When I was a young kid, I lived in Japan for three years. My dad was a civilian working for the US Army at the time, so I lived on a very American base. Still, we went out into town regularly, and I remember the sights and sounds being so drastically different from anything I had ever seen before.
Here are 11 pictures that will make you want to book your flight to Japan. Don’t forget to learn a few phrases to make the trip more rewarding.
1. Isuien Garden
If you visit the city of Nara, you can walk through this 145,000 square foot garden. One section of the garden was built in the 17th century, and the garden was added to and modernized in the early 20th century.
2. A Japanese SupermarketIn the big picture, supermarkets in Japan aren’t that different from what you might be used to. But still, if you’re from the West, you probably aren’t used to seeing things like someone tending a fresh pickle stand in the middle of the store.
Shirakawa-gō is a UNESCO world heritage site. The houses are built using a “prayer hands” construction style. This picture was taken in early Autumn, which explains the yellow fields.
4. Minnajima Beach, OkinawaWhen you think Japan, you probably don’t think “beaches.” But Okinawa boasts some of the nicest beaches in the world (and apparently jet skis).
5. Osaka CastleConstruction on Osaka Castle began in the 16th century. After several restoration projects, it is available to the public and a popular destination. As this picture shows, its mere presence in the middle of a busy city exemplifies Japan’s ability to blend the classic with the modern.
6. Ryougoku Sumo HallSumo is a sport with a rich history. It has a spiritual element, but at the same time it’s not so rarefied as to be inaccessible to the public. Since I’m a fan of combat sports, attending a sumo match in Japan is definitely on my bucket list.
7. Tōtō and Saitō, Yakushi-jiYakushi-ji is a Buddhist temple that was built in the 7th century. This picture gives a peek of the site’s east and west pagodas.
8. Japanese RamenJapanese Ramen is nothing like the Cup-a-Noodle version you buy at the supermarket in the States. It’s considered “B grade” cuisine by some, but for my money, nothing beats it. The broth itself takes 18 hours of simmering meat and bones to bring out the savoriness, and the noodles are out of this world. You can find authentic Ramen (or Lamen) shops in the West, but how cool would it be to get the real thing at the source?
9. Dōgo Onsen Hot Spring
With a history spanning back over 1,000 years, Dōgo Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs baths in Japan. I love this description of its surroundings from Wikipedia: “The area around Dōgo retains the feeling of a resort town, with guests from all over the country wandering the streets in yukata robes after their bath.”
Akihabara is a region in Tokyo whose bright lights and densely packed businesses come to mind when many think of Japan. The area also has many shops selling manga, anime, and video games, so it’s become a mecca for fans.