Much to Discover

Many people think Japan is far, far away in distant Asia. However, it takes the same time to fly from Vancouver to London as it does from Vancouver to Tokyo.

Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world and wields a lot of influence in the world but it is still a relatively undiscovered country. Why?

There are many reasons but one that comes to mind is that, until recently, Japan did not spend a lot of time and money promoting itself as a tourist destination. It does not advertise itself to the world as, say, the United States promotes itself and its culture to the world. According to the World Tourism Organization, the number 1 most visited country in the world is France (76 million visitors per year) and Japan ranks down the list with approximately 8.6 million visitors for 2010 (Source: Japan National Tourism Organization). When you go to a travel agency, for example, you always see posters of the US, France, China, Italy, the Caribbean but it is not common to see posters of Japan.

Generally speaking I often find the Japanese people hesitant to open up and talk freely about their country and culture, unless you ask. I have found I almost have to corner someone and ask them directly about what is happening in Japan or get someone to explain something about their culture. They love telling you about Japan once you get them going but you always have to make the first move. If you do corner them and force them to open up, they will come forth with the most amazing stories and terrific insights.

I think the reason for this is that Japanese are, in general, a shy and modest people and are reluctant to speak openly about their country and expand upon their country’s virtues. They are not the talkative, persuasive salespeople compared to, say, the Americans and how openly and willingly our neighbours to the south can tell you about what life is like in the United States. However, if you meet someone who is knowledgeable and willing to talk then take the opportunity to learn as much as you can as it will be such an educational experience.

Culture, Not Geography

Tea Ceremony, Washitsu, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Japan

Canada is well-known around the world for its natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Canadians, in general, deeply appreciate this geographical fact about Canada and feel lucky to live in such a beautiful country. Being a small chain of islands, Japan is a beautiful country too but not on the same size or scale as Canada.

Many Canadians ask me about the places to visit in Japan which share the wide-open expanse of the Canadian prairies or the Canadian north. I tell people that Japan is a small, compact country compared to Canada. While there are many pretty spots Japan does not have the vast, wide-open Canadian-style scenery. Instead, while there are many very beautiful place in Japan I believe the most beautiful part of the country lies in its long, rich and fascinating history and culture.

Maiko in Kyoto, Japan

Maiko in Kyoto

I think the main goal in going to Japan is about seeing and experiencing its history and culture. It is a historical-cultural experience rather than an outdoor experience. Everything is Japan is so different from Canada: its language, food, traditions, customs…the list is endless it seems. Japan is a modern, wealthy country like Canada but also an Asian country with very different values, customs, traditions, and lifestyles. The biggest attraction Japan holds for me are the many differences between Canada and Japan, and how much there is to learn about the country and its people.