16 Best Things To Do In Japan: What To Do For Fun In Japan

It’s hard to make a list of the best things to do in Japan, because there are just so many fun and interesting things to see and do in this island country.

Every island in Japan is interesting, but most of the best tourist sights for a first timer are in the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

There’s a huge variety of cultural attractions here, both old and new. You can ride a futuristic bullet train through the city, and visit a medieval Samurai castle in the same day.

We’ve visited Japan a bunch of times over the years, but it never gets old. It’s one of our favorite countries in the world to travel.

Read on for some of our top ideas of what to do in Japan!

Best Things To Do In Japan


1. Explore The Samurai Castles

Japan has lots of castles left over from its medieval period, when Samurai warriors ruled the land. These fortresses are impressive works of art and they can be fascinating to explore.

There are a bunch of these castles scattered across the country, but two of the top ones to see are Himeji Castle (near Osaka and Kyoto) and Matsumoto Castle (near Tokyo).

This is hands down one of my favorite things to do in Japan, and it’s pretty budget friendly!

Himeji Castle Japan
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Himeji Castle is the biggest and best samurai castle in Japan. It’s easy to visit from Osaka or Kyoto!

Matsumoto Castle Japan
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Matsumoto Castle is a black and white Samurai castle you can see on a day trip from Tokyo.


2. Wear A Kimono

There are lots of kimono rental shops in Japan where you can try on the country’s famous traditional dress for a day.

My wife rented a kimono in Tokyo and we headed over to the famous Shibuya Crossing — perfect photo spot! We also did a kimono rental in Kyoto, which is loaded with great photo spots because of all the temples and shrines.

If you ask the locals, they aren’t offended at all by foreigners wearing the kimono. Japanese people like to see others enjoying their culture.

Kimono rental Kyoto
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Intan had a blast doing the Kimono rental in Kyoto. Bali’s samurai woman!

Tokyo Pictures kimono girl
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Cheesing at Shibuya Crossing


3. Stroll A Landscape Garden

Japanese gardens are famously pristine and photogenic. There are lots of them all over Japan, and they’re great for a relaxing walk.

The gardens are nice year round, but they’re especially scenic when the fall colors start (usually in November).

The pics below are from the garden at Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto.

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Japan fall colors
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Autumn rainbow in Kyoto


4. Ride A Bullet Train

It’s always fun to travel by train, and Japan has some of the best. The trains here are very efficient and some of the rural routes can be incredibly scenic.

Japan’s futuristic bullet trains are called ‘shinkansen’ and they’re especially fun to ride since they can go hundreds of kilometers per hour. ​

You can ride these in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, and many other places in Japan.

Bullet Train Japan
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Faster than a speeding bullet!


5. See The Landmarks

A lot of the famous landmarks of Japan can be seen in the three popular cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

Top iconic sights include the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (Kyoto), Todaiji Temple (Nara), and the giant Kamakura Buddha (Tokyo).

Don’t forget Mount Fuji, which is possible to visit on a long day trip from Tokyo!

Kamakura Buddha
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The famous giant Buddha statue at Kamakura is easy to visit from Tokyo

Todaiji Temple Nara
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Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s best landmarks, and you can see it on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.


6. Visit The Temples & Shrines

Japan is full of ancient temples and shrines, and they’re as interesting as they are photogenic.

A lot of the best ones are in the Kyoto area (IMO), but every island in Japan has unique temples with their own designs and history.

A few of our top recommendations would be Sensoji Temple (Tokyo), Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto), and the Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto).

Read More: Best Japanese Temples & Shrines

Travel guy at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
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Sensoji Temple is the oldest and most popular temple in Tokyo

Kinkakuji Temple
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Kinkakuji Temple (also called the Golden Pavilion) probably takes the cake for the nicest looking temple in Japan.


7. See The Koyo (Fall Colors)

It’s hard to beat the autumn season in Japan, when the leaves turn into bright colors of orange, red, pink, and yellow.

The best time to see fall foliage in Japan depends on where you’re going, but for Kyoto and Tokyo it generally peaks in mid to late November.

The locals call the fall leaf colors ‘koyo’ and they can be really stunning.

Nara koyo fall colors
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Japan has incredible fall colors

red fall colors
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Trees on fire


8. See The Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

If there’s anything more popular than the autumn colors in Japan, it’s the sakura season.

The cherry blossoms are very photogenic and you can see them at a lot of Japan’s famous sights like Himeji Castle, Mount Fuji, and others.

The exact dates for this depend on the year and which part of the country you’re in, but generally the best viewing is in the last week of March.

9. Feed The Deer At Nara Park

The Nara Deer Park is famous for having hundreds of friendly deer you can feed and take pictures with. The semi-wild deer roam around the park freely and interacting with them can be lots of fun.

Also scattered around the 1,600-acre park are a bunch of old temples and shrines from hundreds of years ago, when Nara was the ancient capital of Japan.

