Taking a trip to the land of the rising sun? Here are some experiences you absolutely cannot miss out on when you’re there!
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Aside from seeing the cherry blossoms and indulging in thick, hearty ramen, there are a ton of other things you should do in Japan.
From staying in a capsule hotel to riding the Enoden train, these experiences in Japan are crucial in fully immersing yourself in the full Japanese culture.
Table of contents:
- Stay in a capsule hotel
- Visit the Ghibli Museum
- Have a meal at a konbini
- Ride the Enoden Train
- Dip in an onsen
- Book a night in a ryokan
- Indulge in fresh sashimi at a fish market
- Watch a sumo wrestling match
- Attend a Japanese Matsuri
- Have premium matcha tea at a tea ceremony
- See Snow Monkeys in Nagano
- Taste quality Sake
- Admire Mount Fuji
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1. Stay in a capsule hotel
What was mainly intended as a convenient accommodation for businessmen on their work trips has now revolutionised into an affordable option for backpackers for a good night’s rest. Capsule hotels are quite the rage in Japan, as these cosy capsules are now equipped with high-tech features to make your stay just as enjoyable.
If you’re backpacking or a solo traveller, staying at a capsule hotel is quite the experience. Capsule hotels have communal toilets and ample shower cubicles that are just as clean as other hotels.
Simply hop into your “space pod” and enjoy the privacy of having your own little capsule.
2. Visit the Ghibli Museum
Fan of Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle? Unleash your inner child by stepping into the world of Studio Ghibli.
Don’t expect formal exhibitions that require you to stay hush-hush while you’re there. The set-up is quirky to resemble the actual animation studio, to fully embody the art style of Studio Ghibli — even the exterior of the is full of character!
Expect interactive features, life-sized recreations of popular film sets, giant Catbus-es from “My Neighbour Totoro!”, character sculptures, and short films on display.
Be sure to secure your tickets earlier because they run out really fast. Tickets cost ¥1,000 (~S$9.30) for adults (aged 19 and over). Tickets are cheaper for children belonging to different age groups, so do head over to their website for more information.
Pro tip: If you want to experience a real-life Studio Ghibli film, you can head to Yufuin Floral Village which features small cottages akin to their film set-up aesthetic. There are many handmade artisan shops where you can find knickknacks and souvenirs to bring home!
Address: 1-chōme-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan
Opening hours: Mon to Sun 10am-6pm (Tuesdays closed)
3. Have a meal at a konbini
If there’s anything you absolutely have to check out in Japan, it’s got to be their convenience stores, also known as konbinis. If you think Singapore’s Cheers or 7-11 already has a wide variety of food options, you’ll be surprised to know that Japan’s convenience stores are out of the world.
You can find an assortment of Japanese snacks, bento lunches, ready-to-eat meals like onigiri, cup noodles, drinks, pastries, desserts, and the list goes on. And the best part of it all is that they are all fresh and inexpensive!
Depending on the size of the konbini, they mostly have seats for you to enjoy your meal. Besides food, they have a range of healthcare items, household goods and magazines.
There is also an array of services they provide, like purchasing concert tickets, withdrawing money and shipping your luggage to the airport.
Pro tip: For the ultimate experience, you can enjoy your meal at the Kawaguchiko outlet of FamilyMart, while enjoying unparalleled views of Mount Fuji!
5. Ride the Enoden Train
Imagine a right-out-of-an-anime green and yellow 4-carriage train taking you through quaint seaside towns where you can catch views of the gorgeous sea. That’s what you can expect when you hop on the Enoden Train. Aside from that, you’ll also be able to enjoy views of sandy beaches, temples and shrines, and multi-coloured villages along the way.
Connecting you from Fujisawa to Kamakura via Enoshima, the whole line takes 34 minutes and has a total of 15 stations. If you don’t have anywhere specific to go, taking a scenic trip while admiring the amazing views is already worth it.
You can purchase a 1-day pass at ¥800 (~S$7.50) for adults and ¥400 (~S$3.70) for children.
6. Dip in an onsen
Onsens are an integral part of the Japanese culture and have been enjoyed for many centuries. By converting volcanic energy into a hot bath, they are full of minerals and nutrients, and are known to make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. You can choose between outdoor baths (roten-buro) and indoor baths (noten-buro)
Note that you’ll have to strip naked, as clothes, swimming suits or large towels are not allowed in the bath area. But if it’s your first time, don’t worry too much about it as you’ll come to realise that no one actually pays attention to you.
Also, remember to bring a small towel along to dry up afterwards as you normally have to pay a fee for using their own towels.
