the first step
January 19, 2024

It’s kind of ironic. I’m making plans for the first real adventure of my life – going out into the world in a big way – during a week when I cannot even leave my apartment thanks to a long-lasting ice storm. But being stuck at home like this has given me time to come up with enough of an itinerary to base my trip on. I’ve made reservations for the nights when I’ll need them, and that kind of locks in the rest of itinerary.

The trip, obviously, is to Japan. I’m going to Tohoku – northern Japan; about 2% of all foreign tourists visit that region. The vast majority do the so-called “Golden Triangle” of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. I’m not going to waste the first real vacation of my life surrounded by tourists. Tohoku has so much to offer, and I’m going to grab what I can in a three-week trip.

So the map shows my itinerary as it stands today. I get to Japan late on May 9th and stay at a hotel near the train station that I’ll start my trip on the next morning. 

Kinugawa-onsen is an old onsen (hot springs) town that was almost ruined by speculators over-building resorts in the 1980s.

Nikko I know almost nothing about, but it’ll be worth a morning’s tour. Same with Koriyama, only in the afternoon.

Then it’s over to the coast the next day, but after looking around Fukushima.

Up the coast to Sendai, spending the night camping on the coast. (Most of these places I plan to camp somewhere, even if it’s in a corner of a field. Wild camping is more of a thing in Japan; you often can pitch a tent as long as you are not disturbing people or trespassing.)

Then a final train trip – all my travel will be by train, using JR East passes – to Hachinohe, one end of the Michinoku Coastal Trail. The MCT runs 1,000 km along the Pacific Coast, and I’ll go as far as I can in six days.

At the end, it’ll be back to the shinkansen and up to Aomori and on to Hakodate. (As I write this, I notice an issue with my itinerary and dates involving the JR pass; this things remains a work in-progress.) I’ve wanted to see Hakodate as much as any place in Japan.

Then back to Aomori, which is the apple capital of Japan. Apparently apple pie is a major thing there. I am to find out.

The train to Akita is a scenic train along the coast, a kind of train JR has dubbed “Joyful”. Ok. Akita, among other things, has the best-tasting chicken in the country. Again, I will be doing intense research.

Niigata and Nagano: I have to no real reason to go there other than I want to tour down the west side of the country.

And I’ll end with a few days in Tokyo. I mean, it would be dumb to go all that way and not spend some time looking around.

Fun fact: I get home 5 hours before I leave Japan. Such is the absurdity of the International Date Line.

So, twenty-two days in Japan. The first big trip of my life but, I hope, not the last.