Japan is a country that calls to alot of people for different reasons, and for travelers, it rarely disappoints. In the US, I think it is best known for its culture, particularly its popculture. From anime, manga, games, and toys, the creative minds of Japan have brought endless amounts of joy to the people who have fallen in love with their creations. For many of them, visiting the home of their favorite artists, writers, and characters is a dream come true. For others, its the rich, ancient culture of the country that draws them in; Japan is one of the few places in the developed world where the old ways are still carefully practiced, and vibrant. Despite its large population, Japan is also home to amazing natural landscapes that will delight any hiker.
Type: Sovereign Nation (1947 – Current Constitution)
Official Languages: Japanese
Population: 127 million (2016)
Currency: Japanese Yen
Visiting Japan as an foreigner is a fascinating journey through cities that are vaguely familiar in that, big-old skyscraper way, but the more you look around, the more you pick up on the things that make Japanese cities unique. Sometimes it’s the massive, colorful ads, or blindingly bright stores manned by polite sales people and equipped with enough delicious restaurants to get you through an entire day. Other times it is the little Shinto shrines tucked among the massive, industrial buildings. And other times, it is as simple as the style of apartment buildings and the little restaurants that seem to be hidden away in the labyrinth of the urban landscape. No matter where you go, Japan’s amazing food will always remind you where you are.
The people of Japan have managed to take the comforts of the developed world, and make it their own. If you have the time to travel the country a bit, you will see this more and more, particularly in smaller cities like Kyoto, but even in Tokyo the unique melding of old and new is apparent. Visiting a Shinto shrine and Buddist temple is a must for any visitor interested in the culture of this country. However, as with any sacred place, any traveler should be extra respectful and careful while visiting. There are often signs to guide the way, but you can also read up on expected behavior before you leave.
Other Cultures of Japan
Did you know that Japan is also home to other cultures? Okinawa and northern Japan both have their own culture and history. I am not an expert on either (I haven’t even visited either part of the country yet), but here are a couple resources to get you started on learning about them.
The Ainu are the indigenous people of northern Japan; learn more about Ainu History and Culture from the Ainu Museum.
The Ryukyu call the Okinawa Islands home, and like the Ainu people, they have their own vibrant history and culture; here is a great list on the places to go to experience their way-of-life and some great information on celebrations, culture and history from Accessible Okinawa.
Our posts on culture in Japan:
Do’s and Don’ts for Travelers to Japan: Learn more about some basic tips to stay respectful while visiting Japan.
A Short Guide to Food in Japan: Japanese food is one of my favorite culinary traditions, and while you will be eating alot of ramen if you travel out of the big cities, there are tons of different things to try all over the country. For picky people, this little guide will help get you ready for the options in Japan.
Spiritual Experiences in Japan: Since I’m not Japanese, I can’t speak to the intricacies of their spirituality, but I can say that I have always found their shrines and temples to be welcoming and serene places. I think Japan is a place where anyone can respectfully benefit from places that are perfectly suited for mindfulness and introspection.
Japan is home to the largest city in the world, and people live densely, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t found ways to keep the natural world alive. These islands are home to sweeping forests, impressive mountains, unique coastal ecosystems, and more. For visitors that want to explore the natural side of the country, Japan’s national parks should be your first reference for the places to visit.
Hiking is actually pretty well loved in Japan, so there are many opportunities for hikers to explore on-foot, but if you have only a limited time, I would suggest giving Mt. Fuji a try if you are experienced, willing to put with crowds, and respectful of the country’s sacred highpoint.
Our posts on nature in Japan:
Japanese National Parks Have It All!: Japan has a country-spanning array of national parks that can serve as any nature-lover’s guide to the country’s variety of ecosystems and landscapes.
Quick Guide to Hiking Mt. Fuji: Japan’s highpoint actually isn’t all that high, comparatively, but this mountain is a challenge nonetheless, and breathtakingly beautiful. While it is a very popular hiking spot, it is well worth braving the crowds.
Our other posts on Japan:
Tips from a Shy Girl Traveling to Japan: I’m a huge introvert, and sometimes that makes traveling a little difficult. If you’re like me, this short list might help you get out and explore.
Did you know that we were scammed while in Japan? It’s rare, but it can happen. Learn how to avoid it! How to Avoid Scam Restaurants in Tokyo.
Our collaboration post, Blogger’s Favorite Spots in Japan, will give you some information about places we haven’t been, but which are absolutely stunning and might need a place on your itinerary.
Where We Have Been
More Information from Around the Web
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to Tokyo, read through Lyne Goes Around’s Tokyo Ultimate Travel Guide.
For even more information on visiting Japan, visit our Pinterest Board Experience Japan.