Japan is one of the world’s fastest-growing travel destinations. And there is no shortage of impressive tourist attractions like the country’s tallest mountain peak, Mount Fuji, the majestic Imperial Palace and its lush surrounding parks, and the somber Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
But the country has so much more to offer than these popular hotspots. From the quirky to the sporty, we rounded some underrated activities to try on your Japanese excursion.
Go on a vinyl shopping spree in Tokyo.
Music lovers rejoice. Vinyl is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and Tokyo happens to have more record shops than any other city in the world. So if you’re up for some crate digging, you may find some hidden gems. There are over 700 record shops in the city so in case you need a bit of guidance, check out Japan Record + CD Map Book— an annual publication of Japanese record shops. Or start your hunt with these shortlisted suggestions.
Get lost in the forest in Kyoto.
One of the most auditorily pleasing activities is a walk through the Sagano Bamboo Forest. If you can get past the chatter of tourists, the wind rustles through this tower of bamboo to create a sound of serenity.
The result is so peaceful that the Japanese Ministry of the Environment voted it one of the country’s 100 Soundscapes of Japan. Catching the forest at a moment of utter stillness is like finding a unicorn but well worth it. As an added bonus, the Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits right outside the forest.
Take an indoor fishing trip in Tokyo.
This seafood restaurant ramps catch of the day up to a whole new level. Upon entrance at Zauo, patrons are handed a fishing rod and bait to catch dinner from a giant aquarium. And yes, you sit in an actual, equally large boat.
The variety of fish is vast. Diners can feast on anything from shark to red snapper as long as you’re lucky enough to hook and reel it in. The cooking options are just as varied — choose between boiled, steamed, fried, grilled, or a traditional sashimi style.
Visit a seven-floor toy store in Tokyo.
If you’re traveling with kids or hoping to unleash your own inner child then the Yamashiroya Toy Store is your spot. It is seven floors of the wildest toys imaginable. Navigating this weird wonderland could easily last a few hours.
Marvel and DC fanatics will want to head to level two while puzzle connoisseurs and gamers will find a home on level three. The store is packed with wall to wall goodness so be prepared for the madness.
Step into a flowery fairytale in Kitakyushu.
The Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu will make your princess dreams come true — or at least it will transport you to a pastel-colored fantasy. One particularly striking feature is the ornate tunnel of wisteria flowers.
It is a popular ornamental vine known for its elaborate, winding branches teeming with cascading lavender flowers of varying shades. To catch the vine in all its glory, an April or early May trip is your best bet.
Indulge in the history of ramen in Shiojiri.
Ramen is fan favorite and Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is its cathedral. Though ramen originated in China, Japan has erected a three-story shrine, complete with a theme park and restaurant to celebrate the beloved noodle.
In the gallery, guests can soak in the history of ramen based on 25 years of thorough investigation. The museum shop houses every imaginable item for the ramen fanatic including the actual noodles, bowls, chopsticks, and sweets. And what would a tour be without sampling the real thing in one of their multiple noodle bars and restaurants?
Sing your heart out in Tokyo.
Karaoke is a huge part of Japanese culture. The interactive entertainment system was invented by drummer Daisuke Inoue in Kobe, Japan in 1971. The phenomenon spread across Asia and the Western world. But nothing beats karaoke in Japan and there is an abundance of bars to belt out your fave tracks. Take center stage at one of these karaoke hotspots.
Go to a ballgame in Tokyo.
Baseball is pretty popular in Japan. Not only are the teams highly skilled, but the food and atmosphere cannot be beaten. Umbrellas are waved after home runs and cheerleaders keep the energy up in the stadium.
Whether you’re into the game, or not, it’s worth checking out.
Witness a technology takeover in Sasebo.
Henn -Na means strange in English, which might be an apt way to describe the personnel at the Henn – Na Hotel in Sasebo. Why? Because the establishment is staffed almost entirely by robots.
Artificial intelligence has taken over with approximately 90% of the staff manned by 186 machines. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill robots either. Bellhop duties are being performed by velociraptors. Even if you have no intention of staying in the high-tech hotel, it’s still worth visiting the world’s first robot-run hotel.
Get fresh food at the Nishiki Market in Kyoto.
If you want to see a plethora of amazing food that Japan has to offer, you need to visit the Nishiki Market. The market, located in Kyoto, contains over 100 shops and restaurants and all of the food is produced locally.
Many vendors give out free samples, so you can roam the market freely taking in some amazing local cuisine. Snack on some food there or take some home to have a fresh meal.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama in Kyoto lets you see monkeys up close.
Also located in Kyoto, Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama allows visitors to view more than 100 monkeys that roam the grounds. These monkeys are native to Japan and human fed at the park, but you should still exercise caution when visiting. Signs around the grounds encourage you not to look them in the eyes and not to touch them for your own safety.
Still, you can observe monkeys running around and being, well, monkeys, as they bathe in hot springs and play.
The Hakone Tozan Railway is a unique transportation system.
If you want to take in the nature of Japan, be sure to take the Hakone Tozan Railway. The railway was designed with minimal impact on the environment in mind, so you often get breathtaking views and lush scenery.
Plus, it’s a mountain train car, so you’ll ascend high enough to see some seriously breathtaking sights.
The Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a wonderland of color.
If you love Studio Ghibli, you need to take a trip to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Inokashira Park. The museum is like being dropped into one of your favorite anime films, with bright colors, twists and turns, cute characters, and so much more.
Make sure you book your tickets well in advance. Though this isn’t the most common tourist attraction, it is a hot ticket to get.