As those of you who follow me on Instagram will know, I am heading to Japan in a bit less than two months so, as soon as I finished university, I purchased my Japan guide and started planning my upcoming trip of two weeks. As a result, here is my Japan travel bucket list:
1. Sleep in a Ryokan:
They say that sleeping in these kind of Japanese traditional hotels is one of the most relaxing experiences in the world.
Although there are a lot self-denominated of “ryokans” offered online, not many of them accomplish the “requirements” to be considered as such. How to be able to distinguish a true “ryokan“? Well, they usually have tatami floors, provide you with a yukata to be around your room and are perfectly integrated into the surrounding nature. If you are lucky (and usually willing to stay out of your budget for a night), you might also get to stay in a ryokan with an onsen (a typical Japanese hot spring)!
If you are looking for the best ryokan to stay during your trip, these links can be of your interest: List of Best Ryokan in Japan by Hotels Dave & List of Best Onsen Ryokan in Japan by Selected-Ryokan
2. Climb the Fujisan (Mount Fuji):
With more than 3.500 meters of height, Mount Fuji is the highest peak of Japan. Unfortunately for most of the travellers, it is only recommendable to climb the mountain between the 1st of July and the 31st of August (I consider myself really lucky, as I am arriving on the 28th).
There are two main possibilities when climbing it: the traditional way, going from base 1 to 10, or the most popular one, going from base 5 (many busses arrive until there) to 10. It is also recommendable to go with a guide and to sleep on a mountain retreat if you want to contemplate the sunrise from the highest mountain of Japan.
3. Spot a Geiko or a Maiko
There are many stories regarding the origin of these female entertainers. Kyoto is considered the world geisha capital, where they are not called “geisha” but maiko or geiko.
Which is the difference between them? A maiko is a girl between 15 and 20 years old who is learning to become a geiko. During this process, maikos are taught on traditional arts (dancing, tea ceremony…) and live in a okiya (a traditional geisha house). It is possible to spot them in Gion district (known as the geisha district).
If you also want to spot a geisha during your trip to Japan, check out this blog post on How to see a Geisha in Kyoto by Borders of Adventure.
4. Explore Dotombory at night
Located in Osaka, it is one of the most iconic streets of Japan due to the vibrant colours of its neon lights.
5. Wander around Yanaka district
They say that if you want to go back in time while in Tokyo, you must visit Yanaka district. The narrow streets of this area seem to have remained as if time had not passed and is a taste of Japan’s traditional side without leaving Tokyo.
6. Try another Din Tai Fung
Probably all the dumpling lovers reading this post will know what I am talking about. Din Tai Fung is a restaurant chain specialised in xiaolongbao (for me, the best one is the one made of pork) and located (mostly) in the main capitals of Asia.
Last summer, I was able to visit different Din Tai Fung restaurants during my trip in Southeast Asia: first in Bangkok, afterwards in Kuala Lumpur and finally another time in Singapore! Now, I am going to make sure I visit another one (at least) in Japan!
7. Loose myself in Arashiyama
Located 10 kilometres away from Kyoto, Arashiyama is highly known because of it’s magical bamboo forest.
Although the main interest of this destination is walking around surrounded by bamboo trees, in Asrashiyama you can also visit the sanctuary of Nanomiya or explore Kameyama Park.
8. Visit Tsukiji Fish Market
One of the iconic captures of Japan are the fish auctions in one of the most famous fish markets of the world: the Tsukiji Market.
If you want to assist to the famous tuna auction, you should be at the market around 3AM (which means sleeping closer to the market and/or be willing to pay a taxi to get there), be dressed accordingly and remain quiet during the auction. After the bid (which usually last for around 20 minutes), one of the most typical things to do is to grab sushi as breakfast in any of the nearby local shops.
If you are considering visiting Tsukiji Fish Market, don’t forget to check out this useful links: 10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction, Tokyo Travel: Tsukiji Fish Market & A local’s guide to the Tsukiji Fish Market.
9. Get to the top of Umeda Sky Building
If you are kind of afraid of heights but also crazy about overcoming your fears (like me), you will probably want to see the amazing panoramic views from the 39th, the 40th and the rooftop floors of this iconic building.
If you are going to visit Osaka, you might also want to check out other city highlights like: 10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Osaka, The Highlights of Osaka & Osaka Travel Guide.
10. Try Kobe Beef
Although I am not the most carnivorous person in the world, I do enjoy eating good meat every once in a while. Kobe meat is highly appreciated and comes from a type of neat raised according to the strict traditions of Hyogo Prefacture.
If you want to know more about Kobe meat: Where to Eat Kobe Beef: 10 Heavens of Grilled Greatness, What Makes Kobe Beef so Special? & The Difference Between Kobe and Wagyu Beef.
11. Walk Across the Torii Gates in Fushimi Inari Shrine
Only 5 kilometres away from Kyoto, you can find the beautiful trails of Mount Inari (which will lead you into the wooded forest across the Torii gates. In case you don’t know what a torii is yet: it is an arch (usually located in front of a Shinto temple), which limits with the “human/tangible” world and the spiritual world.
As I have recently seen in some Instagram stories of one of my favourite travel bloggers (@claudiamary – she also writes in her blog in Spanish), who is currently travelling in Japan, it seems to be really worth to wake up earlier and enjoy this beautiful place with calm and without being surrounded by multitudes (as people hit the park around 9-10AM).
12. Find peace in Koyasan
According to many bloggers, Mount Koya offers you one of the most relaxing experiences in Japan (after swimming in a Onsen Ryokan I guess..). In Koyasan you can enjoy the calm while going from temple to temple and even have shukubo experience, which consists in staying in a monastery (at least for 1 night).
If you are intersted in visiting Koyasan, you might find helpful: Koyasan – Guide To Visiting The Sacred Sites of Mount Koya, Temple Living in Mount Koya, How Not To Visit Mount Koya: A Step-By-Step Guide & Mount Koya Day Trip, Temple Stay and Itineraries.
Have you been in Japan or are you going soon? Anything else I should not miss? Leave a comment down below!