We landed in Tokyo about 3:30pm (Tokyo time), and after a 13 hour flight we, Ryan and I, were ready to get off the plane. On the plane from Chicago to NaritaThey had a few movies, and the food was surprisingly good bet the amount of time in that chair was killing me. It was just comfortable enough so that you weren’t moving around so much, but just uncomfortable enough so that you couldn’t sleep easily.

On the flight I saw Spider-man 3… It’s a horrible movie, if you haven’t seen it, don’t. I liked the first two Spider-man movies, well I wouldn’t say that I liked them-‘they weren’t bad’ we’ll put it that way, but goddamn I have no clue what they were thinking when they were filming the third movie. It’s like the director was like, “Okay I don’t like this whole script thing, and we need more characters. Oh! And we need a song and dance number, that’s what would make this movie great. Hmm, about that ending, would it be possible that Spider-man wouldn’t care about his uncle Ben dying… yeah, it’s not like that was important to the story or anything.” It was bad, worse than bad, I wouldn’t pay one dollar to see that movie again, just blah, but for some reason I watched the whole movie, I was just hoping that it would turn around and redeem itself somehow, to that end I was horribly disappointed.

There were several other things on the plane channel list, but none really worth mentioning, except for the Japan TV channel. It basically took an excerpt of real Japanese television, about two hours worth, for the viewers pleasure, and typical to Japanese TV it was highly entertaining despite language barriers. The first show was all about tea, and I learned a lot actually. Apparently, tea is best made by putting tea leaves in an oval shaped pot with water that has to be 95 degrees celsius to achieve maximum “jumping”. Unbeknownst to be there is a phenomenon called jumping that makes tea taste good, it’s where the bubbles attach themselves to the leaves which makes them rise, the bubbles then break and they fall. They also talked about how to make the best cup of tea from a tea bag. Again the water should be 95 degrees celsius with the bag in the bottom of the cup you wait until the bag has risen to the top you push it down twice then remove, and there you have it the perfect cup of tea.

The second show on the Japan TV channel was called “Cool Japan”. What they did was they had eight foreigners, released them in Tokyo and had them tell the hosts what they thought was “Cool” about Japan. They had one girl from the US (who was a typical blonde bimbo -_-; apparently that’s all we have in this country), a girl from France (the host made fun of her a lot, for good reason too), Germany and Italy (who was stereotypically addicted to fashion). They also had one man from Canada (the guy was a douche, he basically said that he thought Canada was better than Japan, and they didn’t show a video clip of him walking about Tokyo pointing out things he thought were “Cool” like they did with all the other people, I don’t really know why he was on the show…), England, Jamaica, and China.

It was a pretty good show, according to the foreigner panelists, the hanker-chief is the “Coolest” thing in Japan. Before you totally dismiss it, let me explain a little. The hanker-chief is used differently in Japan than it is in the US. In the US we use the hanker-chief to blow our nose, and almost no one carries one with them these days, unless they are tucked into a suit jacket. In Japan, you can buy a hanker-chief at any little corner shop, in every convenience store, and every place that could sell a hanker-chief, they do. They also use it differently, they mostly wipe their brows of sweat so it’s used to keep them cool. I didn’t realize how much of a necessity this was until we actually started walking in Tokyo, I bought a hanker-chief as soon as a saw a shop that was selling one. All in all, it was a good show, and I learned something from both shows even though I couldn’t understand most of the dialog (my Japanese is not as strong as I wish it was).

Anyway, we landed in Narita; went through customs which was painless and relatively quick, picked up are bags (none ofView of Japan out of the window of a Boeing 777 which were lost, yay!!), converted some dollars into yen, met with the english teaching friend, sent my two bags, which measured 160cm (L+H+W) and 50lbs each respectively, ahead of me to my college (for 3480 yen!! My God, I wish sending packages was that cheap in America and they deliver it next day, for no extra charge!!! Seriously FedEx and UPS and the USPS can die in a fire), and purchased our JR East passes (for Aug. 22nd – 26th, our trip to Northern Japan), and boarded the JR Keisei line bound for Tokyo. All of that took about an hour and a half to complete, we were making pretty good time. The train ride took about an hour to get to into Tokyo. Unfortunately for me each one of us forgot to print out directions to the Ryokan, so we had to rely on my memory of where it was (from when I went to Tokyo in the Spring of 2005) and asking at a Koban (police box) where the Ryokan was located. Needless to say it took us a while to find it. After we did finally find the Ryokan we ran into a problem because they lost my reservation, luckily I had my laptop with me and showed them the e-mail that was sent to me proving my reservation (I download my e-mail to a mail client), and we finally got into our room. The room is very nice, photos will be available in my flickr very soon I promise.

