Japan is known for several things: bullet trains, crazy fashion, sushi and sake, and beautiful gardens. There is also plenty more that most people do not know about. This country, modern yet rooted in thousand-year-old traditions, will leave you amazed. See how the futuristic shares space with the past in a balanced backdrop for your perfect Japanese getaway.
Read our 25 reasons to add Japan to your travel list, and you will want to discover this beautiful country or fall in love with it all over again.
1 – Pristine natural scenery.
You may think of Japan as modern, with neon lights, cutting-edge technology, and shopping malls. There is much more to this country that will surprise even nature’s lovers.
It is home to some of the best natural scenery in the world, with incredibly diverse terrains. From rugged mountains to rocky coastlines, from white beaches to bamboo forests and beautiful waterfalls, Japan will dazzle you all year round.
2 – Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji is an exceptional and sacred place in Japanese culture. Since the 7th century, it has been a holy site for Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan. It is displayed in many artistic creations, including pottery, calligraphy, paintings, and woodblock prints.
The majestic Fujisan makes many people’s bucket lists, and an estimated 400,000 people climb the volcano each year.
The climbing season lasts from early July to early September. Even if you are not keen on making your way to the summit, Mount Fuji is a sight to behold.
3 – Sakura.
Japanese are passionate about picnicking under the cherry trees as Sakura presents the arrival of spring, a time for renewal. You will see limited edition sakura-flavored treats and souvenirs everywhere during this period.
4 – Pockets of nature.
If you cannot venture outside cities to enjoy the Japanese countryside, you can find little pockets of nature hidden between buildings. The bells, the Zen gardens, the bamboo, and the torii gates instill a sense of peace and serenity.
5 – A safe place.
One of the safest countries in the world with a low crime rate makes Japan a popular place to visit amongst women. Visitors can walk around cities at night without worrying about being harassed.
All tourists need to stay alert, but most people will try to help you rather than steal from you. If you fear being taken advantage of, rest assured Japanese people are among the kindest, most helpful people.
6 – Konichiwa.
Of course, it is recommended to learn some Japanese. It’s a fun language, and most peoples still appreciate it when foreigners have put in some effort, no matter how small.
Nevertheless, you can get by without speaking the language, especially if you visit a big city like Tokyo or Osaka where English is used often.
A smile and a “Hello” always go a long way. Translation apps can also be of great help.
7 – From here to there.
Japan, surprisingly, is an easy country to navigate. An unexpected highlight for many travelers is how beautifully and efficiently everything works.
Everything runs on time, and nearly everywhere you go, you witness efficiency and order. From buses to subways to Shinkansen trains, everything works like clockwork to the minute. Not having to worry about things like that allows you to relax and focus on the experience.
8 – Clean is the rule.
People take great pride in their surroundings, and they won’t throw trash on the ground; instead, they will take it home.
There can be some litter in crowded areas, but considering the number of people in big cities, the clean and tidy state of the streets is incredible.
Walk anywhere in any city, town, or village, and you’ll see local people tidying up the streets around their homes and businesses.
9 – Convenience to the rescue.
Convenience stores are truly convenient in Japan. They are like 7/11 on steroids. There, you can pay your bills, withdraw money, buy a freshly prepared meal with drink and ice cream, and pick up emergency supplies in less than five minutes. They are on every corner in large cities, while strategically located in the countryside.
Plus, you are never more than ten feet from a vending machine. Two or three machines usually line up to give you everything you need, from hot and cold beverages to cigarettes and even a hot meal.
10 – Delicious and healthy food.
Sushi, okonomiyaki, nabemono, mochi, udon, and the list goes on. The traditional cuisine of Japan is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes emphasizing seasonal ingredients. Sides often consist of fish and pickled or cooked vegetables.
A staple includes noodles, such as soba and udon, and meat-based dishes, such as tonkatsu and yakiniku are on most menus. From cheap neighborhood noodle shops to Michelin-starred restaurants, Japan’s food quality is of an incredibly high level.
11 – The elixir.
Sake is Japan’s national beverage. It is sometimes warmed up and sipped from a small porcelain cup called a sakazuki. Although referred to as Japanese rice wine, sake is obtained by a brewing process like the one used for beer.
The alcohol content differs between sake. An undiluted batch contains 18–20% alcohol by volume, but it is often lowered to 15% by diluting with water before bottling.
12 – The welcome spirit.
Japanese people are incredibly gracious hosts and will often go out of their way to ensure that you have a fantastic experience during your stay. It could be a taxi driver offering you an umbrella in the rain or a stranger proposing to help when you’re lost.
The Japanese people’s kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration permeate every aspect of their life.
Even after a short visit, you will come away with an overwhelming sense that respect is a huge part of the Japanese experience.
13 – The two sides of Japan.
Tradition coexists harmoniously with the contemporary and futuristic, and despite its striking modernity, Japan retains a rich cultural heritage that is alive and relevant.
Even in an ultra-modern metropolis like Tokyo, you can feel the past walking in the backstreets of the old-fashioned Shitamachi district or by decompressing at one of the Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, gardens, or neighborhood bathhouses.
Generations-old shops still abound in Kyoto. Visitors don’t have to choose between the romance of ancient Japan and the ultra-modern side of many cities.
