Exploring Japan: Visiting in Style
by Liz Colville
Japan boasts centuries of exquisite fine arts and crafts, impressive Buddhist temples and sophisticated garden design, as well as some of the most advanced technology and architecture in the world. With so many aesthetically pleasing sites to visit, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Use the links below to get a virtual sampling of Japan’s unique accommodations and attractions.
Japan is known for its innovative and futuristic architecture, and the country’s hotels are no exception. Benesse House, a combination hotel and art museum in Kagawa, was built by Tadao Ando, a celebrated Japanese architect. The museum houses the modern art collection of Japanese millionaire Nobuko Fukutake and incorporates the art exhibits into the actual guest rooms. Enjoy the ocean views and experience the artwork at your own pace. The site Unusual Hotels of the World provides photos, reviews and rates for this one-of-a-kind accomodation.
For a taste of traditional Japan, consider staying in a ryokan. Although these traditional inns tend to be more expensive than regular hotels, they’ll give you a taste of the country's rich culture, offering such amenities as a tatami (straw mat), an onsen (hot spring bath) and yukata (kimono-style robes). The Japan Ryokan Association is useful for any traveler interested in this type of Japanese lodging. The site also provides fun PDFs to introduce you to traditional culture, plus a directory of member ryokans around Japan.
What would a visit to Japan be without a stay in a capsule hotel? Capsule hotels feature a public lounge area with bathing facilities and a private space—a capsule—for sleeping. The actual capsule is about the size of a single bed and includes a TV, radio, alarm clock and adjustable lighting. The Capsule Inn Akihabara is the only capsule hotel in Tokyo's Akihabara neighborhood, “the digi-center of Tokyo … a mecca for diehard fans of the Anime and Otaku cultures in Japan.” Visit the hotel’s Web site to view photos and learn more about these unique hotels.
The Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane, on the southwest coast of Japan, is known for its fine collection of contemporary Japanese artwork as well as its gardens. Created by Adachi Zenko, the museum's founder, the gardens are considered one of the most spectacular sights in Japan. The six gardens boast pine trees and rocks collected from all across Japan and offer a kaleidoscope of color that varies by season. Visit the Adachi Museum’s Web site to view photos of the gardens as they change with the seasons, and to find more information on the museum.
Japan is famous for its Buddhist temples and the Zen gardens that commonly surround them. For a comprehensive look at these exquisite monuments and landscapes, explore Japanese Lifestyle, an Australian-based site that hosts historical descriptions and photo galleries for many tourist attractions, as well as travel tips for visitors to the country. Compare the architectural styles of Japan's temples in Kyoto, Tokyo and Nara, and learn how Buddhist temples are arranged according to certain principles and guidelines. The site offers numerous links to more detailed descriptions of each temple.