10 must do things in Japan!
Try some good sushi
First things first, you need to get to some quality sushi. Although it won’t be too hard to find considering where you are, try to splurge a little bit (although we know $1 sushi can be preeeetty good in Japan) and aim for a place where they only serve sushi or specialise in it- You know those places mean business.
If you’re in Osaka, head down to Harukoma Sushi. It may not look like much, but the line out the front will tell you otherwise. Inside, not only will you find several floors of seating, you’ll also find a sushi train, a sushi bar and a number of sushi chefs preparing some mouth watering sushi platters.
If you’re in Kyoto, we recommend going straight to Nishi Market nice an early for some fresh sashimi. Although its not a restaurant and you’re not exactly seated, you get to choose your fish and have it sliced up for you right there and then resulting in the freshest melt in your mouth sashimi you’ve ever tasted! We suggest you go ahead and skip breakfast altogether before you head there because you’ll find plenty of other seafood options such as sea urchin, octopus and oysters. Make sure to wash that down with a warm glass of sake!
Check out Dōtonburi
It’s safe to say that Dōtonburi is known as the go-to tourist destination in Osaka, but don’t let that stop you! The busy hub is equally loved by the locals and the foreigners who visit it.
Originally a theatre district, Dōtonburi has evolved over time to become a popular nightlife and shopping area. Famous for inspiring Scott Ridley’s cult film “Blade Runner”, the busy district runs alongside the Dōtonburi Canal and is lit up by bright neon billboards advertising bars, shops, and Japanese brands. You’ll also find many cosy bars and eateries dotted here and there, and entire alleyways dedicated to food and drink. The area itself is so large that there’s something new to explore everyday!
Spend a day at Universal Studios
Whether it’s your inner child or your inner nerd (HARRY POTTER FANS UNITE!), Universal Studios is a must-do for everyone. Only a 30 minute train ride from Osaka, the train takes you directly to Universal Studio Japan’s very own train station.
All you have to do is hop off and walk through the gates. Try to skip the crowd by getting there half an hour before opening times, that way you’ll be first in line for some of the best rides the park has to offer such as Harry Potter and the forbidden journey, Hollywood Dream and the terrifying Flying Dinosaur- not for the faint hearted!
Catch a glimpse of a geisha
Have a wander through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. Here you’ll find a mix of restaurants ranging from fine-dining to low-key eateries and bars. Scattered in-between these are traditional Japanese teahouses where geishas entertain their guests including tourists. The best time to visit Gion would be early evening when the tea house lanterns are lit and the geishas flit in and out of doorways to all their appointments. If you visit during the day you may also catch a glimpse of a maiko (an apprentice geisha), running errands during the day.
Just remember to be courteous and polite and always ask before taking photos.
Go to a sake bar
If you don’t know already, sake is an alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. Sounds gross but tastes delicious! It is also the national drink of Japan and is popular throughout the world.
Japan has many sake bars dedicated to sake making and tasting. Each variety is made using a different technique and tailored to certain tastes. You may have tried sake before but if you haven’t tried it in its country of origin, we strongly recommend you do.
Visit a temple
While there are hundreds of beautiful temples to visit in Japan, chances are that you won’t get a chance to see them all. It can be hard to figure out which temples to visit but never fear, Global Study is here to help!
For a detailed list of temples to visit in Japan, head to our “Top 10 temples to visit in Japan” list, but if you’re looking for one to start you off we recommend the Fushimi Inari-taisha Temple. Nestled at the base of Mount Inari and founded in 711 A.D, the temple is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s most famous for its bright orange and red colour and the 10,000 (maybe more) Torii gates that trail all the way up the mountain leading to smaller shrines. The hike takes about 2 hours and is definitely worth the climb. Beautiful view aside, you feel like you’re stepping back in time as you trek the ethereal trail dotted with mini shrines, large statues of foxes representing Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and traditional restaurants.
Whether you’re a diehard fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli or have only seen their classic films like Spirited Away, either way you will love exploring this temple. After your hike, you should plan to return to the base of the mountain in time for the evening markets to come to life. Here you can try many traditional snacks such as mochi, fried kobe steak, and Okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes)!
Buy something from a vending machine!
Japan pretty much sells everything in a vending machine, from hamburgers, eggs, and hot ramen, to slippers, floral arrangements, draft beer, and puppies- THAT’S RIGHT, PUPPIES.
So, do the right thing and buy something from a vending machine. Probably not a puppy though… we aren’t too sure about that one.
Go to a themed restaurant/cafe
You’ll find these pretty much everywhere and we can almost guarantee that there is one to suit every appetite ;P. Japan tends to get pretty crazy with themes. Ranging from your basic animal themed restaurants such as cats, dogs, owls, or hedgehogs, to your standard maid, monster, vampire, or robot restaurants.
We recommend checking out the famous robot restaurant in Tokyo. Known for its robotic monsters, lasers beams, and acrobatic dancers, the show is loud, bright, entertaining, and ridiculously crazy. If you want a taste of Japan’s pop culture, this is the place to find it!
If you’d rather go to a animal restaurant, try doing a bit of research into how the animals are treated and maintained. We recommend going to cafes that support and look after shelter animal and strays.
Go go-karting in streets of Tokyo city!
Yep, thats right! All your Mario kart dreams have come true! If you have a driver’s license (from any country) you can go-kart in Shinjuku or Shibuya for roughly AU $50-$60! You have the option of choosing morning sessions, afternoon sessions, or the most popular-evening sessions where you can race through the city lights. If you’re an adrenaline junkie or just love to try new things, this activity is definitely for you. Just remember dressing up as a Mario Kart character is a MUST!
Visit Mount Fuji
Besides the fact that it is beautiful to look at with its perfect symmetrical shape and snow peaked top, it is also the tallest mountain in Japan AND an active volcano. Mount Fuji has been immortalised through centuries of Japanese art and is one of the most iconic symbols to represent Japan as a country.
There are a number of easily accessible locations from Tokyo that will give you the best view of Mt Fuji- our favourite spot is Lake Kawaguchiko, or if you’re willing to travel an extra 20 minutes, you can get a beautiful view from Hakone.
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