Last Updated on December 15, 2020 by Tom Shu
We love visiting Japan and always can’t wait to come back! Over the past few years, its definitely become our favorite country to go to whenever we can.
The thing about Japan is that there is just so much to do. Every city, prefecture, and region is different with different cultures, foods, and of course must dos!
There is definitely no other country like it and we’re not even slightly exaggerating when we say that.
In order to come up with the Best 101 List we possibly could, we spent countless hours going over EVERYTHING we did in Japan over the last couple of years.
On top of that, we took items from both of our own Japan bucket lists (Tom and I have different bucket lists for Japan) and combined our favorites with some of the things we have already done.
This list will continually be updated with new things that we have done, places we have visited, and things we have eaten, so keep checking back for more!
1. Hike up Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is a hike you won’t want to miss. Rich in history and simple enough for even the most inexperienced hiker, this hike needs to be on your itinerary.
2. Visiting Fushimi Inari at Night
In case you are unaware, Fushimi Inari Shrine is open throughout the night. Go and experience the beauty of this famous shrine under the cover of the night sky.
3. Sunrise at Higashiyama in Kyoto
One of Japan’s most well-preserved pockets of history, Higashiyama is an incomparable experience when you are there at sunrise. It’s also a great place to go and pick up souvenirs.
4. Dressing up in a Kimono in Kyoto
Kyoto is the place that sums up all the things you imagine when you picture a trip to Japan, and what Japanese vacation is complete without donning a kimono at least once?
5. Nishiki Market in Kyoto
If trying authentic Japanese food is on your itinerary (and it should be), you can not miss a trip to Nishiki Market. The local cuisine and the street market atmosphere blend phenomenally.
6. Visit Kinkakuji in Kyoto
You know that golden palace you automatically picture when you think of Japan? That’s the Kinkakuji Temple. Aside from stunning views, it also showcases outstanding Japanese architecture.
7. Have a traditional meal in Kyoto
Food is an important part of any trip. A traditional meal in Kyoto is something you can’t miss.
8. Visiting teamlab borderless in Tokyo
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing, unparallelled experience, visit teamLab Borderless. It’s an interactive art museum that moves and changes. This unprecedented encounter is unlike anything you can imagine.
9. Totoro Cafe near Tokyo
Whether you have a sweet tooth, you just love anything to do with Totoro, or both, the Totoro Cafe makes sweets so cute you won’t want to eat them.
10. Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo
Local legends are always a charming addition to a vacation. The Gotokuji Temple is home to a very famous legend of the beckoning cat – and it’s beckoning you.
11. Survive the Walk Across Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
We’ve all seen the controlled chaos of the Shibuya crossing in movies. It’s an iconic Tokyo scene. If you are going to Japan, it’s a scene of beautiful dishevelment that needs to be experienced in real life.
12. Explore Harujuku Street in Tokyo
Interested in teenage culture? Have a soft spot for cosplay? Then make your way down to Harujuku street in Tokyo. This street is a hub of ahead-of-the-curve fashion botiques, cosplay stores, and a multitude of restaurants.
13. Visit Roppongi at Night
If all you want from your vacation is one memorable night out on the town, visit Roppongi Tokyo. This is the hub of tourist nightlife.
14. Visit the Anime Museum in Tokyo
Free entertainment might sound pretty amazing on its own, the excitement is only compounded by the fact that the Suginami Animation Museum is dedicated to cartoons and traditional anime.
15. Get Tickets to visit Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo
It’s hard to get anywhere in life without having come across something from Studio Ghibli. Once you’re in Japan, you have to visit the Studio Ghibli museum. Between short films and nostalgic exhibitions, it’s worth a visit if you’re one of the lucky few to snag a ticket.
16. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
By far one of the most stunning sights in Japan, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is both regal and incredibly zen. Pictures will never do this gorgeous phenomenon justice. Just remember, if you want to give yourself a chance at all to get a photo like this, you have to get here at or before sunrise!
17. Bike in Arashiyama
Aside from the Bamboo Forest, Arashiyama has many beautiful sights that are all worth seeing. There is no better way to see Arashiyama than to hop on a bike and go.
18. Stay at a Ryokan
Are you looking to find a fully immersive experience while you are in Japan? You have to go stay at a Ryokan. Dawn to dusk there are opportunities to experience an entire new culture.
19. Sunrise Mount Fuji Reflection at Lake Kawaguchiko
Are you looking to take an idyllic photo of Mount Fuji? Be sure to make your way to Lake Kawaguchiko for the sunrise. It’s a view worth waking up for.
