Welcome to Japan a country of contrasts

It's the land of the rising sun, where tradition meets technology head-on

  24/03/2010 09:48

Japan is a world apart - a wonderful little planet floating off the coast of China. It is a kind of cultural Galapagos, a place where a unique civilisation was allowed to grow and unfold on its own, unmolested by invading powers.

Even today, the world struggles to categorise Japan: Is it the world's most advanced technological civilisation, or a bastion of traditional Asian culture? Has the country become just another outpost of the West, or is there something decidedly Eastern lurking under the veneer of its familiar modernity? There are no easy answers, but there is plenty of pleasure to be had in looking for them.

First and foremost, Japan is a place of delicious contrasts - ancient temples and futuristic cities; mist-shrouded hills and lightning-fast bullet trains; kimono-clad geisha and suit-clad businesspeople; quaint thatch-roofed villages and pulsating neon urban jungles. This peculiar synthesis of the modern and the traditional is one of the things that makes travel in Japan such a fascinating experience.

Japan is arguably the easiest country in Asia in which to travel; while English may not be as widely spoken as in places such as Singapore, the country's brilliant infrastructure, first-class public transport system and friendly people make travelling there a breeze. Despite having all the developed-world conveniences (and then some), Japan offers regular doses of exoticism and wonder. Best of all, Japan is not as expensive as some claium, and no country on earth offers as much bang for the buck. All told, Japan is an eminently rewarding travel destination.

This is an edited extract from
'Discover Japan',
Lonely Planet Publications,
2010. All rights reserved.
For more information


The Tokyo-Kyoto route is the classic Japan route and the best way to get a quick taste of the country. Spend a few days in Tokyo sampling modern Japan, then jump on the shinkansen (bullet train) and head to Kyoto to experience traditional Japan. Easy day trips out of each city allow glimpses of the Japanese countryside.

DISCOVER JAPAN: Available from all good bookshops for 895 baht.


Start your Japan adventure in Tokyo. We recommend concentrating on the modern side of Japan in Tokyo, since you'll see the traditional side of Japan in Kyoto. That said, you can't miss Meiji-jingu and Senso-ji, the city's main Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple, respectively. The next day, take advantage of your jet lag and wake up early to visit the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. You'll have most of the day left after the market, so you can check out the elite shopping district of Ginza, the electronics bazaar of Akihabara or the frenetic urban centres of Shibuya or Shinjuku, both of which look incredible by night.


For a break from the frenetic intensity of Tokyo, take a day trip to Nikko. About two hours north of Tokyo by express train, this ornately decorated shrine and temple complex is one of the most incredible sights in Japan.


Mt Fuji is occasionally visible from the skyscrapers of Tokyo, but nothing compares with the view of the mountain from the villages around its base. Take a bus from Shinjuku to Kawaguchi-ko for a truly awe-inspiring view of the mountain (but don't bother going unless the weather is really clear).


After exploring the Tokyo area, hop on the bullet train for the two-hour trip to Kyoto. We recommend spending your first day in the Southern Higashiyama district.

This is the thickest concentration of first-rate sights in the entire country: Kiyomizu-dera, Maruyama-koen, Chion-in and Shoren-in. The next day hit the Northern Higashiyama district, walking from Nanzen-ji to Ginkaku-ji via the Tetsugaku-no-michi (Path of Philosophy).

Round out your visit with a look at Nishiki Market and be sure to spend one of your evenings exploring the Gion entertainment area, which looks magical in the evening.

(Sources: Bangkok Post, Lonely Planet Publications)




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