Culture, history and people are reasons to put visiting Japan on your 'bucket list'

Written by: 
Greg Erickson ~ Multimedia Journalist

Japan may be an ocean way, but it is easier to visit than people think. According to Japan’s National Tourism Organization, in 2012, just over 8 million people visited Japan. Surprisingly, only 700,000 of those people came from the United States. While the idea of visiting Japan may not be as popular as traveling to Italy, or some remote, exotic island nation, there is plenty to do and see in “the land of the rising sun.”

The capital city of Tokyo is one of the most popular places to visit in Japan. The huge skyscrapers, amazing technology incorporated, and fast-pace city life make Tokyo intriguing. Like most large cities, you can find almost anything you want. Besides Tokyo, most people couldn’t name many famous cities in Japan; however, there are plenty more to visit.

Yuto Inamori, a senior at BYUH studying accounting, is a Japanese native who thinks the best places to visit are the cities where the real culture is found. “Japan is now considered a high technology country, but in my opinion, Nara is the place where you can see the origin of Japan. You'll see and feel the heart of Japan that you never thought of.” With historic Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and an imperial palace, Nara offers a real inside look at Japanese culture.

Another Japanese student on campus, Izumi Masuyama, a senior in accounting, recommends visiting Kyoto. “It is one of the most famous tourist spots in Japan. There are many cultural buildings, including temples and shrines.”

Perhaps the most popular site in all of Japan, Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 AD to 1868. The most recognized remnant of the city’s imperial past is the Kinkakuji, which was once a shogun’s retirement villa and is now a Zen Buddhist temple. Having grown up in Japan, Masuyama added, “Everything in Japan is convenient, including transportation without a car. So traveling around the country won’t be too difficult.”

Having seen Japan in a different light, BYUH graduate Jake Everts, served his two-year LDS Church mission in Kobe and surrounding cities. He said he feels the true greatness of Japan is found in the people. “The culture of Japan provides a strong background of loyalty and honor that has continued since before the era of the samurai until today, manifesting itself in the extremely hard-working attitude of the people.”

Everts continued saying, “That hard-working exterior is balanced by a warmth demonstrated toward outsiders, more so than I have received as a foreigner anywhere else.” If the site seeing isn’t enough for you, visit Japan to experience the culture and get to know the people, urged Everts.

Some popular things to do for tourists in Japan include: skiing in Niseko, the natural hot springs; exploring Tokyo’s old east side; hiking the northern alps; and touring Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Round trip airfare to Tokyo is usually around $800.