Japan: The Land of the Rising Sun

Japan – the land of the Rising Sun, the country of the samurai and anime, the home of the highest technologies and the brightest culture and rituals. Japan is a mysterious place full of exceptional charm and attraction. So what is so special about Japan? Let’s take a closer look at this enchanting country!

 

 

Japan is located in Eastern Asia on an island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. Japan comprises over 3,000 islands, the largest of which are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. The area of Japan is a little smaller than California.

This land is very mountainous, many islands are volcanic, that’s why there are about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year.



Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.

The Japanese first appear in written history in China’s Book of Han. According to the Chinese Records of Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku. According to legend, Japan was founded on February 11, 660 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, first emperor of Japan; it is seen as largely symbolic. The history of Japan is bright and full of many exciting moments. This history created the culture – one of the most colorful and unique cultures all over the world.



Nowadays Japan is a constitutional monarchy where the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the constitution as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people". Power is held chiefly by the Prime Minister of Japan and other elected members of the Diet (the Parliament of Japan), while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people.

Japan is the world's second-largest economy. Its economy is highly efficient and competitive. But what I really admire that with such economy and technology rates Japan is one of the world's leaders in the development of new environment-friendly technologies. Honda and Toyota were named to have the highest fuel economy and lowest emissions. Japan is ranked 30th best in the world in the Environmental Sustainability Index.



Japan is one of the leading nations in the fields of scientific and technology research. Japan even has plans in space exploration, including building a moonbase by 2030. So soon we will be able to see the space samurai!

And what about the samurai? Japanese culture and traditions are so amazing that you even can’t find the right words to describe them. It combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Among traditional Japanese arts you will find ikebana, origami, dolls, pottery, performances, such traditions as a tea ceremony, gardens, swords. Don’t forget about manga, a typically Japanese comic book which influenced animation for television and film is called anime.



Japan is a very spiritual country. The religion in Japan tends to be syncretic in nature. This results in a variety of practices, such as parents and children celebrating Shinto rituals, students praying before exams, couples holding a wedding at a Christian church and funerals being held at Buddhist temples. Japan culture has taken the best from different cultures and integrated it into the unique own tradition.

One of my favorite Japanese traditions is cherry blossom viewing. Every year after the bleak winter skies disappear, tens of millions of Japanese flock to the parks and temple gardens in pursuit of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.



When a gentle breeze carries snowflake-size pink-and-white petals fluttering to the ground on a spring day, it is easy to understand how the Japanese passion for these ephemeral blossoms is an almost spiritual thing. It brings you unforgettable experience. You can find the cherry blossom forecasts here.

One more exciting thing about Japan is kimono art. Kimono and yukata are traditional Japanese clothing. Kimonos are made of silk and are usually very expensive.



To put on a kimono needs some practice. But it is definitely worth of any training. The feeling will be really exotic. The butterfly sleeves create the delicate and willowy image. It is very sensual and feminine. Nowadays kimonos are worn at formal or traditional occasions such as funerals, weddings or tea ceremonies. Only rarely kimono can still be seen in everyday life. Kimono differ in style and color depending on the occasion on which it is worn and the age and marital status of the person wearing it.

A tea ceremony is our next stop. The tea ceremony is a traditional ritual and influenced by in which powdered green tea, or matcha, is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting. It is like a spiritual seduction. Everything in the tea ceremony has a time, a place, and a reason.



The simple arrangement of flowers in the niche should be admired when guests arrive. Sweets eaten before tea with a pick-like utensil called a kuromoji are designed to reflect the seasons. Like meditation, the tea ceremony is about being in the moment.

Japan is not a very big country, but you will find a lot of sites that are worth of seeing! I’ll name three of them that you should visit.

Tokyo is the first one. Tokyo is the de facto capital of Japan.



The name of Tokyo means "eastern capital" in Japanese.

Tokyo is a modern and cosmopolitan city of skyscrapers, neon, electronics stores, large shopping complexes and countless bars and clubs. But Tokyo is also steeped in history and tradition, with shrines and temples, sushi and noodles, public bathhouses and ryokans (guest houses). The city's dozens of museums range from the traditional (art and history) to the unusual (parasites).

Nikko is the must-see in the Tokyo area. Nikko is a sublime township that hosts a Buddhist temple stunning terrain and a truly rare (for Japan) natural vibe. The best time to go is Autumn.



The next one is Osaka. Osaka has been a major port and mercantile centre from the beginning of Japan's recorded history. It was also briefly the first capital of Japan. And historically it was the commercial capital of Japan, and to date the heart of Japan's second largest, and the world's ninth largest metropolitan area. Osaka is traditionally considered the "nation's kitchen" or the gourmet food capital of Japan. Famous for its down-to-earth citizens and hearty cuisine, Osaka combines historical and cultural attractions with all the delights of a Japanese urban phenomenon.



At night Osaka is live-wired with flashing neon, beckoning with promises of tako-yaki (fried octopus ball), good times and lots of beer. Waterfront developments are restoring Osaka's image as a port town and creating new attractions for tourists.

And the third one is Kyoto. Kyoto, with its hundreds of temples and gardens, was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan. Its raked pebble gardens, sensuously contoured temple roofs and mysterious Shinto shrines fulfill the Japanese fantasy of every Western cliché hunter. With an astonishing 1600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines, a trio of palaces, and dozens of gardens and museums, Kyoto is Japan's cultural treasure house. Seventeen of Kyoto's ancient structures and gardens have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. I will not suggest you what to visit in Kyoto because it is impossible to compare and it would be better to see them all!



And that is only the smallest part of Japan! I can not reveal its secrets and charm and, frankly, I do not want to. I just want to admire its beauty and brightness:) And it is worth of doing!

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