Japan is a country with a beautiful combination of age old traditions and new age technologies. With its solemn temples, lush greenery , exquisite cuisine and distinct culture, Japan promises to be an intriguing travel destination.
Here’s a list of travel experiences unique to Japan, as recommended by popular travel bloggers and experts:
1.Traditional Japanese tea ceremony
Popular Indian blogger Shivya Nath talks about this ritual in her blog – “Turns out, Chanoyu – the traditional Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony – began as a peaceful meeting space for the Japanese Samurai of yore. The obscure location of tea rooms ensured their meetings could be kept secret, and the tiny entrances prevented them from carrying their swords inside. At the tea ceremony, Takeda-san, our tea master asked us to cleanse our hands and heart before bending through a small door to enter the sacred tea room – by humbly bending on all fours, we all became equals.”
Back in the day, all tea masters were male. These days, the tea rituals remain the same, but many women train to become tea masters too; ours had been at it for 35 years.”
Want to learn about Japan’s most intriguing traditions? Click here to read more about them in Shivya Nath’s blog.
Jessica Festa elaborates on process followed for tea making in the ceremony- “Softly scooping up some fresh ground green tea leaves, Minako drops them slowly into the cup with a wooden spoon. The only sounds I hear are the leaves outside gently rustling, the pouring of liquids and the soft tapping of wood against the kettle. A bamboo whisk is used to mix the tea with water. It’s important the water is the perfect temperature – not too hot not too cold – or the tea won’t taste right. The perfect time to pour the water is just after it’s boiled and beginning to cool. This will give the tea the perfect taste.”
Well-known traveller Jessica talks in detail about the procedure that’s followed during a Japanese traditional tea ceremony! Curious? Click here to read more.
2.Soak in an onsen
The very well-known travel blogger Nomadic Matt mentions about the location and types of onsens- “Natural hot springs are widespread throughout the country, and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Each has different mineral compositions and are a great way to soak in some traditional Japanese culture.”
Do onsens excite you? Click here to read more about them in famous traveller Nomadic Matt’s blog.
Silvia gladly reminisces her experience of the onsen- “Actually, the reason behind my epic sleeps at ryokans is probably the hot spring baths, or onsen. A lot of ryokans will have their own onsen, and usually even if you aren’t staying at the hotel you can pay a fee to use them. They’re typically divided by gender and you’ll go in a shower first before actually getting in the hot spring.”
She further says, “And yes, you’ll be naked with strangers, and no, you’re not allowed to wear a towel in the onsen, and no, no one will really be looking at your naked body anyway, don’t worry. Though keep in mind that tattoos are not allowed at many of the more traditional onsens (but usually it’s find if you cover them with a bandage or something).”
Would you like to know some more interesting inputs on the onsens in Japan? Click here to read Silvia’s blog on her onsen experience.
3. The Cherry Blossom Festival
Hannah Price, who runs the YouTube channel talks about Cherry Blossoms in her vlog. “This is the season where I will literally wake up with a smile on my face. I wake up earlier than I usually do just so that I have more hours of daylight to savor among the cherry blossoms. So if you haven’t been to Japan, and you haven’t seen the cherry blossoms yet, but it’s on your bucket list, please don’t put it off any longer. It’s so amazing. But anyway, I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy this wonderful park with all my friends, and I’m so happy.” she says.
“That’s how we felt on leaving Japan. Our tryst with Japan during Cherry Blossom Season was fleeting and got over all too quickly but it will tug at our heartstrings for a lifetime.
A trip in Japan during cherry blossom season offers everything a tourist could possibly want from a country – sumptuous panoramas, bustling marketplaces, delicious food, safe and efficient public transport, and helpful locals.
Add to this entire by-lanes and gardens full of powder-pink sakura petals and it becomes hard to argue with the prospect of planning a trip in Japan during cherry blossom season.” was how Savi and Vid decided to talk about their experience in Japan amongst the Cherry Blossoms.
