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Overview of Japan

Japan Travel Guide

The Japanese call it "Nihon", meaning the "Land of the Rising Sun".

The country is among the World's top economical powers and due to its remote location it holds an almost uninfluenced culture.

Japanese customs, language, architecture and all that's linked to the local way of life are distinguished from those of other Asian countries.

A spectacular place with many unique attractions, hypermodern cities, ancient temples, deep forests, exotic islands and the list could go on...

 

Japan is an attractive island country that few people get to visit for a variety of reasons: many countries require visa for entry into Japan and it's difficult to obtain permission to visit the country, the high prices are another factor, also the long distance from the primary sources of tourists (Europe and the USA), another reason is that few people know about Japan's interesting attractions.

To most of us it is a country with box-shaped buildings, electronic equipment shops, bullet trains and roads on top of each other.

 

         

Japan Travel Factsheet

State, geography 

Official name:

Nihon Koku (Republic of Cuba)

Government type:

Parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy

Location:

Far East, east of the Korean Peninsula.

Area/surface:

377.876 km² or 145,883 sq mi

Geography overview:

Mountainous island country with a thick and dense forest coverage.

Japan is a country with frequent earthquakes, this is mainly due to the volcanic geology of the country. There are many volcanoes, large and small, a large number of geysers and hot water springs.

Demographics, population

Official language(s):

None

Regionally recognized languages: Aynu itak, Eastern Japanese, Western Japanese, Ryukyuan, various Japanese dialects.

Locally used languages:

-

Other widely spoken languages:

-

Nationalities, ethnic groups, races:

98.5 % Japanese; 0.5 % Korean; 0,4 % Chinese; 0,6 % other (mainly Aynu, Ryukyuan, European and North American)

Population:

127,59 million

Population density:

337,6/km² or 874.4/sq mi

Capital city & population:

Tokyo (central area: 8.656.000, urban area: 12.790.000, metropolitan area: 34.607.000)

Largest city & population:

Tokyo (central area: 8.656.000, urban area: 12.790.000, metropolitan area: 34.607.000)

Other large cities & population:

Osaka (central area: 2.643.000, metropolitan area: 18.648.000)

Yokohama (central area: 3.654.000)

Nagoya (central area: 2.236.000)

Sapporo (central area: 1.890.000)

Kobe (central area: 1.533.000)

Kyoto (central area: 1.466.000)

Fukuoka (central area: 1.450.000)

Kawasaki (central area: 1.385.000)

Saitama (central area: 1.182.000)

Hiroshima (central area: 1.159.000)

Sendai (central area: 1.032.000)

Religion(s):

85-95 % Shinto and Buddhist, 5-15 % other (Christian Religions, Muslim, Sikh, atheist)

Economy

Currency:

1 Japanese Yen (JPY or 円) = 100 Sen = 1.000 Rin

Symbol/sign: ¥

Foreign currencies widely used:

-

GDP (nominal):

4.910 billion USD

GDP per capita (nominal):

38.447 USD

Other data

Time zone:

Japan Standard Time (JST): UTC +9 h

Country telephone calling code:

+81

Internet TLD(s):

.jp

Electric power system:

Voltage & frequency: 110-127V/50Hz and 110-127V/60Hz

..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Plugs/sockets/outlets: A, B

Driving system:

Left-hand drive

 

Japan Interactive Map

 


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Places to Visit & Things to Do in Japan

Tokyo

Tokyo could be a country, it's so rich and so populous. With over 22 million people in the metropolitan area, more people live there than in Australia. But, "metropolitan area" means only the administrative regions officially considered to be parts of Tokyo. In reality, the Tokyo urban area has over 35,2 million people. More people live in Tokyo then in the whole California, about 2 million more than the population of Canada. Tokyo has the gross domestic product of Spain or half of France's.
These figures only show you how rich the city is.

If you'll ever get to Tokyo, you'll feel like in a rich hypermodern country, it is the most productive city in the World, ahead of New York.

