40 Cool Things to Do in Japan

Japan, known as the land of the rising sun, is one of the most unique and bewildering countries in the whole world.

It has a captivating beauty with an interesting history and fascinating culture and heritage.

There are so many amazing and cool things to do in Japan that one trip is never enough!

You can see things like old shrines or temples, stunning royal palaces, colorful gardens, and even experience kooky fun activities like real-life Mario Kart.

From ancient temples to innovative skyscrapers, relaxing hot springs to cosplay go-kart rides, peaceful tea ceremonies to outrageous arcades – Japan has so much to offer you.

Whether you go as an independent traveler or with your family, you can have a great time in this great destination.

Top Things to Do in Japan: Enjoy Your Trip to The Fullest

In this write-up, I will share some of the best things to do in Japan, dividing them into a few categories.

To make your trip to Japan a remarkable one, you can choose a few from each category.

Traditional Things to Do in Japan

Here I will describe some unique things to do in Japan that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

These are the things to try in Japan only, and they are the best ways to experience Japanese culture.

1. Soak in An Onsen

Onsens (hot spring baths) are immensely popular all across Japan.

To enjoy the classic Japanese experience, soaking in the steaming hot waters of an onsen is a must for your Japan bucket list.

It is among the most relaxing things to do in Japan.

Onsen

Onsens come in many forms—indoor and outdoor, small and large, or simple and luxurious.

Most of them are shared but divided by gender.

How awkward it is to be completely naked! Right?

Still, it is worth getting, and your Japanese experience will be incomplete without a long, relaxing soak in your birthday suit.

When chilly winter air kisses your shoulders, there is nothing like immersing in hot steam water.

It is pure magic!

However, onsen feels nice in other seasons as well.

2. Stay in A Ryokan

I highly suggest spending a night in a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn. It’s one of the popular Japanese activities that you must experience in Japan.

These Japanese-style inns are characterized by elegant tatami-matted rooms and unique, exceptional hospitality.

Ryokan Resort

The epic, multi-course meals provided in a ryokan are the center of attraction.

After you complete the dinner, futons will be set up on the floor to ensure your comfortable sleep at night.

Some ultra-luxurious ryokans offer yukata robes (cotton kimono) and access to the private on-site onsen with a view of exquisite Japanese gardens.

Yes, they are more expensive, but the experience is worth every penny.

3. Wear A Kimono

Things you can only do in Japan also include dressing up in their traditional clothes, yukata or kimono.

If you have a fascination for Japanese culture, you may love this idea.

In case you are curious to know the difference between a yukata and a kimono, let me clear it up.

The kimono is made from silk. It is more formal and heavier with two collars.

Kimono

On the other hand, yukata is usually made from cotton. It is more casual, lighter weight with one collar.

And kimonos are more expensive to buy as a souvenir.

Most ryokans offer yukata to their guests for nighttime wearing or after soaking in the on-site onsen.

Therefore, if you stay at one of these Japanese inns, you will likely have an opportunity to try it on without any additional cost.

Otherwise, if you prefer to wear a yukata or kimono in public, there are a few places in the country, especially in Tokyo and Kyoto, where you can rent them.

Wearing them, you can wander around the town, do photoshoots, attend tea ceremonies or even bring it home depending on the renting categories or price.

4. Spotting A Geisha or Watching A Geisha Dance

Geishas are one of the fascinating aspects of Japanese tradition. The serene beauty of these Geishas is among the nation’s most enduring images.

Geisha means the woman of art. They are trained in dance, music, traditional arts, and very sophisticated art of communication.

The existence of these highly skilled women is quite unbelievable in this modern Japan. They even continue to maintain a strict lifestyle, so spotting them is special.

Geishas

If you desire to catch a glimpse of the few remaining true Geisha, Kyoto’s Gion district is the place where you should head to.

However, even if you are extremely patient, there is no guarantee you can see for what you came.

So, instead of stalking geisha on the streets of Gion, I recommend you watch them perform at annual dance festivals that take place every spring and autumn.

Though Miyako Odori is the most famous in April, we had the opportunity to go to Kyo Odori, which was not so crowded.