Something I almost forgot to mention, summer in Japan is fucking hot… forgive the obscenity but goddamn it’s hot here. It’s was about 35 degrees celsius (95 fahrenheit) with like 100% humidity, as soon as you stepped onto the street you were sweating. Carrying our bags was a burden at best, and they had wheels!! Remember I said how the Japanese use hanker-chiefs? This heat is why.

YakinikuWe eventually got our room all set, we then went out to get some food. We found a good yakiniku (originally a Korean BBQ type restaurant, it’s where you order meat, you get it raw and you cook it in a mini-BBQ grill in the middle of your table), it was delicious, then we made it back to our rooms about 10pm or so. Originally I had planned to record the first show in the podcast I mentioned in the last post, however, I happened to pack the microphones in one of the bags that I sent to my university in Osaka… I was pretty bummed out. We’ll have to pick up a microphone in Akihabara or something, then you’ll see a show in the podcast I promise.

So that was our first day(ish) in Japan, I am so glad that I’m back in this country, I didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I started walking around again. The next post will cover our first full day in Japan: August 17th, 2007. Until then!

So I landed in Narita last night, it was a loooooong flight. Just wanted to make a quick post. It was an effort getting to the hotel and everything but I will write about that later. My friend and I were going to record a quick podcast episode and I had everything with me… except the microphones which I packed in a separate bag -_-. I’ll be writing more tonight (my time), until then!

Before you leave on the plane for Japan there are a few things that you should do. First thing is that you will need money when you are in Japan. I recommend going to your bank and getting $500 to $1000 in travelers checks. This will enable you to do anything without having to worry about money for a while. Travelers checks are the best solution for money since you can go to any bank to cash them and they will calculate the exchange rate and give you the correct amount of yen back.

I know there are a lot of things that I am forgetting to write, please forgive me. I am going to board the plane in a few hours and as with big decisions, large doubts enter your mind and you start thinking more about what could go wrong. Thankfully when you step on the plane this feeling of pressure lessens and you start to flow with renewed energy, at least that is how it has worked for me in the past, and I am hoping the same thing happens this time as well.

You go through a couple phases when you are traveling to Japan: you feel exited, scared, overwhelmed, awed, exited, and finally bummed out that you have to leave. As you can tell I am firmly in the scared stage, not because I am scared of leaving or of flying but because I am scared that things won’t go ideally, that something will just go wrong. Here’s to hoping things go well, right?

So here we are on the final segment of my first multi-part series on Corbin in Japan, to be honest I kind of write things with only an idea in mind and then going from there. Doing this website and subsequently describing how I pack has been a good mental and writing exercise for me and I hope it has been at least semi-informative (and perhaps a little entertaining) to those who have been reading it.

I really do appreciate any feedback so please don’t hesitate to email or leave me a comment. I have some plans for the future of the website, including starting a podcast, which would only exist for the five months that I will be in Japan. I’ve already purchased the hardware and downloaded the software to make it a reality. After I land in Japan on August 16th, we’ll see how it works out. I’m hoping it comes out decent. In any case without further ado lets get started on Part III, shall we?

“How long will I be staying?”
I will be staying in Japan for a total of five months so like I mentioned in Part II, I will be packing about two weeks worth of clothes. When I pack clothes for traveling or moving I tend to think of the purposes they will serve so I tend to group them in categories.

  • Dress or formal wear
  • Casual wear
  • Sports wear
  • Shoes

I plan to take one suit with me, and several dress shirts, two blazers, as well as a good pair of khaki pants which can double for casual wear as well. That’s just usually the style of clothes that I wear. As far as strictly casual wear, I plan to take several polo shirts and t-shirts, three pairs of shorts, and two pairs of jeans. To go along with these categories I am taking one track jacket, one pull-over hoodie, one zip-up hoodie, and a leather jacket for when it gets colder. As far as sports wear I will be taking three pairs of basketball shorts, and a few t-shirts that I’m not afraid of getting sweat on ^_^ .

