For those who are curious: I've got a friend who's teaching English there for a year. She's a little over halfway done with her time there. I'm unemployed, and thus easily scheduleable. I'm certainly not going to get enough vacation to spend much time there in the next six months, at least once I'm employed again. And hey, I've only been outside the country twice, and they barely counted (England, twice, with the family, as a teenager).
I'm thinking of it kinda like Burning Man: I hadn't been camping in something like fifteen years, so I decided to camp in an alkaline desert environment with high winds, and then plan to be there for days before anybody I knew showed up. Whoo!
Well, similarly, I'm going to Otaru on Hokkaido, definitely not prime tourist territory (like, say, Tokyo). I know almost zero Japanese, and I'm going to need to take care of myself most of the time because my host has to work while I'm there, at least on weekdays.
I expect to do a lot of hiking, ride a lot of trains and eat a lot of noodles, which sounds like a pretty good way to see Japan. I've arranged for a Japan Rail pass to help support that expectation. I'm working now on how to set up my phrasebookage so I can appropriately apologize for myself at all times, including but not limited to my non-grasp of the language. Luckily, as my host pointed out, I'm instantly recognizable as foreign, so my halting "Nihongo o hanasemasen" should be redundant. That's "hello, I am a dog", or perhaps "I don't know Japanese", depending on the sense of humor of my source material.
Anybody know about customs and what I can reasonably bring there or bring back? I don't have anything I'm especially worried about planned, but I've never really done this before. Will I have no trouble getting there with basic supplies and coming back with random Japanese gadgets, or is there stuff I should worry about?