Kami Watch Over Me (Final Thoughts)

Kami Watch Over Me Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsStart of DayEnd of Day
Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday, Oct 21 2022Flight from Edmonton to TokyoEdmontonTokyo
Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022Saitama, IkebukuroTokyoTokyo
Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022Autumn Reitaisai 9, ShinjukuTokyoTokyo
Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022AkihabaraTokyoTokyo
Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022HakoneTokyoHakone
Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022Kamakura, Enoshima ShrineHakoneKamakura
Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022HannoKamakuraHanno
Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022ShinkoiwaHannoTokyo
Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022Akihabara, Matsudo CityTokyoTokyo
Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022M3-50, Moto-YawataTokyoTokyo
Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022Akasaka, Shimo-Kitazawa, Shibuya HalloweenTokyoTokyo
Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022Shinjuku, Sophia UniversityTokyoTokyo
Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, KabukichoTokyoTokyo
Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022Shinjuku LoftTokyoTokyo
Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, SensojiTokyoTokyo
Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022Nagano, ZenkojiTokyoNagano
Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022Ueda Sanada Festival, Ueda City, Sanada ShrineNaganoNagano
Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022Zenkoji, Kyoto, Nakagyo WardNaganoKyoto
Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022Otsu, Omi JinguKyotoKyoto
Day 19 – Wednesday, Nov 09 2022Fushimi Inari, Kashoji, Tofukuji, ShorinjiKyotoKyoto
Day 20 – Thursday, Nov 10 2022Ohara, Sanzenin, ArashiyamaKyotoKyoto
Day 21 – Friday, Nov 11 2022Kiyomizu, Ryozen Kannon, Yasaka ShrineKyotoKyoto
Day 22 – Saturday, Nov 12 2022Heian Raku Ichi Market, Osaka, JusoKyotoOsaka
Day 23 – Sunday, Nov 13 2022Sukunahikona Shrine, NambaOsakaOsaka
Day 24 – Monday, Nov 14 2022Kobe (with Ran)OsakaOsaka
Day 25 – Tuesday, Nov 15 2022Maibara, Toyosato, NagoyaOsakaNagoya
Day 26 – Wednesday, Nov 16 2022Osu, Banshoji, NakaNagoyaNagoya
Day 27 – Thursday, Nov 17 2022Obara Shikizakura Festival, RurikozanyakushiNagoyaNagoya
Day 28 – Friday, Nov 18 2022Okayama, KurashikiNagoyaKurashiki
Day 29 – Saturday, Nov 19 2022Kyoto (with Xuanjie), Autumn Okayama Momotaro FestivalKurashikiKurashiki
Day 30 – Sunday, Nov 20 2022Okayama, Sunrise IzumoKurashikiSunrise Izumo
Day 31 – Monday, Nov 21 2022Minowa, Enoshima Shrine, Ameyoko MarketSunrise IzumoTokyo
Day 32 – Tuesday, Nov 22 2022Shibuya, Taito CityTokyoTokyo
Day 33 – Wednesday, Nov 23 2022AkihabaraTokyoTokyo
Day 34 – Thursday, Nov 24 2022Shinjuku (with Yaoxiang), HarajukuTokyoTokyo
Day 35 – Friday, Nov 25 2022Sensoji, Narita Airport, Flight from Tokyo to EdmontonTokyoEdmonton
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Regarding the trip and the blog

This post will contain a number of loose thoughts and stats I had about my entire trip, things that fit nowhere else, observations I want to capture to look back on from the future, and so on. I might also add stuff to this over time.

The trip was fun, all in all a great experience and something I would do again in a heartbeat. After some rest. Although I could always have gone further and done more, and there was so much more to see, I did feel like I was a wanderer exploring (part of) the world and always trying to find new and interesting things around corners. While I do not think I am overly introverted, I’m not particularly outgoing or social either, and I can be very whimsical, so I greatly enjoyed the company of just having myself (and Tigey) along on the trip, though there were definitely parts of the trip that I shared with other people that I met as well, and each of those experiences was nice in its own way. I recharge energy while alone though, not while with others.

Blogging as a whole on the trip was fun, but somewhat time-consuming, it took me probably about 4-5 hours to churn out each post on average. That was what I mostly spent my evenings on between watching TV so I didn’t mind this, though watching TV definitely extended the time it took for me to get a post up and running. Television was excellent Japanese language and culture exposure, though.

The one main thing that butted in to this time was work, and having to find time to do work tickets on the side as well. I actually managed this digital nomad thing fairly well, and out of the Oct 20 to Nov 25 timespan, there were:

ට  Weekends: 10
ට  Stat holiday weekdays: 1
ට  Working weekdays: 26
ට  Number of working weekdays I took off: 8
ට  Actual working days: 18

Blogging and working together while travelling was fine. What suffered for this was the third thing that I wanted to do but could absolutely never find time to do — a running dictionary of terms that I was trying to build in my physical book, noting down words that I didn’t know and translating and learning them so I had them for the rest of my trip. I did take pictures of lots of words and pictures and I wanted to translate them all to pick out words, but there was just no time. Still, I can do this to all those images still in preparation for the next time I go to Japan.

On a more technical side, I didn’t like (and this feeling was corroborated by friends) how the Table of Contents didn’t update on all the earlier pages since I was using a different Table of Contents for each day, and planned to go back and update all the posts once at the end of my trip when I had finalized the Table of Contents. I had said this in the opening post of my blog, and there were still footer links and main page links that would show my latest blog post, but it was still very inefficient for friends who were reading an early blog post to get to my latest one quickly. I’m pretty sure I could have (edit: and now have) set it up with a master Table of Contents that would just have been embedded in all the blog posts and that I could have updated once to update all my blog pages all at once though. All I would have lost was the “(You are here)” part of each Table of Contents entry.

This was less important in shorter blog series, but it definitely reared its head in this long 35-post series and will likely be something I will change for the future.

Overall though, I was happy that I managed to get 31 out of 35 posts done while on the trip itself, though because each post took so long, I found it next to impossible to make up for any days that I fell behind on, even though I had still partially written my usual blog on those days — it’s not like I ever had any day where I just put the laptop aside and did not write at all. I did notice that the main days when I fell off of writing were actually my two homestays, the five day one with Akira in Kyoto and the three day one with Noriko and Shuji in Kurashiki.

Even though in both cases I had my own room to write in at night and also had no television to distract me for the most part, there was something about staying with other people and having to match up schedules with them (especially when they had to drive you somewhere in the morning and pick you up at night) that just made it harder to write. Mostly, I think it was that when I was by myself, I would sometimes finish my writing at some point between 10 pm and 2 am, and I would sometimes instead go to sleep, wake up, and finish it at some point between 8 am and 1 pm before going out. But I couldn’t do the latter when I was living with someone else.

Regarding the cost of the trip

I suggest skipping this section entirely for any readers that hate lots and lots of numbers and big, pointless lists and paragraphs.

