For friends in twitter, you probably know where I was last month or so. 😀
When my roommate moved to Tokyo for a year for his research (and I, in turn, moved to Australia), I made a vow that I will abuse his couch and visit him while he was in Japan.
What made me particularly excited about this trip was not the fact that I was going to Japan, but the fact that I was going to Japan on a holiday. I’ve often stopped by Japan and mostly it was for work or for a conference. So it was frustrating for me to see Japan as a business traveller. It was fun, of course, meeting friends along the way but it wasn’t exactly the kind of fun this fujoshi wanted.
But how does one plan a perfect fujoshi holiday?
It isn’t an easy task, I tell ya. A number of my friends who were planning a holiday to Japan has approached me time and time again, asking for suggestions on what to do, what to eat, and where to go. The thing is, this varies for every fujoshi. But no worries, I’ve learned a lot from this trip and I’m happy tell you guys about my experience!
I visited lots of awesome places and met so many awesome people and I think those things didn’t happen if not for the careful planning involved in this holiday. So here’s some of the things I learned in preparation for your fujoshi holiday!
1. Know what you love the most
Here’s the truth about Japan: it’s a bloody beautiful country. Not just Tokyo. Not just Osaka. Not just Kyoto. The entire bloody country is beautiful and amazing that one week (or two) is not enough to visit everything.
So before you start anything: know what you love. And by love I mean either the things that you love, the food that you love, the anime that you love and all that jazz.
For my trip, I had these things listed as things that I love and I guess you can call this my moe~
- I love Free! (I would love to see Iwatobi/Iwami!)
- I love Yowamushi Pedal! (I would like to see Hakone/Enoshima/Yowapeda Event)
- I love toys!
- I love manga!
- I would love to experience an Ekiben journey!
- I would like to experience something I only read in manga!
- I want to eat tons of Japanese food, particularly specialties.
It’s quite a lot! And I’m quite sure that your lists will have a lot of things as well. But knowing what you love means that these are the things that’ll make this trip fun for you. So listing them down lets you set a goal and look forward to planning your holiday!
2. Research about the things that you love
I think as a fan some aspects of this might be easy. Since you love these things, you probably know some bits and parts of this. For example, as a fan of Free!, I learned that Free!’s Iwatobi was based on a town in Tottori named Iwami. Things like that. You can also use the term ロケ地 (rokechi: film location) when you google so that you can see if the series you love is based on an actual location. Like friends who are fans of Sengoku Basara have made religious trips to various castles in honor of their favorite lords and samurai.
Now, Japanese fans are actually nuts over these location hunting so there’s a likelihood that you’ll find a blog, forum, or 2ch log about this. If you can’t find it in Japanese, there might be a couple who have it in English as well.
There are also bloggers who talk about places to shop and visit when you’re in Japan. Pack yourself with the knowledge about these places so that you can make the most out of your trip.
3. Make plans to do the things that you love
I found this part particularly fun, but at the same time, particularly taxing. Fun because not only do I learn new things with regards the things that I love, but arranging your personal itinerary will be your best friend in this trip! Not only will you get to learn about the things that you love but by following your plans, you won’t be left with any disappointments nor will you run out of money because you’ve got everything sorted out!
Some things to take note of when you’re doing your research:
- Look at the season of your travel
- Spring (March – May) is the most popular season for travelling to Japan because of the cherry blossoms. If you’re chasing cherry blossoms, check out the cherry blossom schedule. Hotel rates are also more expensive during this season. There will be TONS of tourists in Japan during this season.
- Autumn is another popular season to go because it’s cooler than summer and since it’s not a peak season, things are cheaper. The orange foliage might just be your thing.
- Summer is important only for one reason: BIG DOUJIN EVENTS. Watch out for Comic Market, Super Comic City, and Comitia during summer. If you’re not chasing these events and you loathe the summer heat try the other seasons.
- Winter is bleak but it’s still Japan so you’ll find things to do indoors. There’s also winter doujin events held towards the end of the year (towards the winter holidays).
- Look at the opening and closing times of places you’re visiting
- Don’t plan too much in a day!
- Explore an area in a day and get “lost” in the area if you can. You can push it to two areas (e.g. Shinjuku and Shibuya) but things will be too fast that Japan might feel like a passing montage. If you don’t mind that, pack everything in your schedule.
