Japan the "Land of the Rising Sun" is a country where the past meets the future. Japan has a traditional culture that stretches back millennia, yet has also adopted (and created) the latest modern fashions and trends. Japan is a country of contrasts with beautiful temples and gardens along with ultra modern and high tech cities. There is a surprise around every corner and you will never get bored in Japan. The Japanese are well known for their politeness and thrilled to have visitors to their country. They will be incredibly helpful to lost and bewildered foreigners and are always willing to lend a hand and help you out.
The most important holiday in Japan is New Year (Oshougatsu), where much of the country shuts down from December 30 to January 3. In March/April, Japanese head out en masse for hanami or “flower viewing), a festival of outdoor picnics and drinking that is cleverly disguised as cherry blossom viewing and a great time of year to visit Japan. The longest holiday in Japan is Golden Week (April 27 to May 6), which is a collection of four public holidays within a week and a time where everybody goes on vacation both inside Japan and abroad. Trains, hotels and tourist places are extremely crowded during this period and prices are a lot higher than usual making this a bad time to travel in Japan. Summer time brings a spate of festivals including fireworks and obon.
The Japanese are very proud of their four distinct seasons with the best time of year for travel being either Spring or Autumn.
Spring is one of the best times of year to be in Japan with the warm temperatures but not hot and not too much rain. March-April brings the famous cherry blossoms and lots of fun and festivals.
Summer starts with the dreary rainy season in June and turns into a steambath with hot & humid conditions in July-August.
Autumn which starts in September is also an excellent time to be in Japan with cooler temperatures and the beautiful fall colours which can be seen in the mountains.
Winter is a great time to go skiing/snowboarding or hot spring hopping. There is usually heavy snow in the mountainess areas and cold winds and temperatures through out most of Japan.
Getting Around Japan
Japan has one of the world`s best transport systems, and getting around is usually a breeze with the train being the most popular method. I usually use www.hyperdia.com to look through transport schedules and prices. Japan`s railways are fast, efficient and cover most of the country.
The best option for visitors who plan to do a lot of travelling in Japan is the Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on almost all JR trains, including the shinkansen, for a fixed period of 7, 14 or 21 days (excluding the Nozomi superexpress). This pass can only be purchased outside of Japan.
Eating in Japan
Japanese cuisine is renowned for its emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients with the key ingredients of most meals being rice, soup and a main dish. Seafood features heavily in Japanese cuisine. Travelling within Japan will lead you to discover the local specialities of each region. Japanese fast food restaurants offer decent quality at reasonable prices with Yoshinoya, Matsuya and Sukiya great for gyudon (beef bowl) and Coco Ichiban specializing in Japanese style curry rice dishes. American fast food restaurants are also very prevelant including McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy`s.
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