The red dot! Yes, that is what we are reminded of when we think of Japan. The country’s flag is a red dot on a white background. Japan is what it is due to the hard-working population of the country. The recent tsunami/earthquake showed the world the discipline that has been inculcated over the generations in each and every citizen of Japan. The country has rebuilt itself so many times, after natural calamities or man-made ones. It is certainly remarkable to see the country doing so well, so technologically advanced and has respect of people across the world. So a visit to this fabulous country is warranted to not only learn more about the people, but also their ancient culture, that is followed and maintained till today.
Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and also one of the most expensive cities on the planet to live in. There is more to Japan than what meets the eye – Japan is not only about sushi or anime and manga. Believe it or not, there is so much more to explore in this country. So, to make things easier for you, we have put together a wonderful list of things you can do when you are in the island nation of Japan.
1. Climb Mt Fuji or Enjoy the scenery of Mt Fuji
Considered one of Japan’s 3 most sacred mountains, this active volcano is situated about 100 km (~62 miles) from the capital, Tokyo. It is the country’s tallest peak and stands at 3776 m (12,388 ft), making it the tallest peak in the country. Although it is an active volcano, the last known eruption occurred way back in 1707, so it is not a problem to climb this natural wonder. The official climbing season is from July to mid-September when it is snow-free and good weather conditions are conducive for climbing. It can be easily accessed by public transport during this period. A contribution of 1000 JPY is asked of each climber (approx. 9 USD). When it’s off season, many visitors are still visitng around Mt Fuji to enjoy the beauty. Here are some suggestions you can do around Mt Fuji: New Way to Enjoy Mt.Fuji What Is There at The Foot of Mt. Fuji? Mt Fuji + Onsen+Wine = Yamanashi!
2. Arashiyama Monkey Park
If you love to watch monkeys up close and personal, then you need to head to the Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto. Instead of caging these naughty animals, it is a nice sight to see them roam around freely. It is said to be a steep climb to get to the top of the hill to reach the monkeys. An entry fee of 550 JPY or approx. 4-5 USD is charged per head. It is open from 9 am to 5 pm from 15th March to October and closes at 4 pm from November to 14th March. Read more articles to find out about Kyoto
3. Karaoke singing
As we all know, Karaoke is singing songs with music minus the words/lyrics from the original song. It is you who sings! Karaoke singing is said to be originally “Made in Japan” but is popular worldwide. So, should you experience karaoke in the land of its origin? You can easily find out which karaoke centre to go – there are almost a zillion karaoke centres all across Japan, all you need to do is pick one, and sing to your heart’s content. Worried you won’t sing in tune? Who cares! That is what karaoke is all about – shed your inhibitions and sing! You can even find private rooms, if you are too shy!
4. Ride the Shinkansen
Japan’s high speed bullet trains, also referred to as Shinkansen, offer an experience like no other to visitors/train travellers. These trains go so fast; they can reach speeds up to 320 km/hr or 200 mph!!! You can purchase a Japan Rail Pass for the following time durations: 1/2/3 weeks depending on how long your stay is. It is priced accordingly and there are 2 classes: Ordinary and Green class. This Japan Rail Pass is exclusively for tourists visiting Japan. Some of the suggested itineraries include Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima to Hakata. Choose what you like and experience a speed like no other.
5. Play pachinko
Yet another Japanese creation is pachinko. This is a mechanical game that can be played at arcades. This is most often used to gamble, but nonetheless, provides ample entertainment for game lovers. There are numerous arcades where you can learn to play this game, and possibly win some money!
6. Eat ramen!
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish. Every region in Japan has its own variant of ramen. The noodles may be served in a meat based broth or a fish based broth, with varying flavourings such as soy sauce or miso. Toppings vary from nori (dried seaweed) to sliced pork to green onions and so forth. Ah, and don’t forget to slurp when you eat your noodle, it is your right to!!! Read more articles about ramen; Sapporo local delights Find more about instant ramen museum in Osaka Shin Yokohama ramen museum
7. Visit Maid Café and drink tea!
The Maid Café is a category of restaurants in Japan; here the waitresses are dressed up as maids and serve food and tea to the customers. These maid cafes were “invented” in order to cater to the ever-growing fascination for anime and manga in Japan. The maid costume varies from one café to another, some dress up as French maids with long skirts, or some with shorter skirts and stockings … overall these “maids” look cute!
