Japan is a diverse and fascinating country, with a plethora of things to see. So we put together a list of 85 things to do when you are in Japan, to help you with your planning, and get the most out of your Japan holiday.
Karaoke is very popular with the Japanese. It doesn’t really matter how well you sing, in the end it’s all about having fun! Bigger chains have various soundproof rooms, a bar where you can get drinks and even order food. Don’t worry if your knowledge of Japanese music is not what it used to be, because they also have a lot of English music in their database.
Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and the center of business, education, the government, and modern culture. This is the city where you can notice the huge difference between modern and ancient Japan. There is plenty of sightseeing in Tokyo, and there are also all sorts of museums to visit.
Find the best hotels in Tokyo here.
3. Himeji castle
This castle is one of the oldest remaining castles from the Sengoku period, a time of social chaos, war and crises where the three daimyo (big warlords) reunited Japan once again. They succeeded each other until the final victory of daimyo Tokugawa Ieyasu. This was also the time when the Tokugawa shogunate was established and reigned from 1603 until the meiji-restoration in 1868. It has since then not been renewed or renovated. It was registered as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country in 1993.
Find hotels near Himeji castle here.
4. Meiji shrine
This shrine is located in the middle of a big park in the center of Tokyo near the station of Harajuku. It is an ever-green forest that consists of 365 different kinds of trees. The forest is visited by many people as a relaxation area. After a nice stroll in the park, you arrive at the shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The shrine has been visited by numerous international politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush. When visiting the shrine, make sure to rinse your hands and mouth at the fountain, to pay your respect to the deities.
Find the best hotels near Harajuku station here.
5. Itsukushima shrine
The torii (the entrance gate) of the Itsukushima shrine was built over the water and is one of the most popular tourist attraction of Japan. Historically most people who came to visited the shrine, came by boat and had to steer through the torii before approaching the shrine.
Find hotels near Itsukushima shrine here.
6. Shonan beach
If you are a real beach-lover and you are in Tokyo, then Shonan beach in Kamakura is pretty close-by. There are many beachgoers during summer, and can you find surfers throughout the whole year.
Find the best hotels in Kamakura here.
7. Matsumoto castle
This castle is, together with Himeji castle and Kumamoto castle, one of the three best known castles of Japan and is located in Matsumoto, Nagano. You can take a stroll through the garden surrounding the castle, or take a look inside where occasionally events are being held.
Find hotels near Matsumoto castle here.
Get your JR East Pass for Nagano/Niigata here.
Zenkouji is a buddhist temple. There is a staircase in the inner room of the temple, that leads to a completely dark room. Here worshipers try to touch a metal key, in order to gain enlightenment. Located in the main room of the temple is the Amida golden triad (a golden Buddha statue) of which the image itself is declared a secret image. Every 7 years, a copy of the triad is unveiled and during the two months of this event, a sacred pillar is erected in front of the mail hall.
Find hotels near zenkouji here.
Shinto shrines and buddhist temples often offer omikuji (a fortune, written on a strip of paper) in exchange for a small offer. The paper will include a general blessing, which can range from great blessing (大吉) to great curse (大凶). If you are not happy with the result, you can tie the paper onto the shrine, or a tree and pray for blessing to the gods.
10. Tateyama Kurobe alpine route
This is a famous sightseeing route between Mt. Tateyama, Mt. Toyama and Omachi. This route makes use of different kinds of public transport, namely funicular, bus, trolleybus, aerial tramway and walking. There are great snow walls just before Murodo to enjoy. The best time to visit is from April to June.
Find the best hotels near the Tateyama here.
The trains in Japan are famous for always being on time, and only have around 8 minutes of delay a year! The trains always stop at the same place, so there are queue signs on the floor so you know where the door will stop (so make sure you don’t accidentally cut in line). There are also women-only cabins.
Get your JR East Pass here.
Bunraku is a traditional puppet theater from the 17th century, where three kinds of performers take part in; the puppeteer, chanters and musicians. This form of theater has been a traditional activity for people to enjoy for hundreds of years.
