Japan, the land of the rising sun, is a fascinating country that effortlessly blends traditional customs with modern technology. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and scenic beauty, Japan offers something for everyone. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the top 10 things to do in Japan that you absolutely can’t miss. So grab your favorite travel gear, and let’s get started!
1. Marvel at the Beauty of Mount Fuji
No trip to Japan is complete without witnessing the iconic Mount Fuji. Standing at 3,776 meters, this stunning volcanic peak has inspired poets and artists for centuries. The best time to visit is from July to September, when the weather is perfect for hiking the Yoshida Trail. But if you’re not up for the climb, you can still admire Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the picturesque Fuji Five Lakes.
2. Explore the Ancient Capital of Kyoto
Kyoto is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history and culture. This ancient capital is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, including the breathtaking Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and the serene Ryoan-ji rock garden. Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll through the charming Gion district, where you might spot a geisha gracefully making her way to an appointment.
3. Get Lost in the Buzz of Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, offers a dizzying array of experiences. Start your day by exploring the sprawling Tsukiji Fish Market, where you can sample some of the freshest sushi in town. Then, head to the famous Shibuya Crossing, known as the busiest intersection in the world. In the evening, unwind at a traditional izakaya or take in the neon lights of Shinjuku’s entertainment district.
4. Discover the Peaceful Island of Miyajima
Just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima, Miyajima is an idyllic island known for its lush forests, friendly deer, and the iconic Itsukushima Shrine. This UNESCO World Heritage site appears to float on the water during high tide, and its striking red torii gate is one of the most photographed sites in Japan. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to hike Mount Misen for stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea.
5. Reflect on History in Hiroshima
Hiroshima, once devastated by the atomic bomb, has transformed into a vibrant and welcoming city. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, with its haunting A-Bomb Dome and thought-provoking Peace Memorial Museum, is a must-visit site for anyone looking to better understand this pivotal moment in world history. After paying your respects, be sure to try Hiroshima’s famous okonomiyaki, a savory pancake loaded with toppings.
6. Experience the Thrills of Universal Studios Japan
Located in Osaka, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is a world-class theme park that offers a thrilling day out for both kids and adults. Get your adrenaline pumping on roller coasters like The Flying Dinosaur, or immerse yourself in the magical world of Harry Potter at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Don’t forget to end your day with a spectacular night parade, featuring dazzling lights and your favorite characters.
7. Unwind in an Onsen Hot Spring
Japan is famous for its onsen, natural hot springs rich in minerals that are said to have healing properties. Whether you choose a traditional ryokan or a modern onsen resort, soaking in these soothing waters is a quintessential Japanese experience. Some of the best onsen towns include Hakone, Kinosaki, and Beppu. Before you go, be sure to read up on onsen etiquette, such as showering before entering the bath and keeping your hair out of the water. For more information on the best onsen towns in Japan, check out this helpful guide.
8. Savor Japan’s Culinary Delights
Japanese cuisine is a true art form, and there’s no better place to indulge in its many flavors than in Japan itself. From steaming bowls of ramen to delicate, expertly crafted sushi, there’s a dish to suit every palate. Be sure to try regional specialties like Hokkaido’s fresh seafood or Osaka’s takoyaki (octopus-filled street food). To learn more about Japan’s diverse food scene, visit Taste of Japan.
9. Attend a Traditional Tea Ceremony
One of the most iconic aspects of Japanese culture is the tea ceremony, a ritualized preparation and presentation of matcha green tea. Attending a tea ceremony allows you to experience the beauty of Japanese hospitality, as well as learn about the history and philosophy behind this ancient practice. There are many places across Japan where you can participate in a tea ceremony, such as Kyoto’s Camellia Tea Ceremony.
10. Wander Through the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama
Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a picturesque area famous for its towering bamboo grove. Walking through this enchanting forest feels like stepping into another world, with the sunlight filtering through the dense canopy of bamboo stalks. While you’re in Arashiyama, don’t miss the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a stunning zen garden.
11. Visit Nara, the Cradle of Japanese Culture
Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital, is home to some of the country’s most significant cultural treasures. The massive Todai-ji Temple houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, while Nara Park is known for its friendly deer population. For more information on what to see and do in Nara, take a look at the official Nara travel guide.
12. Witness the Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park
The Jigokudani Monkey Park, located in Nagano Prefecture, is a unique destination where you can observe Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, bathing in natural hot springs. The best time to visit is during the winter months when the area is blanketed in snow, creating a magical atmosphere. To learn more about the park and how to get there, visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park website.
13. Take a Scenic Train Ride on the Hakone Tozan Railway
The Hakone Tozan Railway is Japan’s oldest mountain railway, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside as it winds its way up the Hakone mountains. A popular day trip from Tokyo, this scenic train ride is particularly breathtaking during the spring cherry blossom season and autumn foliage. For more information on the Hakone Tozan Railway, including timetables and fares, check out Odakyu’s official website.
14. Explore the Northern Island of Hokkaido
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is known for its dramatic landscapes, abundant wildlife, and delicious seafood. The capital city of Sapporo hosts the famous Sapporo Snow Festival every February, showcasing intricate ice sculptures and snow slides. For more information on Hokkaido’s attractions and activities, visit the Hokkaido Official Tourism Website.
15. Immerse Yourself in the Art of Manga and Anime
As the birthplace of manga and anime, Japan offers countless opportunities for fans to dive deeper into these beloved art forms. In Tokyo, the Ghibli Museum showcases the work of Studio Ghibli, creators of films like “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” Meanwhile, the Kyoto International Manga Museum offers a vast collection of manga materials and hosts various workshops and events. Be sure to check their respective websites for admission details and opening hours.
From ancient temples and shrines to bustling cities and serene natural landscapes, Japan offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences. We hope our guide to the top 10 things to do in Japan has inspired you to start planning your trip to this incredible country. So grab your passport, brush up on your Japanese, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime. Sayonara!