Wondering which are the best things you can do while in Japan? Well, below you have my proposals to keep you entertained and discover the Japanese culture!
Visit a Japanese house
You don’t actually need to know a local to see a traditional Japanese house. There are museums created inside traditional houses so you can visit both in the same time.
The houses are completely different from what we are used to have in Europe. Their structure is based on wood which is lighter, mats on the floor, paintings on the walls and very bright atmosphere inside. It normally has a garden too, build with amazing ikebana – flower arrangements – and Zen elements.
Visit a Zen garden
Zen gardens are an example of the conceptual art. Built with stones and gravels, their positioning and their shapes illustrate mountains, waters, animals, bringing philosophical conceptions from behind.
Participate to a tea ceremony
There are many places which holds tea ceremonies. I personally done this experience in Myajima and not for a particular reasons. I found the place while walking around the island and I noticed a traditional house with a sign in front – tea ceremony.
You can chose from having a full experience, including dressing yourself with a kimono or only the ceremony itself. I chose the second option but if you want to have some good memories in pictures, wearing a kimono will make you look better.
The ceremony takes place in a traditional house, in one of the rooms inside. You will be shown how to create your own tea, use the tools, how to move, control your body movements, how to sit correctly and drink it. You may receive some small sweets as I did!
It may sound simple to make a tea, but to make it in a proper way and follow the correct steps it is simply an art. The way you need to move your hands and your body is a nonverbal communication but much more stronger than words can do.
When I was a kid I had a true passion for the martial arts. I was pleasantly watching all the movies within this theme and above all, my entire family used to practice karate (a fight with free hands, focusing more on attack than defense).
Even if originally, the martial arts were brought from China with the Buddhism, today is the most important discipline in Japan when speaking about sports – apart from sumo. At the origins, it has been developed by the monks, to defense themselves from the thieves.
The martial art is an art, as the name is suggesting, but also a discipline for the mind and body. Based on their differences, some can focus more on defense or attack, can use only the body force or other instruments ( like a sword, bow).
Go to a sumo match
The sumo tournaments are held six times a year, and three of them are held in Tokyo (in Ryogoku Kokugikan). If you are keen to go, you need to check in advance the timing (the precise dates in January, March, May, July, September, November) and the places availability.
If you only want to learn more about sumo, you can do so at the Sumo Museum in Tokyo. It’s FREE!
If you want to learn more about calligraphy you can go to the museum in Tokyo. Instead, I would recommend something different. Purchase a Japanese calligraphy notebook and collect stamps and black ink calligraphy from the temples and shrines you’ll visit. At the end of your visit, you will have an amazing unique and personalized souvenir! I have more than 10 stamps in mine and I can’t wait to collect more of them!
Wear a kimono
If you want to have some nice pictures from Japan or try to be a Japanese on the outside for a day, rent a kimono! There are many centers around the big cities but the most popular area to do so is in Asakusa, in Tokyo. Grab your kimono and the traditional shoes, then visit Senso-ji temple and its surroundings in style!
Are you familiar with the rickshaw? It’s a different way of transportation from the ones we commonly use today, where a person is using its own force to transport another person, using a two-three wheels cart.
This is very popular in the traditional quarter of Asakusa, in Tokyo. You can try it part of your full experience in the area, while wearing a kimono!
This is one of the coolest things you can do in Japan if you are an animal lover. You can enjoy a coffee while playing with the animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, hedgehog, owls and so on.
I went to an owl cafe, but they had more animals inside like snakes, meerkats, foxes and a few more. It was a very nice experience and I totally recommend it!
I doubt there is somebody that didn’t heard about Pokemon! I was a Pikachu fan since little, so I couldn’t miss a visit to the famous Pokemon center! There are a few around Japan and I personally tried two of them in Tokyo, in Ikebukuro and in Tokyo Station.
For the big fans, there is also a restaurant serving dishes in Pokemon style and Pokemon drinks! Costly, but if you are a fan… it may be only once in a lifetime!
I do remember the slot games since I was a child. Sometimes, when I was going in the hotel my father used to work for, he would put me press the button to match the 3 signs and gain some money. Well, it never happened! You may know already, but this machines follow an algorithm so you really need to be lucky to gain, to grab that once in a million chance.
If you want to try your luck in Japan and or just have some fun, you need to enter a Pachinko! There are huge rooms full of machines and people do queue outside to enter and grab a sit at their favorite-lucky machine. Don’t go nuts and spend all your money there, just enter to have a look or just play once for fun! May the luck be with you!
An another way to have some fun or to lose your money is to try a game center. You insert coins or pay directly with the card, then you need to try to grab a toy with an electric arm, by controlling a small lever from the outside.
You can also find this kind of games in Europe in amusement parks, but in Japan is really something super common and a fun way to spend some time with friends.
I love these machines! Are like Kinder surprise but without a chocolate egg. You can chose the machines based on which type of surprise you want to get like Pokemon, Sailor Moon, then you insert some coins and you get it! I tried the Pokemon and look what a nice surprise I got for ¥300!
If you go with kids in Japan you will be bankrupted at the end of the trip!
I can’t wait to go back to Japan, grab some colleagues and do a karaoke night! Last time as I was most of the time alone, I didn’t went all by myself to try karaoke, but you need to do it!
It’s like a “national sport” in Japan and totally different from what we’ve seen in the movies. You won’t be singing in front of a big audience, but in a small cabin for you and your friends. There are many offers for a complete karaoke night providing drinks and food too!
Fireworks & festivals in summer
Depends on the time you visit Japan, but one of the best things you can do there is to go to a festival and a fireworks night. During the summer are many and it’s a good opportunity to spend some time with the locals and enjoy a free show.
If you’ll go to visit temples, you will notice people shaking some boxes until a stick comes out. Well, on that stick there is a number which correspond to a “fortune”, a prediction.
For example, I got Regular Fortune and Good Fortune! As it was a good one, I grab the paper with me as a souvenir. If it’s a bad one, you need to tie it and leave the bad luck there.
So, try your fortune and see what the future will brings!
One of the things you need to take back home is a lucky charm. And with such a variety of choices, there is at least one for everybody.
I personally bought three different ones for myself, one for health from the temple on top of Mount Fuji, and two other ones from Kyoto, for happiness and love. The one for love is more rare to find it and are only a few temples selling it. As it’s red and charming, I wear it every day with my handbag.
If you are a smoker, you need to know in Japan you cannot smoke randomly on the street. There are special places where you need to go and enjoy your addiction, so keep on eye on!
One of the amazing experience you can have in Japan, if you’re not too picky or claustrophobic, is to try a capsule hotel. You will have your own capsule, a small “room” for yourself for the night. I tried it in Kyoto and I totally loved it!
Admire the flowers and the vegetation of this green country. Each season has its own beautiful flowers to contemplate to. Very well known it the sakura, the cherry blossom trees during April-May.
While walking on the streets of Tokyo, I even noticed a green bus station! Check the picture above with the vegetation growing above the roof.
Well, this were my proposals for the best things to do in Japan, but the list can be of course well extended! Now go, create your own memories and make your own list!
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