10 Popular Activities in Japan

Travel tips

When you are preparing yourself for a trip, it is always interesting to see which activities tourists can do in your destination. In Japan, there are so many interesting and fun activities that it can be hard to choose! After all, your itinerary will only have a finite number of days and you want to make the most of each day. Let us help you on your way with these 10 popular activities in Japan, there will surely be a few that you haven’t thought of yet that are worth including in your Japan trip!

1. Onsen

How could life get any better than this?

While many countries around the world have nice hot springs, Japan is the number one destination when it comes to natural springs in the eyes of many. Because of its location in the Ring of Fire, natural onsen are found in every prefecture. Known for their richness in minerals, bathing in the spring water is healing and alleviates many physical ailments such as joint and muscle pain and skin issues. Besides, soaking in a hot spring is very relaxing and refreshing, especially if combined with a ryokan stay. Another winning combination is doing winter sports like skiing or snowboarding in an onsen resort, as there is nothing quite like warming up in an outdoor hot spring with the cool air on your face after a day on the slopes.

2. Ryokan

Ryokan are more than just simple hotels, they are an experience all together!

If you are traveling around Japan, you will have the chance to stay in different types of hotels. Business hotels have great cost-performance and are very affordable, making them perfect for a stay in a larger city like Tokyo or Osaka, it is nice to also include at least one night in a ryokan in your trip. Your stay in a traditional Japanese inn will be an experience in itself, as it is all the best of Japanese hospitality rolled into one stay. Besides excellent customer service, you can expect scrumptious luxury meals prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients and an onsen-style bathing area beside your private ensuite bath. Many people who are only staying for one night don’t even leave their ryokan much because staying in is so relaxing.

3. Sushi Making

In Japan sushi is made from only the freshest of ingredients

Of course, eating in a top-notch sushi restaurant is a must-do while in Japan, making your own in a sushi workshop is also a great way to enjoy Japan’s most famous food. The people who are teaching sushi classes in Japan are often professional sushi chefs who can tell you all about the history and traditions surrounding sushi, the cultural significance of the delicacy, and give you tips on how to make sushi at home. If you are planning to try out your newfound skill at home, make sure to also buy a high-grade Japanese knife to make crafting delicious sushi a breeze. When you are not sure what to buy for easy home cooking, why not book a private guide in Tokyo for a half-day who can advise you, take you shopping, and take away any language barriers?

4. Maiko Performance

Maiko Geisha Kyoto

When you visit Kyoto, learning more about the geisha tradition, and seeing a maiko performance are all unmissable experiences. There are several ways to see geisha or maiko in action ranging from affordable to expensive. The most budget-friendly way to see maiko perform is to visit Gion Corner, where you can see them perform several traditional arts within 45 minutes. If you are lucky enough to travel to Kyoto in April, you can see the Miyako Odori performed outside for free. But if you want the full experience, you’d have to book a private or group maiko dinner show which is obviously a bit more pricey. It is, however, very much worth it for the special once-in-a-lifetime experience. We recommend those who want to learn more in-depth about geisha and other traditional Japanese culture to book a private guide in Kyoto, who can show all the most interesting highlights and hidden spots of the old capital of Japan. 

5. Sumo Watching

Sumo
Sumo wrestlers are literally larger than life!

The Japanese sport that probably appeals most to the imagination is sumo wrestling. Steeped in tradition, it is indeed interesting to watch the ceremonies surrounding any sumo match and the exciting short bouts of fights. You can either watch the morning practice at a sumo stable, hope to catch them when they are on tour, or go to an actual sumo match during one of the grand tournaments. Whichever way you see the majestic wrestlers in action, we are sure it will be an unforgettable experience!

6. Rental Kimono

All eyes will turn to you as you parade around in traditional kimono

Kimono are the often colorful traditional Japanese garments that can be worn by any gender. No matter how old or young you are and where you are from, a kimono will always look good on you! When visiting a traditional part of Japan, local as well as international tourists enjoy strolling around the area wearing a rental kimono while taking pretty pictures. Typical areas to rent a kimono are Asakusa in Tokyo, Kamakura and Kawagoe near Tokyo, and Gion in Kyoto. There are many rental shops to choose from, so to help you out we published an article on the best places for renting a kimono as well. And if you are doing a private tour and would like to wear a kimono during the tour, feel free to let your guide know!

7. Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing)

A happy mind is a happy heart

Having a nice balance between spending time in cities and in nature will make your trip even more enjoyable. There are so many places of extraordinary natural beauty in Japan that it will be hard to choose! One of the things not to be missed if you enjoy being around greenery is an activity called shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Even large cities like Tokyo and Osaka have nice pockets of green where you can get your forest fix, but we recommend really leaving the city behind to completely immerse yourself in nature. Our Kurama & Kibune Private Trekking Tour in the Sacred Forest is an excellent tour for those who want to experience shinrin-yoku while learning more about Japanese culture not far from Kyoto.

8. Yakatabune

Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo is a popular spot for night boats

Many people like a boat ride to take in some scenic sights in a city, and Japan’s cities have plenty of opportunities to see the cityscape from the water. Riding a yakatabune is even better than a regular boat ride; during a 2-hour voyage, you get to taste some exquisite Japanese foods and drinks while enjoying the scenery from a traditional boat that is festooned with red lanterns. For those who really want to splurge, there is the option to hire a geisha to provide traditional entertainment. And for the best pictures, we recommend renting a kimono for the occasion as well.

9. Hiking

Mt Fuji
Mount Fuji is the ultimate mountain for hiking in Japan

Shinrin-yoku is more about finding peace and quiet in a forested environment, and hiking is also a bit of a challenge with an amazing view from a summit as your reward. Japan is richly endowed with some of the most stunning hiking areas in the world. Indeed, there are so many wonderful hiking trails in Japan to choose from that it is hard to know where to start. Some of the very best are the highlands of Kamikochi, the spiritual trails of Koyasan, and the traditional vistas of the Kumano Kodo. And let’s not forget Mt Fuji, which is not only the symbol of Japan but also one of the most rewarding hikes in the country if you time your arrival at the summit with the sunrise.

10. Izakaya Hopping

Kanpai! Drink up at a local izakaya

The delicious local cuisine is one of the main reasons to come to Japan for many travelers. And where better to taste what’s on offer than in an izakaya, a Japanese-style gastropub? Izakaya offer a great variety of small dishes that are easy to share, so you get to try many different things in one dinner. They also serve many types of Japanese drinks including sake, shochu, Japanese beer, and tea. If you are not sure where to start, but when you still want to try all the best food and drinks that Japan has to offer, why not book an izakaya hopping tour with a local expert guide? That way, you won’t need to worry about Japanese menus and only have to enjoy yourself with a fun guide to keep you company and navigate Shinjuku’s backstreets!

Japan Wonder Travel Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

tsukiji tour

Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.

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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.

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