>Final thoughts on Japan

>Thought I’d tie up all the loose ends and list how much it costs, good sites which I relied on for research and inspiration and some last thoughts (though that can never be since I am still thinking/reading/lusting over Japan!) on the trip!

Some idea of costs:

Airfare for me, Gillian and Trin on SQ : Free – we used Krisflyer points! 🙂
SQ’s fuel surcharges and taxes: S$460 (can’t escape! 😦 )
Airfare for KH, Owain, Caitlin and Isaac on NorthWest (taxes included): S$2725
Shinkansen, 3N in hotel New Miyako for all of us: $2700
4N Hotel in Tokyo – 2 triple rooms in the Family Fifty’s Maihama: S$1100
1N Ryokan Kangetsu standard room for 5: S$180
Spending money (which includes food, transportation, admission and shopping): S$2000 – note: I actually brought S$3000 but when we came home, realised that we actually had S$1000 in yen left!

Total cost: S$9165

The yen to the Singapore dollar: S$1 to 126yen

Good sites:

Kids Web Japan
Japan National Tourist Organisation
Japan Guide
Francois Jordaan’s and Kelly Henderson’s Japan blog
Solo Japan

Books that I liked:

Lonely Planet Tokyo
Lonely Planet Kyoto
Lonely Planet Japan
Japan: The Rough Guide
Japan: Frommer’s Guide
Lost Japan

Places I haunted for research: JNTO office in Robinson Towers, NATAS travel fair, JTB in Takashimaya

People I talked to for research: my colleagues Chow Chee Yong and Helen Ho who lived in Japan for several years and Synthia Lim who went to Japan and who swopped info with me since she was heading over there around the same time too!

Places that I missed and would like to cover the next time round (with or without kids!):
Saga-Arashiyama Torokko train in Kyoto from Arashiyama to Kameoka
Ghibli Museum
Takayama and the Alpine route
Kusatsu Onsen
Shikoku – Iya Valley, Naruto whirlpools

Now to squeeze all that in would easily entail at least a 14-day trip and definitely a JR Pass! Must start saving up!

We had a lot of adventures on this trip – the trip that almost did not happen thanks to the drama of the days prior to it. But it is the drama and the adventure that lend the trip such colour! I don’t think I would have done anything differently – even getting separated at Tofukuji, traumatic as that was (though I think I would be wise enough next time to carry some cash with me!). I did wish we hadn’t lost the Burberry though. Painful lesson – never buy anything for anyone on any trip! I wish we had more shopping done – not the clothes etc but just time to go through the art shops, the pottery shops, the fabrics, the tackiness of Oriental Bazaar, the flea markets, trawling Amenoyoko Arcade etc.

Today, months after the trip ended, I can’t remember the specific details unless I look at my photographs, read the blog, check my journal. But I am left with a fuzzy warm feeling, an achy feeling of missing something or some place and a yearning to go back some day. Preferably soon. I still leaf through Alex Kerr’s Lost Japan once in a while, browse through the same Japan Guide sites. I think I am homesick.

So there it is – no regrets about going to the Land of the Rising Sun. I blogged earlier about finding a thread of wistful solitude about the place even before I went. Now that I have gone and returned, I think what I found there is exactly what I thought I’d find and this sort of solitude amidst crowds, the modern and the ancient, the very contrast is exactly what I am all about. One more piece of the jigsaw that is me fell into place in Japan. I believe everyone of us has a special place on earth – literally – places that we gravitate to, that speak to us in our hearts in a way that others may not, places so comfortable and so familiar you believe you’ve been there before in another life. I feel this about Japan. It is the same feeling I got about Venice, Assisi, Vernazza.

One day, if I am able to and can afford it, I’d like to live there for a while – a few months to a year? Take Japanese lessons, learn the art of the tea ceremony, ikebana, imbibe that spirit of solitude and independence… Is this wishful thinking?

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