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Japan

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know…?

  • There are fewer than 10,000 geisha in Japan today.
  • Kansai International Airport sits on an artificial island that is sinking (as expected).
  • The same family has owned the Houshi Ryokan in Awazu for 46 generations.
  • Japan is home to 10% of the world’s active volcanoes.
  • Also, the Japanese islands have about 1,500 earthquakes a year.

Polite society

For most North Americans, Japan is an exotic destination and one associated with several stereotypes of a positive sort. While Japanese may seem formal to notoriously informal Americans, the upside of that is the Japanese reputation for politeness.

And the Japanese devotion to beauty is patently obvious in the gardens, traditional architecture, the presentation of food on the plate, the attention to flower arranging, a properly draped silk kimono, the stylized Kabuki show, even in the tea ceremony with its delicate predetermined steps.

On the other hand, the country’s old warrior traditions have long since been turned into memories.

Comparatively few Americans have roots in Japan. The country is a long way off in miles, even farther away culturally, and there’s certainly a language barrier. This probably accounts for the fact that, while we buy Toyotas and Hondas — and eat tempura and sushi, we don’t visit Japan in large numbers.

The first thing that strikes most visitors to Japan is the homogeneity of the population. Minimal mixing with others ensures that Japanese culture maintains its uniqueness despite trade and tourism.

Tokyo is one of the world’s great cities and is very much the hub of Japan. Its modern, bustling and expensive facade conceals the traditional entertainment and lifestyles that can be found by visitors who are willing to look. There are numerous other cities to put on an itinerary, too, including the old imperial capital Kyoto, noted for its collection of temples and shrines.

Peace and serenity can be found in the countryside and smaller cities where the local people have created simple, but exotically beautiful areas to enjoy.

For variety in outdoor activities, the far north — with Sapporo and Nagano — provides the winter sports option, whereas Okinawa is there for those interested in water sports, Japanese style. Add to that a wide array of unusual and colorful festivals throughout the country.

Thanks to the distance and the cultural differences, more travelers of the venturesome sort enjoy Japan than other personality types. Many also report that they go to visit family and friends in government or military service.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Attend sumo wrestling competitions. There are six professional tournaments a year.
  • Eat kobe beef and sushi and — if you trust the chef — blow fish.
  • Attend a festival the likes of which you will never see at home. Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki and Honen Matsuri in Komaki City honor the penis. A giant replica is paraded through the streets at each event, and other festival features follow the same theme.
  • Attend a kendo (Japanese fencing) competition. Combatants use bamboo swords.
  • Overnight at a Buddhist temple, which provides basic housing (called shukubo), but the vegetarian cuisine is said to be quite good. On the other hand, give the so-called capsule hotels a pass.
  • Maybe you will want to take up the Japanese practice of holding sake-drinking parties under cherry trees in full blossom in the spring.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Stay at a ryokan, a typical Japanese inn, as a pleasant change from western hotels. In one unique feature, the bath water is used by more than one guest.
  • Seek out the best places to view and appreciate the spring cherry blossoms or autumn’s fall foliage colors.
  • Attend a Kabuki show, noted for stylized acting, gorgeous costumes and revolving stage — plus all parts are played by men.
  • Check out some unusual events. There is the toad festival at Mount Tsukuba (honoring toads killed to make toad grease, used to treat cuts). Then, there is the kite fighting competition in Shizuoka prefecture at which kites are flown into battle with one another.
  • Attend a tea ceremony.
  • Go to at least one club or dinner site where you can see geisha entertain. Also, learn to dress in a kimono.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Admire some of Japan’s finest medieval castles. One of the best is the 14th to 16th century Himeji Castle (in Himeji) with its three-layer castle tower.
  • Shop for electronic equipment, but also spend some time in the 100 Yen Shops which sell a wide range of items, each at 100 yen.
  • Book a visit to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Even without that tour, you can visit gardens and a park on the palace grounds in the center of the capital.
  • Take a class in flower arranging. Then photograph your work.
  • Ride a bullet train. In Japan, the high-speed train service is called Shinkansen, which means “new trunk lines.” There are 26,000 departures a day.
  • Spend time at a spa. With some 1,800 natural hot springs areas, Japan has numerous resorts, known as onsens. One is located in the Central Japan International Airport, where bathers can watch through an all-glass roof as planes take off and land.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Japan National Tourist Organization at http://us.jnto.go.jp and, to find a Japan expert, at http://us.jnto.go.jp, click on Plan Your Trip, then select Find Japan Travel Specialists to find U.S. or Canadian specialists. Or, go directly to http://us.jnto.go.jp/tours/jts_search.php