EOW College Trip Series ~ Japan

Well, we call them college trips. But we mean 'college' in the broadest sense of the word. Whether you're grad or undergrad, graduated, never matriculated—whatever. You're more than welcome—urged, even—to join us for one of our college trips. Just know that you'll be adventuring and making friends with a group of people who, for the most part, slip into that ill-defined demographic that we'll call 'young adult.'

It works like this: a college student presents us with an itinerary for a trip that they think we should build and offer. And if it's a good one, that's exactly what we do. Then that person becomes the group leader of their trip, and they get to take a group of people on their ultimate dream trip... as long as it fits into those ever-pressing young adult budgets.

Our first college trip is going to Japan this winter, and it's led by recent college graduate Nikolai Walker.

Japan Trip: December 28, 2010 --> January 09, 2011 

For many, travel is about destinations. We'll go here and here and see this and this. We'll have tour guides in these places, and they'll tell us all kinds of interesting facts about them. Maybe I'm weird, but this just doesn't appeal to me. It seems instead that most of my best travel experiences have been ones that I didn't see coming.  And more than that, they've been moments that I shared with others, be they friends or strangers.
So, when I was asked to build this trip, the first thing that came to my mind is that I'd want it to bring people together, to give me and other participants opportunities to meet new people and form new friendships--some of which, I hope, will last a lifetime.  So many times I've been to a place and just wished I could've had some people there with me, be they friends or family or significant others. But you can't always match schedules and budgets with those people. So rather than miss out on an adventure, why not gather together some people who do have matching schedules and budgets, and we can all build great friendships based off of the awesome experiences we have in our travels? That's the first goal of this trip. For me, at least. The added bonus is that group travel means cheaper prices!

Anyways, this is what I put together. I hope you can join me for it; I'd love to get to know you better :).
The only things set in stone for this trip are the hotel rooms. If there's ever a group activity (basically whatever I'm doing) that you're not interested in, just don't go. No worries. But if you do want to join me, that'd be pretty rad.

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(oh ya, this is me, up in the mountains in Japan. I brought clothes for two days, and on the second day I wore all of them.)

Day 01: Tue, Dec 28 / LAX --> Narita
- We fly to Japan!

Day 02: Wed, Dec 29 / Narita --> Tokyo
- We arrive in the afternoon  and meet up at Narita airport. After picking up our JR Rail Passes, we'll take a train to Tokyo. Specifically, to our hotel in Shinjuku. If we're not too tired, maybe we can go to an izakaya and grab a drink. Or maybe some yakitori if you're hungry.

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(Shinjuku!)  (also, all the pics are ones I've taken or from my camera; so sorry if the quality is sometimes lacking)

Day 03: Thu, Dec 30 / Tokyo
- We meet in the hotel lobby at 5 or 6am and take one of the first trains to Tsukiji to visit the largest fish market in the world. Then, for breakfast, we can eat some of the freshest—and best—sushi in the world. Oishii!

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(fish market!)

- From there we'll go to Hama-Rikyuu-Teien, which is a pretty beautiful garden. I went there once on accident, and it's probably my favorite garden in Tokyo. Here's a picture:

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( Hama-Rikyuu-Teien)

- It's not too far of a walk from there to Ginza, which is pretty much the posh district of Tokyo. It's mass expensive, but still worth a look. Plus, the Sony building is there, and we can go play with all their latest gadgets.

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(Ginza)

- Then lunch! Maybe at the Tokyo International Forum, which should have a good array of options.

- While we're in the area, of course we'll need to check out the Imperial Palace East Gardens. It's one of those must-dos in just about every travel book.

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(palace gardens)

- Now I'm guessing people will be pretty tired. And who knows what time it will be. Mid afternoon? If it is, we can go to Ueno and do the museum thing. Or if it's later, we can head straight to Tokyo Tower to watch the sunset, which I've always wanted to do.

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(Tokyo Tower, morning)

- If you have it in you, this night we can walk to Okubo, which is adjacent to Shinjuku (where our hotel is). Okubo is actually Tokyo's Korea Town, but it's a great place to go with a big group of friends for cheap booze and spicy/authentic Korean food! Non-spicy options also available. Plus, we can get some delicious pancake things (I forget what they're actually called).

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(me eating delicious pancake thing!)

-Then, finally, bed. And maybe the best sleep of your life.

Day 04: Fri, Dec 31 / Tokyo
- We sleep in! I'm thinking this'll be a good day to take it easy, considering how busy the day before is. After waking up at a leisurely hour, we can walk around Shinjuku, check out some of the giant department stores. Then a relaxing lunch. And maybe some tea at a cat cafe. I've actually never been, but basically you just sip tea and pet cats.

