Capital | Tokyo
Population | 126,475,664 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 377,835 SQ KM
Official Language | Japanese
Holidays | Birthday of Emperor AKIHITO, 23 December (1933)
Currency | Yen (JPY)
Time Zone | UTC +9
Best Time to Visit | March and April
Connecting with the Culture | Taking a relaxing dip in an onsen (hot bath) at Beppu or Asoyama. Admiring the cherry blossoms in Tokyo’s Ueno Park in March. Drinking in the view of Tokyo from the top of Mt Fuji. Pretending you’re a Samurai warlord at Himeji-jo castle. Having a zen experiencing at Kinkakuji temple, Kyoto. Finding out why war sucks at the Hiroshima or Nagasaki war museums. Riding on a slide made entirely of ice at the Sapporo Snow Festival.
Read | Inside Japan by Peter Tasker, a fascinating foray into Japanese culture, society and the economy. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is a hauntingly beautiful story set in contemporary Tokyo that shows a side of Japan not often seen.
Listen | to ‘Sukiyaki’ by Kyu Sakamoto, a 1960s hit and classic Japanese tune, reminiscent of 1950s lounge music; or anything by Morning Musume, an all girl J-pop group of 13(!) members, where singing talent is optional.
Watch | Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, a classic 1954 film set in 17th-century rural Japan, or get a taste for Japan with Tampopo, a witty and insightful film set in a ramen (noodle) soup.
Eat | ramen noodles, Japan’s fast food specialty- though you haven’t ‘done’ Japan till you’ve experienced fresh raw fish.
Drink | sake, Japan’s signature drink, commonly known as rice wine and served hot or cold.
In a Word | Sugoi (used for surprise, wonder or horror and everything in between)
Characteristics | Raw fish; Samurai swords; hard-working salary men; bowing; Hiroshima and the A-bomb; electronic gadgets; geisha girls; Mt Fuji; karaoke; manga comic books.
Surprises | It’s polite to slurp loudly when eating soup or noodles; shoes must be removed before entering any home; most home kitchens don’t have ovens; Japan has over 1500 earthquakes a year.
NEWS ABOUT JAPAN:
Brown Bears Kill Women in Japan
(HN, 4/20/12) - In Akita, Japan 2 female employees were killed Friday by brown bears that escaped from a cage at the Hachimantai Bear Farm in Kazuno. Police said that when 3 employees - including the 2 women - opened the cage to feed the bears, they escaped and attacked them. Police believe the bears climbed over the fence by climbing onto high-piled snowdrifts. The dead women, aged 75 & 69, were bitten on their legs & other parts of their bodies. A male employee in his 60's was unharmed. Local hunters later shot & killed all 6 bears. The farm, which was closed for the winter holidays & due to open later this month, had about 50 bears in it. (Read more at the Daily Yomiuri)
Japan warns of nuclear safety 'myth' at NSS2012
(HN, 3/27/12) - The Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda warned at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea on Monday that "the world must not be lulled into a 'myth of safety'", following lessons learned from the tsunami & nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima, Daiichi nuclear plant after a tsunami last year killed close to 20,000 people & swamped the facility, causing national economic dislocation & severe radiation contamination north-east of Tokyo. Addressing more than 40 world leaders he said a ''man-caused act of sabotage will test our imaginations far more than any natural disaster'' - which is the focus of the summit which closed last night with all attending nations agreeing to a communique that outlined measures to minimize stockpiles of enriched uranium & plutonium, safeguard nuclear facilities & prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear & radioactive materials. (Read more at the SMH)