We all have certain ideas when it comes to Japan. This culture provokes a certain amount of notions and even debatable topics on modern social life, industrialization, work ethics, and technology. But it is also the most popular Eastern culture in the West. Japan has many facets to it and it is hard to grasp it from all its sides, so here are some tour ideas for exploring the layers of this complex culture.
Japan holds its traditions closely, many of which are now available for tourists to see and experience. Authentic customs are still alive in some parts of Japan. The Gion district of Kyoto is famous for having authentic Geisha or maiko strolling around the cobbled street. The ryokan lodgings, which offered hospitality to travelers back in the Edo period, still exist, with Tawaraya Ryokan being one of the oldest and most renowned.
The tea ceremony is still a very respected tradition in Japan. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, this ritualistic practice is interestingly meditative. The Tondaya Tea House in Kyoto is an old machiya where you can have a taste of this exceptional custom. And not to forget the cherry blossom season. If you happen to travel in springtime, you must not miss the most esteemed Japanese tradition – the hanami (flower viewing). The Himeji castle might be an interesting, albeit popular choice among tourists.
This does not nearly exhaust the cultural and historical richness Japan has to offer and you should carefully plan your itinerary. Or look into Japan private tours for expert customized help. It’s not every day you get to see this culturally rich country so, when it comes to culture, history, and traditions, it is best to make an informed itinerary to get the most of it.
This is something Westerners are somewhat familiar with, as Japanese pop culture is quite popular in the West as well. There are otaku, fierce devotees of manga, anime and other Japanese popular culture, all around the globe.
Most of these excentricities can be seen in the Harajuku district in Tokyo, where pop culture comes to life through fashion. This colorful and kitsch district is especially popular with the young, but nonetheless an interesting sight to see. It also features the famous Kawaii Monster Cafe. On that note, when approached with healthy curiosity, Maid Cafes in the Akihabara district are also something you should not pass on, as it is such a Japan-specific experience.
If you’re unfamiliar with Japan’s pop culture and social life, it is highly recommended that you check out BBCs Japanorama short documentaries, as they portray the peculiarities and events of life in Japan to extraordinary details.
Many of us know that Japan is developed and its technological advancement is beyond compare. We’ve mentioned Akihabara district earlier, which is the inspiration to all the cyber aesthetics we love from Bladerunner to the latest Altered Carbon. Although it is shifting from tech and gaming culture to otaku cosplay, it is still heaven for tech geeks, featuring various electronic gadgets, old fashioned SEGA games, and other products you might not find anywhere else.
But this is not nearly all. If you’re into science, Tsukuba is the best place to go, known as the Science City. This is where half of the research and development budget goes – and for a good reason. Here, you’ll see anything from rockets, robots, submarines, astronomical expositions, planetariums and so on.
You can also check out the Robot Restaurant in the mentioned Tokyo district, Shinjuku, the Henn-na Hotel that is run by robots and visit the robot exhibition in the Miraikan museum of emerging science.
Nature and Wildlife
But Japan is not just a hyper-urban metropolis and disregarding the natural beauty of this country does it much injustice. The Japanese have great respect for nature, their reverence for peaceful sights of Mt Fuji, Nachi and Shiraito Falls, or Sagano Bamboo Grove is sometimes synonymous with zen.
If you’ve seen Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, you’d understand the spiritual significance of the Yakushima forest. This ancient fairytale forest, with 7000 years old trees, is truly a mystical experience in itself.
But it is much more diverse than that, as there are also the desert-like dunes of Tottori, Aogashima island volcanos, and amazing Kabira Bay tropical beaches, whose sealife is made explorable with cruises on glass-bottomed boats.
So we ought to give credit where credit is due. Whatever we may think, Japan is a truly complex culture with diverse and complementary universes within it, and most definitely worth exploring in all the facets.