I almost certainly have miscounts in a ledger list this long, but I always keep a transaction log when I go on vacation, tallying up everything I spend related to the trip, from pre-trip events like my new shoes and duffel bag, to hotel and homestay fees, to the JR Pass and the round-trip plane ride, to shipping of things to friends or myself, to every meal I ate and every little drink I bought. Not counting things I already had and just brought along though, even if they ended up being consumed. Things were bought in different currencies in some cases, and the grand total that I arrived at for how much money I spent on this trip was:

$2,529.43 CAD,
$567.82 USD, and
477,468 yen.

Most of the USD expenditures came from Airbnb, whereas most of the CAD expenditures came from the plane ticket and JR Pass. Converting all that to CAD using today’s market rates as per Google “CAD to X” conversion calculation, I get $2,529.43 CAD + $760.96 CAD + $4,708.24 CAD or $7,998.63 Canadian Dollars in total.

The actual cost isn’t quite that high though, because:

ට  I redeemed 103,271 RBC Avion points for $1,032.71 off my initial roundtrip airplane fare, which was counted in there as $1,550.96 CAD. I ended up only paying $518.25 of it.
ට  Similarly, at the end of the trip, I redeemed 28,797 Scene+ points against my last 5-day hotel stay in Tokyo to completely nullify the $287.97 CAD it cost me at the time, which was counted as $294.70 CAD in today’s calculations.
ට  Some of my purchases were made by friends, and I’ve already been paid back in full by them. Specifically, I’ve already received $145.65 USD and $206.49 CAD back, and will shortly receive another $37 CAD or so, nullifying 43400 yen and $35.94 CAD expenditure for shopping I did for people. There’s another $6.13 for a keychain that I’m not quite sure how to collect yet but we’ll figure that out at some later point as that’s not breaking the bank. All this together (minus the keychain) adds up to $427.96 CAD worth of purchases that were paid for by other people.

Taking those off, my initial $7,998.63 CAD cost sinks to $6,243.26 CAD for a 35 day trip, or something around $178.38 CAD a day.

Also, the conversion rate for that was done using today’s yen rate, but the yen has risen sharply in the past week or so and was actually doing very terribly in the first month that I was there, in late October to mid November 2022, so the actual cost was a small amount lower than that as well, just not really possible to calculate. I do attempt to illustrate this down in the housing section though. (My credit card bills actually land in the general ballpark of $5,700, or $163 CAD a day or so, but it’s hard to nail down exactly. I’m not sure the gap should be quite THAT big though, even with Japan’s currency strength improving ever since I returned, but JPY to CAD was around 0.009 through most of October to December, which would have made 477,468 yen convert to about $4,297 CAD. Now it’s 0.0101 or so, which makes 477,468 yen convert to that $4,708.24 value. My credit card has no foreign exchange fees either. The true figure is somewhere between those two numbers.)

Going a bit more granular, I can even pull out travel and housing fees from that amount above, the former being possible because nearly every travel item I paid for was done either on my Suica card or charged to the JR Pass.

For travel:

ට  Plane fee (round trip) – $518.25 CAD
ට  JR Pass – $568.00 CAD
ට  Suica – 24,100 yen counting the physical card itself, plus about 400 yen trapped on my Suica card at the end of the trip. Not counting one 900 yen meal I bought with it.
ට  Misc – Vancouver Railway fare – $8.10 CAD
ට  Misc – Keisei Skyliner ticket – 2,570 yen
ට  Misc – Nagano Railway fare – 170 yen
ට  Misc – Ohmi Railway fare x2 – 1,180 yen
ට  Misc – Okayama Streetcar fare x2 – 240 yen

This totals out to $1,094.35 CAD, plus 4,160 yen, or $40.87 CAD (CAD to Yen conversion) more. This is $1,135.22 CAD in all, or about $32.43 a day.

For housing:

ට  Oct 21 – Oct 25 – Tama Ryokan (Tokyo) – 18,000 yen through Booking.com
ට  Oct 25 – Oct 26 – Hakonenomori Okada (Hakone) – 10,950 yen through Booking.com
ට  Oct 26 – Oct 27 – Kakiya Ryokan (Kamakura) – 6,600 yen through Booking.com
ට  Oct 27 – Oct 28 – Paddock Pass (Hanno) – $51.78 CAD through Airbnb.com
ට  Oct 28 – Oct 31 – 绮绮の小屋 (Qiqi no Xiao Wu) (Tokyo) – 21,544 yen through Booking.com
ට  Oct 31 – Nov 05 – Centurion Hotel Akasaka (Tokyo) – 52,440 yen through Booking.com
ට  Nov 05 – Nov 07 – Hotel Unicorn (Nagano) – 14,025 yen through Booking.com
ට  Nov 07 – Nov 12 – Kyoto-shi Japanese German Club (Akira‘s house) (Kyoto) – $302.51 USD through Airbnb.com
ට  Nov 12 – Nov 15 – Early Arc Osaka (Osaka) – 32,398 yen through Booking.com
ට  Nov 15 – Nov 18 – Trust Nagoya Building (Nagoya) – $149.15 USD through Airbnb.com
ට  Nov 18 – Nov 20 – Convenient homes in Kurashiki, Okayama, Naoshima (Shuji/Noriko‘s house) (Okayama) – $65.75 USD through Airbnb.com
ට  Nov 21 – Nov 25 – Hotel Emir (Tokyo) – 29,900 yen through Booking.com

Nov 20-21 was the Sunrise Izumo night, and that one cost me zilch.

Converting into CAD using “CAD to Yen” rates as of right now,

ට  Oct 21 – Oct 25 – Tama Ryokan – $177.50 ($44.38 CAD/night) [$0 + 18,000 yen direct]
ට  Oct 25 – Oct 26 – Hakonenomori Okada – $107.98 ($107.98 CAD/night) [$100.34 + 150 yen direct]
ට  Oct 26 – Oct 27 – Kakiya Ryokan – $65.08 ($65.08 CAD/night) [$62.00]
ට  Oct 27 – Oct 28 – Paddock Pass – $51.78 ($51.78 CAD/night)
ට  Oct 28 – Oct 31 – Qiqi no Xiao Wu – $212.44 ($53.11 CAD/night) [$201.19]
ට  Oct 31 – Nov 05 – Centurion Hotel Akasaka  – $517.10 ($103.42 CAD/night) [$490.08]
ට  Nov 05 – Nov 07 – Hotel Unicorn – $138.30 ($69.15 CAD/night) [$137.14]
ට  Nov 07 – Nov 12 – Akira‘s house – $405.64 ($81.13 CAD/night)
ට  Nov 12 – Nov 15 – Early Arc Osaka – $319.35 ($106.45 CAD/night) [$312.04]
ට  Nov 15 – Nov 18 – Trust Nagoya Building – $200.08 ($66.69 CAD/night)
ට  Nov 18 – Nov 20 – Shuji/Noriko‘s house – $88.20 ($44.10 CAD/night)
ට  Nov 21 – Nov 25 – Hotel Emir – $294.70 ($73.68 CAD/night) [$287.97] — but paid off by Scene+, so 0.

