New Years in Japan!

Wow, I’m really terrible at blogging. Although this has been my best year yet with like 3 dozen posts! Haha. A lot of that having to do with pretty crazy things happening to me (ahem, wildfire), but things have roughly gotten back to normal, hence the 2-month drought in posts.

But, indeed, as the title of this post suggests, something crazy is penetrating through the normalcy. And that is, of course, my annual vacation to Asia, which this year, at the insistence of my boss, I actually moved up to BEFORE NEW YEARS. Yes, while I normally go to Asia (and by normal, I mean, the last 2 years) in January/February, this year I will go in December/January. Which would top this year off as one of my more well travelled years.

Better yet, since my parents themselves won’t be in the Philippines until January, my first week of vacation will actually be spent in Japan. Weeee!

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Ok wait, well actually yes I do normally (again by normal, I meant the past 2 years) spend my first week in Japan anyway. Although actually that’s not quite true… in Feb. 2015, I spent 4 days in Tokyo with a short trip to Gunma Prefecture, while in Feb. 2016, I spent 3 days just in Tokyo. But this time around, I will actually spend a decent amount of time… that is, almost 6 full days!

This means, I’m planning for the longest yet train trip I’ll be taking (on the Shinkansen), which will take me all the way just south of Hokkaido to Aomori. Originally, I was actually planning to go into Hokkaido since the Shinkansen runs there now. But, the problem I have is that I will be doing most of my travelling over New Years, which I am told is a terrible time in terms of domestic travelling. New Years apparently is the bigger holiday, and so lots of Japanese travel back to their hometowns.

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What this has meant for me is a WHOLE LOT of going back and forth on where I am going exactly (in fact I had to cancel hotels I had already booked). And now, I am planning to stay in Tokyo on Dec. 28 and 29, (where originally, I had planned to leave for Hokkaido right away), and not move until Dec. 30. It’s still shifty, but taking Hokkaido out of the picture will eventually give me some assurance in booking tickets because I plan to reserve tickets online, which I can as long as I stay within JR East’s area of operation (which I am, now).

So the basic plan for now is this…

  1. Dec 28, arrive around 2pm. Narita Express to Ueno. Check in to Hotel then shop in Ameyokocho until it closes.
  2. Dec 29, try to hop over to Tsukiji Market in the morning (if I can manage to wake up). Otherwise, spend morning in Ginza/Akihabara, afternoon possibly in Roppongi or in Odaiba.
  3. Dec 30, stupid early morning Shinkansen to Kaminoyama Onsen. Spend the morning/early afternoon in town. Then take the local trains to Sendai, then the Shinkansen again to Aomori.
  4. Dec. 31, spend the morning in Aomori. I hear their scallops are really good. Sometime before noon, though I have to make my way to Kawabe station where I’m going to take the most epic trip of all… The Gono Line, which will take me to Akita where I will spend New Years Eve.
  5. Jan. 1, I hop on a one final Shinkansen back to Tokyo, where I’ll spend the night in Roppongi. Depending on which train I eventually take, I’ll spend my day either in Tokyo or Akita. I hear basically nothing is going to be open in Tokyo, though. So I might as well explore Akita a bit. Maybe I’ll get to visit a shrine an experience a festival.
  6. Jan. 2, I actually spend the day in Tokyo, still. It’s a Monday, which is good. But apparently, I shouldn’t expect too much to be open either. One thought I had was to extend my train trips so that I arrive in Tokyo on Jan 2. But I’m really weary of doing that. My flight out of Tokyo isn’t until 9pm. But I think I’ll start making my way to Narita around 4pm or so.

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I’m really excited for this trip, especially for the the Gono Line. It’s an epic train route that goes through both mountains and coast lines. In the winter, apparently, it’s even more amazing. I’m disappointed in having messed up the whole schedule with New Years and all. But I think now that I’ve pretty much scheduled myself outside of the major domestic traveling days, I feel like I’ll be ok. I’ll just have to be patient with Tokyo and what will be open on Jan 2nd. Or maybe I’ll end up just resting the whole day at the Oidaba Onsen or something.

Anyway, this is still tentative. So far (after cancellations), I’ve only booked my hotels in Tokyo, since the nights in other places are really the most fluid. Like for example I have to figure out if I really want to make my Onsen trip a simple day trip, or make it overnight. I’ll figure it out soon enough thoough. I have another month before I need to start booking train tickets.

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