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20 Best Things to Do in Japan

There’s a reason why Japan is a fascinating country to explore.

Stretching its borders to over 6800 islands, Japan is jam-packed with intriguing historical sites and lively cultural festivals.

Running out of things to do in Japan is…well, just not possible.

But with so many options to choose from, it’s overwhelming to pinpoint just a few absolute must-dos and sees.

That’s okay!

We’ll do the heavy lifting for you by listing out some of the top places to go in Japan.

While it’s impossible to squeeze such a diverse country into just 20 places of interest, this list will come in handy if you’re running short of time.

ONE

Indulge on the Freshest Sashimi

– Toyosu Fish Market

Is this your first time in Tokyo? Do you love sushi?

If you’ve answered yes to both these questions then your first stop has to be a classic Japanese fish market.

Your trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete if you miss out on watching fresh-caught fish being auctioned off.

At Toyosu Fish Market, you can get a bird’s-eye view from a 2nd-floor terrace!

Be sure to arrive early as the fish will be the freshest and it won’t be as crowded.

Toyosu opened in 2018 and replaced the famous Tsukiji Fish Market as the largest seafood market in the world.

Prepare yourself because you’re going to have the best sashimi ever, directly from the source!

There’s a wide selection of restaurants here where you can indulge in seafood — so fresh they’re practically still swimming.

You’re going to discover really quickly that one of the top things to do in Japan is…

Drumroll, please.

…eating!

TWO

Go Bar-Hopping at Shinjuku Golden Gai

– Golden Gai, Shinjuku

Located in a narrow, dark alley in Shinjuku is a collection of over 200 small bars as well as a wide selection of eateries.

We know, going for a drink in a dark narrow alley doesn’t exactly sound appealing…

but remember the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

With so many bars to choose from, many with their own special theme, it makes for a fun and exciting night out.

If you’re itching for a drink, this is one of the most adventurous things to do in Japan.

THREE

Soak in an Onsen

– Yubatake at Kusatsu Onsen

Ask anyone who’s been to Japan what’s their favorite part of the visit and it’s highly likely that soaking in an onsen will cut above the list.

Since ancient times, the locals have observed a bathing culture in hot springs (onsen) which has evolved to a form of therapy meant to relax and rejuvenate the soul.

Dipping in a Japanese hot spring is not only soothing to your muscles but also a great way to experience a culture that has been passed down the generations for years.

Due to the volcanic activity in the country, Japan boasts over 27,000 natural onsens which can be found in resorts, spa, public baths, and ryokans (traditional inns).

Be sure to add this to your Japan bucket list!

FOUR

See Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Park

– Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani Park

Jigokudani Park is one of the most unique places to visit on earth and among the top things to see in Japan.

The park is home to the Japanese Macaques, popularly known as snow monkeys.

Here you can watch these wild creatures go about their usual business, including the unique habit of bathing in a natural hot spring — a distinctive behavior that’s only common with this troop.

This conservation park was established in 1964 to contain the species within an area that was already their natural habitat.

FIVE

Flower Tunnels at Kawachi Wisteria Garden

– Wisteria Tunnel, Kawachi Fuji Garden

Exploding with vibrant colors of wisteria flowers, this garden is tucked in the remote hills of an area in southern Kitakyushu City.

Privately owned by Masau Higshi and together with his family, they’ve devoted over 5 decades into nurturing this enchanting site that draws in hundreds of visitors every year.

The wisteria tunnels (80m and 110m long) are the most popular parts of this small magical garden, boasting over 22 species of wisteria flowers in varying colors.

Keep in mind, blooming of the flowers is seasonal so timing is key!

To experience the Kawachi Wisteria Garden at its peak, the best time to visit would typically be between the last week of April and a few days into May.

Even then, it’s a good idea to check their main website for updated information on when the blooming will likely to be at its best.

SIX

Take a Ride on a Bullet Train

– Shinkansen Bullet Train near Mt Fuji

One of the must do’s in Japan is riding a Shinkansen – one of the fastest bullet trains in the world.

Not only is it a cool experience but it’ll help you get around more efficiently!

Established in 1964, the railway network pretty much covered the entire country, enabling commuters to travel between the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya at a speed of 199 miles per hour.

