Everything about Japan is fascinating. A visit to the country is among the best travel experiences, as the people are gracious, warm, and polite, and the cities safe and clean. 

Japanese Food

Japanese food has been an influence on chefs across the globe. It is prepared with techniques developed over centuries, the standard diet is so healthy that the Japanese have the longest life expectancy of any country. The cuisine is loaded with fresh vegetables, generally eaten in season. Even in the smallest café, the care with which the flavor profiles are created makes a simple meal a delicious experience. 

Tokyo restaurants are legendary, with 227 achieving Michelin stars – more than any other city on the planet. Acclaimed Japanese chefs create a blend of flavors, textures, and aromas created from the freshest, most flavorful seasonal ingredients. 

A Very Brief History 

The Islands that make up Japan are believed to have first been settled about 35,000 years ago. The first known inhabitants were the Joman, hunter-gatherers. They wore fur, built wooden homes, and created elaborate clay vessels. The second wave of settlers was the Yayoi, who brought metal-working, rice, and weaving to the region. The Kofun then arrived, establishing a network of aristocratic warlords. Buddhism and the Chinese writing system then entered the culture, splitting the population into two major clans, one Buddhist and practicing calligraphy, with the agricultural village people practicing Shintoism. Both religions still flourish in Japan, along with many others.

Next came the Heian era, from 794 to 1194, with the imperial court, a time in which incredible works of art were created. The Samurai lords ruled the area in 1185, holding power in Japan until 1868. One emperor attempted to overthrow the shoguns in 1331, causing a civil war between the northern and southern courts, with the conflict rampaging for decades. In 1868, the power of the shoguns ended, and a constitutional monarchy was established. Emperor Hirohito was at the head of the country during WWII, with the government eventually surrendering, and over the decades, being reborn as the technological giant of today.

The Shinto Way of Life

Ancient Shinto religious customs are ingrained through every aspect of the Japanese lifestyle. It involves worshiping “kami,” the divine power in all things, including trees, flowers, and animals. The religion has no known founder, no sacred books, and is more of a way of life. Shinto festivals and visiting shrines in the New Year is a national event in the country. Human beings are seen as basically good, and any person who practices Shintoism can be a member of any other religion as well. 

Architecture: Japanese Temples

Japanese architecture is rooted in respect for the natural world, and typically involves elevated wooden structures with thatched or tile roofs. Buddhist temples are found in almost every city, with large cities having several hundred, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The Kinkakuji temple was built in 1397, first serving as the home of a shogun, and is completely covered in gold leaf, surrounded by gardens. The Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo was created to honor the goddess of mercy. The Todai-ji temple is still the largest wooden building on the planet, with a massive statue of Buddha within.

Visiting Japan is always an adventure, with super-modern, clean cities, ancient temples, and incomparable food. The best part of the country is the warmth and generosity of the people, who go out of their way to be respectful and helpful to visitors.

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