38 reasons WHY I AM excited TO visit JAPAN
4/16/12 | April 16th, 2012
Last Updated: 3/17/22 | March 17th, 2022 (New resources added)
Next week, I’m going to Japan. I couldn’t be more excited. (Note: now that I’ve been, you can read about my experience here, here, here, here, and here.)
It’s my first real visit there. I say “real visit” because back in 2004, on my way home from Thailand, my friend and I stopped in Tokyo for a long layover.
After arriving at 6am, we left the airport, saw the imperial palace, realized Tokyo in January is a lot colder than Thailand in January, and camped out in a Starbucks until the sushi restaurants opened for lunch.
After eating a luxurious sushi meal, we went back to the airport.
I’ve always wanted to go back, and luckily, now I am. next week, I’ll be heading on a two-week tour around Japan, and then I’ll be spending some extra time in the country to visit all the places not included in the tour.
I’m a huge Japanophile. despite never really having been there, I’m obsessed with Japan — the food, culture, temples, technology, architecture. I love it all.
Whenever I get a house, Japanese art will play a predominant role in it. Out of all the trips I’ve taken in the last few years, I’m most excited about this one.
I’m giddy with excitement.
Let me count the ways:
1. Sushi – I love sushi so much, I would eat it for breakfast. anyone who knows me knows about my sushi addiction. I suspect breakfast sushi will happen a few times. To go to the place that invented my favorite food is just so exciting!
2. Tokyo’s Ginza district – This is one of the city’s most upscale areas, and in fact is considered one of the most expensive city districts in the world. Ginza district dates to the late 19th century, when the area was rebuilt after a fire razed the entire area.
Today, the elegant streets are lined with designer shops, coffeehouses, boutiques, art galleries, fine dining restaurants, and nightclubs. On the weekends between 12pm-5pm, Chuo Dori (the main street) becomes a pedestrian-only zone.
I’m looking forward to this famous shopping/nightlife area and the maddening crowds that go with it.
3. Mt. Fuji – This 3776m (12,389 ft) tall, active volcano near Tokyo is the tallest mountain in Japan, as well as one of Japan’s three holy Mountains (along with mount Tate and mount Haku). It is one of Japan’s most recognizable symbols, and the hike is fairly accessible, making it a popular activity for tourists and Japanese citizens alike.
I’ve always wanted to climb this mountain and see the sunrise (traditionally, climbers stay in a mountain hut overnight so that they can arrive at the summit at dawn). The mountain is covered in snow for about 5 months of the year, meaning that the climbing season is short, from early in July to mid-September. While I won’t get to the climb the mountain this time, I’ll at least get to see it!
4. Bullet trains – As a lover of train travel (they’re much more eco-friendly than flying), I can’t wait to experience one of the most high-tech rides out there. The Shinkansen high-speed trains can reach speeds of 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour, earning these trains the nickname “bullet trains.” The network has been growing since the first line opened in 1964, when it was the first passenger high-speed rail system. Now, the network has expanded to connect nearly the entire country from top to bottom.
The Japan Rail Pass is kind of pricey at about 32,000 JPY for a 7-day pass, but there are lots of cheaper ways to get around the country too.
5. Kyoto – Kyoto is full of Zen gardens and temples and looks to be one of the most picturesque places in all of Japan.
Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 until 1868, and today is considered Japan’s cultural capital. The city was spared bombing during world war II, meaning that Kyoto is one of the best preserved cities in the country, with 17 monuments designated as part of a collective UNESCO world Heritage Site. some of the most famous sights include Fushimi Inari shrine, Nijo Castle, and Sento Palace.
While I won’t get to see all 2,000 temples and shrines on this visit, I’m going to try my hardest.
6. Hiroshima – In August 1945, us forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. around 80,000 people (30% of the city’s population) were killed by the blast, another 70,000 were injured, and the entire city was more or less flattened. Understandably, this tragic event looms large here, and the Hiroshima peace Park includes a museum, the Children’s peace Monument dedicated to children who lost their lives in the bombing, and the Atomic Bomb Dome, a ruined building preserved in its post-bombed state.
