Throughout its history, Japan has continually imported cultural traditions, while at the same time adhering to the festivals, sports, and religions of its past. The result being that today there is a variety of things to do in Japan. Where else in the world can you watch baseball and sumo wrestling in the same afternoon? Where else can you witness ancient Bunraku puppet theater, and still have time to catch a cutting-edge Anime movie at the 25 theater multiplex? If modern Japan is a contrast of the old and the new, the result for the tourist is a list of things to do in Japan that are different, exciting, exotic and adventurous. From the secluded northern island of Hokkaido, to the karaoke bars, neon lit shopping districts and numerous downtown Tokyo attractions, there is never a shortage of things to do in Japan during your stay. Here is a list of ten things you shouldn't miss.
Tokyo's Imperial Palace
The first stop on your Tokyo sightseeing tour (besides the cash machine), the Imperial Palace is home to the emperor and his family and much of the palace grounds are closed to the public. The castle is surrounded by moats and massive stone walls, and is just a short walk from the main Tokyo rail station.
Located outside the palace, the Kokyo Gaien (palace garden) is open to the public and a suitable spot to snap a postcard perfect photo. The garden is also one of the most heavily trafficked of all Tokyo sightseeing options, so be sure to come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds.
If Tokyo sightseeing leaves you feeling a bit claustrophobic, head south towards the majestic and almost perfectly symmetrical cone of 12,388 ft Mt. Fuji. A sacred volcano imbued with a living spirit, Mt Fuji can be climbed from July 1 to August 31. But if you don't feel like climbing, the nearby Hakone National Park and its many natural hot springs are a perfect way to relax.
Sumo is a unique sport in that everyone knows of it, but hardly anyone outside Japan understands its rules, or could name a single sumo wrestler. This Tokyo attraction is best seen in mid January when the first tournament of the year, Hatsu Basho, is held for fifteen days at Tokyo's Kokugikan.
One of the hottest Tokyo attractions is the Fire-Walking Ceremony held in mid march at the foot of Mount Takao. Come see this 1400-year-old, pre-Buddhist sect of Yamabushi Monks meditate for hours, perform a mesmerizing fire dance and then take the hot walk. And if you feel up to it, you can even participate!
Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku
These three distinct types of traditional Japanese theater are a feast for the eyes and the ears—even if you can't understand a word of the production—and a mainstay of modern Japan tourism. The best place to watch a show is in Kyoto, or, if you're lucky, a rickety old village theater.
If you travel in Japan, the Peace Memorial Museum that stands witness to the atomic bomb dropped here on August 6, 1945, is a sober reminder of the horrors of nuclear war. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, known as the Genbaku Dome, was the only structure left standing in the area where the first atomic bomb exploded. It is today a Unesco World Heritage site.
This is Japan's northernmost island and the volcanic landscape of the relatively unpopulated Hokkaido is highlighted by lakes and forests, and provides a perfect destination for those seeking adventure travel in Japan. One of the best National Parks is Daisetsuzan. Densely forested and mountainous this unspoiled wilderness is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Kodo Drum Festival
The remote island of Sado-ga-shima, is home to a famous Japanese taiko drumming troupe. Each year a world-renowned dance, drumming and music festival is held, making this event a remote but interesting Japan tourism option.
The Tono Valley
If you crave a vacation that includes rural travel in Japan, hire a bike or hook up with a Japan tourism company and spend a day cycling or busing through this picturesque valley.