Japan, an island country in East Asia, is a vacation destination that many tourists have under their radar. The country lies off the east coast of Asia and stretches from the East China Sea to the south and Okhotsk Sea to the north. History and culture lovers can visit the Asian country and learn about the Kofun and Asuka eras, which marked the onset of Japanese civilization among the first settlers, the Jomon community.
Boasting of a lush, green, and rugged landscape, guests enjoy the spectacular views from high-altitude areas as they lose themselves in Mother Nature. Additionally, there are many recreational pursuits for the whole family. They include city tours, shopping, amusement parks, museums and galleries, parks, and gardens, among others. If you’re planning on visiting Japan, here are the top 50 things to do and see in Japan.
Among the world’s volcanos, the Fujiyama/ Mt. Fuji is perhaps the most perfect. Set in the Fuji Five Lakes region, Mount Fujiyama is known as Japan’s significant national symbols. Japanese revere the mountain, as it was termed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between July and September, hiking enthusiasts can climb the mountain, from where they experience panoramic views of the landscape and Lake Kawaguchi. Another place where you can have breath-taking views of the Fuji includes Hakone.
Mount Fuji Information
- Name: 富士山, Fujisan
- Address: Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka 418-0112, Japan
- Tel: N/A
- Website: fujisan-climb.jp/en/
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
If you’re confused about where to relax in nature while learning a bit about Japanese love for Bamboo architecture, head down to Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo forest. While treading through the towering bamboo stalks, you’ll experience a pang of serenity that makes you forget you’re in the middle of one of Japan’s busiest cities. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-charged activity, you can rent a bike and whizz through the forest as you get your body in good physical shape. Check out more our blog post on things to do in Arashiyama for more information about this area!
Nara Old Town
The Japan we see today is but a product of organized ancient civilization. The Nara era was one of the most significant periods in the country’s history as it was one of the most peaceful ages that ensued after millennia-long clan wars. During the Nara age (710-794 AD), the Nara village was known for Buddhism that was widespread in the country and was once Japan’s capital city. It’s a family-friendly destination that features many tame deer that wander the streets which the kids may love to see.
Watch Sumo Wrestling
Visitors usually gaze Sumo wrestlers in awe; well, that understandable, considering they don’t understand the cultural aspect of the sport. The perfect time to witness Sumo wrestlers training is during the morning. There are over 40 sumo stables in Japan, most of which are located within Ryogoku Village. Most of the stables don’t admit spectators during morning training. You’ll have to call to gain access to some popular stables such as the Takasago Beya, Kasugano Beya, and Musashigawa Beya.
Arashiyama Monkey Park
Nestled within Kyoto town, the Arashiyama Monkey Park provides a habitat to over 120 wild monkeys. Just as visitors love the monkeys, so do they [monkeys] love the guests. During fine weather, you can come in close contact with the monkeys, feed them, and let the children play with them. Besides monkeys, the park is also home to several indigenous species of birds and deer, making it a paradise for avid birdwatchers and animal lovers.
The serenity ad tranquility of the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo releases a historical aura that sends you back in the days. The shrine was built for Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Meiji. Some of the unique aspects of the sanctuary is a 40-feet-high gate that welcomes visitors to a 200-acre park surrounded by natural vegetation and tree canopies. On the northern side of the shrine, guests can take a tour inside the Meiji Jingu Treasure House. It has preserved some of Emperor’s Meiji’s belongings, as well as a natural, blooming garden.
Hop Aboard a Shinkansen
Shinkansen, as the locals know it, is Japans train system comprising of high-speed transportation that reaches up to 200 kilometers per hour. The shinkansen is but an example of Japan’s excellence in technology. Surprisingly, since the shinkansen was established 50 years ago, there has never been a reported accident, and that’s what makes it one of the safest, high-speed transit in the world. Besides, as you traverse different towns in the country, you can enjoy panoramic views of the rich landscape that makes Japan a vacation destination.
In Japan, sushi ranks as one of the most popular and delicious local cuisines. The other iconic delicacy that has remained synonymous among the Japanese since the old days is Ramen. Ramen consists of short, soft noodles soaked in broth and topped with raw eggs. You can enter any restaurant in Japan and have a taste of Ramen, but there is no better way to do that than to visit the Ramen Museum. The food court at the museum grounds provides a nostalgic atmosphere and serves a variety of ramen dishes.
