Miyajima, Hiroshima (sauce)

It seems like I’ve been going to Japan every year for the past few years due to various reasons, so I guess this should not come as a huge surprise. Yes, I am flying to Japan again. Yes, I will be there for Maaya’s “You can’t catch me” 2011 tour, specifically the one in Osaka.

Come to think of it, this trip makes my waxing lyrical last year seem a lot less meaningful. Heh.

I will be in Japan from 26 March to 16 April. As this will be my final romp in Japan for the foreseeable future, I have gone all out in an insane attempt to cover as many locations as possible in one trip.

My confirmed itinerary so far:

Still trying to squeeze a few more places in, but this more or less covers every place I want to go to in Kyushu and Kansai.

The sheer logistics of this epic journey is mind boggling. I have been spending a good portion of the past week tabbing between Hyperdia, Google Maps, Japan Guide and Hostel World in order to craft the most complicated tour itinerary the world has ever seen. And they said I was mad.

The awesome thing is that most of the transport costs are covered in a lump-sum I paid for a 14-day Japan Rail Pass. This pass allows you to take unlimited rides on any JR railways, including the Shinkansen bullet trains (but excluding Nozomi trains), for a flat 45,100 yen. This is quite cool because I will need to take the Shinkansen at least ten times to cover that many places in just two weeks and each ride can cost more than 100 USD by itself.

The Japan Rail Pass is so awesome that permanent residents and Japanese citizens are actually banned from purchasing and using it because JR would go bankrupt in a matter of days otherwise. You have to purchase it from JTB or a tour agency in your home country.

Japan Rail Pass purchased from JTB

A tip I picked up from booking my accommodations is that in many parts of Japan it is actually possible to find private single-room business hotels that are similar in price or even cheaper than backpacker hostels in the same area. The catch is that these business hotels are mostly used by locals and bookings are done online in Japanese.

But 2,900 yen a night for a private room with proper facilities does make spending 2,500 yen to squeeze with 5-9 other people in the same dorm room seem like a scam.

Of course, the trade off is that you don’t get the interesting mix of characters one finds in a backpacker hostel nor the tourist-friendly English-speaking counter staff. My own itinerary includes both foreigner-centric hostels and Japanese-centric business hotels. It’s nice to mix things up a bit.

Really looking forward to setting foot on Gunkanjima. It’s like the Disneyland of urban exploration. Already booked my 4000-yen guided ferry tour.

Also hoping to crash a lecture or two at Toudai before I leave. Preferably political science or sociology. I blame too much Tokyo Daigaku Monogatari.

Do drop me a PM on Twitter or an email if you happen to be in Japan around that time and want to meet up for tea. I will be in Tokyo from 9 April to 16 April and Kyushu/Kansai before that. I can show you around Akihabara/Asakusa, which, sad/happy to say, I know like the back of my hand.

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