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8 reasons why I adore Japan

8 reasons why I adore Japan - Luca Travels Around

Last updated on 09/03/2017 at 18:36:09

Japan is a country I’ve always looked at with interest, being so different from my culture and lifestyle, and for a long time, I craved to go there. I finally did it in 2008: I spent almost all the time in Tokyo, but I managed to travel a bit, to see some more places and cities.

The second time I went there was for working reasons, so I stayed ten weeks again in the Greater Tokyo Area, but my house was in Yokohama and the office in Kawasaki, so I seized an opportunity to see something more of this big metropolitan region than the first time, four years before. In these two occasions, my admiration for that country skyrocketed, due to more things I discovered and learned and all the differences I could notice.

Of course, I can’t say it’s the perfect country, for sure it isn’t. I can’t say either there aren’t things I don’t like – actually, there are a lot, first of all, the ill-concealed racism towards any non-Japanese (the more you know: they use to refer to foreign people as 外人 (gaijin), that is an “outside person”, and it’s not necessarily a politically correct word). Despite all, if I only could take a flight tomorrow for the Land of the rising sun, I will surely go and enjoy that magnificent country as a first timer, and here are my 8 reasons why I adore Japan.

1 – Food

Tuna fish head - Luca Travels Around

Hello!

As I guess you know by now, I adore exploring different countries also to eat their food and try new flavors: Japan offers a wide choice for food lovers, and this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all sushi related. To be honest, I didn’t eat a lot of sushi there, but the rice was almost omnipresent. Rice bowls (with various ingredients) and curry rice were the most common food I ate, especially in launch break, but when I could go for something else, the choice was endless.

I love hot soups, so ramen, soba, and udon are a must (I love the thickness of udon, even if they’re harder to handle with the chopsticks), but they can also be served cold or without soup, depending on the recipe. Other things I love are gyōza (meat or vegetable filled dumplings) and takoyaki, a sort of snack consisting of a ball made of wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special pan. The heart is a lovely piece of octopus (tako in Japanese, that’s why takoyaki: octopus + to grill. Remember it when you see a word ending in –yaki).

If you think that’s not enough, here you go: okonomiyaki! That’s absolutely what I like the most about Japanese food, and I’m so sad that’s that difficult to find a restaurant in Italy where to eat it. It’s a kind of pancake, sometimes called the Japanese pizza, where you can put everything you want/like inside, as the word okonomi implies. And -yaki means it’s cooked on a grill, as I said before. Several toppings can be used to decor and finish the dish, but the main ones are mayonnaise, katsuobushi and the okonomiyaki sauce, a thick and sweets sauce.

2 – Pop culture

Gundam statue at Diver City - Luca Travels Around

Gundam statue at Diver City, Odaiba

Pop culture is a subject it would be possible to write about for pages and pages and one of the main reason I adore Japan, so I’ll keep it as short as possible! Being a child of the 80s I grew up with cartoons and toys mainly about giant robots and monsters. Almost everything was coming from there: Godzilla, Daitarn 3, Mazinger, Grendizer, Devilman, Fist of the North Star, etc… Now I’m grateful for that childhood and what anime (Japanese cartoons) taught me: respect, willpower, honor, and that you can’t fly with a helicopter hat.

Plus you have to consider manga (Japanese comics), J-music (J-Pop, J-Rock, the Japanese peculiar way of doing pop and rock music), video games (that’s a HUGE reason since I work in that industry!), karaoke (I did it once with friends and locals in Tokyo, one of the best evening ever!), fashion, cinema, the “kawaii” factor and that’s it… I’m overwhelmed!

3 – Tokyo

Tokyo Bay view from the Tokyo Tower - Luca Travels Around

Well, I know Tokyo isn’t really what Japan looks like, but it’s for sure the most famous city in the country. The Greater Tokyo Area counts 36 millions inhabitants, something extremely difficult to imagine without being there. Just consider that there are more people there than in the whole Canada.

It’s a city at the same time hard and easy to explain, where you can do, see, experience almost everything, plus things you didn’t even know about. That’s why it’s difficult to describe, I could spend hours to tell the differences between districts, habits, and places all around and at the same time it’s easy to speak about them because it’s just mesmerizing and overwhelming! For me, it’s a city where everyone should go at least once in their lifetime, no doubt about it. It’s a sensory overload, probably you might step out of your comfort zone, but I think it’s the best and safest place where it can happen.

From crossing the street on the probably most crowded road crossing in the world (Shibuya) to getting lost on the busiest transport hub certified by Guinness World Records (Shinjuku Station), there’s a whole world in between. Akihabara, the electric city; the Imperial Palace, with its majestic and peaceful gardens all around; Odaiba, the artificial island in the Tokyo Bay, now mostly a commercial and leisure area. Then, Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine in the heart of the city; the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest tower in the world (634 metres/2,080 ft) from wich is possible to have a superb view of the surrounding area, Mt. Fuji included; Omotesandō, the poshest area of the city or Ueno, the working class area now famous for the park, the zoo, and several major museums… There’s a complete world in Tokyo you have to see with your own eyes to fully understand its eclecticism, but you won’t regret it!