- In accordance with the laid-back feel of our day, we can then go to Odaiba. Odaiba is actually an island made of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. They have a giant onsen (hot spring bath) place there, which is modeled on an old Edo town and supposed to be pretty cool.. They even pump natural mineral water into it from 1400 meters below Tokyo Bay. And really, you don't want to go to Japan without visiting an onsen at least once.

- We head back to Shinjuku whenever we feel like it and get dinner somewhere. Maybe some Japanese curry rice (my favorite!), or an izakaya. But I hope this day refreshed you, because, ya, it's New Year's Eve. And we're going out!

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(curry rice, yum!)

- I say we go to Ageha. I've never been to this club, but supposedly it's gigantic and has a reputation for bringing in world renowned djs. So you know they're gonna have some good ones for New Year's Eve!

Day 05: Sat, Jan 01 / Tokyo
- We wake up whenever (depending on how our New Year's celebration turned out), and I say we go straight for some ramen for an early lunch. It's cheap, and it's perfect for the morning after a night out.

- Then we can take a short subway ride to Omote-sando, which has some fun shops to look at. From there we can walk to Harajuku, which has more of the same. Plus, it has Jingu-bashi, that bridge where all the people in costumes hang out on weekends (and it's the weekend!). Then, since we're right there, we can check out Meiji-jingu shrine, which is in Yoyogi park.

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(Harajuku bustle) 

- Once we've seen that, we can walk to Shibuya, which is pretty close, too. There, you can see the largest mass of pedestrians crossing a street that you're ever likely to. We can have an early dinner there, or back in Shinjuku.

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( Shibuya)

- At 7pm, we'll all go to Leafcup. Leafcup is an English conversation cafe. Basically, Japanese people go there to practice their English conversation skills over a cup of tea. This is where I worked when I lived in Tokyo! And it's pretty cool, because they're throwing this party just for us. We'll have all-you-can-drink beer and actually meet and interact with a wide variety of Japanese people, an experience that I really missed out on when I took my first trip to Japan. Party is until 10pm.

- Well, it is Saturday night... so anyone who's up for it can take the subway to Roppongi with me, where we'll go to Muse, which is a pretty gaijin (foreigner) friendly club. Also, just about always a great time.  

Day 06: Sun, Jan 02 / Tokyo --> Kyoto
- We wake up in the morning and say a brief farewell to Tokyo. Then we we jump on a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, probably arriving sometime in the early afternoon. Once we check in to the hotel, Nishiki Market is a good place to grab some food and explore. Then we can go see Daitoku-ji, a complex that includes 24 temples and countless gardens. 

- Once we're done strolling through Daitoku-ji, we can all grab dinner somewhere. If anyone wants to splurge for the kaiseki experience, I'd be happy to accompany. I've never had it, but one of my travel books says that it's "the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine," and "apologies to the French, but there is simply no food on earth more refined than kaiseki." So I really wanna try it!

- That night, we can take a walk through Ponto-chou, then hopefully a full (or almost full) night's rest.

Day 07: Mon, Jan 03 / Kyoto

- So Kyoto has a lot to see, and I've divided what I think are probably the best sites into two days. For this, day one, I thought we could check out Northern Higashiyama and Southern Higashiyama.

- We can start with a half-day walk through Southern Higashiyama. This includes a lot of the most popular places in Kyoto, so the earlier we start, the better. The walk will include sites like   Kiyomizu-dera (my favorite!), Ishibei-koji ("perhaps the most beautiful street in Kyoto"), and all sorts of other cool stuff.

- For the second half of the day, we can then go to Northern Higashiyama to see some other great stuff, most notably Nanzen-ji and it's Oku-no-in.

- That probably ends up taking about a whole day, and after all that walking I'm sure a big tasty meal will be all any of us can think about. Then bed! Or whatever you feel like doing.

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(a ramen shop!)

Day 08: Tue, Jan 04 / Kyoto --> Osaka

- If we get up early, there will be more we can see today, but I say we start out with Kinkaku-ji (the famed 'Golden Pavilion'), because it's the last thing you wanna miss on a trip to Kyoto.

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(Golden Pavilion)

- Assuming we did start early-ish, we'll probably have time to go to Ryoan-ji from there to see some famous zen rock gardens.

- No matter what time we get up, though, we have to go to Arashiyama to see the bamboo grove there, because it's supposed to be amazing, and my travel books make me feel like a horrible person for still never having seen it. After we can check out some peaceful temples in the area. Also, maybe the monkey park if someone wants to go feed some monkeys!

