I visited Japan for the first time and fell in love with it from the moment my plane landed. I spent three weeks in the country and now I understand why it is a top trending travel destination!
Here are 10 Japan experiences I highly suggest adding in your bucket list!
1. PRIVATE DINING WITH A MAIKO
Having a private dinner with a maiko (apprentice geisha) is one of Japan’s most exclusive and unforgettable experiences. You’ll be served booze like you’re a royalty! She will entertain you with dances and a few traditional games wearing her extravagant silk kimono. Her intricate hairstyle and white painted doll face will leave you dumbfounded! That night, I went home with a deep discernment of the interesting world of geishas. Indeed, it was such a great eve to celebrate the art, history and beauty of the Japanese culture!
2. BAMBOO FOREST RICKSHAW RIDE
Go as early in the morning as you possibly can. Watch the bamboo stalks as they rock back and forth. Close your eyes, stand still and listen to the wind rustling in the bamboo leaves. Such a very calming experience when it’s quiet. Although the actual stretch of bamboo forest path is quite short, it is absolutely dreamy! Make this moment extra special by hopping aboard a rickshaw, a traditional transportation means in Japan. It is a two-wheeled passenger cart pulled by a human runner. So, sit back and relax as you discover historic streets and fascinating sites of Kyoto!
3. TEA CEREMONY
It is such an honour to join a tea master as she performs a traditional tea ceremony. She will teach you the art of tea, the proper way of handling teacups and will even dress you up in a kimono! The best part? You will learn how to make your own tea from the matcha! This is absolutely a cultural experience that you will remember forever!
4. WATCH A SUMO WRESTLING MORNING TRAINING
Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport and national obsession! If there are no tournaments on during your visit, book a tour to watch a morning training session in a sumo stable like I did! It was exciting to watch the wrestlers build their extreme strength through their rigorous day by day routines. I even learnt from my guide that the wrestlers eat 20,000 calories a day which is equivalent to 200 sushis or 20 bowls of ramen per day! Just a heads-up though, the event has to be strictly watched in silence. Stay still and don’t speak a word! Don’t worry after practice comes photo-ops! This encounter with the gentle giants is a memory you can keep for a lifetime!
5. TOKYO DISNEYLAND
This is the best Disneyland in Asia so devote at least 1 day of your Tokyo trip here! Who doesn’t love going to Disney anyway? Make sure to use the fast pass as much as possible! For those who love the rides, all your old favourites are here! Don’t forget to watch the Happiness is Here Parade during the day, & Electric Parade at night! Complete your fun day out with Alien mocha dumplings & Mickey Mouse Teriyaki steamed buns! Nommmmm!
6. HARAJUKU & AKIHABARA
One cannot skip Takeshita Street in Harajuku when in Japan! It is the fashion district for a reason! Be amused by Lolita-dressed locals in every single corner! So kawaii (Japanese word for cute)! Fatten yourself with crepes or cook your own okonomiyaki! Get lost in fashion boutiques, thrift stores, themed cafes and so much more! And of course, Check out Maid Cafes in Akihabara, Japan’s liveliest and noisiest district!
7. MT. FUJI & LAKE ASHI SIGHTSEEING IN HAKONE
Ride the romance car to Hakone where you can catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. A real nice experience to see some of Tokyo’s outskirts and railroads lined with awesome greenery and flowers. Glide through the skies in the world’s second-longest cable car over volcanic sulphur fields. Try the black eggs at Hell Valley boiled in the sulphur pond! It’s believed that one egg consumed add seven years to your life, so why not? You are a tourist and eating this is mandatory! Hehe! Wrap up your day trip to Hakone sailing Lake Ashi in grandiose pirate boats! Buy first class and you’ll enjoy unobstructed views of the lovely sceneries!
8. FOOD BINGE IN DOTONBURI, Osaka’s Famous Foodie Strip
Grilled crab legs, takoyaki, yakitori, sushi, sashimi, name it and you’ll get it! Eat until you drop in this gourmet paradise! You knew you’ve arrived at the right place when you see the famous Glico running man! Be dazzled by neon billboards, digital screens and eye-catching giant displays! There are loads of irresistible signature dishes to choose from so make sure to go on an empty stomach! Don’t know where to eat first? Massive lines form at the most popular food stalls so get in the queue! Calling all the foodies out there, come and eat your heart away in Dotonburi, Osaka’s culinary capital!
9. SHRINES, CASTLES AND TEMPLE RUNS!
Japan is home to many spectacular castles, shrines and temples! Choosing where to go could be quite overwhelming so here are my top three eye candies! First, Osaka Castle. Wander inside the castle and see the armours worn by Japan’s top samurai warriors! Second, Fushimi Inari Shrine. Wander in the beauty of thousand torii gates! The third spot is Kinkakuji Temple aka The Golden Pavilion! it looks like it floats in a pond and it sparkles in the sunlight! Arrive early and be amazed by its beauty and serenity! A visit to Kyoto is not complete without a visit to a temple or two. So, You’re welcome!
10. SHIBUYA CROSSING AND SHOPPING
To cross the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection: check! With hundreds of pedestrians coming from five directions all at once, this is the craziest cross walk you’ll ever see! That’s why Shibuya crossing is one epic experience one should not miss! By the way, can you spot me in this photo? Silly me! HAHA! Lastly, while in the area, don’t forget to check out the statue of Hachiko, the world’s most loyal dog!
I hope my list helped you decide on what to see & where to go on your first visit to Japan. There are more amazing places to explore and I can’t wait to go back! Already wishfully thinking of the cherry blossoms, lavender farms in Hokkaido and a skiing trip in Sapporo! Awwww, Sayonara for now Japan! You will always hold a special place in my heart.
If you want to know more about this blog or need advice about an upcoming trip, please feel free to ask below!
Love, @thetravelbelle <3