So why does Japan come out as my number one place to visit, I guess you might be asking? Here's four of the reasons why I tell everyone I know that they need to visit if they haven't already (or let's be real - the reasons why they should plan a return trip, if they've already been here before!)
1. Japan TRULY has a bit of everything
Love skiing or snowboarding and want that as the focus of your vacation? Perhaps you're more into the tropical beach vibes with a cocktail in hand while relaxing on a sun lounge. Maybe you're all for culture and history - or maybe theme parks, great shopping and quirky cafes are more your jam. Foodie? Japan comes in first and second (Tokyo and Kyoto respectively - with Osaka just behind in fourth place) of the cities with the most Michelin starred restaurants - but you don't have to head to Michelin starred places to get an amazing feed. I'm convinced that no matter what you're into, Japan is going to have something that makes you fall in love with it!
2. It's a super accessible country
And that's from both the perspectives of getting here from overseas, and getting around domestically. There are the two major international airports servicing the Tokyo area (Narita and Haneda), and you've also got Kansai International servicing the Osaka region, and the Central Japan Airport in Nagoya. Other airports like Fukuoka's airport handle a lot of traffic from other countries in the Asia Pacific region. Even better is that a lot of budget airline carriers have opened up routes to these airports, so depending on the time of year and any sales the airlines have on offer, you can get here for some amazing prices.
Also, let's take a minute to praise the train network here - you can truly get to just about anywhere you need to be by train. If it's not covered by the train network, you'll likely find a bus from the train station to where you're headed. Of course you could still rent a car and drive, but with things like the JR pass when you're visiting here short term, it's often more economical to simply catch the trains (and more relaxing, too - plus, who doesn't want to experience things like the bullet train?)
3. Things run on time.
I'm a planner. I always have been and I am sure I always will be. I like knowing that when I book a flight or a ticket on transportation somewhere, that it's going to be pretty efficient with respect to when it departs and when it arrives. Otherwise, the giant stress-head in me shows herself (and that ain't pretty, folks). I've missed flights in other countries because connections weren't on time, and had times where buses or trains just didn't show up.
In Japan I haven't had that problem at all. A fun fact for you - the average delay of a shinkansen traveling between Tokyo and Osaka was 36 seconds in 2012. Yup, that's 36 measly seconds on a route that spans just over 500 kilometers. Not bad, if I do say so myself! It's a whole lot easier to plan a cohesive trip when you know that you'll be where you need to be at a certain time.
Also - say the train is running late for an exceptional circumstance - the train stations here will issue a small slip that people can give to their employers as the reason why they weren't on time!
4. It's safe
I know that nowhere in the world is 100% safe. That's just the world we live in. But I've had friends here who have done things like left their iPads or laptops on the train, and they've been handed in to the station masters at the end of the train line - and they've been able to get them back with no problems. I literally don't know anywhere else where honesty and respect for people's property are values that are upheld so much. Obviously, that's not me telling you to test out that theory and leave your expensive worldly possessions on the train or other transportation, but it did make me happy to know that most people's experiences here with things like that have been positive.
I'd still always emphasize to keep your wits about you when you're traveling - that's hugely important when you're in a new situation with new surroundings. But I will say I've never felt safer traveling around any country than I have during my time here.