So, after my previous trip to Japan, I didn’t really have another one planned. It might have been nice to start a tradition of annual visits – there’s still so much of the country that I have yet to see, to the point that I haven’t even been off Honshu yet! – but in the year after the last trip, we were planning SpockSoc trips to WorldCon (and the Hugo Awards, given for works Sci-Fi and Fantasy, primarily books and other writing) in NZ, and DragonCon in the US. And with those two together, I had no holiday leave left for Japan.

But then, well. The year after the last trip was, of course, 2020. And the moment I could no longer visit Japan at all was the moment I suddenly wanted to again.

This month marks three years since all the borders began to slam closed, and nearly three and a half years since my last trip to Japan. It’s not my first post-shutdown overseas trip – I went to Croatia last July with Dad, which I blogged about on my trips-with-family travel blog – but I decided it’s time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun again.

It actually wound up being quite sudden, almost an impulse buy. Back in January, the company that runs the Tokyo Metro Underground Mysteries announced that after the last three editions of the game were cancelled, for the first three months of this year they’ll be running a revival of the 2014 edition, the very first one. So I kinda went “huh, if I visit in the second half of March, I’ll still be able to catch the end of the availability period, and it won’t be so early in the year as to cause issues for work”. And then “I wonder how much it’d cost to fly at this time of year…”

First I checked Qantas, who’ve served me well for past trips… and they quoted me around $1600 per direction. Ouch. Well, with one specific exception in that if I wanted to fly on one particular day and didn’t mind a layover in Singapore, it’d only cost me $900. And I didn’t mind a layover in Singapore too much – I’ve been wanting to check out that airport for a long time – but just to get a second opinion, I thought I’d check out the prices for ANA as well. $1600 total. As in, there and back. It is, to be fair, still more than I’ve paid for flights on past trips, but it’s still roughly in the ballpark.

So after checking with work, I booked the flights. Then I needed to decide on places to visit. Turns out coming in the second half of March means I’ll also just be catching the start of cherry blossom season in Tokyo before I depart. I’m also hoping to bring the parents on the next family trip, whenever that will be, so for this trip I decided to visit some of the more inconvenient and slightly out-of-the-way places. Where? You’ll just have to find out by reading.

In any case, departure is this Friday. Yeah, this is probably the closest to departure that I’ve written one of these in-between posts (which I usually envision as a way of wrapping up the last trip, but this has mostly just been setting up the next – perhaps I should write it closer to the end of the last trip if I really want a wrap-up).

So, the ol’ stats on the last chapter of the blog:

    • Posts:
      • Total length: 76.5 A4 pages (without photos); 50,055 words; 278,256 characters. 1.8 times longer than the 2018 blog, and 1.2 times longer than the 2017 blog. Boy, can I ramble.
      • Average per post: 4.5 pages; 2944.4 words; 16,368 characters.
      • Longest post: Day 4, when I did just over a third of the Chichibu 34 Kannon pilgrimage. 7.5 pages, 5123 words; 28,509 characters.
    • Money:
      • Unlike past trips, for this trip I charged the flights, travel insurance and JR Pass to the Qantas card (as well as the hotels and day-to-day expenditure), albeit in AUD, but for a change it does let me calculate total expenditure on the trip (with some approximation for the JPY-AUD exchange rate at the time). Namely, it’s 356,183 yen, or a hair over $5000.
      • Hotels total 114,810 yen, an average of 7176 yen per night. I didn’t splurge on any ryokan or other fancy hotel types this trip, so it was a fairly consistent cost from night to night (save that the two non-Toyoko-Inns I stayed in where Tokoyo Inns weren’t available were a couple of thousand yen more expensive per night).
      • I charged more things directly to the card this time than I have in past trips. Those total 141,373 yen, though pre-trip expenditure – flights, travel insurance and JR Pass – accounts for the majority of that (110,656 yen). The total for things I bought while actually in Japan is just 30,717 yen.
      • I also visited the ATM to withdraw cash ten times, apparently, which is more often than I would have thought. Total of 100,000 yen cash for spending money. I might have brought in some leftover cash from the 2018 trip, though it wouldn’t have been a huge amount.
      • Total day-to-day expenditure then was about 130,000 yen, or 7689 yen per day. A thousand yen per day more than the 2018 trip, though I definitely splurged more on gifts for myself than I did in 2018. Or 2017. Also had to spend 4700 yen buying replacements for the power cable I left in Nikko.
    • Photos:
      • Total: 10,224. Two thousand photos fewer than the 2017 trip (though also two thousand more than the 2018 trip) 
      • Average: 601.41 per day
      • Most photographic day: Day 17, the final day, with 1013. That was the day I went to Todoroki Ravine and the Kawasaki Halloween Parade. That said, it’s only seven photos more than Day 9, the Kawagoe Matsuri.
    • Steps:
      • 278,101 steps, for 200.3 km, which is 15 km longer than 2017, the previous leader.
        Though I did have some long days this trip.

      • Average: 16,358.88, or 11.78 km, per day
      • Most steppish day: Day 4, when I strolled the north-south length of Chichibu almost twice – 29,870 steps and 22.9 km
    • Goshuin:
      • Total: 39, counting the Chichibu nokyo in that total – unsurprisingly, another new record.
      • Average: 2.29 per day
      • Most goshuinicious day: Day 4, naturally, with 13.
    • Stamps:
      • Total: 33 – a fair drop from the last two trips with 56 and 57. Guess I just didn’t go places with stamps this time.
      • Average: 1.94 per day. 
      • Most stampinominal day: Day 13 – Hiraizumi and surrounds – with 8. Though those lovely golden ones I got at the michi-no-eki should count at least double.
    • Manhole Cards:
      • Total: 4, one up on the last trip. Could have been 5 if I hadn’t forgotten to get Kawasaki’s 
      • Average: 0.24 per day
      • Most cardular day: Two, on day 11, because I made a point of walking across Toda to get them.

Welp, better get packing for the next trip. On Friday.

Pretty sure I’ve remembered everything that I need to arrange beforehand. Japan’s current entry requirements vis-a-vis COVID are either three doses of a recognised vaccine or a recent PCR, and since I’ve had the former, that makes things straightforward. There’s also a web form you can fill out which generates QR codes you can show to let you skip screening in the airport, which I did last month. Masks are not compulsory, but are still preferred, though fortunately I’ve still got most of a box of fifty which I bought before Croatia last year.

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