There are very few places which allow the perfect coexistence of the traditional and the hi-tech worlds simultaneously. Even rarer are the places which had been completely torn by war at one day yet they rose up from the ashes to become a major economic power of the world. Japan is both of these and much more. Traditional temples and shrines live in peaceful existence with bullet trains and the best thing is that none of it looks out of place.
Japan offers something for everyone and with its big heart, the land of manga, anime, Astro boy and bullet trains welcomes everyone with wide arms. However, there are certain things which one needs to know before embarking on a trip to Japan.
For a globe-trotting traveler, every day of the year is a good day to go to some new place and bask in the glories of nature, however, there are certain times, in every country of the world, when you can have the most fun. The best time to take a trip to Japan is in spring, the target month should be April. This is the time when Sakura and other fruit trees bloom and the countryside becomes a wonderful place to visit. For those who prefer the slightly colder temperatures, they should visit in autumn, the time between October and December.
The Japanese people take great pains in ensuring that they keep their cities clean. Cleanliness is one of the guiding principles of life in Japan and it is very obvious in all parts of the country at all times. All business establishments, including restaurants and convenience stores, ask the customers to take their shoes off before entering the lobby as shoes are considered unclean because of their constant contact with the dirt throughout the day. Even when you’re invited at a Japanese household, you’ll be asked to take your shoes off, however, you’ll be provided with guest slippers.
Silence is a Virtue
One very common observation you’ll make in your trip to Japan is that the majority spends a large amount of its time staying quiet. Even the times when you’ll find someone talking outside, their voices will be very low. This concept is often hard to grasp for the foreigners visiting the country but this is a way of life for the Japanese people, in fact, it can be considered an extension of their principle of staying clean. Loud noise is a form of pollution and the Japanese people are repulsed by pollution.
The first sight of people wearing surgical masks right outside the airport will make you want to go back but there is nothing to be afraid of. These masks are a preventive method which is very common in Japan which helps them avoid viruses like flu and disease-causing bacteria. The Japanese are an industrious people who never take leaves from work unless it is absolutely necessary and the common cold is not something they would allow to stop them from going to their places of work. If you catch a cold or become sick in Japan, you should be respectful and wear a mask yourself. The locals will respect you for this.
In contrast to places like the United States, where it is considered a good gesture to give a generous tip, tipping is considered as a rude thing in Japan so you must be extra careful when tipping someone. Often the waiters and taxi drivers will return your extra money back as it is considered a sort of bribe however most Japanese realize that foreigners are unfamiliar with their customs, they’ll politely return the money and smile.
The Japanese are very fond of luxury toilets and almost every home and restaurants in all the major cities have one. These toilets can play music for you as well as check your blood pressure. There are models which use warm air for drying purposes. It is important to remember that Japanese toilets don’t keep toilet paper except for some hotels which regularly deal with foreigners so it is always a good idea to buy some for yourself.
Japan is largely a cash-based society which believes in the power of paper more than electronic transactions. You would always need to convert your money before using it so it is a good idea to get it converted to Yen before coming to Japan to get better rates. Cash is necessary for the simplest things like buying lunch so it is always a good idea to keep some handy. In case you run out of cash, you can get some using your ATM card however there will be conversion and international transaction fees involved so be prepared for them. You would be spending a lot of cash on shopping; you can get some discounts by using Groupon.
Japan is famous for getting hundreds of earthquakes every year which may come as a surprise to the first time visitors but what’s more important to remember is that even though they do take place, you’re going to be just fine. Japan is the best place in the world where you’d want to be in the case of an earthquake as they employ some of the best techniques and have some of the highest standards when it comes to building design and architecture.
Kyoto over Tokyo
Even though Tokyo is a great modern metropolitan, it is not entirely representative of everything that is Japanese. A much better place to get a taste of authentic Japan is Kyoto. Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. The city is a host to over 1600 beautiful temples which are hidden from the sight of everyone and finding them is an adventure in itself. The city is great for travelers and one of the best ways of exploring the city is by renting bicycles and exploring the city till wee hours of the night.
Good manners are the soul of life in Japan. The Japanese people are very polite themselves so it’s only fair that we return them the same courtesy. It pays to know the Japanese words for please, excuse me and thank you. It is also a great idea to only wear shoes which you can take off easily. For foreigners, it is understood that they lack the familiarity of the language but an attempt at bowing is seen with respect.
Japan is a great place to visit and the Japanese people definitely make the trip worthy, showing them some gratitude is the little we can do.