The basics Population: 128 million Capital: Tokyo Religion: Shinto and Buddhism Emergency number: 119 The key dates

While you’re there, please don’t… • blow your nose in pubic; it’s considered rude. • use the term “chin chin” when making a toast; in Japanese, this expression refers to the male genitals. • forget to learn the characters for “male” and “female” unless you want to end up walking into the wrong room full of naked people in a hot spring ( onsen ). (This one is from the personal experience of an Expat Living editor!) Before you go, read … Anything by Haruki Murakami Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto – about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth – an account of the author’s journey, in 1977, through Japan on foot Before you go, watch … Godzilla – conceived as a monstrous metaphor for nuclear weapons, the film has Godzilla leave a trail of destruction in his wake on the streets of Tokyo. Lost in Translation – Sofia Coppola’s classic rom-com/drama features Bill Murray as a lonely and ageing film star and Scarlett Johansson as a neglected wife. Many scenes are set in the Park Hyatt Toyko. They said it “No one will understand a Japanese garden until you’ve walked through one, and you hear the crunch underfoot, and you smell it, and you experience it over time. There’s no photograph or any movie that can give you that experience.” – J. Carter Brown “ Juu-nin to-iro ” (“10 people, 10 colours”) – Japanese saying, akin to “different strokes for different folks” “One must learn, if one is to see the beauty in Japan, to like an extraordinarily restrained and delicate loveliness.” – Miriam Beard, author

1 January: The most important holiday in Japan. “Year forgetting” parties are held to leave the old year’s troubles behind, houses are cleaned, and relatives visit. 11 February: National Foundation Day ( kenkoku kinenbi ). Celebrating the crowning of the first Japanese emperor in 660 BC. The hot spots Popular destinations include Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Osaka, Okinawa, Fukuoka and Niseko. There are 20 World Heritage Sites, including Mt Fuji, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, and the historic monuments of Kyoto. Some itinerary ideas • Honshu: Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoyo • Kyushu: Fukuoka – Nagasaki – Aso – Beppu – Yufuin • Hokkaido: Sapporo – Asahikawa – Furano – Tomakomai How to stay healthy • There is an ongoing risk of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with the safety procedures of where you are staying, just in case. Check to keep updated. • Steer clear of the exclusion zones around Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

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