15 Things You Must Do While In Japan
Japan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It offers you anything your heart could possibly desire. It has large metropolitan cities, stunning natural wonders, islands, temples, a rich culture and AMAZING food. I’ve prepared a list for you guys of the things you can’t leave Japan without doing.
Eat an onigiri from the convenient store.
Onigiri are rice balls, enveloped by seaweed and filled with some kind of fish, meat or vegetable. They can be bought at any convenient store or supermarket in Japan. An onigiri can be seen as the equivalent of a sandwich in the Western world. It’s something quick, easy and cheap that you can buy for lunch. It’s a Japanese staple and you can’t leave Japan without having eaten at least one.
Eternalise a fun day with Purikura.
Purikura are Japans crazy photo booths. They can be found at any mall or popular location in Japan. These machines will give you the appearance of having ultra-smooth skin, a slim face, gigantic eyes, pink lips and rosy cheeks. After the photoshoot, you move to next booth to edit your pictures to your heart’s desire. You have a wide range of stickers, pens, makeup and background options to choose from. Once your satisfied, you just click ‘done’ and the machine will print them out for you. You even have the option to send a digital copy of one of the pictures to your phone!
Go to an Onsen.
Onsen is the Japanese word for hot springs. They can be found in any city and village you might go to. The price usually depends on the area. It’s a very relaxing experience.
Have a bentō for lunch.
Japanese bentō or lunch boxes, can be bought at any convenience store or supermarket. They contain full meals and aren’t that expensive (if bought at a convenience store, they’re about ¥500 to ¥800 or US$4.00 to US$7.00). The convenient stores will even offer to heat them up for you, so it’s perfect for when you are on the go but still want a big and filling meal.
Feed the deer in Nara.
If you travel through Japan, you can’t forget to go to Nara. I dare even say that Nara is one of my favourite places (if not my favourite place) in Japan. In Nara, you can find cute temples surrounded by a lot of nature. There is also no shortage of cute shops and places to eat. But the thing Nara is the most famous for is their deer! They have deer EVERYWHERE. They are used to the presence of humans, too, so you can pet them and even feed them. And of course, capture the cutest vacation photos ever!
Try the local food.
Japan is a big country and therefore pretty much every city and area has its typical local food. Osaka is known for okonomiyaki, Kyoto is known for udon, Hakone is known for soba… the list goes on and on. Just research some of the local foods before you go anywhere and be sure to give them each a try. You won’t be disappointed.
The Fushimi Inari shrine.
This is definitely a must-see place in Japan! This shrine is known for its red gates that you go through to get up to the top of the mountain, where you can witness a gorgeous view of Kyoto. At the Fushimi Inari shrine, you can also take the most beautiful pictures. Plus, once you’re back at the bottom of the shrine, there are a lot of little shops where you can buy delicious food and souvenirs.
Go to an Izakaya.
Izakaya can be translated to as a bar, pub or tavern. They offer drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and a variety of food. Food-wise, you can choose from little snacks that go well with your drink like edamame beans or yakitori (chicken pieces and sometimes some kind of beef or pork grilled on a skewer).
Find a crazy Starbucks.
Starbucks is HUGE in Japan. They can be found on pretty much every corner in Japan’s biggest cities. Sometimes, you can even see one Starbucks from the window of another Starbucks. Starbucks is also the cheapest place to get coffee in Japan, because once you enter a very cute café in Tokyo, you will have to pay A LOT for some coffee that might not even be that good.
Starbucks is also one of the only places in Japan where you can ask for soy milk instead of regular milk. Other cafés and restaurants are usually very strict about their options. So, since Starbucks is the must-go place for coffee in Japan, you must try to find a crazy one! For example, in Ginza in Tokyo, you can find a very high-class one (because Ginza is a very high-class place to be). In Kyoto, there is even a Japanese-house-style Starbucks with tatami floors!
Try Japanese drinks.
Japan is known for many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. You definitely have to try sake at least once, and if that’s not your cup of tea (or cup of whisky!), there is always umeshu, which can be translated to as plum wine. This is a very sweet drink, so it might not be for everyone, even though you can get it in both soda form and on the rocks.
Non-alcoholic drinkers must not despair! Japan has a wide range of sodas and teas to choose from as well. My personal favourites are Calpis (soda made with sour milk) and uroncha (a type of tea).
See a Matsuri.
Matsuri are traditional Japanese festivals. There are so many that occur in Japan that, if you do enough googling beforehand, you’ll be sure to find one during your stay. The matsuri are usually a very beautiful events that feature parades, food stands and a ton of musical performances.
Win plush toys at the arcade.
Don’t forget to have at least one go at the arcades! They’re huge in Japan. Arcades are open until very late at night, so if you don’t feel like going to a bar with friends, try an arcade. They usually have a lot of themed floors. One floor will have racing games. Another will have dance off games. And some might even have a Purikura floor. The bottom floor is usually where the crane games are situated. Winning at least one plush toy with a crane game is a must before leaving Japan.
Don’t be afraid to try street food.
Japan is an oasis of street food. When near a temple or park (or pretty much wherever in Japan), there will be a few stands with delicious food like takoyaki, yakitori, soft cream, yakisoba, sweet potato fries, etc. Grab some and tuck in!
See and/or climb Mt. Fuji.
Mount Fuji is the highest and most famous mountain in Japan. You’d think it would be a hard thing to miss when you travel here – and yet, I’ve lived here for around a year and last week was the first time I’ve seen it for myself. There are a number of places from where you can have an amazing view of the mountain, like Hakone (which is also a very romantic city to visit with your partner). You can also climb the mountain if you like, but keep in mind that this is very hard and not cheap, so be prepared.
And finally, you can’t forget to buy omiyage for your family and friends back home. Omiyage are souvenirs or presents that you buy on a trip to give to the people you are close to in your home country or town. Japan has omiyage shops everywhere, especially at the train stations. The usual omiyage are local treats from the place you’ve been, and shops will always sell them in already beautifully wrapped packages.
These are my tips on what you absolutely have to do when travelling to Japan. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas in the comment section!