Here are my Japan Bucket list things for you to see and do whilst you are visiting Japan. If it’s not already on your bucket list for a destination to visit then check out my list of why I think you should add Japan to your bucket list, NOW!
The moment I arrived in Japan I knew it was going to be something special. Cheerful tweeting bird sounds playing at the train station creating a calming environment to ease you into the country, especially whilst dealing with jet lag. We all know how bad that is!
In Japan, everything runs very smoothly and ensures a stress-free trip. They have perfected most things, from staying in a capsule hotel to watching sumo wrestling in Japan. The experience is spot on and one that will make you want to return again and again.
So what really makes it such an amazing place to visit? And why should you add Japan to your bucket list?
My Japan Bucket List Top Experiences
the Japanese love their cherry blossom
I’m sure seeing cherry blossom is a bucket list item for many people. Forgetting for a moment how beautiful the cherry blossom is, well you can see from the picture. What made Japan so special for me was the Japanese’s total love and respect of the cherry blossom, known as Sakura.
Go explore Ueno Park, in Tokyo. It’s a beautiful place to visit, during March/April you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of people picnicking under the trees and along the paths. I chatted with an elderly local man who visits every day during cherry blossom season. His love for the sakura was so infectious I felt a buzz of happiness through just talking to him.
- If you’re visiting Ueno Park, Tokyo Japan. Don’t go early or late to miss the crowds, go for the full Japanese (and a bit crazy) experience.
Yes, it’s Another Karaoke bar
The Japanese have a real love for karaoke and walking the streets you’ll come across bars full of singing men and women. I wandered into Fantasia bar, Kyoto and once I’d opened the door there was no way I was leaving.
It might seem a bit daunting at first but the Japanese are so lovely and welcoming you’ll soon be singing away with them. I did an amazing version, well I thought it was good, of Backstreet Boys, accompanied by the rest of the bar. And doesn’t everyone have singing in public on their bucket list haha!
Sumo Wrestling IN Japan
This is a unique sporting event I experienced whilst I was in Osaka, Japan. The day starts with the student matches, so gives you a chance to work out the rules before the serious competitors enter the arena (although they aren’t too difficult to figure out!)
The serious sumo wrestling bouts start around 14.00, this is where it really gets interesting. You can see the different techniques used especially with the really large versus smaller wrestlers. I have to admit these were my favourite bouts and I was always shouting for the small guy!
The atmosphere in the arena was amazing the whole time. There was a lot of love for a wrestler called Endo, so naturally, I supported him too.
- Before you arrive in Japan check out whether there are any tournaments on during your visit. And book your tickets in advance.
What’s all the fuss about the toilets?
If you’ve read a blog on Japan, surely someone has mentioned the toilets, they are amazing, yes, I’m talking about toilets I know! They have an insane amount of gadgets, including various water jets, dryers and heated seats which is a real luxury (even on the train).
My favourite option was the music button which played music or waterfall sound effects, to disguise what you’re doing in there, although for me it was just disguising my giggles.
Of course, there are plenty more weird things to do in Tokyo and the rest of Japan but this is an easy one to tick off!
Still confused? Read more about Japanese toilets here!
- Start with the low water jet and work your way up. So as not to have too much excitement on your first trip to the bathroom, hehe!
Spotting the Japanese Torii
This is a must-see for your Japan Bucket List! I’d never heard of ‘torii’ before my visit to Japan but once you visit you simply can’t forget them. A torii is a traditional Japanese shrine gate. They come in various sizes and most of them are painted bright orange. For me, the bright orange torii vividly sticks in my mind. Every time I saw one I couldn’t help but click away with my camera, as was everyone else including the Japanese of course!
My favourite was the famous Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto. The torii winds up the mountainside taking you on a magical walk exploring the mini shrines on the route. I also loved the torii on Mijajima Island (UNESCO World Heritage Site). At low tide, you can walk underneath the magnificent structure and high tide it becomes a beautiful floating torii.
- If you’re visiting Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto Japan. Then after 5 pm is a great time to visit, you miss the crowds and dusk is a great time for photos.
Riding the Japanese Bullet trains (Shinkansen)
Train travel is a wonderful way of travelling overland in any new country. But riding the Japanese bullet trains is an awesome experience. It feels a bit more like an activity than a way of travel. You can chill and relax watching the scenery go by in perfect comfort, or if you’re tired it’s the perfect place to catch up on some sleep as the ride is so smooth!
The advantage of a speedy transport service is if you’re short on time then you can take the bullet train from Tokyo for day trips out of the city and get to see a different side of Japan on your trip.
Experiencing my very first pod (aka Capsule Hotel)
I think I’m one of those people who just get excited over little things. For me, every part of staying in the capsule hotel was so exciting. I was exploring the hotel with a permanent grin on my face and clicking away with the camera.
These hotels were initially designed for businessmen working late. But now they are ever-increasing in popularity with tourists. Which is probably why in the hotel reception there was a large collection of giant suitcases that were never designed to fit in the lockers.
I’m pleased to say with a bit of brute force my rucksack fitted perfectly, well it was 1, 2, 3 and then slam the door shut!
Read about my experience: What it’s like sleeping in a Capsule Hotel
All the bars in Japan are mini size
One of the many whisky bars in Japan – only 4 stools but plenty of whisky!
You’ll notice very quickly that all the bars in Japan are designed for between 6-20 people. Smaller seems to be better because you meet more locals. My favourite best place to do this was in Shinjuku district of Tokyo. There are about 4 or 5 tiny streets to explore, known as Golden Gai.
In this area, there are over 200 little bars each with its own quirky style. See what takes your fancy and try as many as you can, without falling over! The best technique was to follow the laughs. Although due to the size sometimes these were already full up but you’re spoilt for choice so just try the next bar!
- The Golden Gai is also quite close to the ‘red light’ area in Tokyo Japan. So be careful when you are navigating that you don’t end up in the wrong place…. as I did oops!
How can I not mention the awesome Japanese food
Japan is well-known for their sushi, but there are so many more delicious foods you can try. Some of my favourites included Ramen, a tasty broth. In some restaurants, you select and pay for your ramen by choosing a picture on a machine. A great way to try something different too.
Tofu, there are some amazing restaurants in Tokyo. Even if you think you don’t like tofu, which was me before I went then try it. I can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
And lastly, Japan does some awesome street food, my favourite was exploring Kyoto’s Nishiki Street Food Market. You’ll see so many weird and wonderful types of food, I experienced my first Octopus on a stick!
- Go to Nishiki Street Food Market in Kyoto with an empty stomach so you can try as many things as possible!
Is Japan on your Bucket List or have you visited Japan? Tell me about your favourite Japanese memories or ask me any questions in the comments section below.
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