For shoes I will be taking three pairs of casual shoes, one pair of basketball shoes, and one pair of dress shoes. And of course pack enough underwear and socks for two weeks time. I try to pack minimally but I also like to be prepared, this is a little more than I would usually pack but that is mainly because I have never been to a foreign country for more than a week and a half, not to mention taking into account the answer to the next question.

“How available are replacement items?”
I’m 5’11” (180cm) tall, wear a men’s size 11 shoe, and am an overall large dude. Which translates in Japanese to we don’t have clothes for you, at least not easily to find. If it would be easier to find clothes while I’m in Japan I probably wouldn’t pack quite as much just to save on shipping charges (which I will mention in tomorrow’s post).

I plan on taking a few good sized English language books with just so I have something to read if I want to, as well as several American movies. Bringing American movies with you is a good idea on many levels. First, you will have movies that you can watch without subtitles (which I don’t mind); and second, Japanese people like American movies (at least the ones I have talked to) so they will want to watch them with you as well, making it a good way to meet people. Besides a few books and movies I don’t plan on taking too many English language things with me.

“What will I need?”
I’ve already mentioned the clothes end of what I will be packing which is probably the largest part. Now that I have that set aside I can go one to other things that I will need. For me, I need a computer. I am going to be bringing along both my laptop (1.5Ghz Powerbook G4) and my desktop (Intel single core Mac Mini) as well as my 19″ LCD monitor and a slim line set of speakers. Luckily the Mac Mini et al fit in my 29″ stand up rolling luggage quite well.

A note on all electronics, Japan does not have a grounding prong on their sockets, for whatever reason. If you plan to bring any electronics with you I would recommend bringing two power-strips and buy two Three-Prong Grounded Plug Adapters for a Two-Prong Wall Outlet, that way you will be able to plug in just about any electrical item you bring with you.

Here is a tip for packing electronics and other things, do not pack them in the boxes-wrap clothes around them. It saves room because you are not using any extra packing material (styrofoam or packing peanuts), and serves the same purpose: to insulate so that things are not damaged. I am also taking an English-Japanese dictionary with me. You should also pack toiletries: shampoo, deodorant, a towel, electric shaver, etc. Whatever you think you will need.

As far as organization with your luggage goes, remember that you will have three pieces of luggage (if you are using American Airlines, keep in mind the limits for whatever airlines you decide to use), don’t be afraid to distribute your items between the bags, be sure to keep each individual bag below the weight limit as well. You will want to keep the most immediately needed items in your carry-on piece of luggage, as well as an extra set of clothing, just in case your checked luggage gets lost by the airlines.

“What else can I fit that I want?”
Now that the essentials are packed I have extra room for anything else I want to bring with me. I plan on bringing my Wii and my Nintendo DS Lite with me to Japan. I have room for both, the Wii I will pack with the checked luggage that will be sent on ahead to Kansai Gaidai before I arrive there. The DS I will pack in my carry-on so I will have some short term amusement both on the plane and in Japan. I will also be packing the podcasting equipment that I bought so I will have to find room for that as well. With that I am pretty much fully packed.

After you have finished packing, weigh your luggage to make sure that everything is according to the limits set by the airlines. If something is over the weight limit redistribute some into your other luggage to meet the requirements. After you have everything all packed and meeting all conditions made by the airlines you are all set. Next post, which will be the final post outside of Japan (!!!), I will cover money, and other last minute things before you board the plane, so until then!

The Art of Packing, Part I
The Art of Packing, Part II
The Art of Packing, Part III

Last we left off I outlined the four key points of developing your packing plan; “How long will I be staying?”, “How available are replacement items?”, “What will I need?”, “What else can I fit that I want?”. I will expound on them further in the following paragraphs.

We’ll take the first question to begin with, “How long will I be staying?”. This question is the most important one and for good reason, it will determine how much you will need to take with you. There is really only three main answers for this question; less than a week, about a week, and two weeks or more. If you are packing for less than a week more often than not you will only need about three day’s worth of clothes, which can be fit in a piece of luggage quite easily. If it is about a week, just bring a week’s worth of clothing, it will pay off in the long run.

