Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, reccomended places to visit, etc.)

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.

So, like the title says, I'm going to Japan. I'm leaving around mid-march and staying until the end of July! (So a very long visit!) First, I am spending a week or two in Tokyo, visiting my boyfriend's brother and his wife. Then my boyfriend and I go up to Akita, to attend Akita International University for a semester abroad. :) I'm really excited! I was wondering if the Justbento community who has traveled to Japan has any tips, suggests, or advice for me? I'm interesting in ways to save money, fun things to do, little unknown cultural info to look out for, etc. Although I'd like to point out that I am relatively familiar with Japanese culture and I do speak a considerable amount of the language. However, I'd really appreciate anything you have to say!
Thanks :)

____________________________________

Onaka ga suiteiru!
日本語を話せますか。私もちょっと話せますよ。友達になりたいです。

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Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

For example, I know that gift giving is a big thing in Japan. I thought it would be appropriate to bring a gift to my boyfriend's brother and his wife, as thanks for letting us sleep in their home for a week or so while we explore Tokyo. Also, in Akita, I have the option of applying for a homestay family, although I would only see them on weekends. (For the most part I'd stay in the dorms.) I was also wondering what an appropriate gift might be for this family that I've never met?

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

- Will this be your first time in Japan?

- I suppose you know this already, but be sure to get the appropriate visa before you leave, since your stay is longer than the 90 days allowed for tourists and so on without a formal visa.

- Regarding omiyage, you may find the post I wrote a while back on my language blog useful: Omiyage and the serious business of gift giving. In a nutshell, bringing a gift for your brother and wife is definitely nice - maybe something from your hometown that he'd appreciate and she'd enjoy too? For the homestay family something very 'American' would be good, since they are probably going to be interested in Things American (or from overseas) anyway if they accept homestayers.

- Up in Akita they have tons of great, not too expensive, onsen (hot springs) inns. Visiting an onsen is definitely something you should do at least once in Japan.

That's all I have for the moment, but you have lots of time still! ^_^ (But be sure you have that visa!!)

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

Oh yeah, I'll have the proper Visa. It's through the school, so they make sure you're all set to go. I'll definitely read your post. I'm not sure about bringing a omiyage from my hometown for my boyfriend's brother, because he's from here in Colorado. His wife is Japanese, but he's not. So I'm not sure he'd be all that excited about a present from a place where he lived for most of his life. But I'll read your blog and see if I can think of anything else.

I am very excited to try the onsen! I love taking baths, and I've always wanted to go to a proper Japanese onsen. I'll have Golden Week off, and I might do some onsen-visiting then.

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

Ahh, try not to travel during Golden Week if at all possible. It's when all of Japan goes traveling, and everything is crowded (and at premium prices too). You don't have to stay overnight to enjoy onsen either - there are plenty that you can go to and enjoy the baths during the day, called higaeri. If you email or private msg me where exactly you'll be staying in Akita I can look up some for you.

Balifly
Bento-ing from: Vancouver › British Columbia › Canada
Joined: 22 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 1 day ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

If you and your boy friend are into jazz and blues.
Try this place, it may be something to remember.

http://www.rootdown.jp/

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=35.692354,139.77254&num=1&sll=35.692378,13...

Have fun!

Balifly

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 4 weeks ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

Congratulations, Kyasandu. You must be very excited

I put most of my favourite money saving tips in this post for another forum member:
http://justbento.com/forum/where-buy-japan#comment-9745
As you'll be there for an extended stay do try to wean yourself away from the lure of the convenience stores and vending machines as soon as you can.

I love looking through the photos posted by Japanese food bloggers and using translation tools to decipher the text. This is how I research where to find great lunch time deals - mostly in urban business districts. I imagine from your avatar that Kyoto is high on your list. The Osaka food blogger mentioned in the previous thread is a wonderful gateway into the food of that region (way better than a Michelin guide!)

Check out Diane Durston's guides to Kyoto for the kind of information about the city you seem to be asking for (aburi mochi at Ichiwa - 69 Imamiya-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku - was a wonderful recommendation and I still drool remembering it)
Also, if you arrive before May do try the Ujicha Shoro at Koyama
http://www.marukyu-koyamaen.co.jp/english/goods/goods_08.html
I was lucky enough to drink the tea prepared by a tea scholar from a dynasty of Chinese tea growers recently and this lady is currently studying the art in Kyoto. She brought some of these sweets to London with her - they were so good they made the Pierre Herme matcha flavoured chocolates and macarons taste lackluster in comparison! Both flavours are exquisite.

In Tokyo... I'm afraid it would take me too long to expound on all my favourite places there. You could try Taiyaki at the shop said to have invented this speciality - Naniwaya Sohonten in Azabu Juban (Azabu Juban and the Yanaka area are, so far, my favourite parts of Tokyo, but it's a close call as there are so many other parts I adore - I think I fall more and more in love with this city with every visit)
Most travel guides deal with the surface of Tokyo and this changes so quickly that they can never really keep up. I'd recommend a different tactic and suggest that you read
Neighborhood Tokyo by Theodore Bestor - http://www.amazon.com/Neighborhood-Tokyo-Theodore-Bestor/dp/0804717974
which concentrates on a single 'cho' and thoroughly explains the nuts and bolts and skeleton of a small neighbourhood in Metropolitan Tokyo. It's like getting to grips with a few jigsaw pieces before being bombarded with the full puzzle when you arrive there. By understanding the components that go into building it you may enjoy the whole much more. This book can be picked up second hand cheaply on Amazon. Sure, it isn't up to date, but I can promise that it's still very relevant and will help you understand exactly why Tokyo is the way it is.

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

Thank you! I am very excited. I've always wanted to go to Japan, and I'm so happy to finally have the opportunity. Kyoto is in fact high on my list! I find the history of geisha to be very interesting, and they're so pretty and elegant and the represent everything about traditional Japanese culture that is appealing to me! Unfortunately, I don't know if I will be able to get to Kyoto. I do have Golden Week off, but I don't know if I'll be able to afford any extensive travel.

Thank you for the Tokyo information! I will be spending at least a week there in mid-March, so that information will be extremely useful.

Of course, most of the visit I will be in Akita, kind of in the middle of nowhere. But I'm sure I'll have plenty exposure to the culture regardless.

Leelee
Bento-ing from: Stevenage › UK
Joined: 10 Aug 2010
User offline. Last seen 16 weeks 3 days ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

I am just in the middle of planning my travels and of course Japan is on my agenda!! Going to spend around 2-3months there before moving on elsewhere across Asia then Aussie to see my uncle :D Think I am going to have to keep an eye on this thread lol!

____________________________________

I'm not short, I'm fun sized ^_^

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

If you have any specific questions, I'm sure they'll be answered quickly here. :)

Henni A
Re: Going to Japan! Looking for advice (travel, culture, ...

Don't forget Japan's beautiful nature! Don't be dismissive about being "in the middle of nowhere", it can be nice! Go hiking in the mountains, explore the coast and the lakes... Your picture of Japanese culture will be incomplete if you are only interested in traditional culture in the capitals and not everyday life of people in rural areas today. And enjoying nature is part of the Japanese culture as well!

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