20. Hike near Mount Fuji
If you want to get outside and experience beautiful views of Mount Fuji, you have to go for a hike on one of the many trails surrounding Mount Fuji. While it’s not for the faint of heart, the Mount Onigadake offers stunning scenery and year-round access.
21. Eat at one of the Ramen Streets in a Train Station
While it may come as a surprise to you, some of the most renowned Ramen in Japan comes from a train station. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
22. Spend a Night on the Spirited Away Esque Miyajima Island
While you may be able to recall the iconic floating gate of Miyajima, the experience isn’t complete until you stay overnight on Miyajima Island.
23. Step Back in Time at Nara
If it’s historical destinations that you’re after, Nara needs to top your list. Filled with beautiful pieces of history, it’s worth visiting even if you aren’t a history buff.
24. While You’re there, Make Sure to Feed the Nara Deer
Are you looking to connect with nature on your trip to Japan? What better way than to feed animals that have officially been declared a national treasure? This time you’re encouraged to feed the animals.
25. Eat Yummy Food at Dotonburi in Osaka
Tourism in Japan is not complete without visiting Dotonburi. Filled with a plethora of restaurants and all the bright lights you could want from a big city, Dotonburi needs to be on your itinerary.
26. Get Lost in the Books at Hirakata T-Site in Osaka
If you’ve ever dreamed of a multi-level bookstore complete with cozy cafes and a multitude of books to choose from, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Hirakata T-Site. The glass-walled building is a must-see.
27. Get High up at Umeda Sky Tower in Osaka
Everyone can agree that feats of architectural ingenuity are worth the tourism they bring. The Umeda Sky Tower is no exception. Go walk across the observation deck to complete your stay in Japan.
Pro Tip: This picture was taken on the elevator up to the entrance of the observation deck which is free!
28. Take a Photo by the Puffer Fish in Shinsekai, Osaka
Don’t blow your opportunity to get the perfect Instagram picture on your trip. The iconic puffer fish sign outside Zuboraya restaurant in Osaka will make a great photo bursting with clever puns to use as a caption.
29. Catch the Sunset Colors at Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is an incredible location to visit, but no words will ever be enough to describe the breathtaking beauty of the castle at sunset.
30. Learn Some History Inside Osaka Castle
Despite some underwhelming coverage, going inside Osaka Castle is worth it. The castle is teeming with history and is situated so that you have stunning views of the castle moat and surrounding areas.
31. Eat Some Delicious Kushiage (fried skewers) in Osaka
Food is an important part of any trip. Whether you have an adventurous palate or not, you have to at least try the kushiage in Osaka.
32. Try Traditional Takoyaki in Osaka
Osaka is a food mecca for the tourist. Boiled octopus deep fried in batter is one of the foods Osaka is famous for. Don’t call yourself a foodie if you haven’t tried Takoyaki.
33. Visit Universal Studios Japan in Osaka
Minions, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park all in one place? Universal Studios in Japan is any movie fan’s dream and it means a fun time for everyone.
34. Feed the Rabbits on Rabbit Island near Hiroshima
If it’s warm, fuzzy feelings that you’re seeking on your trip to Japan, look no further. An island of bunnies is beckoning you to come and experience the overload of adorable creatures.
35. Visit the Incredible A-Bomb Site in Hiroshima
Hauntingly tragic and fascinating, the Hiroshima atomic bomb site is an awe-inspiring look into the realities of the first atomic bomb in human history.
36. Munch on Okonomiyake in Osaka
Looking for a culinary adventure? Try one of the “savory pancakes” or okonomiyaki in Osaka. These cabbage-filled marvels are sure to be a hit.
37. Indulge in Sashimi near Tsukiji Market
Sashimi has gained popularity recently, but there is nothing like the sashimi when you’re near one of the world’s largest fish markets, Tsukiji.
Although the fish market of Tsukiji has closed and reopened as Toyosu Fish Market, the area around what was once Tsukiji Fish Market is still worth a visit. Most importantly, there is still a bunch of delicious sashimi to find!
38. Get your Cute On at an Official Rilakkuma Store
Whether you go into the store just for the experience or you go in hoping to bring home a cute, cuddly bear, you need to go into an official Rilakkuma store. They’re teeming with cuteness.
39. Take a Ride on the Shinkansen
Part of any true cultural experience is braving the public transportation. While you’re in Japan, you need to take a ride on the Shinkansen. This bullet train will be a memorable adventure.