Let's see what you can do & see in Tokyo: Akihabara (the electronic district, where prices on high-tech equipment are very low), Shinjuku (business district with skyscrapers), the Tokyo Tower (333 m high, a great place for seeing Tokyo's beautiful panorama, especially in the evening), Shibuya (shopping district with many malls, restaurants and discos), Ikebukuro (a shopping district in the northern part of the city), The Imperial Gardens & Palace (you cannot get in, but you can see it from outside), Roppongi (night club, bar district with the famous dining & shopping complex, the Roppongi Hills), Ginza (famous shopping district in downtown Tokyo), Asakusa (shopping district).

Admire the skyline of Tokyo by going up to the Tokyo Tower's observatory, which is in located downtown Tokyo.

Most major sightseeing attractions can be reached by public transportation (bus or subway). Renting a car in Tokyo is not a smart idea unless you have paid parking your entire trip. Keep in mind that it is very expensive to this since it is considered a luxury to have a car. Many Tokyo hotels are located close to a train or subway station which is very convenient for tourists. You can make a reservation for a fancy hotel or an affordable hotel, just depends on what your travel plans are.

Yokohama

It evolved as Tokyo's port city, has a population of over 3,5 million and is famous for its restaurants.

While in Yokohama, you'll find it surprising to see many foreign restaurants (including Spanish, Chinese, etc.).

Yokohama has a beautiful skyline, best viewed from the Landmark Tower's observatory on the 69th floor, the skyscraper is located in the Minato Mirai 21 part, right on the shore. The Yokohama Harbour is also a good place for taking a cruise and see the old white sail ship anchored at the Yokohama Maritime Museum.

Mount Fuji & Surroundings

Around Mount Fuji, you will find a number of interesting destinations, cities, towns, villages, only to name the most important ones: Kamakura (city), Kōfu (small city), Enzan (village).

The coastal region south of Tokyo. Kamakura is a popular travel destination of Japanese tourists and of those coming from abroad. Here are a few of the attractions in Kamakura: The Great Buddha Statue of Kamakura, Hachimangu Shirne (considered Kamakura's most important), Zeniarai Benten Temple, Hase Temple (renowned for its large Kannon statue made of wood), the Zen Temples of: Kenchoji, Engakuji, Jufukuji, Jochiji.

Mount Fuji is rarely visible from nearby cities, towns, villages. But, on a clear day, you can see it from as far away as Tokyo's Tower or Shinjuku Quarter.

Shizuoka Region

Located along the railway line that goes from Tokyo to Osaka, south of Mount Fuji.

Shizuoka is not among the top destinations in Japan, but if you have a lot of time to spend and have already visited the most interesting places, then you can see the: Granship (an interesting modern building), the Miho no Matsubara area (a zone with beautiful pine trees; one can see Mount Fuji in the background), Sumpu Castle (an old castle, more than 400 years old).

Itō, Atami, the "Japanese Riviera": these small vacation cities lie on the coast and are preferred summer vacation destinations of Japanese people. Mountainous, green forest-covered regions, luxury hotels, small islands in the sea, hot springs, palm trees, fishing boats... That's what you can see there. A popular destination for visiting, fishing, but not recommended for inexperienced swimmers, the water gets deep very fast, as you leave the shore.

Nagoya 

A big city located in the center of Honshu Island.

Main attractions: the ancient Nagoya Castle, Nagoya City Hall, JR Towers of the Nagoya Railway Station, Tokugawa Art Museum, Inuyama, Takayama, Ise (here are Japan's most Shinto shrines), Kiso Valley (with well preserved wooden houses).

Kyoto & Surroundings

Kyoto has a population of just under 2 million. It has many well preserved ancient temples and fortresses to visit.

Among the ancient religious attractions of Kyoto, you should visit: Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), The Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho), Nijo Castle, Nijo Jinya, Toji, Honganji, Pontocho, the Nishiki Market, Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizudera, Kodaji, Chionin, Heian Shrine, Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion), Ryoanji, Ninnaji, Daitokuji, Toei Eigamura, Enryakuji, Ohara, Kurama, Arashiyama, Tenryuji, The Imperial Villa of Katsura (Katsura Villa), Fushimi Inari Shrine, Tofukuji, Daigoji, Byodo-in, Mampukuji. Many places, indeed and these are many just names that we do know might not mean anything to you, but when making a list of "to see things", you must have them on.

Kyoto has so many temples, shrines, torii gates, because it wasn't as bombed as other cities were during the Second World War. Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima, Nagasaki weren't that fortunate.

What you should de on the first day of your trip is to go visit the Kyoto Tower and admire the city from above. It is a 131 m high tower.

If you travel by train, then you can't help noticing the beauty of the Kyoto Train Station. It's one of the most beautiful modern architectural creations in Japan.

Nara 

Former capital of Japan, is rich in temples and various other old buildings, statues. Nara has Japan's biggest Buddha statue.

Nara is one of Japan's top religious travel destinations. It was well preserved due to the fact that it wasn't heavily bombed in World War II.

All of Nara's major temples and shrines are "must see". Get yourself a detailed guidebook with map and/or apply to the services of a travel agency to visit the most important attractions in and around the city.

The best way to reach Nara is from Kyoto. Visit Kyoto and then take a trip to Nara.

You could see all important places in 1-2 days. But, bus trips from Kyoto cost several hundreds of dollars.

Osaka, Kobe & Surroundings

Osaka is famous for its nightlife, restaurants and shops. It's a huge city with over 10 million people living in its metropolitan area. Places we recommend you to see when in Osaka: Umeda district (shopping malls, restaurants), Osaka Castle (an old pagoda castle in the center of a fortress), Osaka Umeda Sky Building (a gigantic modern arch-like building).

In Kobe, we'd recommend you to take a cruise or admire the night skyline's lights.

Mount Koya is a renowned place where there are multiple religious places. Another interesting place to visit in the area.

Himeji Castle is a dreamlike pagoda. You must see it when visiting this area of the country. It is located in Himeji City, in the same prefecture as Kobe.

Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The cities which have reborn from their ashes. Hiroshima was the victim of the most horrible atrocity ever: the atomic bomb. About 150.000 people were killed either immediately or months, years after the horrible weapon was dropped.

Nagasaki was another victim, where about 80.000 people died.

Both cities have reborn and are today are populous and economically thriving.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki you will see many monuments, museums dedicated to the victims of the bombings. Nevertheless, it's not a pleasant experience to get into contact with such creations, dedicated to innocent people who became victims of an irrational war. Due to these losses, Japan is today a country militating against nuclear weapons.

A symbol of rebirth, the Hiroshima Dome is the top attraction for tourists arriving to the city. A building that has remained intact, while all buildings around were destroyed. It remained the only building standing from many thousands that were obliterated. Nobody could explain how this dome remained intact. The dome was left unrestored, exactly the way it was found after the bombing.

Other attractions in Hiroshima: Hiroshima Castle (preserved old pagoda building), the Sukkeien Garden (renowned garden in Japan with much green and interesting bridges).
Hiroshima is also a good place to eat. It is also renowned for its karaoke bars.

In Nagasaki, you should see: the skyline of the city from Mount Inasa (beautiful at night), the Nagasaki Chinatown, Sofukuji Temple (an interesting Zen Temple with reddish looks), Dejima (a man-made island created by Portuguese missionaries in 1636 for their members), the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival (held between October 7 and 9).

Okinawa Islands

Exotic islands, far from the main islands.

Popular activities & places to see in Okinawa: scuba diving, renowned for its restaurants, karaoke bars, beaches. 

Hokkaido Island

A cold island, less populated than others. You should only visit Hokkaido if you've already visited Honshu thoroughly.

