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COLORFUL SCENERIES OF THE WORLD

JAPAN

Japan is a country of contrasts, and Tokyo is no exception. From the glitz of Roppongi and Shibuya, where great restaurants, theme bars and karaoke clubs offer you a unique nighttime experience, to the tranquility of Buddhist temples and sleepy side streets, where antique shops and old cafes reside. But if you ask people whether they would consider Japan as a holiday destination, the response you often hear is

11 December 2010 Saturday 11:51
Japan is a country of contrasts, and Tokyo is no exception. From the glitz of Roppongi and Shibuya, where great restaurants, theme bars and karaoke clubs offer you a unique nighttime experience, to the tranquility of Buddhist temples and sleepy side streets, where antique shops and old cafes reside.

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But if you ask people whether they would consider Japan as a holiday destination, the response you often hear is, “I would love to go, but it's too expensive.”

Indeed, many rule out the possibility of a holiday in Japan without even checking the facts. The myth of the hyper expensive country, where you are reputed to pay up to $200 for a melon, still pervades. A little investigation and inside information from those in the know, like Tokyo 's expatriate residents, shows that a trip to Japan doesn't have to be so expensive. In fact, it is surprising what you can do on a limited budget.

Members of the expatriate community are a mixed bunch with different reasons for being here and different interests. But one thing they all agree on is that life is never boring here; Japan has something for everyone, whatever your tastes or interests; and it is possible to have a good time relatively cheaply if you pick and choose.


GEOGRAPHY
Japan is situated in northeastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan. The area of Japan is 377,873 square kilometers, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined or slightly smaller than California. Japan consists of four major islands, surrounded by more than 4,000 smaller islands.

Shown below are the four major islands, their locations and sizes.

Hokkaido (northern island)      83,000 square kilometers, Honshu (main island)            231,000 square kilometers
Shikoku (smallest island)        19,000 square kilometers, Kyushu (southern island)        42,000 square kilometers

Japan's topographical features include coastlines with varied scenery, towering mountains, which are very often volcanic and twisted valleys that invite visitors into the mysterious world of nature.


LANGUAGE
There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many Japanese are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education.

Even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still certainly enjoy Japan. But if you know a few everyday Japanese phrases then it will make your trip even more memorable. A few words make a big difference.

Useful Japanese Phrases:
Japanese              < >  English
Ohayou gozaimasu   -  Good morning
Kon'nichiwa             -  Good afternoon
Kon'banwa               -  Good evening
Oyasumi nasai          -  Good night
Sayounara               -  Good-bye
Sumimasen              -  Excuse me
Gomen nasai            -  I am sorry
Wakarimasen            -  I don't understand
Arigatou                   - Thank you
Hai                          -  Yes
lie                            - No


POPULATION
Japan's population is over 126 million. Most Japanese reside in densely populated urban areas. Japan's capital city is Tokyo. The population of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area including the city, some of its suburbs and the surrounding area is approximately 12 million.

Major cities of Japan and their approximate populations

City Population
Tokyo 12,059,000, Yokohama 3,426,000, Osaka 2,598,000, Nagoya 2,171,000, Sapporo 1,822,000,
Kobe 1,493,000, Fukuoka 1,290,000, Sendai 1,008,000


JAPANESE CYPRESS

Many old shrines and temples in Japan are built with cypress wood. Japanese cypresses are evergreen needle-leaved trees that grow as high as about 40 m. The wood has beautiful woodgrain, is durable, easy to process, and highly tolerant of humidity. For these reasons, cypress is known to be superb building material. Homes built with cypress are considered a luxury even nowadays.

Another secret to its popularity is the sheen the pale yellow bark develops increasingly over time. With its anti-bacterial properties and refreshing fragrance, cypress is used often as a material for bathtubs in hot spring areas. The tree fragrance of these tubs is a delight.


JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHY

Japanese calligraphy, which consists of rubbing ink sticks to produce ink and writing with a brush, was once a common way of writing in Japan. Nowadays, few people write with brushes on a daily basis, but the artistic qualities of calligraphy are highly appreciated. In fact, calligraphy exhibitions are held, just like those for paintings. One difference from paintings is that once it's written, corrections are not made. Calligraphers consider the size and balance of the characters, the darkness or lightness of the ink, how easily the ink will run, what lines will be broken or grazed, and write the characters all at once. Japanese calligraphy is a simple yet profound art, rendered in the two colors of black and white.


