Fun and Interesting Things to do in Japan

Planning a trip to Japan?  There are so many sights and so many things to do its hard to choose.  But here are a 10 fun and interesting things that are unique and different in Japan and some can’t be done anywhere else.  Others can be done in various places but the way the Japanese to them differently makes it fun and interesting.  Ok here we go I hope you enjoy!

1.  Conveyer belt sushi(kaiten sushi)
When you think of Japan sushi automatically comes to mind, at least for me.  No trip to Japan would be complete if you didn’t go out for sushi.  An interesting type of sushi restaurant is where the sushi glides around your table and the restaurant itself on little car or trains on a conveyer belt so you can conveniently grab whichever one you want to eat.  Most of these restaurants are fairly cheap and you can stuff yourself without much damage to the wallet.

2.  Experience a traditional Japanese hotel, love hotel, and capsule hotel
As is everywhere there is a wide range of different hotel here to fit your budget and taste.  But as this article is for interesting and fun things to do I will stick to the hotels that will pique your interest.  On the more expensive side the traditional Japanese hotels (ryokan) is where you will experience the real food and culture first hand.  Wearing robes, people bowing, taking shoes off, sleeping on futons on the floor, Japanese food, and an overall traditional Japanese atmosphere and hosts are just a few things you are bound to encounter in these establishments.  These places usually have very limited or NO English ability so that in itself is a whole other experience trying to communicate your needs.

Love hotels are a little cheaper and as the name suggest usually are for couples.  These hotels offer 5 star amenities inside your room and hotel rooms are usually theme oriented.  For example, a room might have a Disney them with Disney wallpaper, pictures, sheets and the works.  Amenities inside the room can include big Jacuzzi tubs, big screen TVS with karaoke and video games, huge beds, pachinko machines, 24 hour menus, massage chairs, computers, saunas, tanning beds, couches, and some even have pools and bowling alleys all inside your room.  Only catch is once you enter your room the door is electronically locked behind you and you can’t leave until you pay.  But these hotels are an experience you won’t forget.

Lastly is the capsule hotel and it is just what the name means.  You sleep inside a capsule which is like a big plastic coffin with a TV inside.  This kid of hotel is pretty cheap and usually has a spa attached where you can enjoy the sauna, go swimming, take showers, and relax in various types of baths inside the hotel.  Only catch for these hotels is most of them are men only.  But these hotels are great after a big night out and the spa whisks away your hangover in the morning!  Another interesting experience for sure.

3.   Go to an onsen
Onsens are natural hot spring baths heated by geothermal activity.  With Japan having lots of volcanic activity these onsens are everywhere.  Onsens or communal baths if you will are extremely popular here in Japan and are said to be therapeutic.  There are many different types but most are classified by being inside or outside bath and the quality of water available.  The countryside has some of the best onsesns and you can enjoy a steaming hot bath in an outdoor bath surrounded by snow in the winter or under the stars in the summer.  Great after strenuous activities like snowboarding and hiking.  They are very relaxing and most have a great atmosphere.

4. Ride the Shinkansen(Bullet Train)
If you are travelling to Japan, most likely you will be commuting from one place to another at some point.  Why not take the famous bullet train?  This high speed train with speeds of over 200 mph for commuter trains was originated right here in Japan and makes commuting very convenient.  It has set world records and Japans technology is spreading rapidly throughout the world.  As you ride this train you feel like you are flying as nature whizzes by in a blur.

5.  Hike Mt. Fuji
It is considered a sacred mountain here in Japan.  This is the highest mountain in Japan jutting 3776 meters high right into the skyline.  This perfectly shaped volcanic cone is a marvel to see.  Most people start to climb around midnight because that is the best chance for you to get a clear view and see a magnificent sunrise.  But more often than not this mountain is covered with clouds.  This mountain is usually a day hike depending on your fitness and the size of the crowd hiking that day.  The ascent takes anywhere from 3-6 hours and the descent about half of that.  But you do have to realize if you are hiking to the mountain in the official climbing season in July or August you are one of thousands of people that hike it daily.  Outside of July and August the crowds thin dramatically.  But as this mountain is coned shaped it offers no shelter from the elements.  The wind and cold can be nasty up there.  But the sight from the top on a clear day is breath taking.

