Japan Travel Guide

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Japan, the land  of the rising Sun, a place where you can cleanse your mind and your soul, where you can admire geishas singing along Karaoke in the capital Kyoto, or watch in awe Buddhist monks buzzing around Tokyo on scooters, wearing their traditional attire.

Japan is nothing short of extraordinary, a fascinating country, filled with contrasts, a place where high tech meets tradition and modernity seems to mix perfectly with ancient traditions.

There’s no other place in the world where old and new blend like in Japan, where the amazing speed of technological development finds its competitor in the longevity of old traditions and customs.

Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world, a true pioneer in various technological fields, ranging from robotics and automotive to cuisine and fashion.

Also, Japan puts Germany to shame, as you can basically set your watch by the trains schedule, or eat food that looks like modern art, and after a hard day’s work (read travelling) you can relieve yourself in the most high-tech toilets in the world. Some of them even talk to you, figure that out!

In a somewhat paradoxical way, Japan’s love for modernity and high technology is sometimes offset by the country’s almost maniacal grasp to its cultural traditions and the perpetual celebrations of Japan’s historic achievements.

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Regardless what part of Japan are you visiting, you’ll not be very far away from ancient Shinto shrines, crumbling fortresses and castles, or breathtaking art festivals, together with world-renowned historical highlights, such as Kyoto’s legendary Temple of the Golden Pavilion or the iconic Himeji Castle.

You can also imbibe yourself in recent history visiting dramatic places like Nagasaki and Hiroshima, now completely reconstructed from their ashes, places that will remind you the dramatic history of the country in the modern era and the titanic work of reconstruction.

Also, if you’re a nature lover, Japan will blow your mind, as this tiny insular country is totally swathed in natural beauty. You can go hike the powdery slopes of mount Hokkaido, stand in awe during the springtime admiring the amazing cherry blossom festival in Sakura, or relax on Japan’s sun drenched beaches and crystal clear waters of Okinawa. Oh, and remember to climb Fuji-san, the iconic mountain top which is revered in Japan like a deity of some sort.

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However, wherever you choose to go, excellent cuisine would be an intrinsic part of visiting Japan and it will add to the overall great experience, as Japan is a pure joy for gourmets.

Keep in mind that Japan is also a country that puts the United Kingdom to shame when it comes to eccentricities, a place where you can actually buy used underwear from state of the art vending machines, watch guys strip at the Hadaka Matsuri festival and experience true love in one of Japan’s various short-stay hotels, where free love is on the everyday menu.

All these make from Japan one of the most unique travelling destinations in the world.

Now, if you visit Kyoto, you can curl up with a comic at the International Manga Museum, or eat breakfast at the largest fish market in Japan (and in the world for that matter) at Tsukiji. Sea food is a traditional dish in Japan and the best in the world, according to numerous gastronomes.

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In Osaka, you can dine like the last Emperor, as the city features an abundance of world class establishments (read restaurants), a reconstructed historic castle, where you can watch kabuki and bunraku performances.

Also, don’t forget to enjoy the ancient and sacred tea ceremony, and enjoy the opulence of the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, one of Japan’s most revered and oldest Buddhist sanctuaries.

Dolphin and whale watching are another option for marine-life aficionados, especially in the months between January and April, while cherry blossom parties are an intrinsic part of Japanese culture, the most famous places of gathering being Maruyama Park in Kyoto and Ueno Park in Tokyo.

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The Universal Studios Japan in Osaka are a magic place, where you can see anime come to life by visiting Studio Ghibli, and while at it, afterwards I mean, go get ringside tickets for a Sumo wrestling match, enjoying a truly original and traditional Japanese experience.

Nara harbors the world’s largest wooden structure, one hour drive from Kyoto, as Nara was the main city and the 1st  capital of imperial Japan, harboring the Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple.

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And if you get tired of all that visiting and site watching, let’s see about Japan’s traditional cuisine. Let me enumerate just a few: teriyaki, tempura, sushi, sashimi, ramen, soba, yakitori, kushikatsu, champuru, all being basically sea foods/fish dishes, with soy sauce and various toppings. The traditional beverage in Japan is sake, green tea, local whiskeys and various local lager brands.

As per visa requirements, you’ll only have to present a valid passport if you want to travel to Japan, no visa is necessary if you’re from the EU, US, Canada or Australia.

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