13. Nijo castle
The Nijo castle takes residence in Kyoto, and was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. There are many gardens surrounding the castle, with many groves of cherry and plum trees. The gardens are at its prettiest in spring, when all the flowers are in full bloom.
Find hotels near Nijo castle here.
14. Hiroshima peace memorial
This is one of the only remaining buildings after the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. The ruins now serve as a memorial for the deceased and injured after the bombing, and is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Find hotels for Hiroshima here.
Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo bay, and is now a popular shopping and entertainment destination. From the promenade you can see the rainbow bridge, that lights up when it is dark.
Find the best hotels for Odaiba here.
Get tickets for a lovely Tokyo dinner cruise (Tokyo bay, Odaiba) here.
16. Tokyo Disney and USJ
Japan has some great theme parks, such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan (USJ) . Harry Potter fans will want to go to USJ, where a new Harry Potter themed area was built in 2014. Several places and stores from the books have been recreated, and can be entered.
17. Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disney Sea is located in Chiba, just outside of Tokyo and has some more extreme attractions than Tokyo Disney has. You can guess from its name, but the themes used in this park is mostly the sea.
Find the best hotels near Tokyo Disney Sea here.
Buy your ticket for Tokyo Disney Sea or Tokyo Disneyland here.
Japan is a volcanically active country that warms up the underground mineral water. This creates onsen (hot springs). Onsen are now used for domestic tourism as well as foreign tourism. A lot of ryokan also have their own onsen where customers can make use of. There are some rules that you have to keep in mind however, one of them is that tattoos are not allowed at most places.
19. Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
One place you really have to visit is the onsen theme park in Odaiba, Onsen Ooedo Monogatari. This is a big onsen park with all different kinds of baths. There is also a nice center place with small shops and game stands where you can walk around in your yukata, like you are attending a festival.
Find the best hotels near Ooedo Onsen Monogatari here.
Buy your ticket for the Ooedo Onsen Monogatari here.
The kinkakuji is a golden temple, located in Kyoto. The temple is built near water, and makes it look like it is floating on the water. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Kyoto.
Find the best hotels near the kinkakuji here.
21. Feed deer in Nara
In Nara all your childhood dreams about living your life as Snow White will come true: there are many deer walking around, that you can feed with rice crackers. You can buy these crackers at surrounding shops for 100 yen per pack. These crackers are so loved that the deer will come to you and eat them out of your hand.
Find the best hotels near Nara park here.
If you love the Japanese pop culture, or want to buy some new electronic gadgets, then Akihabara is the city to go to. It is a colorful and bubbly city, full of anime shops and maid cafés.
Find the best hotels in Akihabara here.
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. It is well known for its vibrant and bubbly residents, good food, drinks and busy nightlife. Come eat something in Dotonbori, where you can find many many restaurants, and like they say in Osaka: kuidaore! “Eat till you drop!”
Find the best hotels for Osaka here.
24. Osaka kaiyukan
Osaka Kaiyukan is one of the biggest public aquarium in the world. The biggest crowd puller is a 4,5 meters long whale shark. The aquarium is built around a large tank. While walking, you get to the deeper parts of the tank and you see more different kinds of underwater creatures.
25. Hiroshima Peace Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Museum is a popular spot for school excursions. It is a place where people can learn about the Second World war and all its tragedies. The museum is also popular among foreign tourists. At the museum every day items, that were used by people who died during the Second World War, are displayed.
Find hotels in Hiroshima he
26. Jigokudani Monkey Park
If you like animals and monkeys then you cannot miss out on Jigokudani Monkey Park. You can take a stroll through the park with more than a hundred monkeys to feed and play with. There are not just monkeys to see, but also deer and other wild animals. The monkeys are often seen bathing in the onsen.
Find the best hotels near Jigokudani Monkey park here.
Book a private day tour for the Snow Monkeys here and Zenkouji here.
Maybe you are a real fashionista, or just someone who likes cute clothes, either way the best place for clothes shopping would be Harajuku. The smaller shops have a lot of typical colorful clothes, which may not be for everyone, but there are also bigger chains like H&M and Uniqlo.
Find the best hotels for Harajuku here.
28. Imperial Palace Tokyo
Even though the palace is only open for public view two days a year, the gardens are always open for public view. During spring, the cherry start to bloom, creating a gorgeous view.
Find the best hotels near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo here.
29. Tokyo Tower
The 333 meters red-white tower, that is inspired by the Eiffel Tower, is the second highest tower in Japan. The view from the observatory is absolutely stunning and gives you a great view of Tokyo city. The tower dominates the skyline of Tokyo, and is a very famous sight because of this.
Find hotels near the Tokyo Tower here.
30. Mt. Fuji
When you think about Japan, Mt. Fuji is obviously on your bucketlist. It is the highest mountain of Japan and is also a well known UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best time to visit Mt. Fuji is between July and half of September.
Find the best hotels near Mt. Fuji here.
31. Fuji Q Highland
Fuji Q Highland is a theme park in Fujiyoshida, and its theme is Mt. Fuji. The park is located near the base of the mountain and will make a nice day trip when you are already near Fuji-san.
Get your tickets for Fuji-Q Highway here.
Something that happens every year in spring, is Hanami (picnicking under the cherry blossom) with a lot of delicious food and a lot of beer. Some great places for Hanami are the Chidorigafuchi-lane near the imperial palace with hundreds of trees lining next to each other, and the big city parks such as Ueno park and Shinjuku park.
Find an amazing Cherry Blossom tour through Tokyo here (24 March – 9 April).
33. Maid café
At a maid café you are served by a cute girls in a maid outfit. They treat the customers like a master or mistress that just came home after a long day of work.
Ramen is one of the most commonly eaten fast food of Japan – both instant and freshly made ramen. Ramen in restaurants is pretty cheap and definitely worth trying, even if you haven’t mastered the art of slurping yet.
Purikura are photo booths that are used to take pictures with friends. You can choose different poses and after taking the picture you can edit them on the outside of the booth. You can add makeup to your face, enlarge your eyes, add text, and afterwards print the photo as a memento.
Kabuki is a theater performance that uses dance to represent what is happening. It can be a bit difficult to understand it fully, but it is definitely worth trying for the experience.
37. Fancy toilets
In Japan, most toilets at schools, shopping malls and hotels have all kinds of buttons including seat warming, bidets and even sounds of gushing water to help you feel less self aware. Definitely something to try.
Izakaya are restaurants that are very popular with the Japanese population. They are restaurants where you can order all different kinds of food and snacks, and can get all-you-can-drink alcoholic beverages.
Konibi are convenience stores that are conveniently placed at almost every corner of the street. They have a wide range of product such as, food, snacks, magazines, laundry detergent and towels. There are many different kinds of desserts and drinks that you won’t find outside of Japan, so I really recommend you trying some of them (melon soda is the best by the way!). Most of the times you will also be able to find an ATM, but make sure you that they do accept your card.
Sushi in Japan can be so cheap if you compare it to restaurants in Europe. Kaitensushi especially! At a kaitensushi restaurant, there are different kinds of sushi on a tray that are placed on a conveyor belt that goes through the whole restaurant. You are free to take these trays as they pass your table, or if you want something that doesn’t pass by, you can just order it and it will arrive shortly afterwards. At some kaitensushi restaurants you can drop the trays in a hole in the table, that counts how many plates you’ve finished. With 5 plates in the hole, you have the chance to win a keychain.
41. Arcade halls
Arcade game hall are very popular with the youth in Japan, they are full of claw-cranes, video games, redemption games and purikura (Japanese photo booths).
The bullet train in Japan might seem expensive, but when you compare the comfort and traveltime, it is not as bad. You can buy a Japan Rail Pass when you, as a tourist, have a “short time visit” visa. With this pass you can travel for ‘free’ through Japan with the JR and Shinkansen. They sell JR Passes for 7, 14 or 21 days.
