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The 20 Best Things To Do in Japan for First-Timers

Onsen Japan

If you're planning to take a trip to Japan, and it's your first time visiting, you may not be aware of all of the amazing things to see and do in the country. Ideally, 10 days there will give you enough time to see a good share of the major attractions, but there is so much there for first-timers that it pays to plan so you don't miss out on some of the best things to see and experience. Here are the 20 best things to do in Japan for first-time visitors.

Shinjuku station

20. Visit Shinjuku station

Shinjuku is the busiest station in the country of Japan, and it is a must-see for first-time visitors. There are so many things to do when you arrive that you'll have to pick and choose which ones are the most appealing. We recommend that you visit some of the eclectic shops, then stop off at a few of the bars to experience the culture of the neighborhood. The nightlife is alive and well in Shinjuku. Although there are quite a few scammers on the streets to beware of, it's home to the famous Kabukicho Street where you will find a variety of entertainment and nightlife venues


19. Go shopping at Shibuya

Shibuya crossing is found within the Tokyo area and it is one of the most prominent locations in the city for both tourists and locals. Younger people hang out in Shibuya to shop at the Tokyu Department Store as well as the Shibuya Hikarie Department store. There are also a ton of smaller shops in this locale. You can also find great bars and restaurants at Shibuya crossing along with clubs for an enjoyable nightlife scene. There are lots of train lines coming to and from the area so transportation to and from shouldn't be a problem if you plan and know the schedule.


18. Explore the city of Tokyo

Tokyo is a must-see because there are so many sights and activities. It gives you a sense of the urban culture in the country. You can find a lot to do and some amazing places to eat in the city. We recommend that you explore Tokyo, and plan to spend a day or two doing so. You can either go on a self-guided tour or sign up for a professional guide service to maximize the experience.


17. Check out the restaurants in Harajuku

Harajuku is another hot spot in Japan. It's one of the more popular tourist spots and offers something for everyone. You'll find a lot of excellent dining options that range from trendy cafes to more formal restaurants in the side streets of this neighborhood. There are also lots of places to shop, and many of the global fashion shows start on Takeshita Street. Harajuku connects with Omotesando which is a great place to find some of the most widely recognized designer brands.


16. Spend a day shopping at Ginza

Ginza is another area for those who enjoy high-end designer fashions and formal dining. You'll find some of the best sushi restaurants in the ara and more. There are also tons of shops available that range from some of the most expensive brands on the market to less expensive options including Gap, GU, and others.

Ueno Park

15. Visit Ueno Park

Ueno Park is one of the largest parks in the city of Tokyo. It offers a serene and natural landscape for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here you'll find acres of natural surroundings, some amazing museums to learn more bout the history of Japan, and other topics, and a zoo filled with exotic animals. While you're there, check out AMeyoko street where you'll find items for sale with vendors who love to bargain, as well as some of the best street food in the city.

Sensoji Temple

14. Visit the Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple is located in the historic capital of Tokyo, called Asakusa. It is known for being the home of the Sensoji Temple. This is the oldest temple and is a popular tourist attraction. Nearby you can enjoy a walk along with Sumida River to end up at Tokyo Skytree. There are plenty of opportunities to pick up souvenirs and snacks on nearby Nakamise Street.

Shinjuku Gyoen

13. Stroll through the Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful Japanese garden that is located in Shinjuku. The garden is situated within a park that has beautiful landscaping. It is famed for its cherry blossom viewing and is featured in multiple tourist pictures.

Robot Restaurant

12. Check out the Robot Restaurant

The Robot Restaurant is another must-see experience. You can enjoy a lovely meal while you're there, but that isn't the main attraction. Anthony Bourdain referred to the show as one of the greatest on the planet during his visit. Tourists and locals go to the Robot Restaurant to catch the high tech robot show that will blow you away. This venue is located in Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo within the largest red-light district in the city.


11. Spend a day at Hakone

Hakone is another place you have to visit when you're in Japan. If you have the time on your schedule, you could easily spend an entire day there. Visit Lake Ashi and take in the views of Mt. Fuji with its lovely landscape. You'll want to take a lot of pictures of the scenery. Before your visit, book a cruise on the lake to see the Hakone Shrine while you're there. You can also plan a unique experience to take a rope-way to venture up the mountain of Hakone. While you're there, don't forget to visit the Pola Museum, the Hakone Open-Air Museum, and the other smaller attractions.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

10. See the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Build a trip to Kyoto prefecture into your itinerary, adn visit the head shrine of Inari called Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. It's situated at the base of a mountain with multiple trails that ascend the mountain leading to many smaller shrines. This is about a 2-hour tour by walk and you'll behold some magnificent sights along with way. The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine was created with more than five thousand red torii gates that have the appearance of a tunnel.

