Thursday, March 15, 2012

Japan spring 2012 - the plan so far

This Japan trip is shaping up to be one of the better ones we've had recently - and really they've all been good, so that's saying something. We don't spend much money on many things, but if there's one thing my wife and I know how to do, it's travel well. We should write a book! But the last couple trips I feel like we've been overconfident, relying too much on our local knowledge and winging it a little too often. I'm not the kind of person who likes to have everything planned out in my life, but on the other hand a) planning for a trip is actually half the fun, and b) it does actually waste a lot of time having to constantly figure out where you're heading the next day while you're there. Last time, we spent a little too much time in our hotel Googling for things to do.

So this time we've got a ton of stuff planned already, and I'm sure we'll come up with more stuff before we leave. Here I am planning our trip:

(Joke, btw. Try to keep up.)

Cities: Tokyo and Hiroshima

Flight(s): JAL (ANA was too expensive this time around)


Tokyo - Grand Arc Hanzomon

This is the same hotel we stayed at last year, though this time, we got a 400 square foot "deluxe" twin (last year was a regular twin):

This hotel is the best deal in Tokyo right now, I think. Great, big rooms, amazing view, basically perfect location, and both times we've stayed they've had great prices too. We put a lot of effort into finding our hotels and we've never been disappointed, but this one's our favorite so far. I still lament the Grand Prince Akasaka sometimes, but alas, it's now sleeping with the fishes. Or six feet under. Or whatever metaphor fits a rotting husk of a former hotel.

Hiroshima - Sheraton

Our first visit together to Hiroshima (my wife's been previously). I obviously wanted to go for the history, and my wife also wanted me to go for the history, which I can understand. I'm sure we'll be visiting the Arizona memorial when we go to Hawaii too (I've also been there previously). Anyway, the Sheraton's one of the newest hotels in Hiroshima, has some of the biggest rooms (this one's 377 square feet), some of the best views and we also managed to find it for an almost comically low rate. I mean you can't stay at some Super 8 motels for the price we paid for this room.

I wrote a whole post a while back about finding hotels in Japan, but really all you need these days is Kayak. And be sure to really look at the pictures there; pay attention both to what they're showing and not showing. You won't find lower rates or a bigger selection, since it aggregates everything. One tip: start looking at midnight. I swear, this really is when the cancellations get put into the system, and they try to refill those rooms as quickly as possible. If you can be the first, you can score one of those cancellation rooms at a ridiculous price. I'm convinced that's how we got both of these rooms this time. (I feel like I'm giving away some trade secret here, which I'm gonna regret next time we book.)

Stuff we've got planned so far:
  • Kobe beef restaurant (no, "Kobe style" or "California Kobe" is not the same!)
  • Guitar shopping in Ochanomizu (will I buy something??  Hmmmm....)
  • Uhh... model train shopping in Akihabara
  • Err... maid cafe in Akihabara (we want to try a famous one this time)
  • Hooters (not my idea!)
  • AKB48 theater show(??)
  • Haneda Airport visit (you know, for the food, obviously)
  • SCANDAL at Budokan(!!)
  • Hiroshima Castle
  • Hiroshima Peace Park & Museum
  • Possibly a stop on the way back in Kyoto to visit Kiyomizu or another temple
We're also doing some "business stuff" that we want to stay secret but is really going to be a lot of fun, and I know we are both looking forward to it. (It's similar to other business stuff we've done recently.) Hey, it's also what makes this trip a tax writeoff...

That's not a complete list - just stuff we either know we're doing or plan on trying to do. The AKB48 show almost definitely will not happen but we're really actually hoping it does - we requested tickets and now have to wait to see if we win the lottery (literally). Apparently tickets are very hard to come by these days! At least we actually have our Scandal tickets, which we didn't know how lucky we were to get.

My wife wants to visit Haneda airport because she's heard there are a lot of good restaurants there - go figure. I don't mind - I love airports as long as I'm not flying. I can watch planes take off and land all day long, though, because I am a nerd.

We did get a Japan Rail Pass this time, so I'm hoping we're not too worn out to hop off and back on the train at Kyoto and do a little sightseeing there. We had originally planned to spend some real time there again - we love the city (who doesn't??) - but it's spring break in Japan and probably elsewhere in the region and the hotels are all booked up. All that's left are $300+ rooms.

This is our first time to ever get a Japan Rail Pass, which I usually don't really think is worth it (it's certainly not automatically worth it, as some sites say it is; it depends on where you're planning to go and how you're planning to get there to begin with). I'll probably write a post about our experiences with it either during or after the trip. We did get the Green Car version of the rail pass, which I've decided is the only way to travel in Japan. It's really not that much more expensive.

Oh, and if you're a follower of my blog (not that I have many), we did not get Twilight Express tickets yet again... :(  But we've got a lot of things planned to make up for it.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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