A Mind-Blowing Japan Bucket List – The Ultimate List of the Best Things to Do in Japan
Japan is a wonderful country filled with so much beauty. You’ll find areas of Japan that are rich in history and tradition and others that represent a quirky modern era. We’ve spent a lot of time traveling in Japan, including spending three months traveling from the Kyushu Region all the way to Hokkaido and while we still have so much to see, we feel like we can confidently share some of the best things to do in Japan. In this post, you’ll find over 100 things to add to your Japan bucket list ranging from iconic touristy things to lesser-known places to visit as well!
Iconic Japan Bucket List Experiences
Let’s start off this Japan bucket list by visiting the most iconic things to do in Japan. These are probably the things you’ve heard about the most when researching your Japan trip or have seen photos of. This is obviously for a good reason, they’re amazing! But have no fear, if you already had these on your itinerary or if you’ve seen them before there are bound to be some new and interesting things to add to your Japan bucket list later on in this post.
1. View Mount Fuji From One of the Fuji Five Lakes
Where: Fuji Five Lakes
Obviously, when starting off we have to include visiting Mount Fuji. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Japan whether you are going for viewing pleasure or for hiking to the summit during the summer months. If you want to view Mt. Fuji from a distance you can do so from any of the Fuji five lakes. The most popular lake to visit is Kawaguchiko where a number of ryokan, hotels, and shops line the streets.
2. Walk Down Takeshita Street in Harajuku
Takeshita Street in Harajuku is widely known for having all things wacky and wonderful. There are tons of kitschy, yet enamoring shops to browse for vintage goods, cosplay costumes, and quirky souvenirs. But, there are also a number of wild foods to stuff your face with like cotton candy the size of your head, or rainbow grilled cheese!
3. Visit the Floating Torii on Miyajima Island
Where: Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island is one of the most popular day trips to add to your Japan bucket list. The main reason people flock to this tiny island outside of Hiroshima is to see the floating torii gate which, if I may add, offers a spectacular view at sunset. But there are also a lot of historic spots to visit here as well including shrines and temples, a gorgeous mountain hike, and lots of friendly deer that live on the island.
4. Hike the Path of Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Perhaps the most recognizable shrine in Japan is Fushimi Inari. This shrine has been featured in a number of movies, TV shows, and books because of its distinct beauty. The path of thousands of vermillion-colored torii gates makes for a spectacular sight as you make your way up the path to the top of the Inari Mountain.
5. Witness the Stunning Sakura Season
Where: All over Japan (March-May)
Sakura season, also known as cherry blossom season is the most popular time to visit Japan! In well-known cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka there are viewing festivals and a number of sakura-themed treats to enjoy. Some of the most popular hanami (sakura viewing spots) are Mt. Fuji, Osaka Castle in Osaka, Himeji Castle in Himeji, The Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, Mount Yoshino in Nara, and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo.
Each of these locations has hundreds of cherry blossom trees that have delicate pink blossoms that cascade beautifully within their surroundings and fill the air with a fragrant light scent. If you are able to visit Japan during the sakura season, you won’t regret it!
6. Examine The Stunning Autumn Foliage
Where: All over Japan (September-November)
In addition to the sakura season, autumn in Japan is also an exceptionally beautiful time to visit. Many people are drawn in by the cooler, crisp temperatures. But the main attraction is the fall foliage with vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow. A few of the popular places to visit to view autumn colors are Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto, Ueno Park in Tokyo, Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, Irohazaka Roads in Nikko, and the Fuji Five Lakes Area.
7. Drink From a Waterfall at Kiyomizu-Dera
Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most famed temples in Japan. Partially because of its magnitude in size and location, but also because of its history. This temple was founded on the site of the Otowa Waterfall which has three separate streams that trickle down on the rocks.
Those who visit are allowed to drink from one of the three fountains symbolically representing longevity, educational success, and fortunate love life. Regardless if you decide to drink from the water, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of this temple.
8. Admire the Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji
Another beautiful, well-known temple to add to your Japan bucket list is Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Temple due to its exterior made from layers of gold leaf. The reflection of this beautiful temple in the pristine pond that surrounds it makes for a site that many people come to admire in all seasons.
9. Visit An Onsen Town
Where: Kinosaki Onsen
One of the best things to do in Japan is to visit an onsen town. They are often less busy than popular cities in Japan which will allow you to relax and also take a step back in time. One of my favorite onsen towns that is easy to get to from Kyoto or Osaka is Kinosaki Onsen. There are many public bathhouses that you can visit for free if staying in the town while also walking down the main street in a yukata.
10. Stay in A Traditional Ryokan
Where: Kinosaki Onsen
Like visiting an onsen town, staying in a traditional ryokan is an experience of a lifetime. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers intimate accommodations with tatami mat floors, comfortable futons to sleep on, and sometimes private onsen in the room.
I am also recommending Kinosaki Onsen for this bucket list item because this town has many beautiful traditional ryokan to choose from. One of our favorites to stay in is Nishimuraya Honkan which is perfect for a romantic getaway and has over 150 years of history.
11. Walk Through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto is another highlight that most people look forward to when planning their trip to Japan. It is a highly photographed pathway of densely packed bamboo that rises to the sky almost as if it were touching the clouds. But on this path, there are a number of smaller shrines, temples, and gardens that are well worth a visit too.
12. Walk Across the Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
This picturesque intersection of Shibuya has been featured in a lot of films and is a popular area for shopping and dining. When you first arrive take a few minutes to watch as hundreds of people cross, then take a stroll across yourself! It’s amazing how synchronized everything is considering how busy it is. If you want a bird’s eye view you can also look out from Shibuya Station.
13. Ride A Bullet Train
Where: Anywhere in Japan
Japan is known for having incredibly efficient and fast public transportation with the shinkansen or bullet trains being the most memorable. Bullet trains in Japan offer high-speed services to all major cities in Japan and a number of smaller towns too.
Shinkansen trains move at maximum speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph) meaning you can travel from Tokyo to Hiroshima in roughly 5 hours. When taking a bullet train be sure to get an ekiben which is a bento box meal that is freshly made to enjoy on your train ride.
