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Japan was the first Asian country to independently modernize, and the country continues to embrace new technologies and aesthetics, but unlike in many countries, Japan does not feel a particular need to attack or remove older technologies, structures, or practices.
New things are mostly just layered beside old things.
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.
Japan has often been seen in the West as a land combining tradition and modernity, and many traditional structures and practices are preserved, but modern structures and practices definitely dominate your experience in Japan.
This period, dubbed the Nara Period was the last time the emperor actually held political power, with power eventually falling into the hands of the court nobles during the Heian Period, when the capital was moved to Kyoto, then known as Heian-Kyo, which remained the Japanese imperial residence until the 19th century.
Chinese influence also reached its peak during the early Heian Period, which saw Buddhism become a popular religion among the masses.
Just close enough to mainland Asia, yet far enough to keep itself separate, much of Japanese history has seen alternating periods of closure and openness.
Until recently, Japan has been able to turn on or off its connection to the rest of the world, accepting foreign cultural influences in fits and starts.
Japan is often difficult to understand for those educated in the west. 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.
That’s not to say that Japan embraces the large scale preservation of historical structures or that people generally practice traditional ceremonies, but people generally believe that if a small number of people want to continue on a tradition or preserve a building that they own, they should be allowed to do that.