|Globetrotting Planning Articles|
Globetrotting Traveling Articles
Globetrotting Lodging Articles
Globetrotting Touring Articles
Globetrotting Dining Articles
Globetrotting Making Magic Articles
Globetrotting General Travel Articles
12 Tips to Hotel Bliss
Assateague Island National Seashore
Back To Barcelona
Bellagio of Las Vegas
Chateau de Chenonceau
Disney on Broadway
Disney's Magical Express
Exploring Chicago's Museums
Flying Premium Economy
Grotte de Pech-Merle, France
Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates
Kennedy Space Center
Lake Constance, Switzerland
Lake Thunersee, Switzerland
Learning the Language
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
Making Your Way by Ferry to the Magic in Disneyland Paris
Montezuma Castle National Monument
More of Hilton Head Island
Mount Fuji & Hakone, Japan
My Quest for the West
New Orleans Revisited
One Place is Never Enough!
Palm Beach, Florida
Serendipity 3 in New York City
St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Star Wars in Concert
Taking to the Road
The 'Other' Jersey
The Billie Swamp Safari Park
The Egyptian Museum
The Gardens of Versailles
The Green Heart of the Big Apple
The Manatee Tour
The Palace of Versailles
The Pyramids of Giza
The Walt Disney Family Museum
Tired, Tried And True
Traveling the Northern Oregon Coast
Valley of Fire
Viewing Cities From Above
Visiting the French Alps
Wimbledon Tennis Museum
You Don't Have to Cruise to See Alaska
View all PassPorter articles
Japan: A Country of Wonderful Contrasts
|by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist|
Last modified 5/7/2009
Cool Tip: Click here to get a FREE PDF version of this article, fully formatted to print and put into your PassPorter Deluxe Binder!
Filed in 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
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 Sign by Mary Wotherspoon - photo by Belle*
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!
Related Links:Read additional articles from PassPorter.com
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
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
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!|
We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result
in more spam! We guarantee it.
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.
| LEARN MORE|
Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks|
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
9 Dec 2014 at 2:51pm
Now that the draw for the Women's World Cup 2015 has happened, I know I'll be spending 7-10 days in Winnipeg next June. Anyone been there before and...
(click title above to view replies)
Does anyone take a vacation to somewhere just because flights are cheap?
26 Nov 2014 at 8:40am
A client just told me she was able to get fares to INdia from Boston for $700./00 round trip.
It makes me want to plan a ytrip even though I...
(click title above to view replies)
North West- any must see's or travel tips?
23 Nov 2014 at 1:40pm
This coming summer, we will be traveling to the North West.
I've been planning this trip for quite some time.... and now the time has come to...
(click title above to view replies)
Total Visits: 3931