An Exciting Virtual Japan Tour That You Can Enjoy From Home!
Logan and I were supposed to be in Japan right now for cherry blossom season but the universe had other plans. I was feeling a little sentimental about it as this was our first time to visit Japan in the spring, so my friend Lia recommended I write a virtual Japan tour that others can enjoy too! She’s a whiz at this stuff and has written a few virtual tours of her own that are AMAZING so I was excited to give this a try.
While it isn’t safe to pack your bags, hop on a plane or in the car and travel right now, who’s to say we can’t enjoy a virtual trip around the world? This time – to Japan! Let’s get going!
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How to Get Ready for Your Virtual Japan Tour
Faux Onsen by Relaxing in Your Tub
We know, it’s not a Japanese hot spring, but hey… if you get the water piping hot and soak for a little while it’s bound to be relaxing and get you ready for the trip. If you want to save this one for after your virtual tour of Japan to wind down that’s okay too.
Light Japanese Incense
This will make you feel like you’ve stepped foot inside the temples we’ll cover in this virtual Japan tour. One that you can purchase easily is Shoyeido Incense – we really like the scent “White River” because it reminds us of the incense at Japanese temples and it’s also what one of our favorite ryokans uses.
Listen to Japanese Music
We’re going to include some videos in this post that are perfect for the setting of the places we’ll visit in this guide, but Logan is also a whiz at making playlists so here’s one has a few songs and great Japanese music from shamisen to J-pop.
Get Some Japanese Sake or Beer
If you are making a trip to the store while practicing safe social distancing, consider picking up some Japanese sake or beer! A few of our favorite Japanese beers are Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin which can be found at most grocery stores, liquor stores, or big box stores too!
If you’re looking for sake you can enjoy by itself or with your meal, here are a few we recommend. One of the most popular sakes to buy in the United States is Gekkeikan. Although it isn’t the best sake you may ever have, it’s very affordable (usually $7-15 a bottle) and it has a nice simple flavor that can be paired with almost anything.
If you want to splurge consider purchasing a bottle of Dassai, which is often found in Michelin-starred restaurants. Also, Prime Minister Abe once gifted Dassai 23 to President Obama – so you know it has to be good!
Make A Japanese Dinner Course
We love making Japanese food at home and some of our favorite dishes are simple with few ingredients.
Japanese ramen or udon are two of our favorites to make at home. But if you live in an area with access to sashimi-grade fresh fish, consider making your own sushi. We’ll be jealous because we live in a landlocked state and to ship sashimi-grade fish is lottttsa $$$!
If you’re able to and they are open, consider supporting a local Asian food grocer near you by purchasing your ingredients there.
If you’re interested in other Japanese food you can make then head to our Japan food guide.
Enjoy Some Japanese Sweets
If you feel up to baking, traditional Japanese sweets like mochi or melon pan would add an extra element to your virtual Japan tour. But they can be time-consuming. If you aren’t up for making your own Japanese sweets you can also get some at the grocery store or online.
Pocky is a Japanese sweet that can be found in most grocery stores. You can even add it to your next Walmart grocery pick-up! We recommend the matcha flavor or the chocolate or strawberry if you aren’t a fan of matcha.
Although it isn’t the same as regular mochi, you can also get mochi ice cream at grocery stores in a number of different flavors. For more true Japanese flavors we recommend black sesame, red bean, or matcha.
Brew Some Green Tea
Japanese green tea is known worldwide and we bring some back with us when we visit Japan. You can order loose leaf Japanese tea online or even satchels of green tea if you prefer a teabag.
If you love the flavor of matcha you can also get a matcha set that comes with a matcha whisk and bowl. We recommend buying ceremonial grade matcha if you plan to drink it alone but that can also be expensive.
Buying a high quality culinary grade matcha which is less expensive, is best for baking or sweets but can also be used for lattes or if you want to try something fun, consider making a dalgona whipped matcha latte!
Green tea is something that you can enjoy on its own or with Japanese sweets.
VIRTUAL JAPAN TOUR
Now that you’re ready to go, we’re going to take you through a few popular cities in Japan! We will make stops in Tokyo, the Fuji Five Lakes area, Osaka, and Kyoto.
Each of these cities is places that most people visit on their first trip to Japan and for a good reason – they’re all incredible.
While I’d love to take you to every single place we’ve visited in Japan, that would be the longest virtual tour ever. So, let’s take off on our flight to visit just a few of Japan’s beautiful gems.
“FLY” TO JAPAN
Since we aren’t going to be on a plane anytime soon we saw it only fitting to fly you to Japan on Japan Airlines luxurious business class! Because… well… why not?
We used points to fly business class to Tokyo from Dallas and it was such a treat! Here’s where you’ll be spending the next few hours as you make your way to Tokyo!
READ MORE: Flying Business Class on Japan Airlines
FIRST STOP: TOKYO
Hopped off the plane at NRT well-rested in my stretchy pants! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But all corny jokes aside, we’ve made it to Tokyo! It only makes sense to put this iconic city first on our virtual Japan tour and since you flew business class you’re probably well rested – so let’s get going! 😉
Watch the Tuna Auction at Toyosu Market
Our first stop is the infamous Toyosu Market which was formerly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market. The new Toyosu Market opened in October of 2018 and provides tourists with the opportunity to witness live tuna auctions and try seafood as fresh as you can get it!
Every morning between 5:30-6:30 am the chaotic auctions begin. Let’s experience the auctions now!
Whew, after the auction let’s go ahead and eat some yummy sushi because, after all, you’re at one of the most famous fish markets in the world!
See Old Tokyo at Asakusa
After all that excitement at the Toyosu Market, it’s now time to slow it down and visit Asakusa. Asakusa keeps the “older” Tokyo alive with traditional craft shops, street food, and the beautiful Sensoji Temple, but also has some modern clothing and souvenir shops.
We’ll begin by walking down the pathway to Sensoji Temple. Most days it’s bustling with patrons and tourists and full of the smells of street food and incense. Today is no different, notice the slight fog from the incense smoke in the air and take in the beauty of Tokyo’s oldest temple.
Experience The Wacky World of Harajuku
After Asakusa, we’re going to the wacky world of Harajuku! Here you’ll see Japan’s Rockabilly Dancers, crepes on crepes on crepes, and cotton candy bigger than your head!
But before the sugar rush let’s go ahead and visit Meiji Jingu Shrine and Yoyogi Park! But wait, it seems like there’s music coming from the park entrance which can only mean one thing… the rockabilly dancers have arrived.
The rockabilly dancers come to the park entrance every Sunday and dance to 1950s rock music in their leather jackets, jeans, and boots that have definitely seen the concrete plenty. Picture the guys from the movie Grease and you’ve got the basic image down.
After watching them dance for a few moments, let’s go ahead and enter the park where we’ll make our way through a peaceful forest of trees to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Of all the shrines in Japan, Meiji Jingu is one of the most popular. It is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
Okay, now I think we’re ready for TAKESHITA DORI, Harajuku’s famous pedestrian street filled with colorful clothing stores and wacky dining experiences.
While we’re here we might as well try a few sweets like giant cotton candy, a rainbow grilled cheese or famous Harajuku crepe.
Immerse Yourself in Digital Art at TeamLab Borderless
Next on our list for this virtual Japan tour is TeamLab Borderless. TeamLab Borderless has been getting A LOT of hype the past few years and for a good reason. It’s out of this world! So let’s step into another dimension and immerse ourselves with the beauty of digital art.
Walk The Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
After visiting TeamLab Borderless in Odaiba we’re going to take the train to spend the rest of our time in Tokyo in the areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku.
First, get off the train and walk outside the station to the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble which you will probably have heard of or maybe you saw it in the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – no judgment. 😉
Anyways we’re going to walk across to experience it and watch it from above too!
