Japan Metro Map

Japan has taken up skiing with a vengeance. The majority of the best ski resorts are in the Japan Alps. Avoid weekends when the mob makes the mountain look like solid skiers. Travel time by train from Tokyo to the Japan Alps region is between two and eight hours. The Ishiuchi ski resort claims to be the largest. Mt. Koya is one of several religious mountains with temples, monasteries, schools, and graves. Overnight guests are welcome but must be prepared for a vegetarian diet.

Stay in a Japanese-style hotel. Sleep on a futon, a mattress with a quilt laid on the floor and take a Japanese-style bath. Don’t worry about tipping in Kyoto or anywhere else in Japan; it’s not good form. A 10 percent service charge is made for rooms, food and beverages in all hotels. Eat the Kyoto specialty, tofu (bean-curd cake), which is served with all meals, or try zen food, vegetarian food originally concocted for zen monks. Yakitori, a kind of chicken shish-kebob, is good and so are the less expensive noodle dishes.

Japan’s country inns, the Ryokan, are an experience in courtesy and a different lifestyle. There are some eighty thousand of these Ryokan. Most of the better ones belong to the Japan Ryokan Association (JRA). The owners greet you and on departure wish you well. Part of the experience is the hot bath. Wash first; then soak in the hot tub. Don’t wash in the tub! Japanese visitors to hotels in this country sometimes do the same, much to the discomfiture of the management, especially when the water from the ablutions runs down through the floor to the guest rooms below.

Ryokan etiquette is precise. Remove your shoes before entering. Wear the slippers provided. When walking over areas covered with tatami mats, remove the slippers. Japan also has about five thousand family inns.

One of the most homogeneous of societies, Japan is also one of the most industrious and productive despite a shortage of basic raw materials. Industrial growth since 1960 has been nothing less than astounding. During the period 1964 to 1984, Japan became the number one producer of ships, watches, cameras, radios, televisions, and automobiles. Loyalty to the family is carried to the extent of reverence for ancestors. The same loyalty overlaps to the workplace and includes a deep emotional attachment to the company or other organization for which one works. The Japanese have been called a nation of workaholics. Certainly they have one of the most orderly and disciplined of societies.

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