Their performance was breathtaking, and it was captivating to get a closer look at those graceful women with extravagant kimonos, gorgeous ornate hairstyles, and iconic makeup.

It is a cultural to-do list for your Japan trip.

Here I have come with another category.

Let’s explore it.

Fun Things to Do in Japan

This section includes some fun stuff you can do in Japan. They will give you pure enjoyment and pleasure throughout your trip.

Let’s check them out.

5. Riding on A Shinkansen or Bullet Train

Some of the coolest things in Japan are traveling the country via bullet train.

There is something wonderful about train journeys.

What do you think?

Shinkansen High-Speed Bullet Train

Putting on the headphones, sitting back, and looking out the windows at the towns and life passing by; amazing. Isn’t it?

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On top of that, any route through the mountains or along the coastline is especially more beautiful!

You will surely love the train travel here.

The network is expansive, and the trains are famously efficient and clean.

So, your journey will definitely be a comfortable and safe one.

The convincing thing about these super fast trains is they are always on time.

6. Explore The TeamLab Borderless Museum

You can visit Teamlab Borderless Museum in Tokyo for an adventurous and exceptional experience.

It’s a kind of different and unique digital art museum.

Teamlab Borderless Museum

You will get immersed when you walk around in the dark and interact with a series of colorful displays of lights and sounds.

Lasers, floating lanterns, flowers, and crystal rains- what a magnificent scene it is!

You won’t ever forget this view in your lifetime. It is really hard to sum up in words.

So, if Tokyo is on your Japan schedule, don’t forget to reserve a ticket to this amazing museum.

7. Enjoy The World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Osaka

If you love amusement parks, you should definitely visit Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

It is a must-see for Harry Potter and theme park fans.

Universal Studios in Osaka

The spotlight of this place is the immersive Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can wander the snowy cobbled streets, stroll through Hogwarts, shop for sweets in Honeydukes.

You can even cast your own spells if you buy a magic wand.

In case you want some thrill, there are plenty of rides for you elsewhere in the park.

They even include Hollywood Dream and The Flying Dinosaur, the scariest rollercoaster I have ever ridden!

8. Immerse Yourself in The Studio Ghibli Museum

Japan is a cache of the treasure of animation. It is one of Japan’s most important and largest cultural exports.

However, Studio Ghibli holds a special place in Japanese movie fame.

Inside Ghibli Museum

One of the biggest names in the anime world is Hayao Miyazaki, who is the creator of Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and plenty of Anime classics.

This Ghibli Museum will offer you a front-row seat to take a peek into Miyazaki’s endless imagination.

According to many visitors, this is the place where Ghibli films come alive.

So, I think you don’t want to miss it as an anime fan.

9. Enjoy A Day at DisneySea

Wandering around at the DisneySea is one of the pleasant Japan activities for tourists who love unique oceanic themes.

DisneySea

You will be amazed at the view of ports like Mysterious Island with an erupting volcano and Mediterranean Harbor, which looks exactly like Italy.

There are so many fun rides at this place as well.

Some adult-oriented attraction like enjoying a Broadway show is also available here to bring a change in your boring daily routine.

10. Go-Karting Around Tokyo

One of the popular recreational activities in Japan is go-karting. We picked it as the most fun thing to do in Tokyo.

After all, can you dress up like your favorite character and drive those go-karts on the main street of a major city anywhere else in the world?

High Speed Go Kart

We went to Tokyo for go-karting, but it is also available in Kyoto and Osaka.

At first, I was frightened as we drove alongside cars and buses but finally ended up having so much fun.

Anyway, I need to mention that, for this ride, you need to have international driving permission from your home country.

11. Sing Karaoke

One of the most typical Japan activities includes karaoke. From teenagers to businessmen, everyone loves it here.

If you are into music, of course, you will want to experience this karaoke culture of Japan.

Rent a karaoke booth and sing whatever you want to sing.

Karaoke

Karaoke rooms are rented spaces where you can burst into your favorite tunes in private or with the company of friends.

These private rooms are equipped with comfortable seating, microphones, a TV, and a tablet. Hence, you can easily choose from a wide selection of songs.

You can even order food.

Karaoke is affordable enough even in the capital city of Tokyo. So, make sure to enjoy an affordable night out alone or with your friends.

12. See Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani National Park

Seeing the snow monkeys at Jigokudani National Monkey Park was one of the memorable things we did during our week in Japan.

Jigokudani National Monkey Park

Escaping the hustling and bustling Tokyo, we made a little day trip to Nagano.

Tourists gather in this park to observe these unique primates, and many of them even take photographs to keep the memories alive.

The most entertaining scene was to see them soaking in the natural hot springs.

13. See the Sika Deer in Famous Nara Park

Nara is well-known for its ancient temples and even more famous for the deer that wander around them.

The ancient capital of Nara is just 45-minute away from both Osaka and Kyoto if you ride a train.

Deers Nara Park Forest

The deer in Nara Park are believed to be messengers of god according to the traditional Shinto religion. So, these sacred animals are allowed to roam freely.

There are around 1,000 plus deer who will not flee away when they see you.

In fact, the scene is totally opposite! They learned to bow to humans in exchange for food.

Yes, you heard it right. They will actually bow!

Apart from the deer, visitors shouldn’t miss seeing the likes of Kofuki-Ji Temple and Todai-Ji Temple and the large number of traditional gardens that colorize the city.

14. Dine-in at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant

The fun activities in Japan also include visiting the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo.

To me, it is one of the weirdest things to do in Japan.

It features giant robots, laser shows, and pumping bass. If this is what the future is like, I doubt whether you will want to be in there or not!

Here you can experience a kinky, high-energy show with robots, ninjas, dragons, creepy clowns, blue-haired dancers, drummers, guitarists on swings, and lots of flashing neon lights.

Loud, hilarious, and obnoxious!

These are the words that came to my mind after visiting this weird place. I think it’s only appropriate for grown-ups, not for kids.

This place is exceptionally recommended if you are a crazy fan of Gundam or anything related to robots.

Enjoying The Natural Beauty of Japan

Apart from the city-centric recreations, Japan has much more in its nature to offer you.

You can enjoy a magnificent scenic view with gorgeous mountains, beautiful lakes, eye-catching waterfalls, rivers, rice fields, and forests in this island country Japan.

Here I am going to mention some of the unique natural places to visit in Japan.

Let’s get ready to explore them.

15. Catch A Glimpse of Mount Fuji

Seeing Mount Fuji in all its glory is one of the top to-do things for many traveler’s Japan bucket list.

With the perfectly shaped volcano, it is the highest mountain in Japan.

This iconic mountain wears the most beautiful look, especially in winter and spring when it is fully snow-clad.

Mount Fuji

If you want to see the best views of Mount Fuji, the lakeside town Kawaguchiko is the place where you should head to.

You can enjoy wonderful views by walking or cycling around the lake.

Taking a trip in a cable car or riding a boat will be convenient too.

As a bonus, there are so many museums and tea houses around this lake to gratify your thirst.

If climbing is your favorite, you might be curious.

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For your kind information, you can climb Mount Fuji but only in the months of July and August, and it is quite challenging.

16. Stroll Through A Bamboo Forest

There is something magical and very Japanese about visiting a bamboo forest.

Walking along the path with a beautiful landscape and hearing the calming sound of the rattling of bamboos is something unreal or dreamlike.

Bamboo Forest

To turn this dreamlike feeling into a reality, you can visit a bamboo forest in Japan.

Undoubtedly, Arashiyama is the most famous bamboo forest in Japan. However, it remains pretty packed, especially during the high tourist season.

Honestly, I prefer the smaller bamboo groves that you can find in temples such as Kodai-Ji.

I suggest you seek out a more peaceful bamboo forest for yourself to experience tranquility.

17. Wander Around Japanese Gardens

You are visiting Japan but ignoring the beauty of its colorful gardens; it’s quite impossible.

Japanese Gardens change their beauty with the seasons. They are beautiful all year round, during springtime blossoms, fall foliage, and even during a dusting of snow.