Kinkakuji Temple

9. Visit Kinkakuji Temple

While you're in Kyoto, another important landmark that you have to see is Kinkakuji, which is also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. This is a Zen Buddhist temple that was erected in the year 1397. It has been on display for centuries and was first the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's retirement villa. It was turned into a Zen temple after his death and it has remained so for centuries to the present. This is an ancient monument from the era of antiquity and it is listed officially as a World Heritage Site.

Kiyomizudera Temple

8. Tour Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the most historic and oldest buildings in the entire country of Japan. This temple has been traced back for centuries with the original building taking place in the year 778. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994. It's located in the Kyoto area. From the large wooden terrace of the temple, you get a breathtaking view of Kyoto city. While you are there, and if time permits, you may also want to walk through the paths to the Gion district that is known for its Geisha. Higashiyama is close by and after spending about an hour at the temple, you can find many other attractions in the area with some great photo opportunities. There are more shrines and temples, as well as restaurants and places to shop for souvenirs.

Fox Village Japan

7. Visit the Zao Fox Village

Another popular tourist attraction found in northern Japan is the Zao Fox Village. Here you will find numerous kitsune which are undomesticated foxes. You can walk among them to get an up-close view for an admission fee of approximately $10 in USD. The park grounds are lovely, but there is a stipulation that only visitors who are at least 12 years old or more can hold and pet the baby foxes.

Mario Kart Race Japan

6.Enter the Mario Kart Race in Tokyo

If you're a Mario Kart fan then you absolutely must participate in the MariCar race that is held on the streets of Tokyo. You're expected to dress as your favorite Mari Kart character costume when you show up for the race, which is more of a tour. There won't be any exploding Koopa shells, but cars can be accelerated to speeds of 50 mph. This is your chance to show your Mario Kart skills and you might even become a champion in real life.

Onsen Japan

5. Soak in an onsen

An onsen is a public bath and it's an experience that every first-time visitor to Japan needs to have. This is a long soak that is performed without a stitch of clothing. One of the most popular places to go for an Onsen soak is the Amagi Yugashima Onsen. there are wonderful ocean and mountain views to enjoy while you're taking a relaxing soak. You can also find a variety of hot springs for a nice warm soak and they're scattered throughout the heart of Tokyo, so there are plenty of opportunities in the city.

Sumo Wrestler Japan

4. Watch Sumo wrestlers perform

Sumo wrestling is a popular sport in Japan and no trip would be complete without watching a match live and in-person. The matches only last for a few seconds each, but the concentration and strength required is intense. If you're there at the right time, you might even be able to watch the Basho or annual sumo tournaments in progress. They take place six times throughout the year. Most of the professional wrestlers weigh at least 300 pounds or more

Capsule Hotel Japan

3. Sleep in the Capsule Hotel

The Capsule Hotel is one of the most unique and innovative ways to provide sleeping accommodations in the nation, if not within the world. The rooms in the Capsule Hotel economize space and provide you with a choice of rooms that are no larger than a twin bed. Guests sleep in their pod that is equipped with a bed and lights. Some compartments have automatic doors to offer a futuristic aesthetic.

Ghibli Museum

2. Visit the Studio Ghibli Museum

If you're a fan of anime then you won't want to miss out on a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum. It gives you a close look at the Japanese hall of movie fame led by Hayao Miyazaki in a museum setting where Ghibli films are brought to life. The museum offers an intense look into Japanese culture and the high value that is placed on animation.

Nishiki Market

1. Tour Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is also referred to as Kyoto's Kitchen. It is teh best place to visit to sample some of the best authentic Japanese fares in the country. local restaurants adn cooks gather here to provide visitors with two blocks worth of fresh produce, seafood, and a hots of locally prepared foods whether you want it already prepared or you just want to buy the ingredients yourself. One of the best things about the Nishiki Market is that you can haggle over the price because it is expected.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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