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Learn About Japan

Japan travel is what is all about. Whether you are interested in visiting Japan for the purpose of business, for pleasure, or just to explore this unique place, you will find lots of good information here.

The country of Japan holds a certain fascination for many Westerners. This could be due to the fact that the people of Japan were effectively cut off from almost all contact with the rest of the world for the majority of its long history.

The fascination could also possibly stem from the mixture of tradition and modernity that can be found through Japan's complex culture. Still others would trace back their own interest in Japan to the country's pop-cultural influence, including the worlds of fashion, modern video game culture, comics, and cinema. And, the fact that the country boasts the world's third-largest economy no doubt has an influence on its appeal.

Japan Travel Proverbs

For much of its history, the vast majority of Japanese people did not travel beyond their own borders. Save for the occasional official Japanese imperial envoy traveling to the far-off Korean and Chinese kingdoms, most Japanese tended to stay within their national borders.

However, throughout its long history of the rise and fall of various shogunates, emperors and religious lineages, a certain segment of the Japanese people has always been quite engaged in domestic travel.

By contrast, these days many Japanese have caught quite the travel bug. Popular destinations for Japanese sun worshippers are Guam and Hawaii. However, you can find throngs of curious Japanese traveling today to every corner of the world.

Some traditional Japan travel proverbs and quotes highlight the historical Japanese love of travel:

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought." ~ Matsuo Basho

"Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one." ~ Traditional Proverb

"It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive disenchanted" ~ Traditional Proverb

Japan Is An Amazing Travel Destination

No matter what your reason for wanting to travel to Japan, there is no question that it is an amazing destination for travelers. The country is only roughly 1/26th the size of the United States - and yet it boasts a sizable population that is equivalent to just under half of that of the U.S. This means that there is a whole lot to see that is packed into a relatively small area.

If you are interested in visiting modern Japan, the cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and many others await. There you can find all manner of attractions, from shopping districts and great sightseeing opportunities to funky nightclubs and quaint restaurants.

Or, maybe your tastes run more along the lines of seeking out traditional Japan. Small Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples can be found in most cities and towns, while major ones are concentrated in areas such as Kyoto, Tokyo, Nara, and Kamakura.

Isolationism & Homogeneity In Japan's History

The country of Japan has a history with deep roots going back thousands of years. Japan had been a very isolated place in terms of foreign trade and commerce during the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). In fact, since the beginning of its history thousands of years ago, Japan had made only limited and infrequent contact with China and the West. This is partly for geographical reasons (Japan is comprised of a cluster of islands) and for cultural reasons.

All that changed, though, with a visit from the infamous black ships of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 attempted to force Japan to open up commerce with the rest of the world. This aggressive foreign action did indeed help to open up Japan to foreign trade and domestic industrialization. But, it also set into motion a revised sense of nationalism in Japan which came on in full force with the restoration of the imperial line's own power in the form of the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

This habit of sustained isolation during most of its pre-modern history kept Japan an ethnically homogeneous country. Even today Japan remains very homogeneous, with foreign immigration rates at much lower levels compared to those of other developed countries. Today, the Japanese have an amazing way of incorporating new products, artifacts, concepts and even words from other cultures while at the same time maintaining in the balance a curiously-strong sense of its own unique identity.

Unique Business Practices

Japan experienced unprecedented levels of growth in its economy from the 1970s through the 1990s, and today it boasts an gross domestic product (GDP) that ranks third in the world.

Due in part to its economic strength, Japan has developed a reputation of being a country of hard-working, innovative individuals who place a strong emphasis on quality of workmanship. For these reasons, the unique business practices of Japan have garnered much attention by outsiders looking to understand the secret to Japan's economic success.

Most Japanese organizations foster a very strong awareness of the hierarchical relationships between and among management and workers - as well as vis-a-vis outsiders. This hierarchical consciousness is reflected in many ways, including in the use of special honorific language forms, highly-structured meeting formats, formalized negotiation processes, and in most other business contexts. Foreigners interested in doing business with Japan can benefit greatly from learning just how such a business culture can affect their interactions with the Japanese.

Traveling In-Country

The total area of Japan is about 337,835 square kilometers (130,404 square miles). It is arranged as a set of four major islands - Hokkaido, Honshū, Kyūshū and Shikoku - as well as 6,852 additional islands. The main and outlying islands stretch out in a line from northeast to southwest. With about 73 percent of the country being mountainous, the vast majority of Japanese people live in major cities, suburbs, or small towns. As a tourist, if you are lucky you will be dividing your time between exploring major cities and visiting many of the beautiful rural regions. As can be expected, each region has its own special foods, festivals and traditions.

Traveling within Japan can be whole lot of fun. Most visitors initially arrive via airplane at either Narita International Airport or at Kansai International Airport. While domestic air travel within Japan is entirely feasible, it is often cheaper and usually more fun to travel via train or tour bus.

If you are focusing your stay mainly around a major city like Osaka or Tokyo, you will do fine to rely mainly on trains and subways. However, if your Japanese tour plans include trips across great distances of 75 km or more at a time, consider taking the shinkansen (new trunk line), or bullet train.

Work And Career Opportunities In Japan

Part of the reason for your planned visit to Japan may be to find opportunities to build a career or to earn money. (To do so, you will need to apply for a work visa ). It is true that, unlike two or three decades ago, many entrepreneurial-minded young people today from the West are skipping over Japan and heading straight to China. However, keep in mind that as the world's third-largest economy with a strong infrastructure and a highly-educated population in place, Japan will continue to be a hot economic engine for a long time to come. Do not underestimate the Land of the Rising Sun in the 21st century.

To live and work in Japan and/or with the Japanese, it is very helpful to learn the Japanese language. While it is true that most Japanese people learn English in school as youngsters, most do not grow up possessing the level of fluency required for effective business communication. It definitely will be to your benefit to study Japanese until you reach at least a certain level of proficiency.

Along with learning Japanese language skills, it is also very wise to study common Japanese social and business practices. Example would be learning how to bow, eat with chopsticks, exchange business cards, and make (or not make) eye contact with others. In addition to these relatively superficial (yet important) skills, there are many additional, deeper levels of cultural knowledge that the experienced foreign businessperson or expatriate will naturally pick up after spending some significant time in-country.

Be An Informed Traveler

Whether you plan to visit Japan for fun, for business reasons, or are just tagging along with someone else who has official business there, it is always wise to be an informed traveler. You are invited to explore in order to become more familiar with this amazing, culturally-rich country before you depart from home.