21 things To do in Japan: An Insider’s guide

best now, Japan is one of the hottest travel destinations on the planet. The frequently trodden path from Hiroshima up to Tokyo (or vice versa) is still the backbone of Japan’s travel center. While there are some undoubtedly beautiful places in this area, the rest of Japan is home to spectacular scenery, awesome food and oodles of culture.

There are unlimited things to do in Japan. really there is no other country like it on earth; for many, it’s this uniqueness that makes it particularly spellbinding. Its customs and culture both confuse and enlighten, while its history inspires and saddens. Meanwhile, Japan’s scenery captivates and the food is the stuff of legends.

Welcome to one of the world’s many awe-inspiring countries!

I spent 2 months in Japan taking in southern Honshu by trains, boats, and buses and exploring Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku by rental car. in that time I hiked all over Hokkaido and Kyshu, took on death-defying roads in the Ilya valley, unwinded in numerous a sumptuous onsen and delighted in some of the finest food I will ever eat.

Unsurprisingly, I’m already planning my next trip to Japan.

There are various things to do in Japan to keep you busy for a very long time. Here’s a list of 21 to get you started.

Table of Contents
1. eat Anything and Everything
2. explore the Shiretoko national Park
3. Stargazing and Hiking at Lake Mashu in the Akan national Park
4. Pay Your respects at the peace Museums (one of the most essential things to do in Japan)
5. view a J-Pop Show
6. visit an Onsen – An outdoor One if You’re lucky Enough
7. Hike To The Inari Shrine in Kyoto
8. take on The frightening roads of the Ilya Valley in Shikoku
9. visit a Castle
10. get Acquainted with Japan’s amazing Rail System
11. Hike in The Japan Alps
12. sleep on the Floor
13. visit an Arcade
14. sleep in a Manga Cafe
15. explore the continuously Erupting Volcano, Sakurajima
16. check Out farm Tomita in Furano
17. Take a Day trip to Miyajima
18. explore the Temples of Nara
19. Hike in Kyushu
20. visit an Art Island in the Seto Inland Sea
21. people view in Tokyo
Getting To and From Japan 
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1. eat Anything and Everything

Japan is a foodie paradise, so it’s no surprise that eating makes it onto the list of things to do in Japan. Food here can go from the cheap and joyful to extremely expensive (sushi in a swanky Ginza establishment concerns mind).

Sampling proper Japanese food is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Japan. Dig into frozen salmon on Hokkaido, chicken Nan-ban on Kyushu, Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima (although this can be found everywhere) and pretty much everything in Osaka.

If you are lucky enough to visit Osaka, one of Japan’s food havens, you should eat takoyaki and conveyor belt sushi as both were created here! Surprisingly, both are very budget-friendly despite their heritage status in this region of Kansai.

Eating doesn’t have to be expensive, and if you’re travelling Japan on a budget, there are various chain restaurants serving sushi from 100 yen ($0.94) a plate, a bowl of ramen noodles for around $5. Plus, benefit stores have a range of budget-friendly options.

Whether you want to chow down on ramen or sample the best sushi, eating is one of the best things to do in Japan.

2. explore the Shiretoko national Park

The island of Hokkaido is Japan’s last remaining wilderness. Jutting out of the island’s northeast, pointing towards Kamchatka a few thousand miles away, the Shirteoko national Park in some cases feels like it’s at the edge of civilization.

The national park is home to a reasonably large population of brown bears that you may be able to see on a cruise or a hike (note, if a bear is found on the 5 Lakes trail then the entire trail is closed).

There are plenty of trails ranging from an hour or so to full-day hikes up to the top of mount Rausu. check out the small town of Rausu on the eastern side for some awesome sashimi and totally free natural hot springs located best on the beach.

☞ SEE ALSO: Cost of Living in Japan – The supreme guide for digital Nomads

3. Stargazing and Hiking at Lake Mashu in the Akan national Park

Regarded as one of the world’s top stargazing spots, Lake Mashu in the middle of the Akan national Park is just as spectacular during the waking hours. during the day, there is a fantastic hike to the top of Mashu Dake, providing picturesque views over the national park — another absolute must!

The area around Lake Mashu is spotless, partly due to the fact that people are not allowed to method the lake itself. This makes the area of water one of the cleanest spots in Japan.

After completing the Mashu Dake hike, get some food in the village of Teshikaga before heading back to view the stars. really mesmerizing.

4. Pay Your respects at the peace Museums (one of the most essential things to do in Japan)

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about the end of world war II with the surrender of Japan. This horrific period in history is forever intertwined within the Japanese psyche.

The peace museums and memorials in both cities offer honest, thought-provoking accounts of what hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians went through from the moment the bombs were dropped.

Despite being completely destroyed, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki have risen from the ashes to become dynamic modern cities in their own best that are certainly worth a visit. As terrible as this history is, going to the peace Museums is one of the most essential things to do in Japan.

☞ SEE ALSO: Living in Japan – A guide For Digitial Nomads

5. view a J-Pop Show

Along with Anime, J-Pop is one of Japan’s most significant pop-culture exports. getting to see a show, such as AKB48 in Tokyo, is one of the most fun things to do in Japan.

There are various music festivals throughout the country during the summer months and numerous artists are touring regularly. If you want a slice of modern Japanese pop culture, this is a pretty good place to start!

6. visit an Onsen – An outdoor One if You’re lucky Enough

If you’re wondering what to do in Japan to relax, without a shadow of a doubt going to an onsen (hot spring) is at the top of the list. Whether you’re staying in an onsen hotel, going to a public bath or checking out an outdoor onsen, get ready to feel cleaner and much more unwinded than you ever have before.

One of the things that puts visitors off is the fact that you have to be completely naked. That’s not an option, it’s one of the most basic onsen rules.

There are numerous other guidelines as well: don’t dip your towel in the water, don’t splash water when you shower, and you should shower before entering. If you’re uncertain of the guidelines you can check with one of the onsen employees, however, the large majority will have the guidelines displayed in the entrance or in the changing rooms. (Note: some won’t allow you in if you have tattoos).

Onsens are a practice distinct to Japan and an activity that is very much intertwined with Japanese life. once you’ve been, you’ll wonder how you were able to survive without this in your life.

If you have the chance, try and visit an outdoor onsen. Coastal onsen towns like Ibusuki near Kagoshima in Kyushu are the best places to find these natural gems.

Update 2020: Visiting a sentō is something you don’t want to miss when you’re going to Tokyo. After a long day of walking around the city, soak your exhausted muscles in one of the numerous public baths found in each of the neighbourhoods — in fact, there are much more than 500 across Tokyo! read much more about going to a public bathhouse in our article: how To Take a Japanese bath in Tokyo: A guide to Sentos.

☞ SEE ALSO: How To get a working holiday Visa in Japan – A step by step Guide

7. Hike To The Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in Japan. It is primarily known for its spectacular temples and gardens, particularly Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji. However, one of Kyoto’s many enduring and spectacular experiences is going to the Inari Shrine.

There are so numerous things to do in Kyoto, with this being one of the most popular sights. naturally it can get very crowded, however, if you get there early in the morning, around 6-7am, chances are that it will be practically deserted, implying that you can wander through the torii gates in silence.

8. take on The frightening roads of the Ilya Valley in Shikoku

Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, but it still packs an almighty punch. Hiring a car is one of the best things to do in Japan and Shikoku is no exception. one of the island’s many popular areas is the spectacular Ilya valley.

Single lane roads wind through valleys, traverse rivers and hug the mountainside. because of this, encountering any other chauffeurs requires nerves of steel and the spacial awareness akin to the most skilled lorry driver.

We spent two nights here a few days after a typhoon had blown through the area, making our driving experience extra tense…but still incredible. 

☞ SEE ALSO: teaching English in Japan – A guide To finding Jobs 

9. visit a Castle

Castles are one of the best things to see in Japan. The country is littered with spectacular castles, some are original structures but many have been rebuilt due to earthquakes or the devastation of world war 2.

Some of the best-preserved original castles are Kochi, Himeji, Matsuyama, Matsumoto, and Nijō. If you get the opportunity to visit one of Japan’s spectacular castles, jump at it! 

Update 2020: If you find yourself in Okayama, don’t miss the castle in the city. Although it was built much more than 400 years ago, it was mostly destroyed during the bombings of WWII. The castle was restored in the 1960s. visit the castle from a boat on the river, or walk along the pedestrian-only pathway to reach it. another beautiful 400-year-old castle (with spectacular grounds) can be found in Hirosaki in the Aomori Prefecture. This is also a beautiful place to see cherry blossoms.

Learn much more about travelling around Okayama City, and Aomori in our articles:

A travel guide to Aomori: exploring Japan’s Northeastern Prefecture

Travel guide to Okayama: Japan’s Land of Sunshine

10. get Acquainted with Japan’s amazing Rail System

The JR pass is one of the most well-known travel files in the world. for years the JR rail pass has allowed millions of travellers to experience some of the best parts of Japan at an budget-friendly price.

Japan’s rail system is the stuff of legends. Punctual to the second, militantly clean, all while speeding along at over 300km per hour. It is one of the best ways delight in all the things to see in Japan.

That being said, there are a variety of different regional and local rail passes that may end up being better value for you than the original JR rail pass. Do your research and choose a pass that’s best for you. 

As a word of warning, the Japanese rail system can be incredibly confusing. There is a helpful app called Hyperdia that is an outstanding resource for planning your train travel across the country, numerous a time this was a lifesaver! Unfortunately, this app is only available on android, and available in certain countries (including the USA and the UK).

If you do find yourself completely lost at the station there are often railway employees wearing badges identifying if they speak English. They will be much more than pleased to help you.

11. Hike in The Japan Alps

By far, one of the best things to do in Japan is to do some hiking. home to some of the country’s best hiking trails, the Japanese Alps is the place to experience Japan’s many beautiful scenery.

The region is spread across Gifu, Nagano and Toyama prefectures. Throughout the region, there are various spectacular towns that act as the jumping-off point for some amazing day hikes, the most well-known of these towns being Kamikochi, Matsumoto and Takayama.

The region is well connected by public transport and unlike numerous other mountain areas in Japan, you really don’t need a car. Its reasonably close proximity to Tokyo makes it far much more available than some of Japan’s other mountainous regions.

12. sleep on the Floor

This may seem like an odd thing to do in Japan, however, it is one of the first things that surprises people when travelling to Japan. The large majority of accommodation options offer beds that roll out on the floor (on top of a tatami mat), a type of futon. While this may not be everybody’s cup of tea it’s actually very comfortable, so give it a chance!

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