Monthly Archives: July 2018

Japan – Understanding the Land

Japan is a country that is comprised of over 3,000 islands. It is a modern day juxtaposition of things that seem to be a contradiction in everything we know. This, then, can be both one of its strengths and a weakness. The history and culture of Japan dates back to approximately 30,000BC but is one of the most technologically advanced cultures in the world today. But this isn’t to say that it doesn’t have a weakness or poverty issue.

Japan’s political affiliation is one that is known as a constitutional monarchy. While still ruled by an Emperor, his power is extremely limited. The actual power is held by Japan’s Prime Minister and, subsequently, the elected members of his Diet. The country’s sovereignty is vested within Japan’s people. Japan continues to maintain its close economic, military, and political ties with its main key ally, the United States. It has many other strong political ties such as being a standing member of the United Nations since 1956 has also been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a total of 18 years.

A weakness of Japan has been a major pollution problem due to its rapid economic growth that immediately followed World War II. By 1970, environmental plans were put into place to combat the effects. Because of this, Japan has been at the core of developing some of the most environmentally friendly technologies available the world over. Japan is also working constantly to improve conditions for the climate, ranking the world’s 30th best in the Environmental Sustainability Index. The technology that Japan creates isn’t simply limited to environmental technologies, either. Japan boasts the second largest economy in the world, second only to the United States, and third in purchasing power.

One of Japan’s major strengths is in the science and technology field. As one of the world leaders in scientific research, it has been accredited with amazing discoveries in the fields of technology, machinery, and biomedical research. It also is the world’s largest automotive producer and possesses more than half of the industrial robots used for manufacturing. With all of these great things, though, Japan is facing a rapidly aging population that doesn’t have the younger demographic to support it. This is one of the key hot button issues often being debated on how to keep the population from rapid decline. This is also where the poverty lies in Japan. Most of the citizens that are in poverty are of the older generation.

JAPAN, Unique in Every Way

Embarking on a journey to Japan, you will notice it is immediately different from other places in the world. As soon as you board the plane on Japan airlines, everyone bows to you. The stewardesses smile and are extremely gracious, bowing respectfully and pleasantly. Watching the video screen on landing, the airport personnel on the runway wave the plane to its parking spot and then bow to the pilots. Jumping on a bus, the attendant bows when the bus is finished loading. Japan is a highly developed, sophisticated society that holds fast to its past and culture, yet has embraced modern technology to the max.

One year after the big earthquake and tsunami that has caused a nuclear incident and tremendous destruction, it is surprising to see that life has continued to move forward better than you think for the triple whammy that Japan received. Other cities in Japan continue to be busy places of work, children happily attend school and life goes on. Had you not known what happened in Japan, you might not even realize what the Japanese have been through. Japan is a busy and thriving place.

Here are some of the unique things about Japan:

• There are braille tile markers in airports to assist the blind. You will notice them when you roll your suitcase over the bumps in the aisles and then realize the pattern for braille. They are efficiently organized in the airports.

• Healthful drinks in vending machines. It is very nice to find a fresh can of grapefruit juice, green teas and other cold drinks. You won’t see fast foods or foods at all for that matter in the vending machines.

• A lack of trash cans. Why? The Japanese take responsibility for their garbage taking it with them to dispose of it at home instead of in public places. The streets are amazingly clean too.

• Hot Springs and Baths called “Onsens.” In hotels and beautiful outdoor settings you will find hot baths throughout Japan. It is a great way to wash away the aches and pains of jet-lag and travel. Relaxing, healthful and serene, it is a pleasant way to spend the day or evening. At hotels and resorts, you will find it is perfectly appropriate to wear your yukata (summer bath robe) to dinner. You can attend a hot bath and then fully relaxed go and enjoy your meal.

• Food preparation is a work of art, prepared and served with great attention. Meals can often reach up to eight or nine courses, yet portions are served in decorative small containers so as not to overeat. Tofu, vegetables and fish are served at most meals. It is a known fact that the longest living race today is the Japanese. Healthful and productive in older years with many citizens reaching into their nineties, you can see why when enjoying a nutritious meal beautifully served with orchids and bento boxes. Dinner is a wonderful time to relax and socialize.