As a history buff, how could I not see this city and pay my respects? I also want to see how different their perspective is on what happened. Every country teaches history from its own perspective. I’m sure we in the united states teach the event much different than they do. I really want to know what they think so I can expand my understanding of what happened.
7. Toyosu Market – This Tokyo fish market is the largest wholesale fish market in the world, and one of the largest global wholesale food markets in general. open since 1932, Tsukiji Market was the original inner fish market. In 2018, this location closed and moved to a larger location in Toyosu, though the original outer market (where you can find food and shops) is still in place.
At the newer Toyosu Fish Market, visitors can watch the auction market from an upstairs viewing deck. As a sushi lover, I can’t wait to see one of the world’s busiest and largest fish markets, even if it means waking up at 4am (the famous tuna auctions take place between 5:30am-6:30am).
8. Tokyo subway – People always talk about surviving the Tube in London, but the subway in Tokyo is the real labyrinth.
This is the third-busiest subway system in the world (after Seoul and Shanghai), with an almost 9 million daily ridership. It gets so busy on certain lines that there are even people whose job it is to safely pack passengers into trains (these white-gloved, uniformed employees are known as oshiya, or passenger pushers).
Kom med det!
9. Osaka – Travelers mention this city a lot, and I want to find out why! The third-largest city in Japan and the country’s long-time financial center, Osaka has a cool 16th-century castle, fun nightlife, and a world-class food scene.
A mix of old and new, Osaka is home to national landmarks like Shitenno-ji, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan (dating to the 6th century), as well as Abeno Harukas, the tallest skyscraper in the country (at 300 meters/984 feet tall). The Nishinomaru gardens at Osaka Castle are also a popular place for viewing the stunning cherry blossoms in the spring.
10. Sushi – Did I mention I like sushi?
11. Zen Buddhism – When I was in college, I got into Buddhism. I studied Tibetan Buddhism, but I’m looking forward to learning more about the Zen tradition. This sect of Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 11th century and appealed immediately to the Japanese samurai class. Zen Buddhism emphasizes a strong meditation practice, mindfulness, self-restraint, and reflecting on the nature of emptiness, attachment, and the interconnectedness of the world.
Today, around 67% of the Japanese population consider themselves Buddhists (though primarily practicing the Mahayana tradition, if practicing formally at all). The 13th-century Engaku-ji temple in Kamakura is one of the oldest and most important Zen Buddhist temple complexes in the country.
12. Tokyo Imperial palace – This is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan. When the Emperor moved the capital from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869, he took the 15th-century Edo Castle for his new palace and built the Imperial palace on the castle grounds. much of the castle and palace have been destroyed over the years, though the palace itself has been rebuilt in the same original style.
The public can only visit the inner palace grounds on a few days each year (on new Year’s and the Emperor’s Birthday), but I’m excited to wander the beautiful outer palace grounds and walk in the footsteps of Japanese royalty.
13. Hokkaido – Hokkaido is another name I keep hearing. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful (and least busy) regions in Japan, with large swaths of untouched wilderness full of mountains, natural hot springs, and volcanic lakes. Although its the second-largest Japanese island, Hokkaido is home to 6 national parks, including Daisetsuzan, which covers 568,000 acres, making it the largest national park in Japan.
Hokkaido’s largest city, Sapporo, is famous for its beer of the same name and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracts millions of visitors each year to see its hundreds of impressively carved snow and ice sculptures. Plus, the region is world-famous for its fresh seafood, including uni (sea urchin) so I have to eat it all!
14. sake – sake is Japan’s traditional alcohol, made from fermenting rice. Technically, the word “sake” in Japanese refers to all alcoholic beverages, while nihonshu is the Japanese word for what most Westerners call sake. There are many different varieties of sake, varying based on how much the rice is milled to remove its outer layers, if more alcohol is added, and if the sake is pasteurized or not. depending on the type of sake, its served chilled, at room temperature, or heated.
I absolutely love sake and really want to learn about the different varieties and purities. I plan on taking a class. Is a sake class similar to a wine class here in the States?
15. Samurai – The samurai were the hereditary military/nobility caste of medieval and early-modern Japan. They rose to prominence in the 12th century (though their origins date to the 8th century) and essentially ruled the country until their abolition in the 1870s. The samurai lived their lives by bushido code, or the “way of the warrior,” wHich understregede loyalitet, integritet, selvdisciplin og ære. De var ikke kun meget dygtige krigere, men højtuddannede og kultiverede med høje læsefærdigheder.
