Last Updated on April 4, 2021 by Helen E. White
Is it your first time in Japan? Well, take note because we have prepared a list of 20 things to do in Japan so that you enjoy the Japanese country as much as we do.
Japan is the country in which we have amazed the most of all those you will find in this blog. Never before have we experienced that of going down the street pointing at everything with our mouths open, at times really surprised and at times laughing out loud. Never before have I been so surprised by doing or trying new things. I imagine this is because I had never traveled to a country where I felt that everything is so different on a social, cultural and gastronomic level.
- 1 Best Things to Do in Japan, on Your First Time in the Country
- 1.1 1. Tour Tokyo Neighborhood by Neighborhood
- 1.2 2. Taste Japanese Cuisine
- 1.3 3. Sit on a Japanese Toilet and Taste the Squirt
- 1.4 4. Buy the Jr Pass and Get on a Shinkansen
- 1.5 5. Sing Karaoke
- 1.6 6. Dress Up as a Geisha for a Day
- 1.7 7. Attend a Show of a Traditional Maiko
- 1.8 8. See the Fuji From Different Perspectives
- 1.9 9. Cross the Mythical Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
- 1.10 10. Sleeping in a Ryokan
- 1.11 11. Experience the Different Seasons of the Year
- 1.12 12. Sleeping in a Capsule Hotel
- 1.13 13. Taking Pictures in a Purikura Photo Booth
- 1.14 14. Play Video Games Like a Japanese More
- 1.15 15. Discover Why Everything in Japan Is ‘kawaii’
- 1.16 16. Watch a Ceremony at the Meiji Shrine
- 1.17 17. Enjoy the Rockabillies at Yoyogi Park
- 1.18 18. Live the Experience of an Onsen
- 1.19 19. Tour the Toriis of the Fushimi Inari-taisha Temple
- 1.20 20. Feeling That You Are in Another World or in Another Time
- 1.21 21. Go to a Maid Café (Maid Café) or a Cat Café (Neko Café)
- 2 More Weird Plans to Do in Japan?
- 3 Conclusion
Best Things to Do in Japan, on Your First Time in the Country
These are the 21 things to do in Japan if your first time and that you can include in your itinerary through Japan in 21 days.
1. Tour Tokyo Neighborhood by Neighborhood
This was one of the first things we did on our trip to Japan and I can assure you that touring Tokyo neighborhood by neighborhood, slowly but surely, is one of the best things to do in Japan. Especially if it is your first time in Japan. We chose a neighborhood and we simply wandered around and stopped in all the establishments that we wanted, we looked at the items that were sold and we did not stop hallucinating. It is a fantastic activity.
2. Taste Japanese Cuisine
Japanese gastronomy is recognized worldwide as one of the best gastronomies there is. And I thought it was all sushi and yakisoba noodles! Deluded! The truth is that I thought I was going to have a hard time eating in Japan because I don’t like sushi and sushi was the least we ate: ramen, noodles like that, asá noodles, tempura, croquettes (yes! Croquettes!), Meat Kobe, okonomiyaki, etc. In addition, we walked so much on our trip to Japan that afterward there were no regrets and we ate some spectacular bananas.
3. Sit on a Japanese Toilet and Taste the Squirt
Get ready because you are going to discover a new world. One of the best things to do in Japan is, as soon as you arrive at the airport, look for a bathroom to finally understand what it is that everyone talks about: the squirt toilets. These are toilets with different buttons and, when you press them, jets of water come out so you can wash your private parts. But that’s not the only thing: some have a button to make a noise and nobody can hear you, some have built-in heating and, when you sit down, the toilet bowl is warm, etc.
4. Buy the Jr Pass and Get on a Shinkansen
One of the things to do in Japan is to buy the JR Pass so that transportation is cheaper and thus also be able to try the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train. The Shinkansen allows you to travel long distances in a short time, reaching up to 320km / h.
5. Sing Karaoke
Okay, there are karaokes everywhere. Surely you have ever gone to a party and ended up in one. But not like Japanese karaokes, no. In Japan, karaokes are in individual cabins that you reserve for yourself and your group and use privately. They are paid by the hour. And the best thing is that you can order drinks and food and they bring it directly to your cabin. There is some karaoke in which, in addition, you can dress up and you already have the complete combo. Singing at one of these karaoke is one of the best things to do in Japan. One of the funniest, that’s for sure.
6. Dress Up as a Geisha for a Day
This is something that, as soon as we arrived in Japan, we realized was very common. We saw people in kimono all the time and we wondered if they were really maikos or geishas like that, so normal touring the streets of Kamakura or Tokyo. And then we realized that no, that kimono rental is the most popular among tourists. One of the places where more kimonos are rented is Kyoto because people often wear them to take photos in places like the Fushimi Inari temple or the Arashiyama bamboo forest.
7. Attend a Show of a Traditional Maiko
If you have already dressed in a kimono, you only need one of the best things to do in Japan: attend a show of a traditional Maiko. The Maiko are Geisha apprentices and in these shows, they share their learning and knowledge: dance, music, the ritual of tea and the elegance that such a strict profession demands.
8. See the Fuji From Different Perspectives
Or just from one, but try to see it. We saw it for the first time in Hakone and the feeling is indescribable. We saw how little by little the clouds were clearing and we finally saw the top of the highest mountain in Japan. And then we went to Kawaguchi-ko and watched it for several days in a row and at all hours. If you travel to Japan in the summer, it is most likely covered behind clouds, heat, and humidity.
Of course, the best time to climb Mount Fuji is in July and August. You can join one of the expeditions that make the ascent and live a unique experience.
9. Cross the Mythical Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
One of the best things to do in Japan is to cross the busiest and most famous crosswalk in the world. You can’t leave Japan without doing it. In addition, I recommend you go up to Magnet by Shibuya109 to take the best photo with the crossing and see it from the best perspective.
10. Sleeping in a Ryokan
On our trip to Japan, we slept in several ryokans, although probably the best one was the one we booked in Nikko. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese accommodation, with its wood and paper walls, futons for sleeping and in some, even include traditional tea ceremonies or dinners. Personally, I thought sleeping on a futon was going to be uncomfortable but nothing could be further from the truth. In addition, it is very practical to be able to put them aside and use the room during the day for something else.
11. Experience the Different Seasons of the Year
Japan is one of the places in the world where the seasons of the year are very marked. In spring, there is Hanami, the period when cherry blossoms bloom, and there are a lot of festivals. In autumn, however, he lives the Momiji, changing the color of the leaves to a beautiful reddish hue. And in winter, places as magical as Shirakawa-go are covered in snow and become even more beautiful. Summer is perhaps the worst time to travel to Japan because it is extremely hot, the temperatures are scorching and the humidity makes it seem even hotter.
12. Sleeping in a Capsule Hotel
If one of the things to do in Japan is to sleep in a ryokan, you can’t miss sleeping in a capsule hotel either. This type of accommodation where, instead of renting a room, you rent a cube-shaped bed. You may be wondering if this type of accommodation is claustrophobic, but the truth is that it has always surprised me that they tend to have more space than it seems. In addition, inside there is usually a small locker for your objects, a USB plug and charger, light and, sometimes, even television or console. There are capsule hotels where they even give you pajamas and slippers. Quite an experience, of course.
13. Taking Pictures in a Purikura Photo Booth
A purikura photo booth is nothing more than a normal photo booth in which you can take several photographs and retouch them. You can touch up the background, put on a filter, etc. They are very popular in Japan, especially among girls, and you usually find them in arcades. Also, there are usually clothes for you to dress up. For me, it is one of the most curious experiences and one of the things to do in Japan yes or yes.
14. Play Video Games Like a Japanese More
Entering the arcade rooms is another one of those experiences that you cannot miss, especially if it is your first time in Japan. It’s one of those things that shocked me from the first moment because you see very young people playing at a level that allows you to get an idea of the number of hours (and money!) They have invested in that game. And since just looking is ugly, we also wanted to try some video games. In which city in the world can you include on your list of things to do to go play video games in an arcade? Seriously, it’s that Japan is too much.
Also, if you are a lover of retro games, you have to visit the Super Potato store in Tokyo. They have rare games, collectibles, video games of all kinds, and even a room where you can play retro video games, like Tetris.
You have not been to Japan if you have not tried at least one of the video games in the hundreds of arcades in large cities
15. Discover Why Everything in Japan Is ‘kawaii’
What does ‘Kawaii’ mean? This Japanese word is used when something is beautiful and causes you a certain tenderness. In Japan, it is used in many different areas, in entertainment, fashion, food, toys, appearance, behavior and even personal habits.
It is used in public aspects such as government publications or public transport notices. This in other cultures would be unthinkable if you are trying to deliver a serious message. But in Japan, ‘Kawaii’ sneaks in everywhere.
16. Watch a Ceremony at the Meiji Shrine
A very common thing, especially on the weekend, is to see a Shinto marriage ceremony at the Meiji Shrine, next to Yoyogi Park. The Meiji Jingu is one of the most popular Shinto shrines in Japan and one of the best temples in Tokyo. It was built in honor of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It was completed in 1921, so it will soon celebrate its first centenary and restoration works are currently being carried out. Take it into account in your visit.
17. Enjoy the Rockabillies at Yoyogi Park
The rockabilly Tokyoites gather every Sunday at the entrance of the park to make their best gala hip movements to Zucko Danny and Sandy. They put on their boots, put on their body jackets and style their toupees with a lot of glitters and, let’s dance! Seeing them is one of those things to do in Japan, especially if it’s your first trip to the country.
18. Live the Experience of an Onsen
An onsen is a Japanese thermal bath and for me, it is one of the things to do in Japan yes or yes. Whether it is your first time in the country or if it is the tenth time. Traditional onsen separate people by sex and in the baths, you go naked. There is some mixed onsen but the changing rooms are always separate. There is also usually shampoo and gel but it does not hurt to take your toiletry bag with personal hygiene items.
Before entering the water, you have to wash well in one of the individual showers. There are stools for you to sit and wash and exfoliate your skin well. All this is part of the onsen ritual, although the truth is that it is a bit strange to sit on a stool practically at ground level to rub yourself with other people.
19. Tour the Toriis of the Fushimi Inari-taisha Temple
One of the best experiences in Japan is visiting the Fushimi Inari Temple. Although it is one of the best-known temples in Kyoto and Japan, it is still an essential place. The temple is known for the thousands of toriis or orange gates. It is one of the most photographed places in Japan.
20. Feeling That You Are in Another World or in Another Time
In Japan, it is common to have this feeling. Tokyo is like a trip to the future; In Takayama, you feel like you are traveling back in time; In Shirakawa-go, you feel like you are in a story. And when you walk through Kyoto and unexpectedly come across a Maiko or a Geisha, you feel like you’re suddenly in the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’.
21. Go to a Maid Café (Maid Café) or a Cat Café (Neko Café)
One of the weirdest things you can only do in Japan is going to a maid cafe. It is a cafeteria where the waitresses are dressed as maids and are extremely helpful. The truth is that the roll is a bit weird. As soon as you enter, they put a headband with ears on you. Every time you order a drink, the waitresses bring it to the table singing and gesturing with their hands and inviting you to imitate them. For us, they were the descojone father, but Japanese men, apparently, go there with a somewhat erotic background. Although we didn’t go, there are also butler maid cafes.
By the way, the price of food and drink in a maid cafe is a lot more expensive compared to the price of any other normal bar. In addition, they charge to enter and also to take a photo of you with the waitresses. If you dare to go, we went in Tokyo to Maidreamin’s Maid Café in the geek neighborhood of Akihabara.
In Japan, there are also cafes of all kinds, for example, cat cafes . The plan is simply to have a drink surrounded by lots of cats that you can freely pet. As you can see, there are exceptional things in Japan.
More Weird Plans to Do in Japan?
I briefly tell you other geek plans to do in Japan:
- Play a pachinko. A kind of pinball. You will find a lot of places of this type in the big cities. I warn you, almost, almost, you have to enter with hearing protectors. They have the music blasting!
- Go see a kabuki theater performance. It is the traditional Japanese theater. We went to the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo. There are many performances throughout the day and you can buy your ticket directly at the theater a few hours in advance. It’s fine and it’s funny, but I was so tired that day that I admit, I was freaked out watching the theater.
- Although we did not go to any of them, Japan is where the ” Love Hotels” were born, the hotels of love. They are hotels that are reserved exclusively by the hour. You can imagine what for, right?
- Taking geek photos of you in the photo booths, the purikura. These photo booths put filters of kitten faces, ears, hearts. Anyway, now you understand why the Japs are so peculiar, right?
Did you like my selection of things to do in Japan? I hope it is useful to you on your trip. Read on if you need more information to travel to Japan. And if you have any questions, leave us a comment.
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