Preparations… normally I don’t like to prepare too much before a trip because you know there are always things which will occur spontaneously, however, in Japan, you have a language barrier, it’s not like going to Germany without knowing German, you can always make assumptions with the languages you know, at least there is the common Latin Alphabet, something familiar:) Japanese alphabet not only separates into three major groups (Hiragana, katakana, and kanji) it can also take years to be able to read most basic things. We both knew French, English, and Turkish of course. Erhan has a sense in Spanish, and a bit in Dutch. He told me he once took a course of Japanese but that was too little.

Erhan’s note: I knew the basics such as the Hiragana alphabet, some conversational templates (e.g. hello, what is this, where is it, and where are you from). I could answer basic questions as well such as ‘We are Turkish, we come from Istanbul.’ I also knew basic words like numbers, school, work etc.

So we had to prepare our whole trip beforehand, I mean really beforehand.

Why summer? First of all, we were really excited for the trip. I quit my job on May 1st and we didn’t want to wait until September to start the journey. Secondly, we knew that we wished to see the Festivals in Japan and the biggest Matsuri (festivals) like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri or Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, all are happening in summer. We knew and I read it many times that summer is very hot and humid in Japan, but we come from Istanbul which is also very hot and humid all summer, so we thought that it’s manageable for us. 

Erhan’s note: We were wrong.

In the middle of our preparations an election in Turkey had been announced, so being dutiful citizens, voting first, travel later was the plan. 

So what we did for planning if we summarized it, is as follows:

  • took the dates of Matsuris we wished to attend, these were our main points for the dates.
  • we read the known Japanese guideline books, some of the blogs I found about Japan.
  • I searched many blogs, watched many videos to find out where we should go, and draft a little book with notes separated for every city
  • then I marked all the places we wish and may visit throughout all Japan in Google Maps, believe me it looks insane (yeah I know 😅) because it was a huge list, but it was really helpful during the trip
google maps

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  • then we made a list (a normal one;) ) for the cities/towns etc. we wish to visit
  • we drew a map of Japan on our blackboard in the house. This visual map helped us see the distance between the places and to draw an actual route
  • we planned 3 different versions at first
  • then started to create a timeline: where to go and when?

– made very heated arguments about what to do? More nature? Temple emphasis? Or more cities?? How many days, and where

Erhan’s note: this went on until the last days before we left. I pressed for some specific nature locations, temples, and trekking areas. Mine pressed on spending more time in cities as she wanted more time to photograph there. Also, our priority in early weeks were the matsuris, so we had to sync for that. We spent long hours researching each and every city in detail to see if they were worth a visit. Should we go to Okinawa? What about Sapporo? What about a tiny island there or a mountain village here… So on and so forth.

  • decided on a a basic route out of three, we started to make bookings (in next posts, I’ll tell about them more)
  • we calculated the type of the JR (train) Rail Pass (the temporary one) we need and bought a 21 days ticket (the most days available to buy) and a 7 days ticket for each, while we were in Turkey (because it was not possible to buy it in Japan, they were talking to change it because of Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but I don’t know if it would be temporary or not, the best is to buy it beforehand in your country) (ps. JR Rail Pass is a ticket only available for tourists which allows access to trains much cheaper than their actual price. It’s very expensive for Japanese normally)
  • no visa is required for Japan up to 3 months for Turkish citizens, but don’t forget to check the situation for your country
  • and finally buying some stuff : some filters for the camera, special boots for nature walks, some summer outfits especially for nature walks again etc.

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