Samurai er måske ikke længere i nærheden, men japanerne er meget stolte af deres krigerarv, og der er mange muligheder for at lære om dette unikke aspekt af deres kultur i hele landet. Der er endda en festival i byen Kofu, hvor over 1.500 mennesker klæder sig ud i traditionel samurai -kjole for at have en parade og genindføre en af de største slag i japansk historie. Der er også et samurai -museum i Tokyo, som jeg vil være sikker på at tjekke ud!
16. Karaoke – Fordi intet siger, at jeg bliver japansk mere end at slå en dame Gaga ud med berusede japanske forretningsfolk! Karaoke (et ord, der betyder “tomt orkester” på japansk) stammer fra Japan i 1970’erne med udviklingen af karaoke -maskinen. Selvom det er blevet utroligt populært rundt om i verden, er der ikke noget sted som Japan for at opleve det fulde omfang af karaoke -fænomenet.
I modsætning til i USA, hvor karaoke typisk synges foran hele baren eller restauranten, består Karaoke -virksomheder i Japan af private værelser, som du lejer ud med en gruppe venner. Den tidligere type findes dog stadig i Japan, og jeg håber, at vores turné ender på en masse karaoke -barer. Hvis ikke, finder jeg noget selv.
17. POD -hoteller – Først med oprindelse i 1979 som et svar på manglen på plads i tæt japanske byer, tilbyder Pod (eller Capsule) hoteller gæsterne en lille sovende pod i stedet for et fuldt rum. Du har bare plads nok til at lægge dig, og det handler om det (forestil dig at sove i et hyggeligt rør). Luksuriøs? Næsten! Men de er billige og meget japanske. jeg er med!
18. Japansk whisky – Japan har nogle af verdens bedste whisky, og japanske mærker har tjent titlen “Bedste whisky i verden” adskillige gange. Den japanske whiskyproduktion startede i 1870 med landets første destilleriåbning i 1924. Landet er den tredjestørste whiskyproducent i verden (efter Skotland og USA), og stilen ligner mest skotsk whisky end andre sorter.
Som nogen, der elsker det, er jeg begejstret over at kunne drikke min vej gennem landets bedste. Alt i forskningens navn, selvfølgelig!
19. Sumo Wrestling – Sumo har oprindelse så langt tilbage som det 3. århundrede og er Japans nationale sport. Det er et utroligt populært tidsfordriv – jeg mener, hvad kan være mere underholdende end at se to enorme fyre i thongs prøve at skubbe hinanden ud af en cirkel?
Sumo antages at have sin oprindelse som en Shinto -rituel dans og takker guderne for en frugtbar høst. Mellem det 8.-12. Århundrede begyndte Sumo-wrestlers at optræde for kejseren, skønt sporten ikke tog sin moderne form før det 17.-19. Århundrede. Sporten er stadig dybt forankret i tradition, med detaljerede ritualer, der fører op til den faktiske kamp, der ser fascinerende ud.
Et af de mest berømte områder i Japan, når det kommer til Sumo, er Ryogoku -distriktet i Tokyo. Dette område har været centrum for Sumo -verdenen i århundreder og er hjemsted for Kokugikan National Sumo Stadium (som kan indeholde over 11.000 mennesker) og dets Sumo -museum.
Jeg er ikke sikker på, at jeg besøger på det rigtige tidspunkt (nationale turneringer finder sted på bestemte tidspunkter af året), men jeg håber at se et show eller i det mindste besøge en træningsstal (hvor wrestlers bor og træner) for at lære mere !
20. Slotte – Der er over 100 slotte i Japan, og efter at have set så mange slotte i Europa, vil jeg gerne se, hvordan en anden del af verden gør det.
De fleste japanske slotte er lavet af både træ og sten, og de fleste overlevende eksempler blev først bygget i det 15.-17. Århundrede. I dag er Himeji Castle fra det 14. århundrede det mest besøgte slot i Japan. Det er også den største, med over 83 forskellige bygninger i slotskomplekset.