Japan, known as Nihon, Nihon-koku or Nippon (日本) in Japanese, is a nation of islands in East Asia.
The "Land of the Rising Sun" is a country where the past meets the future. Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet has also been quick to adopt and create the latest modern fashions and trends.
Japan is often difficult to understand for those educated in the west. It can seem full of contradictions.
Many Japanese corporations dominate their industries, yet if you read the financial news it seems like Japan is practically
bankrupt. Cities are as modern and high tech as anywhere else, but tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to
glass fronted designer condominiums. Japan has beautiful temples and gardens which are often surrounded by garish signs
and ugly buildings. The most acclaimed restaurant in the country, which costs hundreds of dollars for dinner, is a small
shop located in a subway station seating less than a dozen people. In the middle of modern skyscrapers you’ll
discover sliding wooden doors which lead to traditional chambers with tatami mats, shoji screens, and calligraphy,
suitable for traditional tea ceremonies. These juxtapositions can seem perplexing or jarring to those used to the more
uniform nature of European and North American cities, but if you let go, and accept the layered aesthetics, you’ll
find interesting and surprising places throughout the country.
Japan's location on islands at the outermost edge of Asia has had a profound
influence on its history. Just close enough to mainland Asia, yet far enough to keep itself separate, much of Japanese
history has seen alternating periods of closure and openness.