40. Climb up to Chureito Pagoda near Lake Kawaguchiko
It’s hard to think of Japan and not think of breathtaking views of Mount Fuji. One of the most quintessential views comes from Chureito Pagoda, but pictures won’t ever do it justice.
41. Hang out with Cats at a Cat Cafe
The internet is filled with pictures and videos of the famous cat cafes in Japan. The hype is worth it to go enjoy a meal with these friendly felines.
42. Cheer on a Local Team at a Japanese Baseball Game
While apple pies and baseball games are thought to be American classics, baseball is actually the national sport of Japan and going to a game while you’re there will be a wonderful addition to your trip.
43. Eat my Favorite Style of Ramen Tsukemen (dipping ramen) from a Tsukemen Joint
It’s not chips and salsa, it’s Tsukemen – or dipping noodles – that you’ll want to try while you’re in Japan. Similar to ramen, this Japanese cuisine needs to be on your culinary itinerary.
44. Visit Hitachi Seaside Park in the Fall or Spring
Blooming hillsides and an amusement park come together to form the Hitachi Seaside Park. During fall or spring, when everything is in bloom, this is a sight you won’t want to miss.
45. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Fresh Matcha Ice Cream
Matcha ice cream may be gaining popularity around the world, but nothing beats the original. This Japanese ice cream is a refreshing treat to round out your vacation.
46. Play Pachinko or at Least Visit a Pachinko Parlor
Even if you decide that you aren’t up for trying your hand at gambling, Pachinko has such a vast culture surrounding it, you would be doing yourself a favor by at least stepping into a Pachinko parlor.
47. Eat at KFC during Christmas anywhere in Japan
KFC and Christmas might not seem like compatible concepts, but in Japan, KFC runs an entire Christmas campaign complete with seasonal meals. Have a merry finger-lickin Christmas!
48. See the Cherry Blossoms During Cherry Blossom Season
More than just a catchy name for a lotion scent, the Japanese cherry blossoms are breathtaking. If it’s possible to plan your trip when the blossoms are in season, do it. You won’t regret it.
49. Visit the Hot Spring Monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park
If you think monkeys are cute, wait until you’ve seen one bathing in a hot spring. The Jigokudani Monkey Park hosts a group of monkeys who have an adorable habit of hanging out in hot springs.
50. Turn your Video Game Dreams into Reality by Joining a Maricar Race
Fulfill that childhood dream to be part of a Mario Kart race. Don a costume, hop in a go-kart, and travel through city streets of Japan. Let’s a-go!
51. Go Find Pikachu at the Pokemon Center
While we are fulfilling childhood dreams, imagine a place where you can forget the real world and pretend that you can catch them all. The mega Pokemon center will warm your nostalgic heart.
52. Meet Some New Monkey Friends at Arashiyama Monkey Park
Furry friends seem to be common on this list, but it’s such a unique experience to interact so closely with nature. Make a monkey friend or two while you’re in Japan at the Arashiyama Monkey Park.
53. Go Wild and Sing Karaoke
Even if you can’t sing, the experience alone is worth it. The incredible technology and immense popularity of karaoke make it an ideal addition to any visit to Japan.
54. Rent a Fun Car to Drive from Fun 2 Drive
Take your pick from a range of JDM sports cars to take on a cruise through the Japanese mountain passes. You get the cool car and the great views!
55. Eat a Black Volcano Boiled Egg
If you had the chance to try unique cuisine and potentially add seven years to your life, wouldn’t you do it? So why haven’t you tried one of the black volcano boiled eggs in Japan yet?
56. Go Back in Time at a Kabuki Performance
What could be better than an impressive live performance with years of history behind the methods? A trip to Japan can’t be considered complete without attending a Kabuki perfomance.
57. Visit a Cafe that does 3D Latte Art
The internet has given us many examples of impressive latte art, but it’s something worth experiencing for yourself. Many of the themed cafes in Japan boast of their unique latte art.
58. Try as Many Kit-Kat Flavors as you Can
Japanese Kit-Kats are unlike any other. They have a multitude of different Kit-Kat flavors. Make yourself a Kit-Kat passport and mark off the flavors as you try them!
59. Visit the Beautiful Wisteria Tunnel in Bloom
While it seems like everyone knows about the Japanese Cherry Blossoms, the wisteria tunnel is not quite as common, but it is certainly just as breathtaking.