8. Hanami Party – cherry blossom viewing
Hanami is the Japanese equivalent for cherry blossom viewing. This often involves a picnic or a party with family and friends to view the dazzling cherry blossoms. So prepare yourself well for a good party – arm yourself with a good picnic chair, lots of good food and wine, disposable plates, and a trash bag. Don’t forget, the larger the group, the merrier the party! Cherry Blossoms are such a treat to the eye and Japanese people sure know how to enjoy nature.
9. Watch Kabuki
Kabuki is another form of Japanese theatre, which involves elaborately designed costumes, makeup, and actions that are stunningly performed by actors. This form of theatre involves lot of acrobatics and can keep both the young and the old completely engrossed for hours.
10. Visit a castle
Japan, although a democracy, still has castles. So, it will only be intriguing to know more about castles, forts and whatnot! There are several castles in Japan such as Kumamoto Castle, Osaka Castle, Hiroshima Castle and Nijo Castle. One of the most impressive castles is the Kumamoto Castle. Built in the early 1600s, it took around 7 years to complete this castle. There is a lot of history attached to the Kumamoto Castle, so it is recommended to head there to experience it all in person. This castle is located in Kumamoto City and can be reached by train. It is open all year from 8:30 am to 6 pm and costs 500 JPY (approx. 4-5 USD) to enter. Find more from Japan Castle Guide
11. Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima
This is a Shinto shrine located on the island of Itsukushima It is famous for its floating torii gate. This shrine is located in Hiroshima Prefecture. The island is a treat to watch at night, especially if you see the illuminated island via a boat cruises. The cruise lasts about 30 minutes; the tide makes the gates appear as though they are floating. Do you want to find out more about Hiroshima? Go to our Hiroshima City Guide
12. Wear a kimono
The kimono is the traditional garment of Japan. When you are in Japan, it is a perfect reason to wear this lovely traditional dress and to learn how to wear it. It is made from a single bolt of fabric called tan, which comes in standard dimensions of 36 cm wide by 11.5 m long (14.17 in by 36 ft). Kimono come in such wonderful colours and patterns that you won’t ever want to take yours off! Where to rent a kimono? Find out more from this article!
13. Shopping at Takeshita Street
Also referred to as Takeshita Dori, this shopping street is the centre point of Japan’s teenage culture. This infamous shopping street is located in Harajuku, Tokyo. If you are looking for trendy items, be it clothes, accessories, bags or even food, you have to head to Takeshita Street. If you are a shopaholic, you will love this place and will want to return over and over again, so take lot of cash with you.
14. Be a ninja
We all know what ninjas are, and I’m sure we’ve all pretended to be one, especially after watching the series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and movies where ninjas were the main characters. So, when you are in Japan, why not pretend to be one for a day? There are ninja schools in Japan that will teach you some basics of being a ninja in about 90 minutes. Plus, you could get hired as a Ninja in Japan! Does that sound crazy?? There are, in fact, many vacancies for this awesome job! Do try your hand, who knows how lucky you might be!
15. Try your hand at making soba noodles
Soba noodles are one of the staple foods of Japanese cuisine. There are loads of cooking schools in Japan that teach tourists to make these tasty soba noodles from scratch. When you get back to your home country, you can dazzle your friends and guests with these recipes!
16. Umeda Sky Building
This building is one of the tallest buildings in Osaka. It consists of 2 towers that are connected at the top making them a unique architectural wonder. This building was initially owned by Toshiba. The 2 towers are connected by a Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor. The observatory is great for getting a nice view of the city. Entry costs is 700 JPY per person (approx. 7 USD) You can find from herethat what else you can do in Osaka.
17. Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is a remarkable place to visit when you are in Japan. Buildings and streets have been re-created by the museum and it is a pleasure to learn more about how people lived in Japan in the previous generations and eras. It is open from 10 am to 5 pm almost everyday of the week (it is closed on Tuesdays and other days throughout the year so do check their website). An entrance fee of 600 JPY is charged per person (approx. 5 USD)
18. Osaka River Cruise (Tombori Cruise)
One of the best ways to enjoy South Osaka’s scenery is the Tombori River Cruise. These are mini 20 minute cruises. This area of Osaka is said to be one of the liveliest in the country and if you take this cruise at night, you can enjoy the displays of neon lights. Boats depart every half hour, and adults are charged a fee of 3000 JPY per head (approximately 27-28 USD).
19. Namba Yasaka Shrine
At one time, the Namba Yasaka Shrine had 12 temples inside the complex, but many were destroyed during wars. This shrine is only 5 minutes away from the Namba station and is open every day of the year. This is interesting for people who like history, culture and tradition as well as architecture and design. The eye-catching lion head at the shrine is particularly what will attract the attention of visitors. This shrine is located in the Fukushima ward of Osaka prefecture.
20. Minato-Machi River Place
This is an octagon-shaped building in Osaka that looks splendid at night, especially once it gets lit up. A lot of outdoor events occur in the public space outside this complex. The 3rd to 6th floors of this complex can hold up to 1500 people (standing), making it the largest hall in Japan.
21. Hakone Tozan Railway
The Hakone Tozan Railway is said to be the sole mountain railway in Japan. The train starts at 108 m (354 ft) above sea level and reaches the final destination at 553 m (1814 ft) above sea level. The hydrangeas that you can see all along the entire route are a treat to watch. They grow so close to the tracks that you can literally touch them as you go past them. The entire train journey can cost up to 670 JPY (approx. 6-7 USD).
22. Yakatabune cruise
Yakatabune is a traditional Japanese wooden boat that you can use for sightseeing purposes in Japan. These ornate boats were said to be favoured by the aristocrats for leisurely use and are nowadays used to cater to tourists. You can choose to dine onboard these boats or just sightsee from it. There are different themes that you can choose from for example, Ninja or Food themed. It is a remarkable way to see the Tokyo skyline or savour traditional cuisine along with sightseeing.
23. Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the primary place of residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a huge area and is surrounded by moats and huge stone walls. When you are in Tokyo, this is certainly a place to see! There are guided tours available and it is advisable to go for one such tour. The palace is about a 10 minute walk from the Tokyo station, the palace is closed on Mondays and Fridays, open rest of the week from 9 am to 5 pm, and entry is free.
24. Rikugien Garden
This garden is a metropolitan park in Tokyo. The word Rikugien can be transliterated to “six poems garden” and true to this, the garden is poetry in itself! The park is very spacious and takes about an hour to cover the entire place. Picturesque natural beauty at its best is what you will get to see at Rikugien Garden. This park is open every day to the general public from 9 am to 5 pm daily. There is a special evening light up during autumn and cherry blossom season; what more could we ask for! An entry fee of 300 JPY (approx. 2-3 USD) is charged per person.
25. Watch a Sumo Wrestling Match
Sumo is the Japanese way of wrestling and it is the country’s national sport. Professional sumo tournaments are held 6 times a year, once every odd month. It is advisable to purchase tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment. If you are flying in from overseas, it is best to reserve your tickets online. You will be surprised to know that all the sumo wrestlers are not necessarily Japanese! Go and watch one to find out more!
26. Edo Tokyo Museum
This museum gives you an idea of the past and the present state of the city of Tokyo, especially the history of Tokyo from the Edo period. This includes information on how people lived, the civilisation, architecture and everything else! Check the museum’s website for opening days and hours. The entrance fee is 600 JPY per person (approx. 4-5 USD)
27. Tokyo Sky Tree
The Tokyo Sky Tree is a TV broadcasting tower and one of the important landmarks in Tokyo. It is now the second tallest tower in the world at 634 m (2080 ft). An architectural wonder and beautiful in design, the Tokyo Sky Tree is one of the must-see places to visit in Tokyo. Japan is an earthquake prone country, so the architects made this tower earthquake-proof. There is an observation deck at the top and provides one of the most fascinating views of Tokyo. It is open every day from 8 am to 10 pm, an entry fee of 2060 JPY (approx. 18 USD) is charged, and there are additional costs for other activities.
28. Ikebukuro Plaza
The capsule hotel at Ikebukuro Plaza makes for an exciting experience when staying in this country as a tourist. This capsule hotel is unique that there are women-only and men-only capsules available. For example, the Ikebukuro Plaza in Tokyo has a floor that is dedicated only for women. So solo women travellers, fret not, you can enjoy your stay! This hotel is just a 5 minute walk from the Ikebukuro station in Tokyo!
29. Drink Japanese Rice Wine
Rice wine is fermented rice that has a higher alcohol content than wine produced from grapes. Sake, or Japanese rice wine, is made by fermenting rice, and is the national liquor of Japan. The brewing process of sake is similar to that of beer. Sake is usually served in a gently warmed earthenware glass. So when in Japan, do what the Japanese do and drink sake!
30. Hiroshima Peace Memorial
We all know the atomic bombs that put an end to the Second World War fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now, in Hiroshima, to commemorate this, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park has been built. This memorial is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as a memorial for the people who were killed in the bombings. The Genbaku Dome that stands till today as a scar from the bombings is where the memorial is located. Every year on the 6th of August, an annual ceremony is held. This park is not only to remember the victims, but also a mode to advocate world peace.
31. Eat Sushi
Sushi is synonymous with Japan. Sushi consists of cooked rice and is stuffed with things like raw seafood, vegetables, and sometimes even fruits wrapped in dried seaweed, or nori. When in Rome, eat like the Romans do, and, thus, when in Japan, eat like the Japanese – eat sushi!
32. Buy Cheap Beer – Happoshu!
Want to try fake beer? Yeah, Happoshu or low malt beer is available in Japan. Try your hand at this and see if you like it. It is called fake beer or a beer-like beverage because of its low malt content (less than 67%). Happoshu is available all over Japan and you can find it easily.
33. Get personal sweat towels
Japanese have a wonderful culture – they hate to waste. One important part of this is recycling their products. One such product is the sweat towel. Instead of using a tissue paper or paper towels, it is more green to use a personal hand towel or the Tenugui. Now, where can you get these in Japan? Anywhere! Well, the ordinary non-personalised ones can be bought anywhere – be it a supermarket or a convenience store. These make perfect souvenirs too. They are reusable, washable and cut down on paper waste.
34. Osu Kannon Temple
The Osu Kannon Temple is a Buddhist temple in Nagoya, Japan. This temple was built in the 1300s, but in 1820 was partially destroyed by a fire. It has since been rebuilt. The current temple houses a large number of Japanese and Chinese works (books). A street market is held on the 18th of each month.
35. Ride a "Mini" Bike
The pretty cute concept of pocket bikes began in Japan years ago and the rest of the world has just caught on. In this sport, the bikes are miniatures of what adults usually ride. The mini bike is usually an electric bike and requires a great amount of balance and nerve to sit on it and ride.
36. Great Seto Bridge
The Great Seto Bridge is a set of 6 consecutive bridges that connect 5 islands in the Seto Inland Sea. It comes across as breathtakingly beautiful, especially at night when it is lit up. It took 10 years to construct this series of bridges. Taking a trip across the bridge is the only way you will be able to appreciate the construction. You could take a drive across the distance or hop on to the JR train line for a 510 JPY ride across (approx. USD 4-5). Alternately you could take a cruise that goes on for about an hour right from the port. Be ready to take some stunning photographs.
37. Onsen: hot springs
Onsen refers to “natural hot spring” in Japanese. There are numerous hot springs all across Japan and are very popular among locals and tourists alike. There are different types of hot springs, differentiated by the type of minerals dissolved in the water. Any visitor is recommended a visit to an onsen ryokan (hotels with a spring bath) – there are public bath houses available too, but nothing like an onsen ryokan. Some of the popular hot springs include Kusatsu Onsen, Manza Onsen, and Minakami Onsen near Tokyo. If you are shy to get into publich onsen, here are some en-suite onsen experience available near from Tokyo, too!
38. Buy Anime and Manga
Anime refers to the animation style that originated in Japan, while Manga refers to Japanese comics. These are extremely popular all across the world, so when you are in Japan, it is important to purchase these as souvenirs to take back home. There are lots of shops in and around Tokyo and all across Japan where you can buy souvenirs featuring anime and manga characters.
39. Learn Ikebana
The Japanese art of flower arrangement is called Ikebana. This art form takes Japanese’ love for nature to a higher level. The flower arrangement is not just putting a few flowers together, but a disciplined way of bringing different flora together. So, similar to taking up cooking classes to learn to make soba noodles from scratch, those interested in flower arrangement can take up lessons in Japan to learn the art of Ikebana.
40. Golden Pavilion Temple, Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavilion Temple is a grand temple in Kyoto and is one of Japan’s most popular attractions. The golden pavilion is a 3 storey building in which the top 2 storeys are completely covered with pure gold leaf. Apart from the temple, there is an adjoining park on the temple premises. The design of the garden is very detailed and artistic. The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day of the year, and the entry fee is 400 JPY (approx. 3 USD).
41. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari-taisha or the Fushimi Inari Shrine is said to be the head or principal shrine of Inari and is located in Kyoto. You will be delighted to see a number of foxes in the shrine. It is believed that foxes were messengers in ancient times. There are several statues of these messenger foxes all around the shrine premises. It is interesting to note that the number of visitors is maximum on Japanese New Year (January 1). The shrine is always open and entry is free for all.
42. Visit Harajuku, Tokyo on a Sunday!
Harajuku is the center for shopping and entertainment, and is popular for the stylish and fashion conscious to spend a weekend at Harajuku. Youngsters just hang out with their friends on weekends here at Harajuku. It can be an interesting spot for tourists too, to see how the youth of Japan spend their time. Some of the famous streets here include Takeshita Dori (mentioned above) and Omotesando. There are lots of shopping complexes that will be interesting for buyers to visit.
You can also find culture in this area, such as the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, if shopping doesn’t interest you.
43. Spend an evening at an Izakaya
Izakaya is a Japanese pub and it is totally an experience to be at one. For those who love to eat and drink, the Izakaya will be one of the most comfy places to spend time at with friends. They serve a wide variety of alcoholic drinks as well as a huge range of interesting and yummy snacks – snacks that taste amazing with alcohol. These Izakayas can be tiny shacks or very large, choose what you like and you will surely feel comfortable at all types of Izakayas.
44. Take a picture at a Purikura
A Purikura is a photo sticker booth in Japan. This is said to be the “Japanese way of memory making,” and a cute one at that, like most things Japanese! There are a lot of different types of purikura machines nowadays and each of them has very different features. For example, you could change your eye colour, make your eyes look bigger, wear fake eyelashes, change your hair colour or even make your legs look a lot longer! Of course, these features are optional and use your imagination to make yourself look different in the pictures taken at a purikura. For this reason, it has gained more popularity among the female population in Japan! Other things that you could do include draw or write anything using the “pen” functionality thus making the photo stickers original and funny! These make for amazing souvenirs and keepsakes, right? In order to take pictures at the Purikura, you will need to pay 400 JPY (approx. 3 USD) in coins in the machine. Although the machine is in Japanese, it is easy to navigate.
45. Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
Shibuya is very famous for what is known as the scramble crossing. Missing out on this famous spot would be equivalent to not visiting Japan at all. The surrounding areas are packed with shoppers, students, and youngsters. When the traffic light turns red at this junction, you will be amazed to note that it turns red everywhere in the same direction! When traffic comes to a standstill, you’ll see a sea of pedestrians that come out from all directions and cross the road, a sight to watch – some people describe it as “marbles spilling out of a box”. So you can decide whether you want to observe this from a nearby food outlet or be a part of the “marbles”. There are big malls and boutiques near this junction, so after this organised chaos experience, you can head there for some shopping.