This totals up to $2,578.15, or $75.83 CAD/night (counting against 34 nights instead of 35), $67.16 CAD/night after subtracting the Scene+ point redemption. But again, this is calculated using today’s interest rates. The interest rates back then were more favourable for me, and for the Booking.com properties, I actually listed a price in square brackets besides some of the properties above to show how much in CAD my card was actually charged for those stays. The price difference is as much as $10-$20 in a couple of them. But I’m using the larger number from today anyway, because that’s how I calculated my overall expenditure amount above.

Subtracting travel and lodging gives a figure of $6,243.26 – $1,135.22 – $2,578.15 + $294.70 (it got subtracted twice) = $2,824.59 CAD, or just over $80 CAD a day for 35 days spent on “general funds”. That’s an upper bound, and if I use the actual $5,700 estimate that I got earlier from credit card bills, that goes down to $2,281.33 or $67 CAD/day. This includes the new bag and shoes I got before the trip, the ludicrous 13,000 yen I paid for shipping that box back home early, the portable battery and power converter I bought early on, gifts for Ran and for my family, exchange rate bloat between when I spent the money and what the rate is now, and a number of other weird one-off costs, so the actual amount I spent “per day” while in Japan on food, drink, CDs, souvenirs, venue entry fees, temple donations, and so on, was a lot lower than that, probably below $50 CAD/day. There were several days where I only spent 2,000-3,000 yen ($20-30 CAD) or so, and one where I didn’t even spend 1,000 yen out of pocket. By far the biggest cost was spent on lodging, though I tried to stay in spaces that cost at most $100 CAD a night, often less.

In terms of actual physical notes, I brought 120,000 yen there (converted using $1,175.95 CAD in Calforex in Southgate) before I went, and I withdrew another 50,000 yen from an ATM there (converted using $483.35 CAD in a 7-11 branch ATM in Nagano). I ended the trip with 17,526 yen in physical money left over (which, converted back to CAD, would lower my above total expenditures by another $174. This leftover isn’t counted in my “upper limit” transaction log total but is counted in my “lower limit” credit card bill total, so that number should really be a little lower).

My trip estimates of how much I need are usually quite on point, but in this instance I had underestimated by about 33,000 yen. Two major things contributed to this — the first place I lived in, Tama Ryokan, where I had to surrender 18,000 yen right off the bat because they wouldn’t accept credit cards, and the two independent music CD sale events I attended, Reitaisai 9 and M3-50, as I spent 6,700 yen on the first one and 23,400 yen on the second one, and neither place accepted credit cards at all as well.

In fact, if I take off the 17,500 yen I spent on Mart‘s CDs at the two events, and the 18,000 yen for Tama Ryokan if they had accepted cards, I would have barely come in under my original 120,000 yen estimate and not have to withdraw the additional 50,000 yen at all, so I am fairly happy with my original estimate. Not that the withdrawal was pricey at all, it just cost me 220 yen in fees to withdraw the 50,000 yen, and I actually got a better rate at the ATM in the 7-11 in Nagano (103 yen or so per 1 CAD) than I did in the currency converter store in Southgate (102 yen or so per 1 CAD). Though the currency did fluctuate a bit between that time, of course.

Regarding trains and the JR Pass

This one was a fun one to track. The pass cost me $568 when I bought it, which apparently converted to 61,769.08 yen, at the time of the initial tracking post I made on Day 15. There is also another value to consider, the listed yen value on the JR Pass itself, which is 60,450 yen. I’ll also repost my final Day 35 log here:

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 09 2022 – JR Nara Line (Tofukuji to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 10 2022 – JR Sanin/Sagano Line (Saga-Arashiyama to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 12 2022 – Super Hakuto 7 (Kyoto to Osaka) – U: 1230, R: 1760
ට  Nov 15 2022 – Kodama 720 (Shin-Osaka to Maibara) – U: 4510, R: 4840
ට  Nov 15 2022 – Kodama 748 (Maibara to Nagoya) – U: 3100, R: 3430
ට  Nov 18 2022 – Hikari 505 (Nagoya to Okayama) – U: 10550, R: 11080
ට  Nov 18 2022 – JR Marine Liner 45 (Okayama to Chayamachi) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 19 2022 – JR Marine Liner 17 (Hayashima to Okayama) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 574 (Okayama to Shin-Kobe) – U: 5170, R: 5700
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 504 (Shin-Kobe to Kyoto) – U: 2860, R: 3390
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 509 (Kyoto to Okayama) – U: 7140, R: 7670
ට  Nov 19 2022 – JR Marine Liner 51 (Okayama to Hayashima) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 20 2022 – JR Marine Liner 20 (Hayashima to Okayama) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 20 2022 – JR Seto/Ohashi Line (Okayama to Omoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 20 2022 – Sunrise-Izumo (Okayama to Tokyo) – 13970 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 21 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Tokyo to Ueno) – 160 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 21 2022 – JR Ueno-Tokyo Line (Ueno to Fujisawa) – 990 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 21 2022 – JR Ueno-Tokyo Line (Fujisawa to Tokyo) – 990 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 21 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Tokyo to Okachimachi) – 140 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 22 2022 – JR Chuo/Sobu Line (Akihabara to Yoyogi) – 200 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 22 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Yoyogi to Shibuya) – 0 (transfer)
ට  Nov 22 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Shibuya to Okachimachi) – 200 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 24 2022 – JR Chuo/Sobu Line (Akihabara to Ochanomizu) – 170 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 24 2022 – JR Chuo Line Rapid (Ochanomizu to Shinjuku) – 0 (transfer)
ට  Nov 24 2022 – JR Chuo/Sobu Line (Shinjuku to Yoyogi) – 140 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 24 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Harajuku to Ueno) – 200 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 25 2022 – JR Yamanote Line (Kanda to Tokyo) – 200 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 25 2022 – Narita-Express 23 (Tokyo to Narita Airport Terminal 2-3) – U: 1340, R: 3070


Unreserved: 81,700 yen
Reserved: 90,240 yen

The JR Pass definitely allowed me flexibility, and saved me a bunch of money when I had to insert plans to go back down to Kyoto from Okayama on Day 19 to meet up with Xuanjie in a last-minute arrangement. Without that little adventure, my totals would have been:

Unreserved: 66,530 yen
Reserved: 73,480 yen

Which are numbers a lot closer to the actual ticket value, meaning that I wouldn’t have saved quite as much overall, only about 5,000 yen or so over just buying Unreserved tickets, less if I didn’t also opt for the Sunrise Izumo, which was a bit of an indulgent experience for me. My itinerary would have looked quite different, and I wouldn’t have gone to Okayama at all if not for that experience.