MAIKO

Maiko are young women training in arts such as Japanese dance, shamisen (a Japanese instrument), and a traditional way of singing to become geisha, whose profession is to entertain guests at traditional Japanese-style restaurants. Their hairstyle varies slightly depending on how many years they've been training. However, their unique appearance with the red collar peeking from underneath a long-sleeved kimono and long dangling obi belt is exactly the same as girls who lived in the towns at the end of the Edo period (1603-1867). Because their dance was performed in dim candle-lit rooms at the time, they colored their skin white to make it look beautiful. Makeup techniques of spreading hair oil on the face and applying special face powder remain the same today.


THE SEA

Being an island country completely surrounded by ocean, Japan's lifestyle has a deep connection to the blue sea. For example, Japan's shipbuilding technology leads the world, while construction completion rivals that of Korea for highest volume. In Japan's adjacent sea, currents from the north and south run into each other, so a rich variety of fish and shellfish can be caught. Additionally, other marine products such as seaweed have been traditionally consumed. This is one reason why fishing villages throughout the country all have local product specialties.

Naturally in the summer, beaches nationwide bustle with people.


MOSS

Moss is a precious plant that requires just the right amount of temperature, humidity, and sunlight to grow. It takes several years to completely cover a rock or land surface with moss. The deep green carpet has always been prized as a symbol of nature's tranquility, subtleness, and profoundness. At the World Heritage-inscribed Saihoji Temple of Kyoto, also known as "Kokedera (literally, 'moss temple')," about 120 varieties of moss can be enjoyed. There is even a recent quiet trend of moss balls being bought and displayed as a soothing interior item.


LACGUER

Lacquerware, with its unique shine, is wooden tableware coated with the sap collected from Japanese lacquer trees. The lacquer coat hardens the wood and will slightly stretch or shrink in unison with it according to the temperature or humidity. For this reason, this surface processing technique is a good fit for Japan's climate with its four distinct seasons. Besides tableware, lacquer is also used widely for furniture, makie (lacquer art), and Buddhist altars. It's also called by different names according to region, such as Wajima, Tsugaru, Aizu, and Kiso lacquerware.


MATCHA 5GREEN POWDERED TEA)

With the emergence of green teas sold in PET bottles that can be drunk easily anywhere, a green tea boom is sweeping not only Japan, but also the world. Green tea is high profile these days as a healthy beverage that can lower cholesterol levels and has antioxidants such as vitamin C and catechin.


DYE GOODS

Dye goods are developed in correspondence to local climates. Regional specialty fabrics were created, such as the brilliantly colored Yuzen dye and the Oshima tsumugi (pongee), which is dyed with soil. People also took notice of the benefits of dye goods. Indigo dye was used for farm work clothing because of its insect repellent properties, while tanned paper dyed with persimmon tannin was used for wrapping paper and umbrellas due to its strengthening and water-resistant properties. Also, there is meaning in colors. The silk cloth used to wrap money and congratulatory gifts is red or purple for happy occasions and navy blue or gray for sad ones.


RICE PLANTS

In April and May, rice planting is completed and the paddies are fresh and green. Frogs happily ribbit at the roots of the freshly planted rice. With nourishment from the sun, soil, and water, the rice plants grow tall, and when the golden rice ears begin to droop heavily around September or October, it's time to harvest. The reaped rice is leaned against a "hazakake," a rack made of wooden poles, and dried in the sun. By doing this, the moisture is slowly removed to create delicious rice.


SHOGI

Shogi is a game, somewhat like chess, played one-on-one. Each player takes turns moving one of 20 pieces on a nine-by-nine board. The person who captures the other player's osho (king) wins. There are eight different types of pieces, and each may be moved only in a certain way.

The wooden pieces emit a sharp thump when placed in position, creating a uniquely tense atmosphere. The pieces attained their pentagon shape approximately 1,000 years ago, and it's said that the current rules were formed in the latter half of the 16th century.


CASTLES

Japan's castles are quite ingenious in design. Moats and stone walls were built around castles to stop enemies from entering, while gates were positioned in a complex manner so that intruders couldn't advance in a straight line. The most visible castle tower (Tenshukaku) was used as a watchtower, and the living quarters of the lord of the castle were in the palace compound.

While there are several castles, the Himeji Castle of Hyogo prefecture in the photo is a valuable one, retained in its original form since built in 1609. It measures 92 m in height including the foundation. The castle tower with five layers and six floors is definitely worth seeing.


CHOPSTICKS

While chopsticks are used widely throughout Asia, Japanese chopsticks have a unique shape. China's chopsticks are even in thickness, but Japan's chopsticks vary. There are the katakuchibashi with one end tapered, ryoguchibashi with both ends tapered, and maru-bashi with rounded tips, and more. Lengths also vary for children or for meotobashi (literally 'married couple chopsticks'), with the husband's pair being longer. Materials are diverse, such as wood, bamboo, and metal, as well as more expensive types such as lacquer-coated or with lacquer art. In addition to using for regular meals, there are a wide variety of different functions such as saibashi used for cooking, iwaibashi used for celebrations, and toribashi used for serving food.