4 – Hanami

Hanami at Ueno's park - Luca Travels Around
Someone may think that hanami is the flower blossom in the Spring period, but literally, hanami means “flower viewing” and it’s a tradition started more than a thousand years ago, probably during the Nara period (8th century). Nowadays in Japan, this is an activity bringing many tourists to see all those cherry and plum trees blooming, a show that gives you heart’s ease.Cherry blossom at the Imperial Palace's Garden - Luca Travels Around

Since its relevance in Japanese culture, in 1951 the Japan Meteorological Agency started to produce forecasts about the cherry blossom front across the country, from south to north, and now is it possible to find pretty accurate forecasts telling you when and where it’s the right time to enjoy this show. It’s a big deal, I told you!

During that period, people enjoy having parties in the various parks, eating and drinking under the trees. On those days, it’s common to see people grabbing the best places under the trees hours or even days before the party starts. On the weekend parties go on until late at night, and that particular hanami is called yozakura (flowers at night), with paper lanterns hung to the trees and stalls selling delicious street food.

5 – Mount Fuji

My Fuji view from Yokohama

Is it possible to appreciate a country also because of a mountain? Yes, it is. I always liked the image of Mt. Fuji, this solitary yet noble volcano, the ideal subject of thousands of pictures from people visiting Japan e being a symbol itself of its nation.

It’s the highest peak of Japan, Unesco included it in the World Heritage List together with other 25 sites nearby, as part of the Fujisan Cultural Site, and it’s possible to hike to the top of it, due to the several routes and ten stations.

Last but not least, it’s still an active volcano and after the terrible earthquake of 2011 Fuji has been under continuous monitoring to prevent or try to forecast any imminent eruption.

6 – Religious stuff

Giant Buddha Kamakura - Luca Travels Around

Giant Buddha, Kamakura

I dissociate myself from religions. I’m not a religious person and probably I’m not the right one to write about it, considering what I just said. But if you consider religions from an aesthetic point of view, they produced a damn lot of beautiful things through the centuries around the world.

Japan is no less. The majority of the population falls inside the syncretism between Shintoism and Buddhism and this, with all their diligent rituals and the need to establish connections with their ancestors, led to the realization of superb places of worship that we can still see today along the country.

Wedding at Meiji shrine - Luca Travels Around

Wedding at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Temple, shrines, torii, also gardens I’d add, plus decorative objects, handiwork, sculptures and paintings/prints, they all reflect their beliefs and folklore too, causing in me some fascinating interest, never mind it’s a religious subject.

7 – Bullet trains

700 series Shinkansen - Luca Travels Around

Like almost every male on earth, I like speed, velocity, things with an engine that goes fast as hell and are cool to see. Therefore I like Japanese bullet trains. Usually called shinkansen, even if that name refers to the high-speed railway network more than to the trains, they’re another of the things Japan is famous for, another symbol of the country.

Fast, silent, futuristic looking, efficient, these trains were the first high-speed train in the world, back in 1964! It was a sort of revolution at that time and in the following years, more countries developed their new high-speed railways and adopted new fast trains to connect their major cities.

They’re not on a budget, but for foreigners, there’s the possibility of a train pass so, if you plan your trip ahead, you might save some money depending on how much you travel (it’s not worth for only a trip, check the JR Pass website for more info).

8 – Technology

Maybe now, with a market more and more global, there are a lot of competitors for what concerns products related to technology. I’m not speaking only about PC hardware or IT stuff, it’s something broader. Japan once was at the top in many of these sectors and still, no matter how the competition skyrocketed, it’s kicking some serious asses.

They have brands like Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki for the automotive and motorcycle sector; Canon, Nikon, Fuji for the photography; plus other great names like Sony, Nintendo, Bridgestone, Komatsu, Shimano, Epson, Casio, and the list goes on.

No matter the sector, they have a company at the top of it, or close to. And for me this is really remarkable, considering how, not so may decades ago, they have almost to start from scratch after WW2.

So, you’ve just read my 8 reasons why I adore Japan. Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been there? Tell me in the comment section!

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8 reasons why I adore Japan - Luca Travels Around

         

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36 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I loved your article. We were supposed to visit Japan in 2011 but the Tsunami ended that dream. Still hope to get there soon. Thank you for the great information.

    • Thanks!
      I’m sorry you missed that opportunity, what hit Japan was really an unexpected catastrophe. I was there in 2012 and I still saw a couple of demonstrations against nuclear energy, after more than one year from the nuclear incident of Fukushima.

  • There are just so many reasons why I love Japan but of the 8 you’ve listed, 3 in particular ring true for me. Firstly, the food. Not only is it the best I’ve had anywhere it the world, it is available everywhere and the local chefs seem to have mastered all the world’s cuisine, not just Japanese. The pop culture however, is just spectacular and charmingly in-your-face that it make you feel as though you are walking through an anime novel at times. The bullet trains enable backpackers to take in so much more than they otherwise would which is great if you are on a time constraint. Nice read!

