Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Visit Japan

5 Reasons to Visit Japan!
It would be easy to go with the typical reasons to visit Japan (it’s beautiful, the food is great, the people are lovely) but I’ve tried to come up with 5 reasons to visit Japan that you might not have thought of before…
1. The challenge!
While Japan is a lot more foreigner-friendly than it used to be, there are still parts of Japan that can prove to be more challenging for the average visitor. The first time I visited Japan I couldn’t speak any Japanese at all, and yet I managed to spend two weeks travelling around the country, on my own. I didn’t just stay in Tokyo, I really explored! I even went to Koyasan and stayed with monks. I still feel that my first trip to Japan was a huge achievement for me. I overcame language barriers, and had an amazing time. I think, as long as you are well-prepared, there is no reason not to visit Japan. Don’t worry if you can’t speak Japanese, just buy a phrasebook (this one is good) and make sure you book your hotels in advance so you have somewhere to sleep.
Osaka Station
Even learning to understand the train system can be a challenge at first.
2. To impress people!
I’m not saying this should be your only reason to go to Japan but, let’s face it, how many of your friends have been there? When you come back and everyone asks you how your holiday was, you’ll be able to impress them with stories of all the weird and wonderful things you found in Japan. Everyone will want to see your photos and try the souvenirs you bring back. Japan has the most amazing range of souvenirs wherever you go. You can get everything from cute toys to delicious snacks (and regional food products – meibutsu), and I guarantee they’ll be like nothing your friends have ever seen before!
Takoyaki lollipops - Osaka omiyage
Not so delicious, but these takoyaki lollipops are sure to impress your friends!
3. To try something new!
Some people go to New Zealand to bungee jump or Australia to scuba dive, so why not go to Japan to try something new? How about climbing Mount Fuji? If you’re not into adventure sports, it doesn’t have to be something wild and dangerous. You could go to Japan to dress up like a geisha or samurai, or to try taiko drumming. Lots of tour packages include the chance to try something new, and it might even be a chance to make new friends.
4. To learn about a different culture!
Of course, when we travel we hope to learn about a different culture, but often we just get caught up in touristy stuff and don’t see the “real” country. In Japan, why not try a homestay, where you can live with a Japanese family and learn about everyday life in Japan? Ask your homestay family to take you along to shrines and temples and teach you about the traditions they follow. If you can time this with a festival like Obon (summer festival in August) orOshogatsu (New Year) you will be able to take part in traditional ceremonies and learn a lot about the culture of Japan.
Waiting in line
New Year in Anjo.
5. To experience first-class customer service!
Japan could really teach the rest of the world a thing or two about customer service. Coming from England, where the customer service seems to be so bad, I really noticed how polite and efficient things are in Japan. No matter how little or how much you are spending in a shop, the staff treat you with the utmost respect. Whether you’re in an expensive department store or a local convenience store, staff will do whatever they can to help you. Even if your Japanese isn’t up to scratch, you should still find the same high level of customer service. I found that shop assistants always tried to understand me and help answer my queries, even if I was messing up my sentences. You’ll also find that things in Japan tend to run smoothly and on time, while always being very clean and tidy. In fact, you’ll find that this good customer service, efficiency and cleanliness is something which is a fundamental part of the way most Japanese people interact and go about their daily lives. Shops may be crowded when you buy your souvenirs, but at least you’ll get service with a smile (and free gift-wrapping!).
Yatsuhashi shop
A shop in Kyoto.

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