About the Country
Japan is a sovereign island nation in Eastern Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asia Mainland (east of China, Korea, Russia) and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the southwest.
Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago consisting of about 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and often are referred to as home islands. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions. Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one. The population of 127 million is the world's tenth largest. Japanese people make up 98.5% of Japan's total population. Approximately 9.1 million people live in the capital city of Tokyo.
Japanese society is strikingly homogenous. Ethnic Japanese account for 98.5 percent of the country’s sizeable population. While different areas of Japan, particularly the central Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, are known for having distinctive, colorful local dialects, the whole country essentially speaks the same language.
Traditional Japanese society and culture stress the values of harmony, consensus decision-making and social conformity. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a common Japanese saying and guideline of social behaviour.
Japanese cuisine offers an abundance of gastronomical delights with a boundless variety of regional and seasonal dishes as well as international cuisine. Restaurants range from mobile food stands to centuries old ryotei, atmospheric drinking places, seasonally erected terraces over rivers, cheap chain shops and unique theme restaurants about ninja and robots. Many restaurants are specialized in a single type of dish, while others offer a variety of dishes.
Japan attracted 19.73 million international tourists in 2015 and increased by 21.8% to attracted 24.03 million international tourists in 2016. Tourism from abroad is one of the few promising businesses in Japan. Foreign visitors to Japan doubled in last decade and reached 10 million people for the first time in 2013, led by increase of Asian visitors. In 2016, having met the 20 million target, the government has revised up its target to 40 million by 2020 and to 60 million by 2030.
Japan has 20 World Heritage Sites, including Himeji Castle, Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and Nara. Popular tourist attractions include Tokyo and Hiroshima, Mount Fuji, ski resorts such as Niseko in Hokkaido, Okinawa, riding the shinkansen and taking advantage of Japan's hotel and hotspring network.
Japan is a shopping paradise with a wealth of stores selling everything from traditional souvenirs and local food to the latest electronics and hottest fashion brands. Both domestic and foreign brands are represented, as are stores for all budgets, from the 100 yen shops to high-end fashion boutiques and department stores.
Large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, sport several shopping districts, each with their own unique character, usually grouped around major train stations. Shops are also found in shopping centers, along covered shopping arcades and in extensive underground malls. Outside of the city centers, large big box retailers, outlet malls and suburban shopping malls compete for shoppers with lots of variety.
Voltage is 110 volts and frequency is 50 Hz
International airfare is also worth considering, though airfare fluctuations are notoriously difficult to predict. As most travellers know, the period from mid December to early/mid January is generally quite expensive, as is the time from approximately June through August.
The best-value international flights (whether you are paying or using miles) are often found for what are considered lower travel seasons. Of course, for many travellers avoiding holidays is not an option, so it’s not worth stressing over.