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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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.
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. You can hike all the way to the top of the mountain which takes about 2-3 hours roundtrip but you can turn back any time. Most visitors just do the shorter hike through the clustered torii gates (approximately 30 minutes) to the Yotsutsuji intersection roughly half way up the mountain which has a great view of Kyoto. The rest of the hike is less crowded but there are less gates and there is not that much more to see. I recommend doing just the shorter hike as there are other places to walk in 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 he 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
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.
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 know 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 country’s tallest peak and one of Japan’s sacred mountains. There are several places in Japan you can visit for beautiful views of Mount Fuji that can easily be visited on a day tour from Tokyo to this area. You can also climb Mount Fuji but the official climbing season is only in the summer. 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.
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.
Ōkunoshima is often called Usagi Shima (Rabbit Island) because of the many rabbits that roam the island.
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.
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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?