I have always been fascinated by Japan but have never visited. Since it seems unlikely I will ever have a business excuse to visit, I've decided to make 2010 the year I take a vacation there. But honestly, I don't really know where to start. I'd welcome any suggestions and advice, including some basic questions such as: - what's the best time of year to go? - is it realistic to put together one's own trip (which I like the idea of), or is it smarter to get a travel agent to put together a package where all the thinking/work has been done? - is it worthwhile stopping elsewhere in the region (e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore)? I will have 10-12 days for the entire trip - is it worth trying to learn some basic Japanese, and is such a thing even feasible given the complexities of the language, writing systems etc? - any advice on "must sees" and/or things that are worthwhile but might not be on a typical tourist itinerary? - conversely, any advice on over-rated tourist traps that can be avoided without missing much? Thanks in advance for your thoughts, gents.