Best Things to do in Japan

50 of the Best Things to do in Japan

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Konichiwa adventurers, culture enthusiasts, and seekers of the extraordinary! Let me tell you, Japan isn’t just a country; it’s a playground of endless fun! Picture this: sipping matcha at a traditional tea ceremony, feeling the adrenaline rush as you watch a thrilling sumo match, or even strolling through historic districts dressed head to toe in a dazzling kimono. These aren’t just activities, they’re unforgettable experiences waiting to be checked off your bucket list. So, join me as we unravel the 50 best things to do in Japan – a journey where every step feels like unlocking a new level of awesome!”

Here’s a list of 50 incredible things to do in Japan.

1. Climb Mount Fuji

Climbing Mount Fuji isn’t just about conquering Japan’s highest peak; it’s an iconic pilgrimage that rewards you with breathtaking sunrise views from the summit, offering an unforgettable glimpse into Japan’s majestic natural beauty and a sense of accomplishment that stays with you long after the descent.

2. Visit Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea

Visiting Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea isn’t just about amusement rides; it’s a magical immersion into a world where imagination knows no bounds, where nostalgia and wonder blend seamlessly, offering an enchanting escape for everyone, from wide-eyed children to the young at heart. Ticket prices vary, typically ranging from around ¥7,500 to ¥8,200 (approximately $70 to $75 USD) for a one-day pass for adults, with slight variations depending on the season and specific park.

3. Explore Kyoto’s Temples

Kyoto boasts over 1,600 shrines and temples, but two stand out as must-visits: Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha. These iconic sites offer a deep dive into Japan’s cultural heritage and architectural beauty amid Kyoto’s vast array of religious landmarks.

the Golden Pavilion Kinkakuji
the 1000-gate temple Fushimi Inari Taisha

4. Take a Traditional Tea Ceremony

Participating in a Traditional Tea Ceremony offers an immersive education in the delicate artistry of Japanese tea. It’s a cultural experience that goes beyond sipping a beverage; it’s a window into the deep-rooted traditions, etiquette, and serene rituals that define Japanese tea culture.

5. Attend a Sumo Match

Attending a Sumo Match provides a front-row seat to Japan’s revered traditional sport, where sheer power, ritualistic traditions, and centuries-old customs collide in a thrilling display of athleticism and cultural heritage. It’s a chance to witness firsthand the intensity and grandeur of this iconic Japanese sport.

6. Rent a Kimono

Renting a Kimono lets you step into Japan’s history, especially in iconic cities like Kyoto, Osaka, or Tokyo, where various rental shops offer a chance to wander historic districts adorned in traditional attire. It’s a fusion of past and present, as you explore these vibrant cities while wrapped in the elegance of Japan’s cultural heritage.

7. View Sakura Blossoms

Viewing Sakura Blossoms during springtime in Japan is a mesmerizing spectacle, painting the landscapes with delicate shades of pink and white. It’s an enchanting experience to witness these breathtaking cherry blossoms in full bloom, transforming parks, streets, and gardens into ethereal scenes straight out of a dream. Tip: check the official Japanese sakura forecast before planning your trip!

8. Stay at a Ryokan

A Ryokan offers an authentic immersion into Japanese culture, featuring tatami rooms, futon bedding, serene hot springs, and exquisite Kaiseki meals. It’s a tranquil escape where traditional hospitality and an appreciation for nature converge, providing a unique and memorable stay that embodies the essence of Japan.

9. Visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a poignant journey, inviting reflection on the devastating history of the atomic bombing while symbolizing a powerful commitment to peace. It’s a solemn yet hopeful experience, walking amidst memorials and the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, honoring the past while advocating for a peaceful future.

10. Explore Nara Deer Park

Exploring Nara Deer Park is like stepping into a fairytale where friendly deer roam freely among visitors. It’s an enchanting experience, feeding and interacting with these gentle creatures while marveling at the historical temples and serene nature that surrounds this unique and picturesque park.

Check out my Nara day trip guide for more details.

11. Hike the Nakasendo Trail

Hiking the Nakasendo Trail unveils a journey through time along this ancient highway, offering breathtaking vistas of Japan’s scenic landscapes and charming rural villages. It’s a step into history, tracing the footsteps of travelers from centuries past amidst nature’s picturesque beauty.

12. Take a Cooking Class

Taking a cooking class in Japan is a hands-on adventure, delving into the art of sushi, tempura, or ramen making. It’s a flavorful journey through Japanese cuisine, where expert instructors guide you in mastering the techniques behind these iconic dishes, offering not just a meal but a newfound culinary skill to savor long after the class ends.

13. Visit the Ghibli Museum

Visiting the Ghibli Museum is an enchanting ode to the imagination, a whimsical sanctuary celebrating the iconic works of Studio Ghibli. It’s a magical journey where art, animation, and storytelling intertwine, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the captivating world created by Hayao Miyazaki and experience the essence of Ghibli’s enchanting tales firsthand.

