Travel Guide: Japan
Japan Travel Guide: General Travel Guide Information about Japan.
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Travel Guide Greece will take you to different fantastic places in Greece as well as some of the famous landmarks and notable places, so you will already have a general idea about Greece if and when you decide to actually travel and explore this fascinating country. And other than the places of interest, Travel Guide Greece will also give you valuable information such as the geography, demographics and the languages spoken in different parts of this country. Don’t forget to check out the travel safety tips in Greece as well as the other sections in our Travel Guide Greece! We do hope you will come back often to travel with us to other destinations around the world.
:: Introducing Japan ::
Japan is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean representing the eastern limit of Asia. Mythology has it that the country was formed by the grandson of the Sun Goddess. Japan is sometimes referred to as Nippon or the "Land of the Rising Sun", because the land itself was believed to be of divine creation or originated from the Sun. Japan’s total land mass is about 377,864 square kilometers or 145,894 square miles. Its capital is Tokyo and the major language that is widely spoken is Japanese. The population of Japan was around 127 million (October 2011), which works out to about 350 persons per square kilometer. Tokyo, on the other hand has a population of about 20,420 persons per square kilometer. The major religions that are currently practiced in Japan include Shintoism and Buddhism.
Japan is one of the most peaceful, cleanest, richest and high-tech countries in the world, literally making it a traveler’s paradise. There are truly many things that travelers can expect when they set out to explore and experience the beauty of Japan. Our Japan pocket travel guide will give you an overview of this beautiful Asian nation. You can find out where to go and what to see. You’ll learn about things you can do in the country as well as travel safety tips. The Japanese rarely communicate in English and hence we have added a list of a few important words and phrases that could help you communicate with the local people. The pocket travel guide has been broken down to various sections so that it could easily help you find the info that you are looking for.
For a traveler, Japan is a place of contrasts – the new world or the big city has the high-tech digital gadgetry and electronic billboards, while the towns still stick to the ancient Japanese traditions. This means the geishas, tea ceremonies, Buddhist shrines and the Zen rock gardens. Another new attraction is Japan’s exciting pop culture, something totally new to the traveler. A mixture of high tech gadgetry, pop music along with its state-of-the-art electronics, leading fashion and design items which are presented here long before it reaches the rest of the world leaves the traveler in a daze. Despite all this, Japan still has the ancient heart where there are the sumo wrestlers and the geishas, where food festivals and tea ceremonies are given its customary importance.
Japan is surrounded by the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its immediate neighbors are China, North and South Korea and Russia. It has wonderful bays and golden beaches with natural harbors, which are situated close to mountain ranges. It takes hardly a few hours drive from the sea to reach the mountains. More than seventy five percent of the population lives in the big cities situated on the coast of Japan’s four main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. These extend for about 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) from north to the south with many smaller islands, particularly the Ryukyu chain. The country is separated from the Asian mainland by the Sea of Japan, which in places is more than 900 km or 560 miles wide.
Japan’s nearest point to the mainland is the southern end of Honshu which lies 180 kilometers or 110 miles from Korea. The four main islands are dominated by two mountain chains. One runs north-east to south-west. The other chain runs north to south through the western side of Hokkaido. Between the two mountain chains, in central Honshu lies a rugged mountainous terrain that includes the Japanese Alps. These ranges reach their highest in Mt. Fujiyama, reaching a peak of 3,776 meters or 12,388 ft, a now dormant volcano that has an almost perfect-cone.
The entire archipelago has more than 150 volcanoes, 54 of which are still active. Earthquakes and tremors are common, and as a result, the area is also prone to tsunamis, which are devastating, large-scale waves produced by earthquakes on neighboring sea-floors. The recent earthquake, which hit Tohoku, the eastern side of Japan on 11th March 2011 was considered to be the worst ever to hit Japan. The earthquake, which registered a 9.0 on the Richter scale triggered powerful tsunamis, which reached heights of up to 41 meters. The Japanese have long accepted the fact that their country sits on the boundaries of three tectonic plates and is thereby prone to earthquakes.
Some famous Japanese include filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Ozu Yasujiro and Mizoguchi Kenji; actors Ken Watanabe, Toshiro Mifune and Ken Takakura; Fujiwara Norika and Matsushima Nanako. Kitano Takeshi the well known Japanese actor, author, poet, painter and filmmaker. There is also Formula One driver Takuma Sato, Ichiro Suzuki who is a professional baseball player, Tange Kenzō, the famous Japanese architect, Tanaka Makiko, film actor and politician, Ishihara Shintarō, politician and author and Koizumi Junichiro and Tanaka Makiko, charismatic political leaders.
There are also the famous Japanese business tycoons that include Akio Morita of Sony, Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa, founders of the Honda Motor Corp., Yoshisuke Aikawa, the founder of Nissan Motors, the Suzuki family and Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota often referred to as the father of the Japanese industrial revolution and Taikichiro Mori the Japanese real estate tycoon. Who hasn’t heard of popular Japanese brands like Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, JVC, Canon, Toshiba and Nintendo?
