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SOLO JAPAN 3.-16.11.2002.
introduction
departure day | day one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen
conclusion of my trip | photo gallery
Sunday, 26th of January 2003
Helsinki

Introduction

What is this site?

This site contains my thoughts, experiences and images of my vacation in Japan between the 3rd and 16th of November 2002. Since I'm interested in Japan and I'm into web designing, I decided to combine these two loves into a website you are looking at now. The exact locations visited were Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Himeji and Nikko.

Who am I then?

Friends call me Ude. I live in Helsinki, Finland and I'm working at an architect office as a technical assistant (that's what my business card says at least). Hobbies include listening to music, making web sites, sleeping and trying to learn Japanese. When I visited Japan during this trip, I was 28 years old (naturally - or should I say unfortunately - I've aged since then :-).

Why Japan instead of [insert another country here] for instance?

This is a question I've never been able to answer well. Basically I'm interested in anything related to Japan. I can't trace the exact root of cause for this, but I've never really cared about other countries as much as Japan. I've been interested in the history and culture of Japan (both traditional and pop), plus I've tried numerous times to learn the language, but with slim success.

So when I realized I finally had the money to afford a trip to Japan, I started planning it. I wanted to stop guessing what Japan is really like and get some answers, so afterwards I can start thinking about something else for a change (now I thinking when I could visit the country again, doh! >_<)!

Did you go there alone or with someone else?

Alone. I wanted to throw myself totally in the mercy of the Japanese and also prove I can take care of myself. Arranging the trip by myself also gave me full freedom to go where I pleased.

Going alone was for some reason a tough thing for me to decide, but now afterwards I think it was a great decision. Anyone who is facing the same problem, relax and just go for it (this applies for Japan at least).

How did you plan the trip?

Since I wasn't going on a package trip, I had full control in where I could go. This amount of freedom also meaned that sometimes it was extremely time consuming trying to decide where to go. Most of the research I did in the internet and from travel guide books. On the plus side I made some savings which made the effort worth it.

I bought the tickets four weeks before departure from Lufthansa. I actually reserved tickets from ANA a few days earlier, but when I heard that Lufthansa had a campaign going on for flights to Asia, I cancelled ANA's reservation and reserved the Lufthansa tickets instead. Funny enough, they were exactly the same flight routes and airplanes, but 270 euros cheaper!

Then I reserved via the internet ryokan/hotel rooms for Tokyo and Kyoto, both of them being my main bases in Japan. I also bought a travel insurance and a Japan Rail Pass exchange order from a local travel agent. Money exchange I made through my bank, although I could have made a better exchange deal with Forex.

What I would do in Japan I left to figure out once I was there. I agreed with my Japanese internet friends when we could meet. I also bought travel guides to Tokyo and Kyoto (by Lonely Planet). I barely had time to read them properly before the trip, but during the trip they were very valuable companions in quick decision making where to go!

WARNING! PLEASE NOTE!!

These thoughts and experiences come from a Finnish guy who doesn't travel often, hasn't visited a huge metropolis for 20 years (which was London back then) and is fond of Japan anyway. This means that the experiences I had in Japan might be something not that special in other countries and my praises toward Japan may feel a bit over the top, but this is a free site, so that should settle things pretty much, ne? ^_^

back to top | proceed to departure day!

Image copyright National geographic
First Tokyo for three nights, then Kyoto for six nights (from there one day visits each to Nara and Himeji) and back to Tokyo for four nights (includes a one day visit to Nikko).

World map
The distance between Finland's and Japan's capitals - Helsinki and Tokyo - is about 7820 kilometres.

A FEW FIGURES OF FINLAND AND JAPAN
  FINLAND JAPAN
POPULATION 5,184,000 126,970,000
AREA total 337,030 sqkm
water 31,560 sqkm
land 305,470 sqkm
total 377,835 sqkm
water 3,091 sqkm
land 374,744 sqkm
CLIMATE cold temperate; potentially subarctic, but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes

varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
TERRAIN mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills mostly rugged and mountainous
NATURAL HAZARDS None many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons
ETHNIC GROUPS Finn 93%, Swede 6%, Others 1% Japanese 99%, others 1%
RELIGIONS Evangelical Lutheran 89%, Russian Orthodox 1%, none 9%, other 1% observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%)
LANGUAGES Finnish 93.4% (official), Swedish 5.9% (official), small Lapp- and Russian-speaking minorities Japanese
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $25,800 (2001 est.) purchasing power parity - $27,200 (2001 est.)

BUDGET SUMMARY OF THE WHOLE TRIP (13 NIGHTS)
Airflight tickets (Helsinki-Frankfurt-Narita-Frankfurt-Helsinki) 730 euros
Train tickets (7 day Japan Rail Pass plus tickets to and from Narita airport and Nikko) 320 euros
Hotels (ryokan Kangetsu, Club Tour and ryokan Shigetsu) 510 euros
Everything else (food, entry fee tickets, souvenirs, bus and subway tickets, etc.) 1030 euros
Total 2590 euros
Note: exchange rate during this trip was about 118 yen per one euro.

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