Autumn officially started this week in the northern hemisphere with the September equinox. Five autumns ago I was starting a year-long assignment in Japan. I was excited then to travel around my (temporary) adoptive country, see its sights, experience its culture, and of course try the cuisine. I was also looking forward to taking Japan’s efficient train system.

The Ticket

For my first solo travel, I bought a Do-Nichi Kippu (Saturday-Sunday ticket) from Japan Railways (JR) for JPY 18,000. This ticket covers one weekend of unlimited travel on JR East trains in a wide expanse of Eastern Japan. One regular round trip ticket to the farthest point covered by the ticket costs JPY 20,000 on the shinkansen, so I planned two one-day round trips to maximize the ticket and eliminate accommodation costs. As the ticket was printed entirely in Japanese, trip planning became an exercise in Kanji for place names.