Prepare for an unmissable adventure around Japan with all of the best things to do!
Japan, also known as the land of the rising sun, has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and for a good reason. Despite its small size, Japan is brimming with plenty of must-see modern marvels, deep-rooted cultural traditions, quirky oddities and plenty of stunning vistas.
Whether you are keen to geek out at the electronic mecca of Akihabara or enjoy the quiet pleasures of a Geisha tea ceremony in Kyoto, there is never a dull moment to be had in Japan.
To make sure you don’t miss a thing on your next holiday, we have curated an ultimate travel guide to the best things to do in Japan. Packed with must-see attractions and plenty of epic things to do; check off these unmissable experiences from your bucket list in 2022!
Better yet, your next holiday to Japan could be on us!
Simply sign-up here to win a $5,000 Luxury Escapes voucher!
Best Things To Do in Tokyo:
teamLab Planets Tokyo
This mind-bending interactive experience will change the way you think about what ‘art’ even means. An enthralling mix of sight and sound, light and lasers, this avant-garde art exhibition pushes the limits of digital technology, letting you play with some of the most interesting interactive art in the world. Whether you’re walking through a mirrored green house, a room packed with giant balloons, or ‘swimming’ through a digital koi pond, your body will be completely immersed. Make sure to orbit teamLab Planets on your next trip to Tokyo, one of the most unique exhibitions in the world!
The busiest crossing in the world, Shibuya Crossing is a sight to behold. An intersection between two of the busiest train stations in the world, making your way from one end to the other feels like a chaotic scramble. When those green lights flick on, you’ll be weaving and dodging hundreds of people from almost every direction, and when it’s red, the crossing starts to reload people, just to do it all over again. Scaling up one of the nearby skyscrapers lets you gaze down at the tiny people hustling from one station to the next, like an hourglass of people. Make sure to cross Shibuya Crossing off your bucket list on your next visit to Japan!
Sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan
As the national sport of Japan, sumo wrestling can be one of the best sport activities to visit in Tokyo. This intense one-on-one competition is a favourite among locals and tourists alike, and it is not hard to see why. Sumo tournaments are held every second month starting in January and running throughout the year, meaning there’s plenty of chances to see this historic and unique sport. Tickets for sumo tournaments are sold a few weeks before the start of each match, with more tickets sold on the morning of each day. So book ahead for this cool and equally fun thing to do in Tokyo!
Kawaii at Harajuku
Fans of Hello Kitty, Pokémon, street wear and all things cute, we have found your new mecca. Recognised as the epicentre of Japanese youth culture and fashion, Harajuku is a shopping and eating district with no equal. Quirky and adorable stores line the tight alleys of Takeshita and Cat Street, letting you peak at the latest trends of Japanese street style. That cuteness also feeds into the dining options, with crepe stands and bubble-gum bright street foods that will have you screaming ‘aww’ like an anime character. Get cute at Harajuku on your next trip to Tokyo!
Anime, manga, and all things geeky; there’s a good reason Akihabara has been titled as the centre of Japanese pop-culture. Walking down the streets for the first time can feel overwhelming with multi-storey candy-coloured arcades, gigantic anime billboards that fill the skyline, crowded vintage and modern electronic stores and, let’s not forget, the flashing lights and loud music that lures you in. The plethora of maid cafes — a unique cafe where the all-female staff where maid outfits and play games with the guests — are a quirky phenomenon that can make for a fun snack in between shopping. Spend a few hours in the nerdy mecca of the world at Akihabara!
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Monkeys bathing in a hot spring sound like a punchline. But at Jigokudani Monkey Park, you have the chance to witness this firsthand. A four-hour drive from central Tokyo, this remote natural hot spring has become famous for the Japanese macaques who call this reserve home. Visiting lets you see these snow monkeys bathing, eating and just having fun. Best experienced with the rising snow fall of January and February, take some time out of your trip to witness these loveable snow monkeys taking a dip at Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Hiking Mount Fuji
One of the most beautiful places in Japan, Mount Fuji has become a towering icon of the tranquil majesty of the island nation. Standing at almost four kilometres tall, Mount Fuji is the tallest peak in Japan, a peak you have the chance to climb. To reach the summit can take about a day’s worth of strenuous walking, hiking, and climbing. Luckily there’s a number of lodges set up the at various stations, giving you a chance to rest your feet or even sleep for the night. Since the best time to reach the summit is at the crack of dawn, sleeping overnight gives you the perfect timing to see the sun rise on one of the most incredible experiences in Japan. The climbing season runs from early June to mid-September, so make sure you book this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Best Things To Do in Kyoto:
Traditional Tea Ceremony
While Tokyo has a reputation for the blaring future, Kyoto is the home for Japan’s many traditional customs that have been carried out for hundreds of years; one of the oldest still on offer is the traditional tea ceremony. Watch as the host carries out the ceremonial preparation, hand-making the matcha and powdered green tea. Not only do you get to watch a master in their element, but you’ll also have the chance to make tea yourself with the helpful and knowledgeable guide. This peaceful practice is the perfect opportunity to relax from your hectic holiday and sip on the simmering matcha in a traditional tea ceremony.
