Why are the Japanese happy to travel such a long way for such a short time?

For example, my in-laws planned a weekend trip which involved four hours driving into Chiba, arriving in the afternoon. As the local area had no particular points of interest they would then have dinner and a dip in the hot spring baths before crashing for the night so they could wake up the next morning bright and early and drive all the way back – all with a famously noisy baby (my own) taking her first ever long car journey. I simply refused to go.

It must be said that there are plenty of the people in the UK who do virtually the same on bank holiday weekends or as city breaks, and I had exactly the same problem with Greek daytrips where the grannies pulled down the blinds so you couldn’t see anything while you were travelling and headed straight to a restaurant for the three hours we were actually given in town before heading back to Athens.

I do think it is more prevalent here, however, and with far less idea that you should actually do or see something while you are at the place you travel to. I have dealt with similar questions before (click on the category to see them) but have never considered its possible religious roots. Japanese religion does not ask for much more than claps, bows, incense and quick prayers most of the time, meaning a trip back to your ancestors’ graves or a pilgrimage was always going to be more about the travelling back and forth than the staying there.



  1. Michael said,

    January 16, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Sounds like most of the trips I’ve taken. Drive 2-3 hours, have lunch with relatives, drive back. Or drive several hours, sleep at a motel or friends house, then drive back the next day.

    I live in the US, btw, and am not Japanese.

  2. alexcase said,

    January 16, 2012 at 8:17 am

    It did occur to me as I was writing that I was in the minority, partly due to being British (we are the only nationality I know for whom a 2 hour drive or train journey is often two long to be bothered with) and partly just my own personality. Still, even if the effect is the same in other countries it doesn’t have to be for the same reasons. The US has a strong car culture, cheap fuel, crap public transport, and huge distances between places, including sometimes to the nearest shops. None of those things are true in Japan, so there might be different reasons. Alternatively, it could be a cultural universal with me the odd exception…

  3. Paul Lynch said,

    February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    It’s strange for me to, and it’s not just short domestic breaks either. People will spend fortunes to go away for Golden Week, when half of their time will spent traveling rather than relaxing.

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