23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

There is no other country on earth quite like Japan. Also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, it is a place where ancient traditions mix harmoniously with modernity, and every corner reveals something of the extraordinary.

A place of gorgeous landscapes, vibrant cities, cutting-edge technology and a fascinating culture, Japan is a country you really need to take the time to explore. However, if you don’t have that much time at your disposal, you are going to need to prioritise what you see and where you go.

The problem is, in a country with so many sites, attractions and places of interest, how do you do that?

Well, allow us to provide you with some inspiration with our list of 23 unforgettable things to do in Japan.

1. See the Cherry Blossom Trees in Kyoto

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

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During the spring months, Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms – or sakura – paint the country in magnificent hues of pink and white.

Kyoto, complete with its rich cultural heritage, is the perfect backdrop for this natural spectacle. Head to Maruyama Park for a classic hanami experience, where locals and tourists gather under the blooming trees to celebrate the fleeting beauty of the blossoms.

Make sure you go to the illuminated Higashiyama district at night, as it adds a magical touch to the experience.

2. Explore Tokyo’s Akihabara District

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

If you are a fan of Japan’s pop culture and electronics, you’ll want to make your way over to Tokyo’s Akihabara district.

This vibrant neighbourhood is a mecca for anime and manga enthusiasts, comprising countless speciality shops, themed cafes and electronic stores. So, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the bustling energy of an area where futuristic trends collide with traditional otaku culture.

3. Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

Nestled on the slopes of Mount Inari, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a captivating complex of vibrant orange torii gates.

The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and agriculture and invites visitors to walk through a mystical tunnel of gates that leads to the mountaintop. The panoramic views of Kyoto from the summit and the serene atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for those seeking spiritual and scenic experiences. You’ll definitely take loads of photos.

4. Relax in an Onsen in Hakone

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

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Hakone is a hot spring located near Tokyo that offers visitors a serene escape into nature. You should take the opportunity to unwind in traditional Japanese ryokans (inns) and soak in the rejuvenating waters of the Onsens against the backdrop of verdant landscapes.

Whilst in the area, you should also check out The Hakone Open Air Museum. It showcases contemporary sculptures against the backdrop of the Hakone mountains, providing you with a unique blend of art and nature.

5. Experience Traditional Tea Ceremony in Uji

Japan is famous for its tea culture, and you can immerse yourself in it by visiting Uji – an area renowned for its high-quality matcha (green tea).

There, you can participate in a traditional tea ceremony to understand the intricate rituals and aesthetics associated with this ancient practice.

Once you’ve had your fill of tea, be sure to check out The Byodoin Temple – an ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site that will enchant you.

6. Wander through the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, you’ll find the enchanting bamboo grove of Arashiyama. It is worth coming here because as the sunlight filters through the towering bamboo stalks, the atmosphere becomes otherworldly.

Make sure you take a stroll through this natural wonder. Also, don’t forget to explore the nearby Iwatayama Monkey Park – where you can interact with wild monkeys against the backdrop of the picturesque Arashiyama hills.

7. Discover History in Hiroshima and Miyajima

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

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During your time in Japan, it is worth paying homage to Hiroshima, a city forever marked by the events of World War II.

Be sure to check out the Peace Memorial Park and Museum whilst there to gain insights into the devastating impact of the atomic bomb. You should also take the opportunity to catch a ferry to Miyajima Island to see the iconic ‘Floating Torii Gate’ at the Itsukushima Shrine – a symbol of harmony between humans and nature.

8. Indulge in Street Food in Osaka

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

If you love food, you’ll want to head over to Osaka, which is often referred to as the ‘Kitchen of Japan’.

Regarded as a paradise for food lovers, you can dive into the vibrant street food scene in districts like Dotonbori, where you can savour local delicacies such as takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) and freshly grilled yakitori (skewered chicken).

9. Marvel at Mount Fuji in the Five Lakes Region

One of the best things to do when visiting Japan is to experience the majesty of Japan’s highest peak – Mount Fuji.

Situated in the tranquil Five Lakes region, you’ll be able to capture postcard-perfect views of the iconic volcano against the backdrop of serene lakes and picturesque landscapes.

You can also choose to hike or bike it or simply relax by the lakeside and take in the wonder of this exceptional landmark.

10. Immerse Yourself in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

For a sensory overload of colours, aromas and flavours, take the opportunity to explore Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market.

During your time there, you can witness the lively tuna auctions in the early morning and then indulge in the freshest sushi and sashimi at the market’s numerous stalls. Its bustling energy and culinary delights make it a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.

11. Admire the Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

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If you venture high up to the mountains near Nagano you will be able to witness the remarkable site of Japanese macaques – affectionately known as snow monkeys – bathing in natural hot springs.

The Jigokudani Monkey Park offers a unique opportunity to observe these playful creatures in their natural habitat against a serene backdrop of snow-covered terrain.

12. Stroll Through the Historic Streets of Kanazawa’s Higashi Chaya District

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

You’ll feel like you have Stepped back in time as you wander through the well-preserved streets of Higashi Chaya in Kanazawa.

