It’s hard to make a list of the best things to do in Japan because there are just so many fun and interesting things to see and do in this island country.
Every island in Japan is interesting, but most of the best tourist sights for a first-timer are in the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.
There’s a huge variety of cultural attractions here, both old and new. You can ride a futuristic bullet train through the city, and visit a medieval Samurai castle on the same day.
We’ve visited Japan a bunch of times over the years, but it never gets old. It’s one of our favourite countries in the world to travel to.
Read on for some of our top ideas of what to do in Japan!
Best Things To Do In Japan
1. Explore The Samurai Castles
Japan has lots of Samurai castles leftover from its medieval period. These fortresses are impressive works of art and they can be fascinating to explore.
There are a bunch of these castles scattered across the country, but two of the top ones to see are Himeji Castle (near Osaka and Kyoto) and Matsumoto Castle (near Tokyo).
This is hands down one of my favourite things to do in Japan, and it’s pretty budget-friendly!
2. Wear A Kimono
There are lots of kimono rental shops in Japan where you can try on the country’s famous traditional dress for a day.
My wife rented a kimono in Tokyo and we headed over to the famous Shibuya Crossing — the perfect photo spot! We also did a kimono rental in Kyoto, which is loaded with great photo spots because of all the temples and shrines.
If you ask the locals, they aren’t offended at all by foreigners wearing the kimono. Japanese people like to see others enjoying their culture.
3. Stroll A Landscape Garden
Japanese gardens are famously pristine and photogenic. There are lots of them all over Japan, and they’re great for a relaxing walk.
The gardens are nice year-round, but they’re especially scenic when the fall colours start (usually in November).
The pics below are from the garden at Tenryu-Ji Temple in Kyoto.
4. Ride A Bullet Train
It’s always fun to travel by train, and Japan has some of the best. The trains here are very efficient and some of the rural routes can be incredibly scenic.
Japan’s futuristic bullet trains are called ‘shinkansen’ and they’re especially fun to ride since they can go hundreds of kilometres per hour.
You can ride these in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, and many other places in Japan.
5. See The Landmarks
A lot of the famous landmarks of Japan can be seen in the three popular cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.
Top iconic sights include the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (Kyoto), Todaiji Temple (Nara), and the giant Kamakura Buddha (Tokyo).
Don’t forget Mount Fuji, which is possible to visit on a long day trip from Tokyo!
6. Visit The Temples & Shrines
Japan is full of ancient temples and shrines, and they’re as interesting as they are photogenic.
A lot of the best ones are in the Kyoto area (IMO), but every island in Japan has unique temples with their own designs and history.
A few of our top recommendations would be Sensoji Temple (Tokyo), Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto), and the Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto).
Related: Cheap Car Service San Diego
7. See The Koyo (Fall Colors)
It’s hard to beat the autumn season in Japan when the leaves turn into bright colours of orange, red, pink, and yellow.
The best time to see fall foliage in Japan depends on where you’re going, but for Kyoto and Tokyo, it generally peaks in mid to late November.
The locals call the fall leaf colours‘ koyo’ and they can be really stunning.
8. See The Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
If there’s anything more popular than the autumn colours in Japan, it’s the sakura season.
The cherry blossoms are very photogenic and you can see them at a lot of Japan’s famous sights like Himeji Castle, Mount Fuji, and others.
The exact dates for this depend on the year and which part of the country you’re in, but generally, the best viewing is in the last week of March.
9. Feed The Deer At Nara Park
The Nara Deer Park is famous for having hundreds of friendly deer you can feed and take pictures with. The semi-wild deer roam around the park freely and interacting with them can be lots of fun.
Also scattered around the 1,600-acre park are a bunch of old temples and shrines from hundreds of years ago, when Nara was the ancient capital of Japan.
It’s easy to visit Nara Park on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto since they’re just a 30-60 minute train ride apart!
10. Meet The Japanese Snow Monkeys
One of the best winter day trips you can do from Tokyo is to visit the Snow Monkey Park near Nagano.
This is a long day trip (ideally it’s better to do as a 2-day trip), but you get to hang out with Japanese snow monkeys in the mountains and watch them soak in the natural hot springs.
The monkeys are hilarious to watch, and photo ops are endless. There’s a bit of easy hiking required, but the snowy view along the way is one of the best parts of the trip.
11. Shop For Souvenirs
Of course, you can’t leave Japan without doing some souvenir shopping.
There’s the usual assortment of fridge magnets and keychains, or you can bring home an artsy paper fan, ceramic bowl, kimono, or Japanese knife.
The Shinjuku and Shibuya districts in Tokyo are some of the best for shopping, but we also found some great souvenirs in places we didn’t expect, like the street stalls at Sensoji Temple.
Related: Luxury limo service in el Cajon ca
12. Enjoy Japanese Food
Where to begin? Japan has so much amazing food to try.
You have to eat Sushi, Ramen, Yakitori, and everything else. Even the food in 7-Eleven and other convenience stores is top-notch. All in all, eating is one of the best things to do in Japan.
Japanese candy is unique too — stuff like Mochi and Daifuku might weird you out at first, but it really grows on you!