Commuting across the major cities of Japan in a few hours in a Shinkansen is not only super convenient but is also an adventure in itself.

You get to enjoy breathtaking scenery as the train winds through metropolis, bare wilderness and rustic towns!

If you’re planning to travel to more than one city in the country, the Japan Rail Pass is a great option and a lot more cost-efficient than flying.

SEVEN

Sagano Bamboo Forest

– Sagano Bamboo Forest, Arashiyama

One of the must-sees in Japan is located in Arashiyama, roughly 30 minutes from Kyoto city, Sagano Bamboo Forest is the ideal destination if you want a brief escape from the chaos of the city.

The towering bamboo stalks and the sun’s rays peeking through the dense forest invokes a sense of tranquillity and an intimate scene with nature.

The iconic Sagano Bamboo Forest is one of the most photographed places in the province but despite being extremely popular, the serenity you feel as you walk through the 200-meter long path cutting through the forest is unrivaled.

Or give your weary feet some rest and take a rickshaw ride through the forest instead!

EIGHT

Hike the Kumano Kodo Trail

– Kumano Kodo Trail

For over a millennium, Japanese locals have trekked through the Kumano region in search of spiritual healing.

The Kumano Kodo is a massive network of many interlinked trails with a single destination, ancient holy sites — some of which are still standing!

The shrines of Hayatama, Hongu, and Nachi collectively form Kumano Sanzan, an area that was regarded as a cultural landscape.

Today, the trails are not only explored for their Buddhism and Shintoism significance, but also a place of supreme natural beauty that anyone can experience.

This region is also famous for its varied terrain, from lush forests to stunning shores, and it’s also home to the legendary Nachi Falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan.

NINE

Go Temple & Shrine Hopping

– Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are spread everywhere across the country and are among the best things to see in Japan.

If you’re not on a spiritual journey, then you’ll be in for some relaxing ambiance!

Kyoto is one of the best places to start as the town is dotted with hundreds of shrines most of which are listed by UNESCO World Heritage – all of which are charming in their architectural magnificence, art, and beautiful gardens.

TEN

Stay in a Capsule Hotel

– Capsule Hotel, Tokyo

Looking for an unusual and out of the ordinary hotel experience?

Capsule hotels are an unconventional way to spend your nights during your stay in Japan!

They may not be regarded as the pinnacle of relaxation, but they’re affordable, convenient, and provide enough privacy.

What an iconic way to spend a night in such a modernized country!

Capsule hotels are pod-like compartments stacked together — offering a no-frills experience as far as amenities and space go.

Most are equipped with basic amenities such as air conditioner, lighting, and an alarm clock.

ELEVEN

Spend a Day Binging on Ramen

– Tonkotsu Ramen

If you’re a foodie, you have every reason to crave the Japanese specialty — Ramen.

Although imported from China, this noodle soup meal has become one of Japan’s most popular dishes in recent decades.

There are countless variations of this delicacy but they’re typically categorized based on the soup.

Some of the most common soup bases include:

  • Shoyu (soy sauce)
  • Shio (salt)
  • Miso (soybean paste)
  • Tonkotsu (pork bone)

You’ll find thousands of ramen-ya (ramen shops) spread across every corner of the bustling Japanese streets.

What makes the dish a favorite among the locals and tourists alike is the fact that the meal is delicious yet affordable.

TWELVE

See Sumo Wrestlers in Action

– Japanese Sumo Wrestlers

Sumo is a form of traditional Japanese wrestling with cultural significance and strong ties to the Shinto religion. In ancient times, this nationally acclaimed sport was a way to entertain the deities.

There are tournaments in Tokyo every year in January, May, and September and they last for 15 days.

A sumo basho (tournament) is unmissable and it’s one of the best things to see in Japan!

When you compare it to contemporary wrestling matches, Sumo is a unique sport and interestingly entertaining to watch.

THIRTEEN

Find the Best Views of Mount Fuji

– Mt Fuji, Arakurayama Sengen Park

Mount Fuji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has an almost perfectly symmetrical peak, standing over 3700 meters above the sea level.

Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and among the most photographed landmarks in the world.

Hiking the mountain would be the best way to experience the charm of this iconic mountain, however, the hiking season is relatively short and only lasts between July to September.