14. Try A Bunch of Items From Konbini
Konbini, otherwise known as convenience stores, are located ALL over Japan. The most popular ones are 7Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart – each of these has similar items. I know what you might be thinking, why would I get food from a convenience store? But this isn’t a gas station hot dog.
All of these konbini offer high-quality, fresh food options that are prepared daily. You’ll even notice that many food items have quick expiration dates and that’s due to the lack of preservatives used in most items. In addition to getting a snack or quick bite to eat, Konbini are also a great place to get a drink or use the restroom if you can’t find one elsewhere.
15. Wear A Kimono or Yukata
Where: Anywhere in Japan
Although you can have this experience almost anywhere in Japan, my favorite place to rent a kimono or yukata is in Kyoto. Kyoto is a city with deep traditions and history which you can see reflected in the architecture, shrines, temples, and cultural experiences. This makes it the perfect place to rent a kimono and wear it while walking through the streets, especially in the historic Gion district.
16. Stuff Your Face on Street Food and Smells in Dotonbori
Dotonbori is a food lover’s paradise. The moment you arrive in this bustling area of Osaka you’ll be slapped with the delicious smells of various street foods, some of which are best eaten here! While you’re browsing the food stalls we highly recommend enjoying some takoyaki, fried octopus balls, kushikatsu, fried skewers of meat and veggies, and okonomiyaki, a savory pancake made with cabbage. After your feast, be sure to stop by the canal to see the neon lights of Dotonbori reflect off the still water, it’s exceptionally pretty at sunset!
Outdoor Experiences to Add to Your Japan Bucket List
17. Marvel at Shirogane Blue Pond
Though the Shirogane Blue Pond was man-made, the bright creamy blue color is anything but artificial. Its creamy blue color is all thanks to the natural minerals combined from the Biei River and the volcanic eruption of Mount Tokachi in 1988. Along the viewing path of the pond are a number of white birch trees which makes the scenery even more beautiful to view.
18. Explore Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan is Hokkaido’s biggest national park that features a number of gorgeous outdoor hikes, waterfalls, and scenic views, especially during the autumn months. One spot you can’t miss is Mt. Asahidake, which is the largest peak in Hokkaido.
19. Take the Path to Kawazu Seven Waterfalls
Where: Kawazu, Izu Peninsula
In a small town on the Izu Peninsula are a number of short paths that lead to seven sacred waterfalls. These waterfalls are known as Kawazu Nanadaru. All of the waterfalls range in size, the tallest being 30 meters and the smallest a mere 2 meters. Along the path, you’ll also see a few symbolic statues that depict the heroine in the short story Izu no Odoriko.
20. Attend An Outdoor Fireworks Festival
Nagaoka Hanabi Matsuri is an annual summer event that is considered to be one of the top three fireworks festivals in Japan! Over the course of the two-day festival, over 20,000 absolutely massive fireworks are shot into the air and burst like a tapestry of colorful stars over the mid-evening sky. Even though you are seated far away, you can even feel slight warmth radiating off each burst and the sound vibrates in your chest – it is truly such a special event to see!
21. Admire Okama Crater at the Top of Mount Zao
Where: Mount Zao
Mount Zao is one of the most prominent mountains in Japan that you can visit by car, bus, or ropeway. At the summit of this active volcano, you can admire a stunning view of a crater that has a bright aqua lake inside. At the top, there is also a shrine that you can visit as well as a visitor center with restrooms and a restaurant.
22. Visit The Lavender Fields at Farm Tomita
There are a number of flower fields in Hokkaido that can be enjoyed during the summer months, but Farm Tomita is one of the most well-known for lavender. The moment you pull up you’ll be pleasantly surrounded by the aroma of fresh lavender. Then once you step inside you’ll notice the bright blue and purple fields of the flower as well.
While at Farm Tomita make sure you visit one of the gift shops where you can buy a number of goods made from the lavender in their fields. Another thing not to be missed is trying a cone of lavender ice cream which is perfectly balanced in flavor.
23. Visit The Beaches and Trails on the Shakotan Peninsula
Most people probably don’t think of Hokkaido when they consider beautiful beaches in Japan but you most definitely should! On the Shakotan Peninsula, there are a number of scenic beaches with bright blue, yet clear water where you can see rocks and fish as you’re swimming. There are also a number of hiking trails so you can enjoy the scenery from a bird’s eye perspective too.
24. Analyze the Intriguing Tambo Rice Art
Where: Asahikawa or Inakadate Village
Rice paddy art might sound a bit strange, but let me tell you, it’s one of the most impressive things on this Japan bucket list. It all starts with a design, a number of different rice species that are meticulously planted to form a giant canvas on this small portion of the world. Viewing platforms are created so visitors can see the picture in its full form, usually depicting a Japanese folk tale.
25. Hike the Trail on Mount Tsurugi
Hiking Mount Tsurugi was actually completely unplanned in our Japan itinerary. We happened to be driving through the mountains of the Iya Valley when we saw a chairlift from a distance going up a mountain path. We had some extra time so we decided to pull over and see where the lift led to.
At first, we thought the chair lift would take us all the way up to the top of Mount Tsurugi, but it only took us part of the way. For the rest of it, we hiked which only took about 30-45 minutes one way! The hike isn’t extremely difficult despite being named “Sword Mountain” and the view from the top is exceptional making it worth the pitstop!
26. Cross the Vine Bridges of the Iya Valley
Where: Iya Valley
The Iya Valley is a mountainous village in the Shikoku Prefecture that is very remote. One of the main attractions in this area is the three vine bridges that cross rocky gorges with milky blue water flowing at the bottom.
The vine bridges were originally created by members of the Heike Clan around 1180-1185 after they sought refuge in the valley after losing a war. These bridges acted as a safe passageway for crossing the gorge while also allowing them to be cut down should a threat arise. While crossing the vine bridges you’ll feel them bend and sway deeply, but have no fear, they have since been reinforced with cables!
27. Explore the Expansive Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
Uminonakamichi Seaside Park is one of the most popular attractions in Fukuoka. It is a public park that features playgrounds, flower gardens, sports fields, a water park, a zoo, and even a small amusement park. To best see everything this park has to offer, rent a bike from the visitor center and enjoy the views of seasonal foliage and flowers as you ride along the trails. The most popular time to visit Uminonakamichi Seaside Park is during the spring when the 2,000 cherry blossom trees and other seasonal spring flowers are in bloom.
28. Glide Down a Mountain While Skiing
Where: Tohoku or Hokkaido
During the winter months in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions of Japan, people come from all over the world to ski or snowboard in deep powdery snow!
Other than having record-breaking snowfall, people love participating in winter sports here because most of the ski resorts have a low enough elevation that you don’t have to worry about altitude sickness but are high enough that you can still enjoy swishing through the mountains. In addition to the enticing deep snow, the ski towns often have cozy bed and breakfasts or inns to stay in with full meals and onsen to soak in to rest your sore muscles.
29. Take the Ferry to Nokonoshima Island
Another gorgeous place to view seasonal flowers is Nokonoshima Island which is an easy trip from Fukuoka by ferry. The island itself is an escape from the city and during the summer you can rent out a beachside cabin and enjoy the ocean breeze while barbecuing. On the island, you can also enjoy creating a number of different crafts, a petting zoo, or walking through fields of seasonal flowers all while admiring the sea.
30. Admire the Rice Fields Outside of Tawara-jima Island
At the tip of the Mukatsu Peninsula is Tawara-jima, a tiny island that is somewhat difficult to find. It is settled in the ocean and offers a view of the Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge as well as the tiered rice fields that make the setting even more picturesque. The island is celebrated by many but especially locals of this area for its uncommon geographical composition which includes fossilized seaweed and an extremely rare type of coral.
31. View Mount Daisen at Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park
Tottori Hanakairo Flower Park is a place where you can enjoy flowers, greenery, and foliage in all seasons. This park has 50-hectares of pathways and gardens each with its own special design including a European-inspired garden with roses, a series of floating flower beds, and the flower dome which is a giant greenhouse in the center of the park. One of the most notable areas is Flower Hill where you can view a large field of seasonal flowers while also enjoying an exceptional view of Mt. Daisen in the background.
32. Go Sandboarding or Walk Along the Tottori Sand Dunes
When you think of Japan you probably wouldn’t even consider that there are sand dunes, right? Well in Tottori these massive naturally formed sand dunes are the main attraction of the city. They span about 10 miles (16 km) on the Sea of Japan and stand up to 165 feet (50 m) high. At the dunes, you can walk along the top of them or you can enjoy paragliding or sandboarding.
33. Ride a Boat Through Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge is a narrow chasm within a path on the Gokase River. When visiting, first admire the gorge from above taking time to look down at the river and the streams of waterfalls. After, go on a scenic boat ride through the gorge! The water here is quite calm so it’s easy to row as you look up at the magnificent rock formations. However, be prepared to get a little wet due to the waterfalls!
34. Take a Tour Through the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
From April-June you can take a tour through a path of snow walls that rise up over 20 meters tall! These snow walls are known as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which experiences the heaviest snowfall in the world! As the snow starts to melt in the spring, the road is carved out to allow tourists to visit these massive snow walls. Other highlights in this area are the hiking trails within the mountains and the Tateyama Ropeway to see a panoramic view from above!
Japan Bucket List Museums
35. Experience Harmony at the Hakone Open-Air Museum
When the Hakone Open-Air Museum was designed, the attempt was to create a space that was “a harmonic balance between nature and art.” After visiting, I can honestly say they more than achieved that goal. This museum is by far one of the most interesting art museums I’ve ever visited.
Most of the exhibits are outdoors allowing visitors to interact with art while also admiring the dense forest and hills the museum is set upon. Additionally, there are indoor exhibits as well including a large Picasso exhibition that features paintings, sculptures, and ceramic works from all different points in his life.
36. Explore the Whimsical Works of Studio Ghibli at the Ghibli Museum
For those who are a fan of Studio Ghibli films, visiting the Ghibli Museum is a must for your Japan bucket list! This playful museum has no maps, no direction, and most important of all no photos or videos allowed. All of these features are so you can truly experience the magic of this museum without being distracted by outside noise. Within the museum, you can experience a Ghibli short film, a rooftop garden, and see statues of many of your favorite Ghibli characters in person.
37. Lose Yourself in Digital Art at teamLab Borderless
One of the newer things to do in Japan is to visit teamLab Borderless. While this museum might seem like something that was dreamed up from Alice in Wonderland, it’s utterly fabulous. The colorful, digital art installations here are interactive and multi-sensory.
Each room inside teamLab Borderless has a different theme including a room full of lanterns, a representation of the changing seasons, and a room full of digital crystal streamers. At the end of your experience be sure to stop by the En Tea House where you can enjoy a cup of seasonal tea while watching as a digital flower begins to bloom with each sip.
38. Become Part of a Living Painting at Adachi Museum of Art
The Adachi Museum of Art houses a large collection of traditional and modern Japanese art pieces but is also home to six gardens that hold three stars on the Michelin Green Guide and have consistently ranked the number one gardens in Japan.
When visiting you’ll immediately notice how pristine they are! It almost appears like the scene isn’t real as you admire many of the gardens from behind large glass windows. However, this setting is purposeful. The founder of the museum, Adachi Zenko had the belief that “the garden is also a picture” and set forth to create these garden spaces to appear as if you are in a living painting.
39. Appreciate the Colorful Festival Floats at the Nebuta Museum
One of the most impressive summer festivals in Japan that we attended was the Aomori Nebuta Festival which features a number of large floats created from wire and vibrantly colored washi paper. Sadly, this event only takes place once a year for a few short days so it can be hard to work into your itinerary. However, the good news is you can view the floats anytime by visiting the Nebuta Museum.
Inside the museum are videos showing how the floats are created and footage from the festival itself. Then you can enter the main exhibit where all of the floats from the previous year’s Nebuta Matsuri are illuminated for all to see up close.
40. Inspect the World of Sand Sculptures at the Sand Museum
I talked about the Tottori Sand Dunes earlier but another impressive thing to do in this area is visiting the Sand Museum. At the Sand Museum, you can come to view a series of sand sculptures that are created by artists from around the world by only using sand and water. Each year a different theme on the premise of “traveling around the world” is presented – meaning you can visit often and see something new.
41. Learn a Harrowing Part of History at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. In this museum, you can see the radius of where the bomb hit, many artifacts that were found or supplied by residents, and video testimonies from some who survived. The entire experience is emotionally moving and serves as an important reminder for peace on earth and for an atomic bomb to never be used again.
Foodie Japan Bucket List Experiences
42. Try Traditional Kaiseki Dining
Where: While Staying at a Ryokan
Kaiseki is a style of traditional Japanese dining that features a number of courses. Each course is thoughtfully prepared with seasonal ingredients and decoratively plated to produce a meal that appears almost like art. Typically you can experience such a meal when staying at a Ryokan like Nishimuraya Honkan, the one I mentioned earlier. If you are interested in a unique dining experience, kaiseki is not to be missed!
43. Eat Fugu at a Michelin Star Restaurant
Fugu, or blowfish, is a highly-regulated delicacy in Japan. You might wonder, “why is it regulated?” Well, this is because fugu skin, reproductive organs, and liver carry a poison called tetrodotoxin. Thus it can be dangerous to eat if not prepared the correct way and only highly-trained professionals can serve fugu in their restaurants.
We tried fugu at Hakata Izumi, a Michelin Star restaurant in Fukuoka that serves only fugu but prepares it in a variety of ways such as sashimi, fried, and boiled in a hot pot. Obviously, this dining experience is quite unique!
44. Take a Cooking Class at Ramen Factory Kyoto
Ramen in Japan is a staple dish that everyone loves but you often can’t find ramen in other countries that taste similar! But at Ramen Factory Kyoto you can learn to make your own bowl of ramen from scratch and take the recipe home to make it again and again. One awesome thing about Ramen Factory Kyoto is that they offer vegetarian, vegan, and Halal-friendly ramen options which makes this interactive foodie experience open to almost anyone!
45. “Catch” Your Food at Hirobun
Nagashi somen is a popular summertime dish that you can find in the mountains of Kyoto. At Hirobun, a popular restaurant to enjoy nagashi somen, you’re seated in front of a large bamboo river where somen noodles are then dropped down into the water. As the bundle of noodles approaches you, you must quickly grab them with your chopsticks and drop them into a cup of cool broth before slurping them up!
46. Taste Japan’s Best Dairy Products
Because of the expansive land that Hokkaido has, this region is able to support a large dairy industry. In fact, Hokkaido produces nearly half of the country’s milk! Since dairy is so prevalent here, it is often found in many traditional dishes such as ramen with butter or you can find a lot of cheeses, custards, butter cookies, and of course ice cream.
The dairy products in Hokkaido are rich and creamy and so high-quality that they are coveted by the rest of the country too! So much so, that anytime a restaurant or bakery uses Hokkaido dairy, they slap a label on their product telling you.
47. Watch and Taste the Infamous “Pounding Mochi”
Mochi is a very popular Japanese sweet that you can find all over Japan, but at Nakatanidou in Nara, you can watch as the two shop owners make it right in front of you! The real spectacle is how fast they are able to move as they briskly take turns pounding and turning the mochi in a large wooden bowl. After the show, be sure to order at least one fresh mochi to eat by the shop too!
48.Splurge on A5 Kobe Beef
You might think you’ve had Kobe beef, but you probably haven’t had A5 Kobe beef. In Kobe, Japan where, as you might have guessed, Kobe beef is legendary you can splurge on a meal at Mouriya which serves up the highest quality of beef you can buy in Japan. When you enter you select your favorite cut of steak and your waiter will bring it out to you on a wooden plate along with a certificate of its origin to be inspected prior to cooking. Each piece is easy to cut and nearly melts in your mouth!
49. Create Your Own Instant Noodles at the Cup Noodle Museum
Cup Noodles are a popular Japanese snack or meal that you can find at all grocery stores and konbini in Japan. But in Yokohama, you can visit the Cup Noodle Museum where you can create your own Cup Noodle from start to finish! First, you’ll decorate your cup to your liking, and then add your noodles, seasoning sauce, and toppings! After it is sealed and packaged to be able to take home and enjoy later.
50. Grab Sushi From a Conveyor Belt Kaitenzushi
Where: Tokyo (or anywhere else in Japan)
Kaitenzushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi is widely popular in Japan. One of our favorite kaitenzushi shops is Katsumidori in Tokyo! Typically you can sit at the sushi bar area where the rotating conveyor belt full of freshly made sushi slowly wheels by!
If you see something you’d like to try, simply grab the plate and enjoy. If you don’t see anything you want, most restaurants also have a paper order form or an iPad that you can order from. Once your order is placed and prepared, your sushi will come out to you on the conveyor belt!
51. Slurp Variations of Ramen at Ramen Stadium
At Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka, you’ll find the infamous Ramen Stadium which has a collection of some of Japan’s most iconic ramen shops from various regions or prefectures of Japan – including the famous Hakata ramen in Fukuoka. Just head to the 5th floor, buy a meal ticket from one of the vending machines, and line up to be served a delicious bowl of ramen!
52. Get a Chance at a Longer Life With Eggs From Owakudani
Owakudani is a volcanic valley with hot springs that was formed over 3,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. Once you reach the top you’ll see steam vents spewing hot sulfur gases. Near the springs you can purchase kuro tamago (black eggs) which are chicken eggs that have black shells due to being boiled in the sulfur springs. Legend says eating one of these eggs can add seven years to your life!
53. Try Gold-Covered Ice Cream
First things first, a little history lesson. Kanazawa means “marsh of gold.” The name comes from a legend of a peasant who was digging for potatoes in a field, but instead found gold flakes! Since then, the city of Kanazawa has prided itself on offering golden souvenirs and eats including gold-covered ice cream! Yes, this is as “extra” as it sounds. You can purchase this “rich” treat at Hakuichi where they will place a sheet of gold leaf delicately over the top of a con of creamy vanilla ice cream cone.
