Exploring the myriad of activities in Japan offers travelers a unique blend of cultural, historical, and modern experiences. From the serene beauty of traditional tea ceremonies to the bustling energy of Tokyo’s technology hubs, Japan presents a diverse range of activities that cater to every interest. This exploration delves into the various activities in Japan, showcasing the country’s rich heritage and cutting-edge innovation.
Top Activities You Should Try In Japan
1. Maiko & Geiko Performance
When visiting Kyoto, experiencing the geisha tradition and watching a maiko performance are must-do activities. There are several options to see these performances, ranging from budget-friendly to more expensive choices. The most affordable way is to visit Gion Corner, where you can enjoy a variety of traditional arts performed by maiko in just 45 minutes.
If you’re in Kyoto during April, you’re in luck; you can watch the Miyako Odori, an outdoor performance, for free. For a more comprehensive experience, consider booking a private or group dinner show with maiko and geisha, which is pricier but offers a unique, memorable experience. To deeply understand geisha culture and other traditional aspects of Japanese culture, hiring a private guide in Kyoto is recommended. A guide will take you through the most fascinating and lesser-known spots of Japan’s ancient capital.
Japan is often considered the top destination for hot springs, thanks to its location in the Ring of Fire. This means you can find natural hot springs, or onsen, in every region. These springs are filled with minerals that can help heal various physical issues, like joint and muscle pain, and even improve skin health. Bathing in these springs is not only good for your body but also very relaxing. It’s particularly enjoyable when combined with a stay in a traditional Japanese inn, known as a ryokan.
Moreover, visiting an onsen during the winter is a fantastic experience, especially after skiing or snowboarding. Imagine warming up in a steamy outdoor spring while the cool air brushes your face, a perfect way to end a day on the slopes.
Traveling in Japan, you’ll find different types of hotels. Business hotels are budget-friendly and great for big cities like Tokyo or Osaka. But, it’s a good idea to include at least one night in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.
Staying in a ryokan is a unique experience, showcasing the best of Japanese hospitality. You’ll enjoy exceptional service, luxurious meals made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and a relaxing onsen-style bath along with a private bathroom. Many guests who stay for just one night find themselves so relaxed and content in their luxury ryokan that they often choose to spend most of their time there, soaking in the tranquil atmosphere.
4. Sushi Making
While eating at a top sushi restaurant in Japan is a must, participating in a sushi-making workshop is also a fantastic experience. These classes are often taught by professional sushi chefs who share insights about sushi’s history, traditions, and its cultural importance. They also offer tips on making sushi at home. If you plan to try making sushi yourself, consider buying a high-quality Japanese knife, which makes preparing sushi much easier.
If you’re unsure about what to buy for making sushi at home, think about hiring a private guide in Tokyo for a half-day. A guide can help you shop for the right tools, provide advice, and overcome any language challenges.
5. Sumo Watching
Sumo wrestling is a captivating Japanese sport, rich in tradition. Watching the ceremonial rituals and the thrilling, brief matches is fascinating. You have a few options to see sumo in action: visit a sumo stable for a morning practice, catch a sumo tour, or attend a grand tournament match. No matter how you choose to watch these impressive wrestlers, it’s bound to be an unforgettable experience!
6. Kimono Rental
Kimono, the colorful traditional Japanese garments, are a beautiful choice for anyone, regardless of age or background. When visiting historic parts of Japan, both local and international tourists often enjoy wearing a rented kimono. Walking around scenic areas like Asakusa in Tokyo, Kamakura and Kawagoe near Tokyo, and Gion in Kyoto in a kimono, and taking lovely photos, is a popular activity.
With many rental shops available, finding the right place can be overwhelming, but we’ve got an article recommending the best kimono rental places. Also, if you’re on a private tour and wish to wear a kimono, just let your guide know – they’ll be happy to help!
7. Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing)
Balancing your time between city attractions and natural beauty can make your Japan trip even more special. Japan is full of stunning natural landscapes, and it’s hard to choose where to go! If you love nature, try shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. This activity involves spending time in a forest to relax and rejuvenate. Even big cities like Tokyo and Osaka have green spaces for a quick nature fix.
But for a full experience, it’s best to venture out of the city. A great option is our Kurama & Kibune Private Trekking Tour in the Sacred Forest, near Kyoto. This tour offers a chance to enjoy forest bathing while also learning about Japanese culture.
There are many chances to enjoy city views from the water in Japan. A yakatabune ride, which is a traditional boat adorned with red lanterns, offers a unique experience. During this two-hour journey, you can savor delicious Japanese food and drinks while taking in the scenery. For an extra special experience, you can even hire a geisha for traditional entertainment. To make the experience even more memorable and for great photos, consider renting a kimono for the occasion.
Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is about enjoying peace in forested areas, while hiking offers the thrill of a challenge with the reward of stunning views from a summit. Japan boasts some of the world’s most beautiful hiking spots.
With so many great trails, it’s tough to decide where to begin. Top choices include the scenic Kamikochi highlands, the spiritual paths of Koyasan, and the traditional landscapes of the Kumano Kodo. And of course, there’s Mt. Fuji, Japan’s iconic mountain. Hiking Mt. Fuji is especially memorable if you reach the summit in time to watch the sunrise.
10. Izakaya Hopping
For many travelers, tasting local food is a big reason to visit Japan. Izakayas, or Japanese-style gastropubs, are perfect for this. These places serve a variety of small dishes that are easy to share, letting you try many flavors in one meal.
They also offer different Japanese drinks like sake, shochu, beer, and tea. If you’re unsure where to begin, consider booking an izakaya hopping tour with a local guide. This way, you don’t have to worry about understanding Japanese menus. Instead, you can just enjoy good food and company, while your guide leads you through the hidden streets of Shinjuku.
Pre-Departure: Preparing for Your Visit to Japan
Preparing for your trip to Japan involves several important steps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here’s a simplified guide:
- Check Passports and Visas: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your trip’s end date and has enough blank pages for visas. Depending on your nationality, you might not need a tourist visa for short visits, but always verify with the Japanese Embassy.
- Learn Basic Japanese Phrases: While many Japanese people speak some English, learning a few Japanese phrases can enrich your experience. Don’t worry if you’re not fluent; any effort to speak the language is often appreciated.
- Consider a Japan Rail Pass: This pass offers unlimited travel on most JR trains, including the shinkansen (bullet train), for 7, 14, or 21 days. It’s great for multiple long-distance journeys but evaluate if it aligns with your travel plans.
- Carry Enough Yen: Japan is predominantly a cash society, especially in smaller establishments and rural areas. It’s safer to bring more cash than usual. You can exchange money at airports and in major cities, and international cards are increasingly accepted at ATMs in convenience stores.
- Pack Lightly: Traveling with just a backpack and a small suitcase makes navigating Japan’s trains and crowded stations easier. Remember, trains have limited luggage space, and you’ll want extra room for shopping.
- Remember Essential Items: Don’t forget your passport, yen, suitable clothing, a small towel, hand sanitizer (as some public restrooms lack these), travel adaptors for Japan’s 2-pronged outlets, and small gifts from your home country for hosts or guides.
- Rent Pocket Wi-Fi: Since free Wi-Fi isn’t widely available, renting a pocket Wi-Fi device can keep you connected. Order in advance and pick it up at the airport or your first hotel. You can also consider renting a Japanese phone or SIM card.
- Download Helpful Apps: Enhance your travel experience with useful apps. Google Translate can help with language barriers, while a Japanese-English dictionary app is handy for quick word references. Use Hyperdia for train routes and timetables and Google Maps for navigation.
In conclusion, Japan offers an array of captivating activities that cater to every interest, whether it’s exploring ancient temples, enjoying vibrant city life, indulging in exquisite cuisine, or immersing oneself in the natural beauty of its landscapes. This rich diversity makes Japan an endlessly fascinating destination for travelers seeking both cultural depth and adventurous experiences.