Japan: A Country of Wonderful Contrasts - PassPorter.com
PassPorter.com
Award-winning travel guidebooks

   guidebooks   |   news   |   podcasts   |   boards   |   blog   |   worksheets   |   photos   |   articles   |   updates   |   register   |   follow us on


PassPorter's
Article Tools
Print Article
Download PDF

Japan: A Country of Wonderful Contrasts

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 5/7/2009
  



PassPorter.com > Articles > International Travel > General Travel  

For as many years as I can remember, I've dreamed of visiting Japan and recently I was finally able to make that dream come true.


In our two-week tour of the country, we went to the capital Tokyo, the former capital Kyoto, and Hiroshima, infamous for the events of August 1945, as well as visiting the Tokyo Disney resort. Add to that day trips to Nara, Nikko, Mount Fuji, and Lake Hakone (all easily accessible from Tokyo) and our trip certainly gave us a good chance to experience Japan.

To me, Japan is a country that is full of contradictions, and I love the idea of that. If you head to the right parts of any major city, you'll find young Japanese experimenting with the most way-out fashions they can find, many of them Western in origin, yet elsewhere in the same city, you'll also see women in traditional kimonos, taking pride in the history of their country. I can't think of any other country where you would see people in everyday life wearing such traditional costumes. They're hardly made for today's society, but the women we saw in them, without exception, looked elegant and seemed to relish the challenge of getting around in a kimono.

Think of any new kind of technology and the chances are that it probably originated in Japan, with cameras, TVs, and computers often debuting there first, before finding it into the rest of the world. Visitors to the country can see, and in some cases, try out that new technology, with many major companies having areas open to the public to market their newest inventions. The Sony Center in Tokyo's Ginza is one example, with floors full of things you've never seen before, with some clearly marked as not yet available on the market. All I'll say is keep an eye out over the next few months for Rolly, who plays music and dances to it. He's an adorable invention, the likes of which you've never seen before.

Radiator Springs Racers View photo
Radiator Springs Racers View

Radiator Springs Racers View by Mary Wotherspoon - photo by Belle*

Yet, ironically, in a world where we're all getting used to the idea of being in a recession, it's something the Japanese are already very familiar with. Their economy has been in recession for the last decade, according to all the official figures, but it's not something that you'd ever know from visiting the country.

It's literally packed with designer names everywhere you go. Having visited some of the richest playgrounds in the world, such as Monte Carlo and Beverley Hills, we were amazed to find that Japan's major cities seemed to have more of these brand names than we had seen anywhere else. The recession certainly doesn't seem to be hurting the Japanese ability to shop.

If you know anything about the history of Japan, you'll know that it was a country that was closed to the outside world for 200 years, until Commander Matthew Perry led a fleet of US vessels into Edo Bay, the old name for Tokyo, in 1835. Bearing in mind that the Japanese have only had a couple of hundred years of contact with the outside world, you perhaps wouldn't expect them to speak other languages, but they do and exceptionally well.

Although I had spent a couple of years learning Japanese, I didn't get much of a chance to speak it while we were there. We had a couple of interesting experiences with taxi drivers in Kyoto, where my lessons did come in very handy! I had read that the Japanese don't like to speak English, as they're worried about getting things wrong, but there was no sign of that at all. Generally, when I did attempt Japanese, I would get stunned looks, as if they couldn't understand how a Westerner could speak their language.

And here's another contradiction. Although English is widely spoken, most restaurant menus are in Japanese, which even I couldn't fathom, with my knowledge of the language. Fortunately most menus do have pictures with them, so you could get an idea of what you were ordering. Being vegetarian I did become very adept at asking if the items had meat in them or not!

Perhaps one of the things that Japan is best known for is its public transport system, and rightly so. We were fortunate enough to take four journeys on the Shinkansen, known more commonly as the bullet train, and it is just as amazing as people say. It runs perfectly to schedule, is spotlessly cleaned at the end of each journey, with the seats giving you more room than you would find on most planes. Yet, step on to a subway train and there's every chance you'll be sandwiched into a carriage in a way you've never experienced before, with people even employed during rush hours to push you into the train to make sure you all fit!

Something else you can't escape talking about when you talk about the character of Japan is the bathroom facilities. Our hotel rooms all featured toilets with the most amazing array of functions on them, including warm seats, music– I kid you not! These have to be seen to be believed and it is something that the Japanese take seriously, as they like to exercise discretion in these delicate situations.

Contrast that then with the Japanese-style toilets that you'll find in some public places. These are literally just troughs in the ground and take some getting used to. Fortunately, in most places, they do also have the more traditional Western versions available, which came as a great relief!

One thing that isn't a contradiction is the behavior of the Japanese. At all times, they were exceptionally courteous and we would often find ourselves bowing in response to them, as it suddenly seemed the most natural thing to do. The service you receive is second to none and there is no tipping in their culture. Leave any extra money and there's every chance they'll run after you and give it back to you. It's a very refreshing change, although sadly I don't think service anywhere else in the world will now ever seem that good to us, having experienced the best in Japan.

