My WESN Epic Hana Chase Across Japan 2018 started with a yearning in 2017 – of going on a long solo trip in Japan, longer than my usual 1.5-2 weeks holidays. At that time, I had been working for many years and felt it might be time for a sabbatical. The idea grew from wanting to see and experience more of Japan to wanting to challenge myself to go on the ultimate solo trip. The longest I could stay in Japan was 90 days based on the visa free arrangement Singapore had with Japan. So that became the maximum length of my trip.
There was also this weird idea in my head to visit the furthermost 4 inhabited corners of Japan. I added more goals to the trip as I planned – chasing Cherry Blossoms and visiting the remaining prefectures and original castles that I’ve not visited before.
To chase Cherry Blossom meant I had to travel in Spring and follow the path of the flowers. The months of March to early June, where weather-wise was nicer too as it warmed up along the way toward North. Thus, it made sense I start from Okinawa, the Westernmost and Southernmost parts of Japan. I worked my way East and North across Kyushu, Honshu and up to Hokkaido. Spring wasn’t just for Cherry Blossoms and I added other flower viewings along the way.
That’s how my WESN Epic Hana Chase across Japan came about.
Planning my WESN Epic Hana Chase
Planning was a little more tedious for this long ambitious trip. I started by listing the prefectures I had not yet visited. Next, I had to take into account the different JR Passes and how best to maximize their usage. I also needed to ensure I could get to the 4 furthermost corners of Japan and include the places I really wanted to visit.
Usually my Japan trips were planned in details, with activities lined up for the day. For this trip, I couldn’t plan in detail as I was busy with work and didn’t have time to research. I decided to leave most of the activities to plan on the fly or on recommendations from Tourist Information Centres. As long as I covered the main objectives/places, I would go with the flow for other activities.
It was a good thing I had my lodgings and transport planned out before commencing the trip. Upon arrival in Japan, I got asked by the Immigration Officer where I was going to stay. He even asked how I was to travel around when he found out I was staying so long. I guess he wanted to ensure I wasn’t going to be an over stayer. I wiped out my 12 pages travel itinerary which included the lodging information and also showed him my JR train passes purchase confirmations. Planning did have its advantage. I could answer his questions and show I was a genuine tourist to Japan. I love Japan, but living there is quite different from visiting Japan.
Packing for my WESN Epic Hana Chase
I used a Weather App to check places I was travelling the next few months to decide what to bring. Most of my luggage space went to clothes to cover 4 seasons. I had heavy duty rain poncho, winter jacket, thermal wear, t-shirts, yoga pants, slippers and extra pairs of shoes.
Yes, I literally went through 4 seasons on this trip. From nice cool sunny weather to rainy days, cold temperature in low single digit Celsius and even had summer-like temperature of 33°C. Some places even had leftover snow on the ground. I was surprised by summer-like temperature in Fukushima in late April and cold weather in Hokkaido in May. On this trip, I encountered the most rainy days ever on a holiday in Japan. The heavy duty poncho definitely came in handy.
Upon my family doctor’s advice, I packed 2 back up sets of medication. You might wonder why did I need to do that since there are doctors and hospitals in Japan. On one of my previous trips, I had visited a doctor at a hospital in Shinagawa. I’d told him of my medical allergy, but was given some other medication that caused allergic reaction resulting in bloodshot eyes and puffy eyelids. Thus, I was a bit worried about ending up with unsuitable medication again. I didn’t want to get caught in a rural location unable to communicate with the doctor. My family doctor even gave me antibiotics just in case.
Did I feel lonely on my WESN Epic Hana Chase?
A friend asked if I felt lonely on the trip. Well… with technology nowadays, it was easy to stay connected. I’d signed up a plan to use my local data plan overseas to keep in touch with family and friends during the trip. I was able to ‘bring’ my mum along with me on the trip using various communication apps. She got to see places as I travelled and the rooms I stayed in.
I enjoyed my “Me” time so much, I never felt lonely throughout the trip. Also, I had Snuffy with me! 😊
My best Solo trip so far
My WESN Epic Hana Chase across Japan was my 3rd solo trip to Japan and definitely the best so far. I relished it so much that I hope to do one again. Maybe to chase Autumn Leaves the next time, travelling down from Hokkaido.
It would take awhile to have the whole trip written down as I’m still thinking of how to structure it. So hang in there and check back occasionally as my trip details unfold.