by Grace Bailey,
When most people picture Japan they usually imagine it as a single strip of four islands connected together via bullet train and highways, while in reality the islands of the archipelago number thousands, though not all of them are inhabited. In mass culture we know Nihon as the land of the samurai, sake, sushi, anime, salary men, Yakuza, strange fashion, robots and their native polytheistic religion Shinto. An incredible mixture of new and old, tradition and innovation it has been at the forefront of technological advancement despite its difficult and turbulent past. It is highly doubtful there are people who have never heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the crushing defeat the Imperial army suffered during WWII, throwing the nation of Japan into post-war rebuilding with a complete change of politics. As a true testament to the tenacity and unbreakability of the Yamato-Damashii, the spirit of Japan they have done in a few decades something few countries can boast with.
Modern Japan still retains its traditional values and unique, beautiful culture which has been emulated by countless people across the world. Japanese punctuality and modest social norms in official matters are legendary. What a lot of people however don’t picture is that despite their reserved nature the Japanese people really know how to have fun in ways most of the western world can’t even imagine. The popularization of karaoke, anime and manga are just a few aspects of the way this amazing nation influenced the
world over the past decades. Their ingenuity knows no bounds and their love for new technological advancements has given the world many electronic devices, cars and research in robotics.
Those are however only the popular aspects of mass culture, while underneath all this lies the heart of Japan, its ancient roots present in every city and every blade of grass, cherry tree and Shinto shrine. Because its large span it has a very diverse biosphere ranging from subtropical forests on Ryūkyū and Bonin to the wintery, cold islands in the North. For that reason there are plenty of places one can enjoy a quiet country life away from the bustling megalopolises and an almost pristine nature filled with legends and myths. One thing visiting tourists should always keep in mind is that the major cities are indeed huge and if you truly want to enjoy a walk in the more rural parts of Japan you should get ready for a trip away from it all. Urban sprawl is not nearly as bad as it is in the West because one of the qualities Japanese people have always tried to emulate and search is balance in all things. They have a sense of aesthetic ingrained into their very soul which is encouraged through tradition, ritual and a sense of belonging. Learning Japanese is a difficult task, but worth every minute spent doing so because it has many levels of intricate communication mirroring their mentality and philosophy.
Japan has a mixture of religions present like the native Shinto and Buddhism, where for some people both of those work in unison. They are a nation of religious freedom so one can find many other religions there.
One of the most easily recognizable aspects of their culture are their art and music which carry unique undertones like no other culture in the world. Their love for simplicity and beauty in both architecture and cuisine mirror their life philosophy.
Whether you’ll be taking a walk around Shinjuku or attending one of their numerous festivals or looking to visit their multitude of temples, shrines or even climbing Mount Fuji as a testament to your spirit and perseverance or respect for their traditions you will inevitably have a good time in the land of the Rising Sun.