Things to Do in Japan - page 4
Once a destination for nobles, the Arashiyama district of Kyoto boasts small-town charm and beautiful mountainside views. Today, the popular neighborhood attracts tourists and nature lovers. The scenic neighborhood’s iconic landmark, Togetsu-kyo Bridge spans the Katsura River and provides panoramic views of lush mountainside foliage, gentle river swells, and local fisherman navigating the shoreline. The bridge’s history extends back 400 years and has been featured in many historical films.
Crossing Togetsu-kyo Bridge is a highlight of any visit to Arashiyama. From feeding carp fish over the railing to enjoying the splendor of cherry blossoms in the spring and fall foliage, the bridge is a gateway to a simple, stunningly scenic way of life. Another popular way to see the bridge is by a boat ride along the river.
The dense Aokigahara Forest lies at the northwestern base of Mount Fuji, the iconic, near-symmetrical cone-shaped mountain that rises in eastern Japan. It holds the grim distinction of being the second-most popular destination for people intent on dying by suicide. Despite this, it’s a peaceful place to hike and enjoy nature.
Known for its impressive botanical garden, intricate Iemitsu mausoleum, and ornate Toshogu Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Nikko National Park is an area of incredible natural beauty with plenty to see and do. In addition to shrines and temples, the park is home to numerous lakes, elaborate bridges, excellent hiking trails, and two stunning waterfalls—all set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery.
No matter from where visitors view Japan's most famous rock garden, at least one rock is always hidden from sight. That's one of the reasons that Ryoan-jiTemple, a temple with an accompanying zen rock garden, attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally a residence for aristocrats, the site was converted to a Buddhist temple in 1450. The temple features traditional Japanese paintings on sliding doors, a refurbished zen kitchen, and tatami, or straw mat, floors.
The temple's main attraction has always been the rock garden, as much for its meditative qualities as a desire to find meaning in its minimalistic attributes. The garden is a rectangular plot of pebbles with 15 larger stones on moss swaths interspersed seemingly arbitrarily. Some have said the garden represents infinity; others see it in an endless sea. Ryoan-ji is nestled down a wooded path that crosses over a beautiful pond with several walking trails. The luscious setting is as attractive as the temple itself.
East of Odori Park, and standing 483 feet (147 meters) tall, Sapporo TV Tower is an iconic landmark of the city. Head up to the observation deck, pull out your camera, and enjoy postcard-perfect views of Sapporo, nearby mountains, the Ishikari Plains, and the Sea of Japan.
Few places on earth are more breathtakingly beautiful than Fall in Tofucku-ji Temple. During cool autumn months travelers and locals make the journey to this Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto that’s known for its incredible colors and brilliant Japanese maples. Visitors climb to the top of Tsutenkyo Bridge, which stretches across a colorful valley full of lush fall foliage in fiery reds and shocking oranges.
Visitors who make their way to Tofuku-ji other times of year can still wander beautiful temple grounds and explore places like the Hojo, where the head priest used to reside. Well-kept rock gardens provide the perfect spot for quiet contemplation and a stone path near the Kaisando is lined with brightly colored flowers and fresh greenery that’s almost as beautiful as the Japanese maples this temple is famous for.
Travelers hoping for a glimpse of a more traditional Kyoto will feel like they’re stepping back in time upon first stepping into the Imperial-era shopping district of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka. This pair of gently sloping, pedestrian-only roads, considered among the most attractive streets in the city, are lined with traditional shops, restaurants and tea houses occupying traditional wooden houses.
Shoppers will find chopsticks, fans and handmade crafts, while foodies can sample mochi balls, green tea ice cream or matcha cakes. Whether you come to shop, eat or simply soak up the atmosphere, take care not to stumble. According to local legend, slipping on either street will lead to bad luck (or even death) in two or three years respectively.
Foodies who spend any time in Kyoto will want to dedicate at least one evening to PontochoAlley, an incredibly atmospheric dining area packed with restaurants and exclusive tea houses lining a narrow, cobbled alley just west of the Kamo River.
