January was mostly about getting cataract surgery done and getting through that recovery. It drawn out by an extra ten days thanks to the ice storm, but now I’m out of recovery, my eyes are working great, and I can get back to serious planning for May.
I’ve not looked at my itinerary much for a few weeks, and returning to it, I find it’s pretty solid. The places I’m heading by train are served frequently, so I won’t have one of those situations where you sit and wait in some rural station for several hours. If I do have to wait, I can get something to eat, see if there are any sites to visit, or maybe edit video or post images.
This evening, I took a serious look at finding sentos to visit. Sentos are public baths, an old Japanese tradition that I hope survives modernity. Thankfully, many still exist, especially in the Tokyo area (hundreds), and a lot of them are very cool. Look up “sento” online and see what I mean. (Not that sitting naked in a big bath with old Japanese men is exactly cool, as such….)
Checking both the map and timetables, my plan now is to go from Narita Airport into Tokyo, to Oji Station. From there, it is a short walk to Inari-yu (not sure if “inari” refers to the god of harvests or the fox that is said to be their messenger) (-yu means bath). Enjoy a refreshing, post-travel soak, grab a bite to eat, then head to my hotel, which is only half-an-hour by rail.
When I return to Tokyo at the end of the trip, I’ll indulge in some more sento-ing.
So now, I have to start working on a lot of practical things. I have virtually nothing for travel beyond socks and a passport. I need to get the backpack I’ve chosen, a cheap but decent electric razor, and some other items for three weeks’ travel. I need to make a list of what I’m taking and what I don’t yet have.
I need to figure out money. I can use a Suica card for almost everything over there (which I can use on my iPhone, simplifying that), but I’ll need cash, too. I may need a MasterCard just to fill the Suica card; they don’t take Visa, and Visa is what I currently have.
I need to work on my basic Japanese.
I need to build myself a list of the places I’m going, the train stations and streets and whatever, and make sure I have them in Japanese and can recognize them.
I need to learn to read basic street and other public signs.
I have to plan the last stage of my trip, from Akita to Niigata to Nagano and into Tokyo. There are very cool places to visit in all these cities on the northwest coast of Japan.