FANS

The fan is a tool to cool down by fanning oneself by hand. It has a long history, with depictions of women holding fans seen in murals dating back to the 7th-8th centuries.

For a long time, fans were used exclusively by aristocrats and finally spread to the common people in the 16th century. In the major production area of Edo (now Tokyo), fans with portraits of kabuki actors and landscapes were very popular. The shape of the fan shifted from round to oval, but the simple structure has remained unchanged. You can keep cool during the hot and humid Japanese summer by wearing a yukata (informal cotton kimono) and fanning yourself with this.


JAPANESE GARDENS

With a foundation of the religious devotion to gods dwelling in nature, Japanese gardens are a spatial art created to reflect social and cultural background and ideas. Items of nature such as plants, the landscape, and rocks are positioned sometimes delicately, sometimes boldly, to shape the garden.

A representative example of Japanese gardens is the "karesansui," or dry garden. This is devoid of embellishments, doesn't use water, and is rendered with white sand, stones, and the landscape to portray nature. Rather than walking in this type of garden, value is placed on mental images evoked by reflecting on oneself while gazing at it.


TRADITIONAL JAPANESE HAIRSTYLE

In the past, the Japanese customarily wore their hair up. However, since the advance of westernization since the 1870s, this custom has disappeared. The men's hairstyle of shaving hair off the middle of the head and tying the hair on the sides and back together was generically called a "chonmage (topknot)." Up until the Edo period (1603-1867), the practical aspects of women's hairstyles were given importance. During the peaceful era of the Edo period, hairstyles eventually developed into a fashion for women; for example, they would change their hairstyle upon coming of age or wear an ornamental hairpin.


ARRANGE YOUR TRAVEL
You can find preferred hotels by region search


HOKKAIDO
Hokkaido

TOHOKU
Aomori | Akita | Iwate | Yamagata | Miyagi | Fukushima

KANTO
Gunma | Tochigi | Ibaraki | Saitama | Tokyo | Chiba | Kanagawa | Yamanashi

HOKURIKU-SHINETSU
Niigata | Nagano | Ishikawa | Toyama

CHUBU
Shizuoka | Gifu | Aichi | Mie | Fukui

CHUGOKU
Tottori | Okayama | Shimane | Hiroshima | Yamaguchi

KYUSHU
Fukuoka | Saga | Nagasaki | Oita | Kumamoto | Miyazaki | Kagoshima

KINKI
Shiga | Nara | Kyoto | Wakayama | Hyogo | Osaka

SHIKOKU
Kagawa | Ehime | Kouchi | Tokushima

OKINAWA
Okinawa



MAKE RESERVATION ONLINE FOR REASONABLY PRICED HOTELS IN JAPAN


Sapporo | Tokyo | Nagoya | Kobe Kyoto Osaka | Fukuoka





HOTEL AND RYOKAN SEARH


_HOKKAIDO_________ TOHOKU___________ KANTO-KOSHIN-ETSU_ IZU-HAKONE

Hokkaido is blessed with great natural expanses and an abundance of foods as well as a great number of major hot springs and Japanese ryokan spread throughout the island.

Tohoku Experience the goodness of daily life that Tohoku habitants feel every day. Enjoy the area in “unhurried, carefree, and easygoing” style, just as the way things go well in Tohoku.

Kanto-Koshin-Etsu Located close to the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kanto-Koshin-Etsu have great features developed from its rich nature and diverse culture.

Izu-Hakone The greatest attraction is the great many hot-spring spas. The Izu-Hakone area has many Japanese ryokan with unique flavors, which makes it a well-known tourist area..



_CHUBU_________________ KINKI_________________ CHUGOKU______________ SHIKOKU


Chubu The Chubu Region is richly endowed with natural settings, an ancient historical heritage, and an industrial culture of special value that offer a wide range of experiences and sightseeing opportunities.

Kinki In Kansai area, you can enjoy Japan from ancient times to present-day; visiting, Kyoto and Nara, of old capitals to modern cities, Osaka and Kobe.

Chugoku The area has nationally unique landscapes; the karst tableland of Akiyoshi-dai, and the dune of Tottori Sakyu, and its seasonal sceneries please every visitors' eyes.

Shikoku The Dogo Spa is one of the oldest in Japan. Surrounded by the sea and forests, you can enjoy a spa at a Japanese ryokan while enjoying exploring the surrounding area.



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