Japan is a dream destination with fascinating culture, mesmerizing landscapes, and an abundance of interesting attractions. Japan offers something for everyone, from soaring mountains to tranquil gardens and traditional villages.
Here are my favorite things to do in Japan that will make your vacation extraordinary!
Spend your night in a unique way
There’re so many exciting ways to spend your night in Japan, from traditional cultural experiences, such as staying at a temple or a ryokan, to more unique locations, like manga cafes or love hotels.
Staying in a ryokan lets you immerse into the culture of Japan. You can join tea ceremonies, wear yukata (casual summer kimonos), enjoy delicious regional cuisine prepared by local chefs, and relax in the natural hot springs nearby.
Temple lodgings are traditional Buddhist temples that offer overnight stays to travelers from all over the world.
They provide authentic experiences with insight into the spiritual aspects of Buddhism and daily life in Japan.
Capsule hostels offer individual capsules stacked together like bunk beds.
These capsules are designed with comfort and practicality, as each features light, power sockets, and a ventilation system.
They offer plenty of room for one person, so you’ll have enough space to stretch out and get some rest. Staying here also helps you save money and travel to Japan on a budget.
For those looking for an experience unlike any other, spending the night at a Manga cafe offers a fantastic opportunity to explore traditional Japanese culture in all its glory.
You can access private booths at these cafes and read manga or watch anime on large screens.
Love hotels are short-term rental rooms marketed towards couples seeking privacy for romantic encounters. They offer a unique stay that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Many of these accommodations include hot tubs, private bars, karaoke machines, video game consoles, and more.
Even if you travel solo to Japan, there’s nothing that can stop you from staying in one of the love hotels. So try it if you dare!
Dip in a Japanese hot spring
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Japan, don’t miss out on the chance to dip in a Japanese hot spring.
Known as an “onsen” in Japanese, these bathhouses are filled with soothing geothermal waters that will relax your body and leave you feeling rejuvenated.
You can expect to find both traditional and modern onsen across the country, each providing its unique feel and atmosphere.
Try Izakaya hopping
This traditional Japanese pastime is an incredible thing to do in Japan, giving you a full taste of the country’s culture and cuisine.
Izakaya restaurants are Japanese pubs that serve tasty snacks such as yakitori grilled chicken, edamame beans, and takoyaki octopus balls. Many also offer a wide range of beer, sake, and other drinks.
I recommend visiting multiple izakayas in one night, sampling the food and drinks from each place.
The best part about Izakaya hopping is that it’s affordable yet full of fun experiences. Moreover, izakayas also tend to be lively places filled with locals engaging in conversation or singing karaoke, making them great spots for people-watch.
Ride a Shinkansen (Bullet train)
A Shinkansen, also known as the bullet train, is a Japanese high-speed railway that has connected major cities since 1964.
It’s one of the fastest ways to travel from city to city in Japan and allows you to get from Tokyo to Osaka in just a few hours.
Riding a shinkansen provides an efficient way to explore more of Japan in less time, and you can experience traditional Japanese culture first-hand. You can use Japan Rail Pass to travel on Shinkansen without an extra fee.
You’ll feel like you’re part of something special when you step on board—the cars are quite comfortable and feature plenty of space for luggage.
Plus, vending machines on Shinkansens let you purchase snacks and beverages throughout your journey.
Spot a Geisha & dine with them
Dining with a geisha is an unforgettable experience that should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Japan.
Geishas are traditional female entertainers who excel in the arts of music, dance, conversation, and hospitality.
It can be challenging to spot a geisha in public as they often travel from one appointment to another while wearing traditional kimonos and face masks.
If you’re interested in having dinner with a geisha, there’re several ways to go about it.
The best option is to visit one of the traditional hanamachi districts in Kyoto or Tokyo, where you can book an exclusive meeting with a real geisha at their okiya (geisha house).
This experience includes a delicious meal while she entertains you with stories and songs. Check out these experiences:
Have fun at a Japanese photo booth
Photo booths are a fun way to explore Japan’s culture and make memories that will last a lifetime with their vibrant colors and entertaining props.
Photo booths are readily available throughout Japan at amusement parks and stand-alone locations.
They offer an opportunity to take pictures with your friends or family while wearing traditional clothing or accessories, usually for a small fee.
Wear a Kimono or Yukata
One of the most memorable things to do in Japan is wearing a traditional kimono or yukata.
They’re both fashionable and fun, and you can take beautiful photos that will make your friends at home jealous!
Kimonos are usually worn during special occasions such as festivals, weddings, and tea ceremonies.
Meanwhile, yukatas are typically worn during summer events like fireworks displays or just strolling around town on hot days.
These traditional Japanese garments come in many different colors and patterns, so you’ll surely find something that suits your style. Here are some helpful links:
View Mt. Fuji
Mount Fuji, located in the Fuji Five Lakes area of Japan, is a spectacular sight to behold. Standing at 12,388 ft and visible from Tokyo on a clear day, it’s no wonder that Mt. Fuji has been considered sacred for thousands of years.
For those looking to experience an unforgettable adventure in Japan, visiting Mt. Fuji should be at the top of their list!
For a hassle-free experience, you can book a Fuji day trip from Tokyo.
The best way to view this iconic mountain is by visiting one of the five lakes surrounding it: Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Saiko, Lake Shojiko, and Lake Motosu.
From any of these lakes, you can observe the grandeur of Mt. Fuji in all its glory.
Meet the snow monkeys
Jigokudani Monkey Park is great for spending an afternoon and enjoying nature at its finest.
Located on the edge of Nagano Prefecture, this park is home to some of Japan’s most beloved animals, the snow monkey.
A visit to this remarkable park will give you an up-close look at these snow monkeys playing in their natural habitat. You’ll get a chance to observe them while they bathe in hot springs and even feed them snacks. The views are breathtaking and make for great photo opportunities.
Dine at theme cafes & restaurants
Theme cafes and restaurants offer a unique experience, immersing you in anime, movie, or video game characters’ worlds.
These places are not just about the food but also the ambiance. They are filled with decorations that match the cafe’s or restaurant’s overall theme.
Located in Tokyo’s notorious Shinjuku district, this unique restaurant offers an experience like no other. You’re surrounded by a world of bright lights and loud music as robots perform exciting choreographed shows on stage.
Every show promises a unique visual overload that will leave you speechless with amazement.
Maid Cafés are themed cafés where waitresses are dressed as French maids and cater to their guests.
At Maid cafe, the waitresses will bow and welcome you as if entering a castle. They’ll also interact throughout your meal, smiling and laughing, creating a fun atmosphere.
The Ninja Cafe is full of mystery and fun. Its walls are lined with ninja artifacts such as swords, masks, and kunai daggers. You can even dress up in ninja costumes while you dine.
The menu features traditional Japanese dishes like sushi and tempura, plus some exciting twists like deep-fried ice cream rolls!
One of the most popular dishes is the green-themed Ninja Curry Rice, served with a special secret sauce.
Join a food tour
Food tours are the perfect way to get an inside look into Japanese culture and cuisine. You can sample traditional dishes from street food to high-end restaurants.
A typical Japanese food tour may include sampling ramen noodles in alleyways or visiting one of the bustling markets for some freshly made takoyaki (octopus balls).
But if you’re really after some top-notch sushi, there’re plenty of options too!
Japan offers some of the best skiing experiences in the world.
With its powdery snow and vast mountain ranges, Japan is a dream destination for skiers who want to take on new challenges.
Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure or a leisurely day out with family and friends, skiing in Japan is great.
The stunning scenery of the White Mountains and Mount Fuji will take your breath away as you ski down their slopes. The wide range of ski resorts also means that there’s something suitable for every skill level, with plenty of beginner-friendly runs available too!
See Sumo wrestling
Sumo wrestling is a traditional sport that dates back centuries and has become a symbol of Japanese culture.
Sumo wrestlers battle it out on the floor with only their strength and skill to rely on, making for an unbeatable spectacle.
Each match consists of two sumo wrestlers, called rikishi, who put their all into each bout until one is declared the winner.
The objective is simple: push your opponent out of the ring or make them touch the ground with any body part except their feet. The rules are strict yet flexible. They allow for head-to-head contact and emphasize respect and camaraderie between opponents.
Be amazed at the Shibuya crossing
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan and be amazed by its wonders, visiting the iconic Shibuya Crossing is a must-do.
Located in Tokyo’s bustling shopping area of Shibuya, this famous intersection has become synonymous with Japan and its culture.
With up to 2,500 people crossing the intersection every time the traffic lights change, it’s no wonder why it’s been nicknamed The Scramble.
From pedestrians weaving their way through the hustle and bustle of commuters from the nearby train station to local shops bursting with Japanese streetwear, Shibuya Crossing is a great way to explore Tokyo’s busy city life.
Try traditional Japanese tea ceremony
A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a ritualistic way of serving and drinking tea that has been around for centuries.
The ceremony is steeped in tradition, which makes it a great way to delve into Japanese culture.
The tea ceremonies are often held by a master known as an Otemae-shi. The Otemae-shi will show you the proper mannerisms and etiquette involved with partaking in the ancient activity.
Everything from how to sit properly while drinking tea to what kind of utensils should be used is explained during the ceremony.
Afterward, you can enjoy traditional Japanese sweet treats accompanying each green tea cup.
Take a cooking class
Cooking classes are available for all skill levels, from beginners who just want to learn basic recipes to more experienced cooks looking for something more specialized.
It’s a fantastic way to experience traditional Japanese cuisine first-hand.
You can even take sushi classes that will teach you how to create perfect pieces of sushi in the comfort of your home! Plus, there’s no need to worry if you don’t speak Japanese since many courses offer English lessons with translators available.
Visit temples and shrines
These sacred places are aesthetically pleasing and offer visitors a chance to gain insight into Japanese history, architecture, and religion.
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto)
Fushimi Inari Taisha is a grand shrine dedicated to the gods of rice and sake by the Hata clan in 711.
It has been an important religious site for over 1,000 years, and today many tourists come here to experience its beauty.
The Fushimi Inari Taisha is known for its thousands of bright orange torii gates that line up along pathways leading up to the mountain behind it. As you walk, you’ll discover numerous smaller shrines hidden around every corner.
Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto)
Kinkakuji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion, is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks and is a must-see for anyone.
Located in Kyoto, Kinkakuji Temple is a three-story structure covered in gold leaf. The grounds of Kinkakuji also feature beautiful gardens with koi ponds and ceremonial teahouses where you can enjoy tea ceremonies.
Senso-ji Temple (Tokyo)
Located in Asakusa, Senso-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and has been standing since 645 AD!
It’s home to many historical monuments, artworks, and relics that tourists flock to see.
This beautiful temple also boasts a five-story pagoda and unique architecture that will take your breath away.
See Nara deer
Living in Nara, the deer are considered sacred and have lived in this region since ancient times.
These animals have become a symbol not only of the town but also of the whole country itself.
Walking through the streets and parks near Todaiji Temple, you can easily spot these famous creatures.
It’s fun to watch them roam freely, and you can feed them with special treats sold at nearby souvenir stands.
Explore a Japanese castle
Castles were the homes of powerful samurais and lords in the old days, so they are an important symbol of Japan’s long and storied history.
Castles were also used as fortresses against enemies or rivals, making them even more interesting to explore today.
You can visit many castles in Japan. Hokkaido has the larger-than-life Matsumae Castle, while Osaka boasts the imposing Osaka Castle.
Each one offers something unique – from traditional architecture to awe-inspiring views from its walls and turrets.
Enjoy Hanami under cherry blossoms
Hanami is one of the most beautiful things to do in Japan, especially during springtime.
Every year millions of people come together to admire and appreciate the stunning sakura flowers that bloom for a few weeks.
Hanami usually takes place outdoors by picnicking under trees filled with these pretty white-pink petals.
You can enjoy this momentous event with friends and family. Remember to bring bento boxes, sake, beer, and other food items to share while taking in these breathtaking views.
Visit historical site
Visiting historical sites in Japan is an incredible experience. From ancient temples and shrines to modern attractions, there’re plenty of things to do in Japan that will give you a unique insight into the country’s past.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Located near the site of the world’s first atomic bombing attack, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is an important place of reflection and remembrance.
The park was established in 1955 and symbolizes peace and reconciliation.
The most iconic monument within the park is undoubtedly the Atomic Bomb Dome, which stands as a reminder of both human suffering and hope for a peaceful resolution between countries.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
Located in Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum commemorates the bombing that occurred on August 9th, 1945. It illuminates the effects of nuclear warfare on humanity.
It serves as a reminder to never repeat history and gives a unique insight into one of World War II’s most devastating events.
The palace was once home to the Japanese Emperor, but it’s now open to visitors worldwide.
When visiting this magnificent structure, you can walk around its grounds and admire its architecture. You will be able to find out more about Japan’s rich history while exploring its many halls and gardens.
Stroll Japanese gardens
Exploring Japanese gardens is one of the most incredible things you can do while in Japan.
These gardens are carefully designed and maintained artwork, providing a peaceful escape from busy city life.
Whether you’re looking to meditate or simply enjoy the beauty of nature, taking a stroll through one of these beautiful gardens will be an unforgettable experience.
Pachinko is a trendy game in Japan where you shoot small steel balls onto a playing field filled with pins, obstacles, and targets.
Depending on your skill level and luck, you can win various prizes when your balls drop into the designated prize holes.
Pachinko parlors vary in size from small family-run establishments to large multi-story venues featuring thousands of machines.
Typically, these parlors are filled with smoke and brightly colored lights that make the experience all the more exciting!
Buy Japanese snacks & coffee from vending machines
Japan has one of the world’s highest densities of vending machines, making it an incredible experience for any person.
You’ll have various options from a Japanese vending machine—including Japanese specialties such as Kit Kat bars, Pocky sticks, melon-pan bread, green tea lattes, and even hot ramen cups.
Not only will you be able to sample some delicious treats, but you will also get a glimpse into everyday life for locals.
Eat a convenience store meal
It’s a great way to explore the local cuisine without committing to spending hours in restaurants.
In addition to delicious snacks like onigiri, karaage chicken, and gyoza dumplings, convenience stores also have more complete meals such as ramen noodles, curry rice, and udon.
These meals are convenient because they’re easy to find, affordable, and can be eaten anytime – even late at night!
FAQs about things to do in Japan
What is Japan famous for?
Japan is a country steeped in culture, history, and tradition. It’s celebrated for its unique and diverse cuisine, as well as its many technological achievements. From ancient customs to modern-day wonders, countless things make Japan famous worldwide.
Are 2 weeks in Japan enough?
Two weeks may be sufficient for first-time visitors to get a taste of the country’s main attractions. This timeline allows you to explore urban cities like Tokyo and Osaka and more rural locations like Hiroshima or Niigata.
However, those who wish to dive deeper into Japanese culture may want more time for activities. For example, if you want to trek through national parks or immerse in local customs or festivals.
I hope the list of the best things to do in Japan above will help you plan your trip better. Let me know your Japan travel experience in the comment section.