43. 100 yen stores
100 yen stores are shops where all the products that you find are sold for 100 yen. You can buy anything; housekeeping products, pots and pans, hair clips and even nail art supplies. The cashier counts the amount of things you have, adds the tax and that will be the total amount you have to pay.
During summer there are many festivals in Japan, and summer festivals mean fireworks. Fireworks are an integral part of summer in Japan and create a new atmosphere to previously visited temples and castles.
45. Sapporo snow festival
The Sapporo snow festival is one of the biggest winter festivals in Japan. Every year, around two million people come to Sapporo to enjoy this festival. During this time, the city turns into a magical dreamland with ice sculptures and white snow.
Find the best hotels for Sapporo here.
46. Ogasawara islands
The ogasawara islands (also known as the Bonin islands) is an archipelago of more than 30 subtropical islands. The only islands with inhabitants are Haha-jima and Chichi-jima (mother and father island).
Okinawa, also known as the Hawaii of Japan, is another gorgeous example of a subtropical archipelago. There are many American influences, because of the several American military bases.
Find the best hotels for Okinawa here.
48. Huis ten Bosch
Huis ten Bosch is a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, that is based on Huis ten Bosch (a royal palace in the Netherlands). There is a tourist office, a replica of the royal house, lots of tulips and windmills.
Find the best hotels near Huis ten Bosch Sasebo station here.
49. Ashikaga flower park
The flower park in Ashikaga has several events involving flowers and plants. “The tale of Fuji no Hana” is the famous event where wisteria trees form the center of attention. In the evening they will be lit up by lights, creating a gorgeous view. The best time to see the wisteria trees is between April and half of May.
Find the best hotels near ashikaga flower park here.
50. Japanese snow houses
Shirakawa is one of the places that has the most snowfall in the world. This is why special traditional houses were built that could handle a lot of heavy snow. These houses are called gassho-zukuri, or minka. These houses create a warm and cozy atmosphere during winter and is best experienced when there is a lot of snowfall.
Find the best hotels for your visit to Japanese snow houses here.
51. Family restaurants
Family restaurants, such as Danny’s, Saizeria and Gusto are restaurants with great menus for lunch. They offer western-style food, like hamburgers, pizza and ice cream. You can take your time looking at the menu and when you want to order, just press the button at the end of your table and a waiter will come to help you.
52. Capsule hotels
Capsule hotels are very cheap alternatives if you are looking for a place to stay, though they are mostly used by businessmen. In a capsule hotel you sleep in a very narrow room, that just fits a mattress. It is built to offer as many sleeping accommodations as possible, so the cabins are usually stacked on top of each other.
Sensoji is one of the most well-known temples of Tokyo and is characterized by the Kaminarimon Gate. The temple is located in Asakusa, a busy place with lots of food stalls and souvenir shops.
Find the best hotels for Asakusa here.
Find a great tour though Asakusa and for the skytree here.
This is very desirable piece of beef. The fat is so well incorporated into the meat and because of this is so soft and tender, that it melts on your tongue. It is quite expensive, but because of the high quality of the meat, it is definitely worth the money.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, from the Edo period. They have tatami-matted floors and sliding doors, and the guests are treated like royalty. The employees will make your bed every day, bring you dinner and pour you tea. You can find a yukata in the closet, that you can use when you pay a visit to the public bath.
Kyoto, also know as the thousand year capital, is the former capital city of Japan, and had been the capital for over a thousand year. It is a city rich of culture, and is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. You can still find many temples, shrines, garden, castles and traditional architecture. A lot of famous tourist attractions are located in Kyoto, such as the kinkaku-ji, fushimiinari and arashiyama.
Find the best hotels for your stay in Kyoto here.
57. Dress up as a geisha or maiko
In Kyoto there are many opportunities to dress yourself to look like a geisha or maiko. Maiko have colorful clothes and have a younger appearance than gaisha, who are more mature and cool. Get your picture taken, and take stroll through town.
58. Nihonji temple
The nihonji temple is known for its daibutsu, a huge Buddha statue, and is located in Kyonan. The temple has been around since 725 and has multiple times fallen into ruins and has been renovated several times. It is currently used as a Souto zen temple.
Find the best hotels for Kyonan here.
59. Tokyo skytree
The skytree is a television and radio broadcast tower and has a height of 634 meter. There are many shops and restaurants located in the tower. You can also take a very fast lift up, to the observatory, to take a look at the beautiful view of Tokyo city, and maybe even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji at sunset.
Find the best hotels near the Tokyo skytree here.
Get your tickets for Tokyo Skytree + Sky Duck Combo (Discounted city sightseeing from sky, land and sea) here.
60. Ghibli museum
The Ghibli museum exhibits all the works of the animation studio Ghibli. The studio is best known for its anime feature films. The museum is bound to be a magical place for everyone.
Find the best hotels near the Ghibli museum here.
Buy your ticket for the Ghibli museum here.
61. Arashiyama bamboo forest
Arashiyama bamboo forest is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Kyoto. Taking a stroll through the forest with soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world.
Find the best hotels near Arashiyama here.
62. Fushimi inari
The fushimi inari Taisha is the main shrine of the city Inari, in Kyoto. It is well known for its many torii that lead you up the mountain. Each of these gates has been donated by a Japanese company. There are several other paths that lead to smaller surrounding shrines.
Find the best hotels near Fushimi inari here.
63. Ueno park
Ueno park is a big public park in the middle of Tokyo, where there are so many things you can do, that just one day in the park isn’t enough time. There are several musea to be found there and even a zoo.
Find the best hotels near Ueno park here.
64. Don Quijote (DonKi)
DonKi is a well-known chain of stores that sells cheap wholesale products. The store sells all different kinds of products, you can find food, party masks and from time to time some very strange products. It’s worth to go if you’d love to see some crazy Japanese products.
65. Autumn leaves
Not just spring is a popular season for viewing trees and plants. During fall the leaves turn a gorgeous red, that makes people want to go outside and look at the pretty leaves. In Japan this is called momiji-gari, in other words: leaf hunting. Popular hotspots for momiji-gari are Kyoto and Nikkou.
Find the best for your stay in Nikkou here.
66. Fushimi castle
The construction of the original castle started in 1592, but it got destroyed two years later by an earthquake. It got quickly rebuilt, but unfortunately was the focus of an attack in 1600. The fushimi castle that you can see nowadays is a replica made of concrete. In 1623 the official fushimi castle had been taken apart, and was used in the construction of several other temples in Kyoto. The Hosen-in has a blood covered ceiling, that used to be the floor of one of the rooms from the official castle.
Fugu is a poisonous puffer fish that is often eaten in Japan. The poison of this fish is 1200 times as strong as cyanide and paralyzes the muscles while the victim stays fully conscious. If the poisonous parts of the fish are successfully removed, the fish can be eaten without anything to worry about. Since 2000 there have been 23 people who died from eating fugu. There is, however, also a restaurant in Usuki, that produces non-poisonous puffer fish for those who do not want to take the risk.
The miraikan (future museum) is an interactive technology museum, where people can learn about the technology that is used today in Japan. There are many interactive exhibits, and every now and then new events are being held.
Shibuya is a busy shopping district near Shibuya station. It is famous for its crossroad, where each time the traffic lights turn green, thousands of pedestrians cross the road. Shibuya 109 is a big shopping mall with over a hundred boutiques. The statue for honoring the dog, Hachi, who kept waiting at Shibuya station even after his owner died, is also located near the station.
Find the best hotels for Shibuya here.
70. Cormorant fishing
Also known as ukai, is a traditional way of fishing by using a dozen cormorants. The cormorants catch the fish, swallow them whole, and can be coughed up again afterwards. Nowaday it is a popular tourist attraction. You can get a ride in the boat for about an hour for 15 euro per person.
Kiyomizudera is a temple located in the eastern part of Kyoto. Its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. Not a single nail is used in the entire structure. The name Kiyomizu (maning “clear water)”, derives from the waterfall that flows through the building.
Find the best hotels near Kiyomizudera here.
72. Gion matsuri
There are many festivals (matsuri) being held in Japan, throughout the year. People who attend these festivals usually wear yukata. There are also many food stalls and places where you can play games. One of the most famous and biggest matsuri, is the Gion matsuri in Kyoto. The festival lasts the whole month of July, with a parade on the 17th and 24th.
Hahsima is one of the 500 deserted islands, that are a part of Nagasaki. People used to work in the mines and thus, houses were built for the workers. The inhabitants have left the island which has been completely deserted since 1974. Time seems to stand still on the island, which makes it a popular destination for photographers.
Sumo is way of wrestling and is Japan’s national sport. Every six years the Japan Sumo Association hold big tournaments. Each tournament lasts about 15 days, and each day a different wrestler has an important match.
Want to watch real sumo wrestlers practice their skills? Buy your tickets here.
75. Music Festivals
Music Festivals are popular around the world, especially during summer. Japan also joins this tend, and has several big Music Festivals. For example at Fuji Rock (Naeba) and Summer Sonic (Osaka) both national and international artists perform. Rock in Japan (Ibaraki) is focused on J-rock/pop and at Ultra Japan there are mostly national artists that perform.
76. Rokkosan pasture
Rokkosan is a public pasture farm that is located in Mt. Rokko, in Kobe. There are several restaurants, you can do horse riding, make your own ice cream and take a look at the cheese-making process.
Find the best hotels near Rokkosan pasture here.
77. Character café
There are many different kinds of themed cafés in Japan, from one where you can play and drink tea with cats, to cafés that are based on Japanese characters such as Pom Pom Purin and Hello Kitty. There’s even an Alice in Wonderland Café in Harajuku and a owl café in Fukuoka.
78. Sunshine city
Sunshine city is a big building complex in Ikebukuro. The building Sunshine 60 has an observatory deck that is located at the top, an Ancient Orient Museum, a world market and a planetarium. It also features Namco Namja Town, a shopping mall and a Prince hotel.
Find the best hotels for Ikebukuro here.
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese dinner with a lot of different kinds of side dishes. The servings are small, but well balanced and healthy. Kaiseki are sometimes served at ryokan.
80. Dining out
Japanese restaurants can be very expensive, but are in general eating out is actually pretty cheap. If you stroll through town, try and find a small restaurant in an alley. A complete dinner can be around 500 yen, and water in Japanese restaurants is always free.
81. Nobuki falls
The nobuki falls is a set of waterfalls located in Kobe. They consist of Ondaki, Mendaki, Tsumugidaki and Izumoki. These falls have an important significance in Japanese literature and Japanese art. Nobuki is seen as one of the greatest “divine falls” of Japan.
82. Cat island Tashirojima
Tashirojima is known for its many fluffy inhabitants: cats. The people living on the island believe that feeding cats brings them fortune and wealth. The number of cats that lives here is bigger than the number of people.
Each year thousands of tourists visit Shibazakura to enjoy the view of the pink moss. Between May and June the fields near the mountain are completely covered with beautiful colored moss.
84. Otaru canal
The winter with all the lights and snow, makes the Otaru canal Instagram-worthy. Walk along the canal and grab something to eat in one of the many restaurants nearby. Ankake yakisoba and half fried chicken are a must!
Find here the best hotels for your visit to the Otaru canal here.
85. Eat okonomiyaki in Osaka
Okonomiyaki are pancakes made with Chinese cabbage, meat and other vegetables that you can bake yourself on a hot plate. It is said that it originates from Osaka and that it is also known as “Osaka soul-food”. A very popular restaurant for okonomiyaki is Mitsuno. Most of the time you can see people lining up outside the shop.
Getting to Japan!
If you are looking for flights and tickets then you can use the following websites: