4. Mix of tradition and modernity. Japan does old and new like nowhere else. Simultaneously honoring the rich culture of the past, the country is hurtling into the modern area faster than practically anyone else. It is utterly fascinating. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan city in the world, while Kyoto is home to some of the deepest history. Just check out a modern toilet in Tokyo if you have any doubts.
5. Respect. There is a sense of decorum and respect that permeates the culture. Whether politely queing up for the train, dressing well on a daily basis, or properly disposing of their trash (seriously the cleanest place ever), the Japanese set the bar on respect. The surgical masks people wear shouldn't alarm you. They are considerately worn to shield germs from others. Even the school children are impressively well behaved.
6. Stay in a Ryokan. One of the most unique and memorable experiences I've ever had while traveling. Arrive open minded and be ready to try (and eat) anything. Bathing in a traditional onsen is an opportunity not to be missed.
7. Shopping. From traditional hand made ceramics to electronic super stores, there is literally something for everyone here. I wish I had spent some more time exploring some of the small shops, especially in Tokyo, but that is what a return trip is for!
8. Clean & Safe. Even as one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo is one of the cleanest places I've ever been. This extends across all cities in Japan (that I visited), including all public areas. The bathroom one of the Kyoto subway stations is seriously the nicest public restroom I've seen. While you should always be vigilant and careful when you travel, I felt safe all day every day. From early morning pre-dawn runs to late night subway rides. One of my favorite customs are the warm hand towels you receive before every meal. That is a small touch that I really appreciate and enjoyed.
And there you have it! I could easily go on and on about the vending machine situation (kind of amazing) or how to approach the Tsukiji Fish Market, so feel free to reach out with any specific questions. And go book that flight!