JAPAN

DESTINATIONS / ASIA / JAPAN

FACTS /  A country of more than 6,000 islands, Japan is located at the far edge of East Asia. For centuries, the Japanese lived in a feudal society under samurai rule, during  which the country was cut off from its neighbors and influences of the West. Emerging from this isolation came a unique, often intriguing and somewhat enigmatic culture.  In the 19th century, Japan abandoned its feudal ways and embarked on a rapid program of industrialization that led to it becoming a world superpower.  Nowadays, Japan has the world’s 3rd largest economy and more than 3/4 of its population live in the sprawling metropolises of its four main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku).  In 2013, Japan attracted more than 10 million tourists. Internal public transport, including the high-speed bullet trains, is clean and impeccably punctual, making travel easy.

 

STAY /  With their endless neon, noise and hyperactive energy, Japan’s frenetic urban centers dazzle the senses, but they are just one aspect of the country’s identity. We think it’s worth taking a trip to Japan’s leafy green rural landscapes, which exude a sense of peace and calm.  Outside the city of Kanazawa, Beniya Mukayu is a true sanctum — a Japanese hideaway guaranteed to pare down stress.  Inspired by Zen philosophy, Beniya Mukayu offers a luxury take on a ryokan (a traditional Japanese-style inn), providing a restful and serene place to stay.  Its minimalist décor is elegant, restrained and harmonious.  Guests have the option to sleep in tatami rooms, soak in steaming onsen (Japanese baths) and partake in time-honored native traditions.  

 TASTE / In Tokyo, Japan’s most densely populated city, space is scarce.  Concrete and glass towers race skyward. To appreciate the cityscape fully, you should race skyward too. Kozue, the sleek and ambient Japanese restaurant on the 40th floor of a Shinjuku high-rise, makes the most of its aerial location with floor to ceiling windows.  It’s part of the Park Hyatt, a stylish hotel known for its starring role in “Lost in Translation.”  The food in Kozue is as meticulously crafted as the handcrafted lacquer dishes upon which it sits.  You can try various Japanese specialties and sake, then retreat to the New York Bar, where Bill Murray’s character famously whiled away his nights sipping on Suntory whisky.

 

 

EXPERIENCE / Japan is full of one-off experiences. You might find yourself meditating with monks, observing sumo wrestlers grappling, squeezing into the pocket-sized bars and alleyways of Tokyo’s atmospheric Golden Gai or celebrating the beautiful but brief cherry blossom season with locals.  But if there’s a single Japanese experience we believe is worth seeking out, it’s got to be the ancient tea ceremony. In Japan, preparing tea is no flippant matter — it’s an art form. The tea ceremony is a treasured Zen practice designed to focus the senses. Don’t worry about the proper etiquette; a tea master will guide you through the process and before you know it, you’ll be relishing not just the matcha but the moment too.

 

 

VIEW /  The near-perfect cone of Mount Fuji is a national symbol. If you’re looking to see its symmetrical peak from ground level in Tokyo, you’ll likely be disappointed as it’s frequently obscured by surrounding skyscrapers. Luckily, there are plenty of other prime viewing spots. We recommend the nearby islands of Enoshima and Oshima.  During summer, hikers can trek up the holy mountain, reaching the summit just in time for sunrise. There are four different routes to the top, but the easiest and most accessible is the Yoshida trail, which begins at the Fifth Station and takes around six hours to reach the summit and another three to descend.

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