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:''"Too lazy to be ambitious, I let the world take care of itself. Ten days' worth of rice in my bag; a bundle of twigs in my fireplace. Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? Listening to the night rain on my roof, I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out."'' <small>— Ryokan Taigu</small>
The "Land of the Rising Sun" is a country where the past meets the future. Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet has also been quick to adopt and
Japan is often difficult to understand for those educated in the west. It can seem full of contradictions. Many Japanese corporations dominate their industries, yet if you read the financial news it seems like Japan is practically bankrupt. Cities are as modern and high tech as anywhere else, but tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to glass fronted designer condominiums. Japan has beautiful temples and gardens which are often surrounded by garish signs and ugly buildings. The most acclaimed restaurant in the country, which costs hundreds of dollars for dinner, is a small shop located in a subway station seating less than a dozen people. In the middle of modern skyscrapers you’ll discover sliding wooden doors which lead to traditional chambers with tatami mats, shoji screens, and calligraphy, suitable for traditional tea ceremonies. These juxtapositions can seem perplexing or jarring to those used to the more uniform nature of European and North American cities, but if you let go, and accept the layered aesthetics, you’ll find interesting and surprising places throughout the country.