14. Relax in an Onsen

Relaxing in an Onsen is a rejuvenating escape into serenity, where mineral-rich thermal waters melt away stress amidst tranquil surroundings. It’s a timeless tradition, offering not just a soak in therapeutic hot springs, but a chance to unwind, rejuvenate the body, and find inner peace in the embrace of Japan’s natural healing waters.

15. Explore the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Walking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove offers a peaceful experience surrounded by towering bamboo. It’s a serene stroll through a unique natural setting, immersing you in the beauty of Japan’s lush landscapes. Highly recommend!

16. Witness Awa Odori

Joining the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima is an exciting dive into Japan’s cultural scene, where energetic dances and lively tunes set the streets ablaze. It’s a spirited celebration that brings together locals and visitors for an unforgettable dance-filled experience.

photo by Ville Misaki

17. Shop in Dotonbori, Osaka

Dotonbori in Osaka is not just a shopping district; it’s a lively hub where you can dive into a bustling mix of shops and restaurants. Neon lights, diverse storefronts, and a range of eateries make it a vibrant spot that truly embodies Osaka’s energetic lifestyle.

18. Experience Robot Restaurant in Tokyo

Checking out the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo is like stepping into a futuristic show with high-tech robots, neon lights, and lively music. It’s an unconventional and exciting experience that gives you a taste of Tokyo’s avant-garde entertainment.

19. Visit Himeji Castle

Visiting Himeji Castle offers a glimpse into Japan’s rich history with its well-preserved and stunning architectural design. It’s not just a castle visit; it’s an immersive step back in time, exploring the corridors and grounds of this iconic structure that stands as a testament to Japan’s feudal past.

20. Go Scuba Diving in Okinawa

Diving in Okinawa isn’t just about exploring underwater – it’s an exciting adventure where you get up close with colorful reefs and marine life. Whether you’re an experienced diver or a first-timer, Okinawa offers an unforgettable experience beneath the waves.

21. Explore the Pokémon Center

Exploring the Pokémon Center is a must for any Pokémon enthusiast. It’s not just a store; it’s a haven where Pokémon fans can immerse themselves in a world filled with exclusive merchandise, interactive displays, and the sheer joy of everything Pokémon. Whether you’re looking for unique collectibles or simply want to soak in the Pokémon atmosphere, this center is a paradise for fans of all ages.

22. Take a Bullet Train (Shinkansen)

Have you really been to Japan if you didn’t get one of their high-speed trains? As you glide at breathtaking speeds between cities, it’s an experience that not only gets you to your destination swiftly but also provides a thrilling taste of Japan’s cutting-edge technology and seamless travel experience.

23. Visit the Sapporo Snow Festival

If you visit Japan in winter, don’t miss the Sapporo Snow Festival – it’s an opportunity to be amazed by the artistry behind stunning ice sculptures that bring the city to life.

Sapporo Snow Festival, image by Tony Lin

24. Try Kaiseki Cuisine

Indulging in Kaiseki cuisine is a culinary journey that goes beyond a simple meal; it’s a meticulous and artful experience where each course tells a story of Japanese culinary heritage. It’s all about savoring the essence of Japan’s diverse flavors and culinary craftsmanship in a carefully curated multi-course feast.

25. Visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Visiting the Great Buddha of Kamakura is like stepping back in time to witness a colossal outdoor statue that holds significant cultural importance. This is your chance to appreciate the sheer scale and historical value of one of Japan’s iconic landmarks in Kamakura.

26. Attend a Matsuri (Festival)

A Matsuri is a vibrant Japanese festival that embodies local culture, spirituality, and community celebration. From the grand Gion Matsuri in Kyoto to the spirited Awa Odori in Tokushima and the luminous Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, each festival features unique traditions, lively dances, and ornate floats, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of regional heritage and community revelry.

27. Explore the Ogasawara Islands

Exploring the Ogasawara Islands is a journey into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where pristine landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and rich marine life coalesce. It’s not just an adventure; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the unspoiled beauty of this remote archipelago, with its unique flora and fauna, offering a glimpse into a natural paradise that has earned global recognition for its ecological significance.

28. Visit the Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani

Visiting the Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani offers a delightful spectacle as you witness these playful primates indulging in the soothing hot springs. It’s not just a wildlife encounter; it’s a charming experience that brings you face-to-face with the endearing antics of these snow-dwelling macaques, creating a heartwarming connection with nature in the picturesque setting of Jigokudani.

