Where the future meets the past, Japan is a country of synthetic and natural beauty. In the country’s cyber cities, colourful pop culture and computer technology reigns supreme. However, in the authentic Japan, the country's peaceful side pervades in its tranquil gardens, tea houses and temples. Enjoy it all on a Japan holiday.
There are over 6,000 islands that make up Japan. Of prominence are the four largest islands; Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. Japan’s history lies predominantly within the arts, with evidence of art, calligraphy, poetry and prose being practiced from very early on. Its identity has been shaped by its close proximity to the Asian mainland, though its isolation has resulted in a culture quite distinct from its neighbours. Despite its noticeably eastern traditions, modern day Japan is very much influenced by western culture, making for a unique clash. Throughout history Japan has seen the rise and fall of Emperors. Today the current Emperor has very limited control and is more of a ceremonial figurehead, while the country’s Prime Minister holds power.
Japan’s weather spans sub-arctic to sub-tropical depending on where you are. Though weather varies greatly across the land, Japan as a whole experiences four different seasons. Spring time occurs from March to May and is when Japan’s famous cherry blossoms come into bloom. June to August marks the summer season which is often accompanied by rain and humidity. The autumn months from September through to December see the leaves change colour and crops harvested, while from December to February winter occurs with central and northern Japan commonly receiving snow.
Festivals celebrating different shrines are constantly taking place in Japan. Some of the country’s biggest events include The New Year and Obon, both of which are celebrated by families and aim to honour ancestors. On February 3rd and 4th Japan celebrates Setsubun which marks the beginning of spring. In lying with tradition, crowds visit shrines and throw beans at someone wearing a mask who represents a demon and chant 'Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi' which translates to ‘Out with the demons, in with good luck!'
There are five international airports located across Japan. Flights from Australia commonly use Narita International Airport, which lies just outside Tokyo, Chūbu International Airport, found between Tokyo and Osaka, and Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Airlines that fly from Australia to Japan include:
Direct flights are available from Cairns, the Gold Coast and Sydney to Tokyo and Osaka. Depending on your departure destination, the flight can take around eight to ten hours. Many air lines stopover in regional Asian transit hubs such as Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur before proceeding onto Japan.
Japan is home to some of the world’s leading luxury hotel chains. Within the main cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you’ll find serene hotel suites boasting pampering amenities, spectacular views and a high level of service.
To find out more about the range of holiday accommodation available with Travel Associates call 1800 017 849 or enquire online.
If you’re flying into Tokyo, you’ll want to take a few days to explore the bustling metropolis. Wander down the colourful teen hangout of Harajuku, sample some of the finest sushi in Ginza and visit the Imperial Palace which is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. Set aside a whole day to explore the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market, the world’s biggest wholesale fish and seafood market.
Beyond the busy capital, Osaka is another city brimming with culture and unique sights. Get acquainted with Japan’s spiritual side with a visit to Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest shrines. Having survived the bombings of World War II, some of the shrine’s buildings date back as early as 1810, while others are faithful replicas of the originals. The shrine is dedicated to three Shinto Gods associated with the sea and protecting sea travel.
Just north of Osaka, Kyoto’s Imperial Palace is a must see attraction. The palace was built in 1855 when Kyoto was the capital of Japan and is home to exquisite buildings and gardens. The palace can only be viewed via guided tours conducted by the Imperial Household Agency. English tours are available.
A translation book or electronic device will go a long way in Japan. Most locals are more than happy to help you and give directions, but it’s inevitable that things will get lost in translation.
Toiletries are readily available in all of the major cities, but trying to figure out what the labels say is not so easy. Save yourself some time and pack all of the basics.
The custom of bowing is a highly regarded form of respect in Japan. When addressing someone or meeting someone for the first time, bow slightly as a sign of respect.
It is common practice in Japan to make a slurping sound when eating noodles. It may be a little hard to get used to for westerners, but doing so is a complimentary sign to your host and indicates that you are enjoying your meal.
Exchanging money is no easy fete in Japan. Exchange outlets are rare and can be difficult to find. The exchange rate is also often higher than in your own country. To save time, exchange money before you leave, or do so as soon as you land at the airport.