Is there anywhere where the contrasts more startling than those of Japan? Enormous cities dazzle with their bright neon lights and hi-tech gadgetry astounds all but the most sophisticated of visitors, while the countryside remains brimming with ancient Japanese culture we know so well, rich with temples and shrines, geishas, and Zen rock gardens.
When someone mentions Japan, what do you see? Is your mind filled with visions of futuristic cities and bullet trains, or is it kimono-clad geisha girls and Shinto temples? No matter what you think of Japan, your view is probably the right one.
Japan – A Mystery or Misunderstood?
Strangely enough, it’s also true that many of us have the wrong idea about Japan. For instance, most people say Japan is too expensive to visit – but this is simply not so! Travel in Japan is actually a lot cheaper than it is in most western countries. Other people say it’s difficult to travel around Japan, with the terrain and the language barrier. So wrong again!
Japan must be one of the most welcoming, and easiest, of countries to travel through. Indeed, a trip to Japan will do much to remind you of why you fell in love with traveling in the first place.
So what is it you want from your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun? This is a place that has it all. From its vibrant music scene to its mind-blowing electronics and its outrageous fashion sense, Japan is light years ahead of the rest of the world.
Bushido and Beauty
Yet there’s also an ancient heart beating beneath the surface of all this brash modernity. Japan is the birthplace of sumo wrestling, samurai and geisha girls, home to numerous lively festivals celebrated throughout the year, and a place where cuisine has been elevated to a form of art. The land of the samurai still possesses a quality, a character, that can scarcely be described, it must be felt.
For traditional culture, look no further than Kyoto and Nara, blessed with shrines, temples, tea ceremonies and kabuki, a stylistic form of dance-drama unique to Japan. For a look at modern Japan, cities such as Tokyo and Osaka feel like fantasy – as if you are stepping forward into the future, complete with trend-setting restaurants and a superb nightlife.
Stepping into the countryside, we also see that Japan boasts and incredible natural beauty. Whether you choose to see a snow-capped Mount Fuji or the gorgeous beaches of the subtropical Okinawa islands, your journey of oriental discovery will be unforgettable.
Budget for one week: More than 500 Euro ($750)
Taxes and gratuities: Gratuity is a way of life in Japan
Local currency: Yen
Spoken language and/or official language: Japanese (English)
Area: 377,944 km2 (145,925 sq mi )
Sanitary requirements: You can drink tap water in Japan
Major cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka, Kōbe, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kawasaki.