On the other hand though, there is something to be said for the flexibility of being able to book and change tickets for free, even tickets that I missed the original train for, which happened a couple times early on in the Nagano and Kyoto legs of my trip, due to changes of plans. It actually costs money to update the ticket to a later time without a JR Pass, whereas with a pass it’s free. Being able to go in and out of the shinkansen gates at will with the JR Pass also meant that I could see Xuanjie and Sara off at the train platform in Kyoto, use the quieter inner passenger waiting lounge area at Okayama Station, and occasionally just pass through the JR paid area of a station to get to another station exit gate much more easily (it’s surprising how useful this was sometimes). The flexibility also allowed me to do side trips for free, like visit Ueda City on a day trip while staying at Nagano, and visit Kobe on a day trip while staying at Osaka (though that one was a cheap ticket nonetheless). All unstated but important perks of the JR Pass.

It was really nice that the JR Pass worked on not only the shinkansen, but also many slower limited express trains like the Thunderbird and Super Hakuto and the Sunrise Izumo, which gave me more travel choices in general. Also, one thing I didn’t do in my five weeks there is travel to what I would consider more exotic places — other than to Nagano and then from Nagano to Kyoto along the northern central shinkansen line (through Kanazawa on Nov 07), all my other shinkansen and limited express trips were basically taken in the most commonly travelled corridors between Kyoto/Osaka and Tokyo. I never went northeast to Sendai like I wanted to, nor all the way north to Aomori and even Hokkaido, or south and west into the Shikoku or Kyushu areas, nor visit a wilderness station like Tsubojiri Station, or anything like that. There was a lot more that I could have done with the JR Pass to travel further afield, but there was already so much to do nearby anyway.

If I didn’t have the pass, I would likely have split my time between Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and perhaps Nagoya, and that would have been it. With not as much travelling back and forth between cities. The Okayama and Nagano legs and the Okayama-Kyoto day trip portions would have been cut out, which would have cut out another 50,000 yen or so of travel costs, and I would have done something like (using Hyperdia costs):

Tokyo -> Kyoto (13,650 yen)
Kyoto -> Osaka (570 yen)
Osaka -> Nagoya (6,270 yen)
Nagoya -> Tokyo (10,890 yen)

For a total of about 31,380 yen, plus a bit of extra for local JR lines in Tokyo in particular. Far below the 81-90k that I used in the end, and below the 60k of travel needed to justify the 21-day JR Pass cost.

There are also regional JR Passes, but I did not really look into them and have no idea if those would have been any more or less worth it for my travel route or any alternate travel routes that I would have used. However, now that I’ve learnt how to use both local trains, city and rural, as well as shinkansen and limited express trains, and now that I feel that I have a really good grasp on how the train system works, I might try these the next time i go over there.

I did also enjoy collecting all my train passes, and this is a picture of all the ones I collected, that basically now serve as a travel log for my shinkansen and limited express train usage as well.

The only two that got checked by the conductor were the Sunrise Izumo and Narita Express ones, with the Izumo one in particular getting some sort of stamp.

Talking about stamps, I read that there actually are station stamps that you can request at the gates or offices or something of stations, besides the ones that are left in the open for people to stamp as part of some sort of rally or other. I think this was what my sister might have meant when she was talking about station stamps. I didn’t do this but might make this some sort of target next time as well. We shall see.

I very much like trains though, they are a major recurring motif in my dreams, and there were actually a couple other train-related events besides the Sunrise Izumo that got onto my shortlist but got left out of the final itinerary in the end. Maybe next time.

Regarding temples and goshuin

There’s no good way of taking photographs of the entire book of temple seals/stamps, called goshuincho, that I have, since it’s basically one long horizontal sheet of paper when unfurled, but it’s cool and I will individually re-scan them at some point to put on a separate page on my blog somewhere. For the moment though, I wanted to dump another list that I made anyway to track where and when I picked up my temple seals/stamps, or goshuin, on this trip.

Goshuincho 1 – Sanada Shrine – Nov 06 2022, ~2:00 pm

ට  Stamp 0/1 – Sanado Shrine (Ueda) – Nov 06 2022, ~2:00 pm – 2500 yen
ට  [External Stamp 01 – Zenkoji Temple (Nagano) – Nov 07 2022, 8:30 am – 1500 yen]
ට  Stamp 02 – Zenkoji Temple (Nagano) – Nov 07 2022, 10:17 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 03 – Omi Jingu (Otsu) – Nov 08 2022, 12:25 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 04 (pasted) – Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 11:43 am – 500 yen
ට  [External Stamp 02 – Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 11:43 am – 1000 yen]
ට  Stamp 05 – Kashoji Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 1:32 pm – 500 yen
ට  Stamp 06 (pasted) – Kashoji Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 1:35 pm – free
ට  Stamp 07 (pasted) – Tofujiki Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 3:29 pm – 500 yen
ට  Stamp 08 (pasted) – Tofukiji Ikkain (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 3:38 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 09 (pasted) – Shorinji Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 09 2022, 3:59 pm – 500 yen
ට  Stamp 10 – Sanzenin Temple Kyakuden (Kyoto) – Nov 10 2022, 11:36 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 11 – Sanzenin Temple Fudoudou (Kyoto) – Nov 10 2022, 11:54 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 12 – Shorenin Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 10 2022, 12:24 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 13 (pasted) – Tenryuji Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 10 2022, 3:21 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 14 (pasted) – Mikami Shrine (Kyoto) – Nov 10 2022, 4:01 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 15 – Kiyomizu Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 11 2022, 11:35 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 16 – Ryouzen Kannon (Kyoto) – Nov 11 2022, 12:31 pm –  300 yen
ට  Stamp 17 – Yasaka Temple (Kyoto) – Nov 11 2022, 1:20 pm – 500 yen
ට  Stamp 18 – Sukunahikona Shrine (Osaka) – Nov 13 2022 – Nov 13 2022, 1:20 pm – 500 yen
ට  Stamp 19 – Kamitsu Shrine (Osaka), Nov 14 2022, 1:!3 pm – 300 yen
ට  [External Stamp 3 – Banshoji Temple (Nagoya) – Nov 16 2022, 11:22 am – 1000 yen]
ට  Stamp 20 – Banshoji Temple (Nagoya) – Nov 16 2022, 11:27 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 21 – Rurikozanyakushi Temple (Obara) – Nov 17 2022, 2:58 pm – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 22 – Osu Kannon Temple (Nagoya) – Nov  18 2022, 10:12 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 23 – Enoshima Shrine (Fujisawa) – Nov 21 2022, 10:39 am – 300 yen
ට  Stamp 24 – Sensoji Temple (Tokyo), Nov 25 2022, 10:39 am – 500 yen

So yes that was a little pricey but also really interesting and neat. Most of the stamps have strong, attached memories (and in some cases, hardships and lessons learnt) for me, with the exception of the Shorinji one, which I guess itself is a memory and lingering note of its own to not just purchase random goshuin without taking time to also appreciate the place I’m buying it from.

