The land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a world of its own. This intriguing country on the eastern edge of the world has cultivated a unique culture and way of life for the past millennia, and its secrets have been the subject of interest for many travelers throughout the years. With over 31 million tourists just in 2018, Japan might not be the most visited country, but it is certainly among the top ones as it offers things you can’t experience anywhere else in the world. So, if you are planning an exciting vacation to this outstanding county in the near future, read on to learn about some of the top activities that make Japan so interesting and well-loved! Even if you weren’t planning on visiting it before, this guide might just make you count your savings right away and book your flight tickets.
See the cherry blossoms
If your visit to Japan happens to be during the spring, you must not miss seeing the romantic sights of blossoming trees. Research in advance when and where you will get the best sights, and you will take home some truly magnificent photos from your trip. If you’re visiting Tokyo, Inokashira and Ueno parks are great places to walk under the cherry blossoms, while if you’re visiting Kyoto, make sure you go to Maruyama Park or walk the Philosopher’s Path in early April. This is certainly one of the most popular activities among visitors in Japan.
Eat at an izakaya
When you get tired from walking around and exploring the streets all day, take a break and go into one of Japan’s many izakayas. These little pubs or bars that serve Japanese drinks, snacks and meals are the go-to places for many Japanese people after a long day at work. The laid-back, chatty atmosphere is perfect to unwind and to experience an authentic bit of the everyday life and culture of the people who live in this country. There are several areas stacked with these locales, but one of the best izakaya “alleys” is in Shinjuku. So, make sure you try eating at one of these at least once during your stay!
Explore the snowy slopes
Did you know that Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to skiing and other recreational winter activities? Northern regions of this country boast immense snowfalls each year, and there are renowned ski resorts all over the place. As if that wasn’t enough, the sceneries are breathtaking and the onsens (hot spring resorts) that are scattered around make winter stay truly relaxing. With ski resorts such as Niseko (the largest one, with great tourism infrastructure), the exciting and steep Hakuba or the mesmerizing Myoko Kogen with its traditional vibe, agencies like Liquid Snow Tours offer many different packages you can choose from.
Experience a festival or two in Japan
Japan loves its festivals and it boasts hundreds of thousands of different matsuri each year. These colorful spectacles can involve fireworks, lanterns, parades, music and so on, and whichever you stumble upon, you are bound to have fun and some delicious bites from food stalls. For instance, the Gion Matsuri is one of the biggest festivals of Japan that lasts throughout the month of July, culminating in the Yamaboko Junko (17 July) or the procession of floats. However, you can really find various celebrations no matter when you decide to visit Japan.
Wear a traditional kimono
Besides visiting shrines and enjoying festivals, another one of the top authentic Japanese experiences is certainly trying on a traditional kimono. Luckily, there are quite a few places that offer kimono rental with various dress-up plans, and once you choose the best one for you, you can take a stroll in the area wearing your beautiful garment and take pictures. Some places even offer professional photography for truly memorable shots. In any case, this will be an interesting experience!
Stop by an unordinary cafe
Japan is known to be a little eccentric and this, of course, manifests in its cafe culture as well. You might have already heard of cat cafes (which are a huge favorite!), but in Japan, you will not only find those but all kinds of different animal cafes as well. If you like animals, chances are you will love these. For instance, there are owl cafes, hedgehog cafes, rabbit cafes and so on. Find your favorite animal cafe and interact with these cute little babies, but don’t forget to book in advance because, like everything else in Japan, things can get busy!
Visit the Studio Ghibli Museum
For the past decades, works by the world-famous Studio Ghibli have become favorites among generations and it’s hard to argue the ingenuity and masterfulness of these movies. Now you can also explore the world of Studio Ghibli in life size if you visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. For all casual fans as well as those interested in art, animation and so on, this opportunity will be a once-in-a-lifetime one that will inspire them. Both kids and adults can enjoy this attraction, just don’t forget to buy your tickets in advance as it’s a very popular stop for many tourists.
Stroll through a bamboo forest
Japan has so much more than just urban life and high-tech cityscapes. There are some exquisite natural sceneries just outside these urban jungles and they are so serene and beautiful that it’s really worth taking a day to just stroll through nature and take in the relaxing vibe. Not far from Kyoto, you will find yourself in Arashiyama, most famous for its bamboo groves, the Togetsukyo Bridge that dates back to the Heian period and a number of temples in the area. The landscapes and gentle slopes of Arashiyama look especially charming during fall time when the backdrops turn into something that looks like a painting. In the winter, on the other hand, you can come during the Hanatoro festival and marvel at the lanterns that beautifully light up the forest.
Try a capsule hotel
If you’re not claustrophobic and like to try new things, you might find the concept of Japanese capsule hotels intriguing. These facilities are actually more normal than they sound, so if you want to experience something new, why not spend a night in a bed-sized “room”? It can be both an affordable and unique solution, and some of these hotels are high-tech and on the luxurious side, so you might be pleasantly surprised.
If you’re visiting Japan between July and mid-September, you can aim to climb the impressive Hakone to get the best possible views of Japan’s most famous landmark, Mt. Fuji. Those who like an active holiday will be delighted as there are several hiking options that will take you on charming trails among the towering trees. Once you’ve reached the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views of your life!
While this guide is in no way comprehensive, it’s a great starting point for your trip-planning in order not to miss out on some of the must-try experiences when you’re visiting this outstanding country. Japan really has so much to offer that we couldn’t cover it all, but once you’ve made sure all of the previously described activities have found their place on your to-do list, make sure to explore even more possibilities such as visiting an onsen, petting the deer in Nara Park, or even exploring little villages in the countryside such as Shirakawa-go. The sheer extensiveness of the culture of this country makes it hard to experience it all in one go, but luckily, at least you’ve already got an excuse to plan another trip to Japan as soon as possible! Good luck!