Pro tip: Tattoos are considered taboo as they are still commonly associated with criminal mafia-like organisations, namely the Yakuzas, so most onsens won’t allow you in if you have any tattoos on your body. It is best to do your research and enquire beforehand, as some places now allow for tattooed foreigners and tourists to enter.
7. Book a night in a ryokan
Want to live like a traditional local? Switch up your accommodations by booking a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) for the night. Complete with wooden floorboards, tatami mattresses and shoji paper-screen doors, you’ll be able to feel like you’re living the authentic Japanese way of life!
Some of them also come with natural hot spring baths, depending on how much you’re willing to spend as they range across different budgets. If you want something a little more luxurious, some ryokans also come with ocean view private hot spring tubs with ocean views!
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8. Indulge in fresh sashimi at a fish market
If you’re craving for anything sashimi, just know that Japan is the best place to find fresh and premium seafood, much cheaper than what you can find in Singapore! And what better place to get your sashimi fix than at a fish market?
We recommend heading to Tsukiji Market that features rows of mouth watering dishes, From fresh seafood and fresh produce to ready-to-eat meals like sashimi bowls and fishcakes at restaurants, this market is a must-visit when you’re here!
Pro tip: Don’t think you can head over after lunch for a midday snack — most shops are closed from 3pm onwards so be sure to be there as early as you can. The market is also the most bustling in the morning!
9. Watch a sumo wrestling match
Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and it is also a national sport, so watching a match or a tournament is a highly-sought after activity to watch when you’re there.
The Japan Sumo Association holds six tournaments every year — three in Tokyo (January, May, September), one in Osaka (March), one in Nagoya (July) and one in Fukuoka (November). Each tournament lasts 15 days, so you have plenty of time to catch at least one match!
Watch the wrestlers get down and dirty in the ring — you’ll be surprised to know that each contest usually lasts only a few seconds, while some lasts up to a minute or more.
Pro tip: Though ringside seats are the most expensive and have the best view, ticket holders are seated on cushions on the floor, and have a risk of injury as wrestlers can sometimes fly into the spectators during the match — so it’s best to be careful!
10. Attend a Japanese Matsuri
Known for their lively and rich culture, Japan has plenty of matsuri (festivals) that celebrate practically anything — like snow festivals, summer festivals and shrine festivals!
Though they celebrate different things, you’ll almost always see lots of chanting, dancing, and lines of extravagant mikoshi (portable shrines) or floats. You can also expect rows of yatai (food stalls) lining the streets where you can indulge in authentic Japanese street food.
Some of the more iconic festivals include Gion Matsuri in July (Kyoto), Tenjin Matsuri, Sapporo Snow Festival in February, Kanda Matsuri and Fuji Rock Festival (Niigata).
11. Have premium matcha at a tea ceremony
Regardless of whether you’re a coffee or tea person, you have to try premium-tasting matcha in the motherland of all matchas. Beyond just greet tea, you can also find genmaichia, hojicha, sencha, kombucha and so much more!
You don’t have to search too hard to find the perfect cup of tea. But if you want to be immersed in the entire tea-making experience, you can always attend a tea ceremony to see “the way of tea”.
The ceremony is mostly held in a traditional tea room with tatami floors. More than just the serving and receiving of the tea, the whole experience is about relishing in the hospitality offered by the host and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
12. See Snow Monkeys in Nagano
If you’re a fan of wildlife, you won’t want to miss these Japanese macaques, known as snow monkeys, hot-spring-bathing at Snow Monkey Park in Nagano. They also soak in the steaming hot springs to keep warm during the cold winter months.
Though you can actually visit them at any time of the year, the best time would be from December to March, especially in January and February as this period has the highest chance of snow! This would make for better pictures as you can catch the snow capped mountains as a backdrop.
12. Taste quality Sake
For those who like Sake in Singapore, you’ll be amazed at the quality of Sake offered in Japan! Leave the familiar taste behind and come with an open mind as you sample Sake from local producers and shops — it’s a crowd favourite for a reason!
By sipping on Sake, you’re also immersing yourself in the rich Japanese culture, as it is commonly used in Japanese rituals, celebrations, and ceremonies.
13. Admire Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a captivating sight you definitely wouldn’t want to miss when you’re in Japan. While the mountain can be seen from various vantage points, there are certain locations that offer picturesque unblocked views of Fuji-San.
Some places include The Chureito Pagoda in Fujiyoshida, Lake Kawaguchi and the Arakurayama Sengen Park. There’s even a famous FamilyMart outlet at Kawaguchiko that alos offer unobstructed views and you munch on your onigiris and ready-to-eat meals.
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