Visitors from around Japan and the world come here for the open-air dining along the river and the opportunity to spot apprentice and master geishas scurrying to their appointments. While most of the tea houses are difficult to visit without a connection, visitors will find a range of restaurants — everything from inexpensive yakitori to modern Kyoto cuisine – to choose from in the evenings.
Explore the natural beauty and history of Hokkaido at Nopporo Forest Park (Nopporo Shinrin Koen). Covering an area of over 4,942 acres (2,000 hectares), Nopporo Forest Park is a flatland forest, wildlife sanctuary, and home to the Hokkaido Centennial Memorial Tower, the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and the Historical Village of Hokkaido.
Host to Japan’s most famous festival, Gion Matsuri, Yasaka Shrine is located in the heart of Kyoto. Yasaka Shrine dates back to the 7th century, when it was known as Gion Shrine for its location near the Gion district, famous for the geisha that live and work there. The shrine consists of several buildings. The main hall houses an inner sanctuary and a secondary hall. One of the most prominent features of the shrine is a large stage out front lined with hundreds of lanterns. One of the most popular times to visit the shrine is in the evening or at night, when the lanterns light the stage.
The annual Gion Matsuri festival began more than 1,100 years ago at Yasaka Shrine. In modern times, it takes place every July. Originally, the festival sought to expunge the city of illnesses. Today, the festival celebrates craftwork. Intricate fabrics, textiles, and sculptures adorn floats that men carry through town. Music, costumes, and street food contribute to the festive atmosphere. Yasaka Shrine is also a popular place to visit during the Japanese New Year and during cherry blossom season.
More Things to Do in Japan
Akihabara, also commonly known as “Electric Town,” is the go-to district in Tokyo for electronics—and a popular spot to immerse in anime and manga culture. The area’s hundreds of stores sell everything from computer parts to home goods, and north of Akihabara Station, you’ll also find video games and popular manga-related items.
A large covered market selling fresh and cooked food, Kuromon Ichiba Market is nicknamed “Osaka’s kitchen,” because many chefs and home cooks come here for supplies. It has since branched out from purely seafood options, and is typically bustling with locals and visitors hoping to get an inside look at local ingredients and cuisine.
At 984 feet (300 meters) tall, Abeno Harukas (Osaka Harukas) takes the coveted superlative of Japan's highest skyscraper, narrowly rising above the former title holder, the Yokohama Landmark Tower. Part of the sprawling Abenobashi Terminal Building, it stands atop the Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station and houses a department store, art museum, five-star hotel, and observation deck.
Set on the banks of Tokyo Bay, with great views of the city skyline, Odaiba Seaside Park is a man-made landscaped park and beach. It’s popular with locals and tourists who come to paddleboard, picnic, and relax in the peaceful surroundings.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum chronicles the development of Japan’s capital city, from its early days as a sleepy fishing village through the years of expansion and foreign trade wars to its transformation into a major metropolis. The museum building itself also draws visitors as a fine example of postmodern architecture.
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (Akashi Strait Bridge) spans the Akashi Strait from Kobe to Iwaya on Awaji Island. Since its completion in 1998, it has held the record of having the world’s longest central span in any suspension bridge, measuring 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers). In total, the bridge extends 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers).
Located at the foot of the Kobe side, the Bridge Exhibition Center displays information on the planning and construction of the bridge, as well as on other suspension bridges around the globe. An elevator at the base of the Kobe side takes visitors to the Maiko Marine Promenade, a pedestrian hallway beneath the main platform that offers views of the bridge’s interior.
Bridge World tours take visitors to the very top of one of the 984-foot (300-meter) towers, and when the weather is right, the views extend all the way to Osaka.
Jojakko-ji Temple is not an ordinary temple; it was built on the side of a mountain in the thick of a famous bamboo grove. Finding it feels like an adventure, and climbing to the top feels like a workout. The view of Kyoto from the top of Jojakko-ji Temple rewards the effort mightily.
Located in the idyllic Arashiyama district of Kyoto, Jojakko-ji Temple was built in the 1500s, and the journey to it is all uphill from its gate. Its steep staircase leads to multiple buildings, including a main hall and a pagoda that houses a Buddha. The sites along the way offer respites from the climb, and one of the most popular of these resting points is a mossy area with the bamboos directly overhead. The top of the pagoda offers an incredible view over the city, and this hidden gem of a temple is undoubtedly worth the train ride out to Arashiyama.
