Inspiration Destinations Japan 6 Unmissable Japan Experiences

6 Unmissable Japan Experiences

January 28, 2024
Seeing temples and cherry blossoms in Japan is a must-do experience while on tour in Japan - Luxury Escapes

From Mt Fuji’s sacred heights to traditional onsens and inhaling sushi on the neon-lit streets of Osaka, these are the go-to experiences for every Japan first-timer.

Japan’s diversity as a travel destination is unmatched. It’s a land of mighty contrasts – bullet trains thunder past ancient bamboo groves, thousand-year-old shrines stand proud beside neon-kissed karaoke parlours and moments of serene beauty shine throughout Tokyo’s hectic heart. From the bustling aisles of Tokyo’s new Tsukiji Outer Market – still the best place in the world to chow down on an ultra-fresh sushi bowl – to Kyoto’s historic lamp-lit hanamachis, or geisha districts, there are once-in-a-lifetime sights for every kind of traveller. 

Read on to discover the top non-negotiable experiences in this cultural wonderland.

Ready to see Japan? With such a breadth of experiences to choose from, a tour can be the best way to narrow down the highlights.

Take in panoramic views from Mt Fuji 

A view of a snow-capped Mount Fiji, one of the unmissable experiences on a tour of Japan - Luxury Escapes
Mt Fuji, Japan.

On a clear day, ascend the ever-popular Fuji-Subaru Line Fifth Station for staggeringly good views over the surrounding countryside and shining Lake Kawaguchiko. It’s a sight that has inspired generations of Japanese artists – including famed printmaker Hokusai – and still makes an impact on thousands of travellers today. The summit is also the site of Japan’s highest post office: if there’s one place to send a postcard to loved ones, it’s here. 

Relax in a traditional Japanese onsen 

Relaxing in a Japan onsen is an unmissable experience while on tour in Japan - Luxury Escapes
A Japanese onsen.

Most tours through Japan include a chance to stay at a traditional Japanese onsen resort, allowing travellers to engage with one of the country’s oldest and most revered traditions. This isn’t your senpai’s city sento – bathhouse hotels specialise in crafting extraordinarily beautiful surroundings for you to soak up as you settle down, with many resorts around Mt Fuji, for example, offering spectacular views beyond the steam. The practice is said to boost the immune system and soothe weary muscles but be warned – most onsens keep their water at 42°C.

Experience the electric buzz of Tokyo 

An aerial view of Shibuya Square, a busy crossing and unmissable experience while on a tour in Japan - Luxury Escapes
Shibuya crossing, Japan.

From Ueno’s twisting, smoke and shochu-filled alleyways to the legendary Shibuya Scramble Square, Tokyo offers excitement and adventure in abundance. With a carefully crafted tour itinerary, it’s possible to capture the best of the city in just a day. Step back in time with a visit to Asakusa, home to Senso-ji's ancient thunder gates and a vivid insight into Japan as it once was. Watch the entire city unfurl beneath you from above the clouds at Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower, or kawaii with the best of them on Takeshita-dori, Harajuku’s technicolour youth fashion capital. Just make sure you don’t miss the best place to try the district’s world-famous crepes. Tokyo offers unfettered possibility unlike anywhere else in the world – whatever you’re seeking, Japan’s capital has you covered. 

Discover the Gion geisha district of Kyoto 

A visit to the Gion district in Kyoto is one of the best experiences in Japan - Luxury Escapes
Kyoto, Japan.

Kyoto has no shortage of extraordinary sights – aristocratic temples, bustling marketplaces and bamboo forests that gently sigh with the wind – but an evening stroll through Gion, the city’s old pleasure district, stands above the rest. The ambience is unlike anywhere in the world. Traditional wooden merchant houses line the street (many now Kyoto’s most celebrated fine-dining venues), lantern-shadows dance across ancient stonework, and apprentice geisha can occasionally be seen.  

Uncover the poignant history of Hiroshima 

A visit to the historic sites in Hiroshima is a must-do experience while in Japan - Luxury Escapes
Hiroshima, Japan.

Beautiful, haunting and indescribably melancholic, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park was once the city’s bustling commercial centre, and now – more than seven decades after the dropping of the atomic bomb – is an enduring reminder of what Hiroshima lost. Start at the A-Bomb Dome, surreally the last surviving structure from the blast, and wander to the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, where over 220,000 names of those lost are listed. Finish with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum, which excellently captures the full breadth of the blast, including the tragic repercussions and Hiroshima’s blazing and eternal spirit of hope. 

Taste the foodie scene of Osaka 

A street food vendor in Osaka, an area to visit while on tour in Japan - Luxury Escapes
Osaka, Japan.

It’s not called Tenka no Daidokoro (‘the Nation’s Kitchen’) for nothing – Osaka is a foodie’s wonderland. Yakitori houses, takoyaki stalls, ramen shops, okonomiyaki flippers, kushikatsu purveyors, sushi masters – they all rub shoulders in Osaka, and they’re all ferociously keen to give you the meal of your life. For a true taste of Osaka’s genius, hit up Dotonbori’s neon-soaked streets – it’s crammed with some of Japan’s most famous restaurants (including Kani Doraku, a crab restaurant topped with a giant crustacean), and countless smaller shops. For a truly magical evening, walk Dotonbori’s canals at night and let your stomach guide you to greatness.  

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our list of the Top 8 Things to Do in Tokyo.

About Nate Robinson
Mad for travel and an incorrigible foodie, Nate is as at home in a Mexican taqueria as he is at Tsukiji. When he's not abroad, you can always find Nate with a book in one hand and a tiki cocktail in the other.

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