Garden Japan

All the Japanese gardens highlight the beauty of nature, avoiding artificial components where possible.

Some classic elements in those gardens include moss-covered rocks, stone lanterns, carp-filled ponds, wooden teahouses, cherry blossoms, and maple trees.

These are a number of gardens, but some of the most famous are Shinjuku Gyoen and Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Gyokusen-en Gardens in Kanazawa, Tenryū-Ji, Kyoto, and Korakuen, Okayama.

18. Explore The Beauty of Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in Japan are beautiful, and spring in this country lives up to the hype.

The fleeting cherry blossoms are truly spectacular, and you will find them everywhere in spring. They are not just limited to a certain place.

Tokyo and Kyoto are two excellent famous cherry blossom spots, but these places are flooded with people in the Sakura season.

Cherry blossom

However, if you think you can stand the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning displays of cherry blossoms that you won’t find anywhere in the world.

Anyway, we enjoyed cherry blossoms in Okayama, where it was not so crowded.

This city wears a marvelous look, especially in Sakura season with the unworldly cherry blossoms.

Hence, this place is a must for anyone who wants to find peace in the appearance of these beautiful flowers without the crowds of Tokyo or Kyoto.

Some of the most iconic places to view cherry blossom in Japan also include Maruyama Park, Yoshino, Fuji Five Lakes, Himeji Castle, and Ueno Park.

19. Hike the Historic Trail Nakasendo

The Nakasendo Trail is one of only five Edo-period highways that connected ancient Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto.

You can explore some well-preserved cities while walking through this old trail, between mountains and dense forests.

What a nerve-wracking feeling it was!

Trail Nakasendo

In those post-towns, samurai and lords could take a break to eat or rest at traditional inns and soak in hot springs.

Seeing all this will give you a dramatic vibe for sure.

20. Don’t Miss The Kumano Kodo Trail

When most of Japan is crowded, there is also a huge portion of the country where you can find peace, serenity, and also, solitude.

If you love nature and extraordinary experiences, hiking the Kumano Kodo trail is just the thing you should include on your bucket list.

Kumano Kodo Sacred Trail

You might have heard about the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

But do you know it is the sister trail of that?

This Kumano Kodo is an ancient pilgrimage trail that runs through mountains and tiny villages, where you can stay at traditional guesthouses.

21. Pay A Visit to Naoshima Art Island

Sandy beaches, beautiful sunny weather, a relaxed, cool atmosphere, and an abundance of modern art will give you a different Japanese experience.

Naoshima Island

The entire island is like a hub of an art exhibit, and art enthusiasts worldwide make the pilgrimage to this island to wander amongst the installation.

We also saw Yayoi Kusama’s famous red and yellow pumpkins while enjoying beautiful coastal views.

Altogether, it was certainly a feast for the eyes.

Sacred Things to Do in Japan

There are numerous shrines and temples around Japan, from the ultra-famous to the small neighborhood shrines and temples for locals to visit regularly.

Even if you are not religious-minded, visiting a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine is a must do in Japan.

They are mostly set amongst gorgeous natural settings in the forests or on mountains.

Seeing a few of them during your trip to Japan is one of the best ways to know about their culture and religion.

I am going to let you know some of the remarkable ones.

22. Overnight Stay in A Temple at Koya-San

Some of the unique things to do in Japan is to spend a night in a temple in the holy mountain town Koya-san, which is about 90 minutes away from Osaka.

Many temples offer shukubo (temple lodging) or overnight stays.

Temple in Koyasan

There you can sleep in tatami mat rooms, soak in communal onsen baths, and enjoy delicious shojin ryori (vegetarian Buddhist meals).

Early in the morning, you can participate in morning prayers, and in certain cases, you can even join monk-led activities such as meditation or the copying of sutras.

23. See Kinkaku-Ji Temple or Golden Temple

Kinkaku-Ji or Golden Pavilion is another Kyoto highlight that we expected to be overrated at first.

However, later we found out that it is popular for a good reason.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Temple

The outer side of this temple is completely covered in gold leaf, which makes a stunning reflection in the lake beside it.

