Japan, the third largest industrial nation after the U.S. and Russia, is the number one generator of travelers in the entire Pacific and in some years provides the most visitors to the U.S. after Canada and Mexico.
The Japanese are the big per-capita travelers of Asia. Slightly over four million went abroad in 1981 and their expenditures reached $4.6 billion. Receipts from foreign visitors were $735 million, leaving the country with a travel deficit of over 3.8 billion, the largest of any for 1981 except West Germany.
The Japanese National Railways (JNR) maintains the world’s tightest scheduled train service and claims to offer the most comfortable and efficient service in the world. An extra charge is made for travel on green cars (former first-class), and for the express trains, berths and reserved seats. A Japan Rail Pass can be bought at Japan Air Lines offices in the United States and from authorized travel agencies. Passes cannot be bought in Japan.
Travel within the largest cities Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Sapporo is fastest via subway. Rental cars are available but not recommended because of the language barrier. Tokyo and Kyoto, the two places most visited by Americans, have bus tours with English-speaking guides available. Quite naturally the Japanese frequent the countries close to home: The Republic of China, Korea, and Hong Kong.
One of the most crowded countries in the world, Japan has some 119 million people, who live on a chain of mountainous islands in a two-thousand-mile arc off the east coast of Asia. Most of the population is centered on four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The flat plain between Tokyo and Osaka is one vast connurbation, the Japanese population center. Honshu, the main island, has the major tourist sights and the major cities. There are numerous first-class hotels but for the visitor who wants to sample Japanese home life there are about five thousand family inns and over eighty thousand Ryokan (Japanese inns). Rates include supper and breakfast and for the adventuresome, the communal bath.