20 Leisure And Recreational Activities To Experience In Japan

Japan is a country with no shortage of things to do and new experiences to immerse yourself in. The country is packed with centuries of history and traditional culture that has been preserved throughout the country in a plethora of ways. 

Whether you’re looking to experience something traditionally Japanese or are looking for a blend of relaxation and fun, there’s a leisure or recreation activity to experience in Japan suited for your interests. 

Yoyogi park is a great way to experience nature in the heart of Tokyo. Seeing a baseball game in the cities stadium and although many see it as only found in western culture, baseball has become massively popular in Japan. Its only second to the Japanese sport of sumo.

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Traditional Experiences 

Tradition is a very important value in Japan, so keeping those traditions cataloged and sharing them with others is something Japanese people thrive on.

A lot of what’s practiced or celebrated in Japanese culture has some kind of symbolism behind it. 

Hot Spring Bath (Onsen)

Japan is rife with natural hot springs containing mineral-rich waters that have been touted as having healing and replenishing properties for centuries. It is by far one of the most cherished leisure activities in Japan and for very good reason. 

There are a couple of types of onsens you can experience in Japan. Some are outdoors and are naturally occurring due to volcanic activity that has carved out these spaces in the earth. 

Other onsens or sento are artificially made but contain water sourced from these natural hot springs. Depending on where you are in Japan, you can bathe in different colored water that has concentrations of different vitamins and minerals. 

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Traditional Tea Ceremony

A traditional tea ceremony can be a little bit difficult to come by, and if you’re ever invited to one, you should never pass it up.

It can be an expensive thing to experience, but it will easily be one of your most treasured experiences in Japan. 

A traditional tea ceremony is so much more than simply sipping on some tea. You get to drink the highest quality tea prepared with very strict standards while enjoying lively conversation, performances, and so much more. 

Traditional Maiko Performance 

A maiko is a geisha who is still in training, and while geisha culture isn’t as prominent as it once was in Japan, there are still pockets of the country where you can still see geisha and maiko in action. 

Kyoto is a great place to see a traditional maiko performance, which includes traditional music, dance, and artistic expression.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is these performances can be expensive to attend. In some corners of Japan, such as the Gion area, you might see geisha and maiko dressed up in traditional kimono walking the streets or performing a dance for passersby. 

Stay At A Ryokan (Inn)

When booking your accommodations, consider seeking out at least one evening in a ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you’ll experience the best of Japanese hospitality while getting a glimpse at traditional Japanese interior design.

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In terms of pricing, ryokans are usually about mid-range, but the price is worth it. 

A lot of ryokans will have onsen baths you can enjoy, which are highly recommended as they are one of the best places to learn about hidden gems to check out in the local area. Many ryokans also have restaurants where they make delicious multiple course meals crafted from local ingredients. 

Experience Hanami

Hanami is mainly a springtime tradition but it can still be enjoyed outside of spring in its own unique way.

When cherry blossom trees are in bloom during the spring, folks in Japan will gather under one of these Sakura trees and enjoy a picnic with friends or family. 

Hanami is a very long-held tradition in Japan and it’s a wonderful experience sitting under one of these breathtaking trees and admiring the surrounding nature. 

Rent a Kimono 

Many non-Japanese folks could easily recognize the kimono as a traditional Japanese outfit. Most people in Japan don’t mind if tourists want to wear a kimono, so long as they do so respectfully.

There are even shops where you can rent a kimono to wear for the day and learn how to properly put one on. 

Nature-Based Experiences 

Anyone who loves the outdoors, whether it’s simply to soak up the sun or to engage in as many outdoor activities as possible, will fall in love with Japan.

So many activities that get you out in nature don’t cost you anything either which is always a plus. 

Hiking and Climbing 

Even though Mount Fuji is a must-see spot in Japan, it’s not the only mountain or hiking trail in the country. There are a wealth of places to hike and climb no matter what season you’re spending in Japan. 

For the most part, Japan has pretty tolerable weather year round – even in the spots that get snow – so anyone who loves spending time outdoors will always be able to find an exciting spot for hiking. 

Japan Meteorological Agency Official Website

Tenryu Traditional River Rafting 

Tenryu is a riverland in Nagano, Japan, and you can enjoy a guided traditional river rafting experience in these lush waters.

You will slowly raft through the water while taking in the sights that surround you with the opportunity to learn as much as you can from your guide. 

Wildlife Exploration 

Japan has its fair share of wildlife to see, whether it’s the snow monkeys in Nagano, the birds throughout Hokkaido, or the aquatic life swimming around the beaches.

While it might take some research to locate the animals you’re hoping to see, there’s plenty of wildlife to explore in Japan. 

This may not come as a surprise to many given how Japan is made up of so many different types of landscapes. 

Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku)

Japan is known for being a very spiritual place. Forests are aplenty in Japan, and so is the practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.

The name may be a bit misleading, however; even though public baths are big in Japan, forest bathing doesn’t consist of bathing in a forest. 

Instead, forest bathing is about completely immersing yourself in the sounds, smells, and sights of nature and forgetting about the business of life outside of the forest. It can be a meditative and restorative experience for people who go into the environment with an open mind. 