It’s easy to visit the Nara Park on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto since they’re just a 30-60 minute train ride apart!

Read More: Nara Deer Park

Nara Deer Park in Japan
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You can interact with friendly deer at the Nara Park in Japan

Ancient Todaiji gate in Nara
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Ancient Nandaimon Gate at the Nara Park


10. Meet The Japanese Snow Monkeys

One of the best winter day trips you can do from Tokyo is to visit the Snow Monkey Park near Nagano.

This is a long day trip (ideally it’s better to do as a 2 day trip), but you get to hang out with Japanese snow monkeys in the mountains and watch them soak in the natural hot springs.

The monkeys are hilarious to watch, and photo ops are endless. There’s a bit of easy hiking required, but the snowy view along the way is one of the best parts of the trip.

Read More: Jigokudani Monkey Park

Snow monkeys bathing in a hot spring at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Japan
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The Japanese snow monkeys are a blast!

Snowy mountain village at Nagano
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Snowy mountain village at Nagano


11. Shop For Souvenirs

Of course you can’t leave Japan without doing some souvenir shopping.

There’s the usual assortment of fridge magnets and keychains, or you can bring home an artsy paper fan, ceramic bowl, kimono, or Japanese knife.

The Shinjuku and Shibuya districts in Tokyo are some of the best for shopping, but we also found some great souvenirs in places we didn’t expect it, like the street stalls at Sensoji Temple.

Japan fridge magnets
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Fridge magnets for sale in Tokyo

Kyoto souvenirs
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Old fashioned souvenirs in Kyoto


12. Enjoy Japanese Food

Where to begin? Japan is famous for its amazing food.

You have to try the Ramen, Sushi, Udon, Yakitori, and everything else the country is known for. Even the food in 7-Eleven and other convenience stores is top notch. All in all, eating is one of the best things to do in Japan.

Osaka is generally regarded as the best food city in Japan, and places like Tokyo and Kobe are also world famous for their cuisine. Tokyo has the most Michelin Star restaurants of any city in the world, with more than 200!

huge tuna dotonbori
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A fish salesman in Osaka preparing to cut up a massive tuna fish

ice cream flavors
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There’s a matcha (green tea) flavor of absolutely everything in Japan.


13. Try Japanese Snacks

Japanese candy is just as interesting as the food — stuff like Mochi and Daifuku might weird you out at first, but after awhile it really grows on you!

There are also sweet snacks to try, like Pocky and Melon Pan, plus reinvented western snacks like Kit Kat.

Japan is obsessed with Kit Kats, so there are more than 300 unique flavors to be found in the country, including things like peach, cheesecake, sake, and matcha (green tea).

If you fall in love with Japanese snacks, there are subscription services on the internet such as TokyoTreat, where you can have a box of unique Japanese snacks sent to you every month!

Tokyo Treat Snacks Candy
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TokyoTreat is a popular Japanese snack subscription


14. Wander Dotonbori Street

The Dotonbori district is one of Osaka’s main tourism hotspots, and it really comes alive at night.

This place is loaded with good restaurants, food stalls, bars and cafes, and interesting things to see and do.

We spent many nights at Dotonbori and barely scratched the surface. It’s pretty much a foodie paradise!

Dotonbori Osaka
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Welcome to Osaka!

dotonbori waterfront
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Famous electronic billboards at the Dotonbori riverside


15. See The Famous Shibuya Crossing

The Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is famous as the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world — as many as 3,000 people cross the intersection at a time!

It’s fun to watch the sea of people crossing the street, especially on a weekend. This also happens to be a great area for shopping or eating, so you’ll want to stick around.

Don’t forget to check out the Hachiko dog statue next to the Shibuya Crossing. It commemorates the sad story of a loyal dog that always waited at the train station every day for his owner, Professor Ueno, and continued the daily routine for nine years after his owner passed away. The faithful dog eventually died and was buried with his owner in 1935.

For a birds-eye view of the Shibuya Crossing, head over to the nearby Hikarie skyscraper, where you can take an elevator up to the 16th floor sky lobby and look out over the city from above.

Shibuya Crossing Japan
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Shibuya is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing


16. Visit The Samurai Museum

No Japan trip would be complete without a visit to the Samurai museum in Tokyo. You can see swords, armor, helmets, guns, and more historical stuff here.

The entrance fee is a little on the high side, but it includes a free guided tour in English.

After the tour you can get your photo snapped wearing a Samurai helmet, or you can even wear a full Samurai costume if you want!

Read More: Tokyo Samurai Museum

Samurai helmet on display at the Samurai Museum in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
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The Samurai Museum in Tokyo has some great swords and armor on display

More Japan Travel Tips

Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed these ideas of what to do in Japan. There are so many interesting and fun things to do in Japan, and we’ve barely scratched the surface here.

Don’t forget to check out my complete Japan Travel Guide for more tips, info, and photos!

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