22 Best Things to See and Do in Japan 22 Best Things to See and Do in Japan

22 Best Things to See and Do in Japan

Japan is a must-see destination because it balances breathtaking nature, buzzing cities, traditional villages, and ancient architecture. Its magic is attributed to the sky-high mountains topped with a layer of snow, neon-lit streets full of people, and thousands of temples and serene escapes in between. Marvel at majestic Mount Fuji, join a time-honored tea ceremony, or lose yourself in Osaka’s culinary scene; here are all the best things to do in Japan.

The Best Things to do in Japan

From ancient temples, which are only a stone’s throw away from futuristic skyscrapers, to relaxing hot springs and stunning mountain views, there are so many incredible things to do in Japan. Spend your days wandering through peaceful gardens, visiting museums and shrines, and indulging in the country’s delicious cuisine.

graphic map japan travel guide

Towering 3765 meters high above the landscapes, stands Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji. The volcano’s stunning snow-capped peak is one of the must-sees on any visitor’s Japan itinerary, seen from near and far and complemented by candy-colored blossom trees in the spring or vibrant fall foliage.

things to do in japan mount fuji lake

Spend a few days in the region, going around the five main lakes to find all the best viewpoints. Mount Fuji was our favorite area in Japan – offering a perfect combination of nature, cute cafes, and relaxation. Watching the volcano appear from behind the clouds was undoubtedly one of our most memorable travel experiences to date! 

japan things to see mount fuji view hotel

2. A Visit to Koyasan: Unmissable thing to do in Japan

One of the best things to do and see in Japan is the sacred temple village of Koyasan. It’s the perfect place to unwind after city life, allowing you to breathe in the cold mountain air and visit tranquil, snow-covered cemeteries and gardens. With over 100 stunning temples dotted up on the slopes of Mount Koya, you’ll certainly gain a deeper understanding of this holy Buddhist pilgrimage site.  

things to do in japan koyasan

Koyasan lies about 2 hours from the bustling Osaka (see availability for a day tour here). However, if you have the time on your Japan itinerary, stay overnight and join the monks for a typical dinner, morning prayer, and meditation.

things to do in japan stay with monks  koyasan

3. Collect Stamps

While you explore Japan’s wonderful sights, remember to bring a small empty booklet. In the country, people queue up at temples and shrines with decorated books ready for what is called a ‘Goshuin’. These shrine and temple stamps are fun to collect on your trip, especially because each one has its own design.

things to do in japan collect stamps

Jump between the many beautiful buildings, like Osaka Castle or the shrines in Nara, and collect your stamps along the way. Normally, collecting your stamp is donation-based. However, it’s recommended that you give between 300 and 500 yen (2 – 3.50 USD). 

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stamp nara park japan

4. Nachi Falls

Close to the fishing town of Nachikatsuura, nestled in the Kii mountains, discover the extraordinary Nachi Falls. This powerful 133-meter-high stream is known as Japan’s tallest free-falling waterfall and lies amidst lush greenery and beautiful ancient woodland. 

japan things to see nachi falls

Many people in Japan consider the falls sacred, as they are believed to be home to an important Shinto deity. Soak up the area’s wonder and later admire how the mighty falls frame the red Seiganto-ji Temple, one of Japan’s most scenic pagodas.

things to do in japan nachi falls temple

5. Visit the Snow Monkeys (Best Thing to do in Japan)

Up high in the snowy Jugokani Valley, close by Yudanaka Onsen (a hot spring town), witness one of Japan’s very best: the iconic snow monkeys. These cheeky primates are an incredibly unique Macaque species with red faces and extra fluffy fur to withstand freezing temperatures. 

things to do in japan visit snow monkeys

The most unique characteristic, however, is the monkeys’ love of bathing in thermal hot springs. How they ended up in the hot springs is not completely known. Nevertheless, it’s truly a bucket-list experience to witness them relaxing in the wild, soaking in the steamy waters as they warm themselves in Mother Nature’s jacuzzi – just like humans do!

japan things to see snow monkeys

6. Dive into the Food Scene

Embark on a culinary adventure in Japan, where delicious meals can be found no matter where you go. From Osaka’s street food, with sweet and savory delicacies on almost every corner (like okonomiyaki!), and Kyoto’s vegetarian Buddhist cuisine to the iconic soba noodles and matcha tea, there’s so much to try on your Japan itinerary!

