Best Things to Do in Japan For Every Traveler

By Sydney Seekford
Updated: December 15, 2022

A country with 47 prefectures, the most populous city on Earth, and over a thousand years of history, Japan has an uncountable number of unique experiences waiting to be discovered! We want to highlight a few of the best things to do in Japan for every kind of traveler, from families to solo adventurers. This list explores fun things to do that feature the history, pop culture, and unique culinary delights of Japan.

The Best Things to Do in Japan

lanterns hung up for the Tori-no-Ichi event at Asakusa Otori Shrine

Japan has so many unique experiences that we couldn’t count them all! However, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most unique and popular experiences in the country. This collection has fun activities for families, couples, foodies, solo travelers, luxury connoisseurs, and vacationers looking for a stress-free experience. Plus, sure to satisfy must-do's for everyone!

Must Do in Japan

Every traveler should seek out their own perfect adventure, but we do have some can't-miss recommendations that any visitor to Japan is sure to enjoy.

  1. Visit the Capital
  2. Visit the Other Capital
  3. Eat Japanese Food
  4. See Japan’s Famous Cityscapes
  5. Try Out Public Transportation
  6. Wear Kimono
  7. Spend Time in Nature
  8. Buy Omiyage
  9. Attend a Festival
  10. Visit a Shrine

Visit the Capital

Tokyo station at night

Most visitors to Japan fly into one of the Tokyo area's major airports-and for good reason! The capital has loads of things to do. Visit major neighborhoods like Shibuya, Asakusa, Roppongi, Ueno, and the areas surrounding Tokyo Station and the palace. The vibrant culture of Tokyo is sure to leave any traveler satisfied and eager to explore more!

Visit the Other Capital

Kyoto temple

Tokyo wasn’t always the seat of Japan! Kyoto offers a whole different look. Geisha still walk the streets of the old capital and historical buildings elevate narrow walkways with their beautiful architecture. Enjoy tea ceremonies, traditional arts, and a nod to Japan’s classical way of life in the old capital of Kyoto.

Eat Japanese Food

A group of friends cheering over a dinner table with drinks

It may come as no surprise, but of course one of the best things to do in Japan is eat Japanese food! Tempura, ramen, and sushi are loved throughout the world, but there is nothing like eating delicious Japanese food at its origins. Chefs train for years to perfect their craft and select the freshest ingredients. The restaurants of Japan take pride in their cuisine and invite you to try the very best Japanese food the world has to offer!

See Japan’s Famous Cityscapes

Tokyo tower and Tokyo skyline

The cityscapes of Japan have been featured in everything from art, to film, to music videos. Experience the beauty of Tokyo’s neon streets or the dazzlingly lit signs of Osaka’s food stalls. Japan has tons of secret and not-so-secret places to take in the view, which make for great photo ops and breathtaking scenery.

Try Out Public Transportation

Two women wait for a train on a train platform in Japan

Planes, trains, and automobiles…it might be surprising, but one of the best things to do in Japan is taking a ride on the nation’s public transportation! Visitors can enjoy the perks of the JR Pass while they whiz through sleepy towns on the Shinkansen. Get a taste of typical train-station ekiben lunch and ride the convenient subways or enjoy being ferried through town by white-gloved taxi drivers.

Wear Kimono

A women in knimono standing outside of a Japanese tea house

No matter where you choose to visit Japan, there will be chances to try on one of Japan’s most iconic traditional outfits: the kimono! Kimono experiences are popular even with locals and are an authentic way to enjoy your trip in Japan. Being expertly dressed in kimono is fun to do whether you are attending a traditional performance or just seeing the sights.

Spend Time in Nature

A woman standing in the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto

Since ancient times, Japan’s culture has moved with the seasons. Festivals, cuisine, and even architecture have been built around the intense and stunning shifts. Whether you prefer to stroll through castle gardens, marvel at the beauty of sakura blossoms and red maple leaves, or challenge mountainous pilgrimage trails, spending time in nature is one of the best things to do in Japan.