Activities on Mount Fuji is not permitted during the snow season.

You don’t have to hike Mount Fuji to get the best views though — you can get really amazing photos as long as you know where the best views of Mount Fuji are!

Some of the best viewpoints include Arakurayama Sengen Park, Lake Kawaguchi near Oishi Park, Asagiri Kogen, and from the bullet train if you’re taking a ride from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka.

There are many tour options available if you just wanna get some snaps in without the planning!

FOURTEEN

Dine at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant

– Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku

If neon lights, bumpin’ loud music, and robotic performances sound like your kind of thing, you might want to consider visiting this “only in Japan” restaurant.

Situated in Shinjuku, the perfect place to enjoy some nightlife in Tokyo, Robot Restaurant opened in 2012 and has since earned a wild international reputation.

This themed restaurant is a spot for controlled madness, making it the perfect place to loosen up and humorously enjoy the Japanese culture.

FIFTEEN

Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

– Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

One of the most deadly attacks in the history of war and the first-ever atomic bombing, the city of Hiroshima was at the receiving end when the US launched a nuclear attack on August 6, 1945, instantaneously ending World War II.

Today, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum serves as a stark reminder of that tragic day.

There are displays of salvaged items and artifacts from the aftermath of the nuclear attack.

If you happen to visit in August, there’s a commemoration ceremony that takes place in the area every year on the 6th.

SIXTEEN

Visit the Ghibli Museum

– Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

At this whimsical museum, the best work by one of Japan’s greatest animation studio, Studio Ghibli, is showcased here.

Located on the outskirts of central Tokyo in Mitaka, some refer to the Ghibli Museum as the “Japanese Disney”.

Studio Ghibli has produced some noteworthy films with worldwide distribution. You may already be familiar with titles such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.

If you’re a fan of Ghibli’s work, this one of the must-sees in Japan.

Be sure to buy your tickets in advance as only a limited number are sold and they are hard to come by!

SEVENTEEN

Take a Day Trip to Universal Studios Japan

– Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

Relive the magic of Universal Studios, this time with a Japanese twist!

You’ll see amazing sights such as Hogwarts Castle towering over the park, familiar attractions like Jurassic Park, and Japanese exclusives like Hello Kitty.

No matter your age, this amusement park is a joy for all.

If you’re planning to visit, be sure to buy your tickets in advance and try to visit on a weekday.

Make the most of your trip here by getting an Express Pass instead of spending most of your day waiting in line!

EIGHTEEN

Eat Your Way Through the Streets of Osaka

– Street Food Stall, Osaka

From amazing street food favorites like Takoyaki and Japanese omelets to high-end restaurants, an Osaka food tour can satisfy all of your cravings.

If that’s not enough, immerse yourself further into the local Japanese food culture and take cooking lessons.

You’ll learn how to make Japanese staples such as ramen and sushi.

NINETEEN

Participate in a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

– Japanese green tea ceremony

What’s more traditional than a Japanese tea ceremony?

Not only do you get to experience and learn about the cultural significance of the ceremony but you also learn how to brew your own cup of tea artistically.

And no, it’s not as simple as just sitting down with your friends and having a spot of tea!

In Japan, it’s a choreographed ritual and a full-length formal ceremony typically lasts 4 hours.

TWENTY

Rip Through the Streets Mario Kart Style

– Go-karts on Shibuya st

If you’re a fan of Mario Kart or just looking for a thrill, then you need to add this to your list of must-do things in Japan.

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Dress up as your favorite Mario Kart character and explore the streets in go-karts that can reach up to 37 miles per hour!

TRAVELER TIP

Best Time to Travel When Visiting Japan

– Tokyo Skytree Tower

Springtime is an excellent time to plan your visit to Japan.

In early April cherry blossoms are in full bloom, transforming cities into artistic masterpieces.

Another benefit of visiting in the spring is the chances of precipitation are lower during these months.

Conclusion

Brimming with culture, history, and modern innovations, Japan is one of the most amazing places in the world to visit.

There’s so much to do, so much to see, and so much to eat that it’s just not possible to list out everything here!

We hope this list has helped you narrow down some things to do when you’re visiting Japan.

What activity are you most looking forward to? Do you have any juicy travel tips to share?

Let us know in the comments!

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