Japan – An Entertainment Lovers Paradise
Whether you want to get your Otaku* on and walk the streets of Akihabara (with electronic stores, maid cafes and gaming centres) or indulge in Manga and Anime in Nakano Broadway, Japan is an entertainment lover’s paradise.
Drive a car in the cities or use the efficient public transport system. Alternatively, hitchhike! Japanese people are incredibly kind and strangers may offer you a ride.
When most people think of Japan, they probably envision the bustling streets of Tokyo or geishas strolling the streets of Kyoto. But there is much more to this country than meets the eye. From soaring mountains to tropical beaches, the natural beauty of Japan will truly blow your mind.
The country cares deeply about aesthetics, so you can expect pristine rivers, serene walking trails and stunning waterfalls that cascade into crystal clear pools. The Jigokudani Monkey Park is a popular destination for visitors to witness the adorable snow monkeys that take a dip in the hot springs, while Itsukushima Shrine with its vermilion color is one of the most famous spiritual and traditional sites with beautiful architecture in Japan.
The Shiretoko UNESCO site is another beautiful place to visit, with its thick primeval temperate rainforests and pristine coastlines. You can explore its wilderness on a hike along one of the many trails, or visit the stunning Takachiho Gorge and see how it is believed to be where the sun goddess brought light back into the world.
From the thriving metropolis of Tokyo to the serene samurai city of Matsue, Japan’s cities offer the best of traditional culture and contemporary trends. Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers, flashy neon lights and cavernous shopping malls showcase Japan’s status as a global superpower in smartphone technology, robots and automobiles. One of the country’s hottest young startups has developed a ring that, when worn and coupled with your phone, can make electronic payments at the wave of your hand.
Nagoya is another industrial hub, home to the Toyota Kaikan Museum where car nerds can geek out. But the city also has some cultural sights worth exploring like the 8th century Kasuga Taisha shrine with its grove of wild deer.
Sapporo in Hokkaido is a chilled-out city that serves as a gateway to the island’s sublime mountains and hot springs. Visitors can enjoy top restaurants and gigantic shopping malls, plus the annual Snow Festival in winter. The locals are friendly and courteous; you’ll hear many names end with -san, meaning “my” or “your”, as well as many polite words of respect.
You’ll find a wealth of restaurants offering the classics like ramen noodles and kare raisu rice curry, but it’s also easy to pick at burgers or chicken from ubiquitous Western-style chains. For drinks, sake is the national drink — a clear spirit distilled from rice, wheat, sweet potatoes or barley and often flavoured with ume (native Japanese plums) or amazake.
You might also be tempted by Japan’s pizza equivalent, okonomiyaki, which is cooked at the table. A pancake batter is binds shredded cabbage, seafood or meat to a variety of fillings and you’ll usually finish your meal by dipping each bite into raw egg.
Tea is also a popular choice, with the practice evolving into a formal ceremony known as cha-no-yu. Its high caffeine content boosted concentration for Zen Buddhist monks who took part in long meditation sessions. Today, Japanese breweries Kirin, Asahi and Suntory have the biggest market share and produce a bewildering number of flavours.
Japanese culture is rich with many traditions and expressions. During the Kamakura period, martial arts became refined, and war stories like the Tale of the Heike gained popularity. Buddhist practice diversified with the introduction of Zen and Pure Land sects, and Confucian teachings contributed to Japan’s group-oriented culture.
Japanese society is influenced by a strong sense of discipline, which shows up in formal dress, and business culture where loyalty and long hours are key. They also value non-verbal communication and avoid confrontation in favor of the concept of honne and tatemae (true feelings and public face).
The culture of Japan is also defined by art, with traditional performances like kabuki theater and noh theater that have roots in religious ceremonies. In modern times, Japanese singers have captivated the world and a wide range of manga and video games are wildly popular. The AIBO robot, a beagle-shaped mini computer that communicated with its owner via voice and dance, was one of the biggest toy fads of the 1990s, while Pokemon enchanted kids and adults alike with fictional creatures they caught and trained for battle.