Buy Omiyage

women prepare a box of senbei rice crackers

Souvenirs are an essential part of every vacation! Thankfully, Japan has got you covered. The spirit of giving gifts from travel has led to a culture of omiyage: beautiful, themed gift sets to remember your adventures by! There are tons of choices, from regional specialty snacks to novelties with your favorite Japanese characters on them.

Attend a Festival

a matsuri in Gion, Kyoto

Japanese festivals take place year-round! At matsuri festivals, you can enjoy games, delicious street food, performances, or even fireworks shows. From typical neighborhood matsuri to ostentatious fire festivals or even some…less expected topics, Japan loves its festivals.

Visit a Shrine

Japanese temple with trees in the background

Shrines and temples can be found in just about every nook and cranny of the country. The impressive shrines at Asakusa and Fushimi Inari aren’t the only ways to experience the history and beauty of Japan! Slip down quiet alleys and find shrines ushering in wealth for local izakaya bars, well-being for families, and everything in between. The beautiful architecture and care taken at local shrines across Japan are intimate sights not to be missed!

Things to Do in Japan for Families

Japan is full of fun things to do for families. A world of characters, exciting experiences, and a safe environment means that children of all ages can enjoy activities with their families in Japan. Here are some of our top picks.

A Japanese couple with a baby enjoy blowing bubbles. Spending time outside is a fun activity in Japan for families
  1. Visit Tokyo Disneyland
  2. Make Fake Food
  3. Enjoy Hands-on Dining
  4. Visit an Arcade
  5. Say Hello to Japans Animals

Visit Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland is a paradise for kids and parents! Enjoy sweets shaped like Toy Story’s little green men during shows and parades found nowhere else. It's full of show-stopping rides and sights to keep families in high spirits.

Make Fake Food

A women holds a fake bowl of ramen

Those delicious looking window-displays in Japanese restaurants aren’t just fun to look at, they’re fun to make too! Try making your own plastic cabbage, tempura, and parfaits to take home at a food sample-making class.

Enjoy Hands-on Dining

A family cooks together during a cooking class in Japan

Japan’s dining scene is a great experience for families. Older children can enjoy helping cook at shabu shabu hot-pot and yakiniku grilled meat restaurants. Thrill younger kids with kaiten sushi delivered on mini-sized bullet trains or exciting teppanyaki shows from the comfort of your hotel. Cooking classes are also a great way to learn and engage the whole family in a memorable experience!

Visit an Arcade

A family looks at a crane game in a Japanese arcade

Families can challenge classic racing and fighting games or try for their favorite toys in crane machines in places like Akihabara. Snap photos in purikura booths and dress up your selfies, then print out fun sticker souvenirs. Playing games at a Japanese-style arcade is one of the best things to do in Japan for families!

Say Hello to Japans Animals

Deer walking through the forest in Nara

Nara is well known for its bowing deer, there are islands full of rabbits and cats, and sea parks and zoos full of adventure throughout the country. These are once-in-a-lifetime chances for kids and families to view rare animals up close. Visit Ueno Zoo and see the pandas, then dine at one of the nearby panda-themed cafes for an educational and fun family trip.

Things to Do in Japan for Couples

You might be surprised at some of these uniquely Japanese couple activities, but that’s all a part of the fun of a trip with your partner. Dive into the world of love in Japan, and discover something new. Here are a few of our recommendations on the best things to do in Japan for couples!

A Japanese couple with their backs to the camera overlook a night-time cityscape from a highrise balcony in Japan.
  1. Visit a Ryokan
  2. See an Illumination
  3. Learn Something New
  4. Get Matching Tokens at a Love Shrine
  5. Enjoy an Amusement Park

Visit a Ryokan

Young couple relaxing in a hot spring

Ryokan are the perfect places to spend a romantic evening together. Intimate Japanese-style meals are delivered to your room where you can bathe in a private onsen. Enjoy the relaxing bath and elegant dining while you and your partner chat about the day’s adventures.