29. Learn Calligraphy or Ikebana

Participating in Calligraphy or Ikebana workshops is an enriching immersion into traditional Japanese arts. It’s more than just learning new skills; it’s a hands-on experience that allows you to delve into the elegance of brush strokes or the art of floral arrangement, unlocking the essence of Japanese aesthetics and cultural expression. These workshops not only provide practical insights but also offer a deeper appreciation for the artistic heritage woven into Japan’s cultural fabric.

30. Explore the Ueno Park and Zoo

Exploring Ueno Park and Zoo is a leisurely escape into a beautiful park setting, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and wildlife discovery. It’s not just a visit; it’s a chance to meander through serene gardens, enjoy picturesque landscapes, and, if you fancy, engage with the diverse array of animals at the zoo. Ueno Park provides a tranquil oasis in the heart of Tokyo, making it an ideal destination for those seeking both natural beauty and a touch of urban wildlife adventure.

31. Go Fruit Picking

Embarking on a fruit-picking adventure in Japan offers a delightful hands-on experience with nature’s bounty. It’s not just about harvesting fresh, seasonal fruits; it’s a sensory journey where you can taste the sweetness of each moment while surrounded by picturesque orchards. From succulent strawberries in spring to juicy peaches in summer and crisp apples in autumn, fruit picking provides a unique and flavorful way to connect with Japan’s agricultural abundance throughout the changing seasons.

32. Visit the Osaka Castle

Visiting Osaka Castle is a journey into Japan’s storied past, standing tall as a historic and iconic landmark. The castle’s impressive presence invites visitors to step back in time and witness the enduring legacy of this significant symbol in Japan’s history. You can also book a photoshoot at Osaka Castle or other areas of Osaka to capture the perfect travel memories.

33. Explore the Okunoshima Island (Rabbit Island)

Exploring Okunoshima Island, affectionately known as Rabbit Island, is an endearing adventure where you can encounter the island’s charming residents – hundreds of friendly rabbits. You can rent a bike and watch these fluffy inhabitants freely roam the island, creating a unique and delightful atmosphere. Okunoshima invites visitors to connect with nature and enjoy the company of these adorable creatures in a setting that feels like a storybook come to life.

34. Take a Cruise on Lake Ashi

Taking a cruise on Lake Ashi is a scenic voyage that unveils breathtaking views of Mount Fuji. It’s not just a boat ride; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Japan, surrounded by serene waters and the iconic silhouette of Mount Fuji in the backdrop. This leisurely cruise offers a unique perspective of the picturesque landscape, creating a tranquil and memorable experience as you sail across the crystal-clear waters of Lake Ashi.

35. Learn Martial Arts

Embarking on a martial arts journey in Japan is a dynamic and immersive experience, where you can take lessons in disciplines like judo, kendo, or karate. It’s not just about physical training; it’s an opportunity to delve into the rich traditions and philosophies that underpin these martial arts. Whether you’re honing your self-defense skills or seeking a cultural exploration, these lessons provide a unique window into the discipline, respect, and mental fortitude embedded in Japan’s martial arts heritage.

36. Visit the Shikisai-no-Oka Flower Fields in Biei

Visiting the Shikisai-no-Oka Flower Fields in Biei is a feast for the eyes, immersing you in the vibrant tapestry of beautiful flower landscapes. It’s not just a stroll; it’s an enchanting experience where meticulously arranged fields burst into a riot of colors, creating a breathtaking panorama. The flower fields offer a picturesque escape, inviting visitors to revel in the natural beauty of Biei and savor the tranquility that blooms in every petal of this captivating floral haven.

37. Explore the Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Discovering the Toei Kyoto Studio Park is like entering the vibrant realm of samurai films. It’s more than a visit; it’s an opportunity to traverse Edo-period streets, meticulously reconstructed to bring the cinematic world to reality. With interactive performances and authentic sets, the park offers a unique chance to immerse yourself in the captivating allure of Japan’s historical samurai culture, providing insight into the artistry behind these iconic films.

38. Experience a Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Experiencing a stay in a capsule hotel is more than just finding a place to rest; it’s a unique accommodation experience that immerses you in the innovative and efficient design of Japan. Nestled in compact capsules, these hotels redefine the traditional lodging concept, offering a cozy and futuristic retreat. Capsule hotels can be found across major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, providing not just a night’s stay, but an opportunity to embrace modern Japanese hospitality and witness firsthand the blend of space-saving functionality and comfort that characterizes this distinct style of accommodation.

39. Visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum

Checking out the Hakone Open-Air Museum isn’t your typical museum visit; it’s a cool experience where sculptures and art installations dot the outdoor landscape. It’s like strolling through an open-air gallery, offering a unique blend of creativity and nature in the beautiful surroundings of Hakone.

40. Explore the Iya Valley

Exploring the Iya Valley is a journey into stunning natural beauty, where lush landscapes and pristine rivers carve through picturesque terrain. It’s not just a visit; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the unspoiled charm of Japan, characterized by deep gorges, lush greenery, and traditional vine bridges. The Iya Valley invites travelers to witness a serene and breathtaking side of Japan, providing a tranquil escape into nature’s embrace.

41. Take a Rickshaw Ride

Taking a rickshaw ride is not just a mode of transportation; it’s a stylish exploration of historic districts that adds a touch of vintage charm to your journey. Glide through cobblestone streets and centuries-old neighborhoods as your rickshaw puller becomes a storyteller, sharing tales of the past. You can enjoy this unique experience in various historic districts across Japan, such as Kyoto, Tokyo, and Kanazawa, offering a personalized tour that effortlessly blends tradition with modern comfort.

42. Visit the Aokigahara Forest (Suicide Forest)

Visiting the Aokigahara Forest, often referred to as the Suicide Forest, requires a respectful approach. Nestled at the base of Mount Fuji, this unique natural setting demands sensitivity due to its association with tragic events. Exploring Aokigahara Forest requires a mindful and considerate attitude, recognizing its cultural and historical significance while respecting the memories of those who have been affected.

43. Learn Taiko Drumming

Learning Taiko drumming goes beyond music; it’s a hands-on dive into the world of traditional Japanese drumming. With each strike, you connect with centuries-old traditions, feeling the resonance. Whether you’re a music enthusiast or eager for a cultural adventure, Taiko drumming classes provide a unique chance to experience the force and energy of this ancient art form, creating a rhythmic link to Japan’s rich heritage.

44. Visit the Todai-ji Temple in Nara

Delve into Nara’s history by visiting Todai-ji Temple, home to a colossal Buddha statue. This experience goes beyond a typical temple visit, offering a captivating encounter with architectural grandeur and spiritual significance. The Todai-ji Temple invites you to marvel at the giant Buddha, providing a profound and culturally enriching experience amid the serene surroundings of Nara.

45. Explore the Odaiba district in Tokyo

Discover Tokyo’s Odaiba district, where futuristic architecture harmoniously converges with entertainment. This is a journey through a vibrant blend of cutting-edge design and captivating attractions, inviting you to witness architectural marvels and indulge in entertainment hubs. Odaiba creates a dynamic experience where modernity seamlessly merges with the spirit of innovation in the heart of Tokyo.

46. Attend a Geisha Performance

Witness traditional Japanese entertainment by attending a Geisha performance, an experience not to be missed. Whether in Kyoto’s historic Gion district, Tokyo’s cultural enclaves, or other designated venues, these shows offer a unique opportunity to appreciate the artistry and refinement of Geisha, showcasing centuries-old traditions in the heart of Japan.

47. Visit the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Explore the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens for a scenic escape in the heart of Kobe. This botanical haven showcases vibrant herbs and flowers, providing a tranquil setting to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings. It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking a pleasant and relaxed experience in Kobe.

48. Explore the Ise Grand Shrine

Discover the cultural and spiritual richness of Japan by exploring the Ise Grand Shrine, one of the country’s most important Shinto shrines. The sacred grounds and architecture reflect centuries of religious significance, inviting you to immerse yourself in the traditions of Shintoism. The Ise Grand Shrine provides a serene and contemplative atmosphere in the heart of Ise, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of Japan’s cultural heritage.

49. Take a Sake Brewery Tour

Embarking on a Sake Brewery Tour is an educational journey delving into Japan’s renowned rice wine. This experience goes beyond tasting; it’s an opportunity to witness the meticulous process of sake production, from rice cultivation to fermentation, offering insights into the country’s rich brewing traditions. Whether you’re a sake enthusiast or a novice, a sake brewery tour provides a unique chance to savor the flavors and deepen your appreciation for Japan’s celebrated beverage. You can go on a sake adventure in many different cities across Japan, including Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe or Nara.

50. Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market

Explore the vibrant world of seafood commerce by visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market. This immersive experience takes you through rows of fresh catches, lively transactions, and the energetic atmosphere that defines one of Tokyo’s culinary hubs. The Tsukiji Fish Market invites you to witness the pulse of seafood trade, providing a sensory adventure where the sights, sounds, and flavors of the ocean come to life in the heart of Tokyo.

Conclusion

As you can see, Japan is like a treasure chest bursting with cultural gems and thrilling adventures – and we’ve just cracked it open!

From dancing cherry blossoms to the thunderous excitement of sumo matches, every experience is a brushstroke on the canvas of this vibrant nation.

Whether you’re sipping matcha in Kyoto, roaming the bustling streets of Dotonbori, or riding the Shinkansen like a high-speed ninja, Japan’s got something for every adventurer.

And hey, if this whirlwind of excitement has you craving more, hop on a ferry and let the adventures continue in Korea!

I hope this journey sparked your wanderlust – for more travel tales and handy tips, keep the adventure alive with Linda Goes East!

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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