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Photo of Matsumoto Castle - click for more travel photos from Japan
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Banzai ! Travelling on a budget in Japan is far from easy. But third degree culture shock can set in when you realise that the country might not be the same place you heard about back at home...

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Forget about the revolving sushi bars and manga-inspired images of techno-cities - for the most part Japan means bad suburban planning, uncovered drains, and endlessly dull highways flanked by pachinko parlours and love hotels.
And lose any romantic ideas of ninja castles, geisha girls and wooden rice-farming villages. About ninety-eight percent of modern-day Japan is a world away from the popular image of the orient as an esoteric and spiritual haven. Most of the country is cluttered with telegraph wires and convenience stores, the rail network is overrated and nobody in the countryside speaks English. Welcome then to 21st century Nihon.

Independent Sites
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Beginner's Guide
A & S Archer
More Information on 'A Beginners Guide to Japan'
A Cynic's Guide
Michael King
More Information on 'Japan: A Cynic's Guide'
The Japan FAQ
Robert Murphy
More Information on 'The Japan FAQ'
Japan Update
Jan Dodd
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Japan, east of the Orient ?
© Alan Lansdowne, Joetsu-shi, May 1999

First time arrivals in Japan, might be forgiven for expecting the country to feel oriental in the same way as China or Vietnam. But Japan warily stands apart from the East Asian countries it eyes across the cold waters of the Nihonkai (Sea of Japan).

Rough Guide Japan
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There is even a debate in Japan from time to time over whether the country is "asian" or not, so Japanese national identity can be hard to grasp. The Japanese archipelago is actually a patchwork of separate, insular cultures and travelling around is likely to challenge the way you think about the country. It may leave you wondering if there could ever be any place more difficult for an outsider to get to grips with.

Professional Sites
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Asian Travel
More Information on Asian Travel
Lonely Planet
More Information on Lonely Planet: Japan
Rough Guide
More Information on Rough Guide: Japan
Japan, why not?
More Information on the Japanese Tourist Board Website

Discovering a different Japan
© Alan Lansdowne, Joetsu-shi, May 1999

Beyond the hi-tech city sprawl along the Pacific coast, Japan conceals an astonishingly beautiful volcanic hinterland. Here, away from the neon hum of crowded shopping malls, you can discover serene places like the castle town of Matsumoto in Nagano-ken.

Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle

Far from the urbanised Pacific coast there is a poor, unseen Japan. Hidden away on the northern side of the Alps, farming villages and small ugly, industrial towns stretch out in a thin ribbon along the shore of the Japan Sea.

Takada Park
Takada Park

Questions on Japan

Where can I go surfing in Kyushu?
Question by Doug Long   |   Answer by Alan Lansdowne

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