Together they have visited over 80 countries, delivered multiple TEDx Talks on designing the life of ones dreams and also won several awards for their work.
4.Jigokudani Snow Monkeys
“Winter in Japan is a whole different experience. Not only can you go skiing in Niseko or Nagano, you can also visit one of country’s biggest attractions – the Snow Monkeys Japan! Basically a bunch of cheeky Japanese Macaque monkeys live in a valley here, and when it gets too cold, they all run down to a natural hot spring to escape the chilly temperatures. They couldn’t care less about humans so they chill in the pool as we look on in amazement. It’s a beautiful setting, and an amazing sight. The trip is possible as a day trip from Tokyo, but better if you take the train to Nagano, and then onwards to Yudanaka, from there it’s a short walk to the famous Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.” – informs Johnny,about enjoying the sight of the monkeys amidst their natural surroundings.
Sounds like fun? Click here to know more about this interesting experience of Johnny with the Jigokudani snow monkeys in Japan.
The couple Toni and Drew,cherish this unique experience- “The Japanese snow monkeys in Japan are a fabulous experience, especially if you can time your visit for a snowy winters day when you will see their natural area at its best. It’s reasonably easy to do this as an independent day trip from Tokyo.”
Additionally they fondly recollect-“Locals made the monkeys their own onsen and they’ve been visiting ever since. The monkeys are indifferent to the people watching them bath, they continue to go about their business; soaking, eating and even fighting without interacting with those snapping a few photos of them mid soak. ”
Are you an animal lover? Learn about the best ways to plan a visit to see the monkeys by clicking here.
5.Stay at a Ryokan
Becki Enright strongly recommends the experience- “A stay at Ryokan should definitely be on your list – even if only for one night. You actually feel as though you are ‘living’ in Japan, returning to a relaxing home after a busy day out in the fast-paced incredible city of Tokyo.”
She further adds-“Basic, yet beautiful, the rooms here typically consist of traditional Japanese wooden décor with sliding doors, a tatami-matted floor, a table and floor level chair or cushion and a space for your futon. In the Ryokan, bathing areas are communal (male and female separate) and consist of a handful of showers – to be taken while seated on the plastic stool provided – and a hot bathing pool to soak your aching limbs after sightseeing or a night out (these baths stay hot up to around 3am!).”
Talking about her favourite part of the experience Becki says “But one of the things I loved the most? Getting to wear a ‘yukata’ – which we know better by the generic name of kimono. It’s custom to wear this in the Ryokan when you are lounging indoors, especially after coming back for the day and after bathing.”
Do you enjoy exploring the local culture of the place you visit? Click here to get the best tips to plan your ryokan stay.
The Asia travel special blog Asianwanderlust suggests some of the best ryokan stays available in Hakone-“The Fukuzumiro is a more traditional kind of ryokan. It’s also not far from the Tonosawa train station and so is easily accessible. The Haya river is right next to it and you’ll have access to an individual wooden bath to give your experience a more rustic authenticity.”
The blog also enlists a comparatively more luxurious ryokan-“Let’s start this list with a really good one. The magnificent Kinnotake Tonosawa Ryokan is located near the Tonosawa train station so it should be easily accessible. Once you’re there, be sure to jump in the open air private bath in your room to relax and enjoy Hakone’s beautiful scenery.”
Know more about the various styles of ryokan in Japan and decide on the one that suites you by clicking here.
Christine talks about her fun times in these interestingly themed cafes and also mentions her favourite one –“All around Tokyo, you will find all sorts of wacky cafés. There are so many awesome themed cafés in Tokyo to choose from, such as maid cafés, anime cafés, and themed movie cafés. Most of them are pretty cool, but there’s also those that you should stay away from.
Temari No Uchi – Cat Café .Yes, this is one animal café, but they treat the cats with both respect and love. Here the cats have plenty of space, fun toys, and several humans to play with whenever they feel like during the day.
If the cats don’t want to play, then you at least get a nice time in a fairytale café!”
Are you a cat lover? Click here to read more about these special themed cafes in Japan on Christine’s blog.
The sisters of the blog thetravelpockets describe their favourite themed café of Japan- “Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory- This was our favorite cafe in Japan as we love Totoro and Ghibli films. Their specialty is the cream puffs in the shape of a Totoro and they are so cute and tasty. So cute that you almost feel bad cutting into it. You can eat at their cafe upstairs or order takeout from downstairs. If you would like to sit at a table, make sure you arrive first thing in the morning as their tables fill up fast.”
Discover your own favourite themed cafe in Japan from the many enlisted by the sisters from “thetravelpockets” by clicking here.
7.Skiing or snowboarding
John and Juliette, who specialize in adventure travels hold the skiing experience in Japan in very high regard – “We were fortunate to spend two weeks skiing and snowboarding in Japan, discovering part of the Hokkaido region and also Tokyo. Japan is famous for its powdery snow, thanks to the cold air coming across from Siberia.”
“Hokkaido is the northern island of Japan, and home to probably the most well-known ski resort, Niseko. Niseko is a great choice for a first-timer’s visit to Japan due to it being very tourist-friendly. It’s also ideal for families. That comes with a few negatives of course – mainly that it gets really busy. But with four different slopes of the mountain to choose from, you’re bound to find some runs you love. Niseko also has great nightlife and vibrant ski village.”
Is skiing the dream adventure for you? Know more about the skiing experience of John and Juliette in the snows of Japan by clicking here.
Another popular blogger Mollie says-“Niseko is a town on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido near, and with mind blowing views of, Mount Yotei… if the powder stops falling for long enough for it to be visible.
Niseko is renowned as a world-class snow destination with people travelling from all over to experience it. As a beginner-intermediate skier I can say first hand that, though there are extensive off-piste options here for the advanced skier, there are plenty of easier runs too.
I would definitely recommend a trip to Rusutsu – another famous ski destination around an hour’s drive from Niseko where you can ski through an abandoned theme park and let yourself loose on some fresh pistes. The resort is worth a visit in itself just to walk through the traditional Japanese interior and food outlets”
Want to see what it might look like if you go for a skiing adventure in Japan? Click here to check popular blogger Mollie’s photo diary of her ski experience.
Bloggers Coralia and Gergely give a thumbs up to their experience of watching the sumo wrestling activity. This is what they have to say-“Enjoying sumo wrestling in Tokyo is a fantastic cultural experience whilst in Japan. Sumo is considered a national sport and many follow the yearly professional sumo tournament (honbasho) very closely. There are six honbasho held each year, a system established as early as 1958.”
Interested in the widely popular sport of sumo wrestling? Click here to know more about the insight of bloggers Carolia and Gergely on this traditional sport.
We have Nano B describing in detail the sumo wrestling schedules and arrangements in her blog -“There are six Grand Tournaments a year: three held in Tokyo (January, May and September), one in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July and Fukuoka in November. For fifteen days, starting and ending on a Sunday, wrestling matches are held every day, starting in the morning and lasting until 6 PM at night. The top division matches start at 4 PM. You are free to join in any time of the day. The tournaments are held in Kokugikan (National Sumo Arena) in Ryogoku which was once the largest and most bustling part of edo (current Tokyo).
In general, there are three tiers of seats available for purchase. The ringside seats, those down on the floor right in front of the ring, are the highest priced. The next level are box seats in which you sit on the floor on cushions. The third tier of seats are western style stadium seats.”
Want to know more about this interesting sport activity? Get all the necessary information you need about the popular sumo wrestling sport in Japan from Nano B by clicking here.
Other than the ones mentioned above, Japan has several more interesting experiences to offer to make sure the travel time spent there is memorable. Maybe it’s time to pack our bags and head straight to this beautiful country having that offers a superb blend of the old and the new.