January… what is with this January just never ending? It feels like it’s lasted 7 years! I’ve been contemplating why it seems to have dragged so much and through that I realised I haven’t been travelling since the beginning of November. Gross. My next excursion is just under three weeks away, but this has been the longest gap between trips I’ve had for about a year. It’s no wonder I’m feeling so restless. I easily could have crowbarred a few extra trips in between but I’m trying to be sensible… fiscally.

It’s boring.

My work has continued to be quite… uneventful in 2020 thus far, which has afforded me ample opportunity to plan more about my trip to Japan. I think I mentioned I booked my one way flight out there. Just 106 days to go! Since then I’ve also booked an internal flight from Sapporo to Tokyo, which gives a little structure to the otherwise amorphous blob of a route I’ve planned through the country.

Surprisingly enough, packing in your job, apartment and entire established life to go travelling round a country on the other side of the world where they don’t speak your language is not a particularly common thing that people do. Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to about my trip has been excited for me… however I feel as if very few of them truly understand why I’m doing it. I do have one friend who is on the same wavelength as me though; he has travelled extensively and embraces the nomad lifestyle, so I find his opinions very reaffirming. He gave me some really good advice about how I should plan my trip to get the most out of it.

I can’t wait to spend more time in big cities (like Osaka), getting to know them better!

This advice centres around focusing on travelling slowly and on meeting local people. This goes against my natural instinct to see as much as possible in the time I have. If you saw my post My Travel Ja-Plan, then you may have been nonplussed at how many different destinations I was hoping to squeeze into my itinerary. I need to take another look at it and resist the urge to see every single thing in the country.

Travelling slowly will allow me to appreciate each shrine just that little bit more. Maybe.

As if to illustrate my point – on my last trip to Japan, I visited a small town named Obuse because my guidebook lauded it as an absolute highlight. I found the town to be quite boring and actually I can hardly remember visiting it. I had to dig up a photo from the archive to prove that I had actually been there.

The one photo I took in Obuse out the window of a restaurant

What I’m much more likely to remember is people. Cities that I base myself in for a week or more, so that I can actually understand what it’s like to live there. Hopping between tourist sites may educate me a little on what the Japanese value and their history. But I’d much rather learn more about contemporary Japan by chatting to the locals.

Getting to know some locals in Kanazawa was a highlight of my last trip to Japan even if we did only take these horribly lit and unflattering photos

One benefit from writing out my absurdly stuffed travel plan back in November is that I’ve allowed some time for it to sit and ferment in my mind. Some destinations I’ve found difficult to forget whereas others I can’t even remember the reason people visit. Just like with a good essay, I can start trimming the fat on this first draft and make my trip more concise and valuable. The old adage of quality not quantity is definitely pertinent here.

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