Three days ago a calendar reminder said my 90-day check in with Immigration was due soon. Crap, where did the last 3 months go? No matter, I got stuff to do – plan a trip during Hua Hin’s rainiest season.
This will be easy. Trip 2 to Japan builds on accumulated knowledge from the twice planned, twice over planned trip 1. I’ll do the parts of trip 1 that didn’t make the cut.
Start and end in Tokyo. Done except for air tickets and guesthouse reservations.
Slow travel by bus and rail along a coast that has interspersed small towns, no towns, resort towns and regular towns. Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka was the first choice (magenta oval on map) last time. This time it will be the Izu Peninsula (blue oval) because it’s much closer to Tokyo (red oval) and Kii could be a trip by itself.
New this time will be a week of free days. After Izu, where one can see Mt. Fuji from the west coast, it’s an easy route into the Japanese ‘Alps’ (empty area around the ‘Japan’ label above the Blue oval), also researched for trip 1.
Then I let the plans rest overnight. Bad decision. Wondering about other coasts (green ovals) led to searching on tangents. At least the arguments with myself went faster this time: ‘Too far’ vs ‘Rail pass’, ‘Rail pass’ vs ‘Open ended’, ‘Infrequent and slow buses’ vs ‘What part of slow travel don’t you understand?’, then – holy shit – Fly ANA or any Star Alliance airline to Japan and any domestic flight is $106. I can go anywhere … I must do this right … I must start over …
Came to my senses next morning. It will be Tokyo, Izu and Alps or nearby. Then I discovered slow trains. Trains that are still in service though depopulated rural areas, passing ghost stations, running maybe twice a day in each direction. I mean, why take a 2 hr bus ride to a town in the Alps, when you can take a 5 1/2 hour train? Part way through a plan that resembled a math word problem* from 7th grade, I realized this stuff can be done anytime before the last night in Izu.
Only decisions left are the dates and which airline. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t start planning a Sept/Oct trip until late June.
*The ‘math word problem’ is how to optimize the number of tiny station areas to explore. Assume 2 Northbound and 2 Southbound trains. Take #1 North, evaluating station areas. Get off at a good looking one where there will be at least 30 minutes until #1 South arrives. Take #1 South to previously evaluated station, again leaving at least 30 minutes until #2 North. Take #2 North, get off at destination (one of the large towns / small cities in the Alps), or, if possible, go past the destination and get off at a station where there will be at least 30 minutes before South #2 arrives. Take #2 South to destination.
Eight hours or so on a train to see old people in 3 tiny, rural, depopulated areas of homes and farms clustered near a train station? Sure – did you think I’d rather go to Tokyo Disneyland?