Today marked an important stepping-stone in my preparations to depart for Japan: the arrival of my Japan Rail Pass! After many zealous thank yous to the indifferent Fed-Ex man, I gingerly opened the precious envelop containing my Rail Pass. Not only is the Pass my ticket to economical travel in Japan, but also a tangible confirmation of my upcoming journey. What had been a cloudy muddle of aspirations only a few weeks ago is gradually materializing into an organized itinerary for my stay. With mounting excitement, I can barely wait to board my flight to Tokyo.
Since I don’t leave until July 11th, I’ll relate a bit about the purpose of my trip to Japan. To inform my religious and Japanese studies as well as jumpstart ideas for a senior thesis, I plan to conduct independent research on Nagasaki’s Christian legacy, exploring the ways in which Christianity shaped Nagasaki’s unique identity and how that legacy manifests itself today. Christian history is thickly layered in Nagasaki’s history, from its time as an entrepot for Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century to the atomic bombing in 1945 and onward. With a foundation of language and history courses, I aim to examine public history by visiting Nagasaki’s many museums, churches, memorials, and libraries. Seeing which parts of Nagasaki’s Christian history are being advertised and preserved will hopefully give me insight into the relevance of this history to Japanese living in Nagasaki today. To carry out my research, I will be spending a week in Tokyo to consult with faculty at Sophia University and utilize the resources at their Kirishitan Bunko library. From there I will finish with three weeks in Nagasaki.
Beginning to plan my trip was no easy feat, as I have absolutely zero experience traveling internationally. Luckily, I had a knowledgeable, concerned, and patient advisor to take me through the ropes. If you find yourself planning a trip to Japan without the luxury of a personal advisor, I would invest in a Lonely Planet travel guidebook. Mine has proved extremely useful already, providing maps, tips, and tricks for getting the most out of a trip to Japan.
Finally, a bit about purchasing the Japan Rail Pass through JR, Japan’s national railway. As I mentioned earlier, this Pass is truly a must. The Pass allows unlimited use of all JR trains (except for the Nozomi and Mizuho trains) as well as buses, other shinkansen services, and the Tokyo Monorail. The rates are as follows: 28,300 yen for a 7-day pass, 45,100 for a 14-day pass, and 57,700 for a 21-day pass. As my trusty Lonely Planet book notes, a round-trip reserved seat from Tokyo to Kyoto on the shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) costs around 26,440 yen; if you are planning on doing a lot of travelling, this pass will definitely pay off. I bought a 7-day pass for my travel within Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Nagasaki. IMPORTANT: the pass is only available to foreigners so you have to purchase it outside of Japan. Once in Japan, there are JR Travel Service Centers in most major stations and airports where you can validate your pass.
Next time more information on initial steps to planning a trip to Japan!