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Japan offers a unique artistic originality and effortless elegance to its visitors. The ancient Buddhist temples, ebullient fish markets, or neighborhoods flashing with neon, all speak to the uniqueness that it offers at every turn. It’s all encased in a vibrant cover, compelling each visitor to explore Japan’s sublime mix of an ancient tradition for an endless entertainment
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While the omnipresent Japanese culture and style are an unforgettable highlight, the country is far from being one-dimensional. Few countries can serve up such an eclectic mix of experiences. Here are just a few iconic ideas to have you turning the pages.
Spring Cherry Blossom and Fall Colors
Seasonal changes bring new blankets of artistic brilliance to the whole of Japan. Opening cherry blossoms provide a spring covering of delight, and many city streets are briefly dominated by a captivating full bloom. Fast forward to after the fall season and a magical transformation brings a new palette of color with the country flickering through a kaleidoscopic blend of profound reds and fading oranges as the maple trees explode into life.
Quaint Mountain Retreats and Famous Hot Springs
In rural Japan, taking a bath isn’t merely about getting clean. Naturally, heated water fills outdoor tubs, the steam gently rising towards a landscape of jagged peaks and forests of pine, cedar, and bamboo. These traditional “onsens” - or hot springs - punctuate the mountain revelry, mingling with cute old-fashioned towns and shimmering Japanese gardens. With the irrefutably efficient local transportation, escaping from city lights to mountain solitude can take less than an hour.
Rich Immersion in Buddhist Culture
Japan’s commitment to the original can be traced back to its spiritual leaders, a myriad of indigenous religions epitomizing the country’s hallowed harmony. It should come as no surprise that “zen” entered the English dictionary from Japanese Buddhism. Insights into ancient temples and beliefs are easily sprinkled into any Japan itinerary while intimate journeys can also delve into the heart of this spiritual heritage. The origins of Japanese mythology are revealed in destinations like Shimane and Kumano.
Exploring a White Wonderland
Wintery Japan provides a provocative white blanket packed with classic adventures and inimitable festivals. Exquisite powder in Nagoya makes for some of the planet’s best skiing and snowboarding while fabled snow monkeys tumble through the cute forests of Jigokudani in search of hot springs. When winter arrives, Japan offers just as many innovative itinerary options. Epic ice sculptures cover former Winter Olympic host city Sapporo, snow festivals bring out artistic brilliance, and boat cruises take you through thick drifting sea ice in Abashiri.
Japan changes dramatically through the seasons, from endless blankets of white snow to blooming cherry blossoms, tropical summer beaches to forest journeys across fallen leaves. Likewise, there are vast disparities between the northern mountains of Hokkaido and the Pacific Ocean tropics of Okinawa. The following seasons typically follow similar months as the US seasons:
Despite the regular inclement rain, spring is one of the best seasons for visiting Japan. Cherry blossoms douse the streets in color, the temperatures are pleasant (mostly in the 60’s and low 70’s), and there’s an opportunity to explore all of Japan’s diversity. Snow may just be clinging to the northern mountains while tropical beaches are more than hot enough.
A humid summer is ushered in by June’s tsuyu (rainy season) bringing occasional typhoons and flash storms. It’s not overbearingly hot, although the climate has a distinctively tropical feel and sultry atmosphere. The mountains, however, aren’t as warm, so it’s a great place to cool off.
After another shower of rain in September, fall is perhaps Japan’s most beautiful season. The forests explode with color and like spring, most of the country will be pleasant and easy to visit.
Winter varies across Japan, with the Pacific coastline delivering dry, clear days and the Sea of Japan bringing snow and cold winds. Mountain retreats and ski conditions are magical this time of year. However, remember that winter brings significantly fewer hours of daylight.
Befitting Japan’s cultural juxtapositions, accommodation options range from the ultra-modern skyscraper suites to a wooden ryokan in the mountains. The cities are heavily business orientated, and there are thousands of modern hotels covering almost every district. All of the big international names are found here, but the less common Japanese ones can be equally luxuriant.
Far more traditional, a ryokan imbues a real sense of Japanese intimacy and authenticity. A stack of tatami mats is brought into minimalistic rooms when you want to sleep. Green tea and meals are served around low tables, and you’ll usually sit on cushions on the floor. They’re more common in rural destinations, although anywhere with an ancient heritage will feature a choice of ryokans. Most have elegant gardens fluttering with birdsong, and opening the sliding doors reveals charming vistas. Note that it’s rare that ryokan rooms are en-suite. You’ll probably be bathing in the traditional style, having a hot bath and then getting wrapped up in a cotton kimono.
Japan features a myriad of unique choices, from capsule hotels to sleeping in Buddhist temples, and houses that blur the distinction between guesthouse and homestay; trying it all out is part of the experience. Like everything in the country, expect impeccable cleanliness and service.
Visa and Passport Requirements
If you are a citizen of the U.S., Canada, and EU country, you do not need a visa to enter Japan. You can stay there up to 90 days without any hassle. However, from time to time you may have to prove that you are visiting Japan for some non-remunerative activities, and for that, a copy of your travel itinerary would be sufficient.
There are no strict laws on Japan for travelers. But, you may be questioned about the medication you are traveling with. Many over the counter medications are prohibited, such as pseudoephedrine like Sudafed or Vicks inhalers. You are more likely to be stopped at the airport if traveling with medications like strong painkillers and EpiPens. In a bid to bring such medications to Japan, you need to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei, or import certificate that you then declare to customs.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world in terms of travel. To judge this, try leaving your most expensive thing on the train and we bet, you will get it back within a few hours. The no-crime image of destinations like Tokyo, make Japan a remarkable and safe place for the travelers.
Being and being clean are two different things but for Japan, it seems to be the same. Japan is among the healthiest nations of the world and it’s precisely because of the strong commitment to balanced diets and staying fit at all ages that every Japanese follow by heart.
You’ll see pensioners taking tai-chi group sessions in the park and little pre-frozen food in the store. They are obsessed and cannot bear spreading dirt in their country. You can always drink the tap water as it is as fresh as the bottled water. Tap water is always drinkable, and food hygiene couldn’t be of a higher standard. The only negative is the propensity of public smoking.
Japanese people are too welcoming and kind-hearted. They never feel tired of saying Thank you and bowing down to show respect. Visit any place in Japan and you will see people repeatedly thanking you for coming. They will keep saying that even if you protest that you should be thanking them for allowing you to visit.
Japanese aim to please and welcome the visitors no matter where they meet. No matter what time of day it is - the dark, the noon, or the early morning - they will greet and entertain you wholeheartedly. At its heart, there is a rich culture of welcoming strangers and impressing visitors. Japan does induce a strange culture shock, one that isn’t always immediately apparent. As you journey through the country, you’ll start to pick up on more unique everyday customs. This continual portrayal of local life is part of what makes Japan so fascinating.
Japan is too advanced in technology. No place you will visit without an ATM. You can shop and roam cashless on the streets of Japan. Carrying a Visa, Mastercard or Amex would be enough. Currency exchange can be found in all major cities and destinations.
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