Region: North & Central Asia
Japan was first introduced to Buddhism from Korea, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist sculptures were primarily influenced by China Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and eventually gained growing acceptance since the Asuka period. Most Japanese people do not believe in any one particular religion; instead they incorporate the features of many religions in their daily lives in a process known as syncretism. Many people, especially those in younger generations, claim to feel that the religions in Japan are part of the traditional culture. Shinto and Buddhist teachings are deeply entangled in Japanese everyday life, though the Japanese people themselves may not be aware of it. Generally speaking, it can be difficult for westerners to disentangle "real" Japanese religion from everyday superstition and rituals; most Japanese people do not often give the distinction much thought. An example of this syncretism is the same person may have a wedding at a Christian church and have a funeral at a Buddhist temple. Japanese streets are decorated on Tanabata, Obon, Halloween and Christmas.
About 99% of the population speaks Japanese as their first language. Japanese has borrowed or derived large amounts of vocabulary from Chinese and, since the end of World War II, English. The writing system uses kanji (Chinese characters) and two sets of kana (syllabaries based on simplified Chinese characters), as well as the Roman alphabet and Arabic numerals.
Area (sq. km):
377,835 square meters
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into six principal climatic zones: • Hokkaidō: The northernmost zone has a temperate climate with long, cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snow banks in the winter. • Sea of Japan: On Honshū's west coast, the northwest wind in the wintertime brings heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures, due to the Föhn wind phenomenon. • Central Highland: A typical inland climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night. Precipitation is light. • Seto Inland Sea: The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions shelter the region from the seasonal winds, bringing mild weather throughout the year. • Pacific Ocean: The east coast experiences cold winters with little snowfall and hot, humid summers due to the southeast seasonal wind. • South-west Islands: The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season. Typhoons are common.
Best time to travel is when Japan is climatically stable in their season of Spring (March – May) and Autumn (September – November).
Japanese plugs are flat two pins (similar to North American plugs). The electricity supply in Japan is 100V, 50/60 Hz AC.
The Japanese cuisine offers a very large variety of dishes and regional specialities. Famous Japanese dishes are sushi, tempura , soba noodles, seaweed, udon, sashimi, rice, miso soup, mushroom dishes, soya bean dishes and obviously wasabi. Japan is also famous for chopsticks, vending machines and food theme parks.
We use rail and road. The train service is amongst the best in the world – fast frequent, clean and comfortable.
Stays of up to six months are permitted for citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK. Citizens of these countries will almost always be given a 90-day temporary visitor visa upon arrival, which can usually be extended for another 90 days at immigration bureaux inside Japan.
Citizens of the USA, Australia and New Zealand are granted 90-day temporary visitor visas, while stays of up to three months are permitted for citizens of Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and a number of other countries.
• The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan by Alan Booth • Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan by Alan Booth • Hitch-hiker's Guide to Japan by Will Ferguson • Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology by Steven D. Carter • One Man's Justice by Akira Yoshimura • The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen • Fruits by Shoichi Aoki • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden • Out by Natsuo Kirino • The temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima • Tokyo Rising – the City since the Great Earthquake by Edward Seidensticker • Unbeaten tracks in Japan by Isabella Bird • Lost Japan by Alex Kerr • Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr • The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict