15 Best Things To Do in Japan

Japan is a world apart. Its timeless string of islands is fused with natural beauty that can easily be termed a world in itself.

This dreamy country has managed to maintain a magnificent contrast of modernity and traditionalism through decades. Japan’s cities are extremely progressive and geeky; with futuristic architecture, fast-paced life, and robotic everything! But as you explore the rest of the country, you will have a plenty of opportunities to touch up on its traditional side – be it sleeping on the tatami mats, dressing up as a geisha, or sipping on some matcha.

The majestic Mount Fuji (Fuji-san), Buddhist-influenced Kyoto, the spectacular Chūbu-Sangaku National Park, and the wondrous Karuizawa are just a few of the many interesting places to visit in Japan.

As the land of fashion, manga, gadgets, and sushi there are many rich and colourful things to do in Japan. Here are some of our top picks.

1. Climb Mount Fuji

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Hiking fans alert! You can scale this iconic mountain on your next trip to Japan. As Japan's highest and most prominent mountain, Mt. Fuji offers an experience like no other – watching the sunrise from above the clouds. Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya are four trails to choose from. The inclination and topography of these trails vary from zigzag to gently sloped to very steep. The climbing season is from July to early September. Guided tours are available and recommended.

2. Take a Shinkansen to Kanazawa

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A Shinkansen (or the bullet train) is Japan’s pride! Known for its outline, safety, punctuality, and high speed; these trains travel at speeds over 200 kilometres an hour, connecting the capital city to the other important cities. Tokyo and Kanazawa are directly connected by the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen. As one of the most well-preserved Edo-era cities of Japan, Kanazawa is known for its aesthetic Kenroku-en, the cultural Kanazawa Castle Park, and the cultural Higashi Chaya District among many other lovely sites.

3. Sign up for a sushi making class in Toyko

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This Japanese traditional dish has become more and more popular in the global cuisine. With its infinite combinations of ingredients and styles, learn how to make a traditional sushi under the guidance of experts. Toyko offers many sushi making classes that cover some basic sushi types like Nigiri, Inari and Sushi Rolls. Mayuko's Little Kitchen Japanese Cooking Class and YUCa's Japanese Cooking are some of the best rated.

4. Welcome the spring with Hanami

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The Sakura, or the cherry blossom festival in Japan is unmissable! Hanami started in the eighth century and is celebrated enthusiastically even today. Flower blossoms signify the arrival of spring and Japan eagerly looks forward to flowering of the cherry blossoms. This picture-perfect sight will instantly take you into a world far away. Some of the sights to enjoy the bountiful cherry blossom festival are Maruyama Park in Kyoto, Shinjuku Gyo-en in Tokyo, and Matsumae Park, Hokkaido.

5. Tour the castles of Japan

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Japanese fortresses have been built since early times. Surrounded by pristine gardens, these dazzling castles and moats have been home to samurais and feudal lords of Japan for centuries. One of the magical elements of Japan’s history is its castles and these historical figures from the country’s past stand tall and proud even to this date! Explore the many beautiful castles of Japan like the Nagoya Castle, Matsumoto Castle, Nijo Castle, and Himeji Castle on your next trip to Japan.

6. Walk through the neon-light ups at Dotonbori in Osaka

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The very vibrant and energetic Dotonbori in the Namba district of Osaka is a major tourist attraction. Running parallel to the Dotonbori canal, the shopping and eating experiences here are plenty. In Dotonbori you can taste the famous cheesecake at PABLO, take a relaxing Tonbori river cruise, (over) indulge in deep fried katsu at Daruma, or click a selfie in front of the Glico's Running Man Signboard. Dotonbori can be accessed from the Namba Station.

7. Step in the Robot Restaurant

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Stepping inside this Robot Restaurant in like being transported into an alternate world. With its high-tech laser light shows, crazy décor, sparkling dancers, and bright robots, a visit to the Robot restaurant is definitely one of the craziest experiences you can have. Of course, the tickets don’t come cheap, but this quintessential Japanese experience is not to be missed. Head to the super-glitzy lounge area after the show for some great food and drinks.

8. Watch wild monkeys bathe in a natural hot spring at the Jigokudani Monkey Park

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Located inside the Valley of Yokoyu River, The Jigokudani Yaen-koen is home to the endemic macaques of Japan. The park is buried in snow for almost one third of the year but is the only place in the world where you can watch the monkeys bathe in the hot springs. Apart from the tourists, this place is also frequented by ecological researchers and photographers.

9. Walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

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Situated in the western outskirts of Kyoto, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or the Sagano Bamboo Forest has several pathways that run through the natural forest of bamboo. You can rent a bike or stroll through the forest and enjoy the sight of sun shining through its bamboo groves. You can see the lanky bamboo trees sway back and forth as the light wind makes its way through the forest. Outside the forest, you can shop for items like baskets and boxes that are made using the bamboo.

