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Monday, September 7, 2009


The contrasts of Japan are startling. Big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo dazzle with bright lights and high-tech gadgetry, while in countryside villages and enclaves of historic cities such as Kyoto and Nara, centuries-old Japanese culture is alive and well: the geisha, the neighbourhood temple or shrine, community festivals and traditional food.
Since 1950, Japan has seen exceptional economic growth, becoming one of the world's most powerful economies; bustling cities burst with skyscrapers, bullet trains, trendy nightlife and endless shopping opportunities. Despite being afflicted by the familiar economic woes of recent years, to most visitors, it will appear as if the country's rampant consumerism and ceaseless pursuit of the new has hardly been dented.
A vibrant pop culture is a massive draw for wide-eyed tourists. Ground-breaking electronics and leading fashion and design items are available here long before the rest of the world, giving visitors to Japan's cities a sense that they're having a sneaky glimpse into the future. Electronic giants such as Nintendo and Sony thrive here - both have their head quarters in Japan - and manga (still cartoons) and anime (Japanese animation) are experiencing growing global popularity