One small step in Japan is a giant leap from anything us Westerners are used to! It’s a place unlike anywhere else in the world. Here’s why you should put a visit to the land of the rising sun on your bucket list.
1. Every photo you take will be Insta-worthy
If you’re looking for a holiday where you can take snaps to make a professional photographer jealous, Japan is it. The country is steeped in historical temples that have been meticulously maintained and lovingly restored. Think palaces with golden walls, tranquil sanctuaries shrouded in cherry blossoms and zen gardens where you feel all your problems melt away. The landscapes are so picturesque it hurts, and it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo. Even when you head to the city, the skyscrapers and neon lights are a cultural bonanza full of saturated colour to brighten up your feed.
2. Everyone is so polite
Manners are very highly regarded in Japan so expect to be treated like royalty wherever you go. Don’t be surprised if people bow after speaking to you, as this is a great sign of respect – the deeper the bow, the more the reverence. Keep in mind this should go both ways, so make sure you read up on the local customs and adhere to any social rules.
3. Vending machines with everything are everywhere
HOT FOOD VENDING MACHINES. Seriously. If you fancy a late-night snack in Japan that’s more than just a bag of chips, then you can visit one of the plentiful 24-hour hot food vending machines. Hot dogs? Check. Hot chips? Yep. Fried chicken? Yuh-huh. Pan-fried noodles with soy sauce and garlic? You betcha! They also have drink machines featuring uniquely-named beverages such as Pokari Sweat and Coca-Cola in aluminium BOTTLES instead of cans (more delicious fizz all round!) There are also Uniqlo t-shirts, Buddhist charms, floral bunches, umbrellas, toy cars… the vending selection is endless.
4. It’s so darn clean
The Japanese strive for perfection so the streets gleam. You’ll never spot a discarded ANYTHING in the gutter and seriously, we reckon the three-second rule could be extended to five here – it’s THAT clean.
5. So. Much. Cuteness.
Japan is OBSESSED with cuteness. Shops and department stores are an explosion of fluffy toys, comics, doll-like clothes, and accessories festooned with kiddie cartoons. Even the roadworks (above) are gosh darn adorable. But this fascination with all things cute isn’t reserved for children; adults proudly parade around with Hello Kitty backpacks and frilly dresses, and have apartments brimming with cuddly goodness. It’s enough to bring out a sense of childlike wonder in anyone. Trust us – you think you’re too old for that stuff until you see it, and then BAM. You’re suddenly the owner of a Keroppi eraser set, chopsticks with unicorns on them and Hello Kitty earmuffs in the middle of summer.
6. The food is delicious… and sometimes bizarre
We all know and love sushi but Japan is full of foodie finds to delight your palate. From savoury pancake/pizza hybrid (okonomiyaki) to ramen, to soba noodles to kobe beef, it’s no wonder Japan has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other country. There are many bizarre snack foods (sweet potato-flavoured Kit Kat, anyone?), and sometimes you can’t even tell what flavour your chips are going to be judging by the packaging, so it’s like a wonderful surprise! Then there’s the downright weird food that you just HAVE to try so you can brag to your mates. Have a go at harumon (which refers to ANY of the internal organs of an animal), nankotsu (fried chicken cartilage) or even curry doughnuts!
7. Public Transport is next-level efficient
Seriously, if a train is supposed to leave the station at 12pm, you better believe it will, even if only arrived at 11:59 and 32 seconds. Which can be terrifying if you’re not a punctual person but it’s pretty darn impressive nevertheless!
8. Onsen, spas and bath houses
If you like pampering, Japan is the place you need to be. Forget taking a bath at your hotel and head to an onsen. These bathing havens use water from hot springs to provide a healing, soothing experience. Be warned though, these are nude, public baths, so you’ll need to work up the courage and disrobe! Don’t fret, they’re usually single-sex areas so you won’t risk leery attention.
9. You can step back in time
The reverence the Japanese have for preserving their history is next-level. Every shrine and temple is lovingly tended to, and held as close to its original state as possible. You can attend a Shogun fortress in Kyoto and learn all about how they hid in the walls, waiting to protect the emperor. You can attend ancient ceremonies that have been enacted for centuries, and are played out in all their former glory, not just for tourists but as a way of life. You can still find beautiful old vistas in little castle towns, mountain villages and tiny fishing villages, preserved to be exactly as they would have been years ago. It honestly feels like another magical world.
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