Hokkaido is a great place for skiers, snowboarders.

Sapporo is the biggest city, great place to start the trip.


Transportation

By Air

Getting to Japan won't be difficult, it has many major airports, the ones in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya receive millions of tourists every year.

Especially from the US, Europe, Australia or Asia, you will find good connections, direct flights with major airlines.

By Road

Of course, because Japan consists of islands, this option only exists if you travel within the country. Japan has very good roads, but very crowded. It is not a good idea to rent a car in Japan, also because of the right hand drive system, which could bother you if you're form a country where the left hand drive system is used.

By Rail

Japan has a very developed rail system.

The JR (Japanese Railways) have a very good network even within cities. JR lines are popular in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and other big cities. People travel mostly on the surface. These rail lines are more often used in the mega cities of Osaka and Tokyo, where there are few roads and are very crowded with cars.
the Shinkansen is Japan's renowned bullet train, which connects the biggest cities and can run at speeds exceeding 350 km/h. The prices are so high that they sometimes exceed that of airplane tickets for similar distances.

On Water

Few people travel to Japan by sea. It's not a popular cruise ship destination.

But, the water transportation between Japan and nearby islands is quite intense, you could go visit different islands with a ship.


Risks & Precautions in Japan

Important: We present you some of the most common risks and precautions for you to take in this country, however our list does not cover the whole typology and details of these problems that might occur.

Various Risks

Very low level of risks.

Japan is one of the safest countries of the World, there are very few cases of crime, theft is not a major problem.

But, in rare cases, assaults could happen, in case you walk around in bad neighbourhoods, especially at night, in cities like: Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima and Tokyo. Kobe and Osaka are the main centers of the Japanese mafia (yakuza), but it shouldn't be a problem, because crimes are very rare in comparison to most western countries.
Malaria may occur in the south of the country, take specific precaution in order to avoid unpleasant experiences.


Interesting Things About Japan

In the late 1200s, Mongol leader Kubilai Khan (also called Kublai Khan) attempted to raid the Japanese Islands. The Mongols have ordered the construction of ships in China, but the Chinese workers built them river ships, unsuitable for navigation, especially on stormy seas.
The Mongols have boarder the ships, but at sea, most of their fleet was destroyed by a storm, which the Japanese people named Divine Wind (Kamikaze). The rest of the Mongols who reached the shores, were cut down by the skilled Samurai fighters.
 

For hundreds of years, the Japanese Isles lay isolated from the rest of the World. The local leaders did not allow foreign ships (Europeans in particular) to set anchor near the shore. Japan never became a European colony, as opposed to other countries in Eastern Asia (Vietnam, China, Philippines, etc.). The isolation period is called the "Edo period", after that, in the 1950s, Japan opened itself to trade.
 

Tragically Japan was the first country to have suffered from the atomic bomb. The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first and hopefully the last to have been used. Japan is a pacifist nation which militates against the usage of nuclear weapons.
 

After World War II, Japan became the World's 2nd biggest economic power. We all know about Japan's famous electronic and heavy industry, yet Japan's industry's basis was founded much earlier, the history of Panasonic, for instance, goes back to 1917.
 

Japanese cuisine is well know for several unique foods, such as: sushi, sashimi, gyoza, takoyaki and others. You should try these specialties when in Japan!
 

Tokyo is the World's most populated city with about 22 million people living in its metropolitan area.
 

Japan has is among the countries with the most geysers and hot springs, due to its intense subterranean volcanic activity.
 

Japan has the longest average life expectancy in the World. This is attributed to the healthy way of life: Japanese people consume mostly seafood's, eat less fat and use less spices than western cultures, it's also important that people in Japan life a very active life, this improving blood circulation.
 

The Okinawa Islands are heavily exploited by the US Military, due to their important geographical position (close to China and the Korean Peninsula). Therefore, the USA maintains many military bases on the islands, these occupy over 18 % of the Okinawa Islands.

 

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