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Benny’s travel plans for Japan [video] – any advice?

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We are now coming into the final days of month two, so it's time for another video! In this video I stuck to the topic of my travel plans in Japan, so I edited it to stay on that topic. As such, my italki teacher Yuri didn't get a chance to show how good she is and how well she can communicate with learners – sorry about that!

I'll take a break from uploading Japanese videos next week so that I can keep focused on improving my comprehension to interact with natives better, (which will be more of a theme next month, as me doing most of the talking has been the theme this month) as well as finally tidying up the last of my basic vocab and grammar issues so that I have a solid level to improve from for the final weeks of the project.

My upcoming travel plans in Japan – feedback welcome!


As you heard in the video, I am starting to think about precisely where I want to go in Japan and am looking into the logistics of everything. As such, my current plan is:

Leave Spain mid-December to spend a week in Ireland for xmas. Then fly to Thailand to be somewhere cheap and comfortable so that I can catch up on work for a few weeks. You'll see when I announce my plans for the entire year early January why I really need to work a lot first!

Since I'll get that work done, then I'll be able to fully focus on Japan, and around 18-22 January I'll fly to Okinawa and spend a week there. I heard that it's where karate has its origins and if possible, I'd like to make a video (in Japanese) about it, in the same kind of way I made a video about Kung Fu in China.

Then at the end of January, I'll fly to mainland Japan. My options for three weeks first are to:

  1. Fly somewhere in the south, pick up a 21 day train pass (see below), and explore the country for 3 weeks, seeing as many cool places as I can – spending about 2 or 3 days in each place.
  2. Fly into Kyoto (or some other specific city) and live there for a whole week to get to know it a little better. Then pick up a 14 day train pass to see some of the rest of the country.

Either way, at the end of those 3 weeks, I'll then finally end up in Tokyo. I think it will be way more interesting to go to Tokyo at the end of my trip rather than at the beginning. I'll spend about 8 days in Tokyo and then fly out.

This is only the first time I'll visit Japan, so I can make a note of places I want to spend more time in on the next visit. Japan is pretty expensive, so if you are in tourist mode, five or six weeks is already going to be very expensive. I could spend those weeks in one place of course, but I would really like to take this chance to see as much as I can, and explore interesting cultural aspects of more than one place.

JR pass

Something akin to the Eurail pass we have in Europe, the “Japan Rail pass” is a single ticket that you can buy which gives you unlimited access to the trains across the country in Japan, without any reservations.

Oddly enough, if you buy it outside of Japan it works out way cheaper than if you buy it in Japan. You can see details here.

While the 21 day pass price of 57,700 yen (about US$574) may seem expensive, in fact getting a single train can be dreadfully expensive. For instance, Osaka to Tokyo can be 12000-14000 (about US$120+) with a normal single ticket. Whenever I have it (whether it's for 14 or 21 days) that's the period when I would take trains, and wouldn't get any extra ones beyond this to keep costs down.

So where to?

With the options open, the only question is where do I really want to spend the time? I definitely want to be more around the Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo areas, so I may even bite the bullet and give each city one week, pay for a normal train between two cities, and then spend one other week exploring off the beaten track a bit before arriving in Tokyo.

If you have suggestions, do let me know! However, I've found that asking the Internet where to go tends to get less than useful “come here because I live here” or “I visited just one village in Japan and it's amazing so you should just go there” suggestions, but hopefully I can get good inspiration!

I do have to decide soon because accommodation options are nightmarishly expensive (even youth hostels), but slightly less so when you get them well in advance. If I can find free options (like Couchsurfing or house sitting) then I'll go for those too. No matter what though, I'll likely leave some days when I have the train pass completely open to whimsy.

And what to do?

There are hot springs, snow monkeys, sleeping in temples, particular people I'd like to see, maybe a really cheesy romantic getaway on Valentine's day with my girl, but (for now) I'm open to suggestions! I'll have my camera on the ready to share the experience on Youtube, and interview locals to ask them about it in Japanese of course.

When I finally make it to Tokyo, then I can definitely find someone to sit down and interview me in Japanese so you can see my level with the combination of 3 intensive months of studying, and a few intensive weeks of being in the country, since Skype calls have their limits and I'm looking forward to in-person interactions!

If anyone has connections they can put me in touch with then I'd appreciate that! Somewhere I can housesit or some touristy thing that could maybe give me a big reduction or let me visit for free if I share what they do in a video etc. Any connections like that! Hopefully I can experience as much of Japan as possible without also going bankrupt (living in Japan for the long term could be cheaper once you are renting a place with a normal contract, but this won't be possible for me on this visit).

Sadly, late February I have to leave Japan, as there is somewhere I really need to be to do something really exciting that I'll tell you about later.

All tips appreciated to help me form a more solid plan and take advantage of six whole weeks exploring Japan!

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Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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