Japan is a place quite like no other. Despite being one of the most high-tech countries in the world, the ancient Japanese culture lingers, and is still present today. Japan is home to deliciously delicate cuisine, quirky habits and UNESCO World Heritage listed sites. Whether you’re planning to explore historic temples and shrines, sip green tea and relax in onsens, or you’re hoping to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, there’s so much to see!
Here we’ve compiled a list of our must-do activities whilst you tour the Land of the Rising Sun.
Visit Tsujiki fish market
Tsujiki is the biggest, and most famous fish market in not only Japan, but the entire world. With over $14 million dollars worth of seafood sold daily, it’s well worth checking out. Remarkably, entry is free, however to ensure you do get in, it’s advised you arrive as early as 3.00am. Flash photography is strictly prohibited in the main auction area, as forklifts are in use, and it interferes with the bidders. Just note that the market is closed on Sundays and some Wednesdays.
Drive your favourite Mario Kart through Tokyo
Live out your childhood dreams by cruising through the streets of Shinagawa in a go-kart, dressed as your favourite Mario character. ‘MariCar’ is a Japanese company which specialises in kart tours through parts of Tokyo. In order to partake, customers must have a Japanese license, or an international driver’s permit, or an SOFA licence for US forces.
Explore Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples
Shinto and Buddhism are the two major religions practiced in Japan. As a result, the country is dotted with places of worship, and each is more breathtaking than the next. In total, there are 8 shrines and temples throughout Japan that are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. No trip to Japan is complete without visiting them!
Travel via shinkansen
A great (and safe) way to take in the scenery whilst travelling through Japan is to travel via shinkansen. Commonly known as bullet trains, shinkansens get up to speeds of over 200 kilometres. Remarkably, in its fifty years of operation, there’s never been an accident or death.
Take on the Yamanote Pub Crawl
A fantastic way to pack sight-seeing and drinking into a day in Tokyo, is to embark on the Yamanote Pub Crawl. The Yamanote line is the circular, overground railway track in Tokyo, which comprises 29 stations. Each station has a number of services and establishments within its gates. The only rule? Don’t leave the stations. Tip: the most budget-friendly way to do the Yamanote Pub Crawl, is to get off in the same station you bought your ticket!
Watch a sumo wrestling match
Sumo wrestling is the national sport of Japan. It originated in ancient times, as a form of Shinto ritual. The rules of sumo are simple: the first wrestler to successfully force the other out of the ring wins. There are three sumo tournaments per year. Each are for fifteen days through January, May and September.
Visit Mt. Fuji
Standing at 3776 metres, Mt. Fuji is Japan’s largest mountain. Visually, the active volcano which last erupted in 1707, appears perfectly shaped, and has long-since provided inspiration for artists. Many travellers hike Mount Fuji, which generally takes 6 hours. In winter, Mt. Fuji is also home to numerous ski resorts.
Shop in Harajuku
Harajuku is a play-ground for shopaholics. Not only are there stores and boutiques galore, but Harajuku is home to Japan’s most eccentric fashion scene. Even if you’re not interested in stocking up on clothes and quirky souvenirs, it’s well worth checking out the latest ‘trends.’
Wander through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s biggest attractions, and rightly so. It is one of the most photographed areas of the city, but don’t let the crowds deter you. Visitors can enjoy a stroll through the towering bamboo stalks, which produce a feeling of peace and tranquility like no other.
Sing your heart out in Karaoke
Karaoke originated in Japan, and it is one of the nation’s favourite past-times. There are bars and venues dedicated to karaoke, where you can rent a private room with friends and scroll through catalogs to find your favourite songs. You will often be assigned a waiter who will deliver you drinks as you sing, and some venues will offer all-you-can-drink (nomihōdai) deals. Karaoke bars are typically open from 11.00pm until 3.00am.
Ski or snowboard in Niseko
From December to April, skiers and snowboarders alike flock to Niseko for the season. Niseko averages around 15 metres of snow each winter, and is world famous for its quality and consistent powder.
Relax in an onsen
Natural hot springs (onsens) are highly popular throughout Japan. Owing to the natural minerals dissolved in the water, onsens are relaxing for the body, mind and spirit. Onsens are essentially public baths, and in order to enter them, one must be naked. Often, there will be segregated male and female bathing options. Perhaps the most important rule upon entering an onsen, is to wash thoroughly beforehand (come prepared with soap, shampoo and a towel). They are for soaking not washing.