April is coming to an end and those across Asia are gearing up for a national holiday week filled to the brim with festivals, discounted sales and an influx of voracious travelers.
In Japan, Golden Week commences on April 29th to mark the birthday of the late Emperor Showa and for many students such as myself, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the best, the nation has to offer.
During my semester abroad in Akita, my friends and I were eagerly anticipating the week ahead since it was a way to escape the rural countrysides and rice fields in favor of the cosmopolitan skyscrapers, Tokyo boasts. Little did we know, we would face multiple hiccups along the way.
The day that we were supposed to leave, we all met at the bus stop that would take us to what we thought was the night-bus terminal. However, we realized that my friend who made the reservation plugged in the wrong address into Google Maps and we ended up at a nearby mall.
Struggling to make sense of the directions that the locals were providing, we ended up hailing a taxi in the hopes of making it in time for our night-bus. Two hours later we were back on campus with our heads hung in shame. Nevertheless, tomorrow would be another day, perfect for a do-over.
Since we ended up behind schedule, the Shinkansen (bullet train) ended up being our choice of transport; something that I’m now grateful for considering its incredible reputation, despite its exorbitant prices.
Upon our arrival in Tokyo, we checked in to the capsule hotel another friend of mine had reserved. Just as I thought our nightmare was over, the receptionist kindly informed us that we had only reserved a room for half our stay in the city. As a result, we had to lug our suitcases half way across town to another branch of the same hotel.
You’d think that was it but when we reached Osaka, we found ourselves in the same predicament, having to spend each night in a different establishment with our heavy bags in tow and our then limited knowledge of Japanese. Fun right?
Our final leg of the journey culminated in the ancient capital, Kyoto which turned out to be the highlight of our trip since we explored the historical sights and climbed all the way to the top of the Fushimi Inari. (Word of advice, the trail takes almost two hours to complete so take your time! Years of sedentary activity caught up with me and I almost passed out from the exhaustion.)
Knowing my miserable luck however, I had yet to face more obstacles. In many train stations across the country, people have the option of renting lockers so that they may explore without the physical burden of a backpack. My friends and I all took advantage of this option but when the time came to open our lockers, we realized that the keys were now missing!
What’s worse was the 1000 yen we each had to shell out to replace the keys and retrieve our bags. By that point, I was aching from my head to my toes, cursing incessantly and counting the days to our flight back to Akita.
The last mishap occurred at 5 in the morning at the airport after I accidentally left my laundry bag at the Air BnB we rented. There’s no way I could leave seven days worth of sweat-soaked clothes behind, not to mention the nasty surprise the host would have to endure.
It’s a wonder that we didn’t miss our flight but we made it back in one piece–sleep deprived, hungry and extremely irritable but safe nonetheless.
If this experience has taught me anything, it’s to never trust your friends with reservations –oh and do a final sweep of your accommodation to avoid an early morning heart attack.