Japan is an isolated, mysterious country that intrigues all travelers. It's a high-tech world mixed with deep traditions. It's an experience.
People often ask me WHY I keep going back in Japan again and again. So I've put together 10 things that make me love Japan... Among many others.
01|The Japanese food : a refined & healthy experience
Of course FOOD comes first -you just CAN'T stop a French talking about food. Sushi, ramen, miso, soba, udon, yakitori, tempura, jiaozi... Japan should be on the radar for anyone who loves food. You could pretty much spend weeks there trying new meals everyday. Actually, that's what I did: 15 days, 30 meals, 30 different (delicious) experiences. Caution: if you eat sushis in Japan, you will never be able to eat that take-away sushis back home -even on a desperate, lonely Saturday night.
02|The otherworldly fusion of landscape and design
Kyoto's Japanese gardens literally blew my mind -I didn't know such a beauty existed. The bells, the rocks, the bamboos, the bonsais, the torii gates really instill a sense of peace and serenity. As places of quiet contemplation and reflection, Japanese Zen gardens seem the perfect counterbalance to the stresses of an always-on, hyper-connected existence. It's not one of these place to see... It's much more. It's meant to be experienced.
03|The deepest traditions dating back thousands of years
How fascinating it is -you are in the most futuristic building looking at the new High Tech gadgets then, a minute later, you cross a beautifully dressed Geisha the next alley. The old traditions are so deeply anchored in the culture, Japan never lost its wonderful authenticity.
04|The tatami floors & futons bed in a ryokan : the real japanese lifestyle
First time we went in Japan, we stayed in a Ryokan 'for the experience' -and we actually loved it! Since then, we ALWAYS go for the classic Japanese Inn. Traditionally built from wood, it's comprised of tatami-matted flooring, communal bathing and dining areas -with this nice wood smell that reminds you you're in JAPAN. This is from far the best place to meet the locals, discover their true sense of hospitality and learn some words of Japanese.
05|The deepest snow powder you can imagine - Japow wonderland!
Influenced by snow storms from Siberia, Hokkaido snow is world renowned for its fresh snow powder, with an average of 10 to 18 meters of snow per season -one of the best snow in the world. You're basically flying through clouds of powder, with sprays surrounding you. All you can see are trees, transformed in sublime 'snow monsters', sagging heavy from weeks worth of fresh snow. And, sometimes, a volcano. Or the sea. Your choice.
06|The incredible kaleidoscope of fashion - Kawaii power!
Did you know that some of the greatest fashion designer go to Japan to be inspired for the next trends? They sure can be inspired there, between the Gyaru (poofy hairstyles + false tans), Lolitas (Rococo & Victorian Eras), Kigurumi (animal one-piece suits), Visual Kei (wild hairstyles, dark eyeliner and piercings) and many others. Japan is the birthplace of many of the weirdest and wackiest fashion trends. Thrown in funky hairstyles, doll makeup and a few traditional kimonos and you'd think you are in a Manga movie.
07|The love of nature & tranquility : Ikebana, the art of perfection
The beauty of an Ikebana flower arrangement lies in its asymmetrical balance, respect for the individual flower and harmony with nature as a whole. Ikebana is a disciplined art with a deep spiritual side, in which the artwork is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It must be practiced in silence to live in the moment, and to appreciate things in nature that previously seemed insignificant. Ikebana Masters are masters of perfection.
08|The treasured ancient structures : shrines & temples
Scattered around the country spanning centuries of design and worship, the shrines and temples of Japan are some of the finest examples of Japanese heritage and spirituality. From Kyoto to Okinawa, we discovered many temples & shrines, passing below beautiful torii gates, using bamboo ladles to purify our spirits, attending traditional ceremonies, weddings and performances...
09|The craziest themed cafes & restaurants
Japan has its quirks and oddities -and one of those is in its many themed cafes and restaurants. Cat, robot, maid, Alcatraz, Samurai, Sumo, Vampire, Alice in Wonderland and sooo many more. Some restaurants you go for the food. Not those -you go for the adventure! It might sounds cheesy to go in a cat cafe, but you have such a wide range of themed cafes, you will find the one that suits you best!
10|The holy grail of the onsen world
Sitting around naked with a bunch of people isn't really my thing. Till I tried it in Niseko after a day in the powder and... absolutely loved it. Being in a hot bath with a little waterfall near you when it's snowing outside is pretty damn relaxing. It was the kind of eye-opening experience that renews yourself. Talking about getting out of our comfort zone, heeere we are. And it feels GOOD!
And over all... the Japanese people.
You can forget everything you think you know about Japanese people. Go in Japan, meet the locals, talk with them, sing along in a karaoke with them, learn about their culture, their habits, their lifestyle... Share a bottle of saké. And make some friends!