As a country with seemingly infinite possibilities, it can be overwhelming to try and find out what to do in Japan. No-one really likes being well and truly lost, so we’ve narrowed down our top 5 things to experience in Japan for new visitors, ranging from spectacular natural experiences to the hustle and bustle of inner-city life.
1. Mt. Fuji
It might seem like a glaringly obvious inclusion (it helps that it’s a gigantic volcano in the middle of the country), but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a list of top places in Japan that doesn’t include this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though it’s still active, it hasn’t erupted since 1707, and every year tourists gather at Fuji-san in their hundreds of thousands to climb it, photograph it, or explore the brilliant surrounding areas.
While you’re here, make sure to check out the Shinto Shrines – the religion of indigenous Japan. There are many shrines around Mt. Fuji, which has held deep-rooted spiritual significance since the 7th century. We’ve previously written a blog about little-known Mt. Fuji facts which we’d highly recommend you get stuck into.
2. Ryōgoku Kokugikan
If you’re keen on tradition, or are even just a sports fan in general, getting yourself tickets for sumo competitions is a fantastic experience. The sport has a long history, and pre-match rituals are an integral part of the proceedings.
Tokyo’s Grand Sumo Tournament happens multiple times a year, taking place for a two week period during alternate months. All the information can be found on their website, as are options for purchasing tickets.
Onsen, Japan’s hot springs, are widespread due to the country’s volcanic nature. A visit to any of these will no doubt bring a great experience, but it’s worth doing a little research beforehand – some of the best onsen in Japan are a little bit out of the way. Japan Guide has a great list of which onsen to visit, which we’d recommend checking out.
It can be a bit daunting taking a steamy bath with a load of strangers, so we’ve put together our own list of things you should know before visiting Japan’s hot springs to help you feel more confident about immersing yourself in both the onsen and the culture.
4. Shibuya Crossing
A bit of a curveball, this one. While the previous entries in our list have been older traditions, this is a more modern phenomenon in the Shibuya precinct of the country’s capital, Tokyo. The Shibuya Crossing is often dubbed the busiest intersection in the world and is a marvel every time the lights change.
According to Lonely Planet, Friday and Saturday evenings are a particular highlight with everyone racing around in their weekend best for a night in the big city. A great way to dive right into inner-city Japanese culture, and ties in brilliantly with a shopping spree or your own late trip to the bars and clubs.
5. Harajuku Neighbourhood
The final entry in our list is the internationally-renowned Harajuku neighbourhood of Tokyo. This district finds its way onto lists the top places in Japan more often than not, and it’s not hard to see why. Harajuku is recognised as the centre for youth culture, but it’s definitely not restricted to that age group. It’s a fantastic modern cultural experience, with people dressed up and hanging out, people performing music and dance, endless vintage boutiques and eateries…and even a hedgehog café!
Harajuku is a great place to explore and shop in the day, or to frequent the restaurants and bars in the evening. It probably goes without saying that it’s also a brilliant spot to get some great photos!
And that’s our list of the top 5 things to experience in Japan! It’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to just five, as the top places in Japan are in abundance. If this list has given you the shopping bug already, check out our great range of Japanese products from authentic kimonos to hand-made woodblock prints.