If you are going to be in Japan for two weeks or more, which is what I would expect if you plan on doing study abroad in Japan, then pack at least two week’s worth of clothing. The types of clothing depend on the person of course, but bring enough where you won’t have to do laundry every 4 or 5 days. Also if you are staying for more than two weeks you should also make space for other things besides clothing, such as any electronics you plan on taking with you (I will detail this choice a little more in Part III of this series). A quick note, I am a 21 year old male so I make my recommendations on clothing and shoes from that point of view, I realize that those of the female persuasion may require a larger amount of both. ^_^

The next question, “How available are replacement items?” is an especially important one as it will be the deciding factor on the amount of anything that you plan to bring with you. For instance, if you wear shoes that are size 9 (mens) or larger you should bring several pairs of shoes with you simply because you will have a hard time finding any replacements if you wear yours out. The same goes for clothing, the average Japanese person is not that large so if you are a larger person (horizontally or vertically) you will naturally have a harder time finding replacement clothing, so plan accordingly. The same goes with English language books, dvds, etc. Japan does not have a very large English speaking population so finding entertainment in English may be difficult, take what you think will suffice for the length of time you will be overseas.

The third key question is, “What will I need?”. I know it seems like common sense but seriously it is easier to pack with the bare essentials and then whatever else you want, than the other way around. Having too much to begin with then narrowing it down will be harder on you than starting with what you need then expanding from there. Obviously clothing is a necessity, I would also recommend at least three pairs of shoes. Do not, however, bring an electric alarm clock over to Japan. There are two reasons why I say this; first, you can easily purchase an alarm clock once you get to Japan; and second, it will not keep time correctly because Japan runs on a different electrical frequency (which is what clocks use to keep time) although other two pronged electriacl items should be fine. Other than that, like I said, keep it simple the need stuff first.

After you have covered what you need, you should have space left for what you want, which leads us to the final key question, “What else can I fit that I want?” The key piece of information is how much space do you have left? It is easy to fill that space once you have it, but making the room first is the hard part. Obviously you can only pack what you want into your luggage if it will fit, keep that in mind, although it is okay to overstuff a little bit. ~_^

After you have finished packing it is time to make sure that everything still meets the size and weight limits set by the airlines, just measure you luggage with a yardstick and weigh it on a household scale. It may not be perfectly accurate but close is good enough as long as it is under the limits. If one of your bags is over the limit (most likely weight wise) just re-distribute the contained items until everything is under the limit. It is a lot easier to do this at home rather then at the airport creating a bottleneck for people wanting to get on.

So this time I went through, in detail, my strategy on planning to pack. Next time I will give you direct examples of what I plan on taking with me on my flight to Japan, until then!

The Art of Packing, Part I
The Art of Packing, Part II
The Art of Packing, Part III

A friend of mine who has travelled to Japan (she’s Japanese) recommended two websites that she knows of that offer extremely low prices for airfare to Japan. They were so low in fact that I felt the need to post them up here so that everyone who reads my site would know about them. Seriously though you can get airfare for really low prices on these websites.

In fact I will probably be using one of those websites the next time I decide to travel to Japan. Anyway that was kind of an emergency bulletin message, later today I will resume the three part special on packing, until then!

I will begin a three part series on packing today and continue until Tuesday August 14, the day before I leave for Japan. The first thing you should do is go to the airline’s website and see what their restrictions on luggage are; how many carry-on or checked baggage you may have, the maximum dimensions and weight allowed, etc. For an example I am going to be flying by ways of American Airlines, here is their page for baggage information. For my flight the maximum requirements are as listed:

  • One (1) carry-on piece of luggage
    • No more than 45 in/114 cm (length + width + height)
    • Maximum weight of 40 lbs/18 kgs
  • Two (2) checked pieces of luggage
    • No more than 62 in/157 cm (length +width + height)
    • Maximum weight of 50 lbs/ 23 kgs

After you have the information on the limits allowed for your baggage find pieces of luggage that best fit those specifications, maybe a few in’s/cm’s smaller just to cover for a little bit of overfilling, if that were to happen. After you have your specifications it’s time to plan the packing. Yes, you read correctly, plan the packing. Let me explain what I mean by this.

When planning your packing, what you are doing is narrowing down what you will need to pack for your trip. I base my packing around a few key specifications:

  • How long will I be staying?
  • How available are replacement items?
  • What will I need?
  • What else can I fit that I want?

Once I know the best items to fit those questions then I start packing. Hold that thought because the next part in our three part series will continue where we are leaving off, until then!

The Art of Packing, Part I
The Art of Packing, Part II
The Art of Packing, Part III