Experience A Wild Show at The Robot Restaurant
Next on our Tokyo list is the Robot Restaurant! Although it’s touristy, it is what most people imagine when they think of Tokyo – futuristic, neon, and so many lights! This one has all of it wrapped into one wild performance.
Visit The Pubs at Golden Gai
Here’s where you can break out your Japanese beer or sake! We’re heading to the Golden Gai which is well-known for bar hopping in Tokyo. Say “kanpai” (cheers in Japanese) and take a drink!
SECOND STOP: FUJI FIVE LAKES
All aboard the shinkansen train to the Fuji Five Lakes! Did you know that bullet trains can go upwards of 200 mph? Making them one of the fastest modes of transportation, probably the fastest on land!
Let’s go through the station and get settled in for our shinkansen ride.
While on the shinkansen we’re going to try an ekiben or a bento meal that is offered at stations for your shinkansen rides.
View the Iconic Mount Fuji
After getting off the train we’re heading straight to a few viewing points for Mount Fuji. The mountain is beautiful this time of year! Especially from the Chureito Pagoda or any of the Fuji Five Lakes. Take a moment to breathe deeply and feel the crisp spring air while looking at the beauty of Mt. Fuji.
Take A Thrilling Ride at Fuji-Q Highland
Now we’re going to see Mt. Fuji from a different view! Fuji-Q Highland is a popular amusement park in Fujiyoshida that has a number of EPIC roller coasters. There is even one that gives you a view of Mt. Fuji WHILE riding it. Let’s go ride it now!
Find Serenity at a Flower Park
Another beautiful thing to do in the Fuji Five Lakes area is to visit a flower park that also has views of Mt. Fuji. They are especially popular this time of year too, but we’re going to see them without the crowds. 😉
Stay in an Onsen Ryokan
You’ll be staying in Konansou, one of our favorite ryokan hotels in Japan. It has beautiful rooms that have views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, intimate private onsen, and fabulous kaiseki-style dining. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal.
It has a variety of small plates with fresh, seasonal ingredients that are carefully selected and perfectly balanced. While setting up your own kaiseki meal at home would be quite a feat, but it’s definitely something to add to your bucket list in the future.
THIRD STOP: OSAKA
Next up on our virtual Japan tour is the bright, beautiful Osaka. This bustling city is the second largest in Japan right after Tokyo but in my opinion, it has an entirely different feel.
Visit One of the Oldest Shrines, Sumiyoshi-taisha
Our first stop in Osaka is Sumiyoshi-taisha, it is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan dating back to the 3rd century. The most well-known feature of this shrine is the vermillion colored bridge.
After touring the grounds we’re going to dig for some lucky stones! If you find all three stones they act as an amulet for granting a request to one of the deities of the shrine.
Now that we’ve found all three let’s make a wish and head to our next stop on this virtual Japan tour!
Take in the Beauty of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan and is worth hours of time to explore, but here we’ll give you a peek! This castle was originally built in 1597 but was later destroyed during World War II. It was later rebuilt to its original design and the inside is now a fascinating museum.
After visiting Osaka Castle let’s walk through the park that is full of sakura trees before we visit one of Osaka’s most iconic destinations.
Stuff Your Face With Street Food in Dotonbori
Osaka is a foodie paradise and the center of it all is in Dotonbori. While in Osaka be sure not to miss takoyaki. Takoyaki is balls of dough with octopus that are deep fried. I’ve burned my mouth a number of times (you’d think I’d learn) on these delicious street snacks so be careful!
You should also try okonomiyaki (a savory pancake made with cabbage, egg, and meat) and ramen when in Dotonbori.
Let’s see what other yummy street foods we’ll be trying while in Dotonbori!
After stuffing our faces, let’s stop for a sunset view on the canal. In my opinion, it’s one of the best sunsets to see in a city!
Experience More Neon in the Shinsekai District
In the Shinsekai entertainment district of Osaka, you’ll find Tsutenkaku Tower that was built in 1912. Dotonbori might be the new area for entertainment, but Shinsekai is still thriving.
