The 2019 Enginerd vacation to Japan did not go as planned. It wasn’t Barcelona 2.0 but it got danger close. From its inception, the goal was to get away from the estate to do list and other adulting responsibilities to have a moment of respite. Unfortunately, 25 and 26 year old us – who had been to Japan before in 2007 and had fallen in love with it – didn’t realize that twelve year older versions of themselves wouldn’t enjoy the 20k steps a day, train hopping, Shinkansen waiting, eight day trip through Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Yokohama. In reality, the trip was too ambitious for the time allotted, no question about it. Blame the hubris of the past experiences of living and visiting Japan.
Nostalgia is 50% imagination and 50% bad memory.MrEnginerd aka W
W’s walking pneumonia diagnosis – less than 24 hours before our departure – put a damper on all the original sightseeing plans. The fact that he couldn’t – or rather shouldn’t – drink while on antibiotics forced us to scrap the sake, whiskey and beer tastings parts of the tour. He wasn’t amused. Scrapping all of our alcohol related meant there was a long sulky ride ahead of us, as well as a huge hole in our itinerary. The problem was compounded by the Autumn Equinox Monday holiday and the Rugby World Cup, events had NEVER shown up on all of our internet searches and further complicated getting to, into and from places. Loads of tourists and lines everywhere! The remainder of our well thought out plans were ripped to shreds.
For a couple of days it felt like we had been dropped in the middle of the jungle with no map, no compass, and no mercy. Defeated and deflated, we did our best to truck on.
Regardless of how early we woke up or how meticulous the new timelines and replacement activities were, train delays and unexpected operating hours changes kept “ruining” any attempt to easily do as the tourist do in Japan. We were exhausted! Halfway through our stay we gave up on the notion that going to temples and castles was going to satisfy us in the same way drinking local whiskey and visiting the Asahi and Suntory breweries would. The latter activities combine our love for manufacturing processes and engineering technology – a lot of these facilities are 0 waste. These were things W didn’t want to replace with the tamer, more spiritual, tea ceremonies and DIY local activities (like calligraphy or lantern making). It was a catch 22.
Soccer/opera, the game theory principle, was invoked time and time again to level set the playing field.
After arguing, negotiating, and invoking the old gods and the new, we came to the conclusion that the only way to salvage the trip was to not take ourselves seriously. We needed rest, sleep, good healthy food and reasonable exercise. Exploring until we dropped, outside of our comfort zones and being adventurous wasn’t going to help us heal. If this was going to work, we’d have to do the same things we do at home but further away. W didn’t like it, he’d rather have stayed home, but he agreed it was the only way to move forward. The entire empire of the sun was a Japan Rail Pass ticket away if we could bring ourselves to enjoy the journeys rather than the destinations.
Indubitably, eight days might go by faster if you are actually having fun…