Saturday, March 29, 2008

We're Visiting Japan Soon

Well friends, my family and I are moving closer to our planned trip to Japan. We've been hoping to get over there to see friends and Rihoko's family sometime in late May or June. However, due to increasing prices in airline tickets we decided to move our trip up earlier. We'll be flying over to Japan on Thursday, April 17. I will be staying about three weeks, returning home on Friday, May 9. Rihoko, Christopher, and Nanami will stay with Rihoko's family for an additional nine weeks after that, returning home on Friday, July 11. Yep, I have to get used to an extended period of bachelorhood once more. The longest that we've had one of these separations previously has been around five weeks, so this is going to take some work. The worst part of them being in Japan longer is that I'll be missing Christopher's fourth birthday. Fortunately, they'll be home before Nanami's first birthday in late July.

Of course, I am trying to focus on the three weeks we'll have together in Japan. It's going to be an exciting time for all of us. We haven't made it back to Japan in about a year and a half, so Rihoko is very anxious to see her family again. And none of them have met our daughter Nanami yet, except through pictures and digital video clips. They've even informed us that they may take the shinkansen (bullet train) trip out to meet us at Narita Airport. I don't think I'd mind that, as having some extra hands to care for the kids would be nice after a twelve hour flight. But I don't expect them to come up, as it is fairly expensive to ride the shinkansen.

So what will the trip entail for us? Well, we'll be flying from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Minneapolis International Airport. From there we'll take a direct flight to Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo. Once we've gotten through immigration at Narita we'll send some of our luggage ahead via a Japanese shipping company, similar to UPS. We'll then purchase tickets to ride the Narita Express straight into Tokyo Station. Once we get there we'll have to cross to the opposite side of the station, during Friday evening rush hour I might add, and reach the platforms for the Shinkansen lines heading west. Fortunately, the shinkansen ride will only take 45 minutes for us to reach the Shinkansen station in Atami (site in Japanese, or check out the Wikipedia article), where Rihoko is from. We will ride on the Kodama version of the 700 Series of shinkansen. The 700 series can reach a maximum of approximately 167 mph. The Kodama, however, is on the slower end for this series because it stops at all of the smaller stations along the line.

Once we've reached Atami we will either take a local train line south, or travel by car to reach RIhoko's parents house. They live in Ajiro, a small fishing town on the south side of Atami. Our total travel time is usually 24 hours, door to door. I haven't added up this trip, but I assume it will be about the same.

Atami is located on the Izu Peninsula, which is part of Shizuoka Prefecture. The Izu is a beautiful resort are that is widely visited by people residing elsewhere in Japan, and abroad. Shizuoka is probably best known for Mt. Fuji, which is located in northern Shizuoka. I actually had a great view of Mt. Fuji from the desk in my home office when I was teaching there. And I even managed to climb to the top...once. Shizuoka is also famous for it's green tea. About 45% of all the green tea consumed in Japan is gown in Shizuoka. And it's my opinion that they grow the most delicious green tea in the world. Check out this list of "number ones" related to Shizuoka. Shizuoka also played a major role in Japan's opening of its borders to the outside world in the 1850s. Shimoda, which is a port city located on the southern tip of the Izu Pensinula is where Commodore Matthew Perry's "black ships" landed and negotiated the opening of this port to American trade.

I'm sure that we will have a fairly busy schedule while we are in Japan. Though our main reason for going there is to spend time with Rihoko's family, we will also likely travel around the area to see friends, and do some site-seeing. Rihoko's parents are really good about taking us to many of the numerous parks they have in this region. The parks are beautiful in Japan, and offer an inexpensive form of entertainment for the kids. Some friends of ours have also talked about taking us up to Tokyo Disneyland while we are there. I think that would be a lot of fun to do with Christopher. Nanami is still too young to really enjoy anything there yet. I wouldn't mind visiting Tokyo Disney Sea Park, but we'll probably settle on only one of the theme parks.

One thing I'm really hoping to do is share this trip with all of you. During our stay I intend on carrying a notebook and camera with me as we travel around, or as we hang out at home. I will then do my very best to get a new post up on this blog every two to three days. Our priority, of course, is spending time with family and friends. But I hope to take advantage of the vacation time to do some additional writing and work on my blog. I also hope to spend a good amount of time after I return to kick my writing into high gear. Since I'll be away from my family for nine weeks I think I'll need to focus my energies somewhere to distract me. What better work could I throw myself into than my writing. If you follow me on Twitter I'll be sure to update you when each new post goes up. And I'll no doubt be adding pictures to my Travel and Japanese Pictures collections on my Flickr account.

If there's anything concerning Japan that you'd like me to write about, or you'd like me to get a picture of, please let me know. I can't promise I'll be able to accommodate everyone, but I'll do my best. Until then, take care my friends.

Friday, March 7, 2008