It is definitely worth a visit, but this place is completely packed with tour groups at practically all hours.

Though the morning is said to be the least busy, dusk is the most beautiful. Seeing the Golden Temple when the sun starts to set is spectacular.

24. Walk Through Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari

Among countless beautiful and serene shrines in Japan, only a few of them are as photogenic as Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari is one of the nation’s most popular shrines, which is famous for its thousands of bright orange torii gates.

Red Tori Gate at Fushimi

The orange-colored torii gates go up through a forest on the side of a mountain, and it takes about 1.5 hours to round off the full circuit.

Hiking through it at night feels more adventurous with a slightly spooky atmosphere. You may watch out for wild boars at that time.

In addition to its popular torii gates, the shrine is also home to numerous other graveyards, statuaries, and shrines.

25. Senso-Ji Temple

Senso-Ji is the oldest and the most famous temple in Tokyo. It is located in the historical neighborhood of Asakusa.

Senso-Ji Temple

It remains crowded all the time due to its increased popularity.

However, it is still very worthy of a visit, especially while you are in Tokyo.

26. Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine can be a perfect escape from Tokyo’s bustling streets, which is not so far from the city’s downtown.

Unlike many other temples in Japan, the framework is not brightly painted with attractive colors.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Instead, the wooden gates are left in their natural state, making these forested grounds more serene.

Try to visit this shrine on a Saturday if you can. You may be lucky enough to witness a traditional Japanese wedding, as we did!

27. Shitennoji Temple

If you are in Osaka, try to pay a visit to Shitennoji temple, the most important Buddhist structure in the city.

Shitennoji Temple

Also, it is one of the many oldest temples in Japan.

28. Know Your Fortune at A Temple or Shrine

If you are curious about your future, you can get your fortune told at particular temples or shrines.

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You can buy fortune-telling paper strips, omikuji at those temples and shrines. The fortune ranges from great good luck to great bad luck.

Omikuji Tree at Heian Jingu Shrine

Some of the most famous temples, like the Golden Temple in Kyoto, have fortunes in English.

I need to mention one important thing: if you get a bad fortune unluckily, make sure to leave it at the temple to avoid that bad luck.

Don’t worry! There are dedicated areas to tie them.

Or if there is good fortune, don’t forget to carry it with you.

Anyway, you can skip this fortune-telling part if you are not interested in these superstitious matters.

Explore A Japanese Castle

Japan has quite a rich history, and it has a number of castles throughout the country. Each castle represents its own different story.

You can explore those interesting castles to gain a better knowledge of this country’s history.

There are multiple renowned castles in Japan. Among them, I am going to mention some of the important ones.

You can go and visit any of them or two or three! It’s up to you.

29. Visit Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is located in a nice park within Osaka, and it is accessible by the metro.

This historic castle played a significant role in unifying Japan in the 16th century.

It is a really pretty building and well worth a visit.

Osaka Castle

I would recommend visiting the park and enjoying the view of the castle, but not spending any money on entering the castle.

30. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is just half an hour away from Osaka if you take a ride on the bullet train.

You can stop off in Himeji and explore the beautiful grounds of the Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle

This castle is also known as Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) due to its white outer walls.

It is the best well-preserved castle in all of Japan.

You can say it serves as a classic example of Japanese castle architecture.

This castle was designated as a national treasure in 1931.

31. Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle is located in the center of the city. It is adjacent to the famous Kenroku-en, one of three perfect gardens of Japan.

Kanazawa Castle

If you love Japanese gardens or have a particular interest in architecture, then you should definitely visit this Kanazawa Castle.

32. Matsumoto Castle

This castle is originally known as Fukashi Castle, which is the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation.

It is installed in the city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of the grandest castles in Japan, which was built in the late 16th century.

Because of its black color, it is also well-known as the “Crow Castle.”

The castle looks especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.

To-Do Things in Japan for Foodies

If you are a foodie at heart, Japan won’t let you down in this case, either. Food in Japan is in the form of art.

Japanese foods are delicious and universally well-known for their beautiful presentation.

