Mar 7, 2017
Spring break is almost here.
After a year of nonstop work, maybe it's time for a break.
While living in Japan, there are several clear travel seasons when students and working people often get a break from their busy schedules. To travel during the busy season or not is up to you, as it's good to get in a break, but will cost a lot more to travel during this time. In addition to an inflated cost, popular areas are much more crowded. If we plan ahead, it's not a bad idea to get in a vacation while you have time off, but if you have the chance to travel during an off season, it can be worth it to do so.
The most popular and busy seasons for travel in Japan are:
1. The New Year (December 31st-January 3rd or later) when people often visit their hometowns.
2. Obon / summer holiday, usually in mid-July or August, when students have a holiday and visiting hometowns is common.
3. 'Golden Week' (Seven Holidays over four days from April 29th until May 5th)
4. Spring (late March-early April) when the school year has ended and there is sometimes a week or two off before restarting .
5. 'Silver Week' in September, when there are two holidays within a week , and on occasion they coincide with a weekend or an extra day off between the two holidays.
During the new year, summer vacation, and spring vacation, there's an option to buy a special JR ticket called Seishun 18 Kippu. It's a good way to offset inflated costs if you have some extra time and want to travel by train within Japan during those seasons.
Above is a special discount ticket if we buy four one way tickets for the Nishitetsu Highway Bus in Kyushu.
There are several ways to relax during the holidays, but some of us can't just relax. Maybe it's because we get bored or restless if a vacation is just lying around on a beach, or because we feel pressured to fit in all the sightseeing and experiencing a new place possible in a short amount of time. In that case, maybe a working holiday is a better fit? From a hostel work exchange to working on an organic farm, there are options. Homestays and educational tourism are another option.
Then there's always the need to visit friends and family back home (or around the world). Maybe there's another country you'd rather see and spend your hard earned money on getting to instead of grudgingly going to your hometown. Some of us aren't so lucky when it comes to family and friends coming to Japan to see us, so we have to be the ones to get back home if we want to see them.
There are a few main types of travel for those of us living in Japan, and each has it's pros and cons, of course.
First off, we can stay in Japan, and see somewhere new. I like this option for it's cost effectiveness, plus if we live in Japan, might as well take the opportunity to see the country, as it has so much to offer. After living in Japan for two years and grabbing up little chances to travel around the country when I can, I still haven't seen Hokkaido or Okinawa, plus so many places in between.
It might be your goal to visit each prefecture or just to see a few of the famous cities Japanese people often visit. Either way, keeping your head buried in Tokyo the whole time you live in Japan gives you a limited experience of the culture, although it does provide endless opportunity for city life and there's always something new to discover.
That leads me to option two, 'The Staycation.' When there's always so much to do, leaving home can feel just as stressful as work. From planning, packing, and getting caught up when you return, it doesn't always feel like a vacation if you're just thinking about what needs to be done back home. Staycation can mean catching up on sleep, cleaning and organizing (Marie Kondo-ing the whole house?), moving house, getting caught up on work (lesson planning, accounting, or doing taxes maybe?), and exploring your own city like a tourist. Of course if your friends are also in town, they might actually have some free time to get together for once. Staycations are really nice during peak seasons if you don't want to deal with the crowds, but it's also fun to think of long weekends spent catching up on sleep as a mini-vacation. No omiyage to buy or vacation photos to show off, but maybe time for cooking at home. Sometimes I need a mini-vacation from getting dressed and leaving the house.
Then there's leaving the country. Either going to where you're from or visiting somewhere else outside of Japan, this can be the most costly. While living in Japan, a lot of people enjoy going off to another nearby country that's a lot closer from Japan than it would be while living back home. There are popular tour packages from Japan to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, in addition to Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, etc. Because of the close proximity, it's possible to get away to another country just for the weekend, which many people do. Sometimes there's just no way to take days off of work, but we can still leave the country if we've got plenty of energy to get the most out of a short trip. There are a handful of discount airlines ready to sell you a tour package or at least discounted flights to somewhere new.
Be careful if you travel during the new year holidays in Japan, as you might find yourself stuck with nothing open and limited transportation services.
This spring I'll be embarking on an overseas trip because I need to visit elderly family, plus see some friends and family. It's a multi city trip which was stressful to plan. It always sounds like a good idea to squeeze in seeing everyone while you're nearby (or at least in the same country), but it's not always so easy to do. I think the next time we go overseas, New Zealand during Japan's winter sounds really nice. Keeping it simple, purely sightseeing. Of course there will be plenty of staycations and quick local trips in between. There's still so much to see in Japan. Then there's all the other nearby countries that would be nice to visit... It's neverending.