See an Illumination

A street in Roppongi, Tokyo, with illuminated trees leading to the Tokyo tower

Couples line up under glittering evening lights for a chance to take their picture with seasonal illuminations. Trees and buildings are decked with colorful lights and projections for a romantic evening stroll. If you think lit decorations are just for holidays, you’ll be surprised at the elaborate, year-round night-time events. If you are looking for a taste of love, walking through an illumination is one the best things to do for couples in Japan!

Learn Something New

A couple in kimono whisk bowls of matcha in a traditional Japanese room

Taking a class together can be a great way for couples to get closer on vacation! Making bento or chocolates for your special someone is a popular way to say I love you in Japan. Why not learn together in ByFood’s wagashi and bento-making experiences?

Get Matching Tokens at a Love Shrine

There are plenty of great reasons to take a trip to a shrine or temple while you are in Japan. As a couple, visit a love shrine and get matching omamori tokens for good luck in your relationship. You can find love fortunes, receive a blessing, or you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.

Enjoy an Amusement Park

A couple of snoopies

Shout with your partner from the top of a coaster, take your picture in front of charming venues and characters, or enjoy world-class themed dining. Amusement park dates are one of the most popular couple activities in Japan.

Things to Do in Japan for Solo Travelers

Japan has a long history of individuals going on great journies by themselves. As a solo traveler in Japan, tons of exclusive opportunities open up. Here are a few of the best things to do in Japan for solo travelers!

A backpacker rests near the water-filled moat of one of Japan's historical castles.
  1. Stay In a Capsule Hotel
  2. Experience a 24-hour Manga Cafe
  3. Go on a Pilgrimage
  4. Try Bochi-camping
  5. Slide into local Anaba

Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Women looks excited at the small rooms in a capsule hotel

One of the most iconic particulars of Japan: the capsule hotel! Tiny, politely maintained single beds are a fun experience for solo travelers to get a taste of Japanese life. Capsule hotels offer everything from free ice cream to bathroom amenities at a very reasonable price.

Experience a 24-hour Manga Cafe

These great facilities are places to try karaoke or enjoy buffet-style soda, sake, and snacks while watching anime in your private suite. You can live the otaku experience for a night or enjoy some of Japan’s most beloved past-times in privacy.

Go on a Pilgrimage

Kumano Kodo

Hiking ancient pilgrimage trails like the Kumano Kodo in Wakayama prefecture are a great thing to do for solo travelers in Japan. Along the way are stopovers for food, relaxing onsen hot-spring baths, and traditional lodging with gracious Japanese hosts. Solo travelers have been making these journeys for hundreds of years, so rest assured that there are plenty of facilities and resources ready for you to experience your own enlightening trek through Japan.

Try Bochi-camping

camping tents lit up at night

Have you ever heard the phrase bochi-camping? It comes from a Japanese term, hitori-bochi, meaning all by one’s self! Camping is all the rage in Japan and rental facilities provide everything from luxury glamping trailers to barbeque supplies. Try out bochi-camping with a one-person tent in Japan's scenic nature and dig into some regional cuisine you cook yourself under the stars, or enjoy some fancy glamping by Mt. Fuji.

Slide into Local Anaba

Three people stand and enjoy drinks at a mobile bar

Some of the best food in Japan can be found in mom-and-pop diners and standing bar izakaya. These lesser-known gourmet outposts get called B-gurume or anaba (hole-in-the-wall) by locals in the know. Restauranteurs make the most of the space they have, meaning the most delicious ramen might be served on a 4-person countertop. Solo travel makes it easy to get the full experience of these hidden gems.

Things to Do in Japan for Foodies

Japan is a foodie paradise! Whether you are looking for the most seasonal ingredients, hoping to try every Japanese snack food on the gram, or want to dine on the world’s best ramen, you can do it in Japan. There are so many awesome things to do in Japan for foodies, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few big ones.

