Read on to discover some once-in-a-lifetime activities to try during your time in Japan. Whether you're a foodie, a nature-lover, or even an artist, there is sure to be something for you.
1. Wisteria Tunnel
If you're planning a trip to Japan in late April and/or early May, you're in luck; this is the perfect time to check out the gorgeous spring blossoms of Kitakyushu City. Every year, nature lovers from all over the world flock to the region to admire the local wisteria tunnel, a lush, immersive garden draped over a serene walking path sure to make you feel as though you are strolling through a magical painting come to life.
Not only is the scenery alone enough to be worthy of a visit; the wisteria blossoms actually represent an important cultural symbol in Japan, providing travelers with an intimate understanding of the nation they may never have otherwise accessed.
"Wisteria floral is a strong plant that is often used in a wide variety of Japanese art forms, including pottery and painting," confirms one recent visitor. "It holds great cultural significance dating back to Nara Period, with it being featured in beliefs and historical legends. It is well known for its vigorous growth and is just as notorious for being reluctant to bloom."
2. Ghibli Museum
Are you a fun-loving traveler interested in getting in touch with modern Japanese art (and maybe learning something new about animation along the way)? Immerse yourself in the magical world of one of the nation's biggest pop culture powerhouses by spending a day at Mitaka's Ghibli Museum. You're sure to feel a childlike sense of wonder learning about one of the most influential animation studios in history.
According to museum-goers, you don't even have to be a fan of the award-winning Studio Ghibli films to enjoy this whimsical attraction. "The whole design, detail, and intricacy of the exhibitions and museum buildings, in general, were staggering - one of the true highlights of our honeymoon," said Edston, a recent visitor. "My partner isn't a particular 'anime' fan, but loved it just as much as me (who is)."
Needless to say, anime amateurs and superfans alike are sure to leave with some fascinating facts to share with friends back home.
3. Hashima Island
History buffs, explorers, and wannabe ghost hunters rejoice! If you're struggling to decide what to do in Japan, Hashima Island is the place for you. You may already know the abandoned island as the fictional headquarters for Javier Bardem's villainous character in Skyfall, but the reality of its history was fascinating enough to attract visitors even before the Bond movie cameo.
Once a prosperous coal-mining community owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation, World War II led Japan to transform the island into a labor camp for war prisoners. It ultimately grew to contain the highest population density on Earth, which proved unsustainable as resources dwindled and living conditions drove families out. The nation soon turned to petroleum, and the rest was history.
Hashima Island, now completely abandoned, stands as a dark symbol of the impacts of industrialization. An eye-opening tour of the ghost town is sure to make an impression that will last a lifetime.
4. Sagano Bamboo Forest
Looking for an easy, low-cost activity to break up the hustle and bustle of your trip to Japan? Look no further; the Sagano Bamboo Forest is a must-see. Here, early risers can start their day with one of the most peaceful walks through nature anyone could hope to experience, cheered on by the gentle rustling of bamboo.
"How the sunlight comes through the bamboo forest is just magical," said one satisfied visitor. "In my opinion, you should come early in the morning to avoid the crowd and catch that beautiful morning light."
"I, like many others who've visited this place, find it magical just wandering around and taking a brief stroll through the tall bamboo trees," confirmed Vincent, another recent tourist. "It's not a huge forest as you might think it is (if you've never been here), but enough for a 10-15 minute walkthrough."
5. Vampire Cafe
Let's face it, as beautiful as the local scenery is, Japan also offers many indoor activities that are not to be missed. One such adventure is the world-famous Vampire Cafe, a delightfully-spooky restaurant that boasts an atmosphere unlike any other. If Edgar Allan Poe had decided to open a fine dining establishment in the heart of Tokyo's glamorous shopping district, this would be it.
"The experience starts when you step off the elevator and a motion-activated skeleton greets you. The ambiance is part Halloween camp and part luxurious goth decor. The floor is lit with images of blood cells, and the main dining room has a giant coffin in the middle with skulls, flowers, and a giant flaming candelabra," described one happy customer, who went on to confirm that everything from the food to the waitstaff was consistent with the spirit of Halloween.