Confession: although I count it as a country that I have been to, I was in Japan for less than 12 hours, and most of it was spent sleeping in a hotel near the Tokyo/Narita airport. The unplanned visit was due to a missed connection (in the conventional, as compared to Craigslist, sense), but the trip would prove to be memorable. It was the first time I rode in a vehicle on the left side of the road, but more importantly I accidentally ate eel. (I didn't know what it was, but it was so delicious I flagged down a waiter to find out.)
I've since learned that the Japanese have perfected manufacturing practically everything. And I don't just mean cars and electronics.
Ask any serious denim head: the best jeans come from Japan. It's hard to think of a more American symbol than the blue jean, but by the early 90s Americans had traded in their domestically made denim for cheap, imported trousers made with a lower quality fabric. Japan, meanwhile, doubled down on selvedge denim. Made with a shuttle loom instead of a projectile loom, selvedge denim is more durable and prized by enthusiasts for the way it wears in over time. Visit Okamaya Denim for a wide selection of Japanese denim.
Go to your city's most recently gentrified neighborhood and walk into the first boutique coffee shop you see. Even money says there are multiple Japanese coffee drippers on the counter. Whether it's the conical Hario V60 or the flatbed Kalita Wave, the Japanese have the most functional pour-over devices on the market. We use our Hario V60 every morning, but recommend the Kalita Wave for beginners. Expect a richer, fuller cup of coffee than your Kuerig could ever dream of making.
Move over Kentucky, the hottest whiskies on the market are coming from Japan. Japan's whisky industry dates back to the 1910s, when Masataka Taketsuru travelled to Scotland to learn the art of distilling. He went on to found Nikka, Japan's first whisky distillery. Many Japanese whiskies can be compared to Scotch, with a heavy emphasis on single malts, but the unique aging techniques produces some wonderfully fruity and floral whiskies unlike any other we've tasted. Nikka's Coffey Grain Whisky or Suntory's Yamazaki 12 Year is a great place to start.
Featured image courtesy of http://www.mkvrythngbtfl.com/