Japan is a country that is at the top of many’s people’s “to visit” lists. Foreign tourism has exploded, with the number of visitors has nearly doubled in the last four years.
The Japanese government is highly confident that these statistics will only continue to grow ahead of Tokyo hosting the Olympics in 2020. Ambitiously, the government hopes that interest in the country won’t wane once the event is over, as they aim to have around 60 million foreign visitors a year by the year 2030. But not all of us will be able to afford such a trip. Out of Japan’s recent tourism push, many visitors were from China as they could take advantage of the frequency of relatively low-cost flights to Japan. However, for many European and American visitors, just the cost of flights alone is intimidating, as is the time it takes to get there. For perspective, a flight from Spain to Japan takes around thirteen to fourteen hours. Japan is not as expensive as it once was due to a currently weakened yen. But the trip is still too expensive for many of us to make. As many budgeting websites will tell you, even a bare-bones trip which will have you staying in hostels and eating cheap can really set you back.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t still ways to experience the country and its culture. If there is one thing the internet can truly be praised for its bring people access to information and resources they would never have access to otherwise. It has opened up a whole new host of avenues for people wishing to learn more. There is now a wide range of online resources that can people use to explore the country of Japan and its culture. By going online, people can get a little closer to the country without actually having to pay for a flight.
Learn the language
Firstly, one of the best ways to understand a country and its culture is to learn the language. With its grammar rules and sentence structures, Japanese is often considered one of the hardest languages to master, especially to western speakers. However, the internet provides a number of useful, and importantly, free, ways to learn the language. Websites and apps such as Duolingo will guide you through the basics of Japanese. These sites are designed for beginners and are the perfect starting point for those that have never studied the language before. Another good way to learn the language is to find a pen pal from Japan. Although many find themselves a pen pal on Facebook pages and in the comment sections of online communities, there are also still a number of websites dedicated to setting people up with an old-school pen pal. Having a pen pal is a great way to advance your knowledge of a country’s language and culture. The other great thing about pen pals is you know that you are communicating with someone as eager to learn about your country as you are eager to learn about theirs. This is why pen pals are one of the oldest and best forms of cultural exchange.
Explore online communities
Another great way to experience the country is through getting involved with its culture online. For example, anime is a very popular form of Japanese media and is very easy to access and enjoy. Anime has always been popular in the west but has seen an even greater explosion of interest in the past ten years as online streaming has made it far easier to access. There are also a number of online fan communities for anime on every form of social media from Facebook to Reddit, making it easy to find those with a common interest. But anime is only one small part of Japanese culture. There are a number of parts to experience that many people would not think of at first glance, for example, online gambling. While, traditionally, Japan has restricted gambling on sporting events like horse racing the country still has a long history of gambling. Pachinko machines, machines that seem like a cross between pinball and slots are very popular and have been around in form or another since the 1920’s where they were originally a toy for children. They re-emerged as an adult past time in the 30’s and have been around ever since. There are a number of online sites like Bitcasino that allow you to experience Japanese gambling. These sites also give you the opportunity to brush up on your language skills.
Brush up on the culture
Although many roll their eyes at today’s selfie and photo taking culture, the rise of phone cameras and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are very beneficial for access to information. Following Instagram accounts that showcase the country allows people online to see sites and cultures from a very personal and intimate perspective. Unlike the polished and minimal photos often found on tourism websites, the Instagram tag for places are often filled with photos and experiences through the eyes of real individuals. These days there are also numerous websites that chronicle Japanese culture, or notable Japanese sites. Sites like these can often cover small intimate details that would be considered frivolous enough to be left out of travel guides. But for those interested in specific details or one particular subject these websites are a treasure trove of information. You can learn the best cafes to get a coffee at or the best dish at a particular restaurant. Using these websites can give people a real understanding of what the country has to offer, even if they haven’t visited the country themselves.
For many of us, we may only get to experience certain parts of other countries like Japan through the eyes of the internet. For others, these sites may be a useful springboard on what to do while saving up to visit. Either way, it’s clear that being online has opened doors for many of us. To allow us to broaden our horizons and to experience countries like Japan.