Three people eating okonomiyaki
  1. Have Breakfast at an Open Market
  2. Enjoy a Kaiseki Course Meal
  3. Join a Culinary Experience
  4. Bar Hop
  5. Try a Themed Cafe

Have Breakfast at an Open Market

A display of fish at a fish market in Hokkaido

If the world-renowned Tsukiji market comes to mind, you will be glad to know that the outer market serves breakfast to lines of eager guests as early as 4 and 5 am. Other cities have their own impressive markets, where local fishermen and farmers sell the morning’s freshest products wholesale and retail. If you have never considered sushi for breakfast, think again! A morning bowl of kaisendon and miso soup makes great fuel for a day of adventures in Japan.

Enjoy a Kaiseki Course Meal

kaiseiki meal presented in little dishes

Kaiseki and omakase meals are left up to the chef’s selection of seasonal vegetables, meat, and seafood. These traditional Japanese dining styles highlight the best of each region and an individual chef’s particular talent. Enjoy luxurious evening course dinners in fine dining establishments or marvel at the display of delicately arranged dishes during mealtime at ryokan. Enjoying a kaiseki meal is the best way to experience the history and true flavor of Japan for foodies!

Join a Culinary Experience

A woman smiles at the camera while she makes udon

Foodies have just as much fun making food as eating it! In Japan, chefs and artisans open their doors to guests hoping to try their hand at making traditional foods like wagashi and soba noodles. Pick your own fruit, create a colorful character bento, or give sushi-making a chance. There is a food-making experience suited for every foodie in Japan, no matter where or when you visit.

Bar Hop

men smile at the camera while enjoying beer at a bar

A vibrant after-work drinking culture awaits any bar-hopping traveler eager to experience Japan's nightlife. Find out if the classic salaryman’s nama-beer suits your tastes or if you prefer the chef-curated snacks served alongside Japan’s craft whiskey. There’s no end to the fun to be had while bar-hopping in Japan.

Try a Themed Cafe

A cute lunch presented in a train-shaped box

Theme and character cafes are a fun, instagrammable thing to do in Japan! Foodies, couples, and friends love being immersed in the world of idols, anime, and cute characters. Fashionable areas like Omotesando even feature themed cafes from your famous luxury brands, where you can try drinks, meals, and snacks unique to the venue.

Things to Do in Japan for Connoisseurs

Japan has long been a destination for gourmets and connoisseurs. The extensive list of Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels, and must-see destinations are just a few of the reasons travelers looking for a luxury experience choose Japan as their getaway.

two men try wine in a wine cellar surrounded by wine barrels
  1. Take it all in at Karuizawa
  2. Witness an Artisan’s Touch
  3. Dine on the World’s Finest Cuisine
  4. Browse the Elegant Ginza District
  5. Enjoy a Sake Tasting

Take it all in at Karuizawa

The secret vacation area of the Imperial family and Japanese celebrities, Karuizawa is Japan’s most indulgent getaway. The traditional streets of Karuizawa are mostly devoid of the clamor of sight-seeing towns like Kyoto, but afford connoisseurs all of the refinement of Samurai-era amenities. Stroll down manicured streets in beautiful kimono, dine on traditional Japanese cuisine, and live like the upper crust of Japan in this hideaway town.

Witness an Artisan’s Touch

A man making a sake cup on a wood working machine

The culture of Japan is tightly bound to seasonality and traditional ways of life. The slow way, the old way, is often believed to be the best way. Connoisseurs know these arts are best enjoyed in the homes and tables of artisans themselves. Visit the cool streams where fresh wasabi is grown, or makers of Japanese blades and traditional crafts like lacquerware. During these intimate and private experiences, the secrets of Japan’s high-quality goods come to light.

