Nippon A Flight To Tokyo

20 05 2008

When I was little, Japan was the coolest country on earth. Not only did they have gigantic fire-breathing monsters strolling their streets and news reporters and police who spoke English without moving their lips, but they’d also invented pachinko. How much cooler could a country be?


As I grew older, Japan became one of the places I most wanted to visit despite reports of $20 apples and $200 steaks. The unique culture – both ancient and pop – was highly appealing but fears of language difficulties and the cost were as intimidating as a Godzilla rampage. However, having survived the Cyrillic alphabet in Russia shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, just how difficult could Japanese Kanji really be, I pondered?


Japan is one the most intriguing countries on earth. Even in a bustling city such as Tokyo, tradition plays a very strong and important role. If you make the effort to explore beyond the main population centres however, you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of a revered culture steeped in time-honoured custom.


A friend of mine once ventured to Japan with much trepidation and a huge wad of traveller’s cheques. The trip was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream and he was armed with phrase books, maps and what he had determined was enough money to stave off starvation. What he discovered was a country not half as expensive as he’d read or feared. He quickly learned that the small noodle shops and other Japanese fast food equivalents were really no more expensive than eating-out at home and although the language was a challenge, it added to his experience and never became a problem. He has returned several times since.


There are two ways to see Japan: independently, or as part of a group. Both styles can be as expensive or inexpensive as you wish. Japan offers everything from youth hostels that are part of international organisations, right up to 5-Star deluxe hotels that can rival the average person’s monthly mortgage payment for a single night stay. In between, there is something for everyone and every budget. Japan Rail offers passes to help get around the country and local transit systems are easy and inexpensive to navigate.


If you fancy a tour, there are as many options as there are products bearing Hello Kitty and her friends. The best bet for combining the security of a group with the freedom of independent travel are small group trips offered by a number of adventure travel companies. These usually have no more than 12-16 people, travel in a variety of transportation including private vehicles and public buses, stay in smaller locally-owned and operated accommodation and provide a proper taste of the Japanese culture and people. Their cost is often comparable with a similar trip to Europe…or even cheaper, and can leave you with enough money to engage in some serious retail therapy in the Ginza.


If you’ve always had a yen to visit Japan, start your research, contact a professional who knows their way around…and learn to speak English without moving your lips!!



Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008