Japan is one of the top travel destinations in the world. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful temples and taste the amazing food this country has to offer. While planning a free vacation traveling through the country sounds great, Japan offers many great experiences that are unique to this country. So we put together a list of some of the more unique experiences visitors can try to take their vacation from memorable to unforgettable.
The world-famous market Tsukiji which is also known as the “Kitchen of Tokyo” is a spectacular sight to see for visitors. The market was recently renovated in 2018 and the tuna auctions were relocated to Toyosu, but the outer market is still open for visitors. There are over 400 stores in the outer market where you can find interesting ingredients and foods while exploring. Japan Wonder Travel offers a tour where visitors can learn facts about sushi, the history of the market, and even pick up on some Japanese culinary customs.
▶Book Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Home Cooking Experience
Japanese cuisine has been on the international scene in the past few years, prompting many foodies to come to learn how to replicate similar dishes back home. A home cooking experience invites visitors into the kitchen of a Japanese local to learn how to make traditional foods while also crafting your own bento meal. Experience cooking with love with a friendly host through the Traveling Spoon. You can find authentic Japanese (home) cooking lessons mostly at the host’s home where you can take a peek at Japanese daily lives. Even if cooking isn’t your forte you’ll find the experience to be relaxing and fulfilling.
Become a Samurai or a Ninja
Samurai and ninjas might be one of the first images that come to mind when you think of Japan. While the two social classes are long gone from Japanese society, there are still a few schools around the country offering training for interested patrons. These ancient schools aren’t simply to boost tourism. The training is taught by certified masters who have spent years mastering the art of bushido and ninjutsu. Enjoy a Samurai Experience at a Dojo in Tokyo that offers an authentic experience with an English guide. , shows, and seminars for both Japanese and English-speaking audiences.
Also, there are some Ninja theme parks in Japan where they offer fun Ninja activities such as throwing shuriken and such. Koka Ninja Village , Iga Ninja Museum and Kid’s Ninja Village are the popular places to learn and experience what it’s like to be a Ninja.
Sumo Training Experience
The national sport of Japan, sumo, is definitely on every traveler’s viewing list. It’s one of the oldest sports in Japan with many elements of traditional Japanese culture still embedded into the sport today. Aside from viewing a sumo match, visitors also have the opportunity to train like a sumo wrestler! Interested participants can learn the basics of sumo in a real dohyo ring.
▶Book: Tokyo Sumo Experience—Sumo Demonstration & Lunch in Ryogoku
Dog sledding in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is well known as the perfect spot for winter sports. Being pulled on a sled by huskies sounds like something you can only do in the movies, but the pristine winter setting in Japan’s northern prefecture creates a perfect environment for this activity. The snow starts piling up in December and areas like Tokachi and Asahikawa offer lengthy courses for dog sledding experiences. There are a variety of courses to choose, but we recommend fully engaged 2-hour rides through the snow-covered Tokachi Plain for the best winter experience.
The art of ceramics is one of Japan’s most long standing and accessible art forms. There are endless varieties of forms and styles that evolved in their own regions of Japan. For those interested in the arts, pottery classes are available often for less than 5,000 yen. Participants can learn how to make their own version of Japanese ceramics, while also learning a bit about the history of pottery in Japan. Towns like Aichi, Kanazawa, and Kyoto are well known for their unique arts of ceramics and offer a variety of experiences for travelers to participate in.
▶Find the best pottery classes in Japan
Izakaya Experience Japan Wonder Travel Bar Hopping Tours
Eating and drinking culture is big in Japan. Walk through any busy alleyway (yokocho) and you’ll see rows of minibars and food stands beckoning you to come inside. These izakayas (Japanese-style bars) are places where Japanese people go to enjoy a night out on the town. They’re especially popular around dinner time on Friday evenings. You can experience Japanese drinking culture here through some of Japan Wonder Travel’s own tours. Join in to try local food and drinks in either Asakusa or Shinjuku’s famous Golden Gai!
▶Book Asakusa Local Food Bar Hopping Tour or Shinjuku Biggest Drinking Town Izakaya Hopping Tour
The rise in interest in maid cafes outside of Japan can directly be attributed to their depiction in Japanese pop culture. Maid cafes are often found around Akihabara. Here you can find adorable maids, live performances, and even fantastic food for your entertainment. The cafes are an open and friendly environment often attracting women and even children through their doors. If you’re not really interested in maids, there are many unique cafes with different gimmicks including butler, vampire, and ninjas as well.
Shukubo Lodging Experience
Temples are everywhere in Japan and while visiting them is an experience in itself, you can also book a night to stay at some of them as well. Shukubo (temple lodging) were the original homes of Buddhist monks. Eventually, they became available to ordinary people who were traveling along sacred roads to complete their pilgrimage, particularly in Wakayama and Nagano. During a shukubo stay, you can experience authentic zen meditation, and try traditional Japanese vegetarian meals commonly eaten by monks.
As you’re planning your trip to Japan, why not take a moment and consider incorporating one of these into your schedule. Many of these experiences can be done for as little as 5,000 yen. They’re a great way to experience authentic Japanese culture and the best way to create memories that will last a lifetime.
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Jamila Brown is a five-year resident of Japan, teaching in the day and writing at night. She enjoys movies, reading, cosplaying, and eating good food in her downtime.
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