late 2005…

How did it all begin

I was fascianated by Japan since ever. Beautiful yet deadly swords, elegant colorful traditional clothing, stories of samurai and ninja with their fearsome martial arts… as a little boy I was naturally interested in all of this. So later came time to learn some martial art and I started with karate-do. I also tried a few different weapon-based martial arts, before settling with aikido, which fullfils me up to now. In last years I find myself influenced by anime, japanese cartoons, which apart from fun brings me understanding od several aspects of life in Japan. I tried to learn go, traditional japanese board game, one that that succeeds even chess in compexity. My admiration belongs to the world of electronics, which Japanese leads. I've met people, that came into direct contact with japanese culture, heard and read theirs stories… So influenced from many sides i finally decided that I have to see Japan with my own eyes. Not to practice aikido, as many around me thought, just to see what is real Japan like, if it's like what my dreams of it are. To read and hear is quite different from peep in and experience for myself.

When to go, that was a question. I felt like the sooner the better, because who knows what will next years bring. As long as I'm single, have free time and money it's easy. While thinking this through I met Jakub "Fenris" Kučera and found that we have a lot fo interests in common. About this trip we spoke first about year before it's realisation, around November 2005. It all started with my innocent question "I'd like to go to Japan, wanna come?" which Fenris calmly replied "Yea, sure, why not.".

Intensive preparation, meaning mostly gathering necessary information, was dealyed because of lots of work on my side. So the trip was not looking clear, only the time (summer) and length (about a month) was agreed. For a time…

Half a year before planned trip I've bought guidebook "Let's Go Japan". It pointed out that summer is not good time to go because of lots of rain, so trip was moved to fall in expectation of much better weather and thus better conditions for photography (which is important to me). Lots of work and preliminary costs calculations led in shortening the trip to three weeks only. Notice of possible problems in communication led me to learning japanese, which I shortly aborted, but still those few sentences I've learned came to use later.

Three months prior planned departure was just time to get air tickets. Cheapest russian Aeroflot was declined because of safety (lots of theri planes falling lately), next possibility was dutch KLM via Amsterdam, which looked good. In planned time they unfortunately didn't offer flight operated by 747 Jumbo, which I was so much looking for, but modern 777 also promised good experience. Electronic air ticket did not fill me with confidence (just email?), on the other hand money leaving my account was first real sign, that my dream of trip to Japan is going to fulfill. Until then it was just talking…

Fast money exchange at favorable exchange rate in expectance od currency unstability after parliament election comedy proved to be unneccessary, our little politic games doesn't interest anybody. Exchange rates were the same in time of departure.

Last month before departure was full of mailing, searching and googling. I've found and reserved accomodation for more than half of our trip. Final plan where to go was agreed just 14 days before leaving. Anyway it was modified on the go. Lesson for next time: cheap hostels (that are easy to find in guidebooks) tend to be full long time forward.

About week before trip we decided to buy a Japan Rail Pass, a free ticket for (almost) all of the trains in Japan including bulet trains. We bought it for all 21 days, longest possible time by the way. It was wise decision, because we were not bound by planning and reserving expensive tickets, we were free to go whenever and whereever we wanted. Price 60.000¥ was reasonable – a few shinkansen travels alone can easy exceed that price.

Last week was a bit tense bacause of Jakub and his usual autumn cold. Fortunately he recovered fast.

Discussion what to pack with and what leave took place in few last days, along with last purchases of functional garments and medical supply.

Second digital camera we acquired 4 days before leaving. 4 GB memory card was bought 3 days before departure, but still it was not enough space for data (available 6.5 GB I've exceeded almost three times).

Despite all of this, even at Saturday evening while looking over packed bag, I couldn't really believe that one of my dreams will come true. Yet it happend :)