60. Have Dinner at one of the Alice in Wonderland Themed Cafes
Dinner and a show takes on a whole new meaning in these real life recreations of Lewis Carroll’s famous novels. Jump down the rabbit hole into this one-of-a-kind dining experience.
61. Go Find Nemo at Tokyo DisneySea
While most of us are aware that there is another Disneyland location in Japan, not everyone knows about DisneySea, the aquatic themed park is unique to Japan.
62. Hang Out with All Your Favorite Sanrio Characters at Sanrio Puroland
Basically the Disneyland for Hello Kitty enthusiasts, this theme park isn’t something you’ll find anywhere else in the world.
63. Challenge Your Friends to a Race at Sega Joypolis
Remember the arcade racing games of our youth? What if you could play one of those from behind the wheel of an actual car? Well, SEGA Joypolis lets you play arcade racing games against other players, while seated in the car you’re racing on the game. They also carry a huge assortment of other arcade games.
64. Visit Hokkaido Lavender Fields in the Summer
Forget the lavenders in France, this hidden treasure of Japan wins the beauty contest. During the summer, when the lavenders are in bloom, this treat for your senses is both relaxing and awe-inspiring.
65. Attend One of the Amazing Seasonal Festivals Anywhere in Japan
Japan has festivals all throughout the year. While each festival provides a unique experience, it’s worth it to see if any festivals coincide with your planned trip. Two festivals that I’ve had on my bucket list for as long as I can remember is the Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto and the Sapporo Snow Festival!
66. Travel to an Alternate Universe at the Robot Restaurant
Aptly named Robot Restaurant, this restaurant is jam-packed full of light shows, robotic performances, and an experience unlike any other.
67. Get Adventurous and Try an Intimidating New Food Like Natto
While fermented soybeans might not sound like something you necessarily want to eat, but natto, a nutrition-packed food, is a Japanese tradition. Be adventurous and give it a try!
68. Get a Birds Eye View of Tokyo from the Top of Tokyo Tower
People go to Paris to see the Eiffel tower, so while you are in Japan, check out the Eiffel Tower inspired Tokyo Tower. It’s equally as gorgeous.
69. Find Out Why Japanese Cars are so Great at the Toyoto Museum
Did you know that you can go to a museum of entirely Toyota automobiles? Go and admire the shift from old-school sedans to today’s lowered race cars.
70. Stand in Awe Under the Great Buddha of Kamakura
Whether you want to marvel at a giant statue, appreciate the history of Buddhism, or appreciate the fact that this statue withstood a tsunami while the house around it collapsed, the great Buddha of Kamakura is a must-see.
71. Create Your Own Meal at a 7-11
Forget everything you knew about your neighborhood 7-11. Japan has gone above and beyond to make the Japanese 7-11 experience one worth having.
72. Treat Yo Self with some Fluffy Japanese Pancakes
Pancakes so soft that they jiggle when you touch the plate and so cute you don’t want to eat. How can you say no to something like this?!
73. Tap Into Your Adventurous Side and Go Skiing or Snowboarding
While skiing and snowboarding may not be the first thing you think of when you imagine visiting Japan, if you’re there during the winter season, it’s worth shredding some powder in some pretty amazing places.
74. While you’re at it, Go Scuba Diving Sometime too
Japan is surrounded by water that is teeming with unique and wonderful aquatic life. The best experience is a hands on experience, but you won’t know that until you try scuba diving in Japan for yourself.
75. Immerse yourself in a Sumo Wrestling Match
If you want a truly rounded Japanese experience, you have to go watch sumo wrestling. The ancient sport is still around today and it’s worth experiencing at least once in your life.
76. Satisfy Your Inner Child and Fly a Carp Kite
Nothing sparks joy like flying a kite, so while you are in Japan, take a moment to relax and fly one of the beautiful and ornate carp kites.
77. Visit the Birthplace of Sapparo Beer at the Sapporo Beer Museum
Learn all about where the famous Sapporo Beer comes from and try some for yourself. Who doesn’t like an entire museum dedicated to beer!
78. Get your Game On at a Japanese Arcade
Don’t go in expecting the little arcade at the mall. Japanese arcades are filled with generations of gaming experiences.
79. Get Lost in at least One Bookstore in Japan
While we’ve mentioned Hirakata T-Site already, it’s honestly a treat to enter into any number of bookstores in Japan. Whether you’re looking for something filled to the brim with old books or trying to catch up on your manga collection, Japanese bookstores are always a unique experience.
80. Go Visit at Least One Candy Store
Satisfy your sweet tooth and gain a new cultural experience at the same time by taking a stroll into a candy store in Japan.
81. Try One of McDonald’s Menu Items Only Sold in Japan
By now, it’s pretty well known that McDonald’s has different menus for different locations, but the Japanese menu at McDonald’s is pretty amazing.
82. Drink a Melon Soda
You read that right. Japan offers many unique products, one of which is a melon flavored soda. It’s a popular treat.
83. Try Calpis
Calpis is a milk based beverage that is unique to Japan. We both like it a lot, but it is kind of weird when you first see it. Try it and you might just like it!
84. Explore the Amazing Fall Colors of Japan
If you can do it one time in your life, you should definitely try to visit Japan during fall color season. Magical is an understatement! The leaves throughout the country do change colors at different times, so keep an eye out on fall color reports before you go.
85. Be Part of a Chanyo (Tea Ceremony)
Dating back thousands of years, the chanyo, or tea ceremony is a fundamental part of Japanese culture. If you have the chance to participate, we highly recommend it.
86. Get your Feet Sandy at Tottori Sand Dunes
While most people picture Mount Fuji or the bamboo forest when they think of Japan, they often forget that Japan houses an impressive stretch of sand dunes.
87. While you’re there, Visit the Sand Museum
Although it’s tempting to make a sand castle while you are visiting the sand dunes, you’ll be utterly blown away at the sand art displayed at the sand museum of Tottori.
88. Try Real Wasabi at Daio Wasabi Farm
One of the largest wasabi farms in Japan, the Daio Wasabi farm holds water wheels from a film set and offers raft tours throughout the property.
89. Visit the Odd and Interesting Yoro Park
If you ever wondered what it might be like to experience a world of unexpected oddities, you need to plan a visit to Yoro Park. Guides who know their way around can show you through the unusual park.
90. Eat as Many Soft Serve Ice Creams as you can in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is known all over Japan to have some of the best dairy products in the whole country. It’s not wonder that the soft serve ice cream here is on another level. Do as we did and try as many soft serve ice creams from as many different stores as you can!
91. Live your Willy Wonka Dreams at the Ishiya Chocolate Factory
Here is your chance to visit a chocolate entertainment park if you have never done so! Don’t forget to pick up a pack or two of the Shiroi Koibito cookies which is what the factory is famous for!
92. Be Mesmerized by Senoji Temple
There are many temples in all of Japan, but one of my favorites of all time in Senoji Temple in Tokyo. Many consider this temple to be the most famous in all of Tokyo and I can definitely see why. Don’t forget to try the yummy food next to the temple entrance too!
93. Stumble into a Fairy Tale at the Karuizawa Picture Book Museum
The Karuizawa Picture Book Museum houses rare copies of multiple works of children’s literature. Set in the middle of a lush forest, and housed in buildings that look like a fairy tale, anyone feeling a little nostalgic will want to visit.
94. Wonder your way through the Tunnels at Tonkararin
Theorize, muse, and wonder your way through the tunnels at Tonkararin. There is very little explanation for this phenomenon and a lot of mystery surrounding it. So, don your sleuthing hat and get exploring.
95. Crepe Vending Machine. Need to Say More?
You think you know crepes, until you order crepes from a vending machine. It’s one of those unique experiences in Japan that you won’t want to miss.
96. Confuse your Taste Buds with Wacky Flavors of Lays Chips
As you well know by now, Japan hosts many food and drink options that have inventive new flavors. Lay’s potato chips are no exception. Will you try all the flavors?
97. Don’t Just Stop with the Lays, Make Sure to Check out the Oreos too!
Once you’ve tried all the crazy Lay’s potato chips, venture into the world of crazy Oreos flavors. Japan has quite a few unique options that you can’t find anywhere else.
98. Get your Surf On
Hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding are not the only outdoor sports Japan has to offer. Since it is an island, and thus surrounded by ocean, Japan has some pretty amazing surfing opportunities.
99. Adventure through the Flower Market of Ota
What could be better than adventuring in a foreign country? What about adventuring in a foreign country and having some beautiful flowers to brighten your hotel room? Visit the Flower Market in Ota for a huge selection of beautiful wholesale flowers.
100. Have a Meal at a Maid Cafe
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of getting served by girls dressed as maids, that doesn’t mean you won’t! Plus maid cafes are one of those things that are unique to Japan and something to definitely try out.
101. Try Jingisukan, the Soul Food of Hokkaido
All I need is 3 words here, scrumptious lamb barbeque!