July 14, 2011

Pretend like I know how to say "Bon Voyage" in Japanese

Yesterday, I finally got my act together and posted a birthday weekend update. However, my lack of blog posting lately has concealed something pretty cool: my birthday gift to myself. Thanks to a great price on airfare, today I’m off to Japan for the weekend with one of my best friends! Never mind that we’re only going to be there for two days, never mind that I don’t speak any Japanese at all (though I am planning to look up a key phrase or two later this afternoon), never mind that we don’t even have a definite itinerary planned… it’s going to be a blast 🙂

My activity planning has been light, consisting pretty much of just saying “I’m going to go to as many restaurants as possible and consume as much Japanese cuisine as I possibly can, since it’s my absolute favorite.” Luckily, my friends Meg and Topher have done short visits to Japan, and Meg was awesome about typing up her itinerary so I can just follow it. It includes trip to Tsukiji Fish Market, the Imperial Palace grounds, Takashamaya and Mitsukoshi department store openings, Ueno Park, Asakusa Temple, Meiji Jingu Shrine, and Harajaku. To supplement, my friends Kino and Thompson also sent a ton of recommendations. It’s definitely going to be a busy weekend!

But the one area I have put some planning of my own into is the plane trip. Because the flight is so long (13 hours!), this is going to be a lot tougher than my trips earlier this year to Europe. My general strategy is to start living on the “new” timezone as soon as I board a plane, but with the huge time difference (Japan is 12 hours ahead of my Eastern US time zone), that’s a lot easier said than done. When I board the plane in Detroit at 8:15pm Central and want to go to bed, it’s actually already morning time for the Japanese. Instead of trying to pull an all-nighter, my plan is to sleep for 3.5 hours (long enough to make me feel like I got half a night’s sleep), and then stay awake for the other 10 hours (as if I lived through half a day). When I arrive at Haneda Airport, it will be 10:30pm, so we’ll just grab some quick food and then head to bed.

But on the way home, things get a bit more exciting. The timing for our trip really couldn’t be better, what with Japan’s surprising rise to the top in the women’s soccer world cup. On Sunday, Japan and the USA will be facing off for the title, and while the games are being held in Germany, Kelly and I are going to get to go to a sports bar (do they have those in Tokyo?) to drink sake and cheer on the American team. What a fun way to soak up the culture instead of just doing touristy sightseeing! The game will be airing live in Japan around 3am on Monday morning, so I think we’ll try to wake up, headed to a bar, and then go straight to the airport for our 6:55am flight as soon as the game as over. Whatever drinks we consume at the bar should help to knock us out within an hour or two of boarding, and I’ll then plan to sleep for the entire rest of the flight back. Frankly, I’ll probably need it after the whirlwind weekend we’ll have of trying to see as much of Japan as possible in just a very short time!

Any last minute tips, either for things to see/do in Japan or dealing with the jet lag to/from Asia?


5 thoughts on “Pretend like I know how to say "Bon Voyage" in Japanese”

  1. I’ve got to spend a lot of time in Japan and my husband is Japanese, so I’m your girl for tips! I don’t have any good ideas for jet lag, but easy things you should check out while in Japan are the awesome vending machines and the delicious food you can buy at any of the convenience stores! I’d also recommend buying some Melon Pan (bread) at one of the convenience stores.

  2. Oriental Bazzar for gifts/knicknacks, roppongi for clubbing, just have fun. The “fake food” market is also really fun to walk through.

    Don’t bother with the time zone thing on the plane. Just sleep as much as possible (I recommend a beer and an ambien right before boarding) since you will be going hard if you are only there for two days.

  3. I recently went to Thailand, with a 13 hour flight to Seoul each direction. My strategy going out there was different that yours because I arrived in the early AM so I slept quite a bit late on the flight and then was able to tour all around Seoul all day during my 14 hour layover.

    On the way back, an evening flight leaving Seoul and arriving in NYC at the same time (13 hour flight, 13 hour time change!), I allowed myself 2 short sleeps (mid flight and late flight) so that I would arrive a little on the tired side to be able to sleep that night. Since your trip is short, maybe the jet lag back won’t be too bad, but I needed an afternoon nap each of the first 3 days I was back home.

    I know you’ll see lots even on the short trip. I planned that business trip so I’d have 12-14 hour layovers both ways in Seoul, and really was able to see a lot of that city during those short stays. ENJOY!

  4. I applaud your attempt to fit all those amazing things in 2 days; however, I went to Tokyo for 4 days and flew from Hong Kong (about a 5 hour flight) and didn’t fit 1/4 of that in! Jet lag coming from the States to Asia is like a slap in the face…. You’ll feel fine one minute and be gutted the next. Don’t even try to get on Tokyo time if your trip is 2 days long…. Just push through and you’ll be fine.

    Not sure about finding a sports bar to watch US soccer; my experience living in Asia has been it is very hard to find American sports on tv unless you have pay per view.

    Hope you have a great trip- the Japanese are so welcoming and helpful. Eat at an izakaya (Japanese pub) if possible. So intimate and cool.

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