54. Taste the Rare 100% Buckwheat Soba
Soba is a very popular Japanese noodle dish that can be served cold or hot. It is commonly made with a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. But at a few restaurants in Japan, you can try soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat flour, which is a rare find and is commonly made with only using the “first flour” of the buckwheat fruit yielding a higher quality noodle. One of the places to try this dish is at Suisya, a soba restaurant in Matsumoto.
55. Encounter Everything Wasabi at Daio Wasabi Farm
Daio Wasabi Farm is a picturesque wasabi farm that started in 1915! It is one of the largest wasabi farms in Japan producing around 10% of Japan’s wasabi crops and covering approximately 15 hectares. When visiting you can see the growing process of wasabi, enjoy lunch at a small cafe, buy wasabi-related souvenirs, and even try wasabi flavored ice cream! I promise it’s much tastier than it might sound.
56. Go on a Brewery Tour and Purchase A Draft
Where: Kirin, Asahi, or Sapporo Breweries
If you’re a fan of beer then you have to take a tour of at least one of Japan’s famous breweries. At the Sapporo Brewery, you’ll first learn the history behind Japan’s oldest brewery before making your way to the brewery basement where you can purchase light snacks and a flight of Sapporo beers!
57. Order Flying Dango from Kakko-ya
Where: Genbikei Gorge
In a small town in the Tohoku Region of Japan, you can order dango from Kakko-ya, a shop that has been serving up this Japanese sweet since 1878 in a rather unique way. Customers line up on one side of the Genbikei Gorge and place their money in a basket that is attached to a rope and pulley.
Once you have ordered the basket will be pulled to the dango shop where your treat and some tea is gently placed inside and “flown” back to you over the gorge! This yummy treat is perfect for sharing and has three different flavors to enjoy too – black sesame, red bean, and sweet soy!
58. Visit Wazuka Tea Farm & See How Tea is Grown
If you are a fan of tea, specifically green tea then you’ll love visiting the Wazuka Tea Farms near Kyoto. This area is home to some of the finest Uji matcha and is responsible for half of the green tea production in the Kyoto Prefecture.
Not only is this small town important for its tea, but it is also very picturesque and offers a variety of unique activities you can enjoy. While visiting, make sure you go on a guided tour of one of the tea farms where you can go tea picking, attend a traditional tea ceremony, or learn how to cook with Japanese green tea!
59. Experience a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony
To add to tea, another one of the best things to do in Japan is to attend a traditional tea ceremony. Typically attending a tea ceremony is a formal event where you can dress up in a kimono or yukata while learning the history of the ceremony rituals prior to enjoying your tea. After, a host will either make a cup of rich matcha for you or allow you to prepare it yourself with guidance.
60. Enjoy Some of the Freshest Seafood in Japan
Seafood is amazing everywhere in Japan, but the Hokkaido region is known for having some of the freshest and highest quality seafood. A few dishes that you should try in Hokkaido are kani (crab) that are so buttery they melt in your mouth, hotate (scallops) that are the freshest I’ve ever tasted, ikura (salmon roe) a Japanese delicacy, and uni (sea urchin) that has a distinct flavor and creamy texture.
61. Visit A Wagashi Shop
Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections that are often enjoyed with tea. Many of them are elegantly crafted by hand and feature seasonal designs and flavors. One place you can enjoy wagashi is Toraya where you can enjoy your wagashi while looking out at a picturesque garden.
62. Try Various Small Bites at Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is a narrow pedestrian street full of small shops and restaurants. Each of the shops you’ll find here specializes in food-related items like fresh seafood, produce, quality knives, and kitchen tableware and cookware.
But you can also sample a number of different dishes here for a small cost like a tamagoyaki (rolled egg omelet) sandwich, mochi, dried fish, tako tamago (octopus with quail egg), and every pickled vegetable you can imagine! It’s a great place to try a bunch of different food items without having to make a commitment to a restaurant.
Cultural Japan Bucket List Experiences
63. Attend One of Japan’s Infamous Summer Matsuri
Summer festivals in Japan are extremely popular with Japanese residents and foreign visitors. You can find different festivals all over Japan each with its own individual history. But they do have one major thing in common, they are all steeped in rich tradition – some dating back thousands of years!
64. Float Through Historic Canals in Yanagawa
If you want to experience history while floating on a beautiful canal then make your way to Yanagawa, the Venice of Japan. The punting river cruise takes you on a journey through the canals of town while your guide also performs traditional Japanese folk songs. Though the journey is scenic, it is also thrilling too! Some of the bridges you’ll pass under are very low and you have to duck your head in order to pass by.
65. Cross the Bridges in Gokanosho
One of the least visited places in Japan is the tiny villages of Gokanosho. The reason it isn’t frequented by travelers is due to how difficult it can be to get there. But if you are up for the challenge, the journey will be memorable. There are multiple waterfalls surrounded by seemingly untouched forests, suspension bridges to cross to other villages in Gokanosho, and a number of minshuku (Japanese bed and breakfast) where you can enjoy some of the most fabulous local dining you’ll ever have!
66. Watch the Yokagura Dances at Takachiho Shrine
The Yokagura dances have been performed at Takachiho Shrine for over 800 years in dedication to Ujigamisama, a local deity. In November, a festival takes place featuring 33 dances that are performed through the night to give thanks to the gods for good crops and as a prayer for a bountiful harvest the next year. However, if you aren’t able to attend the main festival, you can still experience the four main dances each night at Takachiho Shrine. These four allow you to see myths and legends of the gods come to life!
67. Tour One of Japan’s Oldest Onsen – Dogo Onsen Honkan
For Studio Ghibli lovers, you might find this next Japan bucket list attraction familiar as it is said to have inspired the bathhouse in Spirited Away. Dogo Onsen Honkan is a large bathhouse that was built in 1894. You can enjoy soaking in the historic hot springs and also take a tour of the bathhouse and appreciate the detailed wooden interior. There is also a neat area called Yushinden which was originally constructed for members of the Imperial family from 1899-1952!
