Since the events of March 11 last year (M9 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster), the number of people traveling to Japan fell sharply. Tourism in Japan fell by almost 28% in 2011. Here are 10 reasons why you have to go on a trip to Japan.
Japanese people are warm and welcoming
Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese are very friendly people. If you're looking at a map in the street, someone will probably help you, even if you don't speak Japanese / if they don't speak English.
A patchwork of landscapes, from electric Tokyo to zen countryside
Japan has an impressive disparity of places to visit. Some will go nuts in Tokyo, a city which never sleeps, with its cultural and fashion scenes, and its many neighborhoods. Others will prefer the traditional side of Kyoto, quieter with its majestic temples and narrow streets. But don't forget to visit the rest of Japan! Throughout the regions, festivals (matsuri) will show you absolutely incredible scenes. Finally, how not to fall in love with Japanese countryside, from a warm hot bath (onsen) overlooking the mountains?
Traveling to Japan is not that expensive
Airline tickets under $1,000 are easily found, Japan Rail Pass is an unlimited train pass for foreigners, hotels / ryokan are quite cheap for most of them (house vacation rental in Japan is often even more interesting) and restaurants are very cheap. Another misconception! To convince you, I wrote a full post explaining how to do a wonderful 15-day trip to Japan for $2,300 all inclusive.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world
All travelers in Japan have already experienced at least one of these scenes:
- lost object found intact a few hours or days later
- customer in a cafe who leaves his/her purse on a table while he orders
- women wearing skirts walking around without fear at any hour of the night
Despite its 127 million inhabitants sharing a small island territory, Japan is a very safe country. It's common to see single women walking the streets late at night, or children riding the subway alone. You can travel with peace of mind in Japan: there's very little chance something will happen to you. You'll see: leaving distrust behind for a few weeks is quite a comfort!
Culinary diversity like nowhere else
Westerners tend to limit Japanese cuisine to sushi and ramen. Mistakingly, of course, since it's infinitely more varied. Each region has its own specialty. There's a very impressive variety of dishes. The Japanese diet suggests eating their healthy and delicious food up to 80% of satiation. As a result: Japan's obesity rate is among the lowest in the world.
Japanese language is not a real barrier
Even if Japanese is not a very difficult spoken language (that's not so true when it comes to writing it), we generally don't learn a language 'just' to go sightseeing for a few weeks. Japan has realized this and in recent years, much effort has been made towards japanese non-speakers. There are a lot of travel guides written in English, in tourist information centers and train stations. Announcements on trains and subways are made both in Japanese and in English. And the Japanese are very willing to understand you. That's why you should learn a few simple words like: hello (konnichiwa), thank you (arigato), please (onegaishimasu) or goodbye (sayonara).
Fukushima may not be a problem for you
There has been much, much said about the dangers of life in Japan, especially since 11 March 2011. My goal is not to deny the consequences of this event. But it's possible to 'relativize' from a tourist point of view. The tsunami, responsible for most of the victims, struck areas not conducive to tourism. Big cities are at the forefront of seismic prevention standards (there would have been 'only' a few dozen victims related to the big earthquake). As for nuclear pollution, it's obviously very difficult to measure, but Tokyo is already 160 miles south from Fukushima, and most of what there's to visit in Japan is southern from there.
Everything seems so beautiful
In big cities, many young adults live with fashion and show a pronounced taste for clothing and almost even more for accessorizing. The result is very visual: in neighborhoods like Harajuku or Shibuya in Tokyo, it's a real fashion show that takes place before your eyes. There's also a constant creativity: in objects, places, attitudes, or inventions. There's so much imagination and creativity, no wonder Japan is so trendy.
Cleanliness, politeness and punctuality in all circumstances
I was realizing something the last time I flew to Japan. The 300-seat plane was 95% full of Japanese people, and even after 12 hours of flight, the toilets had remained clean. In the street, no litter or spitting on the ground. There are no disturbing gatherings, few people screaming or running. Public areas are not degraded. You're respected and served quickly as a customer. Trains are cleaned at each terminus. Transportation seems unlimited, but when Japan gives you an hour of arrival, it will be respected by the minute.
Each period has wonders to offer
It's cold in winter: it's time to go enjoy the ski slopes in northern Japan and discover the great parks of Hokkaido. On the contrary, in summer it's hot and moisty ; stay close to the shores, or in Okinawa to enjoy the beaches of Japan. Spring offers sumptuous scenery with flowering sakura, the cherry trees of Japan. Finally, during fall, weather stays mild late in the season and you can admire the gorgeous red maple leaves.