KarryOn Founder Matt Leedham is back with yet another story on his love affair with Japan. We said to him. “Haven’t you written enough about your not so secret love affair?” – “Seriously?” Came his gushing reply, “I’ve only just begun.”

Visiting Japan is like visiting no other place in the world in my opinion.

It’s not really a destination you can make comparables with, to anywhere really. It’s just Japan. Doing its own thing, on its own, highly organised and ritual filled way, as it has done timelessly since the sun first rose there a very long time ago.

Whether you’re there for just a few days, a week or a lot longer, there’s so many elements of mystery to Japanese culture that will get lost in translation and that’s ok too because for the most part, its all about opening your mind to what you see and experience for yourself.

Japan is booming right now, with more people globally visiting Japan in 2017 than ever before and record numbers of Australian’s coming back to explore further afield than the traditional Hokkaido Skiing, Tokyo or Kyoto offerings.

Why is that? Here are my thoughts.

 

1. Because solo adventures await

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Travelling to Japan with a friend, your partner, family or in a group is naturally an excellent way to share the experience and enjoy Japan’s boundless charms.

But what about travelling solo? Now a rapidly-growing trend, travelling on your own can still be challenging in many countries, especially for women wanting to go it alone.

Japan, however, offers the assurance of being an incredibly safe place to travel for everyone and especially solo travellers. There are of course the odd isolated incidents, but these are rare and you can get around easily thanks to the welcoming aid of the Japanese people who are usually more than willing to help you out and ensure you have an excellent adventure in their homeland.

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Image: Flickr

Given respect for others is at the top of the list for the Japanese, you won’t have to worry about looking weird or standing out on your own either. It’s totally normal for women in Japan to eat out alone and walk around by themselves, including at night.

You’ll also find female only accommodation options, friendly smiling locals to help if you get lost, amazing transport systems that work and are safe to travel on anytime of the day and generally a culture of courtesy and hospitality wherever you go.

Dinner table story fact: In Japan, children living in the same neighbourhood walk to school in groups led by the eldest child. This teaches independence and discipline.

 

2. Embracing the ‘Bizarre’ is a beautiful thing

robot-restaurant

Konnichiwa Robot Restaurant

The word ‘Bizarre’ gets used often when describing Japan. ‘Bizarre’ meaning weird, random or just plain out there.

The bottom line though again is, Japan is just different.

Japan has an endless bounty of kooky stuff to check out and it’s zany, hilarious, mysterious, eccentric and often just outright strange – which is after all, why we travel right? To be inspired, challenged and amazed.

From taking in the Shinto rituals of Sumo wrestling, to dining at the outrageous Kabukicho Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinjuku where the cabaret showgirls are a mix of humans and androids or spending time in Ninja cafe’s, cat cafe’s, monster cafe’s, vampire cafe’s and even hedgehog cafe’s – you can guarantee there will always be something different to pique your ticker here.

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The Cat Cuddle Cafe. One milk latte, please…

Then there are the famous capsule hotels, the vending machines stocking all kind of weird and wonderful items (Fresh eggs anyone?) and the Japanese food itself which has the potential to make even the most hardened foodie gasp.

Just watching the local TV and the outrageous game shows or stepping into a 7/11 (Which are everywhere and open 24/7) will blow your mind as you walk around the tightly packed shelves bursting with brightly coloured foods and snacks of the types you’ve never seen before.

Know this: When you return from Japan you will have enough dinner party stories to make you the centre of attention for a lifetime.

 

3. You can enjoy the quiet and relax…

Osaka Japan

Tokyo

If I told you that buzzing Tokyo as a city of 13.7 million people is actually one of the quietest, most relaxed in the world, would you believe me?

The truth is, for the most part, Tokyo is a blissfully quiet city for noise, which is mostly down to the Japanese’ Shinto way of living – with respect and courtesy for others.

Sure there are people everywhere, engine noise and all the usual hum of the city and it does, of course, have its loud moments after dark, but for the most part, you will not hear people pipping horns, shouting or blaring music out of anywhere.

And trust me, once you leave Tokyo it gets even quieter.

Okinawa maybe not what you were expecting in Japan

Okinawa in Japan’s tropical South

Bear that in mind when you travel to Japan in your own behaviour and you’ll have an amazing time. I visited Kyushu Island and Tokyo in the south at the end of last year and came back feeling as refreshed as if I’d been on a beach holiday. Which was a slightly odd feeling.

Why? A combo of eating healthy, tasty food, lots of fresh air, comfy hotel beds (Which is the standard by the way – not just reserved for 5-star only) and just travelling at a slower, more relaxed pace. Which doesn’t make it boring either, just, well different!

 

5. Japan does have it all (truly)

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The mountains of Hokkaido are calling…

Where do we begin?

Vibrant, dynamic cities, history and culture, quality standard hotels everywhere, phenomenal food, stunning nature, fantastic snow in the north, tropical beaches and diving and snorkelling in the south, amazing infrastructure including trains and roads as well as super fast internet, friendly people, a passive religion and it’s virtually litter free.

The list goes on and on…

Japan

Japan’s rise to prominence in recent years has seen new destinations such as Okinawa in Japan’s tropical south, Osaka (Which now has direct flights with Qantas from Sydney) and Kyushu Island to name but a few spring up as new hotspots for Aussies as more of us seek new experiences outside of the norm.

The myth of Japan being overly expensive is changing too with day to day expenses now on par or lower than Sydney. Whilst accommodation may still be your biggest outlay (In Tokyo especially), eating out, shopping and generally getting around is extremely good value compared to that of Australia.

For example, the price of a coffee in Tokyo can range from just AU$1.15 (100 YEN) to AU$4.50 (400 YEN).

 

5. It’s wildly addictive

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Once you’ve been, you will want to go back to Japan again.

Guaranteed. And soon.

Japan is like a video game that lures you back with the promise of completing another complex level.

Once you’ve been there you feel like were privy to some kind of exclusive club where you were treated like a VIP.

Are you ready to play?

 

Keen to keep on E-Learning about Japan? Click here for more or visit jnto.org.au for more inspiration

READ: Japan Tourism E-Learning winner share their top 5 tips

READ: 4 health hacks to kick-start your well-being goals like the Japanese

READ: 7 cultural quirks to fall in love with in Japan

Have you spent time in Japan before? What did we miss? Share your thoughts below.