From the electronics and technology powerhouse of today to the ancient ways of the samurai, Japan remains all but a mystery to those on the outside. A mystery that becomes deeper and yet more enlightening the moment you get off that plane at Narita airport in Tokyo. For your delectation, I’ve collated 8 reasons to visit Japan.
This has to be one of the major reasons to visit Japan. This megalopolis is world-renowned as a melting pot of East and West, done the Japanese way. Visit the huge Tsukiji Fish Market that finishes by 6.30 a.m. then make your way to a Sumo match, pop by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for a tour and/or Tokyo Tower to catch the best view of the city. Relax and catch a nap in the Tokyo Imperial Palace East Garden and then get ready for a night on the town in Shinjuku, Ginza or Roppongi.
Train lovers the world over have big reasons to visit Japan. Trains here are so fast that they are also known as ‘bullet’ trains in English (Shinkansen in Japanese) and are exceptional pieces of engineering. You’ll be able to see the incredible efficiency of the Japanese on a daily basis epitomised in the running of this network. Tourists or nationals residing abroad can get a cost-saving unlimited travel pass.
“But I want one!” is one of those phrases you’ll hear often about Japanese electronics because there isn’t a land more a gadget lovin’ than Japan and with good reason, too. Akihabara is the place to go in Tokyo to get your hands on the latest in cool technology and within minutes of arriving, you’ll be asking yourself how you could have ever lived without that very latest communications device or entertainment console. There are great electronic stores to be found throughout the country, so there’s no need to panic should Tokyo be out of your reach.
Whilst you can’t actually say the weather is the best of reasons to visit, the climate certainly produces some fascinating sights and supports some fabulous activities. Due to its location, the northern island (Hokkaido) gets very cold in the winter (great skiing!), while the southern-most island (Okinawa) is a sunny paradise in the summer (white sand beaches and scuba diving in the coral reefs).
5. Temples, Temples and More Temples
There’s an abundance of temples in Japan. Many of the most famous which are listed as World Heritage Sites are found in Kyoto including; Kinkakuji Temple which is covered in gold leaf, so take your sunglasses, Sensoji, Kotokuin, and Todaiji Temple which has the largest wooden structure in the world.
All of us know the ubiquitous sushi so how about getting the real deal in the country that invented it? The very strange, often weird and sometimes unimaginable cuisine is definitely among the main reasons to visit Japan. Among the other things that will certainly be a memory in the making includes- natto (fermented soya beans), anco (bean-paste sweets) and azuki (a bean and sugar soup with rice cake). The restaurants in Japan are really good value in the daytime, but get a tad expensive when evening comes.
In Japan, they party but it’s not quite the Rio of the East. They all get together, but many find it much more subdued and orderly than in some other countries. Visitors can enjoy the truly enchanting Sapporo Snow Festival which is stated by many as among reasons to visit Japan. Then again, on a visit in the spring time, you can enjoy the lively atmosphere enjoyed at a cherry blossom party (which is really just a picnic under the cherry trees). There are countless fireworks events in the summer months that bring out the masses. Or visit the temple with the throngs who are praying for luck in the coming twelve months on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Finally, it’s time to do damage to the credit card and hit the shops for some serious spending. You could pop over to Osaka for an incredible shopping experience including the main shopping arcade which is a lengthy 600 meters. Then, pass by any city to have a look at 100 yen (about US$1) shops to stock up on the basic stuff before moving on to the dizzying shopping experiences of Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikbukero, Ginza and Nihombashi.
This country has sights to inspire awe, fascination and bewilderment. Those are just a few reasons to visit Japan - can anyone think of any more?
Top Photo Credit: momoyama