The three external stamps are double-page-sized stamps that I think I’m supposed to cut up or fold and paste into two adjacent pages of a book. I didn’t really want to do this though, so I just keep them in a separate file folder that one of the temples gave me.

Most temples had multiple goshuin that I could have purchased, but I only went for one of them per temple, and often picked a plainer, hand-drawn one over a fancier, pasted one because I ended up considering the hand-drawn ones more desirable. I definitely had a shift away from printed and pasted goshuin toward the latter part of the book, eschewing them in favour of the tegaki or hand-drawn ones.

I considered having multiple goshuin, particularly a separate one for “pasted” sheets or a separate one for just Kyoto-area temples, and did in fact almost buy a couple more, but I figured for my first trip it’s much more thematic to have everything in one, scrapbook style. A bit of a catch-22 problem that I’m not sure how I would have resolved if I didn’t just buy the first book I saw (which was decent, thankfully) is finding a really nice book early on that I want to keep and use as my main book, before visiting all the temples to collect all the stamps though, since I have to actually visit different temples anyway to look at their goshuincho. It will be easier on any subsequent trips because I can just keep on using the book I have for now for collecting new stamps though, since each book holds 40 stamps or so.

Regarding postcards

This was a fun experiment and an idea that I will definitely repeat the next time I go to Asia or Europe. Probably not USA, America is not far enough from Canada for the cards to seem like an exotic and interesting gift to locals. I’m sure others have done it before and written about it before, but in my own little bubble at least it was an original idea that came to my mind a few weeks before my trip and I am very happy with how it turned out.

What I did was that I bought 10 postcards while in Edmonton to give away to locals who I had made some sort of meaningful connection with on my 35-day trip. Most of the recipients were really happy to receive these cards, and in some cases this opened a couple extra doors or a couple extra conversation and lore options with them for me. There were two types of postcards that worked really well — postcards that said Edmonton, so that I could show them what my city looked like, and a postcard I had four copies of that was a map of Canada where Alberta was at least visible, even though Edmonton itself wasn’t marked. For those ones, people liked them because they were able to visualize where I was from once I pointed to where my city should be on the map.

I had a third set of Alberta postcards, one that featured the Rocky Mountains and one featuring Lake Louise, those ones had pretty scenery but weren’t good at all to use as souvenirs. It’s just that I had been desperate a couple days before leaving the country because I couldn’t find any Edmonton postcards — for some reason Canada Post and other local mall postcard stores I looked at seemed to only sell Canada cards or cards featuring other provinces and cities, but not Edmonton, so I had picked those because they at least showed other places in Alberta. That was a bad move though and I should at least have picked generic Canada cards over those. At the end of the day, I found some Edmonton postcards from the Hudson News shop at the Edmonton International Airport, those were actually quite inexpensive and worth it and I’ll just get them from there next time if I can’t find any in regular shops. I ended up giving the Lake Louise one to Ran because we had been there together before, and the Rocky Mountains one to my final hotel during self check-out because they weren’t there to say no anyway!

Like the temple stamps, each of the cards I did end up giving out were given to people I had meaningful conversations with, and the postcards act as a bookmark and link to those lasting memories and exclamation points on the trip for me, so they were definitely worth it. The ten postcard recipients I gave out my stash to were:

ට  01 – Oct 25 2022 – Eiko, Tama Ryokan, Tokyo
ට  02 – Oct 27 2022 – Takeda, Times Mart, Hanno
ට  03 – Nov 03 2022 – Hirotaka, Shinjuku Loft, Tokyo
ට  04 – Nov 09 2022 – Takaya, Kashoji Temple, Kyoto
ට  05 – Nov 12 2022Akira, Kyoto
ට  06 – Nov 14 2022Ran, Osaka/Kobe
ට  07 – Nov 19 2022Xuanjie/Sara, Kyoto
ට  08 – Nov 20 2022Shuji/Noriko, Kurashiki
ට  09 – Nov 22 2022 – Katsuo Restaurant proprietress, Minowa
ට  10 – Nov 25 2022 – Hotel Emir, Tokyo

Out of them all, 01, 05, 08, and 10 were given to the owners of 4 of the 12-13 places that I lived at while on the trip, 03 was given to the organizer of an Airbnb event I signed up for, and 06 and 07 were given to people that I knew from the past and had a meeting with in Tokyo. 10 should have been as well, but I messed that up and didn’t have a good card to give Yaoxiang by that point anyway, so it was fated not to happen. 02, 04, and 09 were completely spur of the moment though, and all three of them unlocked new social interactions with their recipients after I handed them out, which was really nice.

None of these except 06 were planned before I left for Japan — I hadn’t booked anything past my first two lodgings before I boarded the plane and I had no idea what I was going to do with any of the other 9 cards. Well, that’s not entirely true, I had planned Yaoxiang to get one of them, maybe two, if I had any leftovers at the end, but he didn’t even get any after all was said and done!

Regarding health and fitness

I was a puddle of slime by the time the trip ended. Dragging my (wheelless) bags around with me definitely drained my stamina and strength, and I had lots of little aches and pains picked up along the way outside of that. Even now as I write this, a full week after arriving home, my left elbow still hurts a little when I turn it a certain way, or carry heavy groceries, though it’s not as bad anymore. I walked so much during the trip that being able to put my feet up on my bed at the end of the day was heaven, and whenever I got off the bed I would feel a little jolt up my legs when my heels touched the ground. And there’s this little pain in the small of my back sometimes.

I also had four or five days on the trip where I felt slightly ill — three separate days with a slight cough that went away quickly enough, and two more separate days with slight body temperature variances, though nothing a nice, warm shower didn’t fix. And a bit of a sniffle that I think I caught from someone on the Tokyo to Seattle flight, though that was also gone by the day after I arrived home. After braving the crowds at Autumn Reitaisai, M3-50, Shinjuku Loft, and Shibuya Halloween though, I was a little surprised but happy that I was fortunate enough not to get COVID-19 still, at least as far as I know. Not like I brought along any tests to see if I caught it and was just asymptomatic or not. There was also that feeling faint bit in Tokyo on Day 31 but that was probably just from a night with bad sleep and many heavy bags being dragged around.

It’s not necessarily the best or most accurate barometer, but here are my Google Fit “steps taken” stats for Oct 20 to Nov 26.

