In a couple days we will begin our trip and head to our first stop: Japan.
My neighbor who has spent time in Tokyo says very few people speak English, but most people can read it. So if we need to communicate, we can write it down. Tech-savvy traveler that (I think) I am, I found an iPhone app called Jibbigo which translates spoken English into Japanese (or Chinese, Thai, Korean, Spanish, etc.) and Japanese to English. You speak into it, it reads out the Japanese over the speaker. There is an Asian Language offline version available for $9.99 which allows you to use it without a cellular connection (no roaming). Using an iPhone to translate may traumatize the locals, but we’ll see. I have faith in technology!
We plan to spend a full day in Tokyo and a day exploring the town of Nikko. Nikko, you ask? We considered trips to Kamakura, home to the 13th century 40 foot tall Buddah statue or Hakone and the Fuji Five Lakes, both south of Tokyo and both with amazing history and views, but we selected Nikko to see the 19th Century Mausoleum and home to the three wise monkeys. You know these monkeys: hear/speak/see no evil. Another reason to take a day trip outside of Tokyo is to ride the famous Shinkansen, or Japanese Bullet Train, with speeds up to 320 km/h (that’s 199 mph for those of you playing at home).
To accomplish these feats of adventure, we need a guide. Tripadvisor’s top guide sevices for Tokyo are:
Guides add value in the form of efficiency (navigating transportation networks, seeing sights in a structured manner), cultural perspective that you might not get from a guidebook or solo, and for those traveling with children, a leader to follow that isn’t their parents.
We ended up choosing Travelience. Its name is a combination of Travel and Experience and was founded by a seasoned traveler who spent 9 months of 2012 visiting 33 countries and decided to set up a travel business. Because it’s a relatively new outfit, the hope is that the service will be even better than the big guide companies. For Tokyo, we will take their group tour of West Tokyo, but for Nikko, they will take us by the hand. The added bonus is that we get to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nikko.
More to come in a few days…
Happy RTW Travels!