Hiroshima still stands to signify one of the darkest moments in Japan’s history. It all happened on 6th August 1945, when a nuclear bomb was detonated in Hiroshima, causing widespread loss of life. The explosion also permanently maimed future generations. You can head out to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Spending a while at the memorial park lets you connect to the fateful event that devastated Japan at a time of war.
Experience Akihabara’s Otaku Culture
The Otaku culture in Akihabara, a town within Tokyo, has made the place a to-go destination among electronic shoppers. Since its establishment as Tokyo’s electric town, Akihabara boasts of some of the renowned electronic brands in Japan. You can book a tour in Akihabara, which will take you to new, exciting video-game shops and cafes you wouldn’t find by yourself. As you go on an excursion around the town, you’ll discover its anime vibe, depicting a potent brew of Otaku culture and electric prowess.
In the vast Japanese Inland Sea, you’ll find Miyajima, a small islet and one of the most ancient shrines in Japan. If you’re in search of a calm and tranquil ambiance, where you can exude bad negative energy, then the shrine in Miyajima is the ideal answer. To add spruce to your Miyajima tour, you can visit the island’s aquarium, which has many different fish species and sea creatures. Many tame deer walk around the island, and you can take instagrammable pictures.
This is a gamer’s haven. Pachinko is a Japanese arcade game that involves balls and a maze of pins. The player aims to shoot the ball through the maze and eventually into a central hole. When you ask about pachinko in Japan, you’ll most likely hear about popular spots such as Espace Pachinko Parlor. The place has an attractively lit interior and the endless clinking of balls. Pachinko ranks among the best things to do in Japan, although it can be addictive.
Play Batto: Samurai Swordsmanship
Japanese have a unique culture that developed majorly during the Heian Era (794-1185), and it is the period when Samurai Warriors’ division was established. In Tokyo, you can find several Samurai stables where you can experience the heritage of the Japanese as you handle a real katana sword. Only a handful of visitors can master the art of Batto, where precision, agility, and stealth are the essence of it. Visit Tokyo and experience the artistic and mind-developing aspect of Batto.
Karaoke concerts have become a trend, and though the quality may vary in different world destinations, Karaoke shows in Japan are at another level. With the karaoke phenomenon mainly rooted in Japan than her neighboring Asian countries, you won’t miss a karaoke gig happening somewhere after having your dinner. The equipment and machinery in Japanese nightclubs have top-notch technology; thanks to the sound-proofing technology, you can have a private karaoke singing session in a “karaoke box”.
Shirakawago village in Japan has a rich history despite being a relatively young age as compared to other towns (200 years). The character and feel of the town evoke a unique enchantment and charm that surrounded most traditional villages in the country before it experienced an industrial revolution. The village lies high up in the mountain, and you’ll have to hike to reach it. It is a worthwhile adventure because it can be challenging to find a traditional village with such outstanding architecture stands till today. Most old villages fell due to earthquakes, fires, and wars that plagued the country.
View the Lit Tokyo Tower
In France, you’ll find the Eiffel Tower; in the US, you’ll see the statue of liberty; in the UK, there is the London Bridge, but in Tokyo, Japan, you’ll experience the glamor and mind-blowing design of the Tokyo Tower. Towering to a height of 1092 ft, it is the second-highest architectural structure in Japan. During the night, it shines bright with lights that provide spectacular views. The awe-inspiring aspect of the tower is that the illumination color changes depending on the seasons. Visitors have a chance to climb up to the Special Observation Deck where they can have majestic views of the city below. Don’t forget to carry your camera!
Take a Photo in a Purikura
Think of Purikura as a photo booth, one that provides extra fun and excitement. Traditional photo boxes only do as much as offer a standard image with a frame. However, the Purikura allows you to add texts and graffiti on photos to make stickers. The term Purikura stands for Print Club. The trend began in Japan in 1995 when Atlus created the first Print Club machine. Having known that, why not experience one of Japan’s exciting creations when you visit the Far East country?
Feel the Spa Effect of Japanese Toilets
It’s difficult to imagine that you can slot in a tour to have a feel of a toilet in your to-do list. When you visit Tokyo, you won’t want to miss using Japanese toilets that have electric buttons with different setting modes. It is like they provide a spa effect for your private parts. These are no ordinary potties; they are heated toilets that warm your bottom and can wash away the “dirt” afterward with hot water. Fortunately, guests can experience that in most hotels, restaurants, and other public places of interest.