    • Thanks!
      I really hope to go back soon, maybe in winter, there are a lot of other things I’d like to see and experience, from North to South!

    • Thanks! Pay attention because it could already be late to book an accommodation on that period in Japan! It’s a super valued period!
      I never tried natto, since it disgusts me starting from its look, but I really didn’t enjoy what was called takowasa, raw pulp with wasabi!

  • Don’t have to tell us twice…. We agree with you 100%! We love Japan, the place, food, people, everything! We can’t wait to go back. Great photos Luca, thank you for sharing!

  • Two of these reasons have always tempted me visit Japan. Great to know your perspective of other reasons too. I need to plan out something coinciding with the flowering season. Great captures!

    • Sushi is a must, the eel one is one of my favorite, despite the fact is the only one cooked instead of being raw.

  • Ah, Japan. I so love this country and it is my first overseas trip. I love the country so much that I even learned Nihongo for two years before taking a semester in Tokyo. The food is divine and one of my comfort food. But if asked, the thing that I adore Japan so much is its people – they are very respectful and always looking after others.

    • Actually, I didn’t really liked the people very much, or to be more precise, I don’t like their relationship with gaijins. They’re quite racist with foreigners (maybe only in Tokyo, I don’t know) and they don’t care about hiding it, it’s just “normal”.

  • Hanami looks awesome. I would certainly want to visit it during the flowering season. The Buddhist culture has always appealed me. Thanks for the article. Nice photographs captured.

  • I’m also a huge fan of Japan, its food, and culture. I’m organizing my first trip for next year, and I just can’t wait! Those templates look absolutely amazing and for some reason, I’m particularly excited to take a bullet train for the first time!

    • Cool, I’m super happy for you!!
      Go and enjoy everything! And write about it, of course, I’m looking forward to read some articles!

  • I can understand why Japan is such an interesting country for you and I can totally relate. I have never been there but would love to visit. I think it is extraordinarily different than any European country and has so much to offer for travelers. I didn’t know that there’s racism towards non-Japanese people. Asian people in general look very friendly and warm but that is my observation in Europe. Not surprisingly I would love to try the food.

  • Whoa this excites me even more to visit Japan. First thing in mind when it’s Japan on the topic is their culture and yes would like to visit a lot of spots there from Hachiko’s monument to Doraemon displays. I’d also like to climb up Mt. Fuji. This is a good read Luca.

  • Another great, Luca! Must say it was very well written!

    While there are many more reasons to visit japan, I guess, personally, watching the Hanami is reason enough to give Japan a visit! The plethora of colourful flowers really works well for me!

    • Thanks Vibhav!
      Yes, undoubtedly hanami is probably one of the first things people have in mind about Japan, and it’s gorgeous!
      But I’d like to experience autumn either, reddish colors must be extremely beautiful too!

  • While haven’t,been to Japan, fully agree about the pop culture part. Sometimes people do not even realize that certan things have come out of Japan (eg Godzilla). And of course they have also produced some of the geratest filmmakers.

  • I’ve never been to Japan, heard it’s quite expensive for backpacking. Do you agree? Love reading this article, and the trees of Hanami looks super beautiful. Hope I could visit a place like that!

    • Well… it’s not cheap, but it depends also on what you’re used to. For me that I live in Milan, Japan is as expensive as here, but cheaper on food, for example. Means of transportation are expensive, accommodations aren’t really on a budget, a dormitory in a hostel starts from 20 euros per night per person. However, you could sleep in an internet cafe!

  • We haven’t had the opportunity to get to Japan as yer. After reading about the place, I can surmise that it is a beautiful country where contradictions coexist. A country where tradition and modern technology merge seamlessly. A meeting point of the past, present and future.

    • You got the point!
      What’s a shame is that now new generations seems to focus more on the future, than remember and preserve the past.

  • Great list. I lived in Japan for three years and absolutely loved it. I’d have to add the people and the festivals of japan in there as well though!

  • We’re in Japan now, finishing 7 weeks here. I agree with all your points in varying degrees – but the one thing that has really stood out are the people. Incredibly helpful and friendly, we haven’t met people as helpful as the Japanese. Oh, another thing: the easy of travel. I was nervous coming to Japan with the huge cities and the idea of millions upon millions of people…travelling around has been a piece of cake, mostly because transport system so efficient, signage so easy…plus there are always personnel in place to help you out. Really, really fantastic.
    Cons? We’re slow travellers and Japan definitely more expensive than most places. Cities – everything between the extremes of historic and ultra-modern – are not very attractive. Kyoto for example, our home for 4 weeks, is itself quite unremarkable. Its the old temples and nature on the outskirts that make it special…anyway, that’s just a few thoughts.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Japanese people are really great, but sometimes I found their politeness too exaggerated, almost annoying in some cases, like when you enter a shop. And they don’t want to speak English if not obliged 😀
      I didn’t find really interesting Kyoto too, but I’ll give it another chance for sure.

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