- Sometime in the afternoon, we'll go grab our bags, then jump on a train to Osaka! Osaka is probably the place in Japan that I want to go over any other, and that's mostly based off of what I've heard about the people, which are known to be super gruff in comparison to those from refined Kyoto or mild-mannered Tokyo.
- We'll check into our hotel, then go explore the city at our leisure.  This is probably a great time to try some okonomiyaki, too, as Osaka's famous for it.

Day 09: Wed, Jan 05 / Osaka --> Nara --> Osaka
- My guess is that Osaka will serve us perfectly for some rad day trips, the first of which can be to Nara, which is only about 30-40 minutes away. 

- So we wake up early, jump on a train to Nara, then take a little half-day walking tour of the Nara-koen area (koen = park). It'll include some cool temples and shrines and all that... but the real attraction is the deer; there are about 1200 of them, and they're not shy.  In fact, you can hand feed them. In fact, if you have food, they'll probably force you to hand feed them.

- After our half-day adventure in Nara, we'll take a train back to Osaka. Then, there are two options: you can go explore some more of Osaka, or you can come with me to Kobe (30 min.) for some world-famous (and deadly expensive) Kobe beef. Then back to Osaka.

- Tonight, I say we visit Osaka's hyperkinetic downtown Dotombori district, where we're guaranteed to see some crazy sights. Then bed at a reasonable hour if you're planning on joining me for tomorrow's day trip, which is to the significantly further-away Koya-san.

Day 10: Thu, Jan 06 / Osaka --> Koya-san --> Osaka 

- So we wake up early early early and catch a train, then a cable car up up up Kii-Hantou's Koya-san (san = mountain). I've read that there are some good sights on the journey alone. Once up there, we'll visit the Koya-san monastic complex. What I'm most excited to see is the Oku-no-in. Lonely Planet says "this Buddhist cemetery temple — filled with beautiful, old moss-covered tombstones in an eerily misty cedar forest — is possibly the most utterly peaceful place on earth." It'll be nice to have some of that peace before we plunge back down into Osaka's nightlife fun. Because, you know... it's our last night there :).

Day 11: Fri, Jan 07 / Osaka --> Tokyo

- Let's wake up whenever we feel like it and take a Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

- Everyone cool will come with me to Akihabara. Akihabara is full of all things electronic and nerdy. While there, let's go to Don Kihote (my favorite store in Tokyo). We'll eat at the maid cafe on the 5th floor, then all go buy costumes. Yes, buy a costume—our friendship depends upon it.

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(this is Don Kihote and... um... his grandma?)

- If there's anything left you wanted to do in Tokyo, now's your chance! I'm happy to join you/help decide what to do.

- Also, it's Friday night!

Day 12: Sat, Jan 08 / Tokyo --> Fuji Five Lakes --> Tokyo 

- You've probably been wondering when I was ever going to get around to this, but let's go look at Mt. Fuji! We walk to Shinjuku station, then take a bus up to the Fuji Five Lakes, which are among the best places from which you can get some good views — and photos — of the mountain. Let's just pray that there's good weather, because Fuji is kind of shy and likes to hide behind clouds a lot... although winter is our best bet for a clear look.

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(Fuji-san!)

- We'll probably get back down to Tokyo either in late afternoon or early evening. If there's any food you want more of, or didn't have a chance to try, now's your chance.

- Then, it's our last night together. Even though we're all pretty close by now, you may want to drown any inhibitions you have. Then, remember that costume you bought yesterday in Akihabara? Put it on, because we're all going to karaoke. I know what you're thinking, but I promise that you'll always remember that time you and a bunch of your friends dressed up in costumes and sang karaoke... in Tokyo. Oh and if it makes you feel any better, we're sure to have our own private room. And in a big group, we'll probably get a discount on drinks, too. 

Day 13: Sun, Jan 09 / Tokyo --> Narita --> Home
- We wake up and go to Narita. That is, the airport. We say our sad farewells. We keep in touch. If you have any questions or comments, email me!"

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Tour Price: $1850.00 USD - does not include Air

EOW College Trip Series - Japan

 

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Payment and Air schedule:

  • Reserve your spot now for $ 500.00
  • $750.00 USD - Second Payment due Oct 22nd, 2010 - Purchase Your Plane Tickets and trip insurance
  • $600.00 USD - Final Payment due Nov 15th, 2010

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    Additional costs not included in tour package for the entire trip:
    •  Air Travel
    •  Airport Taxes
    •  Incidentals
    •  Tips or Gratuities
    •  Beverages (all)
    •  Meals not mentioned on the itinerary
    •  Optional tours or optional admissions
    •  Single supplement
    •  Items of personal nature
    •  Optional, but highly recommended travel insurance
    •  Any service not mentioned
    •  Laundry

Registration closes: Nov 15th, 2010

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