April 20, 2014

It is 2014 and I am finally returning to Japan.

Nearly 12 years ago I spent a summer studying abroad in Tokyo. I stayed with a host family in Suginami and I studied at International Christian University in Mitaka. It was an amazing trip with new experiences, new challenges, and new twists on daily rituals like commuting to school.

Now, at long last, it’s time to return. This whirlwind trip has me flying into Tokyo, staying there for 4 nights, then spending 2 days down in Hiroshima, then finishing the trip with 3 days in Kyoto.

I have a JR Rail Pass to get me around the country by bullet train, subway, bus, and even a Hiroshima-to-Miyajima ferry. My schedule is so packed that I’m already collecting ideas for my third trip.

Beyond the sights I missed in Tokyo in 2002, such as the Imperial Palace, I’m also planning to return to the familiar Electric Town of Akihabara. In addition to catching a couple of baseball games at the Tokyo Dome, I look forward to meeting an old study-abroad classmate who has put down roots near where we once studied.

Hiroshima is on my itinerary because it’s simultaneously important and unpopular among foreign tourists. They also have a baseball team, the lovable-loser Carp. I plan to visit the A-bomb site where a somber memorial now stands, and I also plan to visit Miyajima, a local tourist hotspot known for hiking, monkeys, and the world’s largest rice scoop.

Kyoto was a late addition to my itinerary: I had planned to visit Osaka with a day trip to Kyoto, but reversed course when I saw just how beautiful the old capital is. Largely unblemished by World War II, Kyoto has so many historic sites that a friend compared it to a theme park. The city also seems very walkable, which is great because my rail pass is largely useless there.

Just as in 2002, it will take time to distill my trip down to the essentials for publication. I don’t plan to livestream everything I see, do, and eat.

Here we go again.