Steps Taken (as per the Google Fit app)

Oct 20 2022 – 10,705
Oct 21 2022 – 14,634
Oct 22 2022 – 19,473
Oct 23 2022 – 14,775
Oct 24 2022 – 15,845
Oct 25 2022 – 25,028
Oct 26 2022 – 14,456
Oct 27 2022 – 18,687
Oct 28 2022 – 19,449
Oct 29 2022 – 17,283
Oct 30 2022 – 27,900
Oct 31 2022 – 18,563
Nov 01 2022 – 20,031
Nov 02 2022 – 14,150
Nov 03 2022 – 19,057
Nov 04 2022 – 16,386
Nov 05 2022 – 23,092
Nov 06 2022 – 19,598
Nov 07 2022 – 18,511

Steps Taken (continued)

Nov 08 2022 – 21,822
Nov 09 2022 – 21,491
Nov 10 2022 – 26,877
Nov 11 2022 – 19,687
Nov 12 2022 – 13,466
Nov 13 2022 – 15,071
Nov 14 2022 – 15,498
Nov 15 2022 – 13,236
Nov 16 2022 – 15,843
Nov 17 2022 – 14,297
Nov 18 2022 – 10,077
Nov 19 2022 – 14,816
Nov 20 2022 – 23,259
Nov 21 2022 – 10,906
Nov 22 2022 – 16,839
Nov 23 2022 – 12,933
Nov 24 2022 – 16,121
Nov 25 2022 – 9,291

This is as opposed to my usual sedentary lifestyle in Edmonton, especially in winter when I don’t go out at much. Even when I do go out during the spring/summer, I don’t break 10k steps unless I do a nice, big walk around the neighbourhood.

I’m not sure how Oct 30 of all days clocked in as my highest walking day. Considering that a portion of the day was me standing around a table at a music convention and listening to music on various CDs. Yes, the music convention itself involved some walking, but the other music convention I went to, on Oct 23, barely clocked in above half the number of steps I took on Oct 30 somehow, and I’d have figured that both were comparable. Anyway, the numbers are definitely a bit misleading in terms of reflecting upon how exhausting a day was, because I can walk for hours if I’m not carrying a heavy bag or three, whereas even a short journey carrying those was often very exhausting.

My new shoes were a problem early on with how they were pinching my feet — they eventually got broken in though, and by the early Kyoto leg of my trip, they were no longer really an issue at all. They’re nice and comfortable now. I did pick up at least four blisters on my toes though, but they weren’t really a concern or hindrance for me — I just washed them well, put some of my magical Chinese numbing ointment on them, and went on my merry way.

A nice outcome from all this walking though is that I felt really light on my feet even when I got back home and walked around the mall to do groceries and stuff. It still felt like I could walk for miles, as long as I wasn’t carrying around my bags.

Regarding the things I brought along

I wanted to give a shout out to my bags.

The red backpack has been a godsend, I bought it in 2019 just before I went on a school club trip to Jasper, and it has so many pockets and expands well on top to hold extra overflow loot if needed since the drawstring mouth of the main compartment and the flap that goes on top of it acts as a sort of tarp rather than as a rigid cover.

The pink shoulder sling bag I bought at a flea market in 2018 or 2019. I like that one because it has both a shoulder strap and a body strap so it’s not only more secure, but I can shift the weight from one shoulder to another as needed. The only problem with it now is that while my old Surface Pro fit into it, the new laptop doesn’t, so I’m slowly searching for a replacement. It also has a nice chain to hang charms and bag tags off of.

The duffel bag is one that I bought days before this trip, and it served its purpose well. It caught my eye when I passed the store it was from a few times over a couple weeks, and once I realized how cheap it was I knew I had to get it. There’s a velcro strap that holds the two handles together and that seems to be slightly wrinkled or out of shape now since I put such heavy loot into it while carrying it around for an extended period of time in Japan.

Besides them, I also have/had three waterproof reusable bags that I carry around in my shoulder sling bag and break out if I buy something and need to carry it home separately.

The rightmost one folds into a bag that makes it look like a carrot. It’s from Safeway, cost $4.40, and is actually really fragile. It’s cute though. But it doesn’t hold heavy items very well, and eventually began to break apart. The one in the picture is a new replacement, but the old one I used as my general “brochures, receipts, and papers” bag, for which I have one for every solo trip I’ve ever gone on.

Everything in there is neatly sorted by date and there are labels dividing what I picked up on what day. That bag will eventually go into my vacation potpourri box with all the other brochure bags like it.

The leftmost one is large and sturdy and a real workhorse, it was from my USA trip, specifically from the Mai Do store in San Jose when I went there for a day trip during my USA trip last November. It cost $15.26 USD and has been an excellent workhorse. Very happy with it. It folds into and is stored in a little miniature shopping bag version of itself, but the handle of that thing broke a while ago, so I now carry it around in my bag instead of hanging it from one of the loops on my bag.

The middle one is a bag from a shop called Spinns in Kyoto, and cost just 100 yen. It’s not actually very big, but it seems sturdy enough for now, more than the carrot bag anyway, and it has a nice Maikohan (maiko being the word for an apprentice geisha) image on it. It folds up into a little spring roll shaped and sized lump that is then secured together by velcro.

I also wanted to honour the two water bottles I brought home. I brought none with me, and left a trail of used drink bottles in recycle bins along the way, but these two Sangaria Maroyaka Banana & Milk bottles survived to the end. One was from Nagoya and the other was from Tokyo.

I was afraid that I lost one on the way home but I didn’t, thankfully. The only things I know I “lost” on the trip were that little tube of expired insect repellent at the end, and maybe a receipt or two since those sometimes get misplaced on the way back to the hotel. I had many mishaps with my JR Pass, and dropped it at least five times on the ground, walking out of the shop and away from it at least twice, but each time managed to get reunited to it before it disappeared permanently.

My phone also suffered a tumble at least seven times, most of them small tumbles, but they do add up. With about two days or so left, I noticed that the glue binding the right side of the screen to the phone case was giving way and the screen was “rising” somehow, I wasn’t sure why, and could press it back down, but it would immediately rise again. The phone still worked fine but I felt like that was heralding the end of my trip anyway so I prayed that it would hold on until I returned home, which it did. It turned out that that was the battery expanding, and while the “official repair” store in Southgate mall quoted me a fee of about $160 or $190 CAD or something to replace it, another new non-official store that had just opened said that they could replace it for $68.25, so I went with that. So far, so good, post-replacement.

By far the worst bulk-for-use item I brought along on the trip was my Steam Deck, since I didn’t use it at all while on the trip except a very little bit on the plane ride there. Still, it was my backup laptop as well, so that was nice to have, I suppose. I don’t really go on trips to play games, though. My laptop itself, the semi-new Gigabyte Aorus 15P XD, was also far too big and difficult to carry around, I was prepared for its size but what I didn’t realize from the fine details that the power bank for it was also really bulky. I did bring along a couple other things I never ended up using, like a small external hard drive, that I should have left at home. I wish I used my DJI Pocket camera more, since I only did the one video with it, the one in Shibuya. I was happy my laptop could process that though (and that I somehow managed to upload it to Youtube on my lodging’s wireless network overnight).