things to do in japan eat noodles

Vending Machines: Japan’s cities are also full of vending machines, and you’ll find them everywhere — in train stations, on almost every street corner, and even on hiking paths. They sell everything from cold green tea and soft drinks to juice (some with jelly chunks) or even hot coffee, tea, or corn soup.

things to do in japan vending machines
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22 Best Things to See and Do in Japan

Food Tours & Cooking Classes

To better understand Japan’s food culture, it’s well worth joining a food tour in the city you’re exploring. Bop around from restaurant to restaurant, trying all the yummy ramen, tempura, and regional dishes while also learning more about the food.

things to do in japan street food

Alternatively, opt for a cooking class for an even deeper dive into the cuisine. Master the art of sushi-making in Tokyo, learning how to perfectly combine rice and fish. Or, take a class on Osaka’s okonomiyaki. This way, you’ll be taking home recipes for your favorite dishes.

japan things to do sushi restaurants

7. Todai-ji Wooden Temple

Once the largest wooden structure in the world, the remarkable UNESCO Tōdai ji Temple in Nara is one of the most beautiful things to see in Japan. Wander around the enormous temple, soaking up its stunning details and surrounding tree colors. Additionally, you’ll find plenty of the famous deer wandering around the temple (buy some deer crackers from the nearby vendors to feed them!).

things to do in japan todai-ji wooden temple

Onsite, you’ll also find the Great Buddha Hall, where a giant bronze Buddha statue stands an impressive 50 meters high – wow! This is not only a sacred statue but also the largest of its kind in Japan. Tip: Todai Ji Temple is free to visit; however, the Great Buddha Hall has an entrance fee of 600 yen (4 USD). Read more about Nara Park, Japan.

things to do in japan buddha statue

8. Shiraito Falls

On the western side of Mount Fuji, plummeting down 150 meters wide, is the Shiraito Waterfall. This impressive curtain of water is a must-visit spot in Japan, offering perhaps the best views of Mount Fuji!

japan things to see shiraito falls mount fuji

On a clear day, from the viewing platform at the falls, you can witness the magical misty waterfall flowing 20 meters down from the mountainside. Set against a backdrop of the snow-peaked volcano, this is one of the best things to see in Japan.

things to do in japan visit shiraito falls

9. Sannenzaka, Kyoto (must-do in Japan)

One of the best things to do in Japan is visiting Sannenzaka, one of Kyoto’s most traditional Japanese streets. This beautiful, stone-paved road is full of teahouses, sweet shops, and wooden houses and leads up toward the stunning Hōkan-Ji Temple. 

japan things to see sannenzaka temple

Here, it feels like you’ve just stepped into a time machine to a bygone Japan, especially if you visit in the morning. Watch how the street comes alive afterward, with locals and tourists browsing the craft shops and delicious restaurants. At the top of the street lies the beautiful temple, offering incredible views over Kyoto’s city and cherry blossoms in spring!

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things to do in japan sannenzaka street

10. Visit the Deer in Nara Park

Nara Park in Japan, with its leafy forest, expansive parkland, sacred temples, and over a thousand wild deer, is one of the best things to do in Japan. The town’s famous Deer Park is what makes it so special, allowing you to interact with the majestic animals while exploring traditional Japanese gardens, cute teahouses, and lantern-lit shrines. 

japan things to see deer in nara park

Buy a stack of deer crackers, and spend the day wandering around the town, feeding them as you go. There’s something really unique about discovering a new city while accompanied by cute groups of deer! 

things to do in japan feed deer in nara park

11. Diago-Ji Temple & Sanbo-in

Diago-Ji Temple was perhaps our favorite spot in all of Japan! This peaceful area is a designated UNESCO Site and spans a whole mountainside, with the main temple at the base and smaller ones along the path up to the summit. 

japan things to see daigo-ji temple in autumn

Full of color, it’s especially incredible from late November to the first half of December, with the brightest fall colors. Alongside, you’ll also find the Sanboin sub-temple, which contains many cultural relics inside. Afterward, wander through the stunning Japanese gardens with waterfalls, ponds, and cherry trees.

things to do in japan visit beautiful temple garden

12. Bath in an Onsen (best thing to do in Japan)

Onsens (hot springs) are an essential part of Japanese culture, with nearly 3000 dotted across the country. These natural thermal baths are typically heated geothermally, and experiencing the steaming hot waters of one (especially in winter!) is a must-do on your Japan itinerary. 

japanese onsen

As you explore the mountainous region of Koyasan or bop around the different villages around Mt. Fuji, end a busy day relaxing in nature’s hot tub. Generally, patrons are naked, separated by gender, and refrain from talking to maintain a quiet environment. They come in many different forms, and each one you visit is said to have other health benefits.

things to do in japan visit Japanese onsen

Note: In general, those with tattoos are not permitted to enter Onsens because of the long-running stigmatization in Japan. Some do allow people with tattoos or provide cover-ups (waterproof stickers), although reviews are mixed, so keep that in mind before visiting.

japanese slippers

13. Hop on the Shinkansen Bullet Train

Whether traveling between Osaka and Kyoto or from Tokyo to Nagano to visit the Snow Monkeys, the Shinkansen (bullet train) is a fun, convenient, and fast way of getting around Japan. Traveling at ultra-high speeds of up to 320 km/h, it’s one of the world’s fastest trains and worth experiencing on your trip.

things to do in japan take the bullet train

The Japanese bullet trains are perfect for longer distances. For example, from Tokyo, they can travel all the way to Kyoto (450km) in just over 2 hours! Whoosh by Japan’s incredible countryside and busy cities while experiencing a clean and comfortable journey. But, train travel in Japan is amazing in general, with an extensive network and trains always on schedule (to the minute!). 

japan things to see mount fuji from train

JR Pass

Though they’re famously efficient, the bullet trains in Japan are quite expensive. However, most journeys are eligible for users of the JR Pass. 

The Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited access to all public transport throughout Japan, so it’s a great option if you plan on taking the Shinkansen several times. It’s also multi-use for other trains, ferries, and buses throughout the country. (Calculate here if it’s worth it for you)

things to do in japan tokyo station

14. Vintage Shopping in America-mura (best thing to do in Japan)

In Osaka, shop till you drop in the different shopping areas, all with their own unique characteristics. From high-end designer stores to streets full of traditional markets, there’s something for every kind of traveler. However, one area you can’t miss is the vintage shopping area of America Mura!

things to do in japan vintage shopping america-mura osaka

This is by far the coolest neighborhood of Osaka, with incredible vibes, music, colorful vending machines, abstract murals, trendy food spots, and many vintage shops. Even though it’s right next to Mido-suji, a street laden with designer boutiques, America-Mura is a total contrast, giving more of a small-town feel. 

vintage shopping america-mura osaka japan

15. Meiji Shrine

After wandering around the busy Harajuku district in Tokyo, head to the neighboring oasis of Meiji – certainly one of the best things to do in Japan. This stunning Shinto shrine is set in a tranquil forest in the middle of the city with over 100,000 trees. 

japan things to see meiji shrine tokyo

Wander through the Torii Gate, then enjoy a relaxing stroll through the parkland, and people-watch when you reach the shrine later on. Here, you’ll see people cleaning, performing religious tasks, and praying to the gods. Write your wishes for the gods on the wooden tables (Ema) and soak up the spiritual atmosphere at this beautiful site.

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things to do in japan visit shrine

16. A Day Trip to Arashiyama

Spend the day immersed in nature at the remarkable Arashiyama Bamboo Grove! This towering tunnel of bamboo trees creates one of the most magical walkways and lies in the cute town of Arashiyama (only a 20-minute train ride away from bustling Kyoto). 

japan things to see bamboo forest arashiyama kyoto

When the sun hits just right, it creates golden light fractures that slip through the canopy of the many trees – it’s the perfect place to snap some stunning photos! (Book your day trip here)

things to do in japan arashiyama kyoto

As you walk through the complex, you’ll find beautiful temples, gardens, and the Somkobo Yumeyusai Art Gallery. Furthermore, there are other, quieter bamboo groves and a monkey forest you can visit.

things to do in japan Somkobo Yumeyusai Art Gallery kyoto

Join a Boat Tour

You can also do a boat tour along the river in Arashiyama, which is a great way to see more of the natural beauty of the area! You can hire a boat, either steering the boat yourself or hiring a captain for a few hours.