Bathe in an Onsen
Japan lies in a region with rampant volcanic activities, and it is the reason why you’ll see natural hot springs in virtually every village you visit within the country. One of the best places to soak up in an Onsen in Beppu. The town is littered with many natural hot springs which are believed to have therapeutic value. Albeit some pools may be too hot or too sulfurous to bathe in, “The Hells”, as the locals call them, offer an excellent place to go and unwind in the warm air of the Onsen.
Stroll the Fushimi Inari
There is special regard with which the Japanese people have for the spiritual world as symbolized by the many serene, quiet, and green shrines scattered all over the country. However, none offers a unique surrounding for the photogenic visitor than the Fushimi Inari. Some of the attractions within Fushimi Inari are the red and black bordering of its lengthy tunnels and the tall torii gates. That’s not all! When you visit the place, you can also see ancient graveyards and statuaries.
See the Blossoms in Hanami
Here’s a heads-up for nature lovers; Hanami, a place known for blooming cherries come to life during March and April. During this time, the trees become colorful with bright-purple flowers which offer a sanctuary for those who love to shoot images of beautiful flowering trees. Whether you want to see the cherry blossoming during the night or day, there are genuinely no limits in time. Make the experience more fun by visiting with friends and carrying a few drinks.
Have are you familiar with the phrase “Three Wise Monkeys”? If not, then Nikko is the best places to find out why the monkeys are so synonymous to the town. Regarded as the most exciting places in Japan, Nikko was founded by one of the longest-serving Samurai shogunate known to host Emperor Ieyasu’s shrine. When visiting Japan from October to December, visit Nikko and see colorful autumn leaves that add a colorful glamor to the town.
See Gotokuji’s Red & White Cats
The Gotokuji Temple is among the top attractions in Japan you should consider during your recreational pursuits. The enchanted temple holds legendary and mysterious tales of the Maneki Neko – a group of beckoning cats, known to bring good luck and prosperity. The temple has hundreds of red and white cat statues to which visitors come, pray, and give offerings. Each cat has a red collar and a painted golden ring around the neck, and one paw held high as a symbol of blessing. Cat lovers who have an affinity to Gotkuji Temple can buy a red and white cat souvenir in one of the shops around the temple.
For those who’ve never understood Japan’s archipelago, it extends from the north to the south, covering thousands of miles. The southern area offers many attractions among them the Okinawa islands which have been deemed as the birthplace of Karate. It provides a relaxed coastal vibe with a warm tropical climate which has made many people term it as a lost cousin of the Hawaii Islands. Additionally, there is a unique aspect of life here that makes people live long (between 80-90 years).
Avid skiers have something to grin about when they visit Japan. Thanks to its mountainous landscape, there are many snowcapped areas where people can go skiing. There are over 500 ski resorts in Japan’s mountains with excellent skiing trails made of fluffy and soft snow powder. Beginners, intermediate, and experienced skiers can find varied ski runs that match their abilities. The Niseko is the best course to ski if you are still learning skiing basics.
Drink Tea at Maids Café
In any business, the customer is always the king. In Japan’s Maids Café, that’s a tradition and culture. The café serves tea with a queer touch. The guests assume the position of a master and the maids serve the tea while referring to them as “Master”. The Maids Café is the ideal place for culture lovers who’d love to experience the traditions of the country’s Moe people and have a taste of their traditional tea.
Tour Edo Museum
Did you know that Tokyo was previously known as Edo? The Edo Museum lies in Tokyo and has preserved some of the cultural ways and traditions of the Edo history. The museum’s architecture will serve as an iconic structure, as it has a UFO-saucer shape with ultramodern features. Inside the museum, you’ll see hand-crafted figurines and houses that send you back in time. There’s also a miniature illustration of the Nihonbashi Bridge and other things that made Edo-Tokyo what it is today.
Tucked away from the crowds and bustling area of Japan, Hokkaido represents a preferably quieter side of the country. It is the second-largest island in Japan with active volcanoes in national parks. It the perfect destination if you relish hiking expeditions. In February, during winter, the Sapporo Snow Festival draws visitors from far and wide who come to see the entire city covered in snow and artistically shaped ice sculptures across the city.
Jigokudani National Park
The Jigokudani National Park is among the natural attractions in Japan. Vacationers from all over the globe come to spend time in the park and take priceless photos of different primate species during the winter season. In winter, a paradoxical geographical phenomenon occurs when hot springs become covered by snow. Particularly, guests have the opportunity to see the Japanese Macaque monkeys which have adapted to the cold conditions (-15°C).
