Spotlight on Japan
Japan - A Great Vacation!
Japan! A true marvel that is famous for its culture, beauty, rocking nightlife and is certainly a foodieâs paradise. A profoundly welcoming and friendly country that one could spend a lifetime pouring over stories and statistics of its history.
The Japan of today is an epicurean delight, filled with unique cuisine, a robust nightlife, museums, culture, sports and history, itâs an indestructible spirit that one must never forget in a lifetime, but pass on to the generations of forever.
Japan captivates visitors with an unforgettable combination of natural beauty, fascinating culture and colorful history. The opportunity to visit ancient temples, encounter fascinating history, and learn about the local culture at various locations.
For many years I have always had Japan on the top of my list to visiting, and now that I have experienced it's delights, I take this opportunity of sharing them with you, enjoy!
Images throughout this page credited to: Billybraveheart
Where is Japan?
Japan, formally known as Nippon or Nihon, meaning "The State of Japan", and at times referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun", is an island of nations located in East Asia, and is said to comprise of 6,852 islands.
Located east of Korea, bordering on the Pacific Ocean, Philippine Sea and East China Sea, it's main cities are Tokyo (capital), and Yokohama which are located on the main island of Honshu in the southeastern part of the country, one of the four main island of Japan, the others being Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu.
Japan is deemed to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with around 30 million residents at last count. Most of Japan is made up of forests or mountains which leaves the coastal areas as the largest populated zones.
Japanese Blue Five Piece Sake Set
Vibrant in color, classic in design, suitable for hot or cold liquids and is a must for lovers of Japan! A similar set purchased with many souvenirs during my visit, it makes a great display and is the topic of many conversations!
The Japanese climate varies much depending on the geographical location, The climate of Japan is predominantly moderate with areas of the North being humid and encountering long cold winters and warm, cool summers.
The Honshu area encounters heavy snowfalls in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer, but has been known to experience extreme hot temperatures at times.
Central highlands is normally humid with various temperatures in the summer and winter, during daylight and nighttime hours.
Normal winter temperatures throughout Japan are around 5 degrees Celsius/41 degrees Fahrenheit, where in the summer they are around 25 degrees Celsius/77 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainy times start mid June for around 6/7 weeks, where late summer and early autumn you shall encounter typhoons.
The main question on everyone's mind is when does the cherry blossom trees bloom, sadly because of an unusual early bloom I just missed great photo opportunities, but you can normally see the commencement start in Okinawa around mid January and stretches to locations such as Kyoto and Tokyo towards the end of March, start of April.
Authentic Japanese Armor
This is 100% crafted in the Land of The Rising Sun (Japan). Will be shipped directly to your door all the way from Japan! Constructed with the highest quality material ensures you only get the best. During my visit I actually had the honor to see some Original Japanese Armor at the museum, they were an awesome sight and I can only imagine the history contained within!
The price is pretty reasonable considering Japan is one of the most expensive countries I have been too and certainly a fantastic display to have within your house.
An excellent symbol of art from Japan and will fit in nicely along with all other home decor. I guess the question everyone will be wondering is will I be getting one of these, you bet, as soon as I move out of my apartment and into a house that will be top of my list.
Culture of Japan - A snapshot of what goes on!
In 1872 primary, secondary schools and universities were established, and education is compulsory. The University of Tokyo and the Kyoto University is the most highest regarded universities of Japan. The OECD has 15 year old Japanese children ranked as the sixth best in the world!
The "Tiny Tots", (kindergarten) starts at home with social behavior structured play time, verbal and numerical skills etc, and parents are dedicated to their children's education. Private, and staffed by female college graduates, around 55% of tiny tots enjoy the privately run kindergarten schools, in addition to these, Japan has a well run/developed government supervised day care centers. The tiny tots in the picture (taken with teachers permission) from a private kindergarten were on a days outing, and seemed fascinated with our presence, laughing and giggling and eager for a photo shoot, check the compulsory peace sign ;)
Japan Customs and Traditions
1. No tipping required in Japan, this is considered a little insulting!
2. Slurp those noodles, make a noise when eating, this is considered good manners and shows you are enjoying the meal, but don't overdo it!