I should really have remembered to bring my portable battery charger along, but luckily I picked up a nice one along the way, this Buffalo BSMPB6718C2 Series one that holds just 6700mAh, but which was enough to save my butt numerous times along the way. I had problems charging it at first, until I realized that I was supposed to charge it only using the small port as input. Reading comprehension helps.

I also needed to buy an adapter for my laptop plug so that the 3-plug prong could fit into the 2-plug Japanese power sockets, luckily this wasn’t too difficult, and I found a cheap one at Donki/Don Quijote that worked wonders.

I brought along approximately 4 days and 2 nights of clothing changes, which worked out well. I could have taken a slight bit less though, and now that I have some experience in knowing what I need and don’t need even on an extended road trip, as long as I have access to laundry facilities, I should be able to pack even lighter next time. Need more space for loot.

Also, this is a spot of pointless pride, but I was also somewhat proud in the end that I never used a luggage locker even once, even though they were relatively cheap to use and would have saved me a lot of grief on certain days.

Regarding the best moments of the trip

It’s very hard to pin down a single “best moment” of the trip because different moments had different values.

The most beautiful sight I saw, and the most awe-inspiring moment, was the sunset from the Kamakura Kokomae Station I saw on Day 5. That’s also probably my favourite station I visited for the same reason. I never really did see a really good autumn/momiji trees scene, despite being there during the right season, there were some bright red and yellow trees around for sure but there were a lot of green trees around spoling the mood in every situation as well. But that sunset. I loved it. The wide seas. The wider skies. The colours. The freedom.

All three of my meetups, with Ran, Xuanjie, and Yaoxiang, were very important, though the “best” one out of the three was probably Xuanjie, from the perspective that it was not planned before the trip, unlike the other two. However, both Xuanjie and Yaoxiang were people I had not seen in 24 years, and both were excellent meetups that I enjoyed thoroughly in different ways, and I was happy to see them both again as well as meet new people that were important to them. Conversely, while I had just seen Ran a couple of years ago, meeting her there and having her chaperone me around Kobe for a day, going out for a girls’ trip to chocolate museums and sweet shops, was also an amazing experience that I have never had, and one that left me with a very positive and happy memory of the entire day in a way that the other two didn’t. So they’re all winners.

Similarly, I don’t know if I had a clear “favourite” meeting of a local that I had never met before, although the Kashoji Temple caretaker/priestess, Takaya Hisako, from my journey’s Kyoto leg, probably wins that one because of how magical and serendipitous that was. That was probably the most spiritual encounter on my journey as well. It would also probably win out over the two homestays, with Akira in Kyoto and Shuji/Noriko in Kurashiki/Okayama, just because those two were ultimately paid transactions. My favourite/best goshuin was also from Kashoji Temple.

My best meal was a no-contest, that was the meal I had in Tanuki-ya on Day 30, the kake udon that I had to assemble myself in a shop where I had to navigate through completely in Japanese. My best drink was also a no-contest, and if it wasn’t already obvious, see the paragraph above about the bottles I brought back.

I’m not sure I had a favourite purchase on the trip, a lot of my purchases were cheap and involved “hey, I know and like this” moments. I did like shopping for other people and using their money and hunting for things in shops, that gave me a reason to go to a lot of places that I might not have gone to otherwise, both in terms of events (Reitaisai, M3) and shops (supermarkets, dollar stores, stationary shops). My favourite self-bought item would probably be the Yukie Nakama CD of my favourite song that I found on Day 33, or the Patchouli plushie from Day 2.

My favourite event I attended was hands down the Asakura Tori no Ichi festival on Day 14. My favourite temple would have been Ryozen Kannon Temple on Day 21, in between two much more famous temples, Kiyomizu Temple and Yasaka Shrine, primarily because of the ridiculously large Buddha statue and how I got to walk inside of it.

My favourite lodging out of the 12 or 13 I stayed in, depending if one counts the Sunrise Izumo train, would have been a close toss-up between the Early Arc Osaka or the Trust Nagoya Building. Both had excellent shopping streets surrounding them as well. The Early Arc probably wins though since it was so big (with 4 beds) and even the kitchenette was generously spacious. The Nagoya one was really cozy though, even if it lacked an actual bed to sleep on.

Regarding cultural differences

These are final thoughts that went nowhere else but mainly contain a list of differences between Japan and the other cultures that I have experienced, that I currently remember and want to note down for my future self. This is not an exhaustive list and I might add to this list over time.

Standing left vs right on escalators. in Tokyo and most other places I went to, people stood left and passed right, and even though I read online that it was different in Kyoto, my experience in Kyoto was that people also stood left there. However, in Osaka and Kobe, people definitely stood right and walked left, and that was really fascinating to me.

The lack of garbage bins in Japan is really irritating. For a country that prides itself on keeping the place clean, and yet sells so many disposable items (meals, drinks, etc), they sure don’t make it easy for people to do so.

Similarly, while it is “part of their culture” to eat rice with chopsticks, being served rice without a spoon option, and even occasionally soup without a spoon option, was annoying, especially during the pandemic. Some ways of doing things can be chalked up to “culture” and “tradition”, but I don’t really think this one should. Especially when the chopsticks and bowls they’re using are all modern anyway.

There are bidets in toilets everywhere, and I like them very much. I liked seeing different types as I travelled around too. I am halfheartedly considering one for my own home. Not all toilets had one though, and on the other end of the spectrum I also did use two toilets that were squat toilets, literal holes in the ground, that I’ve only ever otherwise seen in old houses and bathrooms in Singapore.

From the outside, without any experience of the country, the train and bus system seemed really daunting. Bullet trains, limited express trains, electric trains, subway, local lines, rapid lines, semi rapid lines, argh. However, I am a big train fan in general and having experienced various types of trains and lines in Japan and Tokyo in particular, I am much more knowledgeable in and comfortable with them now. I do really appreciate how most train stations are somewhat interconnected even if they’re run by different private companies.

The lack of places that allow electronic forms of payment to be used is definitely a thing and definitely slightly annoying, but once I got used to it it wasn’t actually so bad. It was annoying running into a supermarket now and then and only finding out during checkout that they were cash-only though. Some places also accepted local pay apps like Paypay, whatever that was, but not credit cards. And the biggest sin of all were the train station IC card topup machines not accepting them. Get with the times, Japan. This is avoidable.

There were definitely other backwards areas when it came to technology too, despite Japan being so technologically advanced as a whole. Some are policy-wise, for example, it’s nearly impossible for visitors to get temporary Japanese phone numbers or bank accounts for reasons that can only be chalked up to stupid conservatism. Others are just silly, like washer-dryer combos where the dryer doesn’t actually dry clothes properly, and people are expected to somehow hang the clothes up to dry under the heater or outside on the balcony afterwards as well, in a cramped and often damp city and climate. It’s so stupid.

Many red and green pedestrian lights in Tokyo have a little countdown bar telling waiting pedestrians when the next colour change will be, and I found this very handy. Especially since in some intersections, all the lanes get a turn before all the pedestrians on all the crosswalks get a turn at the same time, allowing people to cross diagonally across if they want to. Other crosswalks run as normal and allow pedestrians parallel to the current green light to cross the road.

