Pictures by QT Luong
Japan is a complex country where the most extreme modernity coexists with an ancient and refined culture. Tokyo has some of the most densely packed districts anywhere, and possibly the most trendy hi-tech consumer society, yet at the same time the traditional world of Japan still lingers there and can be seen by the observant eye. I have found this duality is one of the most fascinating aspects of Japan. Besides the hyper-active city life, there is the serenity of the gardens, the austere elegance of the temples, and a general appreciation of esthetics, which are so well expressed in Kyoto. Although it is sometimes a strange and disconcerting place, the country is free of petty crime, dishonesty, litter, and rudeness. Although they have embraced the 21st century more than any other nation, Japanese people are governed by traditional social values and etiquette and extend their civility to visitors. In April 1999, I spent two weeks in Japan, visiting the two main cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, with day trips to Nikko and Himeji. The timing let me enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms (Sakura) that are highly prized by the Japanese.