• Trendy and fun. The Japanese like to have a good time. They enjoy good food, dancing, music, art and health. They will greet you with a smile and treat you well.

Throughout the archipelago of islands that make up Japan, you will find breathtaking forests, mountains covered in lush green tea farms, smoking volcanoes, rivers and streams. It is so picturesque in the countryside that it feels like a beautiful dream. If you haven’t traveled to Japan, it’s a good destination to add to your travel list.

The Vicissitude of Japan’s Culture

Culture of different countries is different. One can easily notice the difference either by the visit, i.e. through experience or through learning their history and customs. Likewise, Japan culture also has its own specialties and features. Regular changes have been noticed in Japan’s culture, over the years. Modern Japan came into existence from the ancient traditional Japan and the birth of samurais. No doubt, influenced by culture of many neighboring countries, the modern culture of Japan has its own importance. This distinct culture of Japan is resulted from combination of different cultures. It manifests the creativity, independence and strength of humility of Japanese.

Japan culture is rich in the field of music, literature, art and architecture. The art of Japan is well renowned, from its traditional time to modern era. Japan’s animation is known for its artists all throughout the world. Video games, entertainment shows and music play a great contribution in cyber industry. Japan was famous for its music, samurai, geisha and many more. The other uniqueness is in their language, which plays a great role in the Japanese culture. Spoken mainly within the country and leant by many westerners, the language is written in three scripts: – Katakana, hiragana, and kanji. Katakana contains Chinese character while Kanji is imported from China.

Calligraphy, a way of writing characters in a very artistic way, is also a part of Japanese culture. Ink painting or Sumi-e is an art of painting an object. Ikebana is also well known in Japan. It is the art of flower arrangement that is also used many other countries. Japanese culture is also remarkable with regard to theatre arts, as you can still come across traditional theaters in the country. Generally four types of theaters are recognized in Japan- kyogen, bunraku, noh and kabuki. Masks are generally used by performers to depict the characters. Action and dialogues to express emotions are commonly used. A puppet theater highlighting historical plays, known as Bunraku, was a part of Japanese culture during Heian period.

With regards to attire in Japan, kimono is their traditional dress, which is available in variety of designs and colors. It is generally dark color dress, preferably worn by males and at the same time, yukuta, the lighter color dress, is the choice of females. Though these dresses are easily available at several places, but these are generally worn now-a-days on some special occasion. The above stated dresses, theaters, arts and language show diversity in Japanese culture and express their distinct characteristics, which make it one of the best cultures in the world.

Dining Etiquette In Japan

Japan is a country of many traditions and etiquettes. Everything in Japan has its own way to be done and if you do something different, everyone will look at you wonderingly. Tourists coming to Japan are amazed and interested by the large variety of food available. However, there are some basic table manners that foreigners should know so that they don’t feel like a fish out of water in Japan.

In Japan, it is an important etiquette to say traditional phrases before and after a meal. People start a meal by saying “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) and after finishing eating they say “gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) with a bow. It is crucial for you to say these phrases, especially when you are invited for a meal or someone cooks for you.

Chopsticks are used widely in all Japanese homes and restaurants. It may be very difficult for foreigners to become familiar with using Japanese chopsticks. Besides knowing how to eat using chopsticks, foreigners have to know some rules of this kind of utensil. One of the most important rules is not to pass food with your chopsticks directly to somebody else’s chopsticks and vice versa. You shouldn’t point your chopsticks at somebody or something. Playing with your chopsticks at a meal is also inadvisable. When you want to get food from a shared plate to your own plate, use the other ends of your chopsticks. This is considered polite and considerate in Japan.

It is appreciated in Japan to wait until everyone is served before you start eating. It is also considered considerate to empty your dishes completely because the Japanese are very economical. When eating, try to chew with your mouth closed and don’t burp during the meal because that is considered bad manners. If you are given some extra food, for example a bowl of rice, accept it with both hands. When eating, try not to eat in big pieces. You should separate the large piece with your chopsticks and eat every small piece. In contrast to some Western countries where people are often taught not to make slurping noises when eating soup or noodles, it is considered a normal thing in Japan. It even seems strange in Japan if you eat noodles without a sound!

If there are alcoholic drinks at the meal, you shouldn’t just pour the alcohol into your own glass. You should check your friends’ glasses frequently and if their glasses are getting empty, you should serve them with more. It is considered bad manner to be seen drunk in public in some formal restaurants. However, in some informal ones drunkenness is acceptable as long as you don’t bother others.

There are usually no napkins used at Japanese meals, thus you should prepare for yourself some tissues or a handkerchief. In Japan and in some other Asian countries, during the meal you shouldn’t talk about anything related to the toilet or any similar topics. This is strictly unappreciated because it is assumed that people lose their appetite when hearing about those things.

Top Ten Things to Do in Japan

postJapan is one of the countries that have the best of both worlds. It’s advanced in terms of technology, and yet, it has been able to retain its greatest heritage – its culture. Indeed, Japan has done an amazing feat as it can manage to stay as one of the world’s leading economic powers while still being able to hold on to the roots of its past. And, as such, it has become one of the most interesting places to visit – a rich blend of history and technology.

1.) Watch the cherry blossoms fall

There’s no symbol of Japan more famous than the beautiful Cherry Blossoms. Indeed, the cherry blossom, with beauty so intense but so fleeting, is something that you have got to see if you ever visit Japan. They bloom during the months of April and May, and by the end of these months, they fall to the ground like a dreamy curtain of pink and white. There’s no other sight quite like it.

2.) Release your inner child

Japan is one of the few countries in the world with its own Disney Land. And, of course, because the Japanese are sticklers for culture, their Disney Land is built with a distinctly Japanese influence. It sets it apart from all other such theme parks in the world.

3.) Indulge the shopaholic in you

Tokoyo is one of the world’s biggest shopping capitals. Ginza is a huge market where you can find anything you need, from the latest gadgets and gizmos to the latest manga release of your favorite anime series. In the morning, you can even see it transformed into the world’s largest fish market. Indeed, Ginza is one place that you’d be sorry to miss.

4.) Sip some tea

Essentially, the Japanese are people who prefer everything to be clean and serene, that’s why they love such peaceful activities as drinking, or rather, sipping tea. While you’re in Japan, you should at least experience authentic Japanese tea. Or better yet, you can participate in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, a festival held both in Kyoto and Tokyo.

5.) Play in the snow

In some parts of the year, particularly in winter, Japan gets coated in a blanket of pristine white snow. During this time of the year, it would do you well to have some fun in Japan’s steep ski slopes. You can even partake in the Snow Festival where ice parties take place for a whole seven days and where you can see beautiful ice sculptures.

6.) Relax in the hot springs

And, if your muscles need to loosen up a bit, why don’t you give yourself a treat by visiting one of the many hot springs. These can be found in most parts of Japan, especially in Okinawa. The relaxing steam is sure to make you feel like you’ve shed a very heavy load.

7.) Become a samurai

Japan is quite famous for its noble Samurai who follow the Bushido code, and the swords or their ‘katana,’ though light and flexible, are sharp and deadly. You can buy your own katana for your collection’s sake, but mind you, a lot of effort and time are put into these swords, so they won’t be cheap. Some sellers are even picky as to who they’re going to sell their swords to – that’s how special these deadly weapons are.

8.) Watch giants clash

A sport like no other, sumo wrestling is one of the most interesting things that you will see in Japan. Sumo Wrestling is Japan’s national sport, and it draws large crowds from all over. You can even place your bets to make watching it more exciting.

9.) Do some sightseeing

There are tons of things to see in Japan. It is, after all, rich in architecture and landscapes. You can take pictures of the famous Imperial Palace if you’re into architecture or the famous Mt. Fuji if you’re into nature.

10.) Bask in the Nightlife

And, of course, what better way to end the day than to experience Tokyo’s nightlife. There’s no other place in the world where ‘glow-in-the-dark’ is a fashion statement. Indeed, a great place to let loose and just be yourself.