The land of the rising sun is a curious and contrasting mix of traditional old culture and the hyper shiny modern new. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan twice now, and both times I’ve come away a little awestruck by its beauty, customs, people, food and technology. The people are incredibly polite (I don’t think I will ever get used to being bowed to) and very friendly. Japan is a country like no other and as such is one of my favourite countries.
Japan is a series of islands, the largest of which, Honshu, is home to the country’s most famous cities – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. To the north is Hokkaido, and to the south, Shikoku and Kyushu, and that’s not counting all the thousands of much smaller islands that make up the entire Japanese archipelago.
The first time I went to Japan, I mostly stuck to the fairly typical tourist route – Tokyo and Kyoto, but for my second trip I headed further afield to some of the smaller cities and the coast, too. I really enjoyed the contrast between the big, fast-paced cities and the quieter life beyond them.
Plus Japan has some stunning and diverse scenery (lush green mountains, snow-topped volcanoes, and picturesque coves and beaches) that I didn’t get to appreciate on my first trip. If I was to go again, I’d definitely look to go off the beaten track and visit some of the lesser known areas of this fascinating country.
Getting around Japan is very easy – the trains and metro systems are reliable and simple to use. I travelled by the Shinkansen Bullet Train on both trips and it was a great experience; it’s not that expensive and is a very quick and efficient way to travel across the country. The metro systems in the cities were also very easy to navigate, as were the local trains and buses.
One of my favourite things about Japan is the shopping. They have some incredible clothes shops – I particularly like Natural Beauty Basic (a women’s fashion chain) where I picked up quite a few unusual pieces at very reasonable prices.
There’s lots of pretty, traditional crafts and quirky kitsch items to discover, too, while no trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to Akihabara, the electronics district, to marvel at all the incredible gadgets for sale. I also found myself looking out for all the weird and wonderful flavour KitKats while I was there, such as green tea, chilli, blueberry cheesecake and even wasabi.