Structured and serious, yes but Japan never fails to blow my mind with its sheer artistry and unmatched attention to detail. I ate the best beef of my life at a secret eight-table Tokyo eatery and am no less awed by their cultural traditions, from knives to sumo, and by ryokan where distinctly Japanese customs like tatami and onsen endure. If rafting in Niseko feels timeless and walking with geishas through the Gion district of Kyoto unfurls a magnificent time warp, I would say that 3 a.m. costume karaoke reveals a distinctly Japanese take on the future, where Hello Kitty and her plush buddies reign.