I’ve lived in Japan for the last ten years.
I had originally intended to come only for one—one year on the other side of the planet and then back home again to Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. If you’d told me that I’d still be here more than ten years later, I’d have walked out of whatever room we were in, leaving you with your coffee and me with my handle on the way things just happen in the world.
But, let me tell you, there is something about Japan.
There is something about it that will make you more mystified, more incredulous, more puzzled, more accepting, and more delighted than few places that you’ve ever traveled before—all the more reason for you to visit.
In a world that is becoming increasingly ever more the same, Japan still proudly, in so many ways, continues to stick to its own traditions yet maintains a politeness and enthusiasm for those who choose to spend time walking among its temples, taking its high-speed trains, or eating its impeccably prepared food. Japan embraces many different cultures yet transforms them into its own unique brand adding its own unique touch with a consistency and attention to detail that I’ve never found elsewhere.
In a place that can seem on some streets in Tokyo like the most crowded place on Earth, there are also the quietest retreats just outside the city or further out into the countryside. Staying in one of Japan’s traditional inns called “ryokan” and being served dinner in your room before relaxing in your own private natural hot tub in view of a Japanese garden and then putting on a Japanese robe and sleeping on padded mattresses and quilts (referred to as “futons”) on a “tatami” straw mat floor is one of the world’s coziest travel experiences (although if you’ve got back problems, you may want to opt for the “Western room”).
If you visit Japan, you will find yourself in a place where the entire staff greet you when you enter a store, where most taxi drivers still drive wearing white gloves, where restaurant staff will chase you down the street to return the $0.05 that you left on the counter, where a cash-filled wallet dropped on the street will be waiting for you at the nearest lost and found the next morning (money still intact), and a place where six-year-olds happily take the public train system on their own every morning to get themselves to school.
The widest range of experiences can be found in Japan, leaving it hard to ever get bored. You can find yourself in a karaoke room all by yourself with all the ice cream you can eat or staying in a hotel being served by robots. You can drink coffee with owls, penguins, rabbits, cats, birds of prey, maids—your choice! You can master your pick of martial arts or spend the day carefully arranging flowers. You can visit an island full of cats, art, or ancient cedar trees (seriously, we have all three).
Japan has it all in a country roughly the size of California—big-city shopping and restaurants for any budget (with no tipping!), reliable and efficient transportation, ancient temples, white sand beaches, scuba diving, mountain climbing, world-class skiing and snowboarding, the best food in the world, a wide variety of festivals year round (we do have the most national holidays in the world, you know), some of the world’s friendliest people, and the world’s “cutest” culture with an adorable mascot for everything—even the police station.
With this blog, I’d like to introduce you to the Japan that I’ve come to know over these last ten years including some of the best-known places for your first-time visit as well as things that you should know before visiting Japan. I’ll also share some hidden places off the beaten track that I’ve found during my time in Tokyo that I really hope you enjoy. I’m looking forward to sharing these amazing places with you.
Yokoso! Welcome to Japan!