For months I had no plan after India. I had tons of maybes – Sri Lanka? Nepal? Europe? – but none of them were Japan. Not that I didn’t want to go to Japan, I’d just always viewed that part of Asia as its own trip separate from this year. So how did I end up in Japan?
It started with a friend I met in Uruguay. We’d kept in touch and talked about traveling together again at some point, and when we realized that the Rickshaw Rally in India was not in the budget for this year he threw out the idea of meeting him in Japan. At first I jokingly agreed, not believing I’d fly halfway across Asia to a place I had no intention of going to hang out with someone I knew for two days six months ago. But as I continued to travel according my plan I got increasingly annoyed at having a plan. Suddenly every idea I had about what to do after India felt like following the normal route, the expected what’s next, a plan I’d come up with because it made sense for where I was instead of the adventure of discovering somewhere new just because I wanted to go there.
I remembered Matt and Japan. I remembered how I’d left my trip open-ended so I could go somewhere totally random if inspiration struck, and that traveling with a friend I’d met on the road who had a good idea of where to go was always something I had in mind. And why not Japan? I’d always wanted to go, the culture seemed fascinating to me, and it was cherry blossom season after all, the best time to go. So from a shoddy internet connection in Bagan, Myanmar I bought a flight from Delhi to Tokyo. Because why the fuck not?
From the moment I left India I viewed Japan as an addendum. I felt like my RTW trip was done and anything else was just a bonus. So when I landed I threw my spreadsheet to the wind and didn’t look back. I knew Japan would be expensive – and it definitely is – but if I ran out of money the US wasn’t too costly a flight away. Not to say that we still didn’t try to be backpackers in this not-backpacker-friendly country, as will be apparent from my future posts, just in the interest of transparency I’ve kept the expenses of Japan separate from my RTW trip totals. Which I’ll talk about later.
First I had to get to Japan, and what a marathon that was. When I booked a flight from Delhi it seemed easy enough, I thought I’d be back up north in Rishikesh and just a quick overnight bus ride away from the airport. Then our India plan got turned upside down and I ended up in Hampi. To even get from Hampi anywhere is a bit of a challenge, let alone to Japan, but I tried to view it as its own adventure. I finally experienced an overnight train in India, something that was supposedly an essential part of India travel, from Hospet to Bangalore. And because of this route I met a friendly Canadian couple with who I shared a rickshaw to Hospet from Hampi (who ended up being in my train car) and while we killed time waiting for our train the man, who had lived in Fukuoka, Japan for 3 years, gave me all kinds of tips on what to do in Japan. It’s because of this interaction that I’m currently in Fukuoka. I also got to see Bangalore briefly on the hour bus ride from the train to the airport.
Then I got to fly Bangalore to Delhi, which had no benefit to me really, I don’t even remember this flight, but I do remember that my Delhi to Colombo and Colombo to Tokyo flights had some good movies and I got a decent amount of sleep. Then it was just a 2 hour subway ride from the Narita airport and I was finally in Tokyo.
It was a marathon to say the least. From leaving Hampi on March 17th at 5:00 pm local time to arriving at the hostel in Tokyo on March 19th at 3:00 pm local time, it was around 40 hours of travel. Nothing I couldn’t handle after the last 9 months, and the excitement of actually being in Tokyo was enough to keep me going. I couldn’t believe I was there, somewhere I had no intention of being, and reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen for 6 months. What I knew was that it was going to be quite the adventure. What I didn’t know was how long I’d be in Japan. The stamp in my passport gave me 90 days, and when I arrived all we had planned was 2 nights at this hostel in Tokyo.
So… now what?