Japan Travel Guide
It’s nearly impossible to run out of things to do in Japan. The country is bursting with activities, from the shopping, dining, cultural and nightlife activities in Tokyo, to the traditional shows and ceremonies in Kyoto, to the breathtakingly beautiful hikes along the coast and through the Alps.
Visitors wondering what to do in Japan should start with the country’s world-renowned dining scene. Japanese cuisine is fresh, local, and typically made from seasonal ingredients. Don’t leave the country without ordering ‘omakase’ at a sushi bar. The Japanese phrase means ‘I’ll leave it to you,’ and allows the chef to present diners with whatever dishes he or she sees fit, enabling the use of the freshest ingredients.
While Tokyo and Kyoto offer an astounding number of things to do in Japan, the activities don’t end with urban life. Nature-lovers wondering what to do in Japan need only travel a few minutes by car outside Kyoto’s borders to find themselves immersed in forested mountains, perfect for a day-long hike.
There are 70 kinds of salt at the depachika (department store basement food hall). The vinegar sommelier holds tastings and sells "infuse-your-own-vinegar" kits.
In this minimalist space, an attendant seats guests along a row of self-serve tanks that pump exotically flavored oxygen, from eucalyptus menthol to cinnamon, into your lungs; choose from 10-minute (600 yen/$6) and 20-minute (1,200 yen/$12.50) sessions. The benefit?
To the right of the Kaminarimon—the gate opening onto Nakamise Dori, the narrow pedestrian-only shopping street leading to the Sensoji Temple—is this quaint shop specializing in washi, Japanese natural-fiber paper. It has been selling handmade paper and crafts since 1856.
The Japan Rail Pass - good for intercity travel - also works on the handy Yamanote Line, an above-ground train that encircles central Tokyo.
The airport’s largest bookstore—with titles in both Japanese and English—is impeccably organized and also carries DVDs, CDs, and video games. Pick up IQ84, the latest novel from celebrated Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
Tokyo’s most impressive depachika (subterranean gourmet food market), Isetan may be the ultimate foodie destination.
A lack of Japanese language skills is no barrier to enjoying this terrific market on the grounds of the Togo Shrine—just bring pad and pen, and negotiate the price on paper.
Set in a residential downtown-Tokyo neighborhood, Toyo Ito’s design of the new Za-Koenji public theater is unabashedly theatrical. The building is mysterious and all purple-black, its tentlike roof and walls punctuated by several hundred porthole-style windows.
The bold structure of undulating glass walls designed by Kisho Kurokawa is Tokyo's largest art venue.
A cross between a French patisserie and an American cupcake shop, Tokyo Sweets Factory is located on the basement level of a Jiyugaoka office building.
Located on the former site of the 15th-century Edo Castle, the Imperial Palace is the official residence of Japan's royal family. First constructed in 1888, the palace was rebuilt several times, most recently in 1968.
The concept behind Harajuku's Toyko Hipster's Club is that cutting-edge is a lifestyle, manifested across a range of products from clothes to books to art.
Located on the lower floors of a kimono company, the complex includes a contemporary crafts shop, chic café, and steel-and-glass gallery exhibiting 450-year-old embroidered kimonos.