46. Visit a nail salon!
Nail salons are one of the most popular places for women in Japan. They make your hands and nails feel like a million dollars. One session can take as long as 4 hours to finish up working on your nails, you can make your nails look super long, unique – whatever design you wish for, you could choose from the available designs or make your own design!
47. Hachiko Square, Shibuya, Tokyo
The world’s best known meeting place in Shibuya is Hachiko square. We are sure you must have heard of or read the novel or watched the movie Hachiko. What a heartwarming one at that, so what could be a better place for people to meet than at Hachiko Square. For the uninitiated, Hachiko was a dog whose loyalty to his master was renowned. He died of cancer, but his story continues to be told to this day. The bronze statue of Hachiko is unmissable when you are in Shibuya and is a must-visit.
48. Bargain Shopping at Don Quijote Shops
Don Quijote is a chain of bargain stores in Japan that you must include on your itinerary when you are in Japan. There is a wide variety of crazy stuff you can buy at this store – Michael Jackson masks, weird underwear, butt and breast pillows (huh!) weird looking clothes, footwear – you name it, anything weird can be found in this shop! So, it pays to make a visit and purchase some weird stuff as a souvenir from Japan!
49. Visit Odaiba
Odaiba is a popular tourist spot, what is it actually? A large artificial island in Tokyo Bay! Whoa! The area opens in a waterfront and thus offers perfect enjoyment for the entire family. You could ride on the water buses and enjoy the sea breeze. People also go for a stroll or a jog on the shore. Nearby places include a sea-side park, and lots of shopping and museums. The night view is something you can look out for, because the lighting and displays makes it worthwhile.
50. Cook your own food at a restaurant
A very popular type of restaurant in Japan is one where you can cook your own food! Huh! There are restaurants where the chef cooks the food right in front of you as well, but this is totally different. This is called a Yakiniku restaurant – a Japanese version of barbeque. A coal grill is provided and customers cook their own meat at their table. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? So, what are you waiting for? Go and try it out!
51. Japanese Baseball
Baseball is one of the most popular sports played in Japan; so much so, that there is even a Nippon Professional Baseball category, which is the highest level of baseball in Japan. NPB shares many similarities with Major League Baseball from the US. Baseball is played right from elementary level and has become part and parcel of Japanese sporting culture. Ticket prices range from 1000 JPY (~9 USD) to up to 15000 JPY (~137 USD) to enjoy the action-packed sport played at the stadium with millions of other Japanese fans!
Bunraku is a form of Japanese puppet theatre founded in Osaka. The puppets are about half life-size and is performed by 3 people: one main puppeteer and two assistants. Classic love stories, legends of heroes and historical tales are the common themes of the puppet theatre. You can catch a show at the National Theatre in Tokyo or National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka. You can rent English headsets for translation purposes during the show at the theatre.
53. Visit a Hedgehog café!
At this café that has been newly opened in Tokyo, kids and adults who love animals, will love to interact with the little hedgehogs. You can pet, cuddle or play with these prickly animals for 1000 JPY (approx. 9 USD) an hour on weekdays and 1300 JPY (approx. 11 USD) per hour on holidays. Hedgehogs are not native to Japan but seem to capture the imagination of all Japanese!
54. Madame Tussaud's
Like with any other wax museum of the same franchise, Madame Tussaud’s captures the imagination of the public, tourists and locals alike, with their master craftsmanship in making lifelike figurines of super stars from all around the world. Be it Lady Gaga or Michael Jackson, you can now take a selfie with whomever you wish! The museum is open from 10 am to 9 pm everyday and admission costs 2200 JPY (approx. 20 USD) for people 13 years and over.
There is more to Japan than you can imagine!
While putting together this list of things to do in Japan, the tagline for Japan tourism stood out – Endless Discovery. The more we looked, the more we could find out about Japan. There are an endless number of things you can do when you are in Japan. Stunning, natural beauty at its best with friendly and disciplined people, be it a child or an old citizen, they behave the same. This is what will make people want to go back over and over again to this country. Sayonara!
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