Japan is composed of 4 main islands and many more tiny islands and archipelagos etc. The main one is “Honshu” where Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are located. To the north is Hokkaido, famous for the heavy snow precipitations in the winter. Kyuushuu, to the south, which is more tropical. Then we have, Shikoku, which is an area that is not that popular among tourists.
The capital is Tokyo, a city that never sleeps. Literally. Here we find supermarkets, restaurants, karaoke places and bars open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Like any other capital, here one breathes a very vibrant, eclectic air, very different from other major cities in Japan. “Tokyo is Tokyo, Japan is everything else,” said someone once. The other major city is Osaka, 500 km southwest from Tokyo, 3 hours by shinkansen (bullet train). While it is a city that feels somewhat less technologically advanced and, according to many, somewhat less clean, it is closer to popular tourist destinations like Kyoto, one of the brightest jewels of Japan.
The language spoken here is, of course, Japanese, and although it is written in logographic Chinese characters (kanji) combined with actual Japanese letters, called “hiragana” and “katakana”, in almost all places frequented by tourists written posters are also in the Roman alphabet (x eg. 東京 and TOKYO).
As for pronunciation, remember that it will be really helpful to pronounce words and names properly as to ensure you will make yourself be understood, for example, when you ask for directions on the street, etc. Japanese sounds are quite different to those we are accustomed to hearing in English. If you are European, however, keep in mind that Swedish and Spanish speakers for example may be at a bit of an advantage in the field of Japanese pronunciation, given that many of the sounds in the Japanese language are produced in a similar fashion as those used in the languages mentioned above.