Monday, May 13, 2013

Vacation planning

Honestly, my brain is basically mush right now. I am in a fog of grading, and a fog of mortgage paperwork, as both my semester and my home purchase are slated to conclude this week. I'm in two fogs. 

But! Nigh unto all of the brain cells I have left are currently being devoted to EXCITEMENT because I  will be going to Japan on vacation in a few weeks. 

Some brochures Chris picked up at a festival in Central Park.
Here are some of the things I am doing to prepare for the trip: 
  • reading contemporary Japanese books. Three of my favorites so far have been Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Kibo ("Brimming with Hope"): Recipes and Stories from Japan's Tohoku by Elizabeth Andoh: a cookbook of homey Japanese cooking with a lot of cultural information thrown in.
  • looking at beautiful pictures of old Japan.
  • reading about other people's packing strategies for long-ish trips.
  • practicing some basic phrases by listening to recorded language lessons. I've been using the Pimsleur lessons and they seem pretty good for learning some stock phrases such as, "Excuse me, do you understand English?" and "Where is Hibiya Avenue?" and "I am not feeling well." I also now know three different ways to say thank you, and in which context to say each. I have no delusions of actual conversational ability, though. I hope merely to convey well-intentioned politeness.

    The Pimsleur guide is weird, however, in that it consistently positions me as an American man who is addressing and sometimes answering for a Japanese woman. I have just learned how to invite the Japanese woman back to my place for a drink. Literally. Thanks, Pimsleur, for confirming that I am not your target audience.
  • doing all of the practical things (buying a Japan Rail Pass, making hotel reservations, getting copies of our passports laminated [thanks, Stella!], setting up a roaming data plan, reading guidebooks from the library, writing down where the U.S. Embassy is, etc.)
  • shopping for a smallish, flattish, leather crossbody bag that zips all the way across the top.
  • asking knowledgeable friends for advice. This is ongoing. In fact, do YOU, dear reader, have any advice for preparing for this trip? Or bag-buying advice? 
Nota Bene: You are still welcome to weigh in on next year's project!


  1. I am an excellent packer! I have many tips. Many excellent tips.

    I am good both at choosing what to bring to be multipurpose and at fitting things in bags. However, I have no bag advice.

    1. I will call on your expertise when packing! And I got a bag, but it is too small after all. And I measured! The quest continues.

  2. Congratulations Emily, I'm excited for you!! :) Japan will be amazing! I've read Kitchen too, I just couldn't resist a book by someone named Banana; I really liked it too. I've been watching a lot of NHK World lately (a tv channel about Japan), you should check out the website, you might find something you like. They have some programs like Meet and Speak, which throw around basic phrases you can learn, and other program like Seasoning the Seasons or Inspiring Landscapes of just beautiful places in Japan you can go. I think you can find episodes on youtube, but the list of shows is here:
    Meet and Speak has it's own website too:

    1. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. I'll check out the lessons. I am about to start another book by Banana Yoshimoto, too, called The Lake. Looking forward to it!