I've always kept journals for my international trips. Something I've started doing in recent years is using a sketchbook to write in. Originally, the idea was to have something to draw in while I'm on vacation, but that rarely ends up happening - I'll draw before and after a trip but hardly ever take the time to draw when I could be exploring instead. Instead, I've found that what I do best, when I have the time, is to use art to prepare for a trip. Creating my own historical timelines, maps, and pictoral lists ("favorite mummies", anyone?) helped me in Egypt and Brazil. Taking the time to do research and then figuring out a way to make it accessible to others is one of the best ways to retain knowledge and further your own understanding of a subject. It's like making my own guidebook, one that specifically caters to my interests, and leaving room to write in the back.
So while I'm staying home for spring break (saving that money), I'm prepping for this summer. Here are the first few pages I've completed!
I edited down my original (written) timeline a lot. I also rushed the ending a bit, mostly because I was already more aware of Japan's modern history. I really enjoyed learning more about the different clans (and each one's 'mon', or house symbol) and feel I have a better grasp of naming conventions now. Hopefully this timeline will help me understand how the temples, shrines, castles, and palaces we'll be seeing fit into the cultural history of Japan!