Home of the highest life expectancy of any country on Earth, 85 for men and 87.3 for women. Where Misao Okawa was born, the oldest Japanese person ever, the oldest person ever born in Asia and the fifth oldest human ever, born on March 5, 1898 and died recently, on April 1, 2015, aged 117. The country never signed a peace treaty with Russia at the end of the Second World War, meaning these two countries are still engaged in that war. Japanese people consider black cats to be good luck. It has the second most volcanoes of any country on Earth with 108 of them, all active. It’s had 22 Nobel Prize winners to date. Most of their cities do not have street names. Instead, they’re divided up into numbered blocks. And it’s where karaoke was invented. Today, we’re in the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan.
Japan is a country made up of 6,852 islands located in East Asia and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The four main and largest islands are Hokkaido, Honshu (home to 80% of the population), Kyushu and Shikoku. It has the 10th largest population of any country with nearly 127 million people, and is the 62nd largest country at nearly 146,000 square miles. The red disc at the centre of the country’s flag represents the Sun, whilst the white that surrounds it symbolises peace.
Japan is home to a quirky mix of Asian, European and North American influences plus traditional Japanese culture. It’s an artistically minded place and has an eclectic and diverse music scene. It’s also famed for its cuisine, literature, anime and sport, including sumo and baseball, the most watched sport in the country. The Japanese are conversationalists, helpful, incredibly polite and peaceful.
Their country is mostly a mountainous and densely forested one, famed for its gardens, shrines, temples and hot springs. An ethereal and otherworldly country.
There are many great places and sites to visit, too many to list here. You have thoughtful shrines to the memory of horror and the promotion of peace in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Parks, there to commemorate those lost and what happened on August 6 and August 9 in 1945, when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on each city. Each now rebuilt and each truly amazing places to visit. Elsewhere, there’s Mount Fuji to see, an isangelous vista of foreboding doom sitting pretty on the horizon. Then there’s Rokuon-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple in a sublime garden complex. A wonderful traditional temple, one of the best, set on the water’s edge against a backdrop of supreme grace, a scene that makes one calefacient inside. And then there’s Shiretoko National Park, a stunning landscape enriched by its peaceful nature, the simplistic combination of calming blue water, a ribbon of lush thick trees and the hazy sharpness of the mountains looming behind. An elegant place.
I think the best sight of Japan is Yakushima. A subtropical island famed for its enchanting fairytale forest. The startling green canvas cocoons you inside an alien and Elysian atmosphere. The trees, some enormous and some incredibly thin, are twisted, bent and in a multitude of unusual shapes, with some draped over rocks as if they have melted. It doesn’t feel like one is on Earth, it feels like a prelapsarian dream, engrained with a raimentless beauty unlike anything else. It’s pulchritudinous to the highest degree. A place creating a childlike innocent vibe that is Japan in an exquisite essence.
Japan. The country of peace, rich culture and karaoke.
Images: 1) The flag of Japan (credit: wikimedia.org), 2) Yakushima Forest (credit: alljapantours.com), 3) Yakushima Forest (credit: japantravel.com)
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