Want to Go to Japan?

Update: I wrote about our trip in three separate posts: Enjoying Japanese Cuisine; Tokyo’s Gardens, Temples, and Shrines; and From Tsukigi (fish) and Yazawaya (yarn)  – Shopping in Tokyo.


I’ve always wondered what it would be like to purchase one of the super discount fares that I’ve seen advertised – the kind where if you don’t jump on it, it may be gone.  Well, now I know.

Around noon on Friday, my daughter sent me a link to a discount fare she had discovered.  “Want to go to Japan for a long weekend?” she asked.  I laughed as I read the email to my husband.

“You should go,” he said, surprising me.  I’ve never done this before; I’ve never seriously thought about it.  Buying a ticket on a whim is a bit scary.

I emailed my daughter back to see if she actually wanted to go.  She said she had been half-joking, but would think about it.  In the meantime, she texted the rest of the family to see if anyone else would also be interested.

I kept thinking, “Are we crazy?  Is this really happening?”  The deal was a good one – a very good one.  A round trip flight that was back to $1986 this morning, was only $435 on Friday.  In the end, part of the family decided they could work it out, so five of us will be traveling to Tokyo in April.

We all booked tickets on the same flight and found five seats next to each other. We spent most of Saturday looking online for a place to stay.  We are trying to keep the trip as low-budget as possible since none of us had planned a trip to Japan into our budgets.

We decided to rent a small apartment.  It will probably be crowded, but we don’t plan to spend much time inside.  For a little over $100 per person (total), we have four nights of lodging.

The flights and lodging were easy.  Researching what to do when we get there, isn’t too bad either.  Thinking about walking around in a city where I don’t even recognize the letters on signs, let alone understand the language, is not easy.

Going to Japan will definitely take me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve been to Europe several times, and although I don’t speak more than a few phrases of French and German, I recognize the alphabet, place names and words like restaurant and toilet.

Some places will have signs in English, but many will only advertise in kanji, the Japanese characters.  Will we be able to get around without getting lost? In Europe, many people speak English.  We will have to try to find out if this is also the case in Japan.

How do I deal with the unknowns and not let my fears take over?  Here is what I am doing so I can thoroughly enjoy the trip:

  1. Go with someone else.  There are five of us traveling together, but even one other person would have helped.  The first time I travel to a place that is very unfamiliar, I make sure that I don’t go alone.  Being able to share the planning and the experience makes it less stressful and more enjoyable.
  2. Work together on the planning.  We have set up a shared spreadsheet where we can add places to visits, restaurants, and other information. When we post a link or suggestion, others in the group can see it and comment. Working together on the research, makes it feel less overwhelming.  Also, when everyone participates, there is less chance of forgetting some of the details.
  3. Pack light.  We are going for a long weekend – Thursday through Tuesday. Rather than take my carry-on suitcase (even though I love it), I’ll just pack in my backpack. It is easier to carry and easier to keep close to my body, which is important in a densely populated city like Tokyo.
  4. Pay attention.  I’ll be especially aware of my surroundings.  This is important in any unfamiliar place.  Not just for safety, though; I’ll pay close attention so I remember all the new experiences I have.
  5. Take care of myself.  Since it is a short trip, we will keep busy and probably won’t have a lot of down time.  I will be eating foods that may be different than my body is used to.  I’ll do my best to get enough sleep and eat a well balanced diet.

Yes, I will be experiencing unfamiliar circumstances, but in reality, I’m much more excited than afraid.  I am thankful to be going with others in my family and look forward to sharing this adventure with them.  None of us have ever been to Asia, so it will be new for everyone.

Travel to places that are foreign in language, culture, or geography can sometimes be difficult, but with each trip, the traveler broadens their knowledge and perspective.  I expect there will be times when I am confused, amazed, stressed or elated, but that’s why I travel.  I am looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and into Japan.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

For more information on how we found the deal and how you can, too, read next week’s post, “Finding a Travel Deal -You Can Do It, Too!

Have you ever done anything like this?  Have you traveled in a way that took you out of your comfort zone?  Share your comments below.

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