April 22, 2021

Why I Irrevocably Love Japan

Though there are indeed a lot of amazing countries out there, these five reasons are why Japan is hands down the best place to visit.

The famed Chureito Pagoda and the ever-majestic Mt. Fuji during winter

One day while I was on the Gram, someone asked me out of the blue why I spend such a staggering amount of money traveling around Japan and promoting my content. This person was a fellow creator here in Tokyo so I was initially taken aback by their sudden query. I mean, isn’t it blatantly obvious why I am so inescapably addicted to this amazing country? If anything, I am the one who is puzzled why someone wouldn’t want to throw all of their disposable income at exploring Japan. Honestly, what the hell else would I do with it? Let it sit in the bank?

Alas, I guess not everyone out there has drunk as much of the #LoveJapan Kool-Aid as I have yet. While Japan indeed ranks high on travelers’ lists of destinations when this global pandemic is finally over, I don’t think many realize just how special this country really is. I won’t go as far as fully indoctrinating you into the cult, however I do want to provide you, the reader, with five reasons why I will forever be head over heels in love with exploring a different side of Japan.

So, without further ado…

Reason One: Endless Discovery

The torii gate tunnel of Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Yamaguchi Prefecture

It’s not exactly a well kept secret that the official slogan for the Japan National Tourism Organization (or JNTO for short) is “endless discovery.” That said, I don’t think many tourists realize exactly how apt of a catch phrase this really is. Put simply, my bucket list for places that I want to visit in Japan is now so long that I would require multiple lifetimes to complete it. Hell, one could live for over a century and never even scratch the surface of Tokyo, let alone the rest of Japan.

Though comparatively only the size of the state of California, Japan is chock full of attractions and hidden gems. In a stark contrast to the excruciatingly humdrum suburban sprawl of North America, just about anywhere in Japan has the potential to intrigue overseas visitors. In fact, throughout all my travels across the vast Japanese countryside, I cannot recall a single trip which left me unmoved. All things considered, you’d really need to try your hardest to have a bad time here in Japan!

Reason Two: Logistics

A bullet train bound for Kyoto on the Tokdaido Nozomi Line

Speaking of traversing the country, the second reason why I love traveling in Japan is the country’s amazing transportation network. As someone who has never (and likely will never) drive an automobile, the ability to get from one end of Japan to the other in a matter of hours is a godsend. Every weekend, I board a bullet train bound for some remote destination and before I know it, I’m there. What’s more, I can even bang out some work while en route.

Of course, no talk about public transportation in Japan would be complete without acknowledging the fact that everything arrives on schedule. This fact alone puts Japan in a class of its own when it comes to travel logistics. Given that one will often have to make additional connections to reach their final destination, it really is a blessing to know exactly when you’ll arrive at a station. Moreover, the fact that trains and buses actually come on time means that you can more easily plan your adventures.

Reason Three: Narrative

Nara Prefecture’s Horyu-ji temple complex which is the oldest wooden building in the world

While I’ll concede that Japan isn’t the only country in the world to have a culture that is many millennia-old, its ancient legacy is yet another thing I absolutely love about this place. In short, I am a huge proponent of the power of historical narratives when it comes to bringing a site to life. In this regard, few other options for tourists can hold a candle to the likes of Japan. No matter where you wander here, you’re bound to find all sorts of unique historical and cultural rabbit holes to dive down. Though I am certainly a sucker for the minutiae, even first time visitors to Japan can appreciate the simplified stories.

One other amazing aspect of Japan is that much of its rich culture and history still remains in tangible forms. From the oldest wooden buildings in the world at the Horyu-ji temple complex, to the unbroken tradition of rebuilding Ise Jingu every two decades, lasting examples of Japan’s long cultural pedigree can be found throughout the nation. Many of these structures predate most of the modern nations in the world like my country of origin, the United States. While I may be alone in feeling this way, I’ve found that coming face-to-face with these historical masterpieces really puts the newness of our modern world into perspective.

Reason Four: Safety

Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku area at dusk as people cross the road

I almost need not say this but Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, I just took a quick bathroom break while writing this piece and left my laptop and cellphone unattended on the table. Nowhere else in the world would I feel comfortable doing this. Likewise, outside of the rather infrequent absconding with fellow content creators like Cheeserland and Bunny Tokyo, I almost always travel alone. Despite flying solo all the time, I have never once felt uncomfortable during my numerous adventures.

Now, I do recognize that my experience may be somewhat tinted by the fact that I am a caucasian male (and a rather tall one at that) but by and large, the Japanese are kind and honest souls so you really need not worry. While you should always keep your wits about you just in case, especially if you’re out late partying, Japan is incredibly safe in comparison to just about anywhere else on the planet.

Reason Five: Nature

A tree in Japan during the autumn months

People regularly ask me when’s the best time to visit Japan. Oftentimes, my answer is “YES!” You see, there really is no wrong time to visit Japan. Though the spring cherry blossoms may be Japan’s most well known seasonal allure, the truth is that there’s something to see at all times of the year. The following is just a few of my favorites…

  • Spring
    While the cherry blossoms hog all of the attention, springtime is also when the azaleas and nemophila are in season. Be sure to check out Nezu Shrine in Tokyo for the former and Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki for the latter!
  • Rainy Season
    Though it’s usually a low season for tourism, the period between spring and summer is a time when you can have the attractions to yourself. What’s more, this is also a great time to see Kamakura’s hydrangeas!
  • Summer
    While the dog days of summer are undoubtedly a hot and humid time, this is also when many of the major festivals take place. Additionally, a lot of students and office workers also have time off during this time of year.
  • Autumn
    Though no longer a well kept secret, the fall months in Japan are some of the most beautiful. Though these may be fighting words, I’m of the mind that the autumn foliage can easily rivla the cherry blossoms.
  • Winter
    Especially on the Sea of Japan side of the archipelago, wintertime in Japan is a celebration of all things snow. If you’re a diehard fan of skiing or snowboarding, you really need to experience Japan during winter!

By the way, in case you’re wondering, my personal favorite time of the year is autumn (the shot above should give it away though). There is just little in this world that can compare the majesty of Japan when the leaves come ablaze with yellow and crimson hues!

Bonus Reason: Food

Some Japanese wagyu beef in a sukiyaki hot pot along with other veggies

Allow me to end this essay with one final reason why Japan is the best country to visit on the planet. Though I am basically an anti-foodie who doesn’t really value culinary experiences and tends to eat only one meal per day, I do acknowledge that Japan has one of the best gourmet cultures out there. If you like stuffing your gullet with an endless variety of succulent and savory treats, then Japan is one country that you need to visit time and time again. From plebeian ramen grub to exquisite dining options, Japan is a cornucopia of delectable delights.

Until next time travelers…