Lying east of the Eurasian land mass, Japan has a temperate monsoon climate that characterizes the whole of East Asia. However, during autumn, the cold, dry air masses that move south from Siberia absorb moisture as it crosses the Sea of Japan, bringing rain or snow to the west coast. The snow is heavy in Hokkaido, lighter in eastern and southern Japan. Winters are cold and dry and there is a wide range in temperature between north and south Japan. In January, the average temperatures range from -6 °C in Hokkaido in the northern side, 3 °C in Tokyo, the central side and 7 °C in southernmost Kyushu. Spring follows the rainy season, which is in between mid-June to mid-July. This is called the plum rains as it is during this season that plums are picked. Then there is the summer and autumn, which bring intermittent rains mixed with typhoons that sweep the Pacific. Hokkaido, the northernmost island has the most extreme climate in Japan. In contrast, Kyushu and Shikoku in the South have sunny winters and hot and humid summers. Likewise, there is a marked contrast between the east and west in the central and southern Honshu.
In relation to its large and ever-growing population, Japan is a small country and is short on cultivable land and industrial minerals. During the last 100 years, the population has trebled, while the area of cultivable land has only increased by less than 25%, despite strenuous efforts to increase this. Yet, it is surprising that the country through intensive farming methods meets the nation’s rice requirements. Together, agriculture and fishing account for more than 7% of the nation’s revenue.
Even as late as the nineteenth century, Japan was a feudal power isolated even from its closest neighbors in East Asia. It was actually during the mid-nineteenth century, under the rule of Emperor Meiji that the Japanese industrial revolution began. And when it finally began, the Japanese openly duplicated the popular industrial techniques that were prevalent in Britain at that time. They also went to the extent of inviting British, French and German experts to advise them. Most of this new-found activity was channeled towards making armaments and consolidating their shipyards. The textile industry also developed rapidly.
After the Second World War, Japan, like West Germany experienced an economic miracle. By the beginning of the 1950’s, the growth rate of the economy was around 12% annually. But it was during the period from 1955 to the beginning of early 1960s that saw the doubling of income per head each year. By 1973, Japan was third largest producer of crude steel (after USA and USSR) and accounted for nearly 20% of the world production. During the post-war economic boom, the emphasis moved away from low capital based, labor intensive industries to that of more technologically advanced manufacturers such as electronic, electrical and optical equipment, petrochemicals and synthetic fibers. At the same time, heavy industries, such as iron and steel and transport equipment and shipbuilding also expanded greatly.
Despite all its problems, Japan has transformed itself from an isolated feudal state to a world super power. A major economic power, Japan is the third largest economy in the world. It has a GDP of around $35K by purchasing power and is also listed as the third in the world in ship building and steel production. In fact, it had held the top place for over 20 years, which it eventually lost to South Korea and China.
In short, Japan has pulled off a remarkable growth after the near total annihilation it experienced during the Second World War. It now comes fourth in the world international trade list. That is to say, it is the world’s fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer in the world’s top traded commodities. What is surprising is that despite its lack of natural resources, Japan has achieved this position as an economic super power. Under such circumstances, Japan is highly susceptible and vulnerable to world markets, particularly oil prices. As a result of this spectacular economic growth, Japan has come to rely increasingly on imports. It imports nearly all the iron ore it needs and more than 90% of the oil and other similar metals, such as copper and zinc.
Because, Japan has become such a great importing and exporting nation, the industry has developed round the major ports. The main industrial areas are around Tokyo and Yokohama on the Kanto plain, the head of the Ise Bay near Nagoya, the Osaka/ Kobe region of the Osaka plain and the north Kyushu area. There is also industry around the inland sea coastlands that include Hiroshima, Kure, Okayama, Himeji and on Nagasaki Bay. Around 80% of the industrial production comes from the lowlands that stretch between Tokyo and Kyushu.
Japan was the only country that actually suffered the negative effects of nuclear weapons. Despite this, they boldly went ahead and embraced the peaceful use of nuclear technology to provide a substantial portion for its power generation. Today, nuclear energy accounts for almost 30% of the country’s total electricity production. In 2009, the total energy generated by Japan was 27% from coal, 27% from gas, 29% from nuclear, 9% from oil, and 8% from hydro-electric.
Japanese food offers a great variety of dishes and regional specialties which involve fresh and subtle flavors that are easy on the palate. Japan is famous for its sushi and the quickest place to try sushi is a “fast-food” or a “kaiten-zushi” place, where diners can virtually select the type of sushi they want and at a cheaper price than a traditional sushi place, where the quality of fish would be better, prices higher and better quality presentation. Some of the popular dishes include teriyaki, sushi, donburi, tempura, sashimi, ramen and udon… there are just so many.
Tokyo has a very active nightlife. There are plenty of nightclubs, cinemas, pubs, bars, theaters and coffee shops. The word “karaoke box” originated from Japan and is one of the most sought after forms of entertainment. It is an establishment with a bar in front selling refreshments and have several rooms with karaoke machines that can be rented for a time. During summer, one can also find a number of rooftop beer gardens.
For those who are into theatre and drama, there are plenty of attractions to see. Baseball is also a very popular sport in this little country and has a large following. Although imported TV shows are not that popular with the main TV channel networks, the western influence is apparent in most of the local programs.
The Japanese are an extremely polite community and proper manners are paramount among the Japanese. It must be remembered that the customs and manners vastly differ to that of the western world. Little things such as removal of shoes prior to entering a Japanese home or restaurant is very important to the Japanese. Bowing replaces the traditional western handshake. As a foreigner in Japan you should particularly be familiar with at least the most basic rules such as how to behave in a house or how to transact business.
In short, Japan is a land of great natural beauty. There are plenty of places to visit, beginning from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to the shrines and temples in Kyoto. Allow our pocket travel guide for Japan to be your travel partner, whether you choose to climb the volcanic Mount Fujiyama or visit the Fuji National Park or even wander through the forest of Mount Koya to make your travel to Japan an unforgettable one.
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