3. Bowing is an art of respect..depending on how fast, how slow or how low depends on individuals status, address with respect!
4. Japanese garden's play a big part of tradition, which has not changed much over the years. Gardens depict how nature is perceived.
5. Festivals and Music play a big part of Japanese tradition, music is widely known as 'Hogaku'.
6. There is a wide array of customs that are incorporate into Japanese traditions, customs such as;
tea Ceremonies - Sumo Wrestling - Gardening - Geisha - Public Bathing and Swords, but to name a few.
If your ever invited to a Japanese house, shoes must be removed at the front door and replaced with slippers that are provided by the host!
Visiting a Temple: Show your respect by making a short prayer at the sacred object, at the same time throw a coin into the offering box. Be calm and respectful at all times.
Visiting a Shrine: Much like a Temple visit, be respectful at all times, never visit if you are sick, have cuts that are open or are in mourning as these are considered as being causes of impurity.
Visiting the Toilet: Toilet slippers are always provided in houses, these must be used when tending to business, you should leave your original slippers outside the door and change back when exiting.
Table Manners: Never blow your nose at the dinner table or when eating in a restaurant, this is considered bad manners.
Try to finish your entire plate, this is considered good manners.
Be aware of what topics you chat about at the table, avoid toilet related subjects or similar discussions as these are not appreciated.
Never burp in company, considered bad manners.
On completion of eating, attempt to relocate all dishes to the starting position, including replacement of lids and placing chopsticks on the holder.
Eating out at restaurants may prove a little difficult as menus are normally in Japanese, no problem, just do what I do, go to the displays and point to what you like!
Arts and Crafts of Japan
1. Bonsai trees are miniature trees which demand a lot of care and attention. Imported from China over a thousand years ago, the Japanese community have mastered a very distinctive style of this art. My own Bonsai tree is over 80 years old and going strong, ask Yoshi ;)
2. Martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Kendo, Sumo, Samurai and Aikido are widely practiced.
3. Calligraphy, or otherwise known as shodo "the way of writing", is an art children learn at school and a popular hobby for audults.
4. Origami, an art of paper folding is popular in Japan and the Crane is one of the most popular objects that is created on a daily basis.
Japanese take pride in the preparation of food, it's ingredience, it's display and the way of eating. Japan's traditional food is rice based with miso soup and other dishes, emphasis placed on the seasons indigence. Side dishes normally comprise of fish (grilled) and vegetables/pickled vegetables. Noodles such as soba or udon is also widely used instead of rice
Music in Japan
The Japanese are great lovers of Karaoke and it's the most widely practiced activity to date! The Koto (traditional stringed musical instrument), and Shamisen (guitar-like) instrument is two of the most popular musical instruments used in and around Japan, although the influence of western music has made them less popular with today's youths.
J-Pop (Japanese Pop) now plays a big part in the Japanese culture, included in cartoons, movies, adverts and video games, with pop stars such as Hikaru Utada, Ayumi Hamasaki, Mai Kuraki and Ringo Sheena being big hits.
Religion in Japan
According to Article 20 of Japan's Constitution, religious freedom is enjoyed by many, although polls conducted suggest that around 85 - 95% of the population practice Buddhism or Shinto. A large number of followers are also believed to follow both religions!
Japanese Sitting Zen Buddhist Monk
This is a beautiful reproduction of a classic 16th century Japanese zen Buddhist Monk. A unique gift that will fit in nicely in any home, bringing a warmth and serene atmosphere to anyone who sets eyes upon it!