Explore Trails

Anyone who loves to run, cycle, or go for long walks will be mesmerized by the sheer amount of trails there are in Japan. Trails may be designated paths for walkers and cyclists or they might be more organically a part of the particular area you’re in. 

Even if you’re staying in a big city, you’re bound to find a nearby park or garden that you can take a jog or a bike ride through. 

Water sports are common in larger parks and day hikes combined with water based fun are a great physical activity.

Learn Something New 

People in Japan are exceptionally gracious, especially towards people who want to learn from them about their culture and cultural practices.

There is a lot to learn, but below are some great practices or skills to start with. 

Ikebana 

Gardens and flowers are an integral part of Japanese culture, and so is ikebana. Ikebana is the Japanese art form of arranging flowers, and you can learn the customs and traits associated with floral arrangements while in Japan.

Ikebana also looks at celebrating the simple beauty of each flower and the opportunity is used to meditate and reconnect with nature. 

Shodo 

Shodo is the practice of Japanese calligraphy and while it’s quite complex, you can get a beginner’s rundown of some common calligraphy methods when visiting Japan.

There are a lot of places that will teach you the basics of shodo from temples to studios and so much more. 

Make Sushi

Sushi doesn’t get any fresher than when you make it with your own two hands. A plethora of restaurants will offer workshops to learn from some of the best sushi chefs in the world. 

Not only will you be shown the very curated art of crafting different kinds of sushi, but chefs will often share the origins of the dish you’re making and will discuss Japanese cuisine culture with you. 

Origami 

Origami is still practiced in Japan, and thus it’s the perfect place to learn how to fold a piece of paper into something truly transformative.

Origami is so much more than just a pastime in Japan. In an effort to keep the art form alive, there are a host of places you can find an origami workshop to participate in. 

Days and Nights Out In Japan 

If you’re seeking out some excitement that can take you into the evening, the fun to be had in Japan doesn’t end when the sun goes down. 

Karaoke 

Karaoke has been associated with Japan since its inception, and it’s very much true that people in Japan love karaoke.

If you’re looking for a fun night out on the town where you can socialize with Japanese people and experience a jovial cultural activity, a karaoke club or bar is the perfect place to go.

You’ll likely stumble upon a karaoke bar no matter which city you’re staying in. 

Yakatabune 

Whether you want an unforgettable, romantic experience or are just a fan of boat rides, you’ll love the opportunity to indulge in a yakatabune ride.

These boats resemble small cruise ships, and they’ll take you onto the water for a couple of hours as you eat and drink and admire the city lights surrounding you. 

Izakaya (Bar) Hopping

Bar hopping is a popular pastime amongst younger folks in Japan, though things are done a little bit differently. While a Japanese bar, or izakaya, will serve some delicious beer and other drinks, the small dishes are the true highlight of the izakaya

Even if you don’t drink alcohol you can have a fantastic time going from izakaya to izakaya.

It’s not common for people in Japan to get outrageously drunk to the point of getting rowdy, so it’s a good idea to practice some restraint when bar hopping. 

Shopping 

You can do your fair share of name brand and designer shopping in Japan but that’s not the type of shopping worth investing too much in when you’re in Japan. Instead, seek out the markets, the Japanese department stores, 100 yen shops, and even convenience stores

These are the places where you’re likely to find the items you’ll treasure for years to come, especially since they’re much more affordable and attainable places to shop. 

Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestling is still a very popular sport to watch in Japan, with live shows happening pretty often.

There is a lot more to the sport of sumo wrestling than fighting, and you might be surprised just how much you can learn about Japanese culture by attending a sumo tournament or a view a practice of sumo wrestlers.

Visiting a sumo stable or training facility for wrestlers can be arranged via custom tours.

Final Thoughts On Recreation Activities In Japan

No matter your length of stay or what your interest Japan has so many interesting and fun things to do. Whether martial arts or ski resorts, the best ways to find your ideal activity is to explore.

Theme parks abound and popular leisure activities are a great way to spend free time. In spring you’ll want to make time to see cherry blossoms and even schedule a private tour to see Mt.

Fuji or the numerous national parks. Japanese work extremely hard and they value their leisure time even more than many in the United States or Europe.

Bonus Recreational Activities

Spending time at Universal studios Japan is considered a great place for family fun. In recent years the bullet train has become legendary and the ride itself is a relaxing Japanese pastimes to experience at least once.

A top tip is to visit one of the thousands of Buddhist temples or Shinto shrine scattered across the land. A boat ride near Mount Fuji is a once in a lifetime activity. Since world war II Japans main island has rebuilt and modernized unlike any other country in Asia.

A domestic trip on the main island can be reached in just a few hours via ANA or JAL. The most popular leisure activity itself is just seeing the country. If a quiet day at a Tokyo park is your particular interest then Ueno park is highly recommended.

Japanese cities are known for their hospitality to tourists and with no shortage of Japanese leisure activities to participate in you’ll want to plan your itinerary carefully as to not miss out on the nations best recreational activities.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.