Things To See and Do in Japan
Japan, known as Nihon or Nippon in Japanese, is an island nation in East Asia. The "Land of the Rising Sun" is a country where the past meets the future. Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet has also adopted (and created) the latest modern fashions and trends.
Japan is a study in contrasts and contradictions. Many Japanese corporations dominate their industries, yet if you read the financial news it seems like Japan is practically bankrupt. Cities are as modern and high tech as anywhere else, but tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to glass fronted designer condominiums. On an average subway ride, you might see childishly cute character toys and incredibly violent pornography - sometimes enjoyed by the same passenger, at the same time! Japan has beautiful temples and gardens which are often surrounded by garish signs and ugly buildings. In the middle of a modern skyscraper, you might discover a sliding wooden door which leads to a traditional chamber with tatami mats, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. These juxtapositions mean you may often be surprised and rarely bored by your travels in Japan.
Although Japan has often been seen in the West as a land combining tradition and modernity, and juxtapositions definitely exist, part of this idea is obsolete and is a product of Japan being the first major Asian power to modernize as well as Western patronization and heavy promotion by the travel industry. With time passing, however, it is becoming more apparent that many other Asian states have not only preserved more historical areas but have usurped Japan's position as cutting-edge.
Continued demolition of Japan's scant historic landmarks goes on apace, as with the famed Kabuki-za Theater demolition, and much of Japan's urban fabric is unsightly, as any random perusal of Google Maps' "Street View" option can show. Still, with the proper planning, and with expectations held in check, a trip to Japan can be incredibly enjoyable and definitely worth the trip.