The Getaway
10 Life-Changing Things to Do in Japan

One of the stars of the East, Japan is awash with culture, ancient traditions, and landscape that will take your breath away. These days, Japan is an incredibly affordable adventure just waiting for you to take it. There's nowhere better for a travel destination than somewhere with friendly people, great food, and ample Instagram opportunities. Not only that, Japan is one place to visit where selfie sticks are a treasure. There are so many life-changing things to do in Japan, almost too many to count. Here are some of our favorites.


01 Have a Tokyo Adventure


If you're planning on visiting Japan, seeing Tokyo is a given. Seeing the sprawling metropolis is one of the top things you need to do. With everything from dancing robots to cat cafés and equally important Michelin-star sushi, Tokyo literally caters to every whim. In addition to this, the city itself seems to be straight out of one of the scenes in Star Wars. Are we sure it's on earth? Well, visit and see.

yongyuan / Getty Images


02 Take a Rail Tour of Ancient Kyoto


Kyoto is Japan's capital, and it's a city with over 1000 years of history still visible in its streets. This ancient city transforms all of its visitors into sponges, soaking up Japanese culture from the dawn of time. Kyoto has 17 UNESCO world heritage sites within its boundaries. Byōdō‑in Temple, as seen on the back of the Y10 coin, is the star attraction of the Uji suburb. Equally important is Kinkaku-ji's golden pavilion. Indulge in traditional Japanese cuisine, take a rail tour, or enjoy spotting some of the world-famous geisha. In short, Kyoto is ripe for the picking.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images


03 See the Sunrise from Mount Fuji


Everyone who is anyone knows of Mount Fuji. Fujiyama, the most famous and perfect volcano on the planet. Visitors revered it for centuries. If you're in Japan between July and mid-September, you'll be able to climb to the top of the volcano. From here, you'll get to see one of the most famous sunrises in the entire world. While the hike to the top of the mountain can be difficult, the result at the end is worth it. Locals call Mount Fuji the land of the rising sun for a reason, after all. That said, if you aren't lucky enough to time your trip during the summer months, the view from Hakone will change your life.

structuresxx / Getty Images


04 Alter Your World View in Miyajima


This scenic island in Hiroshima Bay is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, the O-torii, and Mount Misen. Set aside a day to spend time either wandering or simply sitting still and pondering, from the beginning to the end. While Miyajima is full of tourists during the high season, at low times it's bordering on empty. During low tide, you can walk to the great O-torii. For shintos, torris are holy gateways that act as a boundary between our world and the spirit world. The one in Miyajima, in its glorious vermilion color, is also one of the most famous. Additionally, Miyajima is a short train or ferry ride from Hiroshima.

MasterLu / Getty Images


05 Pay Your Respects in Hiroshima


Near to the holy Miyajima, Hiroshima symbolizes one of the darkest chapters in human history. In stark contrast to the holy gateway and glorious relaxation, Hiroshima will forever mark that dreadful day in 1945. The city was almost destroyed by a bomb that also took out thousands of people in mere seconds. While a visit to Hiroshima will be a heavy, emotional affair, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a must-see. Here, you'll be able to pay your respects and learn the severity of what happened that day.

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images


06 Relax in Okinawa


At the most southern point of the country is the Okinawa prefecture. The island of the same name is Japan's Hawaii and the birthplace of Karate. If you're looking for a day of relaxation amid warm weather and tropical surroundings, Okinawa is calling your name. Relax on a beach and watch the sun rise and fall as the tide comes in and goes out accordingly. With a life as clearly glorious as that on Okinawa, it's no surprise that its residents have the longest life expectancy in Japan. Also, the sake doesn't hurt.

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images


07 Be Awed By Himeji Castle


Himeji Castle's stunning white walls make for the most visited castle in Japan. Locals know it as White Heron Castle. Set in the town of the same name, Hijemi, the castle dates back to 1333. Now fully open to the public after extensive restorations, try not to miss this glimpse into ancient samurai culture. Himeji castle is at its most beautiful during cherry blossom season. But then, most of Japan is.

toshimitu / Getty Images


08 Bathe in an Onsen


Japan is home to tens of thousands of natural hot springs, and no town or village is without one. You'll find the best in Beppu, which everyone knows for its many onsens, which is Japanese for hot spring. Most onsens aren't too hot to bathe in, but in those that are, you can take a volcanic sand bath. Which is exactly as it sounds. Onsens are an integral part of Japanese culture, and not only that, they're so relaxing, you'll never want to get out.

kuppa_rock / Getty Images


09 Step into the Future in Osaka


Osaka is the future. It's also the second largest city in Japan and is full of all of the modern aspects of Japanese culture. Locals call it the Nation's Stomach because of the wide selection of foods. This is particularly the case in Dōtonbori, the infamous shopping and restaurant street. Osaka's most popular attraction is its castle, but in addition to this, there's a puppet theater and the 6th largest aquarium in the world. There's even a Universal Studios park.

xavierarnau / Getty Images


10 Partake in Some Karaoke


We all know how big a part of Japanese culture karaoke is. The word itself even comes from the Japanese for empty orchestra. While you can do karaoke anywhere, it's best in Japan and practically a way of life. Instead of the Western way of karaoke bars and clubs, there are karaoke boxes. Renting out a karaoke box for you and your friends might be the difference between an okay day and a great day. Not only that, karaoke is all over Japan and is the quintessential Japanese activity.

bbossom / Getty Images


Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.