68. Explore The Traditional Village of Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go is a traditional village area that is set within the mountains. These villages are famous for a style of thatched-roof houses known as gassho-zukuri which means “constructed like hands in prayer.” Some of the homes here are over 250 years old and have been preserved to share this history with tourists. If you plan to visit Shirakawa-go then we recommend staying the night in one of the minshuku inns that are now located in some of the farmhouses.
69. Watch A Rare Maiko Performance
Geisha (or geiko) and Maiko (apprentice geisha) are professional entertainers that typically attend special events for Japan’s elite. They typically perform a variety of skills including dancing, singing, and playing shamisen. They also can play traditional games with guests as well! One of the most prominent areas to see geiko and maiko are in the streets of Gion, a neighborhood of Kyoto. It is here that you can also enjoy the rare treat of watching a maiko performance yourself!
70. Attend A Sumo Wrestling Tournament
Where: Many cities in Japan
One extremely unique thing to do in Japan is to attend a basho (sumo wrestling tournament). Sumo was thought to be originally created as a form of entertainment for the Shinto gods. Now, people from all over the world come to enjoy sumo tournaments too!
The religious rituals behind sumo have been a longstanding part of the tradition of this sport. One tradition that takes place every basho is the purification ritual with a ring of salt. The matches themself take place very quickly, some are even over within a matter of seconds, but it’s exhilarating nonetheless! If you want to attend one of the official basho, you’ll have to be strategic as they only take place six times a year and tickets sell out quickly.
Sumo Wrestling Tournaments
- January (Hatsu Basho): Tokyo
- March (Haru Basho): Osaka
- May (Natsu Basho): Tokyo
- July (Nagoya Basho): Nagoya
- September (Aki Basho): Tokyo
- November (Kyushu Basho): Fukuoka
71. Catch A Kabuki Theater Performance
Kabuki is a type of traditional Japanese dancing and drama that has been a part of Japanese culture since the early 1600s. Performers wear elaborate costumes and make-up to add to the element of drama in the play.
There are three main acts of a Kabuki play. Jidaimono is the first section that typically conveys major events in Japanese history. The second act is Sewamono which focuses on romance and drama – with similar themes to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. The last act is Shosagoto which is focused on the dance element to convey deep emotion, character, and add depth to the plot.
If you’re looking for a place to experience this one-of-a-kind event, the Kabuki-za Theatre in Tokyo is one of the most well-known places to attend a Kabuki theater performance!
72. Receive A Fortune From A Shrine or Temple
Where: Most shrines and temples in Japan
For a small donation, you can get an Omikuji or a fortune from a shrine or temple in Japan. They are typically ranked by small blessings, medium blessings, and great blessings, and likewise with bad luck too. If you receive good fortune you can decide to keep it or tie it up at the shrine. But if you receive a bad luck fortune you’ll want to tie it up to a pine tree that you’ll probably see many other fortunes tied to. But regardless of which fortune you get, it has the ability to grow and expand.
Japan Bucket List Shrines and Temples
73. Walk the Path of Oceanside Torii at Motonosumi Inari
Motonosumi Inari is a shrine that looks similar to another shrine you might be familiar with, Fushimi Inari. The path of torii gates lies beside a stunning backdrop of the Sea of Japan where waves crash against the rocks misting you with the cool ocean water. This shrine offers one of the most beautiful views that perfectly contrasts the unity between a man-made structure and nature.
74. Throw Undama at Udo Jingu Shrine
Udo Jingu Shrine is a one-of-a-kind shrine that is located within a large cave and overlooks the ocean offering a spectacular view. One activity that you can enjoy that is unique to Udo Jingu is throwing undama for good luck. These ceramic balls are thrown at a target marked by a rope that circles it. It is said if you are able to get the undama in the target you will be blessed with good fortune!
75. Browse Shops Down The Path to Senso-ji
Senso-ji is an extremely popular temple to visit in Tokyo and it has two very different settings when visiting during the day and the evening. During the day you’ll get to see crowds of people, smell the burning incense, and hear the noise from the nearby shops. But at night, it is rather peaceful with the shops shut down for the day and very few people visiting so I recommend visiting at both times of the day to get a feel for each!
76. Examine the Details at Kosan-ji
The most intricately detailed temple in Japan is Kosanji Temple. Inspired by his love and devotion for his mother, a local businessman decided to construct this lavish temple in her honor. Besides the main temple building, there is also a cave that depicts illustrations of the tortures of Buddhist hell, which may sound creepy, but is also interesting to see! Also at Kosanji is a hill of blinding white marble known as Miraishin no Oka which means Heights of Eternal Hope for the Future.
77. Visit the “10 Yen Temple”
If you’ve ever looked at a Japanese currency you’ve probably wondered where the places shown are located. On the 10 yen coin there you’ll see Byodo-in Temple located just outside of Kyoto. The part of the temple depicted on the coin is known as Phoenix Hall which stores many national treasures and historic artifacts. Although you’d think it would be a popular place to visit it isn’t as frequented since it is located around 30 minutes from Kyoto by train – so this is a great place to add to your Japan bucket list.
78. Visit Engyo-ji Where Part of the Last Samurai Was Filmed
You might desire to visit Engyo-ji solely based on the fact that it was one of the main filming locations in the movie The Last Samurai. But, you’ll leave being glad you also enjoyed the nature that surrounded this special temple. The buildings of the temple are spaced out within the forest on Mount Shosha offering beautiful scenery as you walk along the compressed dirt paths. Just make sure you bring proper footwear because it can be quite a hike!
79. Take A Pilgrimage on Kumano Kodo to Nachi Shrine
Kumano Kodo is a network of trails that will lead you on a spiritual pilgrimage to three shrines. One of these shrines in Nachi Shrine which is located next to Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest waterfall. This shrine, along with Seiganto-ji Temple next to it, offers one of the most beautiful views in all of Japan.
