Tokyo, Japan is a city of teeming millions, high-speed rail and higher speed internet access. Years of history and modern development make Tokyo an exciting destination and, dreaming of going ourselves, we wanted to talk with someone who knew it well.
In this Tokyo, Japan travel podcast we talk with Honor Dargan of Tokyotopia.com. Honor is a British expat who has lived in Tokyo since 2001 and has written her own online city guide: Tokyo made simple. Tokyotopia is currently running a Tokyo video competition to which we’re contributing a prize.
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Life as an expat…
It can sometimes be lonely as you are away from your friends, your family and the culture you grew up with. It’s also exciting and challenging with opportunities galore to push yourself beyond your familiar frame of reference. Add to that there’s a certain freedom that comes with being outside the domestic culture, especially in Japan.
The visa application process for long-term travel…
Long-term travel in Japan is possible and, depending where you come from, can be pretty easy. If you fill the criteria required for a working holiday visa then you really can spend a decent amount of time here while also being able to keep your pockets lined with the necessary cash. Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and British certainly qualify for this.
Arriving in Tokyo and getting from airport to city…
Not as simple as it sounds! Tokyo airport is about an hour to an hour-and-a-half away from the city depending on how you decide to travel. Choices include the JR Narita Express which has a great discount option partnering with the Suica travel card for use on regular trains. There’s also the Airport Limousine Bus which will drop you outside most of the major hotels (and some cheap Tokyo hotels). They partner with Tokyo Metro (the subway) with the Pasmo Card.
The mythical communication problem faced by English speakers…
To my mind this is mostly in our heads. Of course there will always be those who really don’t help or just freak out at the idea of someone speaking English to them. For the most part though, people in Tokyo will go out of their way to help you if you approach them with a smile and a plea for help! Don’t be afraid to use gestures and drawings to show/describe what you need if necessary. It’s a good idea to keep a wee note book on you just for this purpose.
Exploring historic and side-street Tokyo…
The side-streets are the best place to really see Tokyo. The modern centers are great but, like all modern centers, the flavor tends to be the same. On the side streets though, you get mix of old and new, hidden temples, the local yakitori shop and so much more!
Climbing Mt Fuji…
Some say don’t, some say do. I say do what you feel like. Certainly she is a magnificient volcano and in Japan it is something that most people want to do once in their life. If you love walking, hiking, and climbing then go for it. It is only open for a couple of months in the year and, despite what some people will have you believe, it is not an easy walk. There are sulphur fumes to deal with as well as altitude at the top. One of my friends had to stop when she got altitude sickness. All my friends that have made it though are very glad that they did.
…and day trips from Tokyo
There are many so take your pick. Recommendations would be a place called Hakone which is near Mount Fuji. Try some eggs that are boiled in boiling water on the side of the volcano!
If exploring Asia is your idea of a good time, check out the Mekong River semester program offered by Where There Be Dragons.
Dragons programs are rugged learning adventures designed for open-minded students who are willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of discovery. Semester programs last for three months and feature extended home-stays, trekking and in-depth studies of issues related to development, ecology, culture and politics.
The Mekong Semester will follow the river from the Himalayan glaciers of China’s Yunnan province into Laos, settling into an extended stay in the ancient royal capital of Luang Prabang before wrapping up in Cambodia.
The trip will be challenging, both in terms of travel and academic rigor. We want students who are curious about the world, ready to immerse themselves in foreign cultures and willing to take a hard look at the realities of development in remote parts of Asia.
This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by WorldNomads.com.
WorldNomads.com provides great value global travel insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online, even if already travelling. All World Nomads get free travel blogs, safety advice and language guides for your iPod. You can also support a Footprints community development project when you purchase online. WorldNomads.com – keep travelling safely.[/box]