There are several reasons why Japan is one of the most popular destinations on the planet. A lot of people go there to visit ancient castles, shrines, temples, and gardens, many visit to try a wide selection of delicious dishes, and others fly there to see stunning natural landscapes and be close to nature. There are also some that want to experience something different, something unique that no other place on earth can offer.
If you want to make your upcoming Japan trip a memorable one, below are examples of odd and out-of-the-ordinary things you can do:
1. Visit the toilet museum.
One of the best things about Japan is the high-tech toilets. You can find them in many Japanese people’s houses, hotels and other lodging, and public places, like department stores, museums, airports, train stations, theme parks, and restaurants. They come with several buttons that offer a variety of functions, including:
- For the bidet function – ビデ ( “bide”)
- To flush – 流す (“nagasu”)
- To activate the water jet – おしり(“oshiri”)
- To stop the water jet – 止 (“to[maru]”)
- For water pressure – 水勢( “suisei”)
- To increase water pressure – 強 ( “tsuyo[i]”)
- To decrease water pressure – 弱 (“yowa[i]”)
Some Japanese toilets even have a “flushing sound” or “water sounds” button that plays fake flushing or water sounds that can mask any noise you do not want other people to hear while you are doing your business; and the “deodorize” button that emits a pleasant scent to eliminate any bad smell.
In Kitakyushu, the Toto Museum is a two-story building that houses a good collection of toilets, washlets, toilet seats, urinals, toilet bowls, bath tubs, and bathroom units from the establishment of Toto in 1917 up to this day. Visitors can enter for free, and learn about the history of Japanese toilets and Toto in English, Chinese, or Korean.
To get there, ride bus #21, #22, #23, #25, #26, or #43 from Kokura Station, and then get off at the Kifunemachi stop, which is just across the street from the museum. Alternatively, you can ride the Kitakyushu Monorail from Kokura Station, and then get off at the Kawaraguchi-Mihagino Station, which is a 10-minute walk away from the museum.
2. Go to a maid café.
Maid cafes are places where the waitresses cosplay as maids, treating their customers as masters and mistresses. Around Japan, there are over 200 maid cafes, and several of them are found in Akihabara, which is the otaku capital of the country.
Usually, going to a maid café can cost around 2,000 yen for desserts, snacks, and drinks. The entire experience includes watching song and dance performances by the maids, interacting with the maids, and partaking in games and photo ops with the maids for an additional fee. However, it prohibits physical contact with the maids and taking photos of the maids with your phones or cameras.
3. Attend the Penis Festival.
The city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture observes a very interesting event that draws dense crowds every spring — the Penis Festival or the Kanamara Matsuri. Held every first Sunday of April at Kanayama Shrine, it was first celebrated in 1969 and was a spectacle highly anticipated by sex workers who wanted to pray for their sexual health and wellbeing. Nowadays, it has become one of Japan’s most unique festivals attended by not only the Japanese people but also by foreign tourists, and an important fundraising event for HIV awareness and research.
The festival features a big parade of a mikoshi or portable shrine carried by people donning traditional wear, and many gigantic phalli, carried by men in wigs and makeup, wearing bright pink kimono. Around the site, there are numerous stalls and shops where you can find various Japanese dishes, such as okonomiyaki, yakisoba, takoyaki, and themed treats, such as lollipops shaped like penises and vulvas.
To watch the procession, you have to be there before noon. If you are coming from central Tokyo, you can ride the Keiyu Line from Shinagawa Station, get off at Keikyu-Kawasaki Station, where you have to transfer to the Keikyu-Dashi Line, and then get off at Kawasaki-Daishi Station.
4. Enjoy a sand bath.
Japan prides itself of high quality onsen or natural hot springs that can relax and rejuvenate the body and the mind, and on the island of Kyushu, there is a different kind of onsen experience that you might want to try — a sand bath.
In Ibusuki, which is an onsen town situated in the southern portion of Kagoshima Prefecture, getting almost the entirety of your body buried in sand is a popular activity among local and international tourists. The sand is kept warm by the onsen waters underground, offering a variety of health benefits, including reduced tension in the muscles and improved blood circulation.
At the sand bath facility, you must change into a yukata, and walk to the sand bath site where staff members bury you under natural hot sand. Usually, customers stay buried for 10 to 20 minutes, before they get up and wash their bodies off, and enjoy a regular onsen bath that is also offered in the facility.
To get there, you can take a limited express train from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki Station, and walk, take a taxi, or ride a bus to a sand bath facility that you prefer. Links to the official English websites of the sand baths are below: