In an ongoing series of mini-posts we ask our most passionate Odigo writers “What is your Japan? ” in words and photos.
When most people think of Japan, a certain image comes to mind. Elegant kimono, fresh sushi and high-tech washlets are only some of the things travelers expect to see when they visit. Japan is also famous for its rich history, beautiful nature and hospitality. While all this is true, this country is also so much more.
My Japan is...endless.
No matter where you go or what you do, you will find something new to explore and see a different side of this wonderful country and its people.
The tropical island of Okinawa boasts extraordinary wildlife and nature -- Photo by Nathan Hosken
A scattered archipelago of thousands of islands, Japan stretches from Hokkaido in the far north all the way down to Yonaguni Island located only 108 kilometers from the east coast of Taiwan. Offering everything from subtropical to subarctic zones, the fauna and flora of Japan couldn't be more diverse. Without leaving the country, you can either carve down a ski slope in the snow paradise of
Niseko or sip a cocktail on the white sandy beaches of Amami-Oshima
. Which other country do you know gives you palm trees and volcanoes on one end and snowy mountains and icy lakes on the other?
Katsu Curry is a Japanese food favorite --- Photo from Flickr cc by jemsweb
"So, what else do Japanese eat besides sushi?" I can’t even remember how many times people have asked me that question. I have to admit that I myself didn't know too much about the local food before I first arrived. However, I quickly realized that Japanese cuisine is full of surprises. Never had I thought the food here would be this diverse. Not only have they perfected and reinvented traditional Japanese dishes, but they also have adapted a variety of Western foods to accommodate the local taste. Omelette rice
, or "omurice
", is a perfect example. Dishes from China, Korea and other Asian countries have also found their way into local menus, sometimes giving an interesting twist like hiyashi chuka
. Travelers will find endless new tastes and flavors to discover.
Endless Sights and Souvenirs
The adorable deer almost steal the show at Todai-ji Daibutsu-den --- Photo by Nathan Hosken
No other nation offers a bigger contrast between high-tech and tradition than Japan. You could visit an ancient temple and yet end up sitting on a high-tech toilet telling you how to flush. Depending on where your interests lie, you can either stand on top of the second tallest building in the world
or visit the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha
. On your travels, you will find that each prefecture, city and sometimes even district is known for something. Be it a beautiful sight, a local dish or a certain product, each place brings its own charm to the country. Shodo Island in Shikoku, for example, is famous for its olive plantations. Souvenir-hunters will be overwhelmed by all things "Olive Island" has to offer, from olive oil to olive hand soap to olive soft serve ice cream.
A sweet "ojii-san" cruising on his bicycle -- Photo from Flickr cc by jamesjustin
Last but not least, the people are what make this country special. One of the things most first-time visitors mention to me is how friendly and welcoming the Japanese are. I once had a memorable encounter in Osaka during a barbecue with some Japanese friends of mine. An elderly Japanese man on a bicycle stopped by and asked where I was from and how we all had met. After listening carefully, he told us to wait there for just a moment and slowly rode off. A few minutes later, he was back with a gift. Holding a small golden pocket watch, he got off his bike and handed it to me, insisting I have it. He then waved goodbye and peddled away once again.
Encounters like these are unforgettable and the reason why my Japan is…endless.
Explore and discover your own Japan: