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Yoga, as a religion, has always been a debatable topic. Another debatable topic is whether yoga descended from religion or transformed into spirituality. To consider if yoga is a secular activity has always been a confusing part. 

When we look around the world at those who have adopted yoga and practice yoga daily, there seems to be a built-in contradiction. On the one hand, mainly in western countries, secular institutions across the world have been practicing yoga. On the other hand, the yogis practice religion, spirituality, mysticism, and yoga.

The answer is almost simple. Despite some similarities, yoga is not a religion. Yoga can not be considered to be a religion. It is a way of life which in some way, can remind us of religion. Yoga shares many common things with different religions, such as personal contemplation, satisfaction, finding a deeper meaning of life, and seeking personal peace. In contrary to religions, Yoga has no direct or bound rules and regulations that you have to follow as in particular religions.

There is no reward and punishment in yoga, and there is no divine authority that oversees and punishes you if you have acted in violation of the rules or rewarded you if you have acted according to the laws of religion. Also, in yoga, there is no form of ritual or worship towards a transcendental entity.

Yoga is a physical and spiritual exercise designed to bring the practitioner to spiritual development. This spiritual growth is a unification between self-consciousness and spirituality. A state in which the senses are concentrated in the practitioner’s personal experience without being disturbed by external simulations, and there are no distracting thoughts.

Yoga is one of the best exercises performed across the world. It should be practiced positively. It is about discipline and ethics that increase the value of life. It helps to attain a mindful life. Yoga helps to boost calm and steady living. Not only is it beneficial for your mental well-being, but also your physical well-being. Yoga is one of those practices which can take you by surprise.

What religion is yoga associated with?

Yoga is associated with Hinduism and Buddhismץ. Many spiritual leaders believe that yoga finds its root in Hinduism. Different yoga schools and the goals are practiced via different religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Yoga, however, finds its origin in one of the Hindu philosophical traditions’ six astika schools.

Is yoga based on Buddhist or Hindu?

Yoga is found in the Vedic and Hindu schools of thought and practices. The Yoga system was originated by Hiranyagarbha, the one who is the form of Vedic Sun. 

The origin of yoga is found in Rigveda. But, what’s more, convenience is very controversial. Lord Shiva is hailed as the greatest of Yogis or Adi Yodi. Classical yoga and yoga of Buddhism are very different. The teachings for both vary on a significant aspect. The Yoga sutras find their place in Buddhism as well.

Yoga and Buddhism are considered to be meditation practices that follow the path of Karma and rebirth. It helps to bring about the concept of consciousness. Yoga in Hinduism and Buddhism follows the principle of Truth or natural law. The Sharma’s include the law of Karma and bring the unity of sentiments.

Although they follow the same principles, there’s a huge difference for both on philosophical levels. The basic ethics and values of yoga in Buddhism and Hinduism remain the same: to attain inner peace and meet divine power.

is yoga a religion or exercise

Do yogis believe in God?

God plays an important role in yoga. But more than God, yoga believes in the existence of a supreme being. Yoga doesn’t follow the general principle but is rather focused on practical philosophy. 

Yoga, being a practical approach, teaches us to take responsibility for our own actions. Our general belief in God is very different from that of the belief in God in Yoga.

The main aim of yoga is to achieve freedom from the bondage of our personality. Hence, God in Yoga stands on a very high pedestal and is a part of perfect consciousness.

Yogis do believe in God, but only with the medium of achieving freedom from the bondages. Yoga Sutra by Patanjali is the main Yoga book. This book brings forth the concept of mind and modification. Unlike us who believe that God is a supreme being, Yogis believe that Truth is the only God and that God is indescribable and infinite. Yogis do not believe in the form of God, but the supreme being who brings power.

According to Yogis, we can meet and understand God fully only if our heart is pure and free of sinful thoughts. Our higher intellectual understanding plays an important role in making us close to God. Even Patanjali is cautious while discussing God in his book. His book mentions that God’s concept is omniscience that is free from various Karmas. Indeed, God is hailed as the primary spiritual teacher.

Hence, it can be concluded that Yogis do believe in God, but only as a Being who is the Ultimate or Supreme Truth. It is because of the existence of God that everything else in the world exists. However, Yogis fail to capture the totality of God’s consciousness.

What religion does not allow yoga?

As we wrote before, Yoga is a mindful practice to attain spiritual growth. It also helps in your mental and physical growth. 

Still, Yoga is prohibited in some particular religions. The Church prohibits the practice of yoga. Since yoga is considered to be related to Hinduism and Buddhism, it is not allowed in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Hence, most followers of these religions do not practice yoga. However, times are changing, and many Christian people have started doing yoga.

On the other hand, many churches in the UK do not provide their halls for conducting yoga sessions. But ever since the world saw the benefits of yoga, they became more flexible and embraced the practice too for their own growth.

Is yoga against any religion?

Yoga, according to Yogis, is a way of life. It only teaches you what you should accept and what you should reject. It is not a religion and does not abstain anyone from practicing their own religion. Hence yoga, in no way, is against any religion.

Is yoga against the catholic religion?

Yoga does not challenge the beliefs of the Church. Yoga is a straightforward practice that allows one to follow a healthy life. It is not against any religion, as mentioned earlier. Similarly, yoga is not against the Catholic religion, either.

What is the principal conflict between yoga and Christianity (or any other religion)?

There has always been a conflict between yoga and Christianity because of yoga’s origins. Many Christian leaders believe that yoga is related to Hinduism. Hence, they denounce the practice of yoga. 

Yoga is often referred to in the concept of East Asian religions. People in East Asian countries and worldwide have been practicing yoga as a meditation to attain spiritual unity with God and nature, mostly the ‘divine-self.’

However, according to the Bible, we should meditate only in God’s name and that we can never be divine in ourselves. As per the concept of the Bible, God and nature can’t be one. God is the supreme being. If we practice yoga, we tend to make nature and God one, which is not permitted.

God is the creator, and nature is His creation. As per Christianity, the creator is to be worshipped and not his creation.

Many Christian people who practice yoga only practice the unique stretches. Christian people do it for physical exercise and do not follow the Eastern beliefs embedded in yoga.

Yoga and Hinduism

Hinduism has six main schools of thought or Darshana: Samkhya, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Vaisheshika, and Yoga. These six orthodox schools tend to form the core of Hinduism. These orthodox schools are gained from the Vedas and all the Hindu concepts.

According to Hinduism, Yoga’s main goal is to become one with God and nature. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word, ‘yuj,’ which means to unite.

Many Hindu textbooks, such as the Vedas and Upanishads, discuss yoga to control senses. Yoga finds a mention even in the holy Hindu textbook, Bhagavad Gita. Dhyana yoga is the most followed form of yoga because it is commonly understood by everyone today.

is yoga against my religion

Yoga and Buddhism

The main goal of Buddhism and Yoga is to achieve enlightenment. More than the differences, Buddhism and Yoga share a lot of similarities. Both focus on increasing concentration and staying away from the path of fragmentation of thoughts and distractions. 

Yogic and Buddhist schools believe that one can only be enlightened if they are free from the dualistic mindset. Compassion forms the main impact of Buddhism and Yoga. The enlightened state helps one realize that they are one with nature, God, and with themselves. All these conscious realizations of Yoga and Buddhism makes everything so clear that all delusions disappear.

According to Yoga and Buddhism, suffering exists globally, and it is also straightforward to get over it. Buddhist gurus and yogis have practiced meditation since ancient times to achieve ’emptiness’ or complete freedom from these worldly sufferings.

Does doing yoga make you a Hindu or Buddhist practitioner?

Yoga is an inclusive term, which is why many face difficulties in recognizing it. Yoga is a spiritual practice, and anyone from any religion is free to practice yoga. Doing yoga and its asanas will not make you a Buddhist or a Hindu. However, many Islamic and Christian people refrain from practicing it.

Takeaway

So to the question, if yoga is religion, the answer is straightforward. It is not a religion but a way of life. Yoga is more of a science that makes you conscious about your mind and body relationship. Practicing and doing yoga will only make you a better version of yourself and not alter your religion.

Travel to Japan, the land of the rising sun  

Intro and Geographical info 

Islands offer a peace of mind that’s hard to find elsewhere. The very thought of being surrounded by the tranquility of the ocean engulfs the human mind into pure bliss. One such divinity can be experienced in the land of cherry blossoms, Japan. It is an island country in the Pacific Ocean bordering the East Asian continent.

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Japan, 6,852 Islands

Famous for its rich heritage and historical events, Japan stands a witness to many battles of yesteryears and testimony for disciplined culture. It is the world of technology and creativity, some of which we can name are Anime, Sumo, Sushi, Sakura and what not! 

This little island country has one of the most favorable climates. However, it varies greatly with regions from north to south. Northern Japan is a climatic treat to people from tropical areas with its cold winters and cool summers.

To get enthralled by the snowfall, regions on the coast of the Sea of Japan are a pretty sight. Southern regions are more like home with their cold winters and hot summers. Ideally, a Japanese year thrives with all the four seasons. 

Japan’s culture (Shinto, Buddhism) 

Although a cosmopolitan country with people from all walks of life, Japanese people are usually followers of Shinto and Buddhism. The tenets of Shinto were the imperial family’s descent from their Sun Goddess that reflected from the divinity of the emperor. Although after World War II, the emperor’s divinity was renounced, he stands as the official head of the Shinto religion in Japan.

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A Torii, Shinto gate, marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred

Experience Shinto in Japan

In literal terms, Shinto means ‘the way of the Gods’ and this religion has a strong relation to nature. The believers are worshipers of nature and natural places like mountain tops, forests, waterfalls, specific trees, unusual rocks, and more. Shinto believers respect their deities through a process of ritual purification.

Shinto is less solemn than the Westerners relate worshipping to. However, you will notice commercial bustle around the Asakusa shrine in Tokyo that evokes an atmosphere like a Western country fair.

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Shinto shrines at Kyoto

People clap their hands, toss coins to drop it in a box, bow respectfully, and offer prayers. The believers then move to the food stalls, souvenir shops, and amusement booths inside the sanctuary.

As you talk to locals or people who follow Shinto, they will have great insight to give you about their religion and what they believe in. Most Shinto people are ethnic and follow rituals strictly. They strike a balance between modern-day Japan with its traditional past and have unique stories to tell about their lifestyle, upbringing, and beliefs.

Buddhism in Japan

Buddhist philosophy dates back to 500 BC and originated in India. The pure doctrine of Buddhism urges people to seek Nirvana or enlightenment by giving up on desires – the main source of pain in life.

In Japan, Buddhist practices transformed from private contemplation into public charity. The need for asceticism and celibacy faded with time. Initially, the Japanese people looked as Buddhism as a protect of the noble families and the state. These were the people who built Buddhist temples near their homes. 

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About 70 Buddha stone statues in Nikko national park

The new sect of Buddhism spread after the 9th century in Japan and expanded all across the country. The religion transformed from protecting aristocracy and became the means of hope and faith for every common man. They were all attracted to the beliefs, prayers, and rituals of Buddhism.

By the end of the 12th century, the religion was as prominent as Shinto in Japan. It suffused with aspects of the Chinese Confucianism, which was relatable to the Japanese people. These included filial piety, loyalty, and family solidarity. 

Why you should visit Japan?

Japanese unique culture

Japnese culture will never fail to inspire you. It thrives in its age-old traditional values in spite of all the technological advances. You get to experience the best of both worlds throughout your stay.

Though dominated by a mechanical life with a number of renowned companies headquartered in their country, people treasure their virtue more than anything else. 

Japanese culture stands apart in terms of their approach towards others. They’re the politest people you’d have ever come across. In this modern era, Japanese people are one among the few countries where people greet each other with a slight bow.

You’ll be surprised that even bus drivers thank each person for purchasing a ticket. The three magic words – thank you, sorry and please are used at all times. However, people speak only Japanese, though English is taught as a second language in school.

This reveals their patriotism towards their mother tongue. Throughout your stay, you’ll hear the word ‘Arigato’ very often, which means ‘Thank you.’

Rules are never meant to be broken. They are staunch believers of ‘First come, first serve.’ You’ll find queues everywhere, be it a lift or a billing counter. Libraries are not the only place where people maintain silence, the everyday commute is as serene as a  place of worship.

Road rules are kept up at all times. Pedestrians are respected, most of the vehicles stop if people are walking by. Chaos is absolutely forbidden. As travelers, it is highly important to follow their values so as not to offend them. 

Landscapes in Japan 

Japan comprises of tiny islands, mountains, and valleys. Mountains dominate the country. Mount Fuji, one of the holy mountains of Japan, is a highly popular tourist destination. Being a dormant volcano, it is totally harmless. UNESCO claims Mount Fuji to be an inspiration for many artists and poets.

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The iconic symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji

Active volcanoes also contribute to volcanic landscapes. Showa-Shinzan and  Sakurajima to name a few. One shouldn’t miss Fuketsu on their visit to Japan, it is a cave where cold wind breezes out from the inside.

Besides the mountains, Japan also possesses several relaxing coastal areas. Beaches, sidelines and coral reefs are found in abundance. Check out Okinawa main island for a day out, to soak in the goodness of vitamin D. It is the abode for adventurists as it provides snorkeling opportunities.

Kerama Islands are famous for their corals and most of the tourists have been lucky enough to spot sea turtles near the beaches. For those who revel in solitude, Amami Oshima is a safe haven. It is one of the less crowded beaches in Japan.

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Kerama Islands are famous for their corals

However, metropolitan cities are lined with skyscrapers that are tall and sleek. The land is prone to earthquakes. But thanks to the brilliant minds, their architecture is made sure to withstand earthquakes. Wooden floorings are found in most of the buildings. 

Food

There’s more to Japanese food than ramen or sushi. A must-try is the Okonomiyaki pancakes made from cabbage, topped with a variety of toppings. You can choose any toppings from meat to seafood. Other must-haves are Soba noodles, Yakiniku barbecue, Tempura, Sukiyaki, and Yakitori.

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Soba noodles, a must-try in Japan

For your sweet tooth, Japan offers matcha-flavored sweets. Matcha is green tea, made from the finest tea leaves that are steamed, dried and made into a powder. You’ll get matcha-flavored ice creams, chocolates, and cookies which are healthy and tasty!

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Japanese food: perfectionism and aesthetics

 Did you know that Japan has over 200 flavors of KitKat to choose from? These range from Apple, Double-cookie to green tea, soy sauce, cherry blossom, sake, crème Brulee and ginger ale. These are just some of the things you must try in Japan.

Tokyo

The busy Tokyo metropolis has served as the capital for Japan since 1869. Unlike other countries, Japan has remained constant in its choices from the very beginning. The city bustles with life and energy. You’ll never witness a lag in the speeding lifestyle of the people in the capital. 

Home to some of the tallest towers in Japan, the Tokyo Sky Tree stands proud at 634 meters. Though the city is lined with skyrocketing skyscrapers, shrines are plenty in number. Asakusa shrine tugs at the heartstrings with its beautiful architecture. 

In spite of being a business hub, traffic is maintained and is perfectly under control. Road rules are to be followed at any cost. Japnese people never overtake other vehicles or switch lines. However, public transport is a preferred everyday commute. 

While in Tokyo, do experience the Odaiba cruise. The vessel is designed in such a futuristic way, that it almost resembles a spacecraft. It is spacious and fully air-conditioned. A truly magical voyage. 

Tokyo doesn’t compromise on its greenery either. Lush green parks and botanical gardens seep the much needed eco-friendly retreat into our systems. Zen gardens are world-famous. 

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Amazing nightlife in Tokyo
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Shibuya intersection in Tokyo

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Shibuya intersection, the most famous intersection in the world

Nightlife

Japnese people close their days much earlier. However, that doesn’t put an end to the nightlife activities that are lined up for tourists. It’s a popular saying the ‘Tokyo is the city that never sleeps!’ 

Party enthusiasts must visit the Robot Restaurant. It’s located in the Shinjuku district. Make sure to reserve seats for the place is super crowded. There’s no end for all the fun, neon lights, booze and pretty girls. For those of you who are into clubbing, do check out Roppongi and Shibuya.

Tokyo night life
Tokyo bars

Smitten with Japnese pop culture? Kawaii monster cafe is a colorful pop culture themed hang out. From Tuesday to Friday, special shows are put up for entertainment. Never miss an opportunity to brag about the famous pop shows.

Huddle around the biggest baseball stadium, Tokyo Dome, if you happen to visit during the baseball season. It is the home to the Yomiuri Giants. Japan is truly diversified having something to offer for everyone. Be it a party or sports, this country will satiate all your needs.  

First time to the land of cherry blossoms? Let’s put an end to all the if’s and but’s battling in your mind with these 10 curated tips for people traveling to Japan for the very first time.

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Don’t miss Shinjuku at night
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The colorful Harajuku Kawaii Monster Cafe

Best nightlife Tokyo

Best tips when traveling in Japan 

Transit within the country

Let those bulky wallets remain bulky. Always prefer public transport, railways are the best. There’s no hassle as in waiting for a long time. The trains are always on time. Do experience the fastest bullet train, Shinkansen. However, if you prefer cabs, better start early to avoid traffic.

Japnese people aren’t very much into honking, so horns are seldom used and that adds up to the time taken for resolving the traffic. Be prepared to face the intervals if the travel is longer, cab drivers halt for a rest every hour.

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Shinkansen, the best way to cross Japan
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Train stations, always shiny and clean

Cheap stays

Try the capsule hotels, has been vouched by many travelers for its prime locations and service. Make sure to pre-book to avoid last-minute confusions.

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Don’t try if you are claustrophobic

Tickling taste buds

If you’re a foodie, worry not. You’ll never run out of options. The Japnese cuisine has loads of mouth-watering dishes to satisfy your taste buds. With the only downfall that almost all the restaurants have really skyrocketing prices for most of their dishes. However, traditional Indian eateries are harder to find. You’ll have to make-do with baked foods. Cafe’s are abundant, Tully’s coffee is deemed the best.

Mind the escalator rules

Make sure to keep left when you’re on an escalator unless you’re running out of time. Because the right side is reserved for people who are in a hurry.

Never tip

It’s natural to feel that we have to go the extra mile to show that their service was good. And it’s also mandatory to tip the waiters in a few countries. But never tip Japnese for their services, they get offended.

 Visa cards to the rescue

Currencies come in handy. However, for hefty purchases, visa cards are accepted as credit cards are not very popular in most of the stores.

 Restrooms matter

Please do not get flustered with so many websites giving out information that handwashes/ sanitizers aren’t available. They do have all the basic necessities in restrooms unless it’s some run-down place. But, jet hoses are not available, instead, they have an automatic button system.

 Wifi hotspots

It costs a lot to continue with your existing phone plans. It’s advisable to get a local sim if you plan to stay for a good number of days. And almost all the places offer free wifi, so it’s better to rely on WhatsApp messages and calls for shorter stays.

 Souvenirs and goodies

What are travels without a souvenir to hold all the memories intact? Do check out Daiso, it’s the biggest 100 yen shop for goodies. The good old Lawson Familymart is omnipresent and is a good option to purchase goodies for a fair price without compromising on quality.

Time to cross Japan off your bucket list. Happy journey!

Do’s and don’t in Japan 

Do’s list 

Enjoy gambling

While gambling is frowned upon in so many countries, it is a wonderful recreation in Japan. However, people don’t gamble with money. Instead, they trade vouchers for food and drinks.

It is absolutely harmless. Many parlors are present across the country. Pachinko parlor is one of the most famous gambling parlors. They are in no way lesser to world-famous Casinos. It’s known for its noise and colorful ambiance. Even if you’re not into gambling, do check out their booths just for the jazz and thrill of it. 

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Sort of a cultural shock when you get in

Experience the onsen

The Japanese word for geothermally heated springs that supply hot water for public baths is termed as an onsen. A bath in the onsen feels almost cathartic. They calm your nerves, soothe your aching muscles and ease stress. Villagers are said to have two onsens every day after hectic fieldwork. 

Satiate your taste buds

When in Japan, try only Japanese cuisine. Get hold of your chopsticks and do it the Japanese way. Don’t mind if you don’t get it right. It’s all worth it in the end. The menu cards will leave you awestruck with loads of dishes to choose from. 

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For some food, chopstick usage is much more effective

Learn basic Japanese

Japanese are very patriotic about their language. It feels good to put a smile on their face by conversing in their mother tongue. Here are a few courtesies that will refine your pleasant stay

  • Good day – Konichiwa
  • Thank you – Arigato
  • Sorry – Gomen’nasai 
  • Please – Onegai shimasu

Karaoke all the way 

It’s a favorite past-time in Japan. All the karaoke booths are private. So, get together with your friends and sing your heart out. 

Don’ts list 

Litter at your own cost!

Trash cans are seldom found in Japan. People carry rubbish with them and deposit it in the recycling bins. This process is followed by a rigorous task, where rubbish materials are separated from potential recyclable materials. So, it is advised that instead of littering, travelers carry a paper bag with them. It’s better to co-operate with their complex recycling process. 

Say no to booze competitions

Sake and beer drinking competitions are very popular among Japanese men. However, please stay away from getting into one as your chances of winning are very slim when compared to them. 

Don’t finish your meal or drink

Japanese people value hospitality above all. When someone has finished their entire meal or drink, they assume that they’ve under-fed you and that you’re still hungry. This offends them. So, always leave bits and scraps of food on your plate. 

Never tip

In most of the western countries, it is mandatory to tip a certain percentage of the total bill to the waiters. However, in Japan, it is an offense. Express your gratitude only through praises. 

Phone manners

As mentioned previously, all public transport in Japan is very calm. Stay away from talking loudly on cell phones when you’re commuting. Japanese people don’t like to be disturbed. 

Table manners

Japanese people respect their food more than anything else.  Do not talk while eating or drinking. It is considered bad manners. 

Don’t blow your nose in public

Japanese people are very sensitive about this. They’re easily disgusted when people blow their noses in public. Make sure you don’t put them in an awkward situation. When the need arises, excuse yourself to one of their so-called musical restrooms and blow your nose. However, sniffing is tolerated.

Fascinating Facts about Japan

  • Since it is believed that Japan is the first country to see the sunlight first so in Japanese the term japan means Nihon or Nippon which means “Land of the rising sun”.
  • The famous Hello Kitty was born in Japan in 1974 as a plastic purse. Now there are about 20000 variety of Hello Kitty products available in the market. She is known as kitty Chan for Japanese people.
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As many as you want 🙂
  • We all are aware that Japan is the largest producer of the Automobile Industry and Toyota is a great significance over there. But did you know that the eight brush strokes on Toyota are considered to be lucky in Japan? The company is more than a brand for the locals.
  • In Japanese, the tearing of gift wrap is considered as a sin.
  • Japanese considers belly (hara) as the center of emotions and they value silent communication.
  • Shinto is one of the few religions with a female solar deity in the world.
  • In a year, Japan faces 1500 earthquakes as minor tremors are common to them. The nation sits on the top of 4 tectonic plates and this the reason for such activities.
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Torii gates in Fushimi Inari in Kyoto
  • Japan has the world’s oldest continually operating company. They had a construction company that was operated by the same family for 40 generations and the company name is Kongo Gumi Co. Ltd. It was founded in 578 AD and ran up to the year 2006 until another company bought it.
  • Japan is mostly made of up of archipelagoes and comprises of 6,852 islands.
  •  Japnese is a home for pet animals there are more pets compared to kids below 15.
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6,852 islands in Japan
  • In Japnese culture, chopsticks should not be kept crossed on the table as it symbolizes death and the vertical chop on rice bowl as the funeral.
  • Many of the streets in Japan doesn’t have a name so the postal cards contain substation name and the visiting cards have the map on it.
  • There are more than 20 ways of saying sorry in Japan.
  • The life expectancy right of Japan is higher compared to other countries.
  • The laws in Japan are very strict and the crime rate is very low.
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Japanese Yakuza, crime with rules…

Best time to visit

Japan has loads of options to choose from. One particular season cannot be chosen in general. It all comes down to what you’re very much into. With every season and every region having dozens of festivals and activities year-round, you could never end up with a dull vacation. Plan your stay based on the following activities,

Forget-me-not blue skies

Not everyone is fond of monsoons and ski slopes. To revel in a holiday similar to those cheerful rising sun postcards, plan your stay in the months from March to May and from September to November. The weather is perfect with very little or no rainfall at all.

Temperature is mild. This picture-perfect weather chimes in for hiking. It’s also the season for outdoor festivals like the outdoor beer games. 

Witness the cherry blossoms

The very thought that strikes our mind at the mention of Japan would be cherry blossoms. Plan your trip from late March, that’s when the trees in the warmer regions of south start blooming.

However, the trees in the northern regions start blooming only in the month of May. Apart from these two regions, if you happen to stay at Kansai or Kanto, the first blossoms of the season are in the early weeks of April.

Budget travels

In general, Japan is an expensive holiday destination. It’s not very budget-friendly. With travelers flocking from all over the globe, it’ll be tough bargaining for hotels and flights. To make the most out of your limited means, plan your trip beforehand. Target winter, from mid-January to March, to grab the best deals on hotels and flights. 

Rugby world cup

If crowds aren’t your thing, avoid traveling to Japan during the months of summer Olympics and rugby world cup. The country swarms with people from around the world and the ruckus will ruin your ideal getaway. 

Planning a trip to Japan 

Japan is a diverse country. Unless you’ve got a perfect sketch of what you want to do right from the first day to the last, you’ll end up feeling lost in a new country. You’ll waste time and money. Planning your entire trip well in advance is pretty tedious and time-consuming. But, it is very important that you do so. 

Plan your activities

Analyze your interests. Make a list of your likes, dislikes and hobbies. Thrown in a few festivals that you don’t want to miss during your stay. Japan has four seasons and each season has something unique to offer. 

Choose your destination

Once you’re done with drafting your to-do list, decide where you want to go. 

For instance, if hiking is your thing, autumns in Hokkaido are the best. The weather is the right blend that favor hikers.

For those of you who are from tropical regions, a cold retreat might sound great. Try the ski resorts in Hokkaido’s winter. 

People who are more inclined towards archaeology and spirituality must head straight to Kyoto. It is the humble abode for many temples and shrines. 

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If hiking is your thing, autumns in Hokkaido are the best

Chart out your duration of stay

Your budget is directly proportional to your stay in Japan. It’s important to get them straight. If you don’t mind spending lavishly, the duration should be the least of your worries.

The more you stay, the more you get to experience. However, not all of us are blessed with such hefty bank balances. In that case, plan your expenses before you land in Japan and start saving up. Plan a shorter stay and try to make the most out of it.

Travel visas

Make sure you have a valid passport. This might sound silly, but it is very critical that you understand that your passport should remain valid throughout your stay. If your country is exempted from a visa, you can travel with your passport.

If not, apply for a visa. Provide accurate details about flight and hotel bookings while doing so. Once your visa is issued, proceed with the next step. 

Simple itinerary

Don’t dump your schedule with more places than you can cover in a single day. Holidays are supposed to be relaxing.

Keep it simple. Don’t rely on blogs that boast of ‘7 days itinerary, 4 days itinerary.’ Understand your pace and trust your instincts. Plan according to the season that you are targeting. Once you’re done with your itinerary, purchase your Japan rail pass.

Bookings

This is a very crucial step. Book your flight and hotel. Watch out for last-minute flight deals. You never know when luck strikes, you might land a really good offer. While booking hotels, go through the reviews with the utmost care. Don’t get deceived by fake reviews and images.

Double-check everything. Make sure you book your room in advance and consider the cancellation policies. Contact the hotelier in case of any queries. For longer stays, book your hotel room near the train station. However, for shorter stays, don’t purchase a rail pass. Cabs will do. 

Invest in travel insurance

Insurance’s intention is not to dampen your spirits. But, it is wise to expect the unexpected. You never know what comes next. Extensive travelers clearly understand the importance of travel insurance. Make sure your insurance covers medical expenses, lost luggage, flight cancellation, camera breaks, etc. 

Pack your bags

As pointed out time and again, Japan has 4 seasons. So, pack according to the season you’re visiting. 

Winter in Northern Japan is extremely harsh. Pack your clothes that are ideal to survive the cold. Stock up on layers of clothes, boots, and socks to stay warm throughout your stay. 

Summers are hot and humid. There’s not much to meddle with packing. Light clothes will do. However, for early autumn and late spring, carry a light jacket as it tends to get chilly. 

Check out travel blogs and magazines

It can be a really exciting and daunting experience for people who are traveling to Japan for the very first time. Read as many travel-related blogs and magazines you can find online. They are up-to-date with tips and day to day happenings. It’s also useful to follow up on Japan’s weather and general headlines. 

Safety in Japan

Japanese people adhere to hard and fast rules, making it one of the top ten safest countries in the world. You’ll be astounded when you find children riding the subway unaccompanied, lost wallets found and returned with money intact and homes being unlocked with no negative consequences.

The country is full of surprises to a commoner. Japanese government prides itself for the lack of criminal headlines in their newspapers. 

Women power

If you’re a solo female traveler, be sure that you’ll enjoy your trip. Japanese people go out of the way to help women when they’re in a crisis. A few hotels even offer female-only accommodations. Plus, female-only cars are found in most of the trains. You’re provided with top-notch security throughout your stay.

Stop the buses when you please

All the buses are provided with a stop button just like trains. If you’re uncomfortable about something or feel that someone is not behaving the right way, just press the button to get down.

Tourist Information centers

Most of the railway stations in the country have an information center to carter to the needs of tourists. City 

Safe wallets

Crime rates are at an all-time low. Pickpockets are almost unheard of, even in crowded cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. It’s perfectly safe to go backpacking all alone, any day, anywhere. 

Gangsters of yesteryears

It’s a cliche, the Yazuka gangsters. Gone are their days of reign. They were considered to be the violent and corrupt criminals Japan has ever come across. With the police breathing down their necks, they are scared of bothering people. 

Anti-sexual harassment

The ‘me-too’ movement has left the laws rewritten. The Japanese cabinet ministers have taken special measures to devise new laws against sexual harassment. Groping and harassing are considered illegal and are punishable by law. 

Goodbye to Fukushima disaster

The 2011 tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power station. But, there’s absolutely nothing to be scared of. The radioactive debris has been cleared and the area surrounding the plant is off-limits for everyone. So, your safety is their primary concern. 

Cleaner air

Rumor has it that Tokyo is polluted beyond limits. However, it is just a rumor. Tokyo is cleaner than Los Angeles. 

Prevention is better than cure

No country is more prepared than Japan when it comes to safety. Given that Japan is more prone to earthquakes, there are certain measures that you can follow

  • A good number of apps are available that will notify you of an oncoming disaster
  • When in an earthquake, protect yourself by taking shelter under a wooden table or desk
  • Approach the locals. They are more than willing to help you out in a crisis. 

Don’t fear the contagious diseases

When sick, people of Japan usually wear surgical masks to prevent spreading the infection. Even if the country doesn’t impress you, its humanity will sweep you off your feet. 

Visa to Japan

Visa is mandatory to visit Japan unless your country is exempted. A visitor who wishes to fly to Japan on a tour must obtain a tourist visa before entering the country. The tourist visa is a short term visa. It’s valid for 90 days. Tourist visas can be obtained for sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, attending business conferences and pursuing a very short term course. 

The eligibility criteria to obtain a visa are as follows:

  • You must have a valid passport
  • The passport must be valid throughout your stay
  • The passport must have two blank pages for the visa
  • You must submit a –
  1. A copy of your completed visa application form
  2. A copy of your round trip ticket
  3. Proof of your hotel reservation and financial ability
  4. Photocopy of your birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable)
  5. A formal statement of your financial situation from the bank for the past six months
  6. Certificate of employment if your trip is not sponsored
  • You must leave Japan at the end of your authorized stay.

It’s quite normal to feel daunted by the process of applying for a visa. The entire process has been broken down into steps to make it easier. 

  1. With the internet available just a few clicks away. Nothing is a very big deal. Download the visa application form online.
  2. After downloading the form, read the application twice. Sort out any issues or doubts through the help-line. 
  3. Fill the form carefully. Do not forget to put your signature once the form is completed.
  4. The required documents are available for download along with your form. Make sure you download that. Gather all the required documents. Don’t deem anything unnecessary. If it’s mentioned, you have to produce it during verification.
  5. Create a checklist to double-check. Keep the documents ready on the previous day to avoid last-minute confusions.
  6. The photo that you provide for visa application must be a recent one. It shouldn’t be older than 6 months. The photo must meet the specifications mentioned in the visa application. Refrain from applying filters to your photo.
  7. You’ll have to pay for the visa application form. Check the fees required and the mode of payment that will be accepted by the Embassy of Japan where you are supposed to submit your application form. The fees differ depending upon the nationality of the visitor. Check with the Embassy regarding the fees beforehand. Keep the fees ready to have a hassle-free experience.  
  8. Once you are done with all the formalities, submit the visa application form along with the fees to the embassy of Japan. Approach the Embassy that’s nearest to you. Based on your country of origin, you may submit the application form in person or through an accredited travel agent who has been approved by the Embassy of Japan.
  9. You may have to attend an interview
  10. Once your visa is issued, you’ll be notified. Collect the visa after showing your invoice cum receipt provided at the time of submission. In case you want the visa delivered to your location by a travel agent, you should provide an authorized letter duly signed by you along with the invoice. 

How to save money in Japan

Though Japan is considered an expensive holiday destination, there are many loopholes that you can make use of.  

Eateries and pubs within budget

Just like other countries, Japan is also dominated by chain restaurants like Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sukiya. These hang-outs offer lightning deals, discounts, and occasionally seasoned dishes at an affordable price. Do check out their web pages when you are there, you don’t want to miss out on these amazing deals.

Getting street smart will save you a few bucks. Tachigui is one such local food chain where you have to dine while standing. But the lack of furnishing will actually cost you very little. 

Don’t compromise on the nightlife. Similar to chain restaurants, chain pubs called Izakaya are found in abundance. Torikizoku is a must-visit, you’ll be surprised to find that everything on the menu is  ¥298.

When it comes to supermarkets, the good old Lawson family mart comes into the picture. Be on the lookout for discounts. OK and Aeon are convenience stores where you can get your hands on some authentic baked goods and goodies. 

Walking and cycling are always the best

You might be tempted to give in to public transport. But, Japan has so much to offer within walking distance. It is one of the most pedestrian-friendly countries you’ll ever come across.

Make use of the opportunity and burn a few calories that you’ll undoubtedly add up as a result of all the mouth-watering dishes. However, renting a bicycle is also a good option. 

Public transport to the rescue

When you have to cover long distances, cabs might empty your wallet. Instead, depending on your duration of stay, purchase the Japanese Rail Pass. Commonly known as JR pass. 

Another good option would be to take the bus. Compared to railways, buses are cheaper. To check out towns far away from Tokyo, night bus services like Willer Express offers good prices and comfortable rides.

Accommodations at a fair price

If you don’t have a relative or friend’s place to return after sightseeing, plenty of accommodations are available. If you prefer something much more personal than lodges, try the capsule hotels. It is very popular among travelers.

They make you feel at home with amazing cultural experiences. Some of the capsule hotels also have a sento public bath to help you relax after a long day. They charge as low as 2000 yen per night. For social gatherings and get-togethers, guesthouses are also available at a slightly higher price. 

Personal needs

100-yen stores come in handy for everyday purchases. Goods are available at a fair price without compromising on quality. The products range from basic necessities to large appliances, cookware, clothing, and bicycles. Souvenirs and goodies can be purchased in bulk to distribute to your near and dear ones back at home.

Drugstores also sell food and drinks at a very reasonable price. Sometimes, they might be cheaper than the 100-yen shops. So check the difference in prices before you buy anything. 

Transportation in Japan

You’ll understand while calculating your budget that transportation within the country constitutes a huge amount. Compared to transit, other expenses are pretty low. Careful planning of your itinerary plays a major part.

Limiting yourself to visit a particular region and avoiding long-distance travel within the country is a foolproof method to cut down costs. However, if you wish to travel to different regions, the following modes of transport are suggested.

 Japan bus pass

 It’s one of the wallet-friendly transport options. If utilized properly, transit costs can be reduced to half. The passes can be purchased according to our needs. 3, 4 and 5 days passes are popular among the tourists.

Highway buses are suggested for long-distance travels. Though these buses are slower when compared to trains, transit expenses can be reduced unbelievably, provided you don’t mind spending a night in the bus. 

 Japan rail pass

People who have plans to travel cross-country should prefer railways. The passes can be purchased for 7, 14 and 21 consecutive days. JR passes provide unlimited, nationwide transit on almost all the trains operated in the country, including the bullet trains. 

Apart from nationwide passes, if your itinerary covers only a particular region, exclusive passes are available. These passes are called ‘regional passes’ and offers good deals. For example, JR Tokyo wide pass, Nikko pass, and Koyasan World Heritage Ticket to name a few. 

Domestic flights

If you don’t mind being lavish, domestic airlines offer comfortable transit. You’ll come across many discounts owing to the competition between the airlines and the railways. Skymark Airlines, Peach Aviation, and Jetstar Japan offer considerably low fares and bookings are done in English.

However, passes are not only limited to buses and railways, but air passes are also issued exclusively for foreigners.  

 Ferries

For people who are into trying different modes of transport, do check out the ferries. Though ferries are available only for a limited number of routes,  it can be a truly magical experience. Different classes are available and second class fares are considerably inexpensive.

 Rental cars

When holidaying as a group or if you are interested in exploring on your own, rental cars are the best option. It’s the only transport where you can enjoy your privacy. However, gas expenses and highway tolls sneak into your budget. So, plan accordingly. If convenience and privacy top your expectations, go ahead with this option. 

Package tours

You’d have come across this term everywhere. Your entire itinerary, right from your first day to last is planned by tourist agencies. You don’t have to devise an elaborate plan.

All you have to do is maintain the schedule and go with the flow. Based on the package you choose, the number of people accompanying you differs. For a higher price, you get to explore the places with just your family and a guide from the agency accompanies you.

Hitchhiking  

Though very popular among the young generation, it is not common in Japan. Will Fugerson’s book ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Japan’ covers this topic. But, it was last updated in 1998, rendering it almost useless. However, that shouldn’t stop you from backpacking and exploring the country the way you want it to be.

Estimated costs

Don’t stress with devising a budget plan. The following subheadings will help you choose your preferred plan. 

Flights

 On average, a roundtrip flight from most parts of the US to Japan costs around $2,300. However, booking your tickets well in advance could save you a lot. It is important to note that flight tickets depend on your boarding place, season and other factors.

If you travel from countries in Western Europe, like Germany, Spain, Portugal, and France, the roundtrip flight ticket costs approximately € 970

Traveling from Australia to Japan will amount to A$ 1,425.

Flight fares from Canada to Japan is approximately CAD 1,907

Hotels

It’s well known that Japan is an expensive holiday destination. Different hotels are available for different budgets. For those of you who don’t mind being lavish, try the luxury hotels in Tokyo. Aman Tokyo, Andaz, Conrad Tokyo, Palace Hotel Tokyo to name a few. These star hotels charge around ¥90,000   

For people traveling as a group or family, guest houses are perfect. They can be found at different prices based on the amenities offered, ranging anywhere between ¥20,000 to ¥90,000  

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Shangri La hotel and The Ritz – Carlton are very famous among honeymooners. 

The Capsule hotels are very popular among travelers. They are really cheap at ¥2,000 per night. The hotels are packed with cultural experiences. 

Transportation 

The railways, buses, cabs, rentals and domestic flights are the means of transport within the country. Buses and railways cost the least. 

The railways offer Japan Rail Passes that can be purchased for a week or more. You gain unlimited, nationwide access. Long-distance travels cost around ¥25,000 

Highway night buses are very popular much cheaper than trains. For example, the bus pass for an entire week costs around ¥12,000

Cabs are pretty costly. Sightseeing for 2 hours costs around ¥10,000

Food

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about ¥900

If the restaurant you choose is mid-range, a three-course meal for 2 people costs around ¥4,000

McDonald’s comes to your rescue if you are very keen on cutting down costs you spend on meals. They are as low as ¥650

Traveling with people

Backpackers needn’t worry a bit. You have to look out only for yourself as you are not responsible for anyone else. It is advised that couples book fairly decent hotels to have a really good time and privacy. 

Families are suggested to put up in guesthouses. They are more convenient in terms of space and comfort. 

Biggest festivals in Japan

Traditional Japanese festivals are called Matsuri, they are very colorful with a long history. The dates and the way these festivals are celebrated differs from community to community. More than 300,000 Matsuri festivals are celebrated in a year. The locals of that area organize the festival and the shrines sponsor them. The biggest and the most famous festivals are listed below, 

Gion Matsuri

During the month of July, the entire city of Kyoto participates in this festival. The highlight is the procession of floats called ‘Yamaboko Junko’ on 17th and 24th of July. 

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Gion Matsuri in Kyoto

Awa Odori

12th to 15th of August, Tokushima city is engulfed in a dance mania. Men, women, and children dance on the streets of the city. They wear traditional cotton kimonos teamed with straw hats. If you happen to visit Tokushima around this time of the year, do not hesitate to join them. You’ll have the time of your life. 

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Takamatsu Awa Odori Bon Festival

Kanda Matsuri

This festival is unique to Tokyo, dedicated to the Kanda Myojin shrine. The portable shrines are taken on a parade by the people. The procession starts in the morning and continues through the Kanda district, Nihonbashi, and Akihabara before returning to the shrine in the evening. 

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Lion float, Kanda Matsuri

Yuki Matsuri

It’s also called ‘The Snow Festival’ and takes place in Sapporo in the month of February. The festival originated in 1950 when local school students started making statues out of snow. However, at present, it’s a huge snow statue contest. 

Nebuta Matsuri

It is a parade festival from 2nd to 7th of August in Aomori city. Lantern floats are made in the form of human figures and are accompanied by several chanting dancers. It’s a spectacular sight. 

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Nebuta matsuri

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

It’s a thrilling contest that takes place in the city of Osaka in the middle of September. Danjiris are wooden floats which are heavier than 3000kg. People divide into teams and pull the wooden floats at breakneck speed while the crowd cheers on. 

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Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, Osaka, Japan

Tenjin Matsuri

This festival is also a procession, held on 24th and 25th of July, in Osaka. However, in addition to land procession, a river procession via boats also occur. 

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Osaka Tenjin Matsuri Festibal Funatogyo

Kochi Yosakoi Matsuri

It’s relatively a new festival that was started in 1954, in Kochi, as a tribute to the birth of Yosakoi Naruko dance. It is a passionate dance to an old folk song. Dancers carry clappers called ‘Naruko’ that creates a click-clack sound. To take part in this power-packed festival, visit Kochi in the middle of August.

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Yosakoi Performers at Kochi Yosakoi Matsuri

Tanabata Matsuri

 This festival originated as a result of cultural contact between the Japanese and Chinese. It is based on the legend of two Chinese stars, Altair and Vega. If you visit the Sendai City from the 6th to the 8th of August, you’ll find colorfully crafted paper decorations hanging in the streets. 

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Shōnan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri

Hakata Dontaku Matsuri

It’s held on 3rd and 4th of May in Fukuoka City. It is a combination of dance and procession. People dance and parade with a utensil used for serving rice, called ‘Shamoji.

Best sites to visit

Divide your visit into three parts – Northern Japan, Southern Japan and the Tokyo area (Central Japan). Cover each area one at a time to make the most of your holiday. Don’t rush around, enjoy every minute. The best sites to visit in each region are listed below,

Places to visit in Northern Japan

The first thing that you’ll note is the greenery. North Japan is clean, green, welcoming, and historic in its own way. It is very similar to New Zealand. But, fabulous in its own old-world charm. 

Attractions

The western side of North Japan borders the Sea of Japan. It is lined with rivers, flatlands, and fertile rice farmlands. Visit the samurai district of Kakunodate, it is well-known for its cherry trees in spring. Stroll around the village and engage with the craftsmen. 

One shouldn’t miss the Akita museum of art which houses large collections of the famous Western-style painter, Fujita Tsuguharu. Bordering Akita, lake Towada is at the top of a 400-meter-high mountain. It’s a good retreat for hiking. 

Next, visit Aomori, the northernmost region on Honshu, that has the world’s largest virgin forest of the beech tree. It is added to UNESCO’s world heritage sites. 

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Hirosaki, Japan, Aomori

Markets

When in Hakodate, visit the morning market for breakfast. It has many stalls to keep you munching through a variety of seafood.

Similarly Ekini market is a photographer’s paradise. The display of seafood will stun you. 

Nature

Every place, even the fish markets in Hokkaido are rich in greenery. However, to point out specifically, Shiretoko National Park and Daisetsuzan National Park are very popular places to witness really unique flora and fauna.

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Shiretoko National Park. Hokkaido, Japan

Jewelry ice is a phenomenon that occurs in Otsu shores of North Japan. It is formed from ice in the Tokachi River. It looks splendid. 

Travel with kids

Take your kids to Shiroi Koibito Park. Let them squeal with delight on the different train rides. Here, you’ll find the Shiroi Koibito Factory, where the famous Hokkaido cookies are baked is a must-visit. Amazing lessons on skiing are taught for kids here. 

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Shiroi Koibito Park

Best Packages

9 Days Charms of Hokkaido tour is a package that comes at a decent price. The package is available for three seasons – The cherry blossoms, winter festivals and summer flowers.  

Places to visit in Tokyo (Central Japan) 

As mentioned previously, Tokyo is the capital of Japan. It is full of life and energy. The city, home to many companies, is dominated by some of the tallest skyscrapers. 

Attractions

Tokyo sky tower is one of the largest towers in the world. It has an observation deck, so feel free to get on top of the tower and enjoy the view it offers. 

Do visit the imperial palace, its 17th-century parks are well-preserved and are surrounded by moats and walls.

Next, visit shrines in Tokyo. The architecture will blow your mind. Senso-ji temple, Asakusa temple and the Meji shrine are notable sites. 

Don’t miss out on the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Nature and Science. 

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Tokyo sky tower
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Imperial palace

Markets

The top 6 markets to visit in Tokyo are listed below,

  1. Nakamise Shopping street – Mementos 
  2. Mottainai Flea Market – Retro clothing
  3. Takeshita Dori – Harajuku fashion
  4. Boro-Ichi Street Mart – Folk cultural asset
  5. Ameya Yokocho – Candies
  6. Toyosu Fish Market – Seafood
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Takeshita Dori market
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Toyosu Fish Market

Nature

To get lost in the greenery, visit Ueno Park in Tokyo. You’ll be astonished to find a paradise of an oasis in the heart of the busy city. 

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Ueno Park in Tokyo

Mount Fuji, one of the three holy mountains of Japan, is located 2 hours driving southwest from Tokyo. No holiday in Japan is complete without climbing the mountain to revel in the sunrise. 

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One of the most famous mountains in the world, Mount Fuji

Travel with kids 

What more could kids ask for other than Disneyland? With lots of emphasis on Mickey, Minnie, and the gang, it’ll turn out to be the best vacation for your kids. Fire Museum is another cool place. Your kids get to dress up as firemen and play with firetrucks.

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Travel with kids to Disneyland Tokyo
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Fire Museum in Tokyo

Best Packages

Based on your interests, tour packages are available to cater to everyone’s need.

  1. The Tokyo day tour covers Meji Shrine, Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Bay cruise.
  2. Kyoto Highlights tour the Golden Pavilion and the Kiyomizu temple
  3. Small group Tokyo Biking Tour for ride enthusiasts. 
  4. One day Tokyo bus tour and Japanese food tour. 
  5. Tokyo Pub Crawl 
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Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Places to visit in Southern Japan

It’s one of the least explored regions of Japan. However, it must make it to your bucket list for its pure authenticity and tradition. 

Attractions

Trace Shikoku’s pilgrimage trail. It’s sure to attract both Buddhists and eco-tourists. 

Do not forget to pay your respects at Hiroshima. In spite of the scars endured by the people of Hiroshima, they’ve built a city more powerful and colorful than the previous one. It’s a city that has risen from its ashes.

Do check out the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It’s is the city’s must-see sight, a sober reminder of the blast.  

Nature

Do not miss Naruto Whirlpools, they’re a fascinating phenomenon. Take your tourist boat on a spin around the whirlpool.

Nowadays, getting access to subtropical Yakushima’s island is not a big deal. You get an opportunity to hike among massive cedar trees that are at least a thousand years old.

Market

Hiroshima is a city re-built on its very destruction. In spite of the disaster, the city booms with trade. The list of popular markets are as follows,

  1. Senda Wasshoi Matsuri Flea Market – Collectibles, food stalls and live entertainment
  2. Portpia – Antiques and clothing
  3. Daisho-in’s Tsuitachi-ichi – Old kimonos, handmade jewelry and books

Travel with kids 

Take your kids on a day out to Dkunoshima – Hiroshima Rabbit Island. The bunnies are really cute and your kids will have a good time playing with them.

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Dkunoshima – Hiroshima Rabbit Island

Best Packages

A number of tour packages are available that covers the important attractions of South Japan. Pick the ones that suit your itinerary.

  1. 1-day Hiroshima and Miyajima (Round-trip from Osaka/Kyoto)
  2. Private taxi tour to the Rabbit Island
  3. 2-day Hiroshima and Kurashiki tour
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Hiroshima peace memorial

Best Japanese experience

On your visit to Japan, ensure that you don’t miss out on the following places and the experiences they offer. 

Tsukiji Market

Like every other Asian country, Japan is also unique. Certain spices that are native to Japan cannot be found elsewhere. The market is closed on Sundays and Wednesdays. So, plan your trip accordingly. Whether you want to eat or shop for culinary supplies, Tsukiji market won’t let you down. You name it, they’ve got it. Stock up!

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Tsukiji Market

Luxury hotels in Tokyo

Pamper yourself for at least a day in one of the luxury hotels of Tokyo. The city is loaded with beautiful hotels. Aman Tokyo, Andaz, Conrad Tokyo, Palace Hotel Tokyo to name a few. 

The art island

For all the creative minds and art lovers out there, Naoshima is a must-visit. It has one of the mind-blowing museums in the world, housing some of the great works of world-class artists. 

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Naoshima, for art lovers

Bamboo Forest

While visiting Kyoto, don’t miss out on the bamboo forest. Iconic bamboo forests and Zem temples are located on the outskirts of Kyoto, in the Arashiyama district. The trip is really worth it. 

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Bamboo forest, Kyoto

Ramen

Your holiday in Japan is not really completed without a bowl of ramen. Wherever you go in Japan, you’ll come across the best ramen serving shops. Dig your chopsticks into a steaming hot bowl of authentic ramen. 

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A hot bowl of ramen

Shinkansen

The bullet train (Shinkansen) must top your to-do list. The ride will leave you in awe of the technology Japan is capable of. Throughout the ride, you’ll be mesmerized by the beautiful landscapes it zips by. 

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It’s almost impossible to travel in Japan without using the Shinkansen

Shushi

What’s a vacation in Japan without Sushi? It’s almost meaningless. Bask in the aroma of seafood and vinegared rice.

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Get your kids used to it

Cherry blossoms

Please don’t mind the crowd. Witness the blossoms, the most magical time of year in Japan. The parks and gardens in the country are canopied in a riot of pretty pink flowers. 

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Cherry blossoms, the most magical time of year in Japan

A walk through the woods

Hikers will never have a dull moment in Japan for it’s a hiker’s paradise. Two of the best places are the Nakasendo trail and Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route

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Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, like heaven

Taste sake

There’s no place more apt for sake than Japan. The country is lined with sake bars, shops or restaurants specializing in high-quality sake

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In the fifth glass, you will stop counting

Castles

Most of the castles you come across in Japan are reconstructions. However, the famous  Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle are truly magnificent. They’ve been well-maintained after all these years and holds the essence of ancient Japanese architecture. 

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Matsumoto Castle, like a painting

Matcha green tea

Treat yourself to a heart-warming cup of green tea. It not only tastes heavenly but is intact with all the goodness of tea leaves. You’ll find plenty of charming tea houses in Japan.

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Green tee, it’s healthy as well

Islands of Okinawa

Don’t let your holiday be monotonous. Do check out the beautiful beaches of the islands of Okinawa. They are very different from the rest of Japan. 

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Modern Architecture

Not only does ancient architecture dominate Japan, Tokyo has some stunning world-class buildings constructed by both Japanese and non-Japanese architects. 

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Tokyo architecture

Climb Mount Fuji

It might sound daunting, but it’s really worth it when you reach the summit to view the sunrise. 

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You will then eat more in a quiet conscience 🙂

Best Attractions in Japan

Japan is a land full of surprises and an amazing place for all tourists and travelers. Although there are hundreds of attractions in Japan, here is a list of the best lot of places for you to explore.

Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and brings out the best of Japanese culture in every way. Your trip will be incomplete without a visit to Tokyo. There is huge scope for you to explore in Tokyo ranging from historical sites to the anime culture and the lip-smacking Japanese cuisine. The top attractions in Tokyo are:

  • Tokyo Disneyland
  • Disney Sea in Tokyo
  • Sky Tree Tokyo

What you can mainly do in Tokyo include:

  • An evening around the Tokyo Tower
  • Visit the Meiji Shrine in all its glory
  • Shopping in Odaiba

Kyoto

Kyoto is considered as one of the sacred cities of Japan and is a common name in the list of all Japan trip packages. Kyoto is known for its gardens, palaces, shrines and temples and some beautiful bamboo forests. The versatility of the attractions a single city has to offer is amazing. The top attractions in Kyoto are:

  • The Imperial Palace of Kyoto
  • The Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
  • The Philosopher’s Walk

Some activities for you in Kyoto that you should not miss are:

  • A visit to the Kiyomizu Temple
  • Visit the famous Kinkaku-Ji
  • Exploring the majestic Nijo Castle

Nara

A common mention of Nara can be found in any Japan travel blog. This city is known for the several monasteries, temples, shrines and of course the very important Nara Park. Nara is also home to many beautiful deer. Therefore, a visit to Nara will bring you closer to Japanese culture and tradition. The top 3 attractions in Kara are:

  • Nara Park
  • The Ninja Museum in Igaryu
  • Kasuga-Taisha

The unmissable things to do in Kara are:

  • Exploring the beauty of the Isuien Garden
  • Interacting with the deer at the Nara-Koen Park
  • A visit to the National Museum of Nara.

Hokkaido

An ideal place to visit during summer especially, Hokkaido has several hot springs here. Besides this, there are some volcanoes and ski areas which make it more popular as a tourist attraction. The variety of places to visit and scope of activities, make it a favorite of adults and kids alike. The best places that you should not give a miss are:

  • Asahiyama Zoo
  • The Blue Pond
  • Farm Tomita

The major tourist activities here include:

  • Bathing in a hot spring
  • Exploring the National Parks here
  • Gorging into the delicious sea-food

Ishigaki

This is a small island and is presently voted as the most popular tourist attraction in Japan. Hundreds of tourist flock over here because of the scope of various activities that you can experience in Ishigaki. The top attractions here include:

  • The Kabira bay
  • Limestone caves in Ishigaki
  • Taketomi Island

Top activities that you can experience in Ishigaki include:

  • Snorkeling
  • Relaxing by the beach
  • Devour the taste of Ishigaki beef

Hiroshima

This city makes Japan more beautiful and also glorifies the history of Japan. This was the victim of the terrible atomic bombings along with its neighboring city of Nagasaki. Though tourists mainly visit Hiroshima to pay their respect to the victims of the bombing and to visit the memorials, there is a lot more than that here. Places to visit for sure includes:

  • Hiroshima Museum and the Memorial Peace Park
  • Itsukushima
  • Hiroshima Castle

Activities to do here are:

  • Try the delicious Okonomiyaki
  • Visit Shukkeien Garden
  • Exploring the Mazda Museum

Sapporo

This is heaven for ski and beer lovers and also the Winter destination of Japan. You should visit this place when you are tired of the heat around and see the several snow towers here. Besides, the Annual Sapporo Snow Festival is an important time to visit Sapporo. Top attractions in Sapporo include:

  • Moerenuma Park
  • Moiwa
  • Government Office of Hokkaido

What you can do in Hokkaido includes:

  • Attend a party in Susukino
  • Explore the Beer museum in Sapporo
  • Taste the amazing local delicacies in the Curb Market area

Osaka

Osaka is one of the best shopping destinations in Japan. Also, it is known for selling some of the most delicious food in the country. You visit Osaka and shop till you drop. Then get yourself a delicious meal and relax. Secondly, Osaka has an awesome nightlife. It is like an all-in-one place for all that you can wish for as a tourist. The three main attractions here are:

  • Studio Universal Japan
  • Dotonbori
  • Osaka Castle

Three best activities here:

  • Visiting the Kaiyukan Aquarium
  • Partying and beer tasting
  • Worship in the Hozenji temple

Yakushima

Yakushima is an island that is part of the Kagoshima Prefecture. It is known for its waterfalls, cedar forests, and wildlife. The natural beauty of Yakushima is a treat for your eyes and you should not miss this place on any cost. Moreover, if you are traveling to Japan for the first time, this should be one of the top 10 places to visit on your list. The best 3 attractions here are:

  • JomonSugi
  • Miyanoura
  • Senpirono Falls

The best tourist activities are:

  • Going to Oko-no-Taki Waterfall
  • Watching turtles lay eggs
  • Canoeing or kayaking in Anbo River

Hakuba

Hakuba is a small village situated in the Japanese Alps. It is also known as the best location for any kind of winter sports such as snowboarding, hiking, and skiing. Hakuba just sticks out a little of Nagano- a Japanese city. Several mountain resorts organize sports and other tours. The top three attractions in Hakuba are:

  • Winter Resort of HakubaHappone
  • Aoki Lake
  • Shirouma

The best activities to do here:

  • Skiing at Cortina Resort
  • Happo Pond hiking
  • Going to the Hakuba 47 which is a sports park for Winter season

Kamakura

Kamakura is a town situated by the sea. It is known as a replica of the city of Kyoto. The difference is just that Kamakura is located in eastern Japan. Kamakura boasts of bamboo groves, ancient shrines and temples, beautiful beaches, shopping destinations, and the best local food. You ask for something and you are sure to get it here. You should not miss

  • Literature Museum in Kamakura
  • Enoshima Aquarium
  • Kannon Museum

Activities:

  • Visit the Kamakura Buddha
  • Go to the Jufukuji Temple
  • Experience surfing at the Shonan Beach

Nagano

Nagano is the tropical capital of Japan and mainly known for its breezy weather throughout the year. There is a variety of tourist attractions here ranging from adventure sports clubs to children’s parks and shrines too. The best attractions of Nagano are:

  • Karuizawa
  • Kamikouchi
  • Matsumoto Castle

Activity ideas for you:

  • Visiting Zenko-Ji Temple
  • Freshen up at the ShirahoneOnsen
  • Take part in winter sports such as skiing at the Shiga Kogen Heights

Takayama

When all the cities are getting more and more commercial, Takayama, situated on top of the Gifu mountains is a peaceful retreat. Get away from the hustle-bustle of the cities and spend some time in Old Japan. Takayama has a special old-school aura to it which is very different from all other attractions on the list. Attractions that you must visit are:

  • Hidan Sato
  • District of SanmachiSuji
  • Takayama Hall of Festival Floats

Shibuya

Shibuya is one of the most crowded places in Japan because of 2 reasons mainly. First, the awesome-looking crossing which is also known as ‘scramble crossing’ and the several options for shopping here. The best shopping destination in Shibuya is 109 Mall. It is a one-stop destination for the best brands in Tokyo. The best attractions are:

  • Yoyogi Park
  • Omotesando
  • Meiji Jingu

Best to-do ideas for you:

  • Shop at the Takeshita Streets
  • Enjoy clubbing at Roppongi
  • Enjoy the views from the Roppongi hills

Naoshima

This is a beautiful island situated in the middle of the Seto Inland waters. If you are staying for a few days in Tokyo, you can go Naoshima to end your Tokyo trip in the best way. There are several sculptures and museums here and you are sure to be busy the whole day. It is not very close to Tokyo so you should make an overnight plan for a better experience.

Must visit places:

  • Museum Lee Ufan
  • Naoshima Bath
  • Benesse House

What you must do here:

  • Explore Chichu Museum and enjoy Tadao Ando Art
  • Spend some time in the cherry blossom gardens
  • Go to Kojin Island for some peaceful time

Asakusa

Asakusa is known as the cultural hub of the capital city of Tokyo. The Asahi Beer Hall is the prime attraction of Asakusa. There are many other places of interest here. Asakusa is party paradise for fun-loving people and you can try some awesome booze. A Nakamise shopping area is an ideal place for street shopping. The other major attractions are:

  • Asakusa Shrine
  • Hanayashaki Children’s Park
  • Amuse Museum

Things you could do:

  • Meditate at Senso-Ji
  • Visit the Kappabashi-Dori restaurant street for A-Class food
  • Enjoy game time at Nazoboko Escape Game in Tokyo

Akihabara

Akihabara is the ‘Geek Capital of the World’. This is because it is a hub for several computers and other video game clubs. The Fantastical Akihabara is the best out of all. Visit Akihabara for an amazing gaming session. Just beware of any kind of hoax. The best tourist attractions in Akihabara are:

  • Anime Center Akihabara
  • Ginza Crossing
  • RyojokuEdonoren

Ideal activity option for you are:

  • Shopping at 2k540 in Aki-Oka
  • Tour Akihabara on a bike. You can get one on rent easily.
  • Visit the Chidorigafuchi Moat for the beautiful greenery

Mt. Fuji

The thrill factor in Japan mainly comes from Mt. Fuji. If you into adventure sports and trekking, then Mt. Fuji is the ideal place for you. While the trekking season only lasts from July to September, you can always experience the grandeur of Mt. Fuji from far away for the rest of the year. The top 3 attractions around Mt. Fuji are:

  • Mount Tenjo
  • Shrine of FujiyoshidaSengen
  • Chureito Pagoda

You can:

    • Do a lot of skiing
    • Explore the ArakurayamaSengen Park
    • Stand near the 5th station of Subashiri for a breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji

Best Attractions for Kids

When we go for trips and tours, we hardly plan separately for our children. However, they are the ones who get mostly bored at shrines and art museums. Children always like lively and bright places. With Japan’s friendly culture and options to visit for kids, it is now possible to keep your child happy and content while the adults go about their plans. The main attractions to visit when you travel to Japan with kids are:

  1. Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo

Tokyo is always a crowded city but the large area will not let you feel that you are in a crowded place at all. Takeshita Street here is a small block where you will find an array of cute little shops where you can take your children to. Besides, you can buy the kids some yummy crepes and bubble tea. For more, grab a fairy floss on the way back from there.

  1. Harajuku Hedgehog Café

This is not a complete children’s café but there is a lovely attraction for children here. While the adults can chat over a hot cup of coffee, the kids can grab some pet-themed muffins and pastries along with some shakes.

  1. Kiddiland in Shibuya, Tokyo

Have you ever seen a 5-story building which is all filled with toys? Well, Kiddiland is exactly that. They have so much for children to buy and to play with too. You can let the kids have all the fun they want to. The highlights of Kiddiland are the nano-lego toys, the hello kitty stuff and origami work display here. There is so much color over here that you might forget your age and end up buying some of this cute stuff from here.

  1. District Odaiba, Tokyo

Your visit to Odaiba will give you weird yet awesome experience step by step. First, you will take a ride in a monorail which will take you past replica of Japan with some futuristic buildings and different-looking streets. Then you have to visit the Science and Fiction Museum called Miraikan. You will also be able to interact with Asimo, the human-like robot in the museum.

  1. Shinjuku

This is a very exciting and colorful place in Tokyo which lights up when it gets dark in the evening. The kids can sit here with some candy and enjoy the neon-lights show. The highlight of this show is the creation of the Godzilla that rises from behind the Chancery Hotel here. Apart from this, you can also take the kids to SeaWorld for some 3-D experience and to Karaoke kan for some fun music.

  1. Snow in the Japanese Alps

We already know about Hakuba from the list of attractions and that it is located in the Japanese Alps. You can take a train ride from Tokyo along with your kids and let them enjoy the pristine, white snow. Make snowballs and do gliding with them in Hakuba.

  1. Food Court Basement

In every department store, there is a basement which has a huge display of some of the most colorful and exotic foodstuff. You should be adventurous enough to get inside these shops and try the food to experience a new taste.

  1. Osaka Universal Studio and Tokyo Disney

These are some of the most expensive in a whole lot of kid’s places here. You may not take your kids if they are too small to enjoy the total experience of these places. However, they are surely big names in the list of tourist attractions for kids in Japan.

Best Nature Parks and Sites

Japan is home to several serene National Parks and other bits and parts of tranquility and natural beauty. The following are some of the most beautiful National Parks of Japan:

  1. Kerama She

This national park is in the Okinawa Prefecture and encompasses the Kerama Islands. The stunning turquoise-blue waters and white beaches. Snorkeling and swimming are the most common activities to experience here.

  1. Shiretoko Park

This national park in Hokkaido is mainly known for its brown bears. It is named as one of the World Heritage Sites under UNESCO. You can take a boat wildlife safari of this National Park.

  1. Akan National Park

This is also an attraction in the Hokkaido city of Japan. The highlight of this park is the group of volcanoes that surround the three pristine lakes here. The famous Lake Mashu is one of the three lakes here.

  1. Nikko National Park

Nikko National Park is another World Heritage Site under UNESCO. It is a part of the Kanto region of Japan and houses the Toshogu Shrine. The Kinugawa Onsen is a town of hot spring by the Kinu River banks.

  1. Yoshino- Kumano

The name comes from the fact that the Mt. Yoshino is aa part of this National Park. The Kumano Sanzan is a collection of shrines which is also a part of this park. This park is also one of the top Spring attractions of Japan due to the abundance of lush cherry blossoms growing here.

Night-life in Tokyo

Tokyo is a modern city full of life and light. The nightlife in Tokyo is exciting and fun for party-lovers. There are several nightlife spots in Tokyo including restaurants, bar, cocktail joints, clubs, and karaoke to stay energetic throughout the night. Some of the highlighted places of Tokyo nightlife are:

  1. Ginza

If you do not enjoy noisy and loud nightclubs then this is the place for you. This place is for posh people who only visit upscale clubs and subtle parties. This is also one of the most expensive shopping streets along with the pricey restaurants. You can go to one of the member-only clubs to party gracefully.

  1. Roppongi

This place is mostly occupied by foreigners and is thus known for the presence of Western culture here. The clubs and pubs here are full of celebrities and other influential people. Most of the restaurants and clubs here open till morning.

  1. Shibuya

Shibuya is the place for young fashionistas and social media obsessed people. This is one of the most lit places in Tokyo and something is happening here 24/7. There is a lot of live music and karaoke in Shibuya and something for everyone’s taste.

  1. Shinjuku

This is another famous night-life district in Tokyo with shops open 24/7. Shinjuku is known for clubs, pubs, bars, and mainly Tokyo’s red-light area.

Routes for Most Effective Time Usage

The transport system in Japan is a little complicated and it takes time to understand it. You have to first know that there are several ways of commuting easily from one place to another. You can vouch on Google maps for the best and shortest routes. The types of transportation include Jr Railways, private trains, subways if you want to walk and cover short distances and a variety of bus operators.

Shopping in Japan

Shopping is the favorite pastime for many people and Japan is a common favorite for many. There are several places to shop in Japan and here is a list of the most popular ones:

  1. Ginza

This is an immensely versatile location which is also known as one of the popular shopping destinations of Japan. The main places to shop here are the departmental stores and the luxury brand shops.

  1. Shinjuku

Almost like Ginza, Shinjuku is known for high-end shopping brands and clothes for young people. You can also do a lot of street shopping here.

  1. Ikebukuro

This is an old shopping location and is known as a famous market where you would like to shop for electronic items.

  1. Akihabara

Known as the “Geek Capital of the World”, this place is known for the plenty of game parlors and underground anime, manga art, and geek culture. You can also shop for gadgets and other electronic items from here.

  1. Shibuya and Harajuku

Both of these places have walking distance from each other. This is the International shopping street in Japan which comprises of outlets of major International fashion brands such a Zara and Forever21.

Medical Treatment in Japan

Medical treatment system in Japan is highly effective. They provide high-end treatment for screening, prenatal problems, and other infection-causing diseases. The patients here ow only 30% of the total treatment cost and the rest of the 70% is borne by the Japanese Government.

If you are a tourist, you are suggested to purchase good travel insurance which will cover any serious illness or accident in the foreign land. If you are a tourist, you cannot expect the Japanese government to share a major part of your health care expenses except under very rare situations.

Best Local Food in Japan

Japanese cuisine is one of the most loved and ate cuisine in the world. The number 5 is very important when it comes to Japanese cooking or ‘Washoku’ here.     The balance in Japanese food can be achieved by maintaining 5 colors including black, red, green, yellow and white. There are also 5 ways of cooking including raw food, frying, grilling, boiling and steaming. Most importantly, the 5 flavors include sweet, bitter, spicy, sour and salty. Some of the best Japanese traditional dishes are:

  1. Sushi

This is a type of ancient Japanese cuisine which was born by preserving fish in fermented rice. Presently, it is served with vinegar flavored rice and fresh fish.

  1. Sashimi

This is the old form of eating sushi without rice. Sashimi means any thinly sliced piece of meat including beef, chicken, fish or any other seafood.

  1. Tempura

This is a process of batter frying fish, vegetable, meat or any other sea-food. In this process, the temperature of the batter should be very cold and the oil for frying should be boiling. It uses some dipping sauce on the side or the tempura is dipped in some flavored salt.

  1. Yakitori

This is the process of cooking cuts of bite-sized pieces of meat on skewers. This process became popular in the mid-17th century. Before that, meat was rarely eaten in Japan.

  1. Miso Soup

This is a comparatively simple but a very hearty meal for the Japanese people. This is mainly made with dashi stock which may be kelp or fish stock. Any seasonal meat and vegetables are added to this soup along with miso bean paste for beautiful umami in it.

Best Hotels in Japan

Some of the best hotels to stay in Japan are:

  1. NIPPONIA Sawara Merchant Town Hotel: This is a luxury hotel with AC accommodation and beautiful rooms. The rooms are separate houses with pretty balconies. There is also the availability of multi-cuisine food here. A night here costs around 44,783 JPY.
  2. Narita View Hotel: The highlights of this hotel are the hot spring bath, free wired internet, and shuttle facility. This is a budget hotel that costs about 4,612 JPY.
  3. Hotel Universal Port Vita: This hotel has comfortable AC accommodation, high-end TVs and courteous and friendly staff. Cost of a night here is 14,285 JPY.
  4. Kamon Hotel Namba: This is a modern hotel with beautiful interiors and courteous staff. The location is very close to the Nippombashi Railways station. One night in this hotel costs approx. 5842 JPY.
  5. ICI Hotel Akasaka by RELIEF: this is a 3-star hotel in Tokyo with a well-furnished room, an amazing terrace, a bar, and a restaurant. They also have free internet facilities. A night here costs 7,936 JPY.

Recommended Insurance in Japan

Whether you travel to Japan alone or in a group, travel insurance is a must. You will not know what to do in a foreign land in case of any mishap and this is when good travel insurance comes handy. The main benefits of purchasing travel insurance include:

  • 24/7 helpline in case of any emergency or urgent query.
  • Besides from Travel to Japan vaccinations, you will receive medical assistance at any time and anywhere you are in Japan. Starting from evacuation to repatriation, the insurance company looks after everything.
  • They assure your baggage protection
  • Your travel insurance company covers any kind of medical or dental emergency when you are traveling overseas.
  • They help in easy trip cancellation.

Apart from assisting you at any time of the day, they cover several adventure sports under various categories. The categories include snow sports, aerial sports, water sports, normal field sports and more. The top examples that are covered by your travel insurance are bobsledding, tennis, mountain biking, tubing, skiing and more. The general activities covered under good travel insurance includes hospitality, admin work, restaurant, teaching and fruit picking.

FAQ

  1. How Much Does It Cost to Vacation in Japan?

Japan is a little more expensive than the neighboring Asian countries. This should not be the reason however for not visiting Japan. It is a little difficult to calculate the cost of a vacation in Japan to be exact. For this, you first have to chalk out a proper plan including the number of days you want to stay and the part of Japan you would want to cover.

It is next to impossible to travel to Japan completely even if you stay there for a month. On average, a 2-week trip would need a budget of $1200 out of which a major part will vanish if you include a rail pass. The average cost for a week would come up to $560 and at $80/day.

  1. How Much Money Do You Need Per Day in Japan?

Japan is often considered as one of the expensive countries for a vacation which is however not true. On the contrary, if you are planning to travel around a lot, stay at western hotels and eat at the best places, the scene can be a little different. In that case, you may have to spend about $200 per day which is quite a lot.

However, your vacation need not be that expensive actually. You can travel at a lot less if you keep control of your pocket and follow a few tips and tricks on where to save money. If you want to take up a budget trip, even $70-$75 is enough for a day. Some people have ever stayed in Japan at a bare minimum of $50 per day.

  1. How Much Does a 2 Week Trip to Japan Cost?

First, you have to plan which part of Japan you want to cover within 2 weeks. Once you have done that and also read tips on how you can cut off on your budget, you are good to go. You should need about $1200 for 2 weeks if you are on a mid-budget trip.

  1. What Can You Do in Japan for 10 Days?

10 days is very less time to cover even a small part of Japan but you are suggested to make the most of it during your stay. Allot the first 4 days to explore the best of Kyoto. Kyoto houses more than 2,000 shrines and temples. You just have to choose which ones to visit. You can divide the 4-day trip in this way:

  • Higashiyama

A good way to start touring Kyoto is to visit Higashiyama which is a well-preserved heritage site. There are several tea-houses, temples, Japanese gardens, and shrines in Higashiyama. It is best to explore this place on foot. The best place here is the Kiyomizu-Dera temple.

  • Kinkaku-Ji and Arashiyama

On day-2, you can go to Arashiyama, which is district towards West Kyoto. The highlight of this district is the tall bamboo groves. It is usually a crowded place and you should reach their early to avoid such crowd. The Iwatayama Monkey Park and the Golden Temple or Kikaku-Ji are the best places that follow.

  • Fushimi Inari, Markets and the Manga Museum

The stunning Fushimi Inari is known for its Torii Gates, all orange in color. The pathway of gates is on the mountainsides and the crowd keeps reducing the higher you walk. After spending a couple of hours in this forest area, you can come down to Kyoto and head straight to the Manga Museum.

The Museum and the collection of comic books here highlight the famous pop culture of Japan. This is where you can get the best collection of Manga art and books. You can finish the day with a visit to the Nishiki Market. It is a small market that just covers 5 blocks of the shopping street.

  • Day-4 of your trip can cover the Edo Era highlight of Japan or the Nijo Castle. It is a 400-year old monument with amazing architecture and beautiful Japanese Gardens. You can also include Nara, Karama, and Kibune on the same day.
  • On day-5 you can experience the famous bullet train journey to Tokyo. These trains are also called shinkansen. On your way from Kyoto till Tokyo, try to take a seat on the left side to get a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji on the way.

The rest of the 5 days should be completely dedicated to Tokyo as you have so much to explore here. Starting from amazing food to nightlife, city scenes, bridges, gardens, shopping and everything you can think of. You name it and you get it in Tokyo. The main places that you should visit in and around Tokyo are Harajuku and Shibuya, Ueno and Asakusa, Shinjuku and Tsukiji Market, Hakone and finally all the shopping destinations here.

  1. Is Food Expensive in Japan?

It depends completely on what you choose to eat. Japan is known for sushi and sashimi but these are quite expensive when compared with other stuff here. If you choose soups, rice bowls and ramen bowls over other pricey food, you can cut down on your expenses. Also, food carts, food trains, and roadside shops sell cheaper food than in the other western restaurants. Fresh fruits are quite expensive here.

  1. Are 5 Days in Tokyo Enough?

Honestly, 5 days or even 10 days is not enough to explore everything in Tokyo. A lot of people have said that they could not explore Tokyo completely even after staying there for a few years. However, if you have the 5 days planned out, then at least you can get an idea of some places and activities in Tokyo.

  1. How Many Days in Japan is Enough?

You have to stay here for years to explore all parts of Japan and still not be content. For starters, you can plan a 1- month trip to Japan to elaborately explore at least some parts of the country. Mostly, people visit Japan for a week or maximum of 10 days but tourism in the country is increasing at a fast pace.

  1. How Much is McDonald’s in Japan?

McDonald’s is one of the premium food outlets even in Japan. The menu has several dishes to offer. The price of food here ranges from 200Yen to as much as 750 Yen.

  1. How Long Do You Need in Hiroshima?

Hiroshima is a historic place in Japan which is mainly known for its museums and memorials. However, if you start in the morning from Kyoto, you could reach Hiroshima in not much time. You can spend the late morning and afternoon exploring Hiroshima and then move to another place in the evening.

  1. What Month is The Cheapest to Fly to Japan?

The peak season of Japan in July is in June-July. October is when the travel fare is lowest in Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Buddhist Symbols Overview

The religion of Buddhism is entirely based on the teachings that Buddha taught. Buddha spent a great deal of his life by knowing that worldly possessions do not equal happiness. On the other hand, he proclaimed that wisdom, morality, and the feeling of contentment worked positively in making a person happy.

Till today, Buddhism’s religion has over 500 million followers who are spread all across the globe. However, the majority of Buddhist people can be found on the continent of Asia.

One of the Buddhist religion’s critical features is that they use a particular set of symbols to signify specific aspects of dharma. These symbols are used in the faith to impart knowledge of Buddha among the standard population. According to East Asian cultures, the cultures of East India, several symbols associated with Buddhism represent the array of gifts that God presented to Buddha right after he achieved his enlightenment.

Several Buddhist symbols exist in the religion, and most of the Buddhist symbols and their meanings are discussed below.

The meaning of life in Buddhism

The sole purpose of life in Buddhism is to end suffering. As humans, the teachings state that we will continue to suffer if we are continually striving after material things that do not give a long-lasting solution to happiness. The unending quest to hold on to these things often leads to desperation and causes sorrow.

It’s undeniable that material things give us joy, but the fact that none of them lasts forever means that their loss often causes more suffering.

Buddhist symbols and their meaning
Two little Buddhist monks in Myanmar

Buddha usually focused his teachings on this problem and its solution. He taught the importance of recognizing the impermanence of material things to free ourselves from excessive attachment.

When a person is not very much attached to material things, it lessens the suffering and eventually ends the rebirth cycle.

The Buddha and early Buddhists advocated the monastic life as the surest way to accomplish enlightenment. In Buddhism, it’s generally believed that one has to be reborn as a nun or as a monk before attaining enlightenment.

It is also believed that one can attain enlightenment through contemplation, yoga, and other ritual means through mantras and special postures.

A brief history of symbolism in Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion that is centered on compassion and wisdom and dates to way back. For this reason, it has a bucket load of history. 7.1 percent of the total world population is Buddhist- this translates to over 500 million followers worldwide. Buddhism has numerous teachings and symbols that help people to learn about the religion itself.

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Buddhism’s symbolism is believed to date back to a couple of centuries that immediately followed Buddha’s death.

At this time, people started representing Buddha’s teachings through art and symbols.

One of the earliest symbols was the wheel of dharma, which Buddha used to illustrate his teachings. The historical Buddha lived during the 6th century BCE.

The use of symbolism in Buddhism may also be attributed to the fact that Buddha used quite a several images in his teachings. After his death and as Buddhism continued to spread, Buddhism symbols became more common.

The first archeological evidence was first comprised of art symbols, mainly stone carvings that date back to the period during which Emperor Asoka reigned. He played a huge role in popularizing Buddhism and helping it spread inside India and beyond.

Some of the earliest and most popular symbols in Buddhism include the lotus flower, the stupa, and the Dharma wheel. The lotus flower is used in different instances to represent different things.

The wheel also features 8 spokes, and all of them have different meanings. The first actual Buddha images appeared around the first century BCE, so the artwork was largely symbolic in nature.

Many artwork and symbolism appeared around the 6th century, including mandalas and other Tantric symbols. Initially, in East Asia Cultures, Buddhism did not portray the Buddha himself; the first hint of human representation appeared with the Buddha footprint.

Buddhist Symbols and Their Meanings

There are several symbols used in Buddhism, most of which stem from the teachings of the Buddha. Some of them arise from different cultures, as Buddhism is passed down to represent the peoples’ faith and religious beliefs.

The symbols in Buddhism are pretty interesting to learn about. These symbols are considered sacred and used in various ceremonies, such as the inauguration of a newly-chosen king and during ceremonies to represent offerings to the gods. The symbols are also used as decorative art in monasteries or as a focal point during meditation.

Here are some of the prominent yet standard symbols found in the Buddhism culture:

1. The Image of the Great Buddha

It is one of the Buddhist symbols and is also one of the most known icons in Buddhism’s religion.

The emblem consists of certain minor other symbols placed within the larger picture.

Three lines are curved and are placed on the neck of Buddha, and they stand for the deep voice that Buddha has.

This particular symbol is found in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and China.

There are various sizes in which the logo appears, but the rough outlines always remain the same, making Buddha easily identifiable.

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2. The Triratna or The Three Jewels

The Triratna stands for the Dharma, Buddha, and Sangha, and they are the things where we take shelter as human beings.

The Dharma represents teaching, and Sangha stands for the monastic community.

The Triratna or ‘Triple Gem’ is one of the most ancient Buddhist symbols and is strongly associated with Buddha’s path for people to follow.

3. The Footprint of the Buddha or the Buddhapada

Buddhapada is another symbol beside the Buddhist symbols lotus flower. The symbol consists of a print of both the feet or might contain the impression of one foot.

It represents the fact that Buddha was physically present even when the religion of Buddhism consisted of no statues at all.

The period from the time the Buddha’s footprints are found is known as an ant-iconic stage. Today, the footprints represent Buddha’s absence since he has now entered nirvana.

These footprints ensure the fact that Buddha was a human being, and he resided on the earth. Moreover, these prints provide us with the path that we need to follow. They, therefore, work as a guide for us. Some of the footprints are found naturally, and men have built some of them.

Buddhist symbol - footprint of Buddha
Buddha footprint at the entrance of the Seema Malaka temple.

This symbol may incorporate an imprint of either one or both of Gautama Buddha’s feet. It was one of the earliest representations of the Buddha’s physical presence when there were no statues in Buddhism.

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The Buddhapada reminds us of two things:

  1. That the Buddha was also human, as he walked on this planet
  2. That there is a path to be followed, and the “Enlightened One” left the prints as a guide

There are two forms of the footprints: those that occur naturally in stones and human-made ones. The artificial ones are replicas of the “real” footprints and are considered representations of Buddha’s footprints throughout Asia.

The footprints usually have marks that set them apart, such as the Dharma wheel found at the center of the sole. Other distinctive marks that can be found on the footprints include the lotus flower, the swastika, or the three jewels.

Other footprints are quite large and very detailed. They feature the 32, 108, or the 132 auspicious signs of the Buddha are engraved on the sole following a checkerboard pattern.

The footprints are depicted with all the toes having a corresponding length. The sculptures are usually found in temples where they are protected using special structures where believers bring offerings to.

4. The Bodhi Tree or Leaf

The term Bodhi translates into ‘enlightenment.’ The Bodhi Tree also goes by Bo’s name. It has a significant part in the religious matters of the Buddhist religion followers and had an essential place in the history of Buddhism’s religion.

A popular faith says that Buddha achieved his enlightenment while sitting right under a tree of Bodhi. The particular tree has a real-life existence and is situated in Bodh Gaya, about 100km from Patna in Bihar. It is a major destination for pilgrims and is the most important pilgrimage site among the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

One of the trees is in Anuradhapura, and the other is in Sravasti. It takes anywhere between 100 and 3,000 years for a Bodhi tree to become fully grown.

Buddhist symbols - The bodhi tree
Ayutthaya Buddha Head in Tree Roots, Buddhist temple Wat Mahatha

One of the Buddhist symbolsthe Bodhi Tree, is sacred and shown as an old and large fig tree with rounded heart-shaped leaves. The followers of Buddhism believe that in the present day, only two of the Bodhi trees are there that originated from the actual Bodhi tree under which Buddha achieved his enlightenment. The Bodhi tree stands as a symbol of hope and salvation.

5. The Dharma Wheel

The Dharma Wheel is also referred to as the Dharmachakra, the “Wheel of Truth/Law,” or the “Wheel of Transformation.” It is one of the most important symbols in Buddhism that’s used to represent the teachings of the Buddha and represents Gautama Buddha himself. After the Buddha achieved enlightenment, Brahma appeared to him and offered the Dharma wheel.

The turning of the wheel is a metaphor for the rapid spiritual change engendered by the teachings of the Buddha.

The “first turning of the wheel of dharma” took place at the Deer Park in Sarnath while the “second and third turnings of the wheel of dharma” took place at Rajgir and Shravasti, respectively.

The Dharma chakra represents rebirth; it also teaches that reincarnation can only be escaped by following the Buddha’s teachings.

Buddhist prayer beads
Buddhist prayer beads - click for details

Yama is the name of the creature that turns the wheel. Yama is the Lord of Death and therefore represents the inevitability of death. However, the presence of the Buddha outside of the wheel represents liberation.

Buddhist symbols - The Dharma wheel
The golden deer and the dharma wheel in tibetan monastery

The basic parts of the dharma wheel that were a huge part of the Buddha’s teachings:

  1. The wheel’s hub represents a moral discipline that leads to a stable mind.
  2. The wheel’s spokes represent wisdom that one has to apply for them to beat ignorance.
  • The wheel’s rim represents focus and concentration, which helps us to hold everything together.

The outer circle of the wheel represents the 12 links of dependent origination, as stated below:

  1. On the top right is a blind man with a cane. He represents our ignorance of the true nature of the world.
  2. A potter molding a pot, moving clockwise. He represents the fact that we shape our own destiny with our actions.
  3. A monkey climbing a tree. He represents the consciousness of our mind, which wanders out of control.
  4. The consciousness which gives rise to name and form. This is depicted as people who are traveling on a boat on the river of life.
  5. An empty house whose doors and windows represent the developing sensory organs. The six senses are sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, and thought.
  6. Thought, which is the sixth sense, allows us to have contact with the world. This is represented as an embrace between lovers.
  7. An arrow piercing the eye. This represents the human feelings, which can either be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Once we have contact with the world, we can feel.
  8. A man drinking alcohol or a couple falling in love. They represent our desires or our attachment to pleasant feelings.
  9. A monkey picking fruit(s). This represents the grasping of things that we desire
  10. From grasping, there arises existence. This is represented by a man and a woman making love.
  11. Existence culminates in birth, which marks the entry into the human realm. This is represented by a woman giving birth.
  12. After birth, we all age and ultimately end up dead. This is represented by an older man carrying a burden.
Buddhist symbol - Dharma mandala tapestry
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Dharma mandala tapestry
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The wheel’s middle ring symbolizes the six realms of existence: humans, gods, demi-gods, animals, hell-beings, and hungry ghosts.

Within the wheel’s inner circle, you will find symbols of the three root delusions: a snake symbolizing hatred, a rooster symbolizing ignorance, and a pig symbolizing greed.

The wheel’s spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path that the Buddha set out during his teachings. Here are the eight steps that help us to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering on earth:

  • Right View: Actions have consequences, even after death. This is where the concepts of karma and rebirth are included.
  • Right, Resolve: Create an environment of kindness and impermanence.
  • Right Speech: Avoid lying, rudeness, gossip, and other negative types of speech.
  • Right Conduct: Don’t steal, injure, assault, or kill others.
  • Right Livelihood: Limit possessions to only the essentials that you require for a normal life.
  • Right Effort: Work to prevent unwholesome states and thoughts which can disrupt meditation.
  • Right Mindfulness: Always remain conscious of your thoughts and actions.
  • Right Samadhi. Practice the four stages of meditation to unify the mind.
Dharma wheel pendant
Dharma wheeel necklace - Click for details
Buddhist prayer with mala beads - Click for details

Today, you will often find the Dharmachakra on images of the mandala or the Buddha; the Dharma Wheel appears on the palms of the Buddha’s hands and the soles of his feet.

Some wrathful deities are depicted brandishing the Dharma Wheel as a weapon to conquer evil. The Hindu god Vishnu uses the wheel to conquer earthly desires and passions.

The Dharma Wheel is the final stage on the path towards a permanent relief from suffering; it’s the final goal according to the Buddha’s teachings. The Victory Banner and the Knot of Eternity combine and lead towards the Dharma Wheel.

6. The Umbrella or The Parasol (Chatra)

Normally, the umbrella offers protection against different elements such as rain and the scorching sun. The parasol is the Buddhist symbol for strength and protection from harm, illness, obstacles, and difficulties.

In East Asian Cultures, the umbrella or parasol symbol represents the safety and refuge offered by the Buddha and his teachings.

The symbol not only represents protection but is also a symbol of dignity, wisdom, and compassion. The parasol could also be used to represent the peace and cal that it provides.

The meaning of the symbol varies depending on the shape of the umbrella. Sometimes, the dome’s shape is octagonal to represent the Eightfold Path—other times its square to represent the four directional quarters.

Considering that one had to be rich to possess an umbrella, by extension, it represents wealth or royalty.

buddhist symbols images
Credit: Frater5

7. The Lotus (Padma) Flower

Among all the symbols in Buddhism, the lotus flower is the most famous and widely recognized of the peace symbol images. It symbolized inner peace, humanity, and life. The concept of inner peace being able to lift us is an important cornerstone of Buddhism.

The Lotus Flower is a Buddhist Symbol for enlightenment. It also symbolizes “primordial purity” of the bid, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire.

Buddhist symbol - lotus flower
Crystal Lotus Flower - Click for details
Buddhist healing symbols
Lotus essential oil difuser - Click for details
 

The mud represents suffering, which is a vital part of human life to make us stronger. The struggle and suffering teach us to break free and resist the temptations of the evil one.

Choosing the right path makes us one with the Buddha. Purity is an essential aspect for you to progress down the path of enlightenment to emulate the Buddha’s purity.

The lotus flower is significant teaching, not only in Buddhism but also for humanity. It brings hope and represents faith. The lotus’ beauty hides a dark underside. This is very uplifting teaching. The lotus represents our

 
Buddhist symbols lotus flower
Buddhist Lotus led string - Click for details

Ability to live with wisdom and purity above the murky waters below. What this means is that the lotus grows out of the muck and into something beautiful. Even though the roots are stuck deep in the mud, the lotus still gives beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers.

For this reason, the lotus is used to symbolize the full blossoming and transformation from suffering into blissful liberation. The lotus flower has eight petals, which also represent the Eightfold Path of the Good Law.

Once all the petals are fully open, that represents total enlightenment. In Buddhism, different-colored lotus flowers have different meanings. Here is their significance:

White

The white lotus flower represents the purity of the mind, body, and spirit. White symbolizes the heart of the Buddha. The color is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality that gets reinforced by the color of her body.

Red

The red lotus flower represents the heart, love, and compassion. Red lotus flowers symbolize the emotional attachment of the heart and other heart-centered emotions such as passion.

Blue

The blue lotus flower represents wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, and learning. The blue lotus flower is used to symbolize the victory of the spirit over the senses. It’s often depicted as being only partially open, so its center is not seen.

Pink

The pink lotus flower represents the Supreme Buddha as well as the traditional and historical Buddhism. The pink lotus flower is considered to be the true lotus of the highest deity- the Buddha.

Purple

The purple lotus flower represents mysticism and spirituality. Usually, the purple lotus is depicted as having either one or three stems. The petals are shown closed and opened; at times it’s depicted as a bud and other times it’s depicted as being fully bloomed. All these representations symbolize the different mystical and spiritual stages in the journey that we take towards enlightenment and self-awareness.

Gold

The gold lotus flower represents total enlightenment and is often used to represent the Buddha

8. Lion

The lion is another important Buddhist symbol that represents the Buddha’s royal past. The lion is a representation of the power of the teachings of the Buddha, which are considered to be as powerful as a lion’s roar.

In addition to representing the strength and power of the Buddhist message, the lion’s symbol is also a representation of royalty. 

buddhist symbols worksheet - The lion symbol

The lion symbolizes the royalty that the Buddha was a part of before he attained enlightenment- tradition has it that he was a prince. The lions are usually depicted on the throne that the Buddha sits on.

9. The Two Golden Fish

The two golden fishes are a symbol of happiness and freedom. Initially, the two fishes represented the two main rivers of India- the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. These two rivers are associated with the solar and lunar channels that originate in the nostrils and carry the alternating rhythms of breath.

In Buddhism, the fish are a symbol of luck and fortune. They also symbolize happiness and fearlessness. This is because the fishes are free to move around in the water with enough courage to face the unknown dangers in the ocean.

Two golden fish Buddhism symbol
Symbol of luck and fortune

Just as the fish swim freely in the water, it teaches us that we also have the ability to move around freely in this world of suffering and delusion.

The fish also represent abundance and fertility. This symbolism can be attributed to the reproduction rate of fishes.

The symbol of the two golden fishes also represents conjugal unity in marriage. This is because fishes swim side-by-side- a pair of fishes is a common gift to newly-weds during weddings. The fishes appear standing vertically, with their heads downward (inwards towards each other) and their tails in the air. They’ve often depicted swimming just above a half-ring of red waves.

The symbol of the two golden fishes represents the two main pillars of all Buddha teachings: peace and harmony. These two are a critical part of the journey towards enlightenment.

10. The Conch Shell (Sankha)

In Buddhism, the Conch Shell is used as a symbol of the sound of the Buddhadharma awakening beings to their ‘Buddha nature.’ The sound reaches far and wide and is intended to make us see our ignorance and awaken from the deep slumber of ignorance.

The realizations that fill up our mind on the journey to enlightenment are known as the Dharma Jewel.

The deep, melodious, and pervasive sound urges believers to accomplish their welfare and the welfare of others.

The conche shell - Buddhist symbol
The sound of the Buddhadharma awakening

The shell is white in color and features a coil that coils to the right. The rightward spiral is extremely rare in nature and, therefore, represents the rare gift of the Buddha to us through his teachings. At some point in the East Asian traditions, the conch was used as a battle horn.

11. The Treasure Vase/ The Urn of Wisdom (Bumpa)

In Buddhism, the vase is a symbol of bountiful treasure, which is the knowledge that teaches the Buddha. It may also represent health, wealth, prosperity, long life, spiritual growth, and all the good things that come with enlightenment.

The treasure vase can be filled with many sacred things that we receive as gifts for practicing the dharma. These gifts and treasures include mindfulness, compassion, and loving-kindness. It is believed that no matter how much of the gifts are taken out, the vase always remains full of bountiful treasures.

For this reason, the vase is a symbol of longevity and unending blessings that come with enlightenment.

The type of treasures that the vase represents can never be exhausted. However, the treasures aren’t monetary. Instead, they represent an inner wealth of faith, more discipline, wisdom, and others’ consideration.

The treasure vase symbol is depicted as a fat-bellied pot with a narrow, short neck and a large jewel. Some traditions involve the story of a treasure vase at a certain location, such as in monasteries, to generate more wealth.

Treasure vases that have been sealed with precious substances can often be found placed upon altars, on mountain passes, or buried at water springs to ensure that they consistently attract wealth and remain perpetually full.

To Buddhism, the vase specifically represents the spiritual abundance of the Buddha-a treasure that can never run out, no matter how much is given away.

12. The Banner of Victory (Dhvaja)

different buddhist symbols
The Victory Banner

The Banner of Victory or the Victory Banner symbolizes the victory of the Buddha over the demon Mara and what the demon represents, including anger, greed, pride, lust, hatred, disharmony, material desires, fear of death, and other unpleasant things.

The banner is also a symbol of the victory of wisdom over ignorance. Legend has it that the Buddha himself raised the victory banner over Mt. Meru to symbolize his triumph.

The banner is meant to remind people of Buddha’s abandonment of delusions and encourage people to win over their own pride, greed, and lust to reach enlightenment. Such a triumph produces clarity about one’s self and the person’s role in this world.

The victory banner is basically a symbol of the Buddhist doctrine as a path to overcoming selfish desires to reach spiritual enlightenment.

Traditionally, cylindrical victory banners made using copper were placed at all the four corners of the temple and monastery roofs to symbolize the Buddha’s triumph radiating to the four directions.

13. The Endless/ Eternal Knot (Shrivatsa)

In Buddhism, the endless knot is the symbol of intertwining wisdom, compassion, and love. It represents the mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs. According to this perspective, everything is connected, having no beginning or end.

buddhist symbols and what they mean
Symbol of intertwining wisdom, compassion, and love (credit: Dontpanic)

The knot may also be used to represent the never-ending path of dharma. There is always growth to be achieved, wisdom to be cultivated, and truth to be seen.

The endless knot is portrayed as a single thread that flows and entwines in a closed geometric pattern symbolizing all phenomena’ interrelation.

The knot lines represent all of creation and remind us to respect others because every action is connected to the larger universe.

All that happens to us is a representation of a web of karma and its effects. This symbol teaches peace and harmony. It may also represent the unending and supreme wisdom of the Buddha. Also, the knot represents the illusory character of time, as it’s endless.

14. The Empty Throne

As we saw earlier, Buddha was a prince.

This explains the origin of this symbol. The throne is also about the idea of the spiritual kingship of the Buddha.

The emptiness of the throne symbolizes the mysticism of Siddharta Gautama.

The throne is depicted with decorations at the base from other symbols such as lions and deer.

Both of which are associated with the teachings of the Buddha. The image shows the Buddhist empty throne, attacked by the demon Mara.

buddhist mantra symbols

15. The Begging Bowl

This is the simplest symbol in Buddhism, and it’s essential in the daily life of a Buddhist monk. 

It simply represents the life that the Buddhist monks choose to live.

This life is based on the Buddha’s teachings that warn against forming an attachment with selfish desires. Monks go from the monastery into the village each morning and live off what is put in the bowl by ordinary people.

16. The Swastika (Yungdrung)

The swastika is an ancient symbol of eternity, abundance, plurality, prosperity, well-being, and long life.

The symbol also symbolizes the footprints of the Buddha. The swastika is usually used in Buddhism to mark the beginning of Buddhist texts. It is also used to mark Buddhist temples on maps.

In some East Asian Cultures, the swastika is used as a clothing decoration, as a decorative border around paintings.

Swastika Buddhist symbol
Swastika, do not get confused with the evil one

The symbol is found worldwide and is depicted as a cross with four arms of similar length. The ends of each arm are bent at a right angle. Swastikas are commonly used as charms to bring good fortune.

The Buddhist swastika is usually clockwise and is said to contain the entire mind of the Buddha. It is usually found imprinted on the palms, chest, or feet of the Buddha’s images.

17. The Eyes of the Buddha/ Wisdom Eyes

The Eyes of the Buddha are often depicted as a giant pair of eyes on all the four sides of Buddhist shrines. This is to denote the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha and is representative of his presence all around. The eyes symbolize a person’s potential to awaken and see clearly during meditation. There is a dot that represents a ‘third eye’ between the eyes, which symbolizes spiritual awakening.

Buddha eyes
Buddha's eyes on Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal

Where the nose is supposed to be is a symbol that looks like a question mark. This symbol is the Sanskrit character for the number 1 and signifies the unity of everything. The symbol also teaches us that the only way to attain enlightenment is by following the Buddha’s teachings.

18. The Four Guardian Kings

Four guardian kings - Buddhist symbol

The four guardian kings are symbols of protection.

They are the protectors of the world’s four cardinal directions and are often found at the entrance to temples and monasteries.

Each of the guardians has two hands and is dressed in a warrior king’s ornate armor and clothing. The guardian kings are depicted as either seated or standing.

19. Unalome

The Unalome symbolizes the journey to enlightenment. It teaches that the path is not always straight or even in the right direction. It further states that the journey is filled with suffering, and all we have to do is keep moving and learn as we go. Also, this is one of the most popular Buddhist symbols for Tatto.

20. Vajra

The vajra is a Buddhist tantric symbol representing the great spiritual power and firmness of spirit.

It symbolizes Vajrayana, which is one of the three main branches of Buddhism.

The symbol is depicted as a club that has ribbed spherical heads.

Vajra - Buddhist symbols
He is holding the Varja in his right hand

It also symbolizes purity and indestructibility and irresistible energy, which are attributes of a diamond and a thunderbolt, respectively. The vajra also represents endless creativity, skillful activity, and potency.

21. Stupas

Stupas are representative of the enlightened mind of the Buddha. The stupas started being built in the early days of Buddhism. The stupas come in a wide variety of shapes and sices. One symbolism of the stupas is that they represent the five elements:

  1. The square base represents the earth
  2. The round dome represents water
  • The cone shape represents fire
  1. The canopy represents air
  2. The volume of the stupa represents the space

22. Mudras

In Buddhism, Mudras represent hand gestures that are used during ritual meditation. They serve as symbols in Buddhist art. They’re used to indicate a particular scene as depicted in Buddhist art and indicate the identity of a Buddha.

The hand gestures are used to generate forces that invoke a particular deity. There are 11 basic mudras, of which 5 are commonly used in the Buddha images.

23. Abhaya Mudra

In Sanskrit, Abhaya means fearlessness. This hand gesture is a symbol of peace and protection; it’s made by raising the right hand to the shoulder’s height with the arm bent and the palm facing outward.

24. Bhumisparsha Mudra

The Bhumisparsha Mudra is commonly referred to as the “Eye Witness” mudra. The word Bhumisparsha means “touching the earth.” The gesture is formed with all the five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground.

25. Dharmachakra Mudra

This gesture symbolizes one of the most important moments in the life of the Buddha. This moment is when he preached his first sermon to his companions after his enlightenment in Sarnath’s Deer Park.

This mudra is formed by touching the thumb tips and the index fingers of both hands to form a circle.

The remaining fingers remain extended. In this mudra, the hands are held in front of the heart to show that these teachings came straight from the heart of the Buddha.

26. Dhyana Mudra

This gesture may be made with a single hand (the left hand) or with both hands. To do it, place your hand at the level of your stomach or thigh with the palm facing up, and the fingers extended. When you use both hands, feel free to touch the thumbs at the tips to form a mystic triangle.

27. Varada Mudra

This hand gesture represents compassion, charity, and boon-granting. It’s often made using the left hand with the arm hanging naturally at the side of your body. The palms remain open, fingers extended, and the hand facing forward. The five extended fingers symbolize generosity, patience, effort, morality, and meditative concentration.

28. The Buddhist Flag

The Buddhist flag
The Himalayan treks symbol 🙂

The colors on the original Buddhist flag represent the rays of light that shone around the Buddha after he became enlightened. The waving of the flag symbolizes the hope that all nations will live happily under the shelter of the Buddha’s wisdom.

However, a more modern flag was designed in 1880, and it acts as a symbol of peace and faith. This is the flag that is now used worldwide to represent Buddhism. There are 5 colors on the flag, and each one of them represents the colors of the aura that came from the body of the Buddha after he attained enlightenment.

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29. The mountains

There are two main mountains in Buddhist symbolism:

1. Mount Meru

This mountain has a pyramid shape and is the mythological axis of the Buddhist universe. It’s also believed to link the heavens above to the hells below.

2. Vulture Peak

This mountain is in Northern India. The Buddha is believed to have delivered a couple of sermons there.

30. Color symbolism

In Buddhism, colors have a wide range of uses in their art and rituals. Each of the five main colors represents a state of mind, a Buddha, a part of the body, and a natural element:

ColorState of MindBuddhaBody PartsNatural Elements
WhiteRest, ThinkingVairochanaEyesWater
YellowNourishingRatnasambhavaNoseEarth
RedSubjugationAmitabhaTongueFire
Blue(Black) Danger, KillingAkshobhyaEarsAir
GreenExorcismAmoghasiddhiHeadN/A

 

Conclusion - The Power of Buddhist Symbols

Symbols are a great guidepost for anyone who is looking to learn more about Buddhism. While memorizing the symbols is very important, it is recommended that you look past the symbols to know their true meaning.

Buddhism is a concept, and you don’t need to know all the symbols to find inner peace. However, these powerful tranquility tools can help you find peace and serenity.

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