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10 Mar 2014

The Land of the Rising Sun

Spring officially starts in 10 days time, but it feels like its already here with the longer days, surprisingly warm weather here in Brussels and the clock change just around the corner. 

We're celebrating March and the start of spring with Japan as our new destination of the month. 

Often overlooked by westerners as a holiday destination, this exotic archipelago has so much to offer. You can experience the bustling city life in Tokyo or Yokohama, or if you prefer something slightly more tranquil try Kyoto, full of temples, shrines and castles, or of course the region of Osaka - both regions are also great places to see the famous cherry blossoms, which start to appear mid to late March.

Japan is not just geographically diverse but has a rich culture that is world renowned and a wonderfully intricate language, this is why we have chosen it for our destination of the month!

Japan

If you were still wondering, Japan is an island nation located in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, this archipelago is made up of over 6,000 islands, the four largest ones being: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu & Shikoku. These four islands are home to 97% of the country's population, and the capital, Tokyo, is found on Honshu.

Source: ramonlisa.wordpress.com
The characters that make up Japan's name literally mean 'sun origin', which is why the country is sometimes referred to as the 'Land of the rising sun', the red disc of Japan's flag also represents the sun.        

Culture

Japanese Macaques relaxing in hot springs
Source: 
www.vipnews.de
The Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its traditional origins. Their contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional arts and practices include: Tea ceremonies, Geisha, Calligraphy, Origami, Martial arts and Ceramics among many other traditions. 

Japan's climate is temperate but varies a lot from north to south. The Pacific coast has a humid, subtropical climate with mild winters and humid summers. The average temperature in summer is 25°C. There are 9 forest ecoregions in Japan, from subtropical broad leaf forests to temperate coniferous forests in the colder, northern regions. There are also over 90,000 species of wildlife including the Japanese Macaque, perhaps one of the country's most iconic animals. 

Gastronomy

Source:vemaybaythanhhoang.com
Japanese cuisine usually involves taking a 'staple' food such as rice or noodles and adding it to dishes made from fish, vegetables or tofu etc to give it more flavour. Some typical Japanese dishes include: Sushi, Donburi, Kare Raisu (curry rice), Ramen, Yakitori, Miso soup and Tempura. There are many regional specialities that use the traditional ingredients and the Michelin guide has awarded Japanese cities more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined. 



Other facts: 

  • Around 73% of Japan is forested, mountainous or unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. 
  • Karaoke (literally 'empty orchestra') is the most widely practised cultural activity in Japan. 
  • Japan has the longest overall life expectancy of any country: 83.5 years old for people born between 2010 and 2015.
  • The country is very advanced in science & technology - Japan possesses over half of the world's industrial robots. 
  • There are four different writing systems used: Romaji, Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji.
  • Coffee is extremely popular in Japan and they import around 85% of Jamaica's annual coffee production.

These are just a few of the reasons why Japan is our destination of the month, have a look at our Japanese courses to get you started! If you need any more convincing why not get in touch, our team will be happy to help! 

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