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Japan trip planning

I'm sure you're holding your breath waiting to hear how my plans for our trip to Japan next summer are going. You can inhale now.

I think Rob and I will go for two weeks, scheduling around the fourth of July (a.k.a. Chicken Wing 2005), the Ottawa Linux Symposium, and the as-yet-unscheduled ICFP programming contest.

We'll spend most of our time in Tokyo and Kyoto, taking in ancient shrines and high-techery. Maybe we'll make a side trip to the countryside, rent a Nissan Skyline or something else we don't have here in the States. If I were more of an otaku I'd be seriously interested in Pop Japan's tours, but I'm not, and I have this idea that it'll be fun to wander around on our own.

I want to stay at least one night at a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. My standards for our other hotels aren't high: they should be decent and inexpensive. But the ryokan has to be just right. It has to embody my concept of traditional Japanese culture. It should be rustic, wooden, intimate. It should not be a ferroconcrete structure. It should not have a karaoke room or a piano lounge. I want to see little tatami-floored guest rooms and shoji screens open just enough to reveal a forest outside. Bonus points for being accessible only by private cable car. Despite my insistence on cultural purity, it should have an English language web site, or at least enough English labels for me to get around with my beginners' command of their language. I used a nice geographical ryokan directory to draft a list of ryokans I'm considering. I'm sure I'll eliminate a bunch of them soon.