Japan 2019 Day 0 - Preparations

Feb 25, 2019 5 min read

Boss: We’re closing up shop in a month for a couple of weeks.
Me: It’s time.

Holiday Planning

I wish they would give me more heads up. I wanted to travel to multiple cities and a month isn’t enough time to prepare everything.
In the end, I went with a cliche route through the most popular cities because it would be quicker to research.

“I should check Reddit”

“On second thought, let’s not”

Japan-Guide always tops the Google results and I’ve used it for every trip including this one but I don’t think it’s that great when researching places to visit. Their descriptions and photos really undersell many of the attractions and don’t really inspire me.
I might have skipped a lot of the things I enjoyed if Japan-Guide was my only source of information. Their other guides for getting around Japan are good though. Their airport guides with lists of transport options to different areas of the cities are especially useful.
Instead I found it much more helpful to trawl through user trip reports on forums like Reddit, Tripadvisor or Youtube. You’ll get real opinions on whether places are worth visiting as well as discover new things not covered in a tourist guidebook.
Another source of information that I found surprisingly helpful were the official tourism websites for each location. Official tourism websites in general can be a bit mainstream but they were actually pretty comprehensive tons of details and photos. Make sure you also check the Japanese version (with Google Translate), the English versions are sometimes simplified and lacking important news updates.

This trip I plotted all the places of interest on Google Maps. It was very helpful in visualizing how close things are to each other, getting a general sense of the layout of a city and planning a route for that day.
I often forgot to recheck my Maps once I actually got there though and walked past a lot of the things I had marked down. Woops.

My supermarkets have stopped selling those portable lactose-free milk pouches that I used last time but I found something even better. Now I get to enjoy all of the various Japanese dairy desserts too (not that it ever stopped me before). I can’t believe you chumps are still making your own Lactase.

Speaking of chumps, I didn’t know there were banks that offered free foreign ATM withdrawals and spendings. I think I’ve paid almost Β£100 on ATM fees alone over all my previous trips. These things work online too which would’ve been nice to know before I bought all those figures and renewed a bunch of US subscriptions.
Noe got me an up-to-date arcade card just before my boss told me we were taking a break. Well, better to figure out the transfer process now than during the holiday.

Time to reinstall Skype on my phone 🀒

>2014 - RIP, good times.

Spoiler: I survived and found out I wasn’t affected by Japanese hayfever πŸ‘Œ

I’ve never had much experience looking for hotels before. I stumbled upon New Koyo by luck while browsing /jp/ and I found that capsule hotel from the previous trip by literally googling “Kyoto capsule hotel” and picking the first option.

"Thanks, Kanyavat"

I hate looking for hotels, my eyes glaze over going through all the different options.
Of all the aggregrate websites I found booking.com to have the nicer interface and made it easy to cancel hotels as I re-shuffle my plans around. Then I combine that with Tripadvisor and a map of hotels to make my decision.
The map wasn’t always that helpful as I wasn’t familiar with most of these cities but Google does have a feature to overlay major public transport routes in some cities which gave me a better idea of where the major stations laid.

"Is...Is this a love hotel?.."

Ah, all the basic amenities.

I’m sold.


This is what you get when you want rock bottom prices in Tokyo.

Why does Google know this? I guess they scan your emails. Creepy…

This time I went with the Welcome Sim. Cheaper than my previous provider for my use case and I don’t have to return the card at the end.
You can easily find discounts by googling for “welcome sim coupons” or something similar. Some of the hotels I booked through booking.com also gave out coupons.
You can earn additional data by watching a bunch of ads. I like how they were all tourism related then suddenly an ad for Monster Hunter out of nowhere.

I was doing research for this town and I found a leaflet for locations that show up in an anime set in the same place. Google indexed the pdf file but I couldn’t find anywhere that actually linked to it.
Again, wishing I had more time because I wanted to re-watch this and take some screenshots with me. I watched a couple of episodes after I got back and had many “Oh I walked past this! I should have taken a photo of it!” moments.

Taking the 4-wheelers with me after what I went through last time.
Omiyage consists of Yorkshire Tea: Breakfast Brews, Sainsbury’s Custard Creams and Maltesers.

Heathrow Airport

The day is finally/already here.

They seem a little young.

Yeah, never again.

I’m in.

They asked if I had any dangerous goods in my baggage before checking it in and woops, I left a camera battery in there. Good thing there isn’t a queue behind me.
Plot twist: I had 2 spare batteries and only remembered to take one of them out. At least it didn’t burst into flames, sending us all to our deaths into the middle of the ocean. Woopsie.

Wow, it’s like I’m in Japan already!

Airport food is expensive so I brought my own lunch. Bon appetit!

Got my first big boy camera for the trip, the Fujifilm X-T20 bundled with the 18-55mm kit lens.
I waited till the last minute before buying but if I had checked the price history of previous models then I would have known that the price doesn’t drop until several months after the release of a new model. I should have bought it earlier and gotten a few weeks of practice in instead of figuring it out during the trip because wow, there’s a lot of dials and bobs on this thing.

That’s a weird looking (and expensive) speaker.


I knew airport exchange rates are terrible but it’s even worse than what I was expecting.

Man, thanks Brexit.
Luckily, the rate did start rising slightly while I was in Japan.

Heathrow finally has free wi-fi but it’s not very good and USB ports are still hard to come by.

I (almost) always get to the airport super early. Better to wait around than to miss a flight.
Imagine missing a flight, can’t be me, haha…

Golden hour, that time of day when any photo you take will look good.

