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Things to do in Japan

Revel at ancient matsuri and natural wonders.

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View of a red Chureito Pagoda and sakura trees with Fuji Mountain background in Japan

From hot spring baths and centuries-old temples to robot restaurants and anime, Japan’s best attractions range from old-world delights to modern experiences. Keep an eye out for local etiquette like purification rituals before entering shrines, and be sure to keep cash on hand.

Top landmarks and attractions in Japan

Nihon newbies might be drawn to these quintessential Japanese experiences:

mount fuji japan

See Mt. Fuji

Set your eyes on Mt. Fuji, an active volcano and the nation’s tallest peak located southwest of Tokyo. Climb, drive, fly by it or catch a glimpse from afar. Clouds usually hide the mountain during the day but clear for jaw-dropping views during sunrise.

Book a Mount Fuji tour
japanese woman cherry blossoms

Catch cherry blossoms in bloom

Join locals celebrating spring beneath cherry blossom trees in a tradition called hanami, which translates to “watching blossoms.” Cherry blossoms, the elegant and colorful flower decorating Japan, can be seen from Tokyo to Osaka. But be sure to research the expected timing of blooms in advance, as it varies by region.

Take a cherry blossom tour
onsen hot spring in japan

Luxuriate in a hot spring

Take a dip in mineral-packed water at Japanese onsen, natural hot springs. Traditionally located next to a Japanese inn, these beautiful communal baths are made of cypress wood, marble or granite. Be sure to wash off first in a shower outside the onsen bath — you should be clean before taking a dip.

Experience a Japanese onsen
studio ghibli museum sculpture

Wander through the Studio Ghibli Museum

Learn about the art of animation at Ghibli Museum: everything from exclusive footage and storyboards to giant statues of popular characters. No tickets are sold at the museum, so purchase passes online well in advance. All-day vouchers for adults can be purchased for around 1,000 yen, or less than $10.

Book Studio Ghibli Museum tickets in advance
tea ceremony japan

Experience a traditional tea ceremony

Watch as you’re guided through a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto. You’ll learn about the history and utensils used before making the foamy green tea yourself.

Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony
osaka castle japan

Ogle Osaka Castle

Marvel at the five-story, gold-detailed castle built in 1583 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It was a stronghold landmark during a secession of Japanese wars, and is credited with helping unify and bring peace to the nation. The surrounding parks provide beautiful views, and guests can even take a boat ride around the moat.

Explore Osaka Castle
sumo wrestling match

Watch sumo wrestling

Cheer for the underdog at one of six annual basho (sumo tournaments), or visit a sumobeya, where wrestlers live and train. While watching Japan’s most well-known sport, you can sit on Japanese-style floor cushions or western-style stadium chairs.

Attend a sumo wrestling match
women visiting fushimi inari shrine japan

Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Pay your respects at this ancient shrine in Kyoto honoring Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Guests can walk through the Romon Gate and make a small offering at the main hall.

Fushimi Inari is perhaps most famous for the thousands of brightly colored torii gates behind the main buildings that lead up into the forest and hills beyond.

Tour the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Before you go…

To get inspired while planning your itinerary, indulge in a Japanese-themed movie night. Start with Jiro Dreams of Sushi, an award-winning documentary about famous sushi chef Jiro Ono. Next, watch Spirited Away, an anime film produced by Studio Ghibli and the most successful domestic release in Japan’s cinematic history. Top off your movie marathon with Seven Samurai or Tokyo Story for a heart-racing finale.

Deals on activities and experiences in Japan

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Save up to 30% off activities in Kyoto, Japan

Book day tours to temples, cultural tours, cycling tours, cooking classes and more in Kyoto. Most with free cancellation available.

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Bottom line

However you decide to spend your time in Japan, approach each situation with curiosity and respect. Even people who’ve lived there for years still have a lot to learn about its culture.

And to get the most out of your visit to this island nation, plot routes via public transportation in advance.

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