Tour a nation with millennia of history and mountains of modern-day influence. The Land of the Rising Sun brings you the peace of Zen Buddhist gardens, ceremonial tea, and haiku, and the excitement of global metropolitan centers like Tokyo and Osaka. Sing your best “Respect” in karaoke’s birthplace or let some of Japan’s 127 million notoriously friendly people teach you what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to them. What’s more, this beautiful and culturally rich corner of the world has a soft spot in its heart for bands, so toot your tubas with pride in a school exchange concert or a joint performance with local ensembles.
Ryokan: Kick off your shoes on the tatami floors, and let even your toes have a cultural experience. Luxuriate in hot spring baths, wander beautiful gardens, and indulge in multi-course meals of local specialties. A night spent in a ryokan may be the best way to experience traditional Japanese culture firsthand, and it’s so relaxing you won’t even notice how much you’re learning.
Buddhist and Shinto Temples: In Kyoto, admire the gleaming roof of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion or head halfway up Otowa Mountain to Kiyomizu-dera to visit the wish-granting waterfall. At Nara’s Todaiji, spot the wandering sika deer, believed to be messengers of the Shinto gods. At all three, find your center and explore the countless layers of Japanese history these beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have to offer.