Japan Travel Guide.A trip to Japan comes with a lot of surprises and mind expanding experiences. The variety of the food, the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the sights are all unequaled. Impressed as we’ve been, we created the ultimate travel guide to Japan for fun and excitement, illustrated with plenty of images to give you some ideas what’s really worth visiting in the “Land of the Rising Sun”. Enjoy reading.

Dealing with Japanese People

The Japanese people are very kind, polite and very friendly. And after a few weeks in Japan you get this feeling that everyone in Europe acts kinda rude. One side note though: Never ever ask “Do you speak English?” – most people gladly accept the question as an invitation to start running away, accompanied by a very short “NO!”. On the other hand, if you just ask your question (which is most likely about directions because you got lost once again) they’ll either tell you (funny enough with an explanation in Japanese and some wild gesticulation) or they just escort you. You don’t even need to act clueless. The Japanese people simply are that friendly.

Maiko i.e. apprentice Gaiko. Traditional Japanese Shinto Wedding Couple.

Japan is probably the safest country in the World. There's as good as no criminality and rumor has it that the police officers are fighting with each other about the work. Btw, criminality: Firearms and Swords are strictly prohibited and the closest you'll get to something that looks like a gun are the rifle shaped plastic controllers of the various arcade machines.

Religion in Japan vs. Europe

Golden Buddha Altar. One of the first things you’ll notice are the many shrines and temples that you will discover. No wonder, the number of Shinto shrines in Japan is estimated to be around 100,000. The number of Buddhist temples is about 85,000. The Japanese folks are very flexible in regard to religion. The saying goes that in Japan, you're born as Shinto, marry as Christian and die as Buddhist. Sometimes temples contain little Shrines and vice versa. I really like their tolerance.

But honestly, I also enjoy playing with the idea what would happen if somebody would propose to build a little Shrine/Temple/Mosque/Synagogue inside a Christian Cathedral. Given the size of an average Cathedral, there would be plenty of space available – undoubtedly, but… That will perhaps cause a severe case of spontaneous appearing pitchfork allergy (remediless most likely), provoked by a mob armed with burning torches, crosses and of course pitchforks. So better we quickly forget this idea…

But back to shrines and temples: Japanese Shinto Shrines are usually painted in orange, as for example the Itsukushima Shrine with its world famous floating tori gate at the picture below to the left. The picture below to the right shows the Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara, which is a traditional Japanese Buddhist Temple that houses a 15 meters tall daibutsu. Both places are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Itsukushima Shrine is a traditional Japanese Shinto Shrine. Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara is a traditional Japanese Buddhist Temple.

A crash course in Japanese

Japanese pronunciation

In general, the meaning of a word stays the same, regardless how you pronounce it. The pronunciation of the characters is similar than in German language, giving German speakers a slight advantage.

Writing Systems Overview

Yokohama There are four kinds or writing systems commonly used in Japan:

  • Hiragana

  • Consisting of 46 characters and is used to spell Japanese words.
  • Katagana

  • Similar to Hiragana, with the same syllables but different characters. Katagana is used to write modern, i.e. none Japanese words.
  • Kanji

  • Are adopted logographic Chinese characters. Each Kanji character communicates a word or concept. From the roughly 85,000 Kanji characters only about 2,000 to 3,000 characters are in common use in Japan.
  • Rōmaji

  • Latin script alphabet (that’s also the one this article is written with – just in case you wonder).

The most important Japanese phrases

Iwakuni Castle.And here it is: The HangOverEurope.com list of most important words and phrases, that will guarantee you an instant and easy start in Japanese (in fact at any language you translate the list). Fun and adventure are guaranteed if you just start to use the words. No further preparation is needed! Promised!

  • Kampai - Cheers
  • Domo arigato gozaimasu - Thank you very much
  • Sumimasen - Excuse me
  • iie - no
  • hai - yes
  • (Todo add a phrase to ask for aspirin)

Some random facts

Kinkaku-ji the Golden Temple at Kyoto.
  • Japan is by far not as expensive as you might have heard or expect it to be.
  • Try to exercise with chopsticks, otherwise you'll have one of the following options:
    1. Learn quick - very quick!
    2. Start a diet by accident!
    3. Get a high cholesterol value and blood pressure from McDonalds for free.
  • Try at least some of the many variations of green tea (cold, hot, ice cream, ranging from sweet to bitter). It might take some time to get used to it, so don’t give up after the first try.
  • A Geisha is NOT a prostitute!
  • Japan is humid, especially during the summer months, which makes spring and autumn the best time to visit Japan.
  • Although the Japanese people are not very strong (i.e. they don't drink much) they do have a lot of delicious beers (Asahi Super Dry) and liqueurs like Soju and Sake.

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