Introducing Japan - The Land of the Rising Sun
The Japanese archipelago comprises four main and about 6,800 smaller islands sprawling for about 1,900 miles from eastern Siberia down almost to Taiwan, encompassing climates from subarctic to subtropical. After defeat in World War II, it transformed itself from atomic bomb victim to economic powerhouse, until a decade-long recession in the 20th century slowed its progress. Today, the country’s fusion of traditional and contemporary influences defines the place.
The capital of Tokyo is something of a model metropolitan environment, where trains run on time and to practically every corner of the city, crime is hardly worth worrying about, and shops and vending machines provide everything you could need (and many things you never thought you did). With so much going on, first-time visitors should be prepared for a massive assault on the senses - the city’s great wealth and relative lack of planning restrictions have given architects almost unparalleled freedom to realize their wildest dreams.
It’s not all about modernity, however: the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka also provide the best opportunities to view traditional performance arts, such as kabuki and noh theatre, as well as a wealth of Japanese visual arts in major museums. Outside the cities, there’s a vast range of options, from the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido to the balmy subtropical islands of Okinawa, and you’ll seldom have to go far to catch sight of a lofty castle, ancient temple or shrine, or locals celebrating at a colorful street festival.
Quintessential Japan - Mt. Fuji's majestic peak and the sakura blossoms
Japan has preserved many traditional shrines, temples, and gardens, which symbolize Japan’s history and culture. Among the oldest are Shinto shrines, which may date well back over 1,000 years and are dedicated to local natural wonders or protective spirits. Japanese gardens are sublime miniature representations of nature, where one can sit back and enjoy a moment of repose and contemplation.
Contrary to the widespread belief that everything is expensive, tourists can travel, eat and lodge as reasonably as in any modern country. Economical, safe and clean hotels, and good and inexpensive meals are widely available. Prepare to be pleasantly disorientated as you negotiate this fascinating land where ancient gods, traditional customs, and exquisite craftsmanship are found alongside cutting-edge technology and the trendiest fashions.