Traveling to Japan offers a unique blend of traditional and modern experiences. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or technology, Japan has something for everyone. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to do when you visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
Explore the Bustling Capital: Tokyo
1. Visit Historic Temples and Shrines: Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa is Tokyo’s oldest temple and a must-visit. Nearby, the Meiji Shrine, nestled in a serene forest, offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle.
2. Experience the Crosswalk at Shibuya Crossing: Known as the busiest intersection in the world, the Shibuya Crossing is a spectacle of organized chaos that’s emblematic of Tokyo’s energy.
3. Shop in Akihabara: If you’re a fan of anime, manga, or electronics, Akihabara is a paradise with its multi-story shops full of gadgets, collectibles, and video games.
4. Enjoy the Nightlife in Roppongi: This district is known for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to both locals and tourists.
Discover the Charm of Kyoto
5. Walk Through Fushimi Inari Shrine: Famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, this shrine offers a picturesque hike with views over Kyoto.
6. Visit Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Pavilion, covered in gold leaf, is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights, reflecting beautifully in the pond before it.
7. Stroll in Gion: Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, Gion is charming with its traditional wooden machiya houses. You might even spot a geisha on her way to an engagement.
Embrace Nature and History in Nara
8. Meet the Deer of Nara Park: Friendly and tame, the deer in Nara Park are considered messengers of the gods in Shinto religion and are a delight to interact with.
9. Admire Todai-ji Temple: This temple houses a giant bronze Buddha and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its grandeur and historical significance are awe-inspiring.
Experience the Peace of Hiroshima
10. Reflect at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: The park and its museum are poignant reminders of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and a call for peace.
11. Visit Miyajima Island: Just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima, Miyajima is famous for its “floating” torii gate and the Itsukushima Shrine.
Enjoy the Culinary Delights
12. Savor Sushi at Tsukiji Market: Although the inner wholesale market has moved to Toyosu, the outer market at Tsukiji still offers some of the freshest sushi and seafood in Tokyo.
13. Try Okonomiyaki in Osaka: This savory pancake is a specialty of Osaka and can be found in many restaurants throughout the Dotonbori district.
14. Indulge in Kaiseki Ryori: For a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that balances taste, texture, and appearance, try kaiseki ryori in Kyoto.
Adventure in the Japanese Alps
15. Visit the Snow Monkeys: The Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano is famous for its population of wild snow monkeys that enjoy soaking in the hot springs.
16. Hike in Kamikochi: This scenic valley offers stunning alpine landscapes and is a popular starting point for hikes in the Northern Japan Alps.
Soak in Onsen
17. Relax in Beppu: Known for its hot springs, Beppu offers a variety of onsen experiences, from traditional baths to sand and steam baths.
18. Experience a Ryokan: Stay in a traditional Japanese inn, where you can enjoy onsen baths and sleep on futons laid out on tatami floors.
Engage with Traditional Arts
19. Watch a Sumo Match: Attend one of the six annual sumo tournaments for a chance to see Japan’s national sport up close.
20. Take a Tea Ceremony Class: Learn the art of the Japanese tea ceremony, a practice steeped in tradition and etiquette.
21. Cherry Blossom Viewing: If you visit in the spring, hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a cultural experience where families and friends gather under blooming cherry trees.
22. Attend a Matsuri: Japanese festivals are lively and colorful. The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto in July and the Awa Odori in Tokushima in August are particularly famous.
23. Ski in Hokkaido: The northern island of Hokkaido offers some of the best powder skiing in the world, with resorts like Niseko and Furano.
Tips for Travelers
- Language Barrier: While many Japanese people study English, not everyone is fluent. Learning a few basic phrases in Japanese can go a long way.
- Cash is King: Many places in Japan still do not accept credit cards, so carry enough cash with you.
- Transportation: Get a Japan Rail Pass for convenient and cost-effective travel between cities.
- Etiquette: Japanese culture places a high value on manners. Be respectful, remove your shoes when entering homes and certain traditional accommodations, and be mindful of local customs.
Japan is a country where every traveler can find their niche. From the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the tranquil gardens of Kyoto, the experiences are as diverse as they are unforgettable. Whether you’re there for a week or a month, Japan will leave an indelible mark on your heart.