What’s Different from My Last Trip to Japan

Writing from Osaka, after a tiresome day of roaming the Shima peninsula. The highlight of the trip were definitely the Wedded Rocks. I can’t say the same for our second destination, Ise Jingu, the so called Soul of Japan. The heat got to me, probably.

The Wedded Rocks at Futamiokitama Shrine
The Wedded Rocks at Futamiokitama Shrine

Indeed, I wrote in plural. In 2016, I cohabitated with friends, however I went through most of the sightseeing by myself. This time the girlfriend came with me. She’s been a great companion so far, both out here in Japan and in life. Before we headed off to the East, we knew we were severely out of shape for any intense sightseeing schedules. We went hiking a couple of times before the trip, to get back into shape, but I think we hadn’t made much progress. Even so, this heat is not for the living to walk under. Big cities like Osaka are especially terrible in that regard. Without warning, you find yourself in a heat pocket, stuck in front of a red traffic light. We are still alive though.

So I guess I’m back to blaming the weather. I admit, the last time I visited I came under-prepared. After landing in Japan, as you walk through the plane’s doors, the first thing you feel is a gush of hot air. At first you attribute it to bad air conditioning at the terminal, the heat emissions from the airplane or the taxi runway, then you finally realize you are currently in a different, hotter climate. No matter which part of Japan I visited, I packed two spare regular T-shirts, a towel, and Biore pads. I sweated like a pig, I hated the climate. But mostly I felt embarrassed being in the vicinity of other people whilst being sweaty like that.

I did some research on the topic of sweating. Yes, naturally I sweat more than the average person. But there are ways to fighting sweat effectively.

The first thing to think about is how to move from place to place. Don’t walk too fast. Back in 2016, I was constantly rushing myself to go see more places. The second mistake was to be stingy with public transport. I would sometimes walk an hour extra rather than to pay the 800 Yen subway fare. That being said, I was very tight on the money. Third, I lacked proper clothing.

Well, I guess I learned how to walk more calmly, and to stop panicking about missing the targeted trains. I know my Japanese trains now … almost. The money situation for this trip sorted itself out after I got full employment. In 2016, I was still one leg in school, one leg out in the working world.

As for the clothing? If you are planning a trip to warm places, do yourself a favor and spend extra on that. I bought a bunch of T-shirts made from merino wool. These don’t accumulate heavy body odor, they feel good to wear, and most importantly they dry up faster than almost any fabric, as they wick sweat away from your body. Unlike cotton. Even if you do sweat as much to be completely drenched in one, because of the woolen texture you won’t feel wet. How you feel makes all the difference if you are easily irritated by heat, like I am.

All of a sudden, I don’t mind the Japanese climate that much and I get to do the laundry less often.

Also, I got myself a decent point-and-shoot camera. I wanted to minimize my time taking photos, whereas in 2016 I was using my smartphone. Touch screens are not that great when you have sweaty and shaky hands. Also, the constant reopening of the camera app was very annoying.

What else is different? Back then I was staying in Tokyo for the entirety of my trip, which affected sightseeing of remote places, since traveling had taken a good chunk of time out of every day trip. For example, I had to spend roughly ten hours for a round trip to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen, which left me with less than five hours to see the actual city. Aside from the strain on the body and mind, such travel itineraries were simply huge wastes of time.

For this year we booked hotels in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagano. We are moving to a different city in a couple of days. This measure significantly cuts down on travel time for day trips. I also picked hotels close to Shinkansen terminal stations, because I didn’t want to spend an hour commuting across the city just to get to the terminal.

Now I’ll list a couple things that haven’t changed.

My Japanese is still horrible. I know a decent chunk of the common vocabulary, but where I truly struggle is the grammar. The reason for that is that I never actually learned Japanese in a structured manner; I just let whatever I heard sink in. Conversations initiated by third parties tend to catch me off-guard so hard, I likely blurt out a fusion of the three languages I know best. But apparently my nihongo is jouzu. Please shoot me.

Another one is the regret I felt when I realized I was too late to purchase tickets for the Ghibli Museum. I rewatched Princess Mononoke a month ago and thought it was amazing, as opposed to the first time I watched it when I was a teen. The Ghibli Museum is very popular. Tickets go on sale on the tenth of the month prior to the month of the visit and sell out very quickly. I was postponing the purchase, because I got a bit weary of paying for all the other expenses related to the trip, until it was too late. One day, perhaps.

I suppose I have more luck when it comes to the next generation of great anime directors. Three years ago I got to see Kimi no Na Wa, now I got to see Tenki no Ko. I consider myself blessed to have planned Japan for the Summer seasons that mattered the most, anime-wise.

That’s all, folks! I’m not sure what I wanted to say with this post. I guess I just wanted to share some experiences. It’s not the usual of what you find on this blog, even though my content and styles vary a lot, but I hope you enjoyed.

If you have any questions regarding visiting Japan, I’ll be happy to answer.

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