I know this post's title is a bit "can't be bothered to do separate posts for each" but I thought it would be better to do one long one than three short ones.
I booked my flights about a month ago using Gendai Travel, which is a travel agent based in London that specialises in cheap flights to different cities in Japan. You can't book online, so I rang them up and spoke to a very nice Korean woman who helped me get on the same flight as the four other people from Leeds University who I'm flying out with.
The return flight cost £545 with Japan Airlines (JAL) and we leave on the afternoon of Wednesday 26th August from London Heathrow, arriving just after noon at Tokyo Narita. It's about a 12 hour flight, which will be trying! But the five of us will be very excited and chatting the whole way there so it should be fine. The price is very good so we were lucky to find them quite close to the departure date.
The only problem with the flights is that the hold baggage allowance is only 20kg, and the cabin allowance is 10kg. So if I can't fit everything I'll need for the year into those two bags, I'll have to ship some things out.
For accommodation, the two other people from Leeds Uni going to ICU, two others going to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), which is the next-door university, and I, are going to stay in a guesthouse. I stayed in a guesthouse last time I went to Japan, where you have a private bedroom, and then share bathroom and kitchen facilities with the other residents. The guesthouse was recommended by a student who did an exchange with ICU last year, and the company is called Tokyo Artistic Guesthouse. We researched and thought that they had a good price and they had lots of choice in terms of location. We reserved five rooms in the one closest to both ICU and TUFS, in Koganei City (小金井市), online, and it was very easy to do it all with the online reservation form. There was a special offer on at the time and it will cost about Y60,000 per month, which is Y20,000 cheaper than the one I stayed in last year, but of course that one was much more central than this one.
We could have applied for University accommodation, either on or off campus, but we had heard that Japanese University dorms are very strict in terms of curfews and not having people in your rooms, and you also most likely have to share a room with another student. I don't mind sharing a room with someone else for a short time, and it would be lovely to get to know someone that well, but I feel I need more privacy than that set-up would provide. The others felt the same way, so we decided to go for the private option.
And finally, insurance! I looked around a little bit for different policies, but then the University of Leeds offered us their own, which cost only £50 and was very comprehensive. It was good and cheap so I went for that one. It only covers me for one year, so I have to leave Japan before 25th August 2010.
So that's it! Quite a bit of information, but at least it's all sorted now. I need to keep working at Cadbury World and finishing my list of things to do before I leave in just three weeks and three days! Eeek!