Japan is certainly a land of contrasts and we noticed huge differences between the sprawling cities and the open countryside we saw. It was fascinating, and we loved experiencing the Japanese culture first hand, so much so that one day we hope to go back to experience some more of it.


Cars Land photo
Cars Land

Cars Land Sign by Mary Wotherspoon - photo by Belle*





TING!
You've discovered a PassPorter's Club Concierge Tip!
Ting the bell to read your tip and save it in your Concierge Desk!
About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!


Recent International Travel Articles:
Bistro Chez Remy at Disneyland Paris - A Disneyland Paris Dining Review last updated 01-15-2015
Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris - A Disneyland Paris Attraction Review last updated 01-08-2015
The Holidays at Disneyland Paris - A Disneyland Paris Review last updated 12-25-2014
One Night in Venice, Italy - A Disney Cruise Line Port Review last updated 10-02-2014
Hong Kong Disneyland - A Disney Parks Review last updated 05-22-2014

More Related Links:
 
Serendipity 3 in New York City - A Dining Review last updated 12/29/2008
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates - A New Year In A New Disney Park last updated 12/18/2008
Valencia, Spain - Travel Tips last updated 11/27/2008
Bellagio of Las Vegas - Simply Bellissimo! last updated 1/08/2009
Hever Castle - Kent, England last updated 1/15/2009




Reader Comments:


So what do you think? Click here to share your comments, feedback, and experiences on this article and topic!

(Note: You must be a member of our PassPorter Message Board Community to leave comments. Join today for free!)




Updated 5/7/2009 - Article #81 



Read additional articles from PassPorter.com

Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide. As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!

E-mail Address:

First Name:

E-mail Format:
-Text/Don't Know  

-HTML

 
 

We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result in more spam! We guarantee it.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Copyright 1999-2015
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.

       SEARCH
       LEARN MORE
Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks


 


RSS General PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel - Globetrotting: General Travel Planning
PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disn...
Planning a trip around the globe, or just away for the weekend? Ask questions and share experiences! Forum Sponsored by CruisingCo.com


Amsterdam - is 4 days too much?
by Tconst
27 Jan 2015 at 12:45pm
Hi! I know we have some well traveled Passporters, so I'm hoping to get some opinions. We (me, DH, DD 21, her boyfriend 21 & DS15 - ages at...
(click title above to view replies)

Passports
by Christine L
26 Jan 2015 at 10:18am
My son went to Germany 2yrs ago for spring break and he was 16, in October we are going on the 5night Western cruise and he will turn 18 the month...
(click title above to view replies)

Copenhagen ?
by Pris
23 Jan 2015 at 6:29pm
DH and I are sailing on our Disney cruise out of Copenhagen. We will be there 1 1/2 days before the cruise. I'm looking at possibly the canal tour...
(click title above to view replies)

Debating..... any advice?
by Alaskan Mom
22 Jan 2015 at 4:55pm
Am deep into planning Europe trip for DD's high school graduation trip and am trying to decide whether to take 4-5 out of 11 days in UK to travel on...
(click title above to view replies)

savings support group?
by Coreada
6 Jan 2015 at 3:37pm
We're saving up for a trip to Disneyland Paris (and possibly Hong Kong), and on my fixed income, the prospect is *daunting*. Is anybody else in this...
(click title above to view replies)

Hawaii Input Appreciated
by SheLovesAriel
3 Jan 2015 at 11:21pm
It looks like our next major trip will be to Hawaii for 2016 - thinking summer time frame; I guess this is a low crowd time of year? We are just...
(click title above to view replies)

What are your 2015 travel plans?
by chezp
1 Jan 2015 at 5:33am
As we're just starting a new year, what are your travel plans, big or small, for the next 12 months? We're making three trips to America this...
(click title above to view replies)



Total Visits: 4002


PassPorter ~ 1998-2015 ~ 17 Years of Making Dreams Come True!
Publishers of bestselling travel guidebooks and proud recipients of 13 national book awards
About PassPorter
About Us
Site Map
Press
Privacy Policy
Images & Artwork
Guidebooks
About
Previews
Buy
Reviews
Updates
Features
News & Updates
Articles
Podcasts
Photos
Message Boards
Newsletter
Concierge Desk
Desktop
Trips
Books & E-Books
Tips
Settings
Customs Office
Register Books
Book Updates
Contests
Checklists
Help & Info
Finding Answers to Questions
Help Desk
Using Your PassPorter Forum
Store Customer Service
E-Mail Us
Follow Us
PassPorter.com Front Page (Updated Daily!)
PassPorter Newsletter (weekly and free)
Latest Posts
Facebook
Pinterest
YouTube Channel
Questions? Check our Site Map and visit our Help Desk to learn how to contact us online, by e-mail, and by phone.
Please feel free to link to this page so that other vacationers can find it.