The shopping streets in Japan were very different from shopping centres in Singapore, and the outdoor malls in Canada. The semi-covered streets lined with stalls were really interesting, and I saw a huge variety of them across different cities while I was in Japan. Some were mostly dead and closing down, others were super vibrant, some were full of high-end, brand-name shops, while others were fll of local independent shops.

There were also convenience stores, supermarkets, dollar stores, fresh grocery stores, department stores, and drug stores everywhere, and I liked that. Even though I noticed after a bit that a lot of the products they sold were samey, and that convenience stores were actually kind of pricey compared to supermarkets and grocery stores. It’s still great to have options though, and hunting for 20% off (or even half off) bentos and other fresh food and vegetables in the evenings was great.

The sun sets way too early in Tokyo in October/November. It felt even earlier than in Edmonton, which is more northerly than it. It seems that in Tokyo, their longer days skew toward the sun rising earlier in the morning, whereas in Edmonton, the sun doesn’t rise as early but doesn’t set as early either. Shops follow this rhythm, so I felt that many shops and temples and other buildings closed too early in the evening in Tokyo as well.

Television is very interesting in Tokyo. Most remote controls can flip through three different kinds of controls, one analog and two satellite or something like that. There were lots of game shows and variety shows on TV, and I watched quite a few episodes of various things on the analog channels, which nearly every household had. Among other things, there were shows around guessing music tastes, food prices, current affairs, antique evaluation prices, and more. There were gag shows, language learning shows, various musicals, music countdown shows, Asian dramas, news shows, and more.

Their news shows were a little odd at times — a lot of the videos they showed had special effects or things blurred out in them, everything from blurring out innocuous people walking by while someone was being interrupted, to blurring out the English scoreboard of a basketball game being broadcast, to highlighting someone with a moving circle in camera footage so that the viewers could see what was going to happen. There were also several occasions where an animation was played, for example a mannequin coming up behind another mannequin to display how a crime was committed. Boards with stickers on them were occasionally used, and the newscaster would peel off stickers to show different parts of the board as they went from topic to topic. They also used anime-styled drawn characters in some segments like the weather forecast. It’s as though news stations kept artists and animators on staff to help compile the news.

They also had these variety shows of people watching everything from Youtube-like videos to news shows itself, and a little picture in picture thing in the corner would flick to the people in the studio, hosts or guests of some sort, nodding and gasping in surprise or muttering accent or dissent under their breath at the show itself, as though it were the first time they were watching the clip and they were very intently interested in the topic. An example of this was the World Cup match where Japan beat Germany. The highlights were still being played well into the next day, with the studio hosts and guests watching the highlight clips and then going “ohh!” or “awww.” or clapping proudly with feigned expressions on their faces. It was really weird, like miniature watch parties.

Another thing some shows did, although this was a bit rarer, was actual audience participation. I noticed that all my TV remotes in every room I lodged in had four coloured buttons, and I found a variety show at some point where different guests were trying to guess how much a food dish cost, and the audience could then press a button on their remotes to pick which guest they agreed with the most. The voting results were then shown in real time, on the screen. I think. Super intriguing.

I also heard many instrumental versions of actual English songs from the 60s to the 80s while in Japan, not only on television but also in shopping streets and shops. Plenty of hits that I could recognize, but I guess it would have been too much for the large majority of Japanese who didn’t understand English well enough, so they opted to play lyricless versions instead.

The sheer number of temples, and how mercantile many of them were, was another interesting aspect of Japan, catering to tourists (both local and from abroad) in order to raise funds to assumedly maintain and better their temple. Not just in terms of goshuin, or god pokemon, and how many (especially cyclical limited edition ones) each temple had, but also in terms of selling protective charms, fortune slips, wooden wish plaques, and so on. It all felt a bit.. rude, to me. A bit fake.

Payphones! There were still lots of green payphones in Japan, both standalone in malls and stations and buildings sometimes, as well as actual phone booths on the streets. Those were a blast from the past, although I never actually saw anyone using any of them.

Stamp rallies, both food and culture related ones, as well as train station stamps, location-specific “visit all our tourist attraction!” stamps, commemorative stamps, special event stamps, and the kami only know what else, Japan sure love their stamps, and I am very much for this aspect of their culture as well. There were even lots of digital stamp rallies, though I didn’t really like those as much since I like physical souvenirs and reminders. I wish Singapore or Canada did this.

It only rained for two or three of the 35 days that I was there, but the days that it did rain, they were torrential downpours, a stark reminder that Japan is very much in the path of and vulnerable to things like typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and even the odd volcano, in a way that neither Singapore nor Edmonton really are. I didn’t get to visit it on this trip in the end, but one of the things on my original list of things to visit was a school that was devastated by a tsunami and was now turned into a museum or memorial of sorts.

One thing I didn’t realize about buying anime goods in Japan — for the most part, what is in sale in the trinket stores, capsule machines, etc are one anime season behind what is currently airing, which is a bit of a pity. Firsthand CDs stores are a mix of current season and last season, sometimes even a couple seasons ago, though.

And lastly, the Kirara Jump! Kirara Jumps are a signature scene in all “cute girls doing cute things” anime adaptations from a magazine called Manga Time Kirara (and sister magazines) where all the main girls in the show will jump together in synchronity at the same time in the same camera shot, at some point in the video of the opening song, usually holding hands and smiling or otherwise displaying emotions that hint as to their character personality or quirk. That’s all very nice, but I actually saw two separate groups of girls performing their own Kirara Jump and trying to capture it on their own camera as well, one by five or six schoolgirls in Kyoto in front of Kiyomizu Temple, and the other by two young adult women in Kobe near Meriken Park. This greatly amused me and I want to do this someday with friends too.

Regarding home

Apparently while I’m gone, Edmonton Transit finally properly adopted the Arc card system that they had started to roll out a year ago, and the general public can use them for trains and buses now. That’s basically a smart card that you can use to tap on and off trains and buses instead of using paper tickets. Edmonton Transit has finally joined the modern times. Just like I did in Japan with my IC card, and just like I used to do in Singapore over 25 years ago! Neat.

I’m so glad I’m home. Well, “home”. I’m glad Tigey and I made it back safe and sound, I’m glad for large keyboards and monitors again, I’m glad my home is so warm and my washers and dryers actually do what they are meant to do in one laundry cycle, and I missed my bolster.

But, surprisingly, I didn’t really feel homesick while in Japan, perhaps because I was moving around so much, nor do I feel a bit burnt out over it like I did in Singapore for a couple months after I went there. I definitely would like to visit Japan again in the near future. There’s still so much more to see and experience. Please continue watching over me when I do so, kami.

Previous Entry

Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 35)

Next Entry

My Diary #074

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments