There is so much to do and so much to see in Japan it’s so hard to fit everything into one trip. Strike that. It’s impossible. For a first trip though, a beginner’s taster itinerary is what is needed. But with a place so abundant and diverse in culture and ritual where exactly are you supposed to start? Here’s a list of activities not to miss out on while on your first trip to Japan!
1. Eat Crepes in Tokyo
Crepes? Aren’t those French? It might seem like a strange thing to recommend, but Tokyo is actually famed for its unique take on crepes. If you have a strong sweet tooth you won’t be disappointed! Japanese crepes are stuffed with cream, strawberries and any other delicious ingredients you can imagine! Try trying one of the many crepe stalls in Harajuku for a great sample!
2. Visit An Arcade in Akihabara
Arcades were all the rage in the 80s in America and Europe, but nowadays the original home of Ms. Pacman and Street Fighters is pretty much extinct. Right? Wrong! At least, not in Japan. Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronics district is chock-full of them. Arcades in Japan have rows of claw machines, Taiko drum sets and air hockey galore! You could spend hours here!
3. Visit The Shibuya Crossing
The famous Shibuya crossing is an absolute must-do on a first trip to Japan. It may not be a thrilling activity, but it still remains as one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Tokyo. If you want a good viewing spot of the famous crossing, I recommend whipping your phone out at the balcony of Shibuya station.
4. Rent a Kimono
No trip to Japan would be complete without renting a kimono and going down to the local park and taking a few memorable Insta-worthy snaps with friends! This is more of a popular spring and summer activity to do under the cherry blossoms, but kimonos rentals are also available for winter festivals (and also just for fun!). Renting kimonos can get very pricey in Tokyo, so try Kyoto to get the best deal you can!
5. Visit Sensoji Temple
Visit Sensoji for a full spiritual and tourist experience. Sensoji is the main tourist attraction of Asakusa and one of the bigger Buddhist temples in the Shitamachi district of Tokyo. The streets approaching the temple are lined with stalls selling souvenirs and local snacks, leading up to the great wooden structure that is Sensoji. This is an attraction that’ll keep you busy for most of the day, so make sure you leave some free time to snatch up those souvenirs!
6. Sunbathe In Okinawa
Okinawa is on the southernmost side of the Japan archipelago, meaning it’s sunny, hot and tropical! The perfect place for a beach getaway! Because it’s so much far south of the main island, Okinawa’s culture and food have developed into some incredibly different from the Japanese atmosphere we’re all used to.
7. Use A Purikura Machine
Imagine a photo booth on steroids, that’s purikura. It’s an aspect of contemporary Japanese culture that was released as an alternative to the old, dull photo booths that has expanded incredibly with all sorts of filters! Better skin? Check. Anime eyes? Of course! You could spend hours in one of these with your friends going through all the filters! Try heading down to Club Sega in Akihabara, Tokyo for the massive purikura section!
8. Eat street food in Osaka
How about a quick language lesson. Yaki in Japanese means fried. And Osaka is famous for it! And that’s a local’s opinion, so it must be good! Head down to Dotonbori and try out all the stores selling everything from yakitori, to okonomiyaki to taikyaki! You’ll never want to leave!
9. Visit Nara’s Deer Park
Japan’s first capital city is now overrun with hundreds and hundreds of deer! And we’re loving it. In Nara, the deer roam completely freely from park to park, so don’t be surprised if you see a couple while you’re crossing the road. You can even buy special biscuits to feed them!
10. Soak At An Onsen (Hot Spring)
The cherry on top of a great trip to Japan is a great hot spring soak that’ll steam out your stress. Onsen are literally everywhere in Japan and easily accessible for just about everyone! Just remember to let your inhibitions go while you’re in there, because there’ll be no swimsuits of any kind allowed!