7 Great Reasons Why You Should Make Japan Your Next Holiday Destination

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7 Great Reasons Why You Should Make Japan Your Next Holiday Destination

Japan is where the past lives on in the present, home to ancient capitals and historic shrines as well as high-speed trains and the world's most advanced robotics. This cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean is more than just the clash of history and modernity, however - it's also where you can find unrivaled cuisine at any price point, celebrate at unique and exciting traditional festivals unlike anywhere else and indulge your inner child any way you like. These are just a few of the reasons why you should choose Japan for your next vacation destination.

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7 Great Reasons Why You Should Make Japan Your Next Holiday Destination

Discover Historical Gems

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Japan is an ancient country steeped in history, and people have lived on its islands for thousands of years. While a great deal of historic buildings have been lost to progress and natural disasters, a great many more are preserved and frozen in time for future generations to enjoy. Explore entire historic neighborhoods, temple towns and castles such as those in Kanazawa, Kyoto and Matsumoto, and marvel at the ingenuity and charms of traditional Japanese architecture. Japan is also home to a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the oldest wooden building in the world, the five-story pagoda and sanctuary hall of Horyu-ji, a Buddhist temple in Nara.

Experience a Unique Culture

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The Japanese pride themselves on their unique cultural traditions, from the elegance of the tea ceremony to the timeless beauty of kimono. Visitors can discover this culture not just through museums, art and historic architecture, but with a stroll through a restored landscape garden, trying their luck with omikuji (fortune) at the shrine or grabbing a drink of shochu (rice liquor) at the local izakaya. This is because traditional Japanese culture is also living culture and can be enjoyed in many ways, from sampling seasonal wagashi (Japanese sweets) or catching a sumo match to a lesson on flower arrangement, calligraphy or taiko (drums).

Feel Religious Harmony

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While the majority of Japanese identify themselves as non-religious, most people practice a combination of the indigenous Shinto faith and Buddhism, usually of the Pure Land sect. Shinto shrines were historically the center of the community, and far from just a receptacle for donations and prayers, hosted festivals, markets and religious ceremonies, which they continue to do today. The Shinto practice of buying omamori (amulets), paying a small fee to have your fortune told (omikuji) and leaving your prayers on an ema (wish plaque) have spread to Buddhist temples, and so visiting both shrines and temples is fun, hands-on and far from the somber experience of other organized religions.

Ride the World's Busiest Trains

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Japan's fast and efficient trains are known as some of the best in the world, with an extensive network of light, heavy and high-speed rails as well as classic trams and monorails. They are also known as some of the busiest, and in fact Shinjuku Station in Tokyo serves the highest number of passengers than any train station in the world. Although their speed was surpassed by the Shanghai Maglev, Japan's shinkansen are still a fast and effective way to travel that not only reduces carbon emissions but saves you from traveling to outer-city airports and long wait lines.

Enjoy the Nostalgia of Manga, Anime and Gaming

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Japanese manga (comics), anime (cartoons) and games have had a profound effect on the global entertainment industry. The world's best-selling comic, One Piece, has fans all over the globe, and timeless hits like Pokemon, Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy continue to win fans and influence their respective genres.

In Japan, manga and anime in particular are pervasive in everyday life, showing up in poster advertisements, commercials and even snack packaging. Find out what's new and hot at the ubiquitous chain of Animate stores, collect figurines of your favorite characters at secondhand shops or try your luck at taking home a nostalgic plushy from the arcade.

Take Part in One-of-a-Kind Festivals

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Experiencing one of Japan's many traditional festivals is one of best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture. Lively, noisy and fun, festivals or 'matsuri' are a chance to try out local street foods, play classic games like goldfish scooping (kingyo sukui) and listen to traditional music. At some festivals, visitors can even join in the summer Bon dances, volunteer to carry the palanquin at the great shrine festivals or check out live performances of music, dance or sports like archery and sumo.

Japanese festivals range from the artfully designed lanterns and floats of the Nebuta Festival to the downright bizarre phallus parade of the Kanamara Festival dedicated to fertility.

Dine in a Foodie's Paradise

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With its capital city of Tokyo home to the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world and where specialized restaurants reign supreme, Japan is a country that takes its food very seriously. While versions of internationally famous cuisines like sushi and ramen can be found all over the world, locals specialties like monja (cabbage pancake), delicate handmade wagashi from family-owned shops and authentic kaiseki (elevated traditional cuisine) are harder to find outside of Japan's borders.

In Conclusion

With record-breaking numbers of tourists making their way to Japan's top cities in recent years, convincing people of the country's many merits is not a difficult feat. There's something for everyone here, from historic, traditional neighborhoods and ancient temples to ultra-modern transport and some of the finest cuisine the world has to offer. If you haven't discovered the reasons you should add Japan to your travel bucket list yet, here's your chance to find out.