’re about to do a similar thing.
A Safe Pack.
If you’re going to be moving around a country when you visit, and staying in multiple places across your time there, suitcases just won’t cut it. You do not want to be dragging a box on wheels around on public transport and foot, especially if you’re going around rural locations.
For us, it was essential that we opted for a backpack, but the thing is I am quite a small Sally, and of wet noodle strength. I cannot safely carry a backpack which would be over half my height, and so Lloyd was the one to be ultimately kitted out.
The pack we got was a very affordable and at 60litre capacity, with a 20litre add on backpack so you can unzip it and carry that about in the day. I can just about handle that one, so that’s my job.
It doesn’t matter what brand backpack you get, but I do wholly recommend that you grab one with a waist belt attachment so the weight of the pack is sitting on your hips, as oppose to hanging entirely from your shoulders how a regular backpack works. Chest fasteners are also a great pack element, because again, the weight of the thing is held tight and securely to your body in the most efficient and safe way possible for your posture.
As you can see, the pack strapped to lloyd on the left here is the main 60litre body, and to the right with me is the 20litre backpack section. As I say, this backpack can then be attached to the back of the main pack should it need to all travel as one unit (aka, I get blooming tired from such a weedy little thing…).
How and What to Pack.
Being on the move you have to sacrifice your favourite fancy shoes and glitzy dresses for sure. This is a cultural trip of Japan for us, so it’s a good pair of jeans, joggers, and a whole load of shirts for me (my favourite comfort top).
In Japan, it’s usually a little uncomfortable for locals if they are faced with heavily tattooed individuals, especially in very traditional areas of the country. I completely respect that, and so all of my shirts are long sleeved. I’d absolutely suggest reading up on the rural (and urban, for that matter) etiquette of a country you are moving around in, and out of respect pack the right kind of clothing to suit. Another thing for us is socks. Temples in Japan require your shoes to come off quite a lot. No bare feet.
So this 60 litre pack hold both mine and Lloyd’s EVERYTHING for our trip. For me, I’ve packed around 6 shirts, one pair of jeans, one pair of jogging bottoms, and my pyjamas. Lloyd isn’t much different, only he’s taking an extra pair of jeans instead of joggers, and tshirts instead of shirts. OH..and of course…all of the underwear you can cram in. A pair a day is good, but you can always wash tops and pants in each hotel I’m sure, even if you have to just suck it up and get scrubby in the sink! You’re backpacking!
And I SERIOUSLY mean ESSENTIALS. I simply only recommend taking the absolute minimum. Dry shampoo is a must for me so I don’t have to tackle this huge hairy mess as often, as is a tangle teaser for my super long locks. My make up bag has only my favourite foundation, blusher, bronzer, lip balm, 2 brushes, and brows. Sure, that sounds probably more than most, but it’s honestly what I like to have on my face. Trust me, compared to what’s on my dresser, this little bag of stuff is super, super minimal.
Alongside these, the obvious things like toothpaste, toothbrush, cleanser, and moisturisers are a must. The cute little mini toothpastes are awesome for space saving.
I also love to carry around my pocketbac so I can smell like a waffle breakfast everyday, and potentially combat germs at the same time. It’s good to have some kind of anti bacterial hand stuff in densely populated aread (especially transport!) where you’ll be touching and bumping into everything.
REMEMBER: If you are carrying any of your toiletries as hand luggage onto your flight, make sure that none of them exceed 100ml or they will be taken from you. Also, remember you have to be able to fit any liquids, powders, creams, and so on into those small airport carry on plastic bags too, so all the more reason not to overfill.
Make those memories! Lloyd and I are looking to blog and vlog the life out of this trip, so Lloyd is taking his SLR and GoPro, and I’m just taking my Sony A6000. Lloyd has also made sure that he’s taking extra SD cards for the 1000000000000s of anticipated photos, as well as spare batteries so we’re not caught short on power.
REMEMBER: If you’re taking your prized digital possessions, please make sure that you have them covered in your travel insurance OR they have their own insurance up to date and complies with your kit being taken overseas. Check the countries your stand alone insurance covers.
SPEAKING OF INSURANCE! MEDICAL INSURANCE! NEVER EVER GO ABROAD WITHOUT MEDICAL INSURANCE! ALWAYS CHECK THE FEEDBACK AND RATINGS ON YOUR PROVIDER, AND YOUR EXCESS AND COVERAGE LIMITS.
And lastly, SNACKS. Our flight from the UK to Japan is around 12 hours long in total. We are also not driving to the airport, and instead taking the train. This means that we have around 6 and a half hours of travelling via train, tube, and foot until we land our bottoms on the plane seat. Sure, once we get to the airport lounge we will have access to shops and comfy (ish) chairs), but it’s vital to keep energy levels up with tasty treats. If you know me, you’ll know I like to keep my refined sugars at a major low. Sugar used to be a fuel for me, but my gosh that crash…and my gosh my health!! Now I gravitate toward raw fruit snacks, kale crisps, and anything natural cacao to smash my chocolate cravings (they can’t be shushed!).
That about covers it! Basically, for any kind of adventure like this, these bullet points are my top suggestions in summary:
- Get a darn good backpack! Make sure it secures comfortably to your back so your posture isn’t at risk whilst travelling around.
- Despite what your brain might be telling you that you NEED to take, you do not need that soap dish. Travel light. Be prepared to wash your own clothes on the go so you can keep your clothing stash down to save room. Aim to always dress comfortably!!
- Don’t deny yourself your favourite toiletries. I don’t like to be without an even skin tone and a bouncy moisturised face, that’s just me! Stick ONLY to your favourites, and be prepared to wear that same face the whole way through. It’s all good.
- Dry shampoo. You don’t need me to explain why it’s a saviour.
- Make sure all of your important documents, passports, flight details are immediately to hand. Zip everything in the most easily reached compartment and ALWAYS return them to exactly the same place you took them from.
- Enjoy. The nerves will come, but that journey is once in a lifetime. Even if you go ahead and do the same trip again, it’ll never be the same. You’re doing an amazing life thing.
See you in Japan!