Japan Travel Guide

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Japan Information

Population: 125 million

Time Zone: GMT+9

Driving side: Drive on the left hand side

Languages: Japanese

Religion: Shinto

Emergency #: fire/ambulance 119
Police 110

Japan Local Customs

The Japanese are well known for their courteous behaviour and etiquette. Whereas the emphasis in Western society is on the importance of the individual, Japan culture is very much group orientated. There are many complex social subtleties, but gen

Japan Culture

According to legend, in 660 BC, Jimmu the descendant of Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu became the first Emperor of Japan and laid the foundation of the great Japanese Empire.The Japanese culture has been influenced largely by early contact with the nearby Chinese and Korean civilisations.

The language makes wide usage of Chinese characters and the arts and music have also been greatly affected by the Chinese. Both cultures share similarities in religion which has played an important role in the developement of the cultural side of Japan. Western influences have also had their impact since the 19th century and certain of these have been adapted to suit the Japanese way of life.

Tales of ritualised suicide (seppuku or harakiri) proving honour ( "saving face") are an extreme example of the codes of loyalty and behaviour that have been an integral part of the Japanese history and tradition. Family values, belief in hard work and the honouring of nature and the group, rather than the individual, are part of the fabric of life in the Japanese culture. Japan is a grand mix of old and new, tradition and modern living, where traditional tea- making rituals exist comfortably alongside the hectic industrialised world.

Japan Popular Destinations

Mount Fuiji and the Fuiji Five lakes - Central Honshu. Japan's best known natural landmark, Mnt Fuiji's famous shape has been the insipation of artists for hundreds of years. Thankfully, Fuiji has been dormant since the 1700's and can be safely climbed in July or August, and has a trail starting 5 hours hike away from the top. Postcards can be purchased and posted at the top - courtesy of the efficient Japanese postal system! The beautiful skirt of lakes at the bottom are popular for their watersports and amusement parks. Also for the picturesque artistic views of the Mnt.- should you want to attempt a sketch or two.

Kume Island - Okinawa archipelago. Immerse yourself in the Okinawan culture, pay a visit to this quiet and most beautiful of the islands, a world away from the bustle of commercial Japan. A haven of peace, shrines, and pure blue water with villagers going about their daily tasks as they have done for 1000's of years.

Horyu- ji- Temple - Western Honshu. This impressive complex dates back to the 7th century , which is pretty good going for wooden structures. The famous five story Pagoda is said to represent the five elements. A fragment of Buddha's bone is set in a shrine here and rare artworks are also on view. A must visit for those interested in the origins of Buddhism in Japan.

Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum - Nagasaki was bombed 3 days after Hiroshima, killing 75 000 people. The actual site of the bomb impact is marked with a black pillar in the Peace Park and stands amongst other peace monuments in the area.The museum houses numerous displays which objectively depict this event and the history of the development of nuclear weapons.

Moving Around Japan

Public transportation includes the rail system, subway, trams, buses and ferries all of which are safe and efficient. It is recommended that you purchase a Rail Pass from your travel agent before your journey to Japan as these are specially priced for tourist travel and cannot be bought once in the country itself.

The Rail system is highly recommended for tourist travel as it cover extensive areas and English is used for destinations and times at the major stations. Reserve a seat on a famous shinkansen (bullet train ), make sure you hop on quickly as they wait for no one and are expected to run timeously (to the minute..).

Trams, sightseeing, city buses and even bicycles are the way to get around short distances, with car hire a safe and easy option for exploring remote regions. In short, there is no lack of available transportation in Japan, the only hitch would be the language barrier but there is normally a tourist friendly local around to help out.

National festival and holidays

There are many traditional festivals, called matsuri, which are a celebration of natural seasons and religious beliefs. To name but a few :

Hamamatsu Matsuri - the kite flying festival in Hamamatsu Shizuoka during 3rd - 5th May
Tosho - gu Grand Festival - Nikko, Tochigi- procession of 10000 samurai armoured men escorting religious shrines on May 17th and 18th.
Gion Matsuri Kyoto-July 17 - spectacular procession of floats, a tradition since before 10th century of requesting protection from a ravaging disease at that time (possibly the plague?).

The following are national public holidays:

New Year 1 Jan
Coming of Age Day 15 Jan
National Foundation Day Feb 11
Vernal Equinox March 21
Greenery Day 29 April
Constitution Memorial Day 3 May
Childrens Day 5 May
Maritime Day 20 July
Respect for the Aged Day 15 Sept
Fall Equinox Day Sept 23
Health sports Day 2nd monday in Oct
Culture Day 3 Nov
Labor Thanksgiving Day 23 Nov
Emperors Birthday Dec 23

Useful Japan Links

Tourist & Culture Guide
Guide to Japan; culture, tradition, festivals etc

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