One of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures, Katsura Imperial Villa(Katsura Rikyu) preserves traditional Edo period architecture and garden design. Tatami, or rice straw mats, line the interior floors, and screen walls separate the ancient drawing room from tea houses. A circular walking trail around the estate leads to a pond in the center of a zen garden, on which many other Japanese gardens have been designed.
Completed in 1645, the Villa housed the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family. Although Imperial Family members live in Tokyo in modern times, the residence provides a look into the stately life of princes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the Imperial Household Agency manages the Villa.
Tokyo’s Harajuku district is known the world over for the youthful crowds that gather there to flaunt their wild fashions. This is where you can spot local teens dressed up in colorful and outlandish punk, goth, and anime costumes. But there’s even more to Harajuku than over-the-top street style.
The sky feels within reach on the 112.5 meter tall (369 feet) and 100 meters wide (330 feet) Tempozan Ferris Wheel, one of Osaka’s main attractions. Until recently, the Wheel held the title of the world’s biggest and highest Ferris wheel; now it has been eclipsed by a small handful of others, including the London Eye in England. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel takes riders on a 15 minute ride that shows off views of Osaka city, a panoramic view of the nearby sea and Osaka Bay Harbor, and sights of mountains in the distance. At night, the Wheel is illuminated and all of Osaka shines under neon lights and moonlight; it is known as one of the most romantic spots in the city.
In addition to its impressive size and breathtaking views, the Wheel boasts incredible technology. Colored lights decorate the wheel, and they illuminate in patterns that tell the next day’s weather forecast. When the Wheel is orange, visitors can expect a sunny day, and when it is blue, rain is on the way. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is located in the Tempozan Harbor Village, next to the Osaka Aquarium and the Tempozan Marketplace, a midsize mall.
Disneyland is to Mickey Mouse what Sanrio Puroland is to Hello Kitty. The indoor theme park on the western edge of Tokyo attracts 1.5 million visitors a year with its attractions, themed rides, restaurants and musicals based around the Sanrio company’s characters. Westerners may only be familiar with Hello Kitty, but Sanrio also came up with Jewelpet, My Melody and Cinnamoroll among others.
Sanrio Puroland opened in 1990 to mixed reviews, but with a boom in Hello Kitty’s popularity, it’s now one of the most popular attractions in Japan. The park’s hypercute highlights include a life-size version of Kitty’s house, a boat ride filled with Sanrio characters and three theaters with daily live stage productions. Most attractions are aimed at a decidedly young demographic, so if you’re traveling with teenagers, you might be better off at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.
That said, if you’re a Kitty fan or merely want a closer look at a facet of Japanese culture that’s create a worldwide phenomenon, an afternoon at Sanrio Puroland might be in order.
The expansive collection of underwater wildlife living in the Churaumi Aquarium includes some 740 species and 21,000 animals—like three massive whale sharks—that represent much of the marine life indigenous to the oceans surrounding Okinawa.
Travelers can explore the dark hallways lined with illuminated tanks and uncover mysteries hidden far beneath the surface of the sea. From coral reefs to the famous black current, known by locals as the Kuroshio, visitors can get up close with all the animals that live down below and learn more about what makes Okinawa a unique destination.
The second theme park to open at the Tokyo Disney Resort, Tokyo DisneySea is one of the Japanese capital’s most popular attractions, for adults as well as children. Explore the nautically themed park and visit all seven ports of call, each of which is filled with rides and attractions.
- Things to do in Tokyo
- Things to do in Sapporo
- Things to do in Osaka
- Things to do in Kyoto
- Things to do in Beppu
- Things to do in Kamakura
- Things to do in Izumisano
- Things to do in Fukuoka
- Things to do in Naha
- Things to do in Nagasaki
- Things to do in South Korea
- Things to do in Taiwan
- Things to do in Fukuoka Prefecture
- Things to do in Nagasaki Prefecture
- Things to do in Osaka Prefecture