Sightseeing and Products of Japan
The Best of Tokyo
The Capital of Japan, and boasts the largest metropolitan area in the world. The Imperial Palace, the home of the Emperor of Japan is located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo, near to Tokyo Station. Tokyo city has an unlimited choice of shopping, and never ending entertainment, along with spectacular dining of all varieties. History and tourist sights are in abundance, and if your after electronics, the Akihabara district is the place to visit.
Tourist Spots of Interest
1. Haunted Tokyo Tour - Blood of Samurai, Unfortunately I never managed to get on this tour but I have been told that it is a blast. It is said that you will pass through areas that conceal secrets, visit the spot where warriors actually committed hara-kiri after committing treacherous deeds. You will stroll along the Old Tokaido road and visit the area where 50 Christians were burned alive and discover other historical claims/secrets.
2. Tokyo Disney Resort - I was thinking about going but continued with my journey, no doubt if you are traveling with kids then this is certainly a place to visit.
3. Mt. Fuji - One of the most popular tours that you can take is to visit the majestic Mt. Fuji, tie it in to include a visit to Hakone, National Park for some spectacular views. Transportation is predominantly by tour bus, round trip and lunch Japanese Style is included. Trip costs around $140 per person.
4. Sumo Tour - I wish I had the time in Tokyo to attend one of these tournaments, the Japanese Sumo Wrestler is much respected and I am sure I would have enjoyed myself, cost of the tour is around $110 per person.
Authentic Japanese Swords!
The Samurai Way!
They are authentic and they are finely crafted swords of the Japanese Samurai Warrior, a display for any household that will be the topic of conversation at any gathering.
Authentic Japanese Sword "Fujiwara Kunifusa"
Authentic Japanese Katana:#3 Hanjiro Nakamura!
The Best of Nagasaki
Nagasaki (meaning "Long Cape") is situated on the southwestern tip of the island of Kyushu.
Tours of Interest
1. Peace Memorial Park & Atomic Bomb Museum - Sadly, Nagasaki is all-too synonymous with the dropping of the atomic bomb on 9th August, 1945, with an estimate of 87,000 killed, destroying the city and ending World War II. Hundreds of thousands are attracted to the two memorials each year of which offer a heartfelt and chilling testimonials of the devastation brought from the war.
2. Nagasaki Lantern festival (February) Originally started up by the Chinese community to celebrate their New Year, you shall encounter unique performances, dances, and many events, all under the thousands of lanterns that light up the city.
3. Spirit Boat Procession (August) The Spirit Boats, which carry the spirits of the lost ones, are transported through the streets to the harbor for a spectacular send off with firecrackers and gongs in abundance
4. Kofukuji Temple was built in 1623 by a Chinese priest and is the oldest Temple of the Obaku set. There is also teh famous Chinese Buddha Temple and many other historic interests that is preserved here and worth a visit!
Authentic Japanese Armor!
For the Samurai Warrior within!
These are authentic Samurai Japanese Armour, 100% crafted in Japan. A symbol of Japanese art and history, certainly a collectible items that can proudly be displayed at any location. A little on the pricey side for myself but I would not hesitate in obtaining one of these should the occasion arise. I had the honor of viewing armor when visiting the museum and it was certainly an awesome sight and learning experience.
Authentic Japanese Armor: Tokugawa Ieyasu Helmet -Kabuto
Japanese Black Laces Silk Armor Rüstung Art Wearable Samurai Armor Suit Black
The Best of Hiroshima
Hiroshima (Wide Island) is probably best known for being the first location in history to be piratically destroyed by an Atomic Bomb, delivered by the US Air-force at 0815 am on the 6th August 1945.
1. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park/Museum - Situated where the first atomic bomb exploded, now sits this museum which is a dedicated memorial for all who lost their lives. Be warned this is not for the faint hearted, there is some graphic pictures and artifacts on display. I do have a few pictures if anyone is interested, did not think it would be appropriate posting on this page.
2. Hiroshima Castle - A 16th century castle that was destroyed by the atomic bomb but rebuilt in 1958 and is designated a National Treasure, lots to see pre-war.
