Namaste," says Kenichi Takano. He could just as well have said "Namaste, India" for he is the Executive Director of the Japan National Tourist Office or JNTO, which recently set up shop in the capital. He adds with a smile, "You see, our purpose is not only to increase the number of tourists from India to Japan, but also generate more awareness on the rich culture and heritage of our country, especially since both countries – India and Japan – share such a beautiful relationship."
Japan has a lot of attractions for the Indian traveller – be it a first-timer or a seasoned one. So whether you are interested in festivals and ceremonies, events, sports facilities and experiences, traditional art and handicrafts or would like to have your itinerary designed around castles, bridges, museums and shopping ~ Japan has it all; even specialised beats like industrial and natural/scenic tourism, with the latter including options like Japanese gardens and parks.
Did you know that Japan comprises of approximately more than 6,800 islands? Or that the country has one of the highest life expectancy in the world with 83.7 years? And that Japanese trains are amongst the world's most punctual: their average delay is just about 18 seconds…the list of interesting, fun facts goes on. No wonder the country holds its position on the 'to-be-visited-for-sure' list of a traveller. So, what about food and language?
"I recently travelled to Japan. It was my first solo international trip. Although I can speak a little Japanese, I was very nervous. To my surprise, there were signboards in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, everywhere, making it easy, even for a first-time traveller, to find his/her way. Besides this, announcements were also made in English. People do speak English, especially in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. So, basically, I can safely say, one will be just fine. However, do remember, that speaking a bit of Japanese can go a long way in breaking the ice, besides being deeply appreciated," says Yachna Arora, with a smile. Arora has recently joined the tourism board and recalls her very first international travel to Japan fondly.
Vegetarians need not worry either. There are many countries where meals become a challenge for vegetarians but Japan is not one of them. "I discovered so many exotic vegetarian dishes in Japan. It is, indeed, an experience to explore these. Besides this, Indian restaurants are also quite popular. Most restaurants display their menus at the entrance, with photos of dishes, which makes it easier for a tourist to understand the ingredients of the dishes.
Sometimes, an English description is also present, making it simpler to comprehend," adds Arora. Japanese hospitality permits 'customised' dishes to be prepared as per requirement or taste, if so requested. By the way, "I am a vegetarian" in English would correspond to "Watashi wabejit arian desu" in Japanese; "Do you have a menu in English?" would correspond to "Eigo no menu waarimasuka?"
Another important tip: when in Japan, do not forget to sample or taste the Yasai Tempura or the Dango or the Wakame Udon, amongst many other interesting dishes. To top it all, is of course, the world famous Matcha green tea icecream… only available in Japan!
With a delight for all the senses, it is no wonder that Japan is called the land of the rising sun~where the world’s day begins,…where the journey of life begins.