Japan is a country that is the perfect combination of chaos and tranquil bliss. There are so many exciting things to do in Japan that it will most likely take several visits to check them all. There are epic adventures in nature and crazy experiences you can’t have anywhere else in the world. And the best way to experience Japan is to experience its fascinating culture.
About 1.5 million Americans visit Japan each year, which is about 5% of the total number of international visitors to Japan. This figure is expected to rise even further with the introduction of the upcoming eVisa. Click here for Japan entry requirements for US citizens.
Spend a night in Ryokan
I absolutely suggest staying in a ryokan for at least one night of your trip. Tatami mat rooms of such traditional Japanese inns are exquisite. These feature minimalist spaces with just a table and low chairs where you can start your day with a refreshing green tea. Breakfast and dinner are commonly included in the price and served in your room.
Ryokans range from simple (such as minshuku guesthouses) to ultra-luxurious, with private baths and views of beautiful Japanese gardens. They are expensive than regular hotels, but the experience is worth it.
An unforgettable experience of Ryokan is the multi-course meals they serve. Following the meal, futons will be laid on the floor, which is incredibly comfortable to sleep on.
Soak in an Onsen
Because Japan has many volcanoes, there are onsens (hot water springs) all over the country. Soaking yourself in the steaming hot waters of an onsen is a must-have cultural experience of your Japan tour. Onsens are a staple of Japanese culture and are traditionally separated by gender.
Onsens come in various setups, including indoor and outdoor, simple and luxurious, small and large. The majority of them are shared, but some ryokans offer private baths that can be reserved. The most enchanting are the outdoor onsens with a view. Sento is an indoor pool that uses ordinary heated water (not from geothermal activity).
Take a dip in the onsen if you’re visiting Japan during the winter months. While onsens are enjoyable in other seasons, nothing beats immersing yourself in steaming water while the cold winter air touches your shoulders.
Watch Geisha Dance
Geishas are one of the most remarkable aspects of Japanese culture. Arthur Golden’s renowned novel Memoirs of a Geisha is about these highly skilled women who entertain with traditional arts. They are frequently seen in brightly colored kimonos emerging from wooden teahouses in Kyoto.
Miyagawacho is a great place to stay in Kyoto if you want to see a geisha performance without dealing with Gion’s crowds. There are several vacation rentals in Miyagawacho, including lovingly restored townhouses and magnificent samurai machias.
Witness Geishas are performing at one of the annual dances held in the spring and autumn. The performances are phenomenal, and it’s exciting to get a close look at the extravagant kimono, elegant hairstyles, and iconic white makeup worn by these beautiful women.
See Sumo Wrestling
In Japan, sumo is the national sport that is engraved in Japanese tradition and culture. Rituals that date back to their ancient origins as part of the Shinto religion, such as salt purification of the ring, are still a crucial part before the match.
You can watch sumo wrestling at one of the yearly sumo tournaments (book tickets in advance on Voyagin) or visit a sumo stable in Tokyo or Osaka to see the wrestlers’ morning training session. Tournaments are held in Tokyo in January, May, and September and in Osaka in March.
Pay respect at the Hiroshima Peace Museum
Visit Hiroshima’s moving Peace Memorial Park to pay your respects to the victims of the atomic bombing. The park is lovely, and the museum is heart-wrenching, enthralling, and essential to the Japanese nation. After that, explore the modern city, which was almost entirely rebuilt following World War II.