3. Itsukushima Shrine - Located on the island of Miyajima and mostly known for it's "floating" tori gate. If you get the tide right, it appears that the shrine is floating on water, sadly I was unable to attend at high tide. To this very day, any ladies that are pregnant or those that are terminally ill or who's passing has become imminent are not permitted to remain on the island and must retreat to the mainland. Burials are not permitted on the island.
4. Shukkeien Garden - A beautiful garden of miniature landscapes which features forests, valleys and mountains. A stroll along the trickling streams to the tea houses is certainly in order. True beauty captured for your enjoyment!
Authentic Japanese Craftwork!
Traditional Craftwork from Japan
These Hakata Crafts/Dolls are authentic traditional craftwork produced in and all the way from Japan. Crafted with 400 years of history in mind! Truly beautiful and will certainly be an eye catcher no matter where displayed.
Japanese Hakata Doll Enyu no Hana
Japanese Hakata Doll Hichifukujin(Kumi)
Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, and was nearly destroyed in 1923 by a massive earthquake!
Tours of Interest
1. Sankeien Garden, a beautiful and spacious place to visit, started by a Yokohama business man in 1902, and took 20 years to complete. If it's serenity your looking for, this is the place to visit, I nearly spent the whole day here!
2. Museum of Yokohama Urban History will enlighten you on the events in Yokohama over the many years, comprising of 3 sections, the Urban Creation, the Culture of Yokohama and the Public Life.
3. Silk Museum, this is one of the rarest museums in the world that shares how silk is produced from the silk worms. Also on display is many silk clothes from various ages!
4. Yokohama Archives of History, interested in the history of Yokohama, this covers from the time of the opening of the port to the present era. This building actually housed the former British Consulate General.
The Essential Guides for your Japanese Experience!
Your Indispensable Guides for Japan!
Some essential and beautifully illustrated guides for your Japanese experience! lots of essential information such as street maps, local markets, day trips, restaurants and hotels that will get you in and around Japan whether it's by road, air or sea!
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Japan
Japanese Phrase Book (Eyewitness Travel Guide )
The Best of Hakata
You might get confused with this location as two names are predominantly used, the first being "Hakata" and the second "Fukuoka". History tells all, it is said that thirteen leaders from each city met to vote on a singular name, unfortunately it was a tie, then a gang of Fukuoka Samurai's presented themselves and suggested the new city be named Fukuoka, and so it was written in history! One called Hakata and the other Fukuoka with the river Nakagawa dividing them.Interesting tours:
1. Kokura Castle & Gardens - Postcard perfect, this 17th century castle, surrounded by beautiful gardens, equipped with a historical museum and spectacular views is a location you really should endevour to see.
2. Kyushu National Museum - With a rich cultural heritage of Japan, and how other Asian cultures have influenced the nation reflects in the abundance of collections housed at this location. You will find many national treasures and important culture properties.
3. Kushida Shrine - The oldest shrine in Fukuoka, founded in 757 and plays a large part in the city's cultural history. The Ginko tree that lies in the forecourt is said to be over 1000 years old and the best time to visit is mid July as the "Oiyama" event takes place, the Yamakasa-goin festival.
4. Shimonoseki City - A picturesque coastal city imbued with history and tall stories of the sea. The weekend is the ideal time to descend on the market for it's delicious sushi and other delights and Chofu Castle Town is the place to check out if you are interested in the way of the Samurai.
Japanese Bonsai Trees!
What every household should have!
Bonsai Trees, a Japanese art form of growing miniature trees in containers. There are many beautiful Bonsai Trees for sale, some rather expensive because of their age, others at an affordable price. No matter which tree you choose or how much you pay for it, they make rather elegant displays in any room or garden. I love my Baby Jade Bonsai Tree which is over 75 years of age and still going strong, the other, my Double Trunk-Preserved Bonsai Pine Tree compliments my bathroom decor!