“Oh, I should use my bank card in an ATM to let the algorithm know I’m going overseas”
>bank card in checked baggage
“Fok. Oh right, I should move money over to my fee-free card.”
>2-factor-authentication device in checked baggage
“Fok. Well at least I have all this money”
>Forgot to exchange money

Well at the very least I still have 10000 yen leftover from my previous trip which is enough to cover the travel fare and first night of the hotel. Good thing Rokodo paid me back in yen instead of pounds.

Gate finally got announced and it’s like a 15 minute walk away, lol wtf.


These planes are up to something.

Welcome to Britain.

Still walking…

Selfie πŸ˜—

One of the things I tried to do this trip was to take more (than 0) photos of myself and my family. I’ve learnt from looking at old albums that it’s the pictures of people that I still care about. Whether or not the photo is technically good, it’s the memories that count.

Well, by the end of the trip you can still count the number of selfies I took on one hand. It’s not something that naturally crosses my mind.

Art: Reloaded

Nice screen space reflections.

First time flying with ANA. For once, they’re the cheaper of the 2 Japanese airlines.

No one here yet.
You can tell you’re on a flight to Japan when all the passengers are wearing face masks, indoor slippers and the attendants are bowing over the phone.

New flight strategy: wearing my pyjamas onto the plane πŸ‘
I rarely sit in the aisle seat. I like looking out the window and sleeping against the wall but it was pretty liberating being able to get up and walk about whenever I wanted. It also made it a lot easier to get stuff out of my bag if I could kneel in the aisle.

ANA uses a pretty interesting 2-4-3 seat configuration for each row. Means less toilet awkwardness for us solo travellers who can pick the 2-seat column.

I found a website that lists seating arrangements for every flight where users can point out problems with specific seats: SeatGuru.com

Another interesting configuration with ANA’s planes is that the seats don’t tilt back but instead the seat cushion slides forward. It’s not as comfortable as a properly reclining seats but I think I prefer this if it means the person in front can’t recline into me either.

It doesn’t seem like ANA use their fancy new planes for the London-Tokyo route. Shame.

The in-flight entertainment had all of your favourite animes.

I used to watch this as a kid. Didn’t know it was Japanese, that explains the panty jokes.

They had a single episode of Pripara Idol Time but they picked the one episode where the focus wasn’t even on the girls but the side boy band. The little girl in front of me really enjoyed it though. She was well behaved all flight and just re-watched this one episode like 10 times.

“Oh hey, they have an episode of FMA: Brotherhood. Lol it wouldn’t be that daddy episode would it?”

OH God this is just as bad.

That’s weird. Why is it raining in here?

Pre-meal snacks and ~corn soup~.
I saw the soup on the menu card beforehand but I half regretted asking for it because they had to run back to get it. It was good though.

Dinner was some sort of fish in sweet sauce, a sashimi and pasta salad, cold soba in dipping sauce, another salad and some sort of sweet pickled grated vegetables.
As per tradition, I get the tomato juice on the Japanese flights. It just hits different on a plane.

"Bread can be requested for the Japanese dish"
Heck yeah I’m requesting for it, these plane tickets ain’t cheap.

Patiently waiting for my bread roll so I can take a photo of the whole thing together while the woman next to me wolves down her entire meal in a minute.


Oishii. I’ve read online that JAL usually has the better meals but this was still good.

Dessert. It’s not the good stuff. I take it back, JAL wins.

The Travelling Cat Chronicals

I watched this movie about a guy travelling through Japan to meet with each of his childhood friends to see if they can adopt his cat. With each friend coming with their own mini-story arc about the MC’s tragic childhood with them and, Jesus, MC is the unluckiest guy in the world. Shit just kept happening to him throughout his life and oh no, it’s starting to rain inside the plane…

Also the cat talks to the viewer.

It was good, would recommend πŸ‘

ANA had a self-serve area during the night. The thing in the middle is like some sort of dried mildly spicy squid cracker. There’s only one there because I already ate the rest πŸ˜›. Sitting in the aisle seat has allowed me to take many breaks; gotta stretch and stay hydrated.
>trying to pour water from a 2L bottle into my cup on the tall counter while the plane rocks about
>in the middle of holding a stretch when an attendant starts chitchatting me and all I can do is slightly nod along
She thought I was Japanese but I think she said something like “these long journeys are tough aren’t they?”

Life hack: Listening to noise can help you sleep better.
"Hmm, for today I feel like plane noises. Perfect."

Didn’t sleep much this flight. Only got around 4 hours during the flight and around 5 hours before the flight.
Spoiler: I felt like shit for half the trip until I finally got a chance to pass out for 12 hours.

Breakfast. Chicken pasta in cheese and tomato sauce. Oishii.

I always load up my phones with anime, manga, books etc. but I didn’t do much this flight other than watch that cat movie. I just kinda sat there and thought about stuff.

I always hate the last couple of hours before we land. Too much tension in the air from attendants shuffling about up to sleep, too restless to focus on reading a book or watching a movie and too excited so the 2 hours seem to last forever.
This time I found the perfect medium, podcasts. Doesn’t require much focus but entertaining enough to help pass the time.

キタ━━━━━━(οΎŸβˆ€οΎŸ)━━━━━━ !!!!!

They played a behind-the-scenes movie for their flight safety video while we waited for the doors to open with uplifting music looping in the background.

Next time…JAPAN!