The land of the rising sun, host to the world’s only Emperor, and possibly its oldest continues monarchy, Zen Buddhism, geisha girls, neon lights, manga, crazy humour, bonsai trees, sushi, and uber-dependable cars, is a modern nation rooted in deep and ancient traditions. Nowhere is the future so close to the past as in Japan. From neon-lit Tokyo to Kyoto’s temples and gardens, Japan can’t be captured in one neat little box. It is robotics combined with sake, it is sleeping in a capsule versus sleeping in a traditional wooden house on a hard floor with a paper wall for privacy, it’s anime and woodblock painting.
Let’s face it, Japan is different. There is something crazy about the place and its people. They can be as stiff as a corpse, but see them in a karaoke bar and you wouldn’t believe they belong to the same nation. Read a manga comic and you will wonder about their sanity, but then you wander into a Zen Buddhist ceremony and you are left contemplating why you ever doubted their sanity.
It is best to stop thinking and wondering and just immerse yourself in the experience that is Japan without any preconceived ideas or notions. Walk bustling Tokyo, visit the temples and gardens of Kyoto, climb Mount Fuji, ski around Sapporo in the north, drink sake with locals, eat sushi, visit Hiroshima, check out the cherry blossoms in one of the many parks, get meditative in a temple, test your patience with a bonsai tree, and sleep in a traditional home.
Satisfy your curiosity and visit this enigmatic country in the east!
Highlights from Japan
- Head right on into Tokyo with its neon billboards, its parks, and it palaces and museums
- Do an overnight climb of 3,776m Mount Fuji, and watch the sun rise from above the clouds
- See giant snow and ice sculptures at the annual Sapporo Snow Festival
- Wander through Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan
- Stay overnight in a Buddhist shukubo in the peaceful World Heritage Mount Koya
- Visit Hemeji-Jo, one of Japan’s few remaining original castles
- Ski in Niseko, Japan’s best ski resort
- Watch the cherry blossoms in Ueno and Shinjuku Gyoen Park in Tokyo
- Stand in awe at the Daibutsu (aka Great Buddha) in Nara
- Contemplate the horrors of nuclear war at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima
Hints and Tips for Japan
- Japan is expensive, to save money on accommodation in the bigger cities try sleeping in a capsule hotel, it is an experience in itself.
- For travelling around the country think about buying a Japan Rail Pass, which allows you to travel around the country on most buses and trains, it’s validity ranges from 7 days to 21 days.
- You might want to get yourself a Japanese phrasebook, as English isn’t widely spoken or understood in Japan.
- Japan is famous for its food, try as many different dishes as you can, and swirl it all down with some sake