Next Stop: Japan!

Whoa, what?! That’s quite a sudden and unexpected change of location, you exclaim? Well yes, it is a bit of a travel non-sequitur. Our plans to travel to Japan started way back in December. Alana and I were hanging around in Invercargill in between a couple of our Great Walks (Routeburn and Kepler to be precise) trying to figure out our next steps. We knew we only had a few months left before our New Zealand Working Holiday Visas expired, and we had absolutely no idea what we wanted to do next. We simply knew that our year in New Zealand had not fully abated our wanderlust.

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As our time in New Zealand came to a close, we were forced to begin thinking about where we’d go next.

We had talked causally in the past about wanting to go to Japan. Many of our friends from China frequently vacationed there, and we had heard nothing but amazing stories from everyone who had visited. We were scrounging the web looking for ideas one day when Alana happened upon a sale that Air New Zealand was having. I don’t remember the specific details, but I believe it was some kind of holiday sale (it was just before Christmas) and there were great deals on one way fares from New Zealand to various destinations in Asia. Since we didn’t have any concrete plans we decided to go all in and booked two tickets from Christchurch to Tokyo. They were only about $300 each which was less than half the cost of our flights out to New Zealand.

Travel-life-pro-tip-hack-secret-trick: Watch out for sales! We used Scott’s Cheap Flights for the heads up on our cheap seats.

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Here’s one last shot of those amazing New Zealand mountains I’ve been obsessing about for the past few months as we flew from Christchurch to Auckland. 

Now that we had booked our flights we had to figure out what we were going to do when we got there! Neither one of us had been to Japan before, nor were we particularly familiar with Japanese language or culture. We spent many of our between-hike days holed up in the local library researching places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do in Japan. We had heard that Japan was not a cheap travel destination, so we wanted to stay on as much of a budget as we could, without sacrificing any of the things we really wanted to do. Spoiler Alert: We didn’t succeed. Japan was quite a bit more expensive than we anticipated. We still had a great time though and did not regret any of our expenditures.

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This is a transition post so you get lots of transition pictures. We had a brief layover in Auckland on our way to Tokyo.

We managed to put together a pretty solid month long itinerary. We planned to spend the first ten days in Tokyo, followed by a week in Osaka/Kyoto, then five days traveling the Kansai countryside down to Hiroshima, and finally ending with five days in Okinawa. It all sounded great and the more we planned, the more excited we got for the trip. We figured March would be a good month to go since it was the beginning of spring and we might be able to catch some cherry blossoms. Spoiler Alert #2: It was more like the end of winter. For maximum cherry blossom viewing it would have been better to go in early April. We still go to see some before the end of our trip though, so again no regrets.

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We spent our last day in New Zealand doing some community service with the Student Volunteer Army, a very cool organization that formed to help out in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.

In the meantime, we finished up our last few months in New Zealand with all of the exciting adventures you read about in the previous posts. After we finished with our family tour of the South Island, we had one week left in Christchurch during which we said our farewells to New Zealand. We sold our car, donated a bunch of clothing that we didn’t need anymore, and steeled ourselves for a month of real backpacking.

 

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