There are a lot of places to shop and eat here and there’s even a water park! Here let’s try some kushikatsu which is skewers of meat and veggies deep fried!
Take in the Views from the Umeda Sky Building
At the end of our time in Osaka, we’re heading to the Umeda Sky Building to check out the panoramic views of the city. It’s especially beautiful at night and the floor even glows in the dark!
LAST STOP: KYOTO
Kyoto is one of the most popular historic cities to visit in Japan. It is well-known for numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, stone-paved streets, and wooden buildings and formal traditions like tea ceremonies and Geisha performances.
Enjoy Small Bites from Nishiki Market
First, more food… because why not? We’re on vacation! Nishiki Market has a ton of food stalls and small shops where you can purchase small bites of food and souvenirs to take home like kitchenware and spices.
Hike the Path At Fushimi Inari Shrine
After Nishiki Market, we’re going to one of the most iconic sites in Japan, Fushimi Inari-taisha. You’ll recognize it immediately from the thousands of vermilion torii gates that make their way up Mount Inari.
Walk Through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
After visiting Fushimi Inari we’ll take the train to another area of Kyoto to visit a really unique forest!
This forest is actually a bamboo grove! Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is another one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions. It is a pathway that leads to a number of shrines and temples. Let’s visit a few of them now!
Climb The Hill to Monkey Park Iwatayama
The walking isn’t quite over yet. Next, we’re off to a monkey park that is located close to the bamboo grove.
It’s a place where you can witness tons of wild monkeys in their own habitat. Unlike a zoo, these monkeys are free to roam and if you want to feed them, you actually have to go inside a cage, not them!
Enjoy the Scenery and History at Kiyomizudera Temple
Now to one of Kyoto’s most iconic temples, Kiyomizudera.
Kiyomizudera is an expansive Buddhist temple that was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall which is located at the bottom of the main hall.
There are three streams said to have different benefits – one for longevity, school success, and fortunate love life. But only pick to drink from one!
Kiyomizudera also has some of the most beautiful views of the mountains in Kyoto too so let’s check out some of the views before we leave.
After, we’re going to take a stroll through Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka slopes that lie on stone streets lined with traditional Japanese buildings, tea houses, and shops.
Get Dinner & A Show at Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen
Now it’s time for ramen! We’ll pop in the cozy and warm ramen restaurant, Menbakaichidai. I say warm because there is FIRE involved in this meal. You’re seated at an intimate counter where you’ll be quickly served a bowl of noodles and green onion.
But wait! It’s not time to eat it yet. Hot oil is carefully poured into the bowl as you’ll watch it burst into flames. Can you feel the heat in this next video?!
Glimpse at the Beauty of Kinkakuji, The Golden Temple
Next, we’ll visit a small temple. Kinkakuji is a temple covered in gold that glimmers in the sunshine and looks exceptional with the pond that beautifully reflects the golden temple.
Now, let’s wind down and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony before we end our virtual Japan tour in the Gion area of Kyoto.
Walk the Charming Cobblestone Streets of Gion
Gion is Kyoto’s famous geisha district where you can often see the mysterious and beautiful geisha and maiko walking along the cobblestone streets. There are also a number of sake houses and izakayas (Japanese pubs) to visit.
Attend A Maiko Performance
While in Gion we figured that we’d end the tour with a maiko performance. A maiko is a geisha apprentice. They typically perform songs, dances, play games, and play instruments like the shamisen.
But they also play fun drinking games too. Let’s see Logan play a popular game with a Maiko! 🙂
There are many more places we would love to take you on a virtual Japan tour, but these are some of the highlights! Which was your favorite on our virtual tour of Japan? 🙂
MORE INSPIRATION: TV Shows & Movies That Inspire Japan Travel
P.S. If you are looking for more fun virtual tours I want to direct you to Lia, who I mentioned at the beginning of this post! Creating a virtual tour like the one I did here was inspired by her and she’s come up with a ton of really fun experiences – my favorite was her virtual Disneyworld tour!