Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Planning, Practicalities and Packing

Hello everyone!

So here I am, just less than 3 days away from the moment I take off for Tokyo. I have been a mess of planning this past few weeks, suddenly realising the amount of time I had left between work and other commitments to finish my planning. Going through and updating my previous information was a long process, but I am proud to say that a couple of days ago I was able to print and bind my new personal guidebook, with personalised maps and lists of all of my preferred sights, shops, restarants and other experiences in each suburb I will be visiting. I know that in this day and age a smartphone renders a lot of maps and lists moot, but I’ve found it works better when looking for specific destinations. I still find a printed book or list useful so that I when I think, “Hmm. I’m in Shibuya. I’m hungry. Where should I go?” I can use a quick glance at my map to find the nearest restaurant that I personally wanted to visit. The same can be done with experiences on unplanned afternoons, and thankfully, for atms or police boxes in emergencies. I also love the experience of taking a book like this with me, as I write notes or corrections on it as I experience the places on the list, which not only has me going away much more informed, but with a book full of memories I can look back on whenever I choose.

Having said that, I would say the biggest difference between this trip and my trip in 2010 BY FAR is the fact that I now own a smartphone. After some looking around my smartphone now possesseses:
  • A packing list
  • GPS map guidance
  • A train travel app to plot the course, duration and cost of any trip I want to make in Tokyo
  • An app that calls Japanese emergency numbers at the touch of a button without the need to remember a list of foreign numbers
  • Chat apps to speak to my friends at home including Skype
  • Japanese language learning software
  • Japanese guidebook apps
  • Books for the plane
  • A blogging app to geotag my photos and upload my posts here live
  • A browser to find any new trip information I might need, at any time.
All of this assistance is available to me at the cost of a $40, 1 gb Japanese data sim that I bought online and had sent ahead to my hotel for the day of my arrival. I won’t be able to make traditional calls, but I’ll have Skype which costs less, and I have free wifi at the hotel. Gone are the days where I feared getting lost on the train or in the backstreets of Harajuku, my phone has my back. My only extra tip is this: If you plan to have all of these apps and use them, make sure you either have an incredibly good phone battery or one of the mobile recharging devices, because you’ll need it.

Once I had this sorted I finally had to get to the nitty gritty: finalizing the packing list. Now as I have previously mentioned, I have a catch-all, fairly light packing list that I use for all trips by simply crossing out the things not applicable for the season/type of trip, and changing the exact item packed for each use. The trouble is while I know I’m bringing two shirts, I now had to decide WHICH two shirts. Clothing was a decision I had been mulling over since I booked the trip so I already had some ideas. When choosing I had to consider:
  • Weather
  • Fit
  • Comfort
  • Quick-dry fabrics
  • Cultural appropriateness
  • Suitability with other clothes taken
  • Suitability to clothes I likely to buy there (Let’s face it, I’ll buy.)
  • Adaptability/Re-wear potential (How many outfits could I make with this one item?)
  • Packability/Weight
  • Stylishness (I come to Tokyo partly for the fashion, so no shorts and knee-socks for me)
It took me a while, but I finally managed to come up with two t-shirts that between them could suit almost any casual occasion or street style outfit I planned to wear, two pairs of black pants (one comfortably stretchy and classy looking, one black pair of jeans), a black scarf/pashmina to suit a variety of purposes, a jacket, a cardigan, and a nightdress for sleeping in which with the right accessories also made a frighteningly good little black dress for evening occasions! I am confident that if I bought nothing on this trip and did laundry a few times, I could use these items (plus some accessories and some coloured tights), and barely wear the same outfit twice in the trip. One of the shirts has multiple colours on it, which allows me to create different outfits by wearing accessories that highlight the different colours. I can also change the look of it by wearing it with a jacket, with the scarf tied differently over it, or by wearing the shirt over the dress to make a skirt outfit. Seeing as those are just the looks I can do with one shirt, I’m pretty confident with my selections. My only concern is that once I start buying clothes I’ll feel I brought too much! To be on the safe side though, I’ve brought what I feel I’ll need, plus backups (eg. the pants) in case something happens to the first pair. Foreigners beware, you may not be able to find certain items of clothing to fit you in Japan! I know for a fact that it’s quite hard to find pants to fit my generous butt, or bras to fit my bust over there, so I’m bringing two of both. 

So now I have come to the big, exciting, scary part of the trip. I know where I want to go, what I want to do, and I’ve booked it all and written it all down. I have cleaned out and backed up files on my laptop and made sure I saved and installed all of my lists, documents, bookmarks, and games on it for mid-trip reference or entertainment. Last week I did a big house clean, so that my room will be clean when I return (I’m sure I can trust my roommate to make a mess of the rest of the house while I am gone). 

I then had room on my nice, clean bedroom floor to set out all of the items on my packing list next to my suitcase, and check that each item had a valid use (or multiple uses) and couldn’t be disposed of in favour of something else I was bringing or something lighter. Again, for shoppers like me, the golden rule is the less you take there, the more you can bring back. The list has given me an item to deal with nearly every possible need without having to buy anything, which is a very good position to be in to start your trip, and it all weighs less than 8kg including some items (toiletries, snacks) that I will use up or leave there. A further kg or so is represented by items (old ballet flats, old tights, disposable cheap items) that I would be happy to throw away at the end of the trip, as I brought them specifically as they are on their last legs and therefore do not need to return with me. If I were trying harder I could make my bag a bit lighter than this, but as a fashionista and a traveller that likes to allow herself some luxuries, I like leaving myself a little room to bring a few extra accessories or that really useful gadget that makes my morning go smoother. Luckily, thanks to new policies with my airline, I have 30kg baggage allowance on this economy class flight, so I’m allowing room for over 20kg of souvenirs should I need it! My wallet is hoping I won’t need it, but it’s still good to have.

So here I am, basically organised, with just a few last minute things to pick up and do. Hopefully this will lead to less stressful updates in the next few days, but no promises! Thank you for reading, see you soon.

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