If you are a regular reader you might know that Japan is our favorite country in the world to visit. While we have visited Japan several times and already ticked off many places to visit and things to do off our Japan wish list there are so many amazing things we have yet to do. We have put together a list of the best Japan bucket list experiences and attractions based on our own best Japanese experiences plus other places we really want to see in the future.
The Ultimate Japan Bucket List
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Tokyo Bucket List
Shibuya Crossing is the worlds most famous pedestrian intersection and the busiest.
Although some of the vendors at the Tsukiji Fish Market have relocated, this is still a great place to visit for super fresh sushi.
Sensōji Temple (or Asakusa Kannon Temple)
The famous Sensōji (or Asakusa Kannon Temple) in Asakusa is a can’t miss attraction in Tokyo.
Read More: For more things to do in Tokyo see our Tokyo bucket list and our 3 days in Tokyo Itinerary.
Kyoto Bucket List
Fushimi Inari Shrine
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates and one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto. At the back of the shrine’s main grounds is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail which goes up to the summit of the mountain for great views of Kyoto.
Spot Geishas in Gion
The ancient geisha district of Gion is known for its traditional wooden houses and is filled with restaurants, shops and tea houses. Gion is also the best place in Kyoto to spot geishas and their apprentices (called maiko) and you will see many tourists waiting around to photograph them. The best time to spots geishas is around dusk (5-6pm) when geisha are on their way to their appointments at tea houses. The tea houses are not open to the public but you could book a tour which includes entry to a teahouse and time with a maiko.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The famous and beautiful Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama is just a short train ride away on the outskirts of Kyoto. The bamboo forest gets very busy so make sure to visit as early as possible in the morning for great photos.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
Take photos of the iconic Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion) in Northern Kyoto with its reflection in the pond.
Read More: For more things to do in Kyoto see our 3 days in Kyoto Itinerary.
Japan Bucket List Experiences
Enjoy the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in the Spring
One of the best and most popular times to visit Japan is during the cherry blossom season in the spring.
Read More: Tips for Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan
See the Autumn Colors
The cherry blossoms receive the most attention but the autumn leaves are just as beautiful.
Watch Sumo Wrestling
Attending a sumo grand tournament is a fun and cultural experience we would recommend to anyone visiting Japan. Professional sumo tournaments are held in Japan six times per year and last 15 days. You don’t need to enjoy wrestling to enjoy the experience- the actual wrestling is very short and most of the tournament consists of ring entering ceremonies and pre match rituals.
If you are not in Japan during a professional sumo wrestling tournament you can visit a sumo stable to watch a sumo wrestling practice.
Read more: Tips for Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan
Attend a Baseball Game
You might be surprised that sumo is not Japan’s most popular sport, it is baseball. I think it would be really fun to watch a baseball game in Japan just to enjoy the reactions of the crowd.
Visit an Animal Cafe
You can find cat cafes all over the world but Japan is full of animal cafes, where you can hold, pet and feed cute little animals. In addition to cat cafes, you will find dog cafes, rabbit cafes, owl cafes, hedgehog cafes and other small animal cafes.
Stay at a Traditional Ryokan
Staying at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is a great way to learn more about Japanese culture and enjoy the warm Japanese hospitality. While staying at a ryokan you can expect to sleep on a futon, wear traditional Japanese attire, soak in an onsen and eat multiple courses of tasty Japanese food. While there are more affordable ryokan, many ryokan offer luxurious accommodation. See related post: What to Expect When Staying in a Ryokan.
Stay at a Capsule Hotel
Capsule hotels or pod hotels featuring small bed-sized rooms were developed in Japan. They tend to be a basic form of accommodation for travelers on a budget that just want a place to sleep. I would not stay in such a small room for too long but a capsule hotel could be a interesting experience for a night or two.
Ride a Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Shinkansen high-speed trains (also known as bullet trains) are the fastest way to travel in Japan. Japan has an extensive rail network so it is the best way to get around. Trains in Japan leave exactly on time so don’t be late!
Drive a Go-Kart dressed as a superhero or video game character
Zip around the streets of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in a go-kart, dressed up as your favorite superhero or video game character.
More Japan Bucket List Destinations
See the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park near Nagano in northern Japan is famous for a group of Japanese macaques (referred to as “snow monkeys”) that soak, play, cuddle in hot springs to keep warm. The best time to visit the snow monkeys is winter, when the snow covers the area and monkeys making it very photogenic. While a bit of a long day you can visit Jigokudani on a day trip from Tokyo.
For more information about visiting the snow monkeys, read our detailed guide on how to visit the Japanese snow monkeys for more information about visiting the snow monkeys including when to visit, how to get there, where to stay and more.
See Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is the country’s tallest peak and one of Japan’s sacred mountains. There are several places in Japan that have beautiful views of Mount Fuji that can easily be visited on a day tour from Tokyo to this area. If you are visiting Japan in the spring, you can visit the Fuji Five Lakes region to see the beautiful cherry blossoms with Mt. Fuji in the background.
Climb Mount Fuji
While you can enjoy views of Mount Fuji from many places in Japan, you can also climb Mount Fuji.The official climbing season is during the summer (early July to mid September). Here is a guide to climbing Mount Fuji for more information.
This seaside town is most well known for its Great Buddha of Kamakura statue. It is located only 60-90 minutes from Tokyo making it an easy day trip from Tokyo.
Surround yourself with hundreds of rabbits at Rabbit Island
Rabbit Island is home of over 1,000 wild rabbits that roam the island chasing tourists for food. The island is easy to visit – it is only a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland off the coast of Hiroshima. Rabbits are often considered a symbol of safe childbirth and the blessings of many children and Rabbit Island a place to seek good fortune for your own family’s fertility. The official website (http://rabbit-island.info/en/) has more information about visiting and ferry schedules.
Feed the Deer in Nara
Nara is the ancient capital of Japan and is famous for temples, shrines and its friendly deer that approach humans looking for food. Deer are considered sacred in Japan, and in Nara you can find many of them roaming free. You easily can visit Nara in half a day from Kyoto or Osaka.
Osaka does not get as much attention as Tokyo and Kyoto but it is a city worth visiting especially for foodies. If you are visiting in the spring, Osaka castle is one of the best places in Japan to see the cherry blossoms.
Sapporo Snow Festival
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Sapporo is the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and is famous for its annual Sapporo Snow Festival which takes place every February.
The tiny island of Miyajima famous for its floating Torii gate is just a short ferry ride away from Hiroshima. If your time in Japan is short, you can visit on a day trip from Kyoto.
Enjoy Colorful Flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park
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Hitachi Seaside Park to be surrounded by acres full of colorful flowers. Colors vary depending which flower is in bloom during your visit.
Is there anything else we should add to our Japan bucket list?
Traveling to Japan soon? See related posts: Planning a Trip to Japan: Essential Tips to Prepare for Your First Trip to Japan and 7 Days in Japan: The Perfect Itinerary for First Time Visitors to help you plan and prepare for your first trip to Japan.
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