Japan is a land of contradictions, a country that today proudly welcomes visitors and a fertile cross-pollination of ideas and creativity, but one that formerly resisted the influence of outsiders for centuries. It is a study in contrasts, where deeply held religious and cultural traditions inspire the populace, and yet cutting-edge innovations in technology and art, especially architecture, design, and fashion, account for a large measure of national pride.
This is a nation known for its many scenic vistas: awe-inspiring mountains and endless coastlines; modern cityscapes filled with avant-garde architecture; tranquil shrines and temples that soothe and refresh weary travelers; and national parks and wildlife refuges that offer the chance to “spend time in nature,” as Zen Buddhism advises.
The islands that comprise Japan range in climate from temperate regions such as Hokkaido to the north to the more balmy southern regions. As part of the Pacific Ocean’s geological “Ring of Fire,” Japan boasts hot springs, thermal pools, and 108 active volcanoes, including the masterful presence of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak, rising above Honshu. There is a region here suitable for nearly any outdoor pursuit—among them hiking, biking, swimming, surfing (not far from Tokyo, in some cases), fishing, skiing, and boating.
Today, Japan proudly takes its place as a formidable First World country, offering fertile ground for innovation in many realms, including electronics; computer technology; automotive, aeronautic, and structural engineering; medicine; and science. As a leader in diverse industrial fields, it has become a logical destination for business conferences, expos, conventions, and team-building events.
Tourism has also played a key part in the Japanese economy for decades—the country hosted 2.8 million international travelers in July of 2018, a number that was up more than 5 percent from the previous July. Yearly visitors in 2017 topped 28 million. And while Japan can be an expensive country to visit, there are many packages and tours that offer good value for money, as well as appealing incentives for business travelers.