6.  Sing Karaoke
I know in America most karaoke is sung in front of the entire bar.  That can be nerve racking unless you are extremely good or hammered.  Here in Japan it is extremely popular and done in private rooms with just the people you come with.  So good or bad you can relax and sing your heart out.  Karaoke can be tons of fun with the right crowd.

7.  Go to a Sumo Tournament
Sumo is Japanese style wrestling and a popular natural sport.  Tournaments are held in a big arena and ticket prices can vary depending on your location.  Usually these tournaments go all day from 830 until evening.  I’m sure sumo tournaments are pretty hard to find abroad so what better opportunity to see these huge athletes try and hurl each other than while here in Japan?

8.  Visit one of the many Temples and Castles
There are so many temples and castles in Japan that I could write 100 articles and still barely scratch the surface.  So pick a few famous and interesting looking ones and go visit.  They are the founding blocks of Japan and shouldn’t be missed.

9.  Play Pachinko
Feeling lucky?  Then head towards the closest pachinko parlor.  Pachinko is like a vertical pinball machine used for gambling.  If you shoot your ball into certain areas you win money, the more difficult the area is to reach the more money you win.  These machines are comparable to slot machines and these establishments are like little casinos.  Pachinko is extremely popular here in Japan and should be tried at least once while you are here.  Good luck!

10.  Go to a festival and see fireworks
Japanese love both of these very much.  As it represents a time to relax and enjoy.  During summer you could probably find a different festival everyday if you tried.  The festivals slow down during the colder months but can still be found.  These festivals are like mini fairs with games and food stalls, exhibitions, performances, and crowds of people.  You will see lots of interesting things that you probably have never seen before.  Fireworks are a national pastime here and taken quite seriously.  Firework competitions and shows happen frequently and in many different places throughout Japan.  The atmosphere is like 4th of July in America where people fight for good spots and places are jam packed. Also the different types of fireworks are beautiful and leave you in awe.

There are so many things to do in Japan that you could live in Japan for a decade and still not experience everything Japan has to offer.  But I have tried to put together a quick list of things that came to mind as interesting or fun things to do in Japan.  If you can fit even half of these things into your trip you will have a trip you will likely never forget.

My next article will be “The best places to visit in Japan” so check back regularly.  Thank you and if you have any questions, comments, or things I have missed please comment below.

Akari Art Festival

This past weekend my wife and I went to one of my favorite Japanese festivals. It is a festival displaying creative looking lights made with the town`s famous washi paper. The town of Minoshi is located in Gifu prefecture about an hour south of our town and is famous for its washi paper and Edo period streets and buildings.

Washi paper is made from the pulp of various trees and bushes and is tougher and thicker than normal paper. This town with over 1300 years of experience is known for its excellent quality of washi paper and more recently for its “Akari Art” festival. “Akari Art” translates into the art of light.
This little festival started in 1994 displaying the lights and craftsmanship of the local citizens of the city and
has exponentially grown in popularity over the last decade.
I remember attending this festival five years ago and there were a few hundred people partaking in the
festival but thisyear the attendance was thousands.  That being said it was still beautiful and very enjoyable.
This festival is actually a competition with over 400 participants from all over Japan but the majority
resides in this small town. The lights are judged on their creativity, organization (how they are put together),
and the overall feeling of warmth you get from the piece.
Winners get various prizes and their light displayed in the local museum for all to see. I believe the festival goes until 9pm with most of the crowd and families coming early.
This festival is great because of the serene and romantic ambience.
So that being said if at all possible I recommend going later so you don’t have to bump your way down the street and
can enjoy the lights and atmosphere in a calm and relaxed manner.
For more information about the festival here is the a website!