We loved eating in Japan, and there are a number of tasty culinary experiences to have fun and enjoy.

33. Order Foods From A Vending Machine

Vending machines are found everywhere in Japan. Most vending machines sell milk tea, cold green tea, soft drinks, juice, and water.

In the cold season, you can buy hot coffee, tea, and even corn soup.

Vending Machines in Tokyo

These vending machines are so convenient, and you won’t ever get thirsty. They are in every train station, on almost every street corner, and even on hiking paths.

The cheapest and quickest meal that you can get from a vending machine is ramen.

Though its origin is in China, you can’t have a classic Japanese experience without a bowl of ramen.

Therefore, these must try things in Japan are highly recommended.

34. Eat Sushi

Sushi is the most popular Japanese food.

So, of course, you will want to enjoy it in its homeland.

SUSHI

Eating sushi in Japan is a different experience from elsewhere in the world.

Sushi comes in many forms.

If you can’t tolerate the smell of raw fish, you can try vegetarian sushi. It is made with cucumber, tofu, and other vegetables instead of raw fish.

35. Enjoy A Bento Box on Your Train Ride

You can find bento boxes in train stations, convenience stores, and department stores. They are known as ekiben there.

Seafood bento box on train in Japan

It is a kind of Japanese lunch box that has a range of small dishes with a balance of textures, flavors, and food groups.

A typical bento box features rice, meat or fish, and pickled vegetables.

They are ideal for long train journeys and picnics in the park.

36. Try A Kaiseki Meal

Where ramen is one of the cheapest Japanese meals, kaiseki is the most expensive.

It is the highest quality traditional multi-course meal. A number of small, beautifully presented dishes are usually served in beautiful tatami mat rooms. The presentation enhances the seasonal theme.

Kaiseki meal

If you are a vegetarian, you can taste the meat-free alternative shojin ryori instead of kaiseki.

37. Hanami Under the Cherry Blossoms

Hanami is a tradition of Japanese, in which they enjoy viewing transient sakura (cherry blossom) for a few weeks.

The Japanese appear in a large group under the tree, and they have a picnic with foods there. This often lasts all day and night.

Hanami picnic

It is the most popular way to enjoy the heavenly beauty of the cherry blossom.

You can buy a bento box from a department store to enjoy your own hanami.

You will even find special sakura-themed items like mochi, kitkats etc.

38. Drink Matcha with Wagashi

If you are a tea lover, matcha is a must-try for you.

It is powdered green tea with a richer flavor than regular tea.

Matcha with wagashi

Having a bowl of matcha in a traditional tea house is a classic Japanese activity.

So, you can consider enjoying matcha with wagashi, a kind of beautiful sweet typically made from rice, red beans, and sugar.

There are many tea houses in Kyoto. We had a great experience at one of them.

39. Learn The Art of The Tea Ceremony

Tea isn’t just a drink in Japan; it is also an important part of their tradition and culture.

So, I highly recommend experiencing a traditional tea ceremony if you are interested to learn more about this important part of Japanese culture.

Traditional tea ceremony in Japan

Kyoto is the home of this tea ceremony. So you will find many options there.

You can attend an authentic tea ceremony near the Golden Temple.

In Tokyo, you can experience it at the Bonsai Museum. Some have the option of wearing a kimono which makes the atmosphere more traditional.

40. Participate in A Cooking Class

For foodies, participating in a cooking class is one of the best things to do in Japan.

You can know more about Japanese food culture and take recipes of your favorite Japanese dishes.

Hands Cooking Sushi

A wide variety of cooking classes are available in Japan, where you can learn to make sushi, udon noodles, tempura, or some regional dishes.

Well, nothing more is left to let you know as I have already done with the mentionable ones.

Then let’s conclude it here.

Conclusion

Now that you have quite a broad idea about some of the cool things to do in Japan, I hope it will help you greatly in your Japan trip.

Try your favorite ones from each category to make your Japan trip a memorable one.

Lastly, travel to Japan, find your paradise in the streets and enjoy your happy time.

Thanks for being with me till now.