Written by Janelle Cook of Asia Answers for A.S.K. about Travel
If one had to choose a single word to describe Japan, it would surely be contrast. Japan is simultaneously ultra modern and uber traditional. A meal can consist of a quick cup of noodles from a vending machine, or 10 exquisite courses, each more elaborate than the one before. It’s possible to hurtle from Tokyo to Kyoto at 200 miles per hour on the bullet train, or to walk an 800 mile long ancient pilgrimage trail over 60 days. Sumo wrestlers share TV time with anime characters, and Buddhist monks are invited to bless high tech project launches.
Travelers to Japan observe this contrast daily. Although your hotel room might be vacuumed by a robot, in the elevator, there will be a white gloved human attendant calling out floors and holding doors for you, bowing as you enter. Underpinning everything Japanese, futuristic or ancient, is elegance. The Japanese have a reverence for simple beauty in all things from art to architecture. A trip to Japan is a constant reminder to appreciate the beauty of the natural world as well as to admire the human achievement in enhancing it.
This diversity means that there is something for everyone in Japan. On the same day in Tokyo, teens can be in Akihabara stocking up on manga and checking out stores selling anime and gear for costume play, while mom takes a sushi making lesson and dad attends a sumo tournament. Or, the whole family can enjoy Disney Sea, unique to Japan, which many claim to be the best theme park in the world. Visits to shrines, temples and castles can be punctuated by some of the most delicious meals imaginable – Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than any other city.
An overnight at a Japanese Inn is not to be missed and includes the experience of bathing in public (gender-segregated) baths, sleeping on thick floor futons, and enjoying kaiseki – multicourse dining known for its meticulous preparation, fresh seasonal ingredients and beautiful artistic presentation.
Kyoto, the jewel of Japan is a city of over 2000 temples, which range from the elaborate to the understated. Kinkaku-ji, whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf is every bit as impactful as
Ryoan-ji’s simple zen buddhist rock garden.
There are myriad ways to experience Japan, all of them worthwhile.