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The Past and Present of JapanBullet trains, skyscrapers, and neon nights are all of a part of the new, very modern Japan. But if you come to this mountainous chain of islands looking for the past, it's also here. You just have to look a little harder. Kyoto, where palaces, temples, & Zen gardens best evoke old Japan, and nearby Nara, ancient home to Todaiji temple, the world's largest wooden structure, are good places to start. But Japan is less about place than state of mind. Hit the streets of Tokyo's famous Gion (and somewhat infamous Shinjuku) districts, where shopping and nightlife are the stuff of legends.

ISLANDS contributing editor Joe Yogerst recently visited Japan to see the intersections of the ancient and modern cultures in Tokyo & Kyoto. The connections he found were surprising, showing how Japan's influence has blossomed beyond the islands themselves to influence people around the world. To read the beginning of his article in the April/May 2009 issue of ISLANDS magazine, click here.

By Joe Yogerst Photos by Raymond Patrick See more photos from Japan feature