Magnificent Japan

Japan travel tips and key tourist attractions

Introduction

Discover the neon skyscrapers of Tokyo and marvel at the impressive 634m towering Tokyo Skytree adorned with a spectacular light orchestra every evening; explore colourful Kyoto (Japan’s capital city from 794 to 1868) with rich luscious and vibrant gardens including Ginkakuji, Tenryu-Ji Garden, and astounding Bonsai villages.

See the gold-plated Temple of Kinkakuji then make your way to Kiyomizudera at night and snap beautiful photos of the illuminated wild flowering cherry trees; learn about the fascinating food culture of Osaka and sample some finger-licking delicacies like Takoyaki (octopus dumplings!), authentic Japanese sushi, and don’t forget Okonomiyaki (the famous Japanese style pancake).

Set out on an unforgettable journey of the Japanese archipelago to explore the four breathtaking major islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku where you will see picturesque beaches, coral reefs, and little villages that will zip you back in time. 

Japan is known for beautiful, fascinating and even odd attractions. The self-cleaning Toto washlet toilets are a must-try experience. This modern piece of engineering not only spouts warm water for cleaning intimate areas, but it also includes an air dryer, deodorisers, adjustable nozzles and even relaxing music for your pleasure. Blissfully addictive!

Have you heard of multi-storey car park spaces? It’s an automated elevator car parking system. Lift technology stores vehicles safely and efficiently – imagine not having to hunt for an empty parking space on a hot Sunday afternoon!

You will see that in Japan.

Here in Japan, you will also see square watermelons, Japanese Macaque bathing in geothermal waters, oxygen bars and capsule hotels, automatic taxi doors that make your ride more pleasant, and the softest silk tissues you will want to bring back home. Japan will delight and surprise you in so many ways!

Why travel to Japan

Japan is an island nation and one of the world’s most elegant, clean and courteous countries. Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Imagine exploring the neon-lit skyscrapers late at night snapping photos and feeling safe because pleasant and courteous people surround you. Japan’s major cities come alive at night so be sure to hit the big streets at least once for a truly unforgettable experience.

Curious food lovers rejoice – here you will find delicious authentic meals served around the three principles of Japanese gastronomy: quality ingredients, seasonality of the food, and beautiful presentation. Popular dishes include sashimi (fresh raw meat sliced into thin pieces), Tempura (delicious batter-coated seafood and vegetables), and Kaiseki (part delicious food–part exquisite work of art).

Most first-time tourists are surprised to see no garbage cans in the streets of Japan and yet the streets are impeccably clean. The Japanese have a more orderly way of living. While doing two things at once may seem like smart, multi-tasking sense to a typical Westerner, the Japanese don’t eat while walking.

Japan can be described as Westernised Asia – it is clearly different from any Western society though it is not quite Asia.

Unique in its way, it’s perhaps one of the only countries in the Orient that blends tradition with pop culture seamlessly while still preserving its national identity. For example, the Ise Grand Shrine located in the city of Ise is demolished and rebuilt every 20 years to renew it and preserve tradition. According to Wikipedia, “the present buildings, dating from 2013, are the 62nd iteration to date and are scheduled for rebuilding in 2033.”

Japan can be seen as the pioneer of Western innovation and technology. Shopping and business precincts are characterised by an ocean of neon lights. Remember the cassette-playing Walkman by Sony? Well, the Sony Corporation has grown from around 20 employees in 1946 to the technology conglomerate corporation it is today. The Sony showroom exhibits the latest gadgets way before they reach the shops or get transported to the West. Japan is also a leader in toys and video games – think classics like Space Invaders (1978) and Pac-Man (1980) both first released in Japan to the current family entertainment consoles by Sony, Sega and Nintendo.

Although rare, it’s not unusual to see people dressed in traditional kimonos on the streets of Japan. Kimonos are wraparound costumes that are often hand-painted, woven or dyed in traditional Japanese colours. While machine-produced kimonos can be very easy on the pocket, genuine, handmade kimonos can cost tens of thousands of yen and more. Chiso, a professional kimono maker in Kyoto, sells kimonos ranging from 380,000 yen to 10 million yen (about AUD$4,400 to AUD$115,000), and back in 2003, they sold perhaps the world’s most expensive Kimono for over AUD$405,000!

