(CNN) -- OK, I confess. I traveled to Japan carrying with me a number of preconceptions. For many years, my work in journalism and a lifelong passion to see the world have allowed me to explore scores of countries, but I had left Japan far from the top of my list. Big mistake.
I did not expect a particularly fascinating place: I had vague images of Tokyo, a giant megalopolis of concrete buildings, of exorbitant prices, with heavy traffic and streams of salarymen in identical outfits filing to work every day. I pictured modern. I pictured not terribly interesting.
I could not have been more wrong.
Japan, as it turns out, is a captivating country, a kaleidoscope of ancient traditions swirling alongside modern technology. It is a land of creativity, of hip funkiness and conservative beauty, of business efficiency and dizzying fantasy. It is a place that can pamper your senses, often in the most unexpected ways.
How did Japan surprise me? Let me count a few of the ways.
I would have loved to put in my "two yen's worth".
I wish I had the time (and money) to visit some of those places again, like Kyoto. Also, I don't think the article mentioned it, but a visitor who is not a resident of Japan can buy a rail pass in his or her own country (not in Japan) that can get them all around Japan for one price for a week or two.