There are few countries and cultures that have had an effect on the entire world.
Sure there are the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese
and the Europeans during the age of exploration and colonization; but these civilizations
made their marks over the course of hundreds of years. Of course the United States
has also made a huge global impact – and that in the last 200 years.
But in a world that, until recently, was very Euro-centric and Anglo-centric,
Japan stands out. A small island nation, on the other side of the world that until
150 years ago lived in self-imposed exile; yet now we can’t imagine a world without
the influences of Japan. I think you would be very hard-pressed to find anybody that
hasn’t been impacted by those influences.
So, if we’re interested, we can study Japan. We have access to any type of media we
want these days – ways to read about, hear about and watch about, anything or any
place we want to. Yet that’s not enough where Japan is concerned. You realize that
you can’t truly get a feel for Japan without going there.
Because Japan is such an enigma, that no matter how much you study it from afar,
it draws you, it compels you to visit.
As you’ve read these stories about my experience in Japan, you’ve read about Japan – the concept, the ancient traditions and exotic elements. Buddhist temples, kimonos, sumo wrestling, gardens, forts and castles. And of course, the food!
But you’ve also read about the modern or contemporary Japan with its skyscrapers and
neon-lit pachinko parlors, bullet trains, electronics and Tokyo fashions.
There are tourism posters that depict a kimono-clad woman in the foreground, a bullet
train speeding by in the middle ground, with Mount Fuji in the background.
How does a student of Japan, or the traveller to Japan, reconcile these things?
How can the two Japans exist side by side? Which is the real Japan?
Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.
They all are.
In the time since Japan opened its doors to the rest of the world they have
simultaneously immersed themselves into their culture – arts, religion, architecture,
history and food – and they have modernized like almost nobody else – the electronics
industry, a nationwide network of super efficient high speed trains and huge cities complete with modern infrastructure.
The authentic experience we want as travellers is easy to find. It’s all around you.
As the trains whisk you around the country, you can pull out of the station in a
large modern city and in a few minutes see farmers in their fields.
You can be relaxing in a hot spring in the mountains, silence so profound you
can almost hear the snow falling around you and later that day find yourself in
the largest camera store in the world looking at the latest and greatest gadgets
Japan has to offer the world.
Japan is Westernized but not Western, a part of Asia but unlike any other Asian country.
It is tradition and modernity together.
And from a travellers’ perspective, it approaches perfection. Despite all the exotic
elements that draw us, but also make us a bit nervous at times, it is accessible
because of the people and the infrastructure. Yet even as accessible as it is to
foreigners, you don’t have to step too far off the beaten path to get to places where
foreigners are a rare sight. Unique in my experience.
I truly hope that you’ve enjoyed these little insights into my experience in Japan. Your
feedback has been wonderful. Thank you.
Want to talk about Japan (or any other place for that matter)? You know how I love to talk travel - just send me an email or give me a call. Better yet, come to Japan with me.
To learn more about our cherry blossom trip
in March 2012 and book your spot today!