50 Incredible Things To Do In Japan

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Onsens, ryokans, sushi and sake, Japan is a smorgasbord of tastes, sights and sounds. From walking across one of the busiest crossings in the world to chilling out in a magical bamboo grove, there are plenty of incredible things to do in Japan.

From samurai culture and cherry blossoms to robot, maid and manga cafes, Japan is a juxtaposition of old and new. From 21st-century Tokyo to the wilds of Hokkaido in the north, Japan offers a mosaic of landscapes to enjoy. Here are 50 things to do in Japan for your bucket list. 


50 Things To Do In Japan

Famous Things In Japan

1- Walk The Shibuya Crossing

japan things
One of the top things to do in Japan is to walk the Shibuya Crossing.

One of the popular things to do in Japan is to immerse yourself in the crowd at the Shibuya Crossing, which is one of the busiest crossings in the world. 

Soak up the vibe and electric energy thousands of people crossing the intersection when the lights turn green. 

The excitement of being in a crowd is exhilarating for most travellers and an enjoyable experience in contemporary Japan to tick off your bucket list.  

If rubbing shoulders with thousands of strangers doesn’t appeal, the best place to watch is Starbucks or from a sky-high perch on level 47 of the Shibuya Scramble Square building. 

If you want to get into the groove, how about dressing up in a kimono then walking the Shibuya crossing?  

For more about Japan read:

2- Experience The Magic Of A Bamboo Forest 

things to do japan
Another incredible thing to do in Japan is to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

One of the attractions in Japan is the bamboo groves near Kyoto, where bamboo stalks rustle in the wind and are spectacular to see.  

Arashiyama is Japan’s most famous bamboo forest and is a magical grove of giant bamboo that attracts visitors by the droves. 

The best time to visit Arashiyama is in low season, around January or February and early in the morning before the crowds gather. 

3- Soak in an Onsen

Getting naked and soaking in a natural hot spring or onsen is a quintessentially Japanese experience and communal onsens are where people gather to relax and heal.

Soaking in an onsen (or Japanese-style hot spring or public bath) has been common practice for centuries, and onsen resorts are quite an attraction.

If taking your clothes off in public doesn’t appeal, try a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) such as Amagi Yugashima Onsen. 

There are onsens in the city, but outdoor onsens offer the best experiences with stunning views. 

4- Watch A Sumo Wrestling Match

This world-renown Japanese wrestling has its roots in Japan’s ancient culture and began as a ritual performed to entertain Shinto deities.

Another fun thing to do in Japan is to go to a sumo training school to watch them practice, and you might like to learn a few moves yourself. 

Tournaments are held in January, May and September and last around 15 days. 

Pick a ringside seat so you can feel the energy of the sumo wrestlers up close but do book in advance as sumo wrestling is a popular sport. 

5- Gaze at Mount Fuji 

japan thing to do
Photographing Mount Fuji is a thing to do in Japan not to be missed.

Revered by the Japanese and captured by artists throughout the centuries, Mount Fuji is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.  

The best vantage points to see Japan’s holy mountain is from Hakone, which is a lovely hot spring destination.

The mountain can only be climbed from July to September, however, the view of Mount Fuji is captivating all year round. 

Mount Fuji is an active volcano located 100km from Tokyo and is Japan’s highest mountain (3,776 m/12,389 ft).

6- Eat sushi 

You may have eaten at a sushi train restaurant back home, but there’s nothing that beats eating sushi in Japan.

Sushi trains, where plates of sushi glide past you on conveyor belts are everywhere in Japan.

These kaitenzushi restaurants are fun to dine in, and they are a great way to stick to a budget as you pay for what you eat by the plate.

The range of sushi in Japan is fantastic, and you should make it a point to try unusual dishes like kani miso sushi, made from crab innards, and mentaiko, made from pollock roe.  

7- Drink Sake In A Brewery 

Although Japan’s national drink, sake(or nihonshu) can be served warm, cold or at room temperature, sake connoisseurs prefer it cold. 

