by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Today on Japlanning we are getting personal, we have had Devon, one of our main reporters and editors, and also had our Techhead Sam give his favourites. Now it’s time for me, Bryce - the founder of Japlanning, to get down to it and reveal what, make my top-10 about Japan -- and what better time to post this than when I’ve just gotten home from Tokyo for a quick Japlanning research trip.
We love Japan. I’m sure that is obvious, however I have avoided writing this article since the start, not because I don’t love Japan, no, this article has just seemed so daunting! Where do I start, and how do I keep it down to just ten? (I’m sure there will be bonuses.) However, no more stalling; I give you my personal ten things I LOVE about Japan.
1. The people
Let’s start with one of the biggest, Japan wouldn’t be Japan without the people. The Japanese are some of the most kind, generous, polite and helpful people I have ever encountered. We have all traveled around the world, and no where compares to the Japanese people.
I have had strangers in peak hour stop to direct me the right way; many walking me, out of their own way, to make sure I get there. Someone who is bilingual talking to the Karaoke vendor to help get us a room, and have them set the system up to the English menu. Even on several occasions I have clumsily dropped 1000¥ in a busy train station and had someone chase me down to make sure I get it back.
The Japanese have such a warm spirit and seem to feel it is their duty to help others, and love to talk with foreigners about Japan, and light up with pride when you tell them how much you are loving your stay. One of the biggest factors of me always returning is knowing I will always be made to feel like I have come home.
2. The transport
This one is no secret. I LOVE TRAVELLING AROUND JAPAN. Not only because of the world class sights and experiences, no, getting anywhere is easy.
Japan has the best transportation system in the world. Each major city has a world class train network, most of the country is reachable lightning fast, with the superb Shinkansen network, with trains travelling over 300km an hour and built with the comfort of passengers in mind. Why would you fly in a cramped seat when you can relax on a scenic bullet train with huge legroom and a large reclining chair in economy?
All transport, is clean, efficient, and runs like clockwork. People are polite, and everyone, even in the busiest of times, get on and off where they need to.
Most other places I travel around the world, I would rent a car as it is simply easier. In all of my journeys to Japan, I have never rented a car. There is simply no reason to.
3. The history
Coming from Australia, we have a relatively short history, compared to most of the world. Stepping into Japan the first time just blew. my. mind. Devon and Sam both mentioned this in their articles, but it is always worth repeating. Japan is like walking through history. With tracings of habitation back to 30,000BC. With Temples and shrines still intact and centuries old, it blows the mind of someone coming from a place with only a couple of hundred years history.
One of my favourite things of Japan is that you can be walking down a street that dates back centuries with buildings from the Edo period and beyond, then turn one corner and be thrown 30 years into the future; which leads me to my next top.
4. The future
For a country that is flooded with a rich long history, it certainly doesn’t sit on it’s laurels and try to stay there. Japan is the most futuristic place in the world.
Streets of Tokyo look like scenes from Sci-Fi movies set in the year 3000, the way they embrace technology, not fear, will make you envious.
Go into one of the countless 10-story electronic department stores, and play with your favourite brand of camera, or appliances and see truckloads of models, and appliances that you will never see at home, or will be the latest back home in about a year.
5. The attractions
Unlike many countries in the world, where you will be going to know there is a couple of sights to experience, Japan is filled to the brim with attractions, and sights that you will never have a dull moment while abroad.
Beyond the temples, shrines and icons throughout Japan; major cities, and the minor ones, are filled with attractions like museums, galleries, interactive exhibitions and more, on some of the most random topics.
The Life Safety Centre, where you can experience an earthquake, and learn how to be safe is just one great example of the unique attractions that you won’t find anywhere else that always makes a trip memorable.
Best of all most are free or under 1000¥ to enter.
6. Arcades are still a thing here
I have written about them before, but it is one of my favourite things as a bit of a geek. Game arcades are as popular as ever here, massive, and everywhere. Bonus: the games that fill them are extremely Japanese and addictive and you will never get these back home! They are bright, loud, and just fun.
