Something that I'll be doing soon is jetting off to Japan for 3 weeks. Its what I've always wanted to do and finally its time to do it. It's the reason I signed up for the blog so I got some nice image hosting space.
Rather than a simple package deal, I decided to take a risk and choose my own way around the country. Me, a backpack and a train ticket, and little else. I will be starting off in Tokyo, then doing a circuit of Hokkaido based in Sapporo, then down to Nagano in the mountains, through Nagoya to Kyoto, Hiroshima to Matsuyama, Tokushima to Osaka, then finally back to Tokyo via Mt Fuji and the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
It might sound pricy, but I should be able to get all that done for about £1500, including flights, travel, accommodation, food and souvineers.
Japan has a bad reputation for high prices but it's not completely deserved. One way for visitors to get around on a very low budget is the Japan Rail Pass, a basic one for 3 weeks costs about £280, which is about the price of 2 return trips from Leeds to London in cattle class. In Japan however, that gets you aboard most of the super-efficient train services, including the Shinkansen (bullet train), and their idea of standard class over there differs wildly from the stained, graffiti'd social dumping ground we call trains over here.
Flights too are pretty good. I started off expecting something along the £800 mark, but managed to get one using KLM/Air France from Manchester to Tokyo Narita for a shade under £500. Accomodation in flash places obviously costs a bomb, but stick to the local hotels, youth hostels and rakuen (posh b+b's) and you can easily get away with £20 or less per night.
Those worrying about the language barrier will be relieved to hear that a lot of english is understood (at least if not spoken fluently) in Japan, and train and road signs have English translations as well. Even if you do get lost, the culture of the people there is said to be such that they will bend over backwards to help someone in need.
I've had a lot of fun planning and learning about the details of my upcoming trip, and already know lots more than I did about this wonderful place before I even get there, because instead of getting a pricy package deal (don't expect change out of £3000 for a 3 week trip) I opted to plan manually. It's cheaper, more enjoyable, and I get to choose what I do.
I will be posting up details on this blog and my picasa site as I go (most hotels seem to have high speed internet as standard) so keep coming for updates!