If you’re visiting Kobe, head to the Nada district where over breweries are a smorgasbord for sake lovers and the Hakutsuru Brewery Museum is an excellent place to start your education. 

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic drink made from rice.

There are different grades of sake: futsuu (regular) and tokutei (special).

8- Ride the Bullet Train

Riding the shinkansen is only an exciting way to travel around Japan but the bullet train is also cost-effective.

The trains are usually on time and can hit speeds of up to 200 mph, taking you from Tokyo to Osaka in around two and a half hours.

Buy a Japan Rail Pass for one, two or three weeks before you arrive in Japan as you will save hundreds of dollars. The pass is only available to foreigners.

9- See the Cherry Blossoms 

Like climbing Mount Fuji, another iconic thing to do in Japan is to see the cherry blossoms (sakura). 

These beautiful flowering trees are an eye-pleasing backdrop to Japan’s modern and ancient landscapes.

Symbolising life and renewal, pink-white blossoms drift in the air and are a wonder to see and photograph.

Cherry blossom season is around April in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but can be as early as January in the south of Japan or at late as May in the north of the country. 

10- Spend a Night in a Ryokan

If you want to experience the culture, one of the best things to do when visiting Japan is to spend a night in a Japanese ryokan. 

Sleep on a tatami, soak in an outdoor hot spring and dine on local fare. 

Ryokans range from simple guesthouses (minshuku) to luxurious inns with private Japanese baths. 

Weird Things To Do In Japan

11- Visit A Robot Restaurant

Ok, visiting a Robot Restaurant has got to be one of the most bizarre things to do in Japan.

You’re hit with a frenzy of sights and sounds, like giant robots, space gorillas and robotic snakes.

The experience is wacky, weird, downright bizarre and you’ll swear you’re in a scene in a space comedy. 

The show goes for 90 minutes and is so popular, I’d suggest booking in advance. It’s certainly an experience you won’t forget. 

The Robot Restaurant is in Shinjuku, and you can book your tickets here. 

12- Maid Cafes

Akihabara is famous for its maid cafes, where customers are waited upon by waitresses dressed up as French maids, and there are also butler cafes for the ladies.

The ‘maids’ dance and sing J-pop songs and patrons are encouraged to sing along. 

Everything is cute, from the outfits to the bunny-shaped ice cream. 

13- Manga Kissa

Manga, which are Japanese comics or graphic novels, is a 19th-century art form that is acknowledged as a cultural asset of Japan. 

So it makes sense to visit a Manga Kissa (Manga Cafe) where you can drink coffee, surf the internet, read manga and watch anime.

Even if you can’t read Japanese, the experience of a Manga Cafe is something to tick off your bucket list. 

Many Manga Cafes have showers, private booths and beds. 

14- Play a Game of Pachinko

Shinjuku is the home of pachinko parlours, where you can try your luck at this Japanese game.

Pachinko parlours are garishly decorated with flashing neon lights, a cross between pinball and poker machine.

The aim is to shoot balls through a maze of pins, and you’ll soon find that having a game of pachinko is one of the addictive things to do in Japan. 

15- Experience TeamLab Borderless

TeamLab Borderless is an interesting museum of digital art that pushes the boundaries of artistic expression.

Guests move from room to room exploring creative displays like the hundreds of lamps dangling from the ceiling in the Athletic Forest.

16-  Eat ramen at the Ramen Museum

Ramen is as popular as sushi and although you can eat ramen everywhere, an unusual thing to do in Japan is to eat a bowl in a ramen museum.

There are ramen museums throughout Japan, such as the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, with its food court atmosphere, the Asahikawa Ramen Village in Hokkaido and the Ramen Stadium, where the entire floor of the Fukuoka Canal City shopping centre is dedicated to ramen.  

Ramen is a Japanese wheat noodle soup served in a meat or fish broth and flavoured with soy sauce or miso.

17- Visit The Pokmon Center In Tokyo

Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters) is a game that took the world by storm, created by the Pokémon Company of which Nintendo was one of the founders. 

