A holiday to Japan is more than just travelling. It’s stepping into another culture where the ancient and the modern rub shoulders and create an experience like nowhere else on earth. Megacities like Tokyo and Kyoto have ultramodern architecture on the same streets as ancient shrines, while traditional customs are still at the forefront of Japanese culture.
If you only have a couple of weeks to explore this fascinating country, it can be hard to decide what to do to get a measure of Japan. So, in this article we’re going to help you make some unforgettable memories and also to experience the Land of the Rising Sun, with 5 things to do in Japan that will make your trip special.
Learn a skill to take back home with a sushi experience class in Tokyo
The first thing most people think of when someone says Japanese food is sushi – this delicious combination of rice, raw fish, and occasionally some other ingredients is symbolic of Japan. However, it might surprise you to learn that sushi isn’t consumed all that regularly in Japan, and it’s more a food for special occasions – or as a monthly treat. Taking part in a sushi experience class is a great way to learn more about not just Japanese food, but the country’s culture too.
Many sushi tours in Tokyo will take you to one of the world’s largest and most impressive fish markets: Tsukiji, where knowledgeable guides will show you around the market as you pick up the ingredients that you’ll be working with to become a sushi master!
Not only will a sushi making class make your trip to Japan special, but once you return home it’s a great way to impress your friends and family! Also, if raw fish isn’t your thing, it’s easy to find other cooking classes where you can make Japanese classes such as ramen and gyoza!
Find your inner peace by visiting the many temples and shrines of traditional Kyoto
Tokyo attracts more tourists than anywhere else in Japan, but Kyoto comes a close second. Kyoto has 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and a mind boggling 1,600 temples and shrines – so no trip to this astounding city is complete without ticking at least a few of them off your list. We’ll forgive you if you don’t manage to visit all 1,600 though.
There are a few that stand out above others when it comes to Kyoto. Kinkaku-Ji and its golden pavilion sit on a peaceful lake and make for some excellent Instagram shots (especially in cherry blossom season). Though the real highlight is Fushimi Inari shrine, where thousands of red torii gates guard the path between the buildings and through the wooded forest on the sacred Mount Inari. You’ll also get some astounding views of the Kyoto cityscape from up here!
If you find that so many temples and incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites is overwhelming, then why not take part in an organised tour? You’ll see the most important temples and be regaled with knowledge by an informative guide. If you’re on a private tour there’s one you particularly want to see, you’ll be able to request visiting that one too!
Conquer Japan’s tallest mountain, Mount Fuji
The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji seemingly rising out of nothingness is a breath-taking sight. The mountain isn’t the most difficult climb, and it means that even novice and beginner hikers can say that they’ve reached the highest point in Japan – at 3,776m! However, the climb is about more than just fitness and challenging yourself.
Mount Fuji is an important cultural and historical artefact in Japan, and is a prominent figure in Japanese art. It was the training center for ascetic Buddhism as far back as the 12th century, while important shrines and Oshi lodging houses dot the base of the mountain – meaning that it’s far more than just any old climb!
If you want to ascend and descend Mount Fuji in the same day, start at the 5th station and climb from 2,400m to the top. For those who are looking for a real special and memorable climb, head up overnight and watch the sun rise over Kawaguchi-Ko lake.
Reflect at Hiroshima’s two World Heritage Sites
Hiroshima has two World Heritage Sites which will leave an imprint on your memory for very different reasons. As you probably know, Hiroshima was one of the cities in Japan where an atomic bomb was dropped at the end of World War II, after which the city was destroyed.
A memorial to those who lost their lives and also a symbol of peace is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is built on the site where the bomb was dropped. Here, you can see the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings that were left after the bmombing, before visiting the museum which has touching personal stories and a few artefacts that were left in tact after the bombing.
The second site is peaceful in a different way; Miyajima is an island around an hour from Hiroshima City center (including a ferry ride) but it may as well be a different world from the big city. The floating torii gate is one of the most evocative sights in Japan and will leave you feeling peaceful. And don’t miss your chance to make friends with the sacred deer that walk around freely!
Marvel at the ancient sport of Sumo wrestling
The ancient sport of sumo wrestling is based on Shinto beliefs and it’s a sport unlike any other on earth. This heavyweight form of wrestling sees the participants aim to force their opponent out of the ring or make them touch the ground with any body part other than the soles of their feet.
We have two types of tours available:
- Sumo morning practice watching tour
- Sumo tournament watching tour > when you find yourself in Japan during one of the Grand Sumo Tournaments, we really recommend you go on this tour!
It may seem simple to an outsider, but there’s a lot more to sumo than just two big guys fighting each other and taking a tour to learn more about this fascinating sport is a great memento to take home from Japan. Obviously, it’ll finish with watching a match too! Head to Ryogoku – also known as Sumo Town in Tokyo to see the best sumo wrestling Japan has to offer, and to learn more about the country’s national sport.