- For long journeys, write your possible train times and alternate routes.
- Hyperdia will be your best friend in planning your routes and times for the day.
- Google maps in Japan is very efficient and helpful in getting you from A to Z.
- Check out anime-themed cafes or events that might be happening related to your list and try to see if you can insert an itinerary. Places like Namja Town (Ikebukuro) and Animate Cafe (Ikebukuro, Nagoya, Tennoji, Sannomiya) will usually have anime-related events! There are also staples like Gundam Cafe and Shirokuma Cafe.
4. Travel with a friend. Meet a friend. Make a friend.
The truth is you can travel alone. You really can. But there’s value in travelling with a friend for many reasons. You can ask your friend to take your photos. If you’re not a confident traveler and you feel that you are one step away from hitting a post, a friend will be helpful. You can also just meet a friend you met online and spend an afternoon with them fangirling and enjoying particular places. You can also be brave and make friends with the locals! Their presence can make your experience of Japan richer, making it less surreal than a passing vision.
Now you might have an impression that Japanese people have a stiff upper lip. To a degree, they do, but I think it’s also about timing your conversations. Well, the last part definitely needs some social skills (and maybe Japanese) but in my recent trip, I’ve had strangers share conversations with me about onsens, places to visit, and places to see. The locals, after all, will know their area best more than any guidebook can tell you. They’re also very eager to help, especially the ojiichans and the obaachans!
Just a note: having a friend with you doesn’t mean that you have to bring the entire brood. Planning for more than four people is an honest mess (while cheap) and demands a true test of your friendship. XD When travelling with a group, all of you will have different bucket lists and non-negotiables. The more you are, the less intimate and personal your holiday will be. Unless that’s the kind of traveler that you are, personally, two or three is the best number and four is pushing it.
If it can’t be helped and you’re in a big group and all of you are travelling for the first time in Japan, do make sure that there’s at least one or two people who can properly speak Japanese and that this said person is actually familiar with traveling (not necessarily in Japan) and knows what measures to take should anything happen to any of you.
5. Be Connected
This was quite important to me because I hadn’t gone to places that I visited in this trip. I was heavily reliant on my mobile to get around. Now, if you don’t have a reasonable international roaming plan like I did with my provider, I would highly suggest renting a portable wifi prior to your departure. There are many reasonable wifi rentals such as econnect, Japan Wireless, or Global Advanced Comm. Just order it online and pick it up in the airport. This will help you a lot when you get lost or for any emergency!
6. A little Japanese goes a long way. Sometimes, it’s not even required.
I had a friend who told me that one of her fears in travelling to Japan is the fact that she can’t speak the language and it scares her. I did assure her that she doesn’t need a JLPT certificate to enjoy Japan. Most of the roads have romanized (English) translations. Google maps also accommodates English instructions.
Some key phrases are helpful but not necessary unless you’re set out to do complicated things. Just remember that the further you go away from the city, the lesser chances you’ll have someone who may or may not understand English. I have a friend who has little Japanese skills (like basic greetings etc.) and she managed to get from one end of Japan to the other on her own. Then again, she’s also a seasoned traveler, but I think with enough awareness of where you are and where you need to go, having great command of Japanese is not a necessity. If there are problems, you can always ask the police (which is everywhere in tourist spots) or look for someone who understands English! Usually, students are very helpful to foreigners when they are lost (especially since it’s a good way to practice their English! It goes both ways!)
That said, I do strongly advice that if you’re not good in Japanese, try to book in hotels/hostels that have English websites. It means their staff can speak in English and can help you around the area. If you’re looking for an “authentic” experience by booking a Japanese ryokan with little or no Japanese skills, don’t fool yourself. You’re only inconveniencing your host (and yourself) because of your (and their) inability to communicate.
This, I suppose, is the general guideline in preparation for your fujoshi trip! There are some things to consider too like your budget and such but I guess that’s all part of the planning! Over the course of this month, I’ll also be talking about some other things about my trip. Mostly to share the fun times and maybe encourage you to visit these places as well! BECAUSE JAPAN IS AWESOME Y’ALL! EVERY FUJOSHI SHOULD HAVE A CHANCE TO GO AND HAVE FUN TIMES IN JAPAN! o/