Japan Basics

Or: What is this “Tokyo” you speak of?

Japan! I found a blank map and took Photoshop to it.

Hokkaido: The far north. Nothing like the rest of Japan and, if you’ve seen Milo and Otis, you know what it looks like. The biggest city is Sapporo, where they have a famous ice festival every year. I’ve never been up that way, but I hear there are a lot of cows.

Honshu: The main island.

Kantou: The heart of eastern Japan. Kantou natives (particularly Tokyoites) are widely considered to be somewhat unfriendly. This is kind of true. Chances are, if you visit Japan this is where you’ll go. I used to live about 40 minutes from Tokyo, the nation’s capital and one of the biggest cities in the world.

Kansai: The heart of western Japan and very different from Kantou. Kansai natives (particularly Osakans) are widely considered to be very friendly. This is entirely true. Home of Kyoto and Nara, the ancient capitals where you can find a lot of old stuff, and Osaka, which is an awesome place. You should definitely go.

Shikoku: The smallest island in the archipelago. Beautiful countryside, old-fashioned culture, somewhat backwater. Shikoku has a famous 88 temple pilgrimage that a lot of Buddhists (and a few very ambitious tourists) do. I used to live in Matsuyama, the biggest city on the island and home of one of the most incomprehensible dialects of Japanese.

Kyuushu: The southernmost island, where you can find many natural hot springs and a delicious variety of ramen. Nagasaki, famous for being the only open trade port back in the feudal era, and more famous for being bombed in 1945, is there. A popular tourist destination, though I’ve never been.

Okinawa (not pictured): Japan’s Hawaii and a very popular tourist destination. Houses the US Marine base, which the Japanese government periodically threatens to relocate, except no one else wants it. Fun fact: there’s a native Okinawan language that’s not mutually comprehensible with Japanese.

Yes, I know I’ve left out most of the country, but I wanted to keep this succinct and relevant to my blog. And, just in case someone missed this, my descriptions are pretty tongue-in-cheek. Please don’t take my commentary too seriously!

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