things to do in japan hire boat Arashiyama kyoto

17. Try the Best Sushi 

In Japan, sushi is not just food but an experience, too! As a worldwide favorite, nothing tops trying delicious sashimi, nigiri, and maki in the country they originate from. Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s enormous Tsukiji Outer Market, filled with hundreds of stalls, all selling different kinds of seafood. We recommend trying some of Japan’s delicacies: fresh, thinly sliced sashimi, oysters, sushi rolls, or BBQ-ed fish.

best sushi restaurant tokyo

The best way to do so is to join a food tour, as the tour guide will recommend the best stalls to visit and also give you some fun facts about the market. Alternatively, join a sushi experience cooking class and learn more about the artform.

things to do in japan Tsukiji Outer Market tokyo

18. Cross the Shibuya Crossing (must-do in Japan)

When you think of Tokyo, you think of the mindboggling setting of the Shibuya Crossing. This is the busiest crossing in Japan, if not in the world, where skyscrapers, massive glowing advertisements, and flashing traffic lights color pedestrians in a neon glow as they cross the intersection. 

japan things to see shibuya crossing tokyo

Have all your senses activated as you move among the many people while sounds come from all directions. Although this area is one of the busiest in the city, in true Japanese fashion, it’s still exceptionally organized and respectful. There are traffic lights and the politeness of Japanese people (you won’t experience any beeping here!).

things to do in japan visit shibuya crossing tokyo

19. Teamlab Planets

One of the best things to do when in Japan is to experience Tokyo’s magical Teamlab Planets. This sensory museum has many large-scale art spaces, allowing you to move through different rooms, each with a unique experience. From giant glowing orbs and lights to water spaces filled with flowers and mirrors – nothing is too crazy! (reserve your tickets in advance here).

things to do in japan teamlab tokyo

Tickets for Teamlab Planets, Tokyo

This is one of the most popular experiences in Tokyo, and therefore, tickets get booked quickly. We recommend booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Additionally, tickets are only released a couple of months in advance. It’s best to choose one of the earliest time slots.

things to do in japan tokyo teamlab

20. Hōkoku-ji Bamboo Forest: must-do thing in Japan

Unlike visiting the famed (and busy!) Arashiyama bamboo forest, opt for the smaller Hokoku-ji grove in Kamakura instead. This beautiful site has over 2000 trees, a temple, stone lanterns, and an adorable tea house – the perfect location to get your bamboo forest photos!

japan things to see Hōkoku-ji Bamboo Forest kamakura

Only a short 10-minute bus ride from the train station, you’ll first walk past the main hall before a peaceful grove welcomes you. Enjoy a cup of matcha tea in the on-site cafe, and look out at the surrounding forest views, soaking up the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring or bright yellow ginkgo leaves in the fall. 

things to do in japan Hōkoku-ji Bamboo Forest matcha tea

21. Osaka Castle Outer Gardens

Osaka Castle is symbolic of the city, much like the Eiffel Tower is for France and the Colosseum for Rome. The imposing structure sits on its own island, surrounded by a deep moat and overlooking the city. However, it’s the castle’s surroundings that really steal the show. 

things to do in japan osaka castle gardens

The garden is filled with many different types of trees, with warm-colored foliage popping in the fall and vibrant cherry blossoms in spring. On weekends, locals love to gather in the gardens to relax in the grass, listen to live music and admire the picturesque castle.

japan things to see osaka castle

22. Join a Tea Ceremony

On your Japan itinerary, immerse yourself in the tranquil art of a Japanese tea ceremony, a practice steeped in tradition and mindfulness. During this experience, you’ll get a cultural introduction to the country and its traditions, deepening your appreciation of the cherished drink.

things to do in japan tea ceremony

Kyoto is the cultural heart of this ritual, and many serene tea houses offer tea ceremonies, sharing every stage. Learning to appreciate the tea bowl and the tea-making philosophy is one of the best things to do in Japan. 

things to do in japan wear traditional kimono

Our Favorite Accommodations

No matter your budget, there are many incredible accommodation options in Japan. Stay in exclusive hotels with incredible mountain or sea views, or choose to stay in a traditional ryokan. Below are some of our favorite stays per location:

16/05/2024 https://www.saltinourhair.com/japan/things-to-do-japan/
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