Japan Bucket List Castles
80. Hike to Takeda Castle, Japan’s Machu Picchu
The Takeda Castle Ruins are often referred to as the “Machu Picchu of Japan.” It was originally built in 1411 but was abandoned after a battle in 1600. After, it slowly disintegrated until the ruins were restored in the 1970s for public viewing. The best time to visit Takeda Castle is in the autumn months when the mixture of warm and cool air makes the castle appear to be floating in a sea of clouds.
81. Journey Himeji Castle, The Most Preserved Castle in Japan
Himeji Castle was built in 1333 and unlike many other castles in Japan that have been rebuilt due to war or natural disasters, it has stood strong ever since. Himeji Castle was even bombed during World War II and while a bomb was dropped on the castle’s top floor, it didn’t detonate. The outside and inside of the castle have been perfectly preserved to keep much of the original structures. Although there is no museum inside, you can take a virtual tour from your phone as you walk the halls of this castle while imagining what stories the walls could tell.
82. Stroll Through the Museum at Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is another one of Japan’s most famous castles that has a remodeled modern museum inside. This museum shares the history of this castle as well as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the feudal lord who originally created Osaka Castle to be used as the center of his rule. Many of the artifacts, art pieces, and relics are thousands of years old making this museum incredibly historical. In the spring, hundreds of sakura trees bloom forming a pastel pink path in Osaka Castle Park.
83. View Japan’s Black Castle, Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is a 16th-century castle that is often referred to as “The Crow Castle” due to its black exterior. The contrast between the black and white exterior set within the calm waters of the castle’s moat makes for a rather serene setting. On a clear day, you can also enjoy a view of the Japanese Alps behind the castle too!
84. Walk On the Nightingale Floors at Nijo Castle
From the outside, Nijo Castle may not seem as grand as the rest of the castles on our Japan bucket list, but it is still a rather unique place to visit! It was built in 1603 as a residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Edo Period shogun. One of the most interesting features of this castle is the nightingale floors that squeak slightly when stepped on. These floors were purposefully designed this way as a safety feature to alert against intruders. When visiting see if you can walk across them without making a sound!
Scenic Drives to Add to Your Japan Bucket List
85. Rent A Japanese Sports Car for a Day Trip
If you are into sports cars, this is for you! Just outside of Tokyo is Omoshiro, a car rental shop that specializes in Japanese sports cars. There are a number of different makes and models of sports cars to choose from including a Mazda RX-7, Honda S660, and our car of choice, the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R.
You can choose to rent the car for a minimum of 6 hours or by the day. If you can, I recommend getting the car for a day trip from Tokyo – just make sure you get your International Driving Permit before you go!
86. Admire the Views While Crossing Tsunoshima Island Bridge
If you enjoy ocean drives then crossing the bridge to Tsunoshima Island is a must-do in Japan. The bridge is a little over a mile (1,780 meters) in length and is completely straight in length before it curves right after the bridge. But before you cross make sure you park at the top to enjoy the view of the bridge over the bright blue water!
87. Drive the Winding Irohazaka Route
The Irohazaka is a pair of winding roads that travel from Nikko into the mountains. They are a wild route to drive because they have 48 hairpin turns. At the top of the Irohazaka, you can park at an observation deck that allows you to have a view over the valley. Driving this route in the autumn months makes for the prettiest scenery with all of the fall foliage alongside the road but it can also be the busiest time for tourists too!
88. Take a Road Trip on the Nichinan Coast
This rugged coastline is known for its gorgeous beaches, terrific surfing, and stunning outdoor areas to walk along the coast. This is also where you’ll find Udo Jingu Shrine, the shrine I mentioned earlier in this article that is located inside a cave along the Nichinan Coast. From Nichinan, make your way up to Hyuga where you can see the Sea Cross, a scenic cliffside viewpoint overlooking the ocean.
Ethical Animal Japan Bucket List Experiences
89. Bow to Hundreds of Friendly Deer at Nara Park
At Nara Park, you can escape to a magical world of wild, yet friendly deer. Upon arrival, the deer will timidly approach you and bow for a special deer biscuit that you can purchase in the park. When feeding the deer, carefully hand them a cracker then show your empty hands to signal that you have nothing left to give.
90. Hike to a Wild Monkey Park
Another ethical animal experience to enjoy in Japan is Monkey Park Iwatayama. This park is a short hike in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Once you reach the top you can see an epic skyline view of Kyoto and a number of wild monkeys relaxing in the trees or bathing in the water nearby.
Amusement Parks to Visit for Your Japan Bucket List
91. Teleport to Another Continent at Porto Europa
Porto Europe is an amusement park that resembles the romantic streets of France, Spain, and Italy. Unlike many other amusement parks, it is free to enter the park or you can pay for a pass to enjoy the rides or games. We loved taking photos here and playing arcade games while visiting!
92. Visit the One and Only Tokyo DisneySea
Disney is popular worldwide but in Tokyo, you can visit the one and only Tokyo DisneySea. Each year, Tokyo DisneySea attracts nearly 15-million people making it the 4th most visited amusement park in the world! Inside the park, there are six ports with rides, restaurants, and attractions including the Lost River Delta, American Waterfront, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Mysterious Island, and Port Discovery. Each of these ports has a different nautical theme!
93. Transfer to Hogwarts at Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan comprises eight different areas for guests to explore including American cities of Hollywood, New York, and San Francisco, along with Jurassic Park, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland, Waterworld, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With such diverse parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy as the attractions and rides range for kids and adults too!
94. Ride the Rollercoasters Fuji-Q Highland
Fuji-Q Highland is definitely one for thrill-seekers! It has Guinness World Record-breaking roller coasters! Since the park is at the base of Mount Fuji you can also get a fabulous view of the snow-capped mountain as you ride a few of the coasters! One of the most popular roller coasters at Fuji-Q Highland is Takabisha which has a steep falling angle of 121 degrees!
95. Step Into All Things Kawaii at Sanrio Puroland
Sanrio Puroland will take you to a land of all things pink, cute, and Hello Kitty & Friends! While this park is very kid-friendly there are plenty of activities for adults to enjoy too. There are rides, parades, shows to watch, boat rides within the park, and all of your favorite Sanrio characters dressed in costume for photos!