This district is famous for its traditional teahouses, where geishas once entertained guests. Enjoy a pleasant afternoon admiring the beautifully preserved Edo-period architecture and savouring matcha in one of the charming teahouses.

13. Hike the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails

23 of the Best Things to do in Japan

The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail is an extraordinary journey through the spiritual heart of Japan. These ancient paths, nestled in the mystical Kii Peninsula, wind through lush forests, tranquil mountains and historic shrines, offering pilgrims and hikers a profound connection with nature and Japanese spirituality.

Each trail leads to sacred sites, including the revered Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha shrines. Along the way, you will also encounter charming villages, serene waterfalls and atmospheric oji shrines that provide a fascinating insight into the history of the area.

14. Experience the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Tokyo has a very eccentric side, which you can experience at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. This unique dining and entertainment experience features giant robots, neon lights and a futuristic atmosphere.

You can enjoy a show unlike anything you have probably ever seen – that combines dazzling technology, vibrant colours and a touch of Japanese pop culture.

15. Take a Scenic Train Journey on the Seto Inland Sea

If you love train journeys, then why not embark on a scenic trip along the Seto Inland Sea? It will take you on an enchanting odyssey that unveils the breathtaking beauty of Japan’s coastal landscapes.

Connecting the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, the Seto Inland Sea offers a picturesque backdrop as travellers glide across azure waters aboard sleek and comfortable trains. The highlight of this journey is undoubtedly the awe-inspiring Seto Ohashi Bridge, a masterpiece of engineering that spans the sea and connects multiple islands. As the train meanders through the archipelago, passengers are treated to panoramic views of tranquil waters, lush green islands and distant mountain ranges.

16. Participate in a Sumo Wrestling Match in Tokyo

Japan is famous for sumo wrestling and you can witness this ancient sport by attending a tournament in Tokyo. At them, you’ll be able to experience the unique rituals, ceremonies and fierce matches that make sumo an integral part of Japanese culture

For a more immersive experience, consider attending a sumo training session to gain insights into the athletes’ rigorous routines. You may even be able to compete in a bout or two against another wrestler.

17. Explore the Ouchi-juku Post Town in Fukushima

Step into the past and experience the Edo period by visiting Ouchi-juku, a beautifully preserved post town nestled in the mountains of Fukushima. The thatched-roof houses, traditional craft shops and lantern-lit streets will transport you back in time and create a nostalgic atmosphere.

Visiting in winter is highly recommended, as the town is covered in snow, adding to its timeless charm.

18. Marvel at the Artistic Beauty of Kinosaki Onsen’s Seven Public Baths

A fun thing to do when in Japan is to experience the enchanting atmosphere of Kinosaki Onsen, a town well-known for its seven public baths.

Whilst there, you can stroll through the charming streets wearing traditional yukata and wooden geta sandals as you visit each bathhouse.

Make sure you also walk through the town at night, when its illuminations create a fabulous spectacle.

19. Attend a Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto

Immerse yourself in the cultural vibrancy of Kyoto by attending the Gion Matsuri, which is one of Japan’s most popular festivals.

This month-long celebration takes place in July and features colourful parades, traditional performances and the iconic float procession known as the ‘Yamaboko Junko’.

A visit here is a terrific way to witness the rich tapestry of Kyoto’s cultural heritage and be a part of the festive atmosphere. The best way for you to enjoy it is to completely embrace the experience overall.

20. Visit the Shikisai-no-Oka Flower Fields in Biei

Discover the burst of colours that make up the Shikisai-no-Oka flower fields of Biei, Hokkaido. These vast fields exhibit a vibrant range of flowers such as lavender, sunflowers and poppies – which create a breathtaking tapestry in front of the stunning Tokachidake mountain range.

The ideal time to visit is during the summer months when the fields are in full bloom. Again, you’ll want to take lots of photos of this attraction.

21. Wander Through the Historic Streets of Kurashiki

Step into the Edo period by exploring the well-preserved canal district of Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture.

Once there you can admire the picturesque Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter with its white-walled warehouses, weeping willows and stone bridges.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Ohara Museum of Art, which is notable for being Japan’s first Western art museum and experience.

22. Discover the Hidden Charms of Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden

Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden is known as one of Japan’s most beautiful landscape gardens. It is located in the heart of the city and provides a peaceful place to relax and collect your thoughts.

Visitors can take a relaxing walk through the garden which features well-manicured grounds, ponds, bridges and teahouses.

During the winter season, the garden undergoes a magical transformation with snow covering the landscape, creating a serene winter wonderland.

23. Attend a Traditional Noh or Kabuki Theater Performance in Tokyo

Enjoy the wonder of Japan’s traditional performing arts by attending a Noh or Kabuki theatre performance in Tokyo.

Noh is characterised by its slow and deliberate movements, as well as its haunting masks, while Kabuki is known for its vibrant costumes and dramatic storytelling. Both offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich theatrical heritage – offering you a unique experience you’ll cherish for a long time.

The National Noh Theatre and Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo are great places to attend performances, transporting audiences to a world of ancient tales and cultural expression.