Geisha Night Walk in Gion
One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Kyoto, the cobblestone-lined streets of Gion are famed not just for its wooden houses, but also as it is one of the last places in Japan to see Geishas. Geishas, kimono-wearing Japanese performers famed for their bold red lip and white face make-up, are a regular sight on the ancient streets of Gion in the evening, making their way to tea houses or the entertainment district. Staying for the evening can be a magical experience, as the red lanterns light up the dark streets and alleys of Gion, with plenty of sake bars and ramen restaurants to keep the night alive.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The soaring bamboo stalks in the rich, dense forest Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most enthralling and peaceful spots in Kyoto. Just walking through the sprawling forest makes for calming and mindful reprieve from the chaotic pressure travel can sometimes feel like. With very little light or sound peaking through the bamboo, Arashiyama is a true spectacle of nature. So get your cameras ready and prepare to be awed by the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – one of the best things to do in Kyoto!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Walking through the tight nit trail of the Fushimi Inari Shrine, with its iconic bold red archways, feels like you’re teleporting to another more ancient world. It takes a while to ‘teleport’ through, as the hike up to the summit of the mountain can take up to three hours, with the peaceful sway of the wind and leaves giving you the motivation to keep going. Once you’ve passed through the dense gates you’ll find yourself in one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, with a stark historical temple. For those wanting the ultimate Shinto experience in Japan, look no further than Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The pain and devastation of Hiroshima, one of the most horrifying events in human history, can still be felt today at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Visiting the memorial is a history lesson in practice for the tragedy and human loss of the Great War. Most well-known for the sole structure left standing in Hiroshima after the first atomic bomb dropped in 1945, the building acts as a reminder of the grief that still lingers all these decades later. Walking through the open fields can feel unsettling and eerie, but it is a sombre reminder of what was lost. One of the most important war memorials in the world, visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park for an unforgettable experience.
Best Things To Do in Osaka:
While Osaka has built a reputation as a modern and global city, few reminders of the past remain as ever-present as Osaka Castle. Dating back more than half a century, thankfully the picturesque cherry blossoms on the base of the grand castle and its broad moat seem to protect it from the hustle-and-bustle of this modern-day city. The towering Osaka Castle has become one of the most famous landmarks in Japan and for a good reason. Located just a short 10-minute train ride from Osaka Station, the lavish halls inside of the palace are responsible for some of the most monumental decisions in Japan’s history. Without a doubt, Osaka Castle is one of the best historic tourist attractions in Japan!
Walking through Dotonbori at night feels like a pulsating, visceral adventure of sights and sound. Centred by the Dotonbori Canal, visitors will also find hundreds of neon lights and the famed Running Man and Doraku Crab that highlights the exciting Dotonbori nightlife. The true stand-out are the eateries, 24-hour restaurants and sizzling street food carts that all make for an unparalleled dining experience. The diversity means delicious local delicacies like Okonomiyaki are just as exquisite as international cuisines. With plenty of food tours through Dotonbori, don’t miss eating from some of the best restaurants and dining options Japan has to offer.
Shopping in Shinsekai
Closer to a colourful amusement park than a luxury shopping district, Shinsekai has built a reputation as being one of the most interesting streets in Japan. This hyperactive culmination of kitschy advertising, tasty street eateries, and quirky stalls make Shinsekai an absolute treat to explore over a lazy afternoon. Everywhere you turn has something interesting on offer, as the nostalgia drenched Shinsekai is popping with gaudy inflatable fish, retro shopping alleys and plenty of great deals. Those looking for a quick snack should know they don’t call Shinsekai the street food capital of Japan for nothing. Stalls hawking octopus-filled Takoyaki and deep-fried skewers are aplenty in the crowded streets, meaning you’ve got handfuls of scrumptious food to try as you wander from store-to-store. Pop on over Shinsekai for an unforgettable shopping adventure!
Ready, set, go! For many, Japan is synonymous of Nintendo and their plucky Italian plumber Mario. Thankfully, there is one business looking to turn the games into reality. Live out your Super Mario dreams by racing the streets of Osaka as a Mario character of your own. Inspired by the Mario Kart racing games, now is your chance to get behind the wheel of a Mario-themed kart while dressing up as a member of the Super Mario ensemble. This fun and chaotic experience — letting you see the city from a new light — is sure to be a high note on anyone’s bucket list in Osaka.
An hour drive outside of Osaka’s metropolis lays a mysterious world of natural beauty, and few are as renowned as the Nara Park. Established in 1880, the parklands have become famous for the hundreds of friendly deer roaming free over the vast reservation. About a 20-minute walk from Nara Station, Nara Park lets you get up-close-and-personal to pet and feed the adorable deer. Visiting Nara Park is a must for anyone’s Japan itinerary.
Can’t make it to Japan just yet? Experience a taste of the east thanks to the Top Japanese Bars around Australia. Or, experience the culture of Japan at home with Australia’s Best Subscription Snack Boxes.