96. Step Back in Time at Edo Wonderland
Edo Wonderland is a theme park near Nikko that showcases life during the Edo period (17th century) of Japan. At this unique theme park, you can dress up in traditional clothing as you enjoy the attractions of the park. There are theater performances, wooden boat cruises, ninja training, and even a samurai swordsman experience! There are also a number of Edo period delicacies to enjoy at one of the three restaurants in the park.
97. See Famous Sites From Around the World at Taiyo Park
Taiyo Park is an amusement park in Himeji that has replicas of famous landmarks from around the world. Some of the most memorable sites are the Great Wall of China, Egyptian Pyramids, the Arc de Triomphe, Neuschwanstein Castle, and the excavation of the Terracotta Army – but there are many others to see too!
Quirky Japan Bucket List Experiences
98. Journey the Touristy Eight Hells of Beppu
Beppu is a famous onsen town in southern Japan. Perhaps the most famous attraction is the eight hells of Beppu which are a series of hot springs for viewing purposes – one of the most interesting is Chinoike Jigoku also known as the “Blood Pond Hell” where the hot spring water is bright red.
Though they are a bit touristy, they are still interesting to see and there are a number of other onsen you can unwind in around Beppu as well. There is even a place where you can get buried in black, hot sand for relaxation!
99. Watch the Unicorn Gundam Statue Light Up in Odaiba
If you’re a Gundam fan you’ll be awed by this full-scale replica of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. This replica towers over tourists at 19.7 meters tall right in front of DiverCity Tokyo in Odaiba. Four times a day there is a brief performance when the statue switches between two modes – unicorn and destroyer where you can see hidden light panels lit up!
100. Drive Through the Tiny Nagoro Doll Village
In the mountains of Shikoku, there is a teeny town called Nagoro where dolls outnumber the people who live there. These dolls are created by Japanese artist Ayano Tsukimi who moved back to the village she grew up in once she found out that most people in the village had moved away or passed – in fact, less than 40 people now live in Nagoro.
After creating a Kakashi (scarecrow) that looked like her late father she had an epiphany – she could create life-size dolls modeled on former locals. She has now created over 350 doll citizens that can be found all over the town outside and in buildings as well. While it may seem creepy to some, the dedication that Tsukimi has is inspiring.
101. Bath in Wine at Yunessun Spa & Resort
If you’ve ever wanted to bathe in your favorite beverage, here’s your chance! Yunessun Spa is a theme park where you can bathe in wine, sake, green tea, coffee, and other kinds of beverage-themed hot springs. At different times during the day, staff members even bring out buckets of coffee and wine and dump them in the respective baths for an entertaining show!
102. Browse the Crowded Aisles of Don Quijote
If you’re looking for a place to buy souvenirs in Japan, Don Quijote has it all. No really, I mean LITERALLY EVERYTHING. Don Quijote is located in nearly every city in Japan and has multiple floors of crowded aisles stuffed with toys, candy, home goods, t-shirts, and even gently used luxury purses and watches for resale. So grab a basket and get some Japanese Kit-Kat for yourself and your family and friends. 🙂
103. Spend the Night in a Capsule Hotel
Where: All over Japan
Ever wanted to sleep in your own cozy pod? Then this is for you. Capsule hotels are one of the most unique accommodations in Japan. They can be found all over but are most common in larger cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Typically they are perfect for solo or business travelers because they offer a single-night stay that is also budget-friendly at 3,000-6,000 yen a night.
Most capsule hotels have gender-specific floors or buildings for male and female guests but some offer mixed floors for families. Once you check-in you’ll receive a key card to enter the floor for your capsule room and the restroom and shower area. You’ll also receive a locker where you’ll store your belongings!
104. Take Cutesy Purikura Photos
Where: Anywhere in Japan!
Purikura is a Japanese photo booth where you can take cute photos with your partner, family, or friends! They are widely popular and you can find them in shopping malls and arcades all over Japan. Typically you get 2-4 photos taken where you can pick filters and add stickers or other cute elements.
105. Go Shopping in An Anime & Manga Paradise
If you are interested in Japanese anime and/or manga then Akihabara is the place to be! Akihabara is located in central Tokyo and has hundreds of anime, manga, and electronics stores. While the anime shows and movies you’ll find will be in Japanese without subtitles, you can also look for playing cards, figurines, cosplay items, or other collectibles from your favorites.
Some of our favorite stores in Akihabara
- AKKY: Souvenir shop.
- Volks Hobby Paradise: Mostly figurines and other collectibles.
- COSPA: T-shirts, collectibles, and retro gaming items.
- Animate Akihabara: Manga, anime, and collectibles.
- Cospatio: Cosplay costume store.
- Suruga-ya: Anime, manga, figurines, and other collectibles.
106. Travel to Japan’s Unusual Art Island
Where: Naoshima Island
This sleepy little island became a booming hotspot after a wealthy Japanese businessman decided to turn it into a unique destination for art lovers like himself. On the island, you can visit a number of attractions and museums including the Art House Project, a set of abandoned buildings that have since been transformed with art installations.
Another museum with more traditional art is Chichu Art Museum which features the works of Claude Monet, James Turrell, and other well-known artists. For a more kitschy art exhibit make your way to I♥YU where you can enjoy art while soaking in a bathhouse. Perhaps the most iconic installations are the glass pumpkins that are located in various places on the island.
107. Watch The Wild Robot Restaurant Show
If you want to experience something totally bonkers while in Japan, I suggest adding the Robot Restaurant to your bucket list. This wacky adventure will allow you to enter a world of neon, flashing lights, and robots with blaring pop music! The entire experience is chaos but in the best way. After the show, you can take photos with the stars on stage!
108. Shop At A 100 Yen Shop
Where: All over Japan
100 yen shops are extremely popular and can be found all over Japan. One of the most famous 100 yen shops is called Daiso. Daiso offers a variety of things to shop for including home goods, kitchen items, snacks, candy, and drinks.
Which of these experiences have you done so far? What do you want to add to your Japan bucket list?