Japan is a powerful East Asian country which blends modernity with ancient traditions. It is densely populated and has housing shortages in some urban areas. It can claim the tenth largest population in the world, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world in Tokyo. Japan has a strong economy and is highly industrialized. Cars and electronics are very big business. Japan is in fact a chain of over 6,000 islands, four of which are major in size–Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Terrain and temperatures vary widely throughout the country. Forests and mountains make up most of the country’s terrain, but there are subtropical regions in the South and along coastlines. Some of the over 90,000 species of wildlife include the brown bear, the Japanese macaque, the Japanese raccoon dog, and the Japanese giant salamander.
The intrepid can try to hike Mt. Fuji. Just a few hours west of Tokyo on Honshu Island, its landscapes have inspired Japanese art and poetry for many centuries. The Tokyo National Museum contains the world’s largest collection of Japanese art. If you get to Kyoto, you must see the famous Golden Pavilion, known to the Japanese as Kinkaku-Ji.
Rice is the supreme grain of Japan, and noodles made from wheat or buckwheat are also extremely popular. Agriculture is limited in Japan, but some common vegetables include spinach, cabbage, daikon radish, carrot, and various types of sweet potato or yam. Fermented soy products such as miso paste and soy sauce play an important role in Japanese cuisine. Fish is extremely important and varied in this country on the sea. There is little room to raise beef cattle, but chicken is popular in yakitori and other dishes. The Japanese take their ramen seriously, and you can buy a high-quality bowl of tsukemen-style noodles in the Tokyo train station with your farecard. There is actually a line to get in the line to eat there.
Macrobiotic restaurants are fairly easy to find in urban areas, I’s a Japanese style of eating, so get a bowl of brown rice and seasonal fixin’s. Organic Asian and European restaurants (like Italian and French) are another great option. There is a sizable Korean community in Japan, so try their spicy cuisine. Drink some soju straight for a real kick! You can also sip some sake. The best kinds are meant to be consumed cold, although the cheaper, warm ones definitely have an appeal too!