When we look back at all the times we journeyed to Japan, it always brings a smile. And why not? It was all good times we had while we were there. And it is the first country we have decided to translate our writings to the web.
To place a lot of pins (and Okinawa is not here) on the map is actually an incredibly challenging task, given the many small locales that we drove to. And we had been fortunate in that we had kept very detailed travelogue records since 2004.
Our first foray to Japan was actually in the year 2000. At that time, we knew little about travel within that country and the language barrier (written and spoken) was the main challenge.
So it was package tours in these early years.
As we moved to Europe, hardly thought about journeys to Japan and it was only when Suan’s brother had a stint there for nearly a year. We made our own way and began to realize that it is a lot easier than we had originally thought.
Since then (with the exception of 2009 and 2014), it had been an annual “affair” to journey to Japan. Some years we were there multiple times, especially when Melvin was on business and we extended our stay – the “bleisure” in action. Every year, Melvin will remind Suan that we do not go to the same place twice, so that we grow our handprint. This advise is ignored when it comes to Japan. There are more important priorities than the handprint! Shopping is one of them.
And how can one forget about the food?
Our story has been one of searching for a nice place to eat everywhere we have journeyed within Japan. We’ve had pheasant, venison, eel, (no horse) and a host of seafood that will take too long to write about. But the really interesting thing to do in Japan is ‘naked hot baths’. Many would balk at being completely naked and bathing in the company of numerous people in a public bathhouse. But the hot springs of Japan are mineral rich, and no journey to Japan really complete without a dip in these richly endowed waters…And so we became regulars.
In 2008, it all changed.
Heretofore we had never driven in Japan, even-though they are on the same side of the road as Singapore (or the Brits). Impressions from the years before had ingrained into us that Japan is a land where English signage will be a rarity (except the odd brand poster etc). But we soon discovered that this is a myth. Road signs and names are bilingual. While at first English GPS was difficult to rent, it has now become widely available.
Needless to say, this widened the horizon of exploration possibilities for us. The only place in Japan we still have not driven on our own is Hokkaido despite having journeyed there twice – once for winter and the other for the summer flowers.
Since 2008, aside from pure shopping journeys we have been driving to see more than what the standard web guides will tell us. In fact, a few year back we abandoned the use of English-based sites altogether, preferring dive into Japanese sites which provide more up-to-date and clearer guidance, for which some critical information could still be “lost in translation” when retold by an English speaking traveler.
Besides, most travelers do not drive in Japan and for the places we were intent on, and those that did – do not offer a lot in the way of helping us assess how to run our road trips. Many travelers had touched the destinations we intended using public transport.
This is now changing, as folks awaken to the fact that Japan is more accessible than perceived. There are now regular driving holidays organized by Singapore agents with their Japanese partners for customers who favor the freedom of the open roads.
Now we are adding to the journeys in the sub-menu, and as it is published one at a time it will be for us to sit back and let the readers do the reading and clicking. Let us know if you like the stories we share. And if you ever need any help on planning for a journey to Japan, we are always here to help!