The Youth Time Travel Guide Of Japan

From Tokyo to the island of Okinawa, Japan is so diverse in geography with a distinct culture. Here's our guide to this great country.

The land of the rising sun. Even though it has been mistakenly believed by some that the Sun first rises in Japan, the truth is it first rises in East Cape, New Zealand. Being called the land of the rising sun is with reference to the communication from Japan to the Chinese government way back in the 7th Century which contained the words “the land where the sun rises”. 

This country is also the land of Shinto which is a faith that speaks about optimism in the belief that all humans are pure and good. It’s a faith and not an organised religion. The Jesuits did reach here too, in 1549, to purify the Japanese souls. Only their success was extremely limited or almost none since Shintoism already spoke about humans being pure.

Japan is a magnet to tourists from every corner of the world due to many reasons and in 2019 alone, the nation saw 32 million international arrivals.


The Story of Japan

It’s extremely difficult to get into the history of Japan. Suffice it to say humans existed here more than 30,000 years BCE. Taking it up around the 1920s, the country saw the worst of the economic crisis after the Great Depression and allied itself with Germany and Italy during WWII in the hope of establishing control in East and Southeast Asia for the region’s natural resources. 

The post war period saw the Japanese focusing inward and creating an astonishing, almost superhuman economic revival to turn their country into one of the wealthiest, all in a few decades. Today, despite its ageing population, it remains an economic powerhouse.

The industry is so well developed, that travel and tourism, despite the 32 million international arrivals, contributes only 7.5% towards the GDP.


Do’s and Don’ts

Be well attired and a few minutes early for business meetings. The Japanese are always on time.

Shake hands in the order of hierarchy. Not with the ladies first as done in western society. Perhaps perplexing to many but men enjoy a special position in this society. This should give you some measure : Even on Valentine’s Day it’s the ladies who gift chocolates to their men. The men don’t buy them flowers.

While there on business, the conversation among the executives in the conference room may go on in Japanese with complete disregard whether you speak the language or not. This may happen for hours, over the entire day or even for days if you’re required to stay. Be patient. If the eventual result is that you get their business, it will be lasting.

You’ll most likely be invited out for a dinner each day that you’re there and will be expected to match them drink for drink. It’s all about loosening up. The ladies from the office who attended the meeting during the day will not be invited. The gender gap remains extremely strong. In this regard, Japan ranks about the same as many sub-saharan countries. This report from the World Economic Forum may be of interest  

You will clink glasses. Be sure to keep the rim of your glass lower when clinking with the top ranking officials.

Use your chopsticks well and keep them neatly on the edge of the plate between mouthfuls.

Hierarchy is important. The senior most in rank will finish dinner first.

And finally, if you’re a woman visiting on business, try not to smoke. It’s frowned upon.


Etiquette in Japan

If invited to someone’s home or to a tea room, take off your footwear at the entrance. You’ll be provided slippers.

Don’t eat while you walk and don’t blow your nose in public.

Slurp on your noodles and soup, but don’t tip. It’s considered insulting. Give and receive with both hands, including business cards.

When serving a drink, use both hands. Do not serve yourself. Someone from the group will do it for you.

Use public transport. It’s among the best in the world. Don’t be surprised at square watermelons. They are grown that way for more efficient transportation.


Places To See 

Tokyo – For the imperial palace, museums and the Meiji Shinto shrine.

Kyoto – Shinto shrines, geisha district and Buddhist temples.

Osaka – Nightlife and restaurants.

Sapporo – Ski resorts and a city used during the Summer Olympics.

Okinawa – The islands are famous for their beaches, scuba diving and nightlife.

Niseko – Has the best of ski resorts and thermal springs.

Otaru – Famous for its glassworks.

Yamanashi – Known for Mount Fuji, hiking trails and lakes.

Nagasaki – Many go there to see the atomic bomb museum.

As a last word, Japan has a long history of making the finest handicrafts. While you visit different places, enjoy the people and the country, you may want to explore porcelain products, paper products which are like works of art, swords and knives and handmade paint brushes to take home. 

Not widely known but some of the whiskies made in Japan are comparable with the best in the world.

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