10. Sample ramen at the Shin-Yokohama Rāmen Museum

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The Shin-Yokohama Rāmen Museum is world’s first food-themed amusement park. Now that’s something, right? Founded in 1994, this museum is dedicated to iconic Japanese noodle soup dish – the ramen! The museum has two parts: the basement sees a 1:1 replica of the streets of the village of Shitamachi where the ramen first got popular; and a gallery on the first floor that takes you through the history of ramen noodles in Japan. It has many displays of noodles, soups, toppings and bowls that you can check out.

11. Watch a Kabuki Show

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With its roots dating back to the Edo era, Kabuki is a traditional Japanese theatre performance. Along with Noh and Bunraku, Kabuki is regarded as one of the Japan's three major classical theatre forms. The actors participating in the act are dressed elaborately with an eye-catching make-up and outlandish wings. The performances include some of the most exaggerated actions you will ever see. There are a few select venues in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka where you can catch this show.

12. Wander through the streets of Naoshima Island

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Situated in the Seto Inland Sea, the Naoshima Island is best known for its art, architecture, museums, sunny weather, and the laid-back lifestyle. A prime destination for the art devotees, this island makes for a prefect day trip. Chichu Museum, Art House Project, Benesse House, Lee Ufan Museum, and Ando Museum are some of the attractions of the Naoshima Island.

13. Go scuba diving at Okinawa

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This East China Sea island is Japan’s answer to the many tropical Mediterranean islands. The largest of the Ryukyus island, Okinawa is considered to be the healthiest place in the world with more than 450 of its residents over the age of 100. Moving towards more touristy things, the island’s brilliant blue waters have many diving spots. The Blue Cave at Cape Maeda is said to be one of the best! Apart from adventure sports, you can also explore the natural and cultural heritage of the island during your free time. 

14. Stroll through the wonderous Shinjuku Golden Gai

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Golden Gai is down-to-earth and wonderfully local; and is tucked into a small corner of Shinjuku, Tokyo. This area (thankfully) is not redeveloped and is still remnant of the city’s olden days. The many bars along its six dark and tightly-packed alleyways make for a great bar-hopping activity. The plush Albatross, the friendly Zucca, the loud Death Match in Hell, and the female-friendly Bar Darling are definitely worth visiting.

15. Visit the cat-ruled island of Tashirojima

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This small island in Ishinomaki is more popularly known as the Cat Island! Located off the coast of central Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, Tashirojima has 6 cats for every 1 human. (We are already excited!) The cats were originally brought to this island to keep the pest away as this was a site for thriving silkworm farms. The island’s primary residents, the cats, are known to bring luck and good fortune and hence are worshiped here. Most number of cats are found around the Nitoda Port on the south-eastern side of the island.

You May Also Like to Read

10 Best Cities to Visit in Japan

10 Most Beautiful Castles in Japan

Best Places to See Cherry Blossom in Japan

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ever since my first trip at the age of 4, I’ve been fascinated to explore places around the world. Lover of world cultures, food, souls and all things blue; I spend most part of my day writing about travel ...

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15 best things to do in japan
  • Hi! My family of 3 is planning a trip in September to Japan for 7 days including traveling. So if anything I should be visiting, eating, buying - please let me know so I don't live in regrets...LOL … Thanks everyone

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  • Hi! Me and a couple of friends planning on traveling to Japan for 2 weeks. We would like to experience both the city life AND more of the landscape and views of Japan. Do you have any ideas on were we could go hiking or camping for example?

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    • If you are interested in hiking and camping when in Japan then these are a few of the best hiking places - Mount Fuji, Shizuoka; Kumano Kodo, Kii Peninsula; Mount Hiei near Kyoto, Harima Alps, Osaka, and Mount Takao, Tokyo.  

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  • Dear Hobo am planning to visit japan to see sakura, culinary experience and I would like to buy jeans from Japan. Can you recommend place to visit? And I also would like the info on Culinary train? Thank you so much

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    • To buy the best of Japanese jeans, you must head towards the Jeans Street in the Kojima district of Okayama. You may also try the stalls of Ameyoko open-air market in Ueno where you would find some great pair of jeans. As mentioned in the blog the best places to experience the cherry blossom festival or Sakura include Maruyama Park in Kyoto, Shinjuku Gyo-en in Tokyo, and Matsumae Park, Hokkaido. To have the best Japanese culinary experience, I suggest you visit the Japanese markets such as Kyoto's Nishiki Market, Tokyo's Tsujiki Market, or a department store food hall called depachika. Not much is known about the culinary train. I guess the locals would be your best source of information for this. 

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