6 Things You Need to Do in Japan

Japan is one of those countries that will leave you in shock and bedazzlement. Tokyo's futuristic urban jungle can put other big metropolises to shame. Modernity and traditional Buddhist views blend together creating a complex and unique culture. History is still very much alive here as ancient temples and shrines have stood the tests of time. If you're traveling to Japan, be prepared to leave your comfort zone behind and experience a nation unlike any other. Here are six things you need to do when in Japan.

Visit Kyoto's ancient shrines and temples



Kyoto is Japan's historical hub. As the nation's capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto houses an abundant amount of ancient temples and shrines.

Some popular temples include the gilded Kinkakuji TempleKiyomizudera Temple and Nanzenji Temple. If you're visiting Kyoto in autumn, make sure to visit the Tofuku-ji Temple which offers spectacular views of vibrant coloured maple leafs.



Shinto is a Japanese religion dating back to the 8th century. Shinto shrines are found all over the country and are places where people come to worship ancestors and spirits.

The most famous shrine in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is known for its thousands of red torii gates. Follow the gates and you'll come across a network of trails that will take you into a scenic forest. 

Discover authentic Japanese cuisine


You won't find California rolls or dynamite rolls in Japan. In fact, you'll barely see sushi rolls advertised in restaurants at all. That's because the "Japanese food" we are used to has been altered and modified to fit Western tastes. When in Japan, be prepared to try a variety of new foods and dishes.

If raw fish is something you crave, I guarantee you'll find the best sashimi you've ever tasted here. However, it'll come with a hefty price tag. It's not unusual for a slice of premium tuna to cost upwards of 800 yen (~$8).


For more budget friendly options, I recommend Japanese ramen (my absolute favourite!), donburi (rice bowls topped with meat, seafood or vegetables), Japanese curry, okonomiyaki (a type of savoury pancake), yakitori (meat skewers), tempura and udon noodles.


Play with deer in Nara Park


My favourite place in Japan was Nara Park because I got to hang out with these furry cuties all day long. There are over 1,200 domesticated deer who roam freely in the public park.

Centuries ago, sika deer were considered divine creatures. Today, they are treated as national treasures and protected by the government.


Street vendors sell deer cookies which you can feed to the animals. I spent my entire day's budget buying cookies for these fellas but it was all worth it! The deer are so friendly and aren't afraid to get up close and personal if they know you have cookies up your sleeve.

Nara Park is also home to many ancient temples that shouldn't be missed. Take a stroll through the impressive Todaiji Buddhist templeKasuga Taisha shrine and Kofukuji Temple.

Experience the wild party scene in Tokyo

Photo Credit: Rei Hardt

Tokyo has one of the world's best concert scenes and nightlife that can rival Miami, Las Vegas and Ibiza. Whether you're into techno, punk, hip-hop or jazz you'll be sure to find concert halls or bars that cater to your music tastes. The Japanese also know how to keep the party going as clubs don't shut its doors until morning. The best neighbourhoods for a wild night out include Shibuya, Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ginza and Ebisu.

Not a big partier? For a relaxing evening, head to an izakaya pub for casual drinks and meals. You could also show off your singing talents at karaoke bars.

Photo Credit: Connie

Make your own cup of noodles at Osaka's Instant Ramen Museum


Can't live without instant noodles? If so, you'll have to pay a visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum located in Osaka. Here, you'll not only learn about the history and evolution of instant ramen, you'll also have the opportunity to build your own cup of noodles.


You'll start by designing and colouring your cup. From there, you'll choose your soup base and decide what toppings you'll want to go in with your noodles. The museum has an endless array of toppings including dried shrimp, pork, seaweed, corn, green beans and much more. At the end, your cup will be sealed, shrink wrapped and ready to be taken home.

The noodle making experience costs a measly 300 yen (~$3) while admission to the museum is free.

Learn how to play Pachinko 

Photo Credit: MsSaraKelly

Are you feeling lucky? Why not to try your hand at pachinko. Pachinko is a mechanical game that's a cross between a slot machine and pin ball. Don't know how to play? It's super easy to pick up and very fun to play. To start, you'll have to fire balls into the machine. The balls fall through a series of pins and depending where they land, you'll either be rewarded with more balls or lose the ones you just fired. The object of the game is to collect as many balls as possible. The more balls you win, the larger your payout will be.

Photo Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson

Once you end the game, you'll have to exchange your balls for prizes first because gambling in Japan is technically illegal. Prizes can take many forms. If you win over a certain amount of balls, you'll be given metal bars or novelty chips which can be exchanged for cash at an outside establishment. If you don't win enough to cash out, you'll be rewarded with small prizes such as snacks, pens and cigarette lighters.

Pachinko parlours are found on almost every street corner in the big cities with many being open 24-hours a day.


Have you been to Japan too? What else did you love about the country? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Melissa Li

I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

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