Japan is one of the most fascinating and dynamic countries to visit, a country where it’s truly impossible to feel bored. You can pack so much into a one-week itinerary, or however much time you are lucky to spend there. Here are the top experiences you shouldn’t miss when in Japan.
Wear a Kimono
Leading up to your Japan trip, you can hardly contain your excitement. How much are your coworkers going to envy you when you post pictures of yourself sporting a traditional red Kimono with cherry blossom trees as your background? You arrive in Japan only to find out that this Japanese traditional garb doesn’t come cheap. In fact, these pictures will set you back thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, if you are looking to have this quintessential Japanese experience but don’t care about coming home with the kimono, you can manage this even on a tight budget. There are rental shops across Kyoto and Tokyo that allow tourists to rent kimonos, like Tansuya, which rents kimonos and yukatas out for ¥4,000 (approximately 37 USD). If you are still insistent on coming home with a kimono but can’t afford to shell out $2,000, consider buying one from a secondhand kimono shop. There are several of them strewn throughout Tokyo. One of the most popular shops is Sakaeya, located near JR Harajuku Station. They sell second-hand kimonos for as little as ¥5,000. They also rent out kimonos for ¥6,000, with the hassle-free experience also including a small tea ceremony and dressing assistance.
Visit a Themed Cafe
These cafes might be cheesy, but there is really no better city in which to visit a themed cafe than Tokyo. Tokyo is home to dozens of quirky cafes that only your wildest imagination could think up. We’re talking robot cafes, ninja cafes, Alice in Wonderland cafes, cat cafes, and dozens more. If you think that these experiences are only acceptable if you’ve got children, you are sorely mistaken. The cafes are a one-size-fits-all situation, and everybody can enjoy the experience.
Bathe in an Onsen
Visiting a public onsen is an absolute must when in Japan. There is no better and more relaxing way to start or end your day than by soaking in these hot springs. The waters are believed to contain healing components and we can assure you that they will at least relax your feet from all the walking you’re doing throughout the day!
Drink at a Tachinomi Izakaya Bar
Standing bars are widespread in Tokyo. Tachi, meaning stand, and nomi, meaning drink, invite patrons to drink in an intimate setting and among a vibrant crowd. The bars differ drastically from one to the next, with some laden with vintage posters and others sporting sleek and modern designs. The bars are fun, casual, and lively. Drink options range from beer to sake and shochu. The bars also offer a fair selection of small dishes which are designed to be shared with friends. Common dishes include grilled chicken and onion on skewers, edamame, and a tofu dish. For a true Tokyo drinking experience, join our bar-hopping night tour of Shibuya and allow a local expert to show you the way.
See Mount Fuji
Catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji is at the top of many Japanese bucket lists, and for good reason. Japan’s tallest mountain is an icon that has been recorded for thousands of years due to its imposing beauty and geographic significance. With prior preparation, you can choose to climb Mount Fuji, which takes hikers anywhere from 5-10 hours. For those interested, our handy guide lays out the routes you can take to travel from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. Alternatively, if you aren’t up for the arduous preparation, viewing the wonder from afar is a magical experience in and of itself.
Admire the Cherry Blossoms
Spring is the most popular time to visit Japan due to the blooming cherry blossoms – and tourists aren’t the only ones enjoying them. The Japanese have the word “Hanami”, which translates quite literally as “flower viewing.” During the cherry blossom season, Japanese people come together and enjoy the beautiful colors of nature. Popular hanami spots are in parks, gardens, castle grounds, and along rivers.
Take a Japanese cooking class
Taking a Japanese cooking class is the best way to explore delicious Japanese cuisine while discovering commonly used local ingredients. You’ll get hands-on instruction on how to prepare some classic dishes while also learning about Japan’s culture and history. Interactive Japanese cooking experiences can be found in Osaka, Tokyo, and Kyoto.
Catch a sumo match
Where else in the world can you watch a professional sumo wrestling match or training session? With sumo wrestling being the national sport of Japan and one which dates back 1,500 years, there’s no better place to watch it than here. Sumo tournaments take place every two months in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka but if don’t catch one of those, you can show up to one of the 45 sumo stables in Tokyo, to check out these guys in action.
Whisk Matcha in a Tea Ceremony
Love it or hate it, bitter green Matcha tea is an integral part of Japanese culture. Taste aside, there are other reasons to partake in a tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is a big part of Japanese culture and thus a great way to deepen your understanding of the country. You will learn about tea and its place in Japan’s history. The top place to experience the tea-drinking ceremony in Kyoto, where it all began.
Stay at a Ryokan
In Japan, you won’t find a lack of accommodation. Quite the contrary, you will have trouble choosing between the plethora of capsule hotels, high-end lodging, and unique experiences. But, when you think of the quintessential Japanese accommodation, what you are likely picturing is a ryokan. This traditional Japanese inn is characterized by its tatami floors, onsen, and sliding doors. Many of them include dinner and a yukata, a house kimono.