Kabuki is a form of Japanese dance that has been passed down to generations since the Edo era. People love visiting Kabuki due to its dramatic theatrical performances by Japanese drama queens adorned in lovely make-up. In 2005, Kabuki was termed a UNESCO Heritage Site because of the traditional aura that has earned universal value across the planet.
Ancient castles in Japan were palatial and are well known all over the world. Some palaces date back to over half a century ago. A good example is the Himeji castle that was built back in 1333. Regarded as one of the most iconic stately homes in Japan, the Himeji castle stands out with its white color, earning it the name “White Heron Castle”. Tour the palace and gain more insights on the Samurai culture. Within the castle grounds lies a safari park where you can visit if you’re traveling as a family. Among other popular castles are Nagoya and Osaka castles.
Put on a Kimono
Kimono is Japan’s traditional attire characterized by long, colorful robes accessorized by a belt across the waist. Fortunately, there are many retail stores and shop houses that sell Kimono. Don’t worry if you lack the cash to purchase it because there are several places you can go to try out a kimono. For instance, Kyoto has many shops where you can rent a kimono.
When you enter the Imperial Palace, you’ll feel like royalty. The castle is home to JAPAN’S Imperial Family and lies in a beautiful surrounding characterized by natural rivers and Sakura trees. The main area of the place is only opened on 2nd January and 23rd December during New Year’s Greetings and the Emperor’s Birthday, respectively. You can also enjoy boat rides or tour the nearby Kitanomaru Park for a lunch picnic.
Osaka ranks as the second-largest city in Japan. Guests flock the city to discover a unique culture of the Japanese. The locals call it “Japan’s Kitchen”, and for the apparent reason. Food lovers visit Osaka on gastronomic tours where they can have a taste of some of the most iconic and popular dishes known among the Japanese. As mentioned above, the Osaka castle is also an excellent place to visit within the city.
Acquire a Japanese Knife
Japanese have a deep love for cooking, and their knives have been internationally accepted to be of high-quality steel, precise edges, and creative manufacturing techniques. If you love cooking and are looking for a place to buy different knives for different purposes, the Masahisa market is one of the best places to start shopping. Other sites include Kappabashi Street, which also sells other kitchen supplies.
The Grande Ise Shrine
Among Shinto believers, a trip to the Ise Jingu shrine is like a pilgrimage. The Grand Ise is the most sacred and essential shrine in Japan dedicated to Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. Situated at the beach, the sanctuary thrives under the mysterious belief by the Japanese that old things tend to harbor evil spirits. That’s why the shrine is rebuilt every 20 years, complete with a festival to mark the project. The next rebuilding takes place in 2033.
Go Shopping in Takeshita Street in Tokyo
Shopping enthusiasts who visit Japan regularly can attest that Takeshita Street in Harajuku is one of the busiest streets in Tokyo. The market street is easily accessible from Harajuku station and has many fashion stores in almost every corner you turn. With so many retail stores in the area, taking a Harajuku walking tour offers a guided tour that alleviates the stress you can otherwise experience when walking by yourself.
The Manga Café, locally referred to as the Manga Kissa, provides a rather laid-back vibe, but still has a fun-filled experience. At the Manga Kissa, visitors have an opportunity to learn how to read Manga, browse the internet, watch anime, or spend a night over the at the café. Although it may be a challenge to find manga texts in English, there are still lots to learn from the listening and speaking sessions.
Taste the Feel of Being a Ninja
One of the things that come to mind when mentioning Japan is Ninja-hood. In the Mie Prefecture, the “Ninja no Mori Akame Sijuhachitaki” is among the ninja stables in the country where you can experience the feeling of becoming a ninja warrior. You even have the chance to learn how to swing a ninja’s sword by booking a training session at the stable.
Visit the Robot Restaurant
If you can give up the Michelin stars and the lush banquets known for the top restaurants, then it is best to visit the robot restaurant. Among the many exciting attractions that epitomize the restaurant is the combination of theatrical performances at dinner, science fiction, as well as rated, mild sexual performances. The Robot restaurant is quite popular among revelers, and it receives an influx of visitors, and it is recommended to get advanced tickets.
Among the several ruling cities that had the privilege to rule to magnificent land of Japan is Kamakura. Dating back to the 12th century, it has deep roots to the country’s history when the first Samurai shogunate ruled the land. The most popular attraction here is the Kamakura Shrine that has a monumental statue of Amida Buddha, although other significant shrines are worth checking out.
Go Geisha Hunting
Besides the many cultural aspects of the Japanese cultural way of life, Geisha hunting has been a regular practice in Japan. A Geisha is a professional dancer, or a bartender who offered personalized services for entertainment purposes at a fee. This tradition is not as common today as it was during the past, because of the harsh apprenticeship and high fees for a Geisha. Today, hiring a Geisha for an hour costs about $500. Still, it’s worth hunting for one.
Learn the Soba Preparation Technique
Another traditional cuisine among that has graced many Japanese dining tables is Soba. The dish has become popular, and today, many food lovers find the Soba quite a tantalizing offering. If you’d love to learn how to make Soba, a pasta-like dish dipped in broth; you can find a culinary school in Japan that offers cooking lesson for traditional and modern techniques of Soba preparation.
Meguro Parasitological Museum
The Meguro Parasitological Museum is a unique museum on its own that preserves a wide selection of weird parasites. If you are fascinated about scientific stuff like parasites, then the Meguro Museum provides educative insights with memories that you’ll add in your memoir. The parasites are preserved in clear jars, and send a bizarre feeling that some visitors still find fascinatingly exciting.
Ride the Hakone Tozan Train
The Hakone Tozan train offers a different display from the shinkansen. Why? The train is known to transport people and goods up Mount Hakone. What makes it peculiar is its attractive red color. The train provides lovely views of natural landscapes and beautiful vegetation. In June and July, hydrangeas blossom on both sides of the railway, which gives it an attractive ground carpet.
Visit Cat-Friendly Restaurants
Japanese have a soft spot for cats. That is evident from the many cat cafes that lie across the city of Tokyo. Cat owners can take their cats to a café for an interactive session with feline breeds of kitties. It’s an activity that you should include in your bucket list. Some of the perfect spots in Tokyo for such an experience is the Calico Cat Café. In Roppongi, you can let your furry friend play with cute hedgehogs.
Experience Dining in a Jail Cell
If asked, most people will outrightly turn down the opportunity of having a meal in a prison cell, but the Alcatraz ER provides a different dining-in-a-jail experience. The restaurant is partitioned into different barred cells, each representing a partitioned group dining area. Alcatraz ER employs friendly staff who adorn like nurses, keeping tabs on every cell to ensure the tables don’t run out of foods, of course on call from guests.
Not many people would love spending time in a crowded place with loud noise and bright lights, but some easily thrive in such settings. If you’re among them, you can experience this quintessential Japanese culture at the Shibuya Crossing. Being an attraction of its own, the Shibuya Crossing has featured in most movies, a fact that has taken its popularity to another level. An avid people watcher can take a seat in one of the Starbucks around and detail every moment of action in Shibuya Crossing.
Partake in Tuna Auction
If you thought that the adage: “The early bird catches the worm”, then you haven’t attended the Tsukiji Fish Market. You’ll have to make it up by 4 am to get freshly caught tuna. Nonetheless, you’ll need the guidance of an insider to be able to find high-quality fish and negotiate for an affordable price. Inside Tsukiji Market, you can also see how the tuna is professionally sliced.
Traditional Tea-Drinking Ceremony
Your spring vacation to Japan cannot be complete without a stop at the Happo-en Japanese Garden, which is nestled in the Shirokanedai District in the city of Tokyo. During spring, the garden becomes a spectacle of natural beauty with bonsai, koi pond, and patches of cherry blossoms. For a refreshing and rejuvenating adventure, you can plan to participate in a tea -tasting ceremony the Japanese way. Guests have a chance to drink Matcha from wooden Muan tea shops.
Naoshima Art Island
Some people visit Japan to have a relaxing time, and one of the recommended places to go to is the Naoshima Art Island. The area has pristine, sandy beaches, warm climate, and a relaxed vibe that offer an authentic coastal Japanese experience. You can think of Naoshima Island as a big outdoor gallery, where you can easily find open-air art galleries with an excellent collection of four museums. Inside, you’ll see the artistic works of renowned artists such as Monet, Turrell, Warhol, and many local artists.
Japan is a beautiful country with many things to see. The country has a rich vegetative cover and mountainous landscape that showcase the beauty of the island. Whatever your reason for travel, Japan has everything for the whole family. Besides, there are many accommodation establishments of different types to match your purpose for your visit. Visit Japan and learn about a new culture and the traditions that have made Japan the prosperous country it has become today.