There is no doubt that Japan is one of the most unique places in the world. So far away from Europe while so close to our imagination, the truth is that there are things that only happen in Japan. If you’re organizing a trip to this fantasy land, check out our list to get ready for what awaits you:
THE TRAINS ARE THE FASTEST IN THE WORLD
Shinkansen is Japan’s railway network where the fastest trains in the world circulate. Also known as “bullet trains”, the fastest one which can get up to 300km/h!
THE METRO STATIONS ARE FILLED WITH ORGANIZED CROWDS
In any capital city, metro stations are meeting points for the largest (and most chaotic) crowds in the world. But not in Japan. Even at rush hour, when the metro stations are filled with people, there is no chaos: instead of pushing each other to get on the metro, here, people wait in line. You might even see a 100-meter-long line, but it’s there! The respect here among people is astounding.
RELIGION IS A WAY OF LIFE
The lives of the Japanese, who are, in their majority, Shintoists or Buddhists, are heavily governed by religious rituals that are more intense than anything I have ever seen. Every city is filled with temples that not only make a stunning skyline but also feel like a small window into some of the oldest Japanese traditions.
CRISTIANO RONALDO IS VERY WELL KNOWN...FOR A STRANGE PRODUCT
It’s true. Some years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo launched a product in Japan that we, Portuguese people, always thought very odd: a device that helps to strengthen your jaw and neck. Yes, you read that right.
THE CROWDS IN THE STREET ARE IMPRESSIVE
Shibuya Crossing is where you’ll find Tokyo’s largest crowds. When the light turns red, it’s incredible to stop here and watch the hundreds of people that start gathering on both sides of the street. And when the light turns green again, it’s every man for himself – the crowd invades the road, blending in without colliding, spreading out across all directions. This is the city of Tokyo as you’ve always imagined it.
THE SUSHI IS HEAVENLY
The Japanese obsession with hygiene, perfect presentation and order is what makes sushi a true delicacy in Japan. And it’s just like you see in the movies: long tables with the small dishes circling around it (blue plates have one price, yellow plates have another). At one of the restaurants where I ate, you could even order a special sushi that came up to your table in a remote-control car! Japan will surprise with little things like this.
THE FISH MARKET IS THE LARGEST IN THE WORLD
If you can only make it to one fish market in the world, make it Tokyo’s. The Tsukiji Market is the largest fish and seafood market in the world and one of the largest food markets where millions of yens are sold in fish every year. If you really want to immerse yourself in this part of Japanese culture, visit in the morning which is when the fish auction takes place.
SKY TREE CAFÉ IS THE BEST SPOT FOR ICE CREAM
In 2012, Sky Tree Tokyo Tower was the tallest structure in the world. But with the Burj Khalifa, this title was lost. But that doesn’t mean this still isn’t one of the most unique places to enjoy a tasty scoop of ice cream with a stunning view of Tokyo’s skyline.
DORAEMON IS EVERYWHERE
Japan is very familiar to us because of all the characters of stories we loved as kids – Dragon Ball, Oliver & Benji, Pokemon… But I was Doraemon’s biggest fan as a kid and wouldn’t miss one new episode every day after school. So, visiting Japan was almost like being transported back to my childhood! Doraemon is one of Japan’s cultural ambassadors so he’s everywhere! Every turn was a new opportunity to take a photo with Doraemon.
EVEN THE CABLE CARS ARE DIFFERENT
In Shiga, a less visited part of Japan, even the cable cars are different. In this town off the beaten path, you can live at the pace of some of this country’s oldest traditions. And observe different things too like this silver cable car!
THE MEMORY OF SAMURAIS LIVES ON
The memory of ancient samurais is still very present all across Japan. There are thousands of castles that keep their traditions, habits and stories alive. This photo was taken at Hamamatsu Castle where we got to learn more about the samurai culture that I had only seen in anime shows until then.
CREATIVITY IS IN EVERY DETAIL
For the first time ever, we saw a parking lot sign with a P and a heart around it – this kind of stuff only happens in a truly unique country!
TEA IS NOT JUST A DRINK - IT´S AN EXPERIENCE
It was in Japan that I learned to drink tea without sugar. Here, tea is deeply rooted into the culture. We ended up buying a tea set there and this photo just perfectly sums up what the Japanese people are all about: kindness, humility and a good heart. Even though it was difficult to communicate (some Japanese vendors don’t speak a lot of English), they’re always willing to help and make you feel good.
MOUNT FUJI IS EVERYWHERE
Wherever you go, you can always get a peak of Mount Fuji in the distance. And taking the train with a view of Mount Fuji is amazing; it’s one of those things that truly impress you. Even if you can’t visit it, just getting a few glances at it is magnificent.
TAXI DRIVERS ARE REAL-LIFE CHARACTERS
Here, taxis and taxi drivers seem like they’ve come from a different world. Impeccably clean and modern cars, with automatic doors! And the taxi drivers themselves are a character: always wearing white gloves, extremely considerate, very respectful, super polite. Another example of how things in Japan are just done differently.
IT´S HERE THAT YOU´LL FIND THE WORLD´S MOST BEAUTIFUL TEMPLE
Located in Kyoto, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) is undoubtedly the most beautiful I have seen to date. Impressively adorned in gold, Kinkakuji stands out even in the city with the most temples in the world. And if you’re coming to visit this temple, stay to discover more of Kyoto with its geishas and traditional Japanese houses.
SAKURA TREES ARE A TOURIST ATTRACTION ON THEIR OWN
One of Japan’s biggest symbols, Sakura trees look like a mirage of color across the country. The best time to see them bloom is in April, when the entire country heads out and fills the streets to celebrate this miracle of nature.
THE FUSHIMI INARI SHIRE IS UNIQUE
One of the largest Shintoist temples dedicated to the god Inari (god of rice), the Fushimi Irani Shrine is best known for its thousands of torii (the famous orange gates that lead the way up to the temple). Each torii was donated by a Japanese tradesman or company and walking up to the temple is one of those things you can’t miss in Japan.