17 experiences you must have in Japan

Japan blends tradition with a fascinating history, delicious food and all the delights offered by modern, vibrant cities – and it’s filled with incredible experiences.

From being captivated by towering pagodas, finding shrines hidden in the woods, negotiating the bright lights of the cities, and even driving a Mario Go-Kart, check out 20 of the must do experiences in Japan.

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  1. Discover magnificent shrines in the cities

You can’t visit Japan without getting up close to a shrine, or two, or three, or four….

There’s shrines and pagodas scattered all throughout Japan.

In Tokyo, check out the Senso-Ji Shrine in Asakusa and Nezo Shrine in Ueno.

If you’re in Kyoto, head over to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine with its beautiful vermillion torii (gates).

The Kiyomizu Temple and Kiyomizu-dera shrine are also worth a look, especially for sunset.

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  1. Go hiking to a shrine

If you like your shrines more amongst the great outdoors, then head to Mt Kurama from Kyoto.

You can access this area by taking the Eizan Railway from Kemachiyanagi Station to Kibuneguchi or Kurama stations and taking the loop hiking trail. The trail takes in a handful of beautiful vermillion-coloured shrines.

  1. Get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo

Head up to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and you can get a 360-degree view from the building’s windows of sprawling Tokyo. And the best news? It’s free.

  1. Tour the streets of Tokyo – in a go-kart

If you want to cruise around the streets of Tokyo – why not do it in a Mario Go-Kart?

Where else can you race down city streets in a Mario Go-Kart dressed as a superhero?

  1. See the world’s busiest intersection

The Shibuya crossing is said to be the world’s busiest intersection. Wait for the pedestrian crossing sign to go green and you can see more than 1,000 people at a time going in all directions through the crossing.

  1. Eat all the food

No trip to Japan is complete unless you get your fill of all the delicious food.

From ramen, to sushi, to takoyaki – there’s many unique dishes you can try. No matter where you are in Japan, there’s delicious food to try that will suit all budgets.

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  1. Roam through Tokyo’s parks

Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city streets? Lucky for you, Japan loves their parks.

If you’re looking for a break in Tokyo, head along to Ueno Park or Yoyogi Park.

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  1. Bathe in an onsen

If you need to wind down even further, go find an onsen (thermal bath). There’s lots of onsens scattered throughout Japan that will help you relax and recharge as you sit down in the hot water.

  1. See sunrise on top of Mt Fuji

If you love the great outdoors, then a highlight of your trip to Japan will be hiking to the summit of Mt Fuji and then staying above the clouds for sunrise.

The ascent up takes about 6-8 hours but there’s mountain huts that you can pay to stay at along the way if you need a break or a few hours of sleep before sunrise.

Mt Fuji’s hiking season runs from July to September.

The hike starts from Mt Fuji’s 5th Station, which is accessible by bus from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal.

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  1. Relax on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko

If you don’t happen to visit Japan during July to September – you’ll be out of luck to hike up Mt Fuji. But don’t worry, you can still get a view of Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko.

The town offers all modern conveniences, a great view and scenic pathways around the lake.

  1. Drink a Sapporo beer

Looking for something to quench your thirst? Then why not try a local beer. Sapporo beer is Japan’s oldest beer, and has been brewed since 1876 after its founder learnt beer brewing techniques in Germany.

  1. Get lost in the hectic streets of Tokyo

Tokyo is a city that never sleeps – and it sprawls across a huge area. Pick a location and then go wandering through the streets and you’ll be sure to find restaurants, shrines, parks, and streets filled with people and colourful sings.

  1. Grab fresh sushi at the fish market

If you’ve got a craving for sushi, one of the best places to get it is at the Tsukiji Fish Market.

It’s one of the largest wholesale fish markets in the world – and you can stop off for some fresh sushi at one of the many small restaurants inside the market complex.

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  1. Visit Japan’s ancient capital 

The town of Nara now sits on what was the site of the ancient capital of Japan between 710 and 784.

Points of interest in Nara include the World Heritage Sites of Todaiji Temple, Toshodaiji Temple and Yakushiji Temple. These are all located within Nara Park.

You will also see lots of deer roaming between the World Heritage Sites. Deer are revered in this area and are considered a natural treasure.

  1. Ride a bullet train

If you need to travel long distances, you can be there in a few short hours by taking one of Japan’s bullet trains (called shinkansen).

The trains can travel at speeds of more than 300km/h.

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  1. Negotiate Tokyo’s metro

I dare you to try and negotiate Tokyo’s metro. There’s dozens of metro lines running across the city and it’s an interesting challenge to figure out how to get to where you want to go!

  1. Try and spot a geisha

If you wander through the streets of the traditional Gion district in Kyoto – you may spot the painted face of a geisha (Japanese women who entertain through art, dance or singing) among the cute wooden teahouses.

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