If you’re not familiar with Pokémon, any Japanese child will tell you that these creatures live alongside humans and do not speak except to say their names. 

There are over 700 Pokémon characters, and the Pokémon Centre in Tokyo is a must-visit if you’re travelling with little ones.

18- Dine In A Ninja Restaurant

Good food, magic shows, illusions and ninjas leaping out of shadows; who would have thought that medieval Japanese assassins would be a popular theme for restaurants throughout Japan?

A popular place is Ninja Akasaka, which is laid out like a traditional ninja village with hidden underground rooms and waterfalls. 

19- Explore The Intermediatheque Museum

Because of where it is within a shopping mall in the Kitte Marunouchi building, one of the weirdest things to do in Japan is to visit the Intermediatheque (IMT) Museum.

The museum is a hidden world of wonders of ancient wonders and lost civilisations, with displays of steam engines, Egyptian mummies, tribal art and a menagerie of taxidermy. 

The Intermediatheque (IMT) Museum is at JP Tower 2-3F, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku.

20- Visit An Animal Cafe

Owl cafes are no longer a curiosity in Tokyo and you’d almost think it’s reasonable to sip tea with an owl perched on your arm. 

These days, Japan is home to exotic animal cafes, such as cat, goat, lizard and snake-cafes. You’ll even find cafes with giant tortoises and hedgehogs. 

Best Things To Do In Japan For History Lovers

21- Visit Kyoto’s Ancient Sites

japan things to do
Visiting Kyoto’s Golden Temple is one of the fantastic things to do in Japan.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan between 794 and 1868, so it’s not surprising the city is soaked in history.

Kyoto has 17 World Heritage sites, thousands of temples and shrines, many gardens and an old-world ambience.

One of the classic things to do is to visit Kinkakuji, formerly a shogun’s retirement villa turned into a Buddhist temple and it’s a fantastic place to take photographs of its reflection in the pond.

22- Stay in a Buddhist Temple

All around Japan, Buddhist temples have opened their doors to visitors to experience the spartan lifestyles of the monks. 

Morning prayers, meditation, sleeping on tatami mats and dining on vegetarian fare are part of the experience. 

Of the many temples to stay in, few have monks who speak English, and that’s the reason why Mount Koya is one of the more famous temples to stay at. 

23- Explore Ancient Tokyo

thing to do in japan
Exploring Tokyo’s historic sites is another fantastic thing to do in Japan.

Tokyo is one of the world’s most futuristic cities but it’s also a city where ancient culture is well preserved in its castles, temples and gardens. 

Once called Edo, Tokyo was a fishing village in 3000 BC. Edo Castle is now where the Imperial Palace sits but the original castle was built in the 1450s. 

Start at the Imperial Palace, which is home to the oldest monarchy in the world and where 125 rulers have sat on the Chrysanthemum throne. 

Tokyo has many historic temples and a tour of temples such as Sensoji Temple, Chokoku-ji Temple and Gokokuji Temple will take you on a journey to the past.

24- Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum 

things to do in japanese
Exploring Hiroshima is one of the things to do in Japan for history lovers.

The Peace Memorial Park and Museum pay homage to the victims of the atomic bombing on 6 August 1945.

It’s a reminder of the destructive effects of nuclear war as one of the landmarks is the A-Bomb Dome.

It’s one of the few buildings in Hiroshima that are still standing. 

Also in the park is the Children’s Peace Monument, which was constructed to remember the children who passed away from leukemia as a result of the bombing. 

25- Climb The Stairs To Fushimi Inari

things in japan
Climbing the steps to the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a Japanese thing to do.

Of the thousands of shrines in Japan, visiting Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine is one of the top things to do in Japan. 

Famed for its tunnel of red torii gates, Fushimi Inari is an instantly recognisable icon to visit. 

In addition to its torii, the shrine is also home to graveyards, statues and is simply a beautiful place to enjoy. 

26- Explore Himeji Castle

The largest castle in Japan, Himeji Castle is also the most visited castle in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The castle was built in 1333, rebuilt in the 17th century, and is often called the White Heron Castle. 

