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SOLO JAPAN II 14.-28.3.2004.
introduction | departure day
day one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen | fifteen
conclusion of my trip | photo gallery II
Wednesday, 2nd of March 2005

Conclusion of my trip

Looking back

Okay, at the time of writing this, it has almost been a full year when I visited Japan for the second time. So while the initial feelings from that trip have faded away long ago, making an analysis of it is still possible.

Easy traveling

As expected, the JR Pass made traveling very easy. For local trains, there was no need to worry about the fares: just show the pass at a manned gate and that's it. Same thing when reserving a seat for a shinkansen or express train at a railway office: just show the JR Pass, tell your destination and you are given the seat reservation ticket.

The tourist information centers proved to be valuable in getting good accommodation reservations easily. Just visit the center, tell the desired price range and they will make the reservation for you. Maybe I was caught lucky on both occasions when I used a center this way, but even so I wouldn't hesitate to use their services again if I haven't made a reservation in advance.

Add the friendliness of the Japanese, mostly fine weather, good food and the safety level of Japan, the trip went very smoothly just like I though it would. All in all Japan is a very travel friendly country.

Things of improvement

Everything went fine during my trip (even the sprained ankle wasn't that bad in the end), but there were a few things I could have planned slightly better and I'll keep in mind next time around Japan.

A two week visit proved yet again to be too short, as I still wasn't able to do all the things I wanted to. With an itinerary that stretched from Hokkaido to Kyushu, many hours of the day were spent sitting in trains.

I'm not saying this was a major mistake, but now most of the sightseeing I did were narrowed down to the compulsory tourist spots. A few extra days here and there would have given me more breathing space to explore alternative activities - like going to a concert or visiting an onsen hot spring - which often are more valuable experiences than seeing major tourist attractions.

Communication and contacts

Using public phones and computers to call and exchange e-mails with my Japanese contacts was very awkward, so next time around I'll surely rent a mobile phone. Many mobile operators in Japan offer mobile phone renting services to tourists at reasonable prices. Besides, those keitai phones are so cool to play with!

One aspect I missed at some cities like Sendai was a local contact ready to tour me around. I did have one waiting for me at Kagoshima, but I wasn't able to stretch my itinerary that far due to the lack of time. It still bugs me I had to cancel my visit there, it might have been a memorable visit.

Will there be a third visit?

Looking into the future, a third visit is likely to happen some day, but when, that is unknown. I aim to make it at least three weeks so that I can explore Japan in a more slower pace, but it might also be possible that I will settle for Tokyo and its surroundings for a few weeks. The capital alone has so much to offer and I'm aware I still haven't sunk my teeth deep enough there.

There is also the possibility that I won't make my third visit alone. It never has been a necessity for me and sharing a trip would naturally bring new possibilities and increase the fun of exploring Japan.

My ultimate plan is to find a way to live in Japan for a short period to really experience what the real Japan is like, but due to strict immigration laws and the difficult employment situation even for the Japanese, this is a goal that might never be achieved. I'll be keeping my eyes and ears open for possible opportunities, however.

Whatever the chosen path will be in the end, one thing I promised myself before I set foot on Japan again is that I study the basics of the Japanese language first (easier said than done). Too many times during my trip people came to chat with me in Japanese, but I couldn't understand anything and could only shrug my shoulders in reply.

Compared to the first trip

Comparing this trip to the previous one is a bit unfair, because the first one was a personal dream I made reality. Nothing can match that feeling of visiting the moon for the first time. So while the second trip couldn't topple the first one, it definitely was a good sequel.

Japan was yet again a fascinating country to visit and thanks to my friend Shiho in Tokyo, seeing a glimpse of the "real" Japan was a special and valuable part of my trip. And even after two visits, I'm still planning to visit the country again one day. Something just keeps pulling me back there.

Ending credits

Before ending this report, I'd like to thank all of those who signed the guestbook and wrote e-mails to me concerning this website. Without the positive feedback I might not have considered writing this second travelogue due to my limited free time (this was hard work, folks!). So let this be an example that with support, great things can be achieved. ;-)

Now that I've crossed the finish line, I can take a well deserved break from this project and start concentrating on something else. Thank you for your time. Like the first travelogue, I hope you enjoyed reading it and maybe even inspired you to visit Japan yourself. As for myself, I'll now go and study some Japanese.

Ja mata! (^_^)/

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Photo copyright Ude
An airplane flying high over Yamadera. How times have changed from the old days.

Photo copyright Ude
Shinkansen bullet trains were heavily used in this trip, not to mention normal express and local trains as well.

Photo copyright Ude
People viewing Tokyo below at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office building's observation floor.

Photo copyright Ude
Tokyo's quiet suburban streets were a nice counterbalance to the noises and lights of its major streets.

Photo copyright Ude
If I had bought all the train tickets separately instead of using the JR Pass, the travel budget would have grown easily by a few hundred euros.

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