Friday, July 12, 2013

Destination: Preparation. For TOKYO!

Not that I'm counting or anything but in just 40 short days I am lifting off and traversing half the globe to TOKYO! I've never been before and this is about as different as could be for me and I'm suuuper excited. I'm getting all kinds of help here at the Booksmith to get ready for the trip, too. My stack of guidebooks as I plan to cram thousands of years of history and city building into a few short days is indispensable. So far, I have:

Lonely Planet Tokyo. Lonely Planet guides are great. The writers are folks who have lived in the city for a long time, and they always give it to you straight. They manage to make you feel like conquering a sprawling megalopolis in a few days is doable with simple itineraries and affordable restaurant suggestions. SUPOIB.

DK Eyewitness Guide Tokyo. I don't want to carry a bunch of redundant books while ostensibly will be walking a good deal of my trip in humid weather. HOWEVER, DK Eyewitness travel guides, especially in regards to cultures that have different alphabets, numerical systems and food predilections are indispensable! Their motto is "we show you what other guides only tell you," and boy and howdy is that pretty much true. A full spread that shows all the coins and bills for their currency, lush photographs of food and the name for it to help decode menus, and crosscuts of important shrines, temples and museums to show you what you may see. SO helpful in a land where signs and such may be indecipherable to this gaijin.

Streetwise Map Tokyo. Streetwise maps cut straight to the chase. They show you blown up pieces of neighborhoods--the most important parts of the city--and add helpful landmarks, 3D buildings to help orient you, and are helpfully laminated and still foldable for megaplanning. I've used these on just about every trip I've ever gone on and I keep them around for forever because they're indestructible.

Crumpled City Map Tokyo. These ones are new to me. The store recently started carrying them and they're really cool looking. Well-designed, small and lightweight enough to stuff in a bag or pocket, and they're made of Tyvek so therefore tear- and water-resistant. They don't seem to be super detailed on street names but they give a good overview of the city and have metro stops clearly marked, in addition to major landmarks so I'll report back from the field but I'm hopeful it will help keep me oriented.
...and to bone up on my Japanese (it's now been 10 years since Sensei Miller taught me and my high school cronies how to say what color a bear is. I hope I don't need that sentence come August) I have:

Lonely Planet Phrasebook. Lonely Planet phrasebooks are tiny, exhaustive, and have things spelled out in Romaji (the Roman alphabet for Japanese pronunciations) so I can just sound out the word and VOILA I'm speaking Japanese. There's even a helpful page or two on flirting, though since this trip is for my 10th wedding anniversary, maybe I'll just have to take notes on those pages. Another great feature of these books are these helpful little sidebars that offer "what to listen for," so if you as a question, they give you some stock phrases that you might hear in response and what they mean. SO GREAT!

DK's 15-Minute Japanese. This is another experiment. I won't be taking it on the trip but I've already gone through several of the lessons to brush up on conversation things, get used to food-words and bone up on asking directions. These sets come with CDs so I'm NAILING it on pronunciation, and the lessons are tidy, quick, and you get a refresher of the last one when you pick it back up so if a ... couple ... of days pass between practice sessions it's not all for naught. It even includes helpful etiquette tips!

Join me next week when I talk about all the rad books I'm reading to set the mood for my forthcoming trip!

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