In a normal year, my holiday preparation includes getting guidebooks and maps, maybe a language tape or two and making a list of things to do, see and miss.
But this year is different, and not just because there’s a book involved. We’re planning to travel in November. And I actually started planning last year!
Now, I’m not in flat-out, think-of-little-else mode. Right now, it’s still reading, websurfing, cooking, digging through maps kind of relaxed. The only thing I’ve stepped up on is language training.
And food identification.
Because this year, we’re not just hopping down the road to take in historical sites I already know about and love. We’re not staying in places where asking for water or beer (or finding Vegetarian food) is a challenge.
This year we’re going to visit Japan, where (apparently) there are rules that are so different from what I’m used to , we might as well travel to Mars. Where expectations are as different as the food. And where trains apparently run on time. All the time.
And the last thing I want to do is ruin the trip by putting my foot in it. Metaphorically speaking.
I want to thoroughly enjoy this trip. All the differences, all the out-of-my-comfort-zone stuff, all the colours and sights and even the wtf? moments that defy belief and any convention I’ve ever been brought up to adhere to. I actually look forward to the alien, because it intrigues me. And probably also, because I hope to find a lot of things that are just the same regardless.
So I’m now seriously learning the language – because, how else can I a) be polite, b) find my way around and and c) work out what makes this country tick? I’m cooking Japanese… not a hardship, really! I’m reading guide books so far ahead of the trip, I have to read them again come October, just to remember all the details. I listen to music and watch game shows – thank you YouTube, that was so not necessary! – plan days out and make a list of places to eat.
I’m even exploring the mysterious world of alien-flavoured KitKats. Don’t tell me I’m not making an effort… I so am! Because hereabouts, KitKats come in fake milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Both of the eeh-yuk!-why-did-I-just-eat-that? variety. My straight from Japan selection box has eight flavours, six of which I’ve never even thought of.
1x Matcha KitKat
1x Wasabi KitKat
1x Sweet Potato KitKat
1x Hojicha KitKat
1x Azuki Sandwich KitKat
1x Ichimi Chilli KitKat
1x Strawberry KitKat
1x Raspberry KitKat
The latter two I can sort of reconcile my tastebuds to. The rest will be filed under exploration / challenging. But then, I tried oysters for my last significant birthday. So for this one, let’s brave KitKats.
And if anyone has any suggestions for must-sees (and good Vegetarian places to eat) in Tokyo, Kyoto, Ueda and Osaka… I’d be deliriously happy to hear them!