Japan is full of rich and varied experiences
Japan is a country that draws in thousands of tourists each year with its incredibly rich and diverse culture. There are many wonderful sights to see and cultures to immerse yourself in, however there is nothing as varied and fun as the local way of life. This article covers some of the best ways to experience Japan like a local, delving deeper below the surface of the usual tourist itinerary.
Japanese locals can’t get enough of karaoke. While in the West, karaoke is often associated with raucous nights out, in Japan karaoke is a favourite past time for everyone from teen girls, to grandparents to businessmen. Once in Japan, it is easy for travellers to see the mass popularity of karaoke across the country, as there are plenty of places advertised in all major cities. Travellers should find their nearest Big Echo or Karaoke-kan, the most common karaoke chains, and expect an evening of fun, laughter and singing!
Eat authentic sushi
Sushi may be one of the most famous exports out of Japan, and one of the world’s most influential cuisines, yet in Japanese culture sushi is considered more of a treat, rather than an everyday meal. Much of the country’s best sushi can be found in small, locally-run restaurants where you may have to queue for a seat. The queues are always worth it, though, as the sushi is hand-rolled in front of your eyes using fresh locally-sourced fish and vegetables.
Experience hot springs
Head to an Onsen, a Japanese natural hot spring bath, and enjoy peace and relaxation as the locals do. Once the comfortably warm waters hit your bare skin it is hard for your muscles to not immediately relax, and your mind will soon follow. The hot springs experience is a fantastic treat for any traveller who has been busy exploring Japan’s vibrant cities, or anyone scaling Mount Fuji! There are many Onsens to be found all over Japan, however the most popular and best rated can be found in Kinosaki and Hakone.
Sleep in a ryokan
A night in a Ryokan is often a top recommendation for travellers seeking an authentic Japanese experience. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. Once you arrive you will be asked to leave your shoes in reception and drink a hot cup of tea. You will then be guided to your room, which will be fitted with a tatami – a mat that you will be sleeping on for the night. Guests at a Ryokan can bathe before bedtime, and will then be served a traditional Japanese breakfast in the morning. A truly minimalist experience that should not be missed.
Ride bullet trains
Many know Japan for its intricate and exceptionally efficient train system, featuring the bullet train – known to locals as Shinkansen. Travelling via train in Japan is one of the quickest, easiest and affordable ways to get around the country – ideal for travellers with an extensive itinerary. Those travellers planning to follow the well-trodden route from Tokyo to Kyoto can get there easily using a bullet train – make sure to sit on the right side of the train to enjoy an incredible view of Mount Fuji. If you are planning to make several trips via train, a JR pass is a great idea to give you better deals for your journeys.
See a sumo match
For an entertaining treat while you’re visiting Japan, it doesn’t get much better than watching a sumo match! If you’re not familiar with the sport, it consists of two overweight, muscular men, wearing only loincloths as they grapple with each other in a ring. Grand Sumo tournaments take place over a 15-day stretch, six times a year. Catch a match in Tokyo in January, May or September; Osaka in March; Nagoya in July or Fukuoka in November.