Travel

5 Things You Must Do When You Visit Japan

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There’s a reason Japan is high on so many bucket lists around the world. Tourism in Japan is at an all-time high, and it seems like everyone is itching to see the sights for themselves. In many ways, this ancient country is full of contradictions. It’s home to some of the oldest belief systems and traditional values, yet it’s such an epicenter of new technology.

From Nagasaki to Tokyo, there is so much to see, do, and eat in Japan that it’s overwhelming to fit into a single trip. Whether you’re taking a Japan tour or exploring on your own, there are some things you must do to call your trip a success. Here are 5 things to plan for your trip today so you can see the best of Japan.

1. Visit a Temple

Most of the top sights in Japanese guidebooks are temples, and with good reason. These sacred spaces have been an essential Japanese tradition for generations. The process of visiting and praying at a shrine is known as omairi, and prayers at these shrines are said to bring good luck.

In Japan, there are two major religions: Shinto and Buddhist. Shinto is the traditional, ancient tradition that has been around since the early civilizations. These religious sights are known as shrines while the temples are Buddhist. You’ll be able to find these spots easily in any city you visit, make sure to familiarize yourself with the proper etiquette.

2. Go to a Sumo Tournament

Sumo wrestling is as ingrained in Japanese culture as baseball in the west. According to ancient legends, Sumo is a practice that is passed down from the gods themselves. There are six major tournaments each year in Japan for sumo wrestling, but there are smaller events all year round. It’s well worth a visit to see this sport in action for yourself. It’s more of a way of life for those who practice Sumo, so it’s quite eye-opening to experience in person.

3. Sing Karaoke

If you’ve ever sung karaoke with friends at a party or a bar, it’s nothing like that in Japan. You’ll see karaoke bars just about everywhere in the big Japanese cities, but it’s not always what you’re expecting based on our western traditions. For starts, most karaoke bars let you rent rooms known as “karaoke boxes” which are where you can enjoy your singing privately with your friends.

You can find karaoke box chain stores and private bars all over Tokyo, as well as smaller cities. These bars also serve food and drink so it’s the perfect way to enjoy a night out with friends. While many of the songs will be in Japanese, you shouldn’t have a problem switching it to English.

4. Eat Udon

While you can probably find udon noodles in the west, trust me, they aren’t as good as they are in Japan. What makes these noodles different from soba and ramen? First, they’re made of a thick wheat, and they’re known for their chewy and soft texture. They’re used in a variety of dishes so you can find a flavor that works for you.

The best udon places in Tokyo can be seen from a mile away because they almost always have a line. It’s worth the wait, however, because you’re sure to be an udon convert in no time. Don’t be afraid to try the local flavor, even if it seems outlandish for your western palette. You’ll never be able to eat ramen again!

5. Bathe in a Public Bath

While enjoying a public bath doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of a good time, it’s a Japanese tradition that goes way back. These baths in Japan are known as sento, and they’re from an era in which houses did not come with their own bathrooms. Most traditional bathhouses require complete nudity, and they’re separated by gender. Don’t worry, there’s not nearly as intimidating as they sound.

Hot-springs baths are known as onsens, and these involve bath water that is heated, but different pools can have different temperatures or even content. Today, you can