An island nation in East Asia, Japan is over 70% mountainous terrain with approximately 18% land mass suitable for human settlement. Japanese cities are typically densely populated because of this. Though the national language is officially Japanese, many locals are taught English during grade school. Northern areas of Japan receive snow in the winter, but overall the climate is mild in the winter and subtropical the rest of the year, with a rainy season in June. With the third largest GDP in the world, Japan has a major influence over the global economy and culture. You’ll never have more authentic or delicious sushi than in Japan either, the warm and cold currents surrounding the island lead to a variety of species prospering.
A few popular areas in Japan are:
Tokyo: Want to live amongst 12 million fellow human beings in one prefecture? That’s Tokyo. You hear a lot of grief about the smog and the crowds, but really it is a cultural, financial, and entertainment hub that can hardly be paralleled globally. This wealthy area is typically the center of the high-tech world as new, amazing inventions always seem to pop up here. The size and pace can intimidate a first-time visitor. Frankly the best way to experience Tokyo is not by visiting tourist attractions, but by walking around and enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Being a major fashion and commerce center in the world, if you can buy it, Tokyo has it, so bring your wallet. Visit one of the 6000 parks in Tokyo and see the cherry blossoms or check out some Japanese baseball in either of the two stadiums. The subway system is extremely crowded to bike around like a local instead!
Kyoto: If you picture Japan as a series of incredible temples and shrines, you’re probably thinking of Kyoto. It was actually the capital of Japan for a long time, and the center of politics and culture until those were literally and figuratively transferred to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. There are 17 World Cultural Heritage Sites in Kyoto including Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle. This is a hands-on region where you can experience the Japanese culture and much of its history. In Kyoto you can brew sake, drink local tea, arrange flowers, wear a kimono, practice your samurai swordsmanship and more. A rather compact city you can get anywhere in 30 minutes or less.
Nagano: Nagano took center stage at the 1998 Winter Olympics which is interesting considering the area has a subtropical climate. Nagano is most famous for Zenkō-ji, a 7th-century Buddhist temple that overlooks the city, as well as the beautiful Northern Alps mountains that surround it. For those looking to relax and get in touch with nature, Nagano is a perfect choice as the area experiences all four distinct seasons.
Visiting Japan can be quite a thrill for all involved, especially Americans. Halfway around the world and only seen through TV, movies, or pictures - Japan is really a sight to behold. Have an authentic experience in Japan by staying in a vacation rental, instead of a traditional hotel, that way you can explore the country like a local would. You’re already out of your comfort zone by eating rare food and seeing a new culture, stay comfortable in a vacation rental that has all the space, privacy, and amenities of home.