Today, pop culture, including anime, manga, and video games, is as big a part of Japan as its traditional culture.
14 – A centuries-old ritual.
Since the 8th century, the onsen has been a favorite activity for many Japanese. The onsen is a hot spring filled with mineral-rich water heated by geothermal forces.
It is a must-try for tourists as it is entirely different from hot baths in other countries. It is a big part of the Japanese culture and the ultimate activity to relax after a full and busy day.
15 – La mode, Japan-style.
Most Japanese no longer wear kimonos daily, but they are still proudly put on for special occasions such as weddings and coming of age ceremonies. In Kyoto, the epicenter of Japanese culture, residents regularly sport light cotton yukata robes for summer celebrations such as the Gion festival.
In Tokyo, among the sea of business suits you see everywhere, you will not miss some of the sub-cultures, from the Yoyogi Greasers to the Lolita girls.
16 – Traditional art and craft.
Craft has played an essential role in Japanese culture with famous items like knives, pottery, kimono, origami, and tatami.
Each region has its local specialties, such as daruma dolls and rounded and folding fans. Some of the craft and art, handmade by professional craftsmen, can reach astronomical prices.
Many places offer craft and art experiences like pottery workshops and tea ceremonies.
17 – Festivals and matsuri.
Matsuri is a traditional Japanese event where floats called mikoshi are carried between temples and shrines. They often take place in the summer and attract millions of visitors with their vibrant atmosphere, excellent street food, and activities everyone can enjoy.
Wintertime also has its share of unique and grand festivals, like the Kamakura snow hut celebrations held around the country.
There are also several illumination festivals with spectacular light shows and decorations. The world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival attracts millions of visitors yearly with stunning ice sculptures and cozy winter scenes.
18 – Japanese castles.
Japan built many castles in its long history, but battles and natural disasters like earthquakes destroyed quite a few of them.
Thankfully, you can visit some beautiful remaining structures, some of which are designated UNESCO sites. A total number of twelve original castles, built during the Edo period or earlier, are located around the country.
19 – Unique accommodation.
Do not miss out on staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn that has been around since the 8th century. It often features tatami-floor rooms, onsen, and other public areas where visitors wear yukata, the traditional casual kimono.
An overnight stay comes with a delicious Japanese dinner and breakfast made from seasonal and locally produced products.
For those interested in experiencing the Buddhist monks‘ austere and traditional lifestyle, you can stay at a temple lodging known as shukubo. Besides a great night’s rest and delicious food, you can join the monks for morning prayers.
Originating in Osaka, capsule hotels have made their advance in Japan. Initially, a cheaper alternative to standard hotel rooms, these pods have become an attraction of their own.
20 – Toilets of the future.
Japan combined an electronic bidet with the toilet and turned a daily commodity into a hi-tech item. These are commonly called washlets, a brand name, and over 80% of households use them.
They include many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia, like anal hygiene, bidet washing, seat warming, deodorization, and even music. Leave it to the Japanese to turn a simple toilet into a technological marvel.
21 – Thrilling experiences.
That may not be what comes to mind when you think of Japan. However, the options for thrill-seekers are endless here. You can find many exciting experiences, whether it is snowboarding or skiing in Nagano, or cycling along the Seto Inland Sea.
You can catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from the rollercoasters of FujiQ Highlands or sand-board in Tottori, Japan’s desert.
You can venture on some amazing multi-day hikes or walk the steps of ancient paths like the Kumano Kodo Trail or the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage.
22 – Sumo wrestling.
Japan’s national sport is, in fact, much more. Sumo is full of Shinto rituals, such as the use of salt purification, and watching a match with a guide will help you understand better.
The sport has a history spanning many centuries, and some ancient traditions have been preserved. The Grand Sumo Tournaments occur at each odd-numbered month and last for two weeks.
23 – Pets for all.
You would love to have a pet but have neither the space nor the time. Well, get a latte at one of Tokyo’s animal cafes, where you can interact with cats, dogs, bunnies, owls, goats, capybaras, piggies, hedgehogs, and even snakes.
Tokyo’s animal cafés have gained worldwide fame. The craze started with cats but has expanded to accommodate a wide range of domestic pets and tame animals.
24 – Anime.
Unlike Disney animation, where the focus is on the movement, anime emphasizes the art quality. Such techniques accentuate three-dimensional views, and backgrounds are instrumental in creating the atmosphere of the work.
In Japanese anime, the animation is produced before the voice acting, contrary to American animation, which does the voice acting first.
One of the most significant contributors to Japan’s famous anime culture is Studio Ghibli. In Tokyo, you can visit the Ghibli Museum, home to drawings of Studio Ghibli movies, models of animations, and a small theater showing a unique short film.
25 – A shopper’s paradise.
Shopping is another reason you should visit Japan, not for international brands but to discover local ones. All major cities have world-class shopping centers and traditional markets where you can shop for handicrafts and souvenirs.
Most cities have their own shopping street known as a Shotengai, full of small stalls and local vendors. Some have been around since the Edo Period (1603-1868); others became popular in the early 20th century.
In Tokyo, you should visit the popular shopping areas in Harajuku, Venus Fort, and Akihabara. If you go to Osaka, Umeda and Shinsaibashi will be the best spots for shopping. For gaming and anime lovers, Nakano would be an unforgettable experience.