There is no better place on earth to see a Sumo tournament than Japan.

With a history going back almost 2000 years, Sumo has become one of the nation’s most popular sports. Sumo fighters stomp, clap and raise their hands before squatting down in the ring. Their massive size commands respect and so does the astonishing speed and agility of their fighting. Before you know it, the fight is over. Japan is also world-renowned for other martial arts including karate, judo and aikido, and archery.

Speaking of arts, Japan is home to some of the most intricate and unique ink paintings with many dating back to the 14th century. Here you will also see folk pottery, stoneware, calligraphy, woodcraft, bamboo artefacts, and porcelain works.

 

Interesting facts

Quick facts about Japan
  • Tokyo is the capital city of Japan
  • The currency in Japan is the Yen
  • Japan follows two calendars: the contemporary Gregorian, and the ancient Chinese Lunar system
  • Japan has five seasons from spring to rainy season to summer to autumn to winter
  • Major airports in Japan include the two international airports in Tokyo: Narita and Haneda. Other international airports in Japan include the Kansai Airport in Osaka and Chubu Centrair Airport in Nagoya
  • Perhaps the world’s shortest escalator is found in here (it has only five steps)
  • Karaoke is a Japanese word for “empty orchestra”
  • The Japanese have a high life expectancy rate (84 years)
  • Japan has one of the highest literacy levels in the world
  • A visa is required

The challenges of travelling to Japan

Japan is one of those places where you will see everything written in Japanese. Getting around Japan can be challenging because of this and driving around there is not recommended for first-time tourists. Google Translate (https://translate.google.com.au/) may offer you some hope but please use it with care. Japanese people are usually very helpful and forgiving but if you don’t speak a word of Japanese then be prepared for a bit of an adventure. Especially since some of the streets in Japan do not have names!

In Japan, thefts and muggings are rare but they do happen. Be careful of pickpockets and bag thieves. If you’re dining out in a big city then keep an eye that your drinks don’t get spiked with drugs – you could wake up with a fuzzy head the next day and a maxed-out credit card! Fortunately, such incidents are infrequent, but stay alert.

Getting around Japan is easier with some knowledge of etiquette. It is expected that you bow when greeting others to show respect and gratitude. Shaking hands, while becoming more popular among business people, is not recommended. Patting someone on the back is considered rude. If you’re visiting a home then be sure to bring a little native gift from Australia – it doesn’t need to be pricey but showing up empty handed is considered rude. When you give (or receive) gifts, use both hands and wait until later before opening a wrapped gift. Finally, make an effort to learn a few basic words – it shows thoughtfulness and respect.

Of course, first-time travellers are bound to make a cultural gaffe! 

All Australian tourists travelling to Japan must obtain a Japanese visa. You should obtain a visa well in advance and you can get it for up to 90 days. Be sure that your Australian passport has, at least, six months of life and enough blank pages to accommodate entry and exit stamps. Keep your passport with you at all times.

The best currency in Japan is cash as international ATMs are scarce. Other ATMs are restricted to cards issued in Japan. The best places to exchange Australian dollars to Yen are international airports and places labelled “Authorised Foreign Exchange” (generally, banks and post offices). For more information about tourist friendly ATMs, go to http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/index2.html and click the “ATM Locator (English)” icon at the bottom of the page.
 

The benefits of travelling to Japan

Carefully planning makes Japan a magnificent and memorable tour destination. Japan Travel offers you a glimpse into a unique culture, delightful cuisine, beautiful scenery and a fusion of modern and ancient worlds. You will need to learn new words to describe your experiences and snap plenty of photos of those moments that leave you speechless. Prepare for a journey of a lifetime. The Japanese have spent thousands of years refining the Asian culture and hundreds of years blending it with the Western civilisation to produce something totally different.

If you haven’t visited Japan before then start planning your journey, you won’t regret it!

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