Bright colours, the best food ever (ramen), cuteness overload, temples full of ancient histories, weird robots, very expressive costumes, mysterious geishas, the kindest people I ever met – I love Japan. Really. And I want to share with you why.
On my backpacking trip through Asia, Japan was undoubtedly my favourite country. Why? Because it has been my dream to visit Japan since I was 11 years old. When I was little, I was a huge fan of mangas and anime, I trained karate and even took some Japanese lessons beside school. My favourite movie was (of course) “Memoirs of a Geisha” and I was fascinated with Japanese calligraphy. So when I finally had the chance to visit Japan in 2016, I almost could not believe it. My childhood dream came true.
Japan is safe.
According to the Global Peace Index, Japan ranks #9 of the safest countries in the world. Speaking from my own experience, I never felt safer travelling alone. I even saw someone lose their wallet in the street and a total stranger just picked it up and handed it back. I swear you can forget your phone in a restaurant and when you come to search it a few hours later, it will either still be there or been handed to the manager. I also did Couchsurfing in Japan and stayed with total (male) strangers, and nothing ever happened to me.
Japanese people help you.
In my opinion, the Japanese are the most helpful and nice people on the planet. Even if most of them do not speak English, there is still always someone that offers their help to you. When I arrived in Osaka alone, I was a bit lost at the train station and after 10 seconds someone offered their help. That happened to me many times on my journey. Also my first Couchsurfing host I stayed with, accompanied me and my friend and explained us everything. He made breakfast for us in the morning and even prepared a little welcome package with Japanese delicacies for us … Until this day I am still in contact with the fantastic people I met in Japan.
If you are interested in my CS experiences, check out this article: My Best Couchsurfing Experiences.
Japan is a country of contrasts.
For me, Japan is a country of contrasts – its cities are impressively developed and full of technology, but its countryside is lush and green, and its ancient temples speak of countless mysteries. Tokyo is honestly one of the most developed cities I have ever seen, and its bright lights and colours truly impressed me – even more than the skyscrapers and temples of Shanghai. You never know what you will find, one day I entered a shop and a robot was attending me – yes, it is crazy. In contrast to the big cities and technology stand the smaller and older cities filled with ancient temples and histories. I was also astonished by the beautiful countryside of Japan, with so much nature and wildlife to offer.
Japanese food is the best.
I always loved Asian food, but coming to Japan I fell in love all over again (because an Asian take away in Europe is obviously very different from the original). When I ate my first ramen in Tokyo, I knew I could not eat anything else anymore. And there are so many different kinds of ramen! Japanese food is so fresh and tasty, but most of all it is much healthier than so many cuisines of this world. Because the Japanese cook with much less oil and much more greens, they eat a lot of rice, seaweed, green tea, soy, fruits, and vegetables, and the food is low in added sugar, fat, and animal protein.
Japan is weird.
And I mean that in a good way, because you can discover so many strange things in Japan you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Just some examples:
- Walking in the streets of Tokyo it is super normal to see people dressed up in super fancy costumes, with coloured hair, ultra-high heels, neon colours and too much makeup – they literally look like they just jumped out of an anime.
- You can go to a restaurant without seeing a single soul. You order and pay at a machine, then sit down in a little cabin, waiting for a small shaft to open with your order ready. Strange I know, but Japanese love their privacy.
- There exists a bar where you can go and order a foot massage or ear cleaning from the menu (yes, it is written there). Girls dressed up as maids will then serve to all your (weird) needs.
- Doing Couchsurfing, I stayed with a guy who lived in a one-room apartment, that was literally the size of a bathroom, I could not even spread my arms completely. We slept next to each other in the bed constructed under the ceiling, and I had to shower sitting on the toilet. That is what I call an experience.
Japan is a country of tradition.
I adore the Japanese shrines and temples, full of mysteries and ancient knowledge. Japanese people have so many tiny rituals and a really strong belief in a higher power. Even though their culture is based on Chinese culture, the Japanese developed their very own traditions over time. You can find shrines, belonging to the Shinto religion, and temples, belonging to the Buddhist religion, spread all over the country. Purification with water, bowing and clapping are all part of the rituals performed in those sacred places.
The Japanese are storytellers. Every single place in Japan has an ancient story to tell, which makes the whole country such a beautiful place to explore.
If you want to know more about the best places to visit in Japan, I recommend you to get a Lonely Planet Travel Guide for Japan (I always use them for my trips.)
If you want to see with your own eyes, enjoy this little travel impressions video I created about my first trip to Japan:
Thank you for appreciating my art!