Browse the Elegant Ginza District

People walk on a wide street in Ginza on Sunday

Travelers can easily spend a day lost among the glittering storefronts, or spend hours at high-end retailers like Ginza 6. High-end shopping with a Japanese flair meets afternoons of pampering at boutique esthetic spas. Everything from paper used by ancient Daimyo to the highest-grade bean-to-bar cacao sweets can be found on these streets, so visiting Ginza is one of the best things to do for connoisseurs looking to experience Japanese luxury.

Enjoy a Sake Tasting

Two women listen to a man talk about sake

Imbibe Japan’s national pride in luxury during tasting experiences curated by ByFood. From rare aged sake to brewery exclusives that can’t be tried anywhere else, the world of high-end sake opens up to connoisseurs seeking exclusive experiences in Japan.

Things to do in Japan for Stress-Free Travelers

Full-service travel plans and easy-to-access attractions are the best way for travelers looking for a stress-free trip. ByFood’s guided tours offer a chance to enjoy all Japan has to offer without needing to worry about transportation or timelines. A robust travel industry built around Japanese omotenashi offers stress-free travelers a wide array of great things to do in Japan.

Three people give the "thumbs up" sign while sitting at a dinner table
  1. Enjoy Japan’s Highlights
  2. Join a Guided Tour
  3. Indulge in All-Inclusive Packages
  4. Steep Yourself in History
  5. Relax in Japanese Resorts

Enjoy Japan’s Highlights

Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto

From Tokyo to Osaka, Kyoto to Sapporo, many of Japan’s most visited cities offer curated tour packages and full language support. Thanks to investment from the 2020 Olympics, Japan’s metropolises have become easier and more fun to explore than ever for travelers looking to maximize their time and minimize stress. Attractions like Tokyo Tower, SkyTree, Fushimi Inari Shrine, and others are great places to visit for stress-free travelers.

Join a Guided Tour

a group of people standing in a tea field

For travelers looking to get the full experience of Japan’s cuisine and culture without venturing out on their own, guided tours are an excellent option. From a variety of sightseeing bus and train tours to byFood’s curated experiences, there are options for any traveler and any activity. Guides can introduce the best spots and facilitate a good time while managing language support, so you never miss a beat!

Indulge in All-Inclusive Packages

Four people in kimono enjoy a tea ceremony

It’s easy to see why travel in Japan is so popular! The attentive, careful Japanese culture of omotenashi spills over into every part of the travel experience. Stress-free travelers can feel confident that all-inclusive packages really mean all-inclusive, and the best hotels often offer guide services, pocket wifi, and transportation options to make your stay even easier. Never feel lost on all-inclusive tours from top providers in any part of the country.

Steep Yourself in History

Japanese castle surrounded by trees

Taking leisurely walks through castle gardens and appreciating old architecture are excellent ways to enjoy travel in Japan. Historical and religious sites offer some of the best experiences for sightseeing and have reliable language support. Enjoying the history of Japan by taking it slow on ancient streets is a fun and relaxing activity for travelers looking to take their time.

Relax in Japanese Resorts

Japanese resorts span ryokan to super modern spa hotels and ski facilities. Enjoy your favorite indoor and outdoor vacation activities with the beautiful atmosphere and great service Japan is known for. Relax in an onsen, bathe in glittering seas or hit the slopes and then come back to finely decorated rooms and delicious cuisine.

Adventure Awaits, No Matter Where You Look!

temple stairs lined with red lanters

Japan has tons of great things to do for every kind of traveler. We’ve just scratched the surface! Dive into our in-depth travel articles to discover even more fun experiences in Japan, no matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for. From Solo-travelers to families, thrill seekers to stress-free travelers, ByFood has the perfect guide for your trip to Japan.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Sydney Seekford
Sydney fell in love with lesser-known Japan after seeing Ferris wheels sticking out of the landscape while her bullet train flew by. Since that time, this farming-fashionista has been cultivating vegetables and community in the mountains of Ishikawa. Her dream is to support tourism in inaka Japan by bringing regional rarities to the world and highlighting local businesses.
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