With 83 buildings, turrets and an impressive ancient defence system, it’s a wonder to explore.

One of the best times to visit is during cherry blossom season 

27- Explore Takeda Castle Ruins

Takeda Castle Ruins Japan
Another thing to do in Japan is to visit Takeda Castle ruins, which is a Japanese fantasy in Asago City, Hyogo. Photo: ©Toshihisa Yoshida/©JNTO

On a misty morning, the ruins of Takeda Castle looks like it’s floating on clouds.

Known as the Castle in the Clouds or Japan’s Machu Picchu.

The mystical castle in Asago City was built in 1411, however, the buildings have crumbled, but the foundations can be seen clearly.

28- Discover Shirakawago 

Shirakawago's houses
One of the things to do in Japan for history lovers is to visit UNESCO World Heritage Shirakawago. Text: Maria Visconti.

One of the best places things to do in Japan is visit Shirakawago and if you love skiing, try combining your trip to Japan with some skiing.

After all, you have come quite a long way, and you’ll wish to get the most out of your airfare here.

Within easy reach, some places will blow your mind with quaintness and appeal.

UNESCO World Heritage Shirakawago is one of them.

It was then, only about 10 years ago, that Japan and the world ‘discovered’ Shirakawago with its thatched gingerbread houses and unique culture.

Today this World Heritage site has opened its doors to visitors.

Verdant and colourful in summer and clad in a thick coating of snow in winter, Shirakawago has some Minshuku (guesthouses) where you can stay.

The Japan winter season in Shirakawago is a photographer’s paradise (bring your tripod to take some night pictures when the houses are all lit up for your enjoyment).

This tiny village existed in isolation for centuries until tunnelling technology opened up an easy way to get here without having to surmount the mighty mountain ranges that have kept Shirakawago undiscovered for a long time.

Thatched cottages with eaves that almost touch the ground called Gassho-zukuri because the high-pitched rooves look like hands folded in prayer are scattered around this sleepy hollow where the locals originally survived by farming silkworms up in their attics.

Today Shirakawago is a magnet for local tourism and a handful of international guests visiting Japan.

A few houses have opened their doors to travellers as guesthouses (minshuku).

Shirakawago winter looks like a few other places in Japan as it is almost unrecognisable under a dense cover of snow.

It looks like the postcard from an imaginary village where silk weaving elves create eerily beautiful scarves.

29- See Ishizuchi Shrine (Ehime)

Ishizuchi Shrine
Ishizuchi Shrine in Saijo City, Ehime, is a lesser-known attraction in Japan. Photo: ©JNTO

Ishizuchi Shrine is spread out across Mount Ishizuchi, which is a holy mountain that dominates the landscape of western Japan.

Locals believe that Ishizuchi is a mystic mountain and the mountain itself is a god.

Wander past the torii gates along winding paths, stone steps, forests and ponds.

Known as “Art Island” for its three major galleries and several other art venues, Naoshima Island is a top destination for contemporary Japanese art.

The most famous gallery is the Tadao Ando-designed Benesse House, which has works by David Hockney and Bruce Nauman.

Avant-garde art is displayed in historic venues such as the fishing village of Honmura, where historic timber buildings are a stark contrast to the modern art installations. 

Things To Do In Japan Outdoors

31- Go Skiing

If you love powder, Japan is the place to go skiing and the island of Hokkaido has excellent ski resorts.

Niseko has some of the finest powder in the country and three ski resorts to choose from.

Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Niseko Annupuri are a magnet for powder hounds, and there’s some excellent backcountry terrain as well as activities for adventure-seekers who love the outdoors.

Go ice climbing or telemark skiing in winter and, in summer, activities include kayaking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and hiking. 

32- Hike the Japanese Alps 

Japan’s Alps is a wonderfully scenic landscape to hike through, whether you’re after a day hike or a longer adventure.

The Alps is in Chubu Sangaku National Park, and the best time to go is in autumn for golden colours.

