It is impossible to run out of places to see and things to do in Japan. In addition to its ancient and historic landmarks and stunning natural scenery that are frequently mentioned in guide books and travel blogs, it also has a long list of unique activities that should take your trip’s enjoyment levels several notches higher.
On your next vacation to Japan, do not hesitate to check out the following to have amazing experiences that you will fondly remember and forever treasure:
- Snow Houses
In the northern regions of Japan, winter time sees heavy snowfall and below zero temperatures. If you plan to tour the country around mid-February, make sure to pack warm clothing and waterproof snow boots, and do not miss the snow houses, also known as kamakura, of Yokote in Akita Prefecture.
Every year on February 15 and 16, about a hundred dome-shaped snow huts are built around the city to honor the water god. Once its dark, the snow huts are illuminated, and people can go enter them to chat, feast on hot pot dishes, and drink sake.
- Buddhist temple overnight stay
In certain areas of Japan, there are Buddhist temples that offer rooms for people who wish to experience traditional Japanese lodging. Called shukubo, these places are common in areas along pilgrimage routes, such as in Mount Koya, Dewa Sanzan, Mount Mitake, and Kyoto.
If you book an overnight stay at a Buddhist temple, you will get a glimpse of what it is like to live like a monk. You will sleep in traditional, Japanese-style rooms that have tatami mats, paper sliding doors, and futons on the floor. In the morning, you will be served shojin ryori, which is a kind of vegetarian meal that monks usually have for breakfast. You can also participate in the morning prayers, and freely explore the temple complex.
- Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura
Founded in 1986, the Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura is a theme park that showcases the history and culture of Japan. It is located in Kinugawa Onsen in Nikko, occupying about 50 hectares of land that feature Edo period buildings, houses, and streets.
If you decide to visit it, you can dress up in traditional Edo period costumes, as you explore the different attractions in the park. You can take part in a wide variety of traditional Japanese themed activities, such as ninja workshops, shuriken throwing, and archery.
- Penis Festival
Every first Sunday of April, the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture celebrates the Penis Festival, or Kanamara Matsuri. The event is believed to have originated from those days when prostitutes would visit the Kanayama Shrine to pray for good health and protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Today, it is one of the country’s most interesting spectacles, attended by both local and foreign visitors who want to partake in the colorful and vibrant parade of a gigantic phallus around the shrine area, and contribute to the fundraising for HIV/AIDS awareness and research.
- Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Extending 37 kilometers through Tateyama, Toyama, and Omachi, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an amazing sightseeing route that offers magnificent views of the Northern Japan Alps.
It is popular for the 20-meter high snow walls called Yukino-otani, which are open to the public from around mid-April to mid-June; the Kurobe Dam, which, at 186 meters, is Japan’s tallest dam; the Shomyo Falls, the tallest waterfall in the country at 350 meters; and the blue ponds and flowing plains of Midagahara.
- Jigokudani Monkey Park
Inhabited by wild snow monkeys, or Japanese macaques, the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi in Nagano Prefecture is a highly recommended spot to anyone who loves wildlife.
Every winter, these freely roaming creatures descend from their homes up in the mountains down to the hot springs, or onsen, in the valley. They like to play or just relax in the warm waters there during the day, and retreat to the woods once it gets dark.
- Camel riding
Even in Japan, you can get an opportunity to ride a camel and see sand dunes up close, so there is no need to plan a different trip to travel to the deserts of Africa and the Middle East for these experiences.
The city of Tottori in Tottori Prefecture is home to the Tottori Sand Dunes, which is a vast space of fine sand that offers a wide variety of fun activities to do. It is quite popular for camel riding, as well as horse cart riding, paragliding, and sandboarding.
- Drift ice walking
Hokkaido is blessed with some of Japan’s best natural sites. All-year round, this island has tons to offer to keep you busy for your entire trip — from its majestic mountain ranges and incredible rock formations to its gorgeous coasts to stunning ravines.
If you visit Hokkaido in the winter, doing the drift ice walking tour should be a priority. Situated along the western coast of Shiretoko Peninsula, there is a town called Utoro where you can join a guided tour to walk on the solid drift ice by the shoreline. You will be required to wear the provided wet suit for comfort and safety.
- Suzuka Circuit
If you feel the need for speed on your Japan trip, head to Suzuka City in Mie Prefecture to burn rubber at the Suzuka International Racing Course, or Suzuka Circuit.
Measuring about 5.8 kilometers in length, it has hosted several important motorsport events since its founding in 1962, including the Formula One World Championship and the Japanese Grand Prix. For tourists, it has various facilities available, like a hotel, a restaurant, and an amusement park, where both adults and children can try their skills in biking, F1 racing, and go-karting, and experience the superfast speeds that real racing drivers feel when they are on the tracks.