I blame them for my addictiveness to Taiko Drum Master, and so many more addictive rhythm games in Japan.
7. Temples and shrines
Sure it’s one of the things the country is most famous for, and there is a reason for it. Japan is filled with temples and shrines, both Shinto and Buddhist, and they are truly spectacular.
Many are perfect replications of originals that have been lost to fire or war, however the building techniques and design will blow you away. Many originals that are centuries old still exist today, and are maintained impeccably.
You will find many in Kyoto that are still original and date back centuries, as it was not hit in WWII.
These places of worship and reflection are tranquil escapes from some of the non-stop business that is Japan, and a visit to 1 or 20 is always required on any visit.
The beauty of these structures and witnessing the worship ceremonies and practices is mesmerising.
8. The architecture
I’m a bit of a design nut, and always love checking out a country’s architecture, both old and new, and Japan is one of my favourites for it.
From the beauty and craftsmanship shown in century old designs of temples, to the latest skyscraper or fashion boutique in Tokyo, or the way Japan has embraced building mini cities in one building, like the Mori Tower in Roppongi, the country is filled with some of the best architecture in the world.
If you're a photographer too, you will always have your camera glued to your hand just taking shots of ever unique and amazing buildings.
Try not to hurt your neck from looking up so much.
9. The food
So it’s another one the rest have all mentioned, and rightfully so. Food and Japan go hand-in-hand. It is simply spectacular! From going region to region, trying the local specialities, world famous dishes that are home in Japan, and done best in Japan; Like sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, Kobe beef and ramen, to just name a few.
You will never go hungry in Japan. The care taken in making you a 30,000¥ sushi set meal, to a 300¥ bowl of ramen is the same. The chef takes pride in their work and you can taste it in the world class ingredients and love put into the meal.
There is a reason Japan has the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world.
10. The beauty
Japan is a country with four seasons, and you will see them all. The natural beauty of this country is like no where else in the world.
From the world famous Sakura season, to the majestical golden hues that show in fall. Japan will blow you away with many things, however one of the most long lasting memories you will take is it’s spectacular nature.
Japanese gardens that are perfectly trimmed to the silent beauty of the ominous Mt. Fuji. All over Japan you can witness beauty and the hardest part is trying to take it home with you. (photos help… a lot of photos)
I was going to stay at 10 and leave the rest unmentioned however, a couple of honorable mentions are required.
BONUS - Vending Machines
VENDING MACHINES. Simply are one of my favourite conveniences in Japan. They are like nowhere else in the world. Most streets in cities have them in multitudes. You can drink from them, eat from them, get fresh produce from them! This is one of the best examples of how Japan wants to make everything as convenient as possible!
There is something so amazing about being on a Shinkansen travelling through the countryside of Japan, and seeing a lone vending machine on a dirt road, then turning your head and seeing one in the train as well. That is amazing.
BONUS - Tokyo Disney Resort
I heard a lot that the best parks were in Tokyo, and finally went myself.
They weren’t lying. Tokyo Disney Resort has the best theme park in the world, Tokyo DisneySea. It’s the crown jewel of Disney Theme Parks, it takes you to different worlds, and you truly escape: the immersive design is that good. Add in Japanese hospitality and cleanliness, and the best attractions in the world, and you have a place that, If you love theme parks, you must visit to be blown away.
Okay so of course there is about a thousand more things that I could add to this list, however, I need to stick to the rules.
In early 2015 we will be coming up to the 2nd anniversary of Japlanning, and we have a lot of exciting new additions to the site coming; New guides, and a new system that will make travelling around Japan easier than ever and a few more that will keep to ourselves for now.
We do this because we have a passion and love for Japan. Our goal is to help make it so easy for everyone to visit and see what we see in our favourite place in the world, Japan.
What did you think of Bryce’s Top 10 List? Anything you would have added to your own that isn’t there?
Tell us in the comments below!