Stretching across three prefectures – Toyama, Nagano and Gifu – this volcanic mountain range has several attractions such as hot springs, Hakuba ski resort and Kamikochi plateau. 

33- Watch a baseball game

One of the fun things to do in a Japanese city is to join the crowd to cheer on the players at a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. 

You might be surprised to discover that baseball is a professional sport in Japan and two leagues consisting of six teams each league compete fiercely. 

The two top teams in Tokyo are the Tokyo Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants; games are held from March to October. 

34- Explore Okinawa

Japan’s version of Hawaii, the Okinawa islands are only a 2.5-hour flight from Tokyo and visiting Okinawa is one of the more unique things to do in Japan. 

The domain of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Okinawa is a tropical destination with fantastic beaches, reefs and jungles.

At 15C, Okinawa is a warm and sunny destination in Japan to visit in winter. 

Highlights of a visit to Okinawa include exploring UNESCO World Heritage such as Shuri Castle, spotting whale sharks, kayaking the mangroves and spending time on the beaches. 

35- Soak in Kinosaki Hot Spring

Winter Japan Kinosaki Hot Spring
Visiting Kinosaki Hot Spring in Hyogo is one of the lovely things to do in Japan. Photo: ©Toyooka City/©JNTO

Kinosaki Hot Springs is a charming old-world onsen town located in the Hyogo prefecture on the Sea of Japan.

The hot springs date back to the 8th century and the bathhouses were built over the springs.

Try a soak in Goshono-yu (Imperial Palace Bath), which has multi-level outdoor pools facing a waterfall and steam sauna.

The Satono-yu bathhouse has two kinds of baths (traditional and Romanesque), waterfalls, mist rooms and a range of sauna rooms.

36- Discover Utsukushi-ga-hara Highlands 

Utsukushigahara Highland shrouded in mist
Exploring Utsukushigahara Highland in Nagano is one of the lovely things to do in Japan. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

In central Nagano, non-skiers will love the view from the Utsukushi-ga-hara Highlands in Yatsugatake Chushin Kogen Quasi-National Park in the Japan winter months.

The flat lava plateau sits 2000m, and the 360-degree view of the Japanese Alps from Ogato is breathtaking.

It’s a pastoral scene in summer, with green pastures and grazing cows but in the Japan winter season, the snow-covered mountain tops look ethereal.

Other attractions include an open-air museum and the Utsukushi-ga-hara Art Museum and 400 impressive sculptures.

Utsukushi-ga-hara Highlands is in Nagano. 

37- Ride The Shinhotaka Ropeway

Shinhotaka Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing in Shinhotaka is one of the fun things to do in Japan for active travellers. Photo: ©SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE

Glide across the Hotake Mountain Range on the Shinhotaka Ropeway.

The range is home to Oku-Hotakedake, Japan’s third-highest mountain.

From the Shinhotaka Ropeway’s decker gondola cars, you’ll get a panoramic view of the Okuhida region’s mountains and valleys.

If you’re an active traveller, you might like to try snowshoeing in Shinhotaka, which is a guaranteed workout!

38- Humma’s Hot Springs and Waterfalls 

Ohsen Falls in Japan
Exploring Ohsen Falls in Ohsen-no-taki, Kusatsu, Gunma, is an off the beaten track thing to do in Japan. Photo: ©Kusatsu Onsen Tourism Association/©JNTO

One of the best things to do in Japan in winter is to visit a hot springs region.

Winter is a fabulous time to warm up in the hot sprains of Gunma, which is a picturebook region packed with hot springs and ski resorts.

With over 200 onsens, Gunma is undoubtedly an authentic place to go in winter for a Japanese hot spring experience.

Imagine spending winter in Japan experiencing the healing waters of the various onsens. Gunma’s four onsen regions are Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami and Shima.

Seeing a frozen waterfall in winter is a magnificent sight. The 25m Onsen waterfall in Kusatsu has multiple streams frozen on red rock.

This mountainous region is home to several ski resorts and ski hills, the highest is Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort.

39- See The Snow Monkeys

Seeing the snow monkeys warming up in the hot springs is one of the fantastic things to see in winter in Japan.

At Jigokudani Monkey Park, there is white magic in the air, and it’s cold.

The nearly 2km mountain path is mercifully flat but snowy and icy winding its way through a tall cedar forest.

Anticipation mounting, I cannot wait till we get to the hot springs where the much-loved snow monkeys of Japan soak in winter.

Big plops of snow falling from the cedars’ laden branches are about the only sound around.

Finally, the forest gives way and a sign of the times reads: “Airborne cameras not permitted to fly here”, so don’t bother to bring your quadcopter to Jigokudani Monkey Park.

When we finally arrive, there are about 30 snow monkeys about, big and small.

Some soak in the hot springs, some forage for food and one sits on the big casing of the video-cam that permanently surveys the site.

It is only while editing the photos that I discovered this was a mother with a baby at her breast mostly hidden from view and therefore protected from the cold.

The only chance to see snow monkeys bathing at Jigokudani Monkey Park is in winter.

They only do it to keep warm, so they are unlikely to go in the hot springs when the weather warms up.

The valley where the snow monkeys hang out is very deep, and the sunshine never gets to the bottom, so be prepared for cold and slippery conditions on the approaching 2km trail.

Temperatures in winter are always below freezing reaching to a very cold -10 Celcius, and there are no facilities for wheelchairs at Jigokudani Monkey Park.

These endearing snow monkeys are native to Japan and are nomadic, foraging wherever they like and moving around the forest freely.

Jigokudani Monkey Park has adopted a policy of feeding them with nutritious pellets to keep them coming to the site regularly, however, feeding times are not regular and not announced.

These macaques live in groups and show strong loyalty to their family.

Females remain within their birth tribe while males break off to find partners among other tribes.

Females give birth at night only and mainly in spring.

These snow monkeys retire at sundown to sleep on tree branches or in the hollows of big tree roots; they huddle together while holding hands and legs.

Make sure you have plenty of memory in your camera, as you will shoot none stop for about two hours.

The expressions on the monkey’s faces are fascinating, especially while being groomed by others.

They look ecstatic or as in a trance.

The Jigokudani Monkey Park is not far from Hakuba ski fields but a bit complex to get to by public transport.

Your best bet is to go to the Nagano station and take a bus from there.

However, hotels can help organise a day-trip, as there are some combination excursions with some interesting inclusions such as a visit to the town of Obuse, where Hokusai spent his later years. 

Jigokudani Monkey Park is in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. 

40- First Tadami River Bridge

First Tadami River Bridge
One of the fantastic things to do in Japan is to cross the First Tadami River Bridge Onuma-gun, Fukushima. Photo: ©kenkou hoshi/©JNTO

For those who love trains, the 174m bridge crossing the Tadamigawa River is a fabulous experience a picturesque place to visit in Japan.

A photograph of the bridge in winter is a picturesque sight and crossing the bridge on a train is an experience to remember.

The photographic viewpoint is a five-minute bus ride from Mishima and a scene straight out of Game of Thrones!

First Tadami River Bridge is in Fukushima. 

41- Drift ice cruising in Monbetsu

Japan in January - Drift Ice cruise, Monbetsu
Another fantastic thing to do in Japan for an adventure is to go on a drift Ice cruise from Monbetsu in Hokkaido in January, February or March. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

A cruise on an ice breaker is an adventure of a lifetime as you ride onboard an icebreakers while it smashes through drift ice 60cm thick.

The thermometer can drop to -40C as a cold wind blows from Siberia, so rug up!

If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to spot marine life and wildlife, such as seals and eagles.

When: Visit Japan in January to experience this, but the ice might hang around until March

42- Onuma Quasi-National Park

In the southern part of Hokkaido, Onuma Quasi-National Park is a picture book region with lakes, rivers and majestic Mount Komagatake.

Most visitors go in summer, for the hiking, fishing and cycling but those looking for Japan winter landscapes won’t be disappointed by the sight of Mount Komagatake, which is an active volcano, covered in snow.

It’s a fantastic place to enjoy winter in Japan in natural surroundings and activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

When: It’s a scenic spot to experience Japan in December.

43- Visit Mount Tsunumi (Oita)

Mt. Tsurumi
A stunning spot to put on your to-visit Japan list is Mt. Tsurumi Snow, Beppu City, Oita. Photo: ©Promotion Airport Environment Improvement Foundation / ©JNTO

Take the ropeway to the top of Mount Tsunumi in Oita, where the views over Kyushu are amazing.

44- Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival
Attending the Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the top things to do in Japan. It’s in Sapporo City, Hokkaido. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

Each year, over two million visitors flock to see the jaw-dropping ice sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival.

If you only have time for one festival while visiting Japan, this should be it!

Sapporo Snow Festival started in 1950, with six snow sculptures and has grown into a massive winter festival that attracts teams from all over the world.

The teams compete in this world-famous snow sculpture competition to see which team can create the best winter works of art. 

The festival sculptures look like a fairyland lit up at night, and it’s worth going to this festival just to see those. 

Apart from ice sculptures, there are other fun winter activities at the festival, such as snow rafting, tubing, ice sliding and ice fishing.

45- Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

Japan Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru City, Hokkaido is a lovely festival to explore while visiting Japan. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

The city of Otaru lights up during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival each winter. Walking the streets of Otaru, which are festooned with lights, candles and snow sculptures, is an enchanting thing to do in Japan.

The best place to soak up the atmosphere is the Otaru Canal, where ball candles made out of fishing equipment float on the water.

Local food stalls sell sushi and Japanese sweets. 

Otaru is a port 38km from Sapporo.

46- Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival

Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival - best place to visit in japan
Wandering around the Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival in Kamikawa Town, Hokkaido is a charming thing to do in Japan. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

Drink at the ice bar, spend a quiet moment in the ice shrine and party at the Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival’s concerts and event.

The ice sculptures of Hokkaido’s famous buildings are impressive, and there are a host of activities such as ice climbing, snowshoe hiking and the Taisetsu Forest Garden has a host of adventurous winter activities.

Soumkyo is 200 km from Sapporo, and it’s possible to visit both winter festivals during the same season. 

When: Late February to late March at Sounkyo hot springs resort and Daisetsuzan National Park.

47- Explore Asahikawa 

penguins in Asahiyama Zoo
Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido, is fun for the whole family and visiting is one of the top things to do in Japan. Photo: ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

As soon as you arrive at the Asahikawa Winter Festival, you’ll quickly see why winter in Asahikawa is the best season to visit.

Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city, and it’s a charming place to visit in Japan.

The city is well-known for its ramen, and the Asahiyama Zoo is the to place to visit in Asahikawa for Arctic wildlife.

Asahikawa Winter Festival is at 4044 Tokiwakoen, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 070-0044, Japan.

48- Yokagura Festival (Miyazaki)

Yokagura Festival
A cool cultural event – Yokagura Festival in Miyazaki – is the place to be in Japan in December. Photo: Yuasa/©JNTO

The Yokagura Festival is a 33-part storytelling Shinto festival and a vibrant celebration in the Miyazaki Prefecture.

According to legend, the Shinto sun goddess became upset at her bother’s pranks and hid in a cave, depriving the world of light.

When: Mid November to end of January.  

49- Relax in a Japanese Garden

There are too many lovely Japanese gardens to count, and they are dotted right throughout the land. 

With scenes of bubbling brooks, maple trees and white gravel, Japanese gardens are a sanctuary to escape to, and Tokyo’s gardens are exceptionally calm spots to hide in a bustling city.

50-Row A Boat Through Takachiho Gorge

Located in the Miyazaki Prefecture, Takachiho Gorge is a stunning natural landscape formed by the flow of lava. 

Take a boat ride to the bottom of Manai Falls, visit the Takachiho Shrine as well as the Amano Iwato Shrine for inspiration and beautiful photos. 

Looking for more things to do in Southeast Asia? Try these:

Japan things to do
Japan things to do