Very few places in the world offer travelers the chance to visit some of the most well-preserved and beautiful historic sites and then just across the street, ultra-modern sights, buildings, and futuristic diversions, but Mount FujiJapan does. Few countries can manage to pull off the peaceful serenity of the ancient temples, centuries-old Zen gardens, shrines, and palaces, right alongside totally mechanized and automated convenience stores, bullet trains, and buildings and museums dedicated to the commercial and technological enterprises that have defined Japan since the Second World War. Whether a spiritual, relaxing time in the gorgeous natural world that Japan offers, or an electric, cosmopolitan experience in one of the country’s major urban centers, visitors can find whatever they are looking for. . .if their wallets and credit cards can handle the beating that a trip to Japan will surely incur.

In Japan, all roads go through Tokyo, the country’s capital city, and one of the great cities in the world. Tokyo is at once a cultural mecca, exciting and electric consumer center, and historical and traditional seat of the Japanese people. The city is a eclectic mix of classical Japanese architecture alongside the glossy, mirrored post-modern skyscrapers that house some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Sony, Toyota, and Fuji TV. The Japanese are a people crazed and consumed with sports and gaming, and the city offers amusement parks, such as the Tokyo Joyopolis, which is videogame maker, Sega’s, high-tech wonderland, featuring games, indoor roller coasters, and virtual reality amusements. Also wild about baseball, Americans will especially enjoy seeing the Japanese version of the American pastime at the Tokyo Dome, where fans sing together during the games, and have a variety of cheers that liven up the games. Cultural buffs will find their share of sights in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and the National Museum. The Japanese are also known for their romantic trysts held in secret “love hotels”. For the more daring souls, a trip to Love Hotel Hill on the top of Dogenzaka will yield the largest number of these special hotels which can be rented by the hour. For late night partygoers, the Hill is located near many bars and clubs, and can be a good place to crash for a few hours before heading home.

Japan has a fairly mild climate, but does have four seasons, none of which are insufferable. Winters in most parts of the country are cool to cold, with occasional freezing temperatures and snowfall. Rainfall comes fairly regularly throughout the year, but mid-summer sees an increase. Summer temperatures can get up to 30 Celsius in parts of the country, but average summer temperatures are around 23 degrees.

Japan has a new law that travelers should be aware of. In an effort to fight terrorism, foreigners entering the country will be fingerprinted and photographed, and this data can be cross-referenced against records from around the world. Travelers from most Western countries and Australia do not need visas before traveling, and will receive a 90 day stamp upon arrival.

Japan is one of the few places in the world where the future and the past coexist in relative harmony. Travelers can spend their day visiting some of the most beautiful Zen gardens in the world, centuries-old temples, and shrines to ancient gods and goddesses, then have a bite to eat in a fully automated sushi bar, where the dishes come around on conveyor belts, and then go to sleep in a futuristic sleeping cube in a “capsule inn”, a hotel designed to maximize space by offering quality, yet extremely tiny rooms. Japan is a country of extremes, which makes it tops on the list of places to visit. The electricity and action of the cities are so omnipresent and almost overwhelming, that when you do find some peace and serenity in a park or garden, it just seems that much more relaxing!

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