Geisha

Japan is an intricate blend of East and West. Its cities may look Westernized -- often disappointingly so -- but beyond first impressions there's very little about this Asian nation that could lull you into thinking you're in the West.

Whether you end up taking photos of a reproduction Eiffel Tower, surfing an indoor wave or musing in a Zen temple, you'll do best to come with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised. Somewhere between the elegant formality of Japanese manners and the candid, sometimes boisterous exchanges that take place over a few drinks, between the sanitized shopping malls and the unexpected rural festivals, everyone finds their own vision of Japan.

It's been just a little more than 136 years since the Japanese opened their doors, embracing Western products wholeheartedly, yet at the same time altering them and making them unquestionably their own. Thus, that modern high-rise may look Western, but it may contain a rustic-looking restaurant with open charcoal grills, corporate offices, a pachinko parlor, a high-tech bar with views of Mount Fuji, a McDonald's, an acupuncture clinic, a computer showroom, and a rooftop shrine. Your pizza may come with octopus, beer gardens are likely to be fitted with Astroturf, city police patrol on bicycles, garbage collectors attack their job with the vigor of a well-trained army, and white-gloved elevator operators, working in some of the world's swankiest department stores, bow and thank you as you exit.

Because of this unique synthesis of East and West into a culture that is distinctly Japanese, Japan is not easy for Westerners to comprehend. Discovering it is like peeling an onion -- you uncover one layer only to discover more layers underneath. Thus, no matter how long you stay in Japan, you never stop learning something new about it -- and to the folks at Davidson Recruiting Services, that constant discovery is one of the most fascinating aspects of choosing to live in Japan.