Time zone: Japan Standard Time (GMT+9)
Best to visit: March – May, September – November
If you want to travel to Japan, you have to prepare your trip in detail, otherwise, you will find yourself having to pass on many destinations or things to do. The country offers such a diverse array of things to do, all finding their places of a top travellers list, that you might be overwhelmed with the choices you have.
To save you time and effort, we documented the top things to do and destinations in Japan, as it is the land where everything works, the land of convenience, the land of food, the land of permeates through every part of society and culture. So, here are the top things to enjoy in Japan!
- Enjoy the food
When it comes to food, Japan is in a league of its own. The cuisine might seem minimalist and simple, but you should know it takes time, effort and artistry to create flavourful dishes with only a few ingredients. And, when in Japan, you need to try the country’s essence in cuisine, sushi.
- Travel by train
Japan has some of the fastest and most efficient trains, but they still have paper posters pegged up on their Tokyo subway. The Japanese have found an ingenious way of blending modern with the traditional, so make sure you take the train and enjoy.
- Stay in a traditional inn
As Japan is a top world destination, hotels will be crowded and may be fully booked in advance, so make sure you pre-book your accommodation. Doing so is also a matter of respect, a trait that Japanese people are very fond of. If you have the chance, book a few nights in a ryokan, a traditional inn, and enjoy the often-included amazing meals for an authentic experience.
- Go to a sumo fight
Admittedly the sumo fights lack the drama of Muay Thai, but like Thai kickboxing, it’s the pre/post-game rituals that are fascinating to watch. And there is something both traditional and deeply Japanese about this sport which you need to experience. You can find fairly cheap and easy to score tickets on the day for matches.
- Visit the statue in Kyoto
Built as a memorial for the Japanese who gave their lives in the Pacific War, the Ryōzen Kannon temple features a gigantic statue on its roof, the statue being 24 meters high and 500 tons in weight.
- Admire the architecture
You will love and appreciate the beautiful presentation of the absolutely everything in Japan, from the architecture to the way bento boxes are wrapped in a napkin tied in a knot.
- Do something different
Japan is a country where there is no such thing as bizarre, so if you’re into experimenting or want to appreciate a unique experience, go to The Robot Restaurant, the most insane show we’re ever seen and drive a go-kart around Tokyo dressed as Mario characters on the Maricar trip.
- Check out the top destinations
Tokyo is the best in modern Japan. This huge city has incredible food, diverse neighbourhoods and crazy experiences. Kyoto is the best traditional Japan destination, with many stunning temples to explore. Takayama is a smaller and quieter alternative for traditional Japan, with a beautiful historic centre of preserved wooden houses.
Hakone is where you can explore Mount Fuji, with all its lakes, onsets and fun transport options like pirate ships. Fujiyama might be the world’s most perfect volcano and probably the most famous one. The Japanese revere it and countless generations of artists have dedicated a big portion of their work to render their impression of Fuji-san.
Nikko city offers stunning temples in the forest. Nikko could be visited as a day trip from Tokyo. You can visit the moving peace memorial that commemorates the atomic bombing in Hiroshima.
- Explore Japanese history
Japan, as we know it today, is the product of modernity, but the country has an impressive history. Different clans had been feuding over their territory for two millennia and longer. One of the most well-known aspects of Japanese history is the so-called Nara-period. This is a period where Buddhism took hold in Japan, between 710 and 794 AD. Nara had been the capital of Japan and many great buildings from that time survived the ages. Also, Nara is famous for the many tame deer that stroll around the streets and parks of the city. You can visit the city on a day trip from Kyoto.
- Visit Miyajima island
Miyajima island is located in the Japanese Inland Sea and it is home to one of the most famous shrines in Japan. The setting is perfect and thousands of tourists come here to catch the Instagram-perfect pictures.
- Enjoy a thermal bath
Japan is home to 10.000 natural hot springs. You can go to Beppu, a city which is fabled for its many hot springs, and even though a part of them are too hot or too sulphurous to bath in, they form a sort of amusement park called “The hells”. Moreover, you can even have a volcanic sand bath here. You need to be aware though because most Onsen is little else but bathhouses. You shouldn’t expect a western spa experience, but rather an authentic experience of the Japanese culture.
These are the most appreciated things to do when in Japan, but the list goes on. It might seem like a lot, but if you plan a thorough journey, you will be able to visit everything you planned. Japan is certainly a country you must visit at least once in your life.