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Japan Bucket List: 10 Epic Wonders From Tokyo & Beyond

Embark on an extraordinary journey through the captivating wonders of Japan, where the old mixes with cutting-edge modernity. This Japan bucket list shows some of the best places to visit and some of the best experiences to have, revealing the Land of the Rising Sun.

From the buzzing streets of Tokyo, with its neon lights and skyscrapers, to serene and sacred temples amidst lush forests, Japan offers an unparalleled diversity of experiences.

Immerse yourself in the delicate beauty of cherry blossoms, savour delectable culinary delights, and embrace the warmth of genuine hospitality.

I spent several months in Japan, exploring much of the country from north to south and out of almost 100 countries I have visited it’s actually my favourite.

The timeless allure of Japan has mesmerised me since a teenager. This Japan bucket list is what I recommend for you to see. Of course, there are so many places to visit, but this gives you a rough idea of where to go and what to do.

If you plan on doing lots of trips by train (the best way) and travelling to other areas of Japan further away from Tokyo or Kyoto then it’s best to get a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) to save money on train travel.

10 Experiences For A Japan Bucket List

1. Explore Tokyo

Tokyo seen from above for a Japan bucket list.

Tokyo mixes the hyper-modern with the ancient traditional. You can stroll from a peaceful park with an ancient shrine into an epic neighbourhood of neon lights and vibrant energy.

Tokyo has it all.

Visit iconic landmarks in Tokyo like the Tokyo Skytree, Shibuya Crossing, Meiji Shrine, and the Imperial Palace.

There are so many things to do in Tokyo with its vibrant, buzzing hyper-modern neighbourhoods like Shinjuku and Ginza, and delicious street food is everywhere.

One of the fun things to do for some excitement on the streets of Tokyo is to do this tour:

If you’re there when there are some sumo (Japanese wrestling) matches then be sure to go to one. They are a very traditional sport in Japan.

Japan bucket list, sumo wrestlers.

The great thing about Tokyo is also that you can get away from the high-energy city life, escape into a park, and visit a shrine full of a peaceful atmosphere.

2. Witness the Cherry Blossoms

Plan your visit during spring (late March to early April) to witness the mesmerizing beauty of cherry blossoms (called Sakura in Japan) in full bloom.

Parks like Ueno Park in Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen, and Chidorigafuchi are renowned for their cherry blossoms.

The Sakura makes their way from south to north, so if you miss them in the south (like I did) if you head north you may catch them before they die. I saw them in the far north in Sapporo on Hokkaido Island.

3. Experience Traditional Culture

Immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage by visiting historic cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura.

Explore ancient temples, participate in tea ceremonies, and stroll through traditional gardens.

The best place to experience a tea ceremony is in Kyoto.

If you had to choose one city for your Japan bucket list for tradition and culture, then make it Kyoto. It really is the best city in Japan for the old shrines and temples.

4. Mount Fuji

Climb or admire the majestic Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and an iconic symbol of the country.

The climbing season usually runs from July to September, but you can enjoy breathtaking views of the mountain throughout the year.

I didn’t get the chance to climb Mount Fuji when I was there but it’s on my future Japan bucket list. I did get close to it and was in the region to get awesome views.

5. Try Onsen (Hot Springs)

Relax in a traditional hot spring bath in Japan, known as an onsen, and experience the therapeutic properties of the mineral-rich waters. Popular onsen destinations include Hakone, Kinosaki, and Beppu.

Personally, I loved taking an onsen as much as I could. It’s not just about enjoying the relaxing benefits of it, but it’s also a part of the culture of the country.

6. Hiroshima and Its Peace Memorial Park

Head to Hiroshima to learn about its tragic history and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It serves as a reminder of the devastating impact of nuclear weapons and promotes peace.

This was a very solemn place to visit, but Hiroshima has moved on and it’s great to see the thriving modern city today.

7. Attend a Traditional Festival

Soak up the energy of traditional Japanese festivals, known as matsuri. Festivals like Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo, and Kasuga Wakamiya in Nara, are famous for their processions and performances.

The Kasuga Wakamiya in Nara was the main one I went to and it was fascinating to watch. The best part was seeing everyone dressed in traditional clothes.

8. Explore Traditional Castles

Japan bucket list castles.

Now we’re talking! The castles in Japan have some of the best architecture in the country and are packed with history.

The castles in Japan, such as Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Matsumoto Castle in Nagano, Kumamoto Castle, Osaka Castle, and my personal favourite, Matsuyama Castle (see pic above) showcase Japan’s feudal past and offer picturesque views.

Visiting at least one castle when there should be on your Japan bucket list.

9. Discover Japanese Cuisine

Indulge in a culinary adventure and try traditional Japanese dishes like sushi, ramen, tempura, and okonomiyaki. Explore street food markets, dine at local izakayas, and experience the world of Japanese tea and sake.

Japanese food is my favourite food and I would have sushi almost every day and a ramen. Each region has its own specialties so you can try different food depending on the area you are in.

Osaka was my favourite city for food. it’s known as the “Nations kitchen” for a reason.

10. Visit the Island of Miyajima

Take a day trip to Miyajima, an island near Hiroshima known for its iconic “floating” torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine. This is one of the most iconic images of Japan and visiting it is one of the most popular things in Japan to do.

Enjoy scenic hikes in the area, encounter friendly deer when on the trail, and savour local delicacies for one of the best things to do on a Japan bucket list.

This is a must-visit destination if you’re in Hiroshima and can easily be visited one day from there.

Travel Japan

Japan is a diverse country with so many places to see, so you can plan your Japan bucket list based on your own interests and ideas.

If you want to see mostly traditional places then head to Kyoto with its many temples and shrines. If you want to see more of modern Japan then Tokyo is the place. Most visitors like to mix the two together.

Want to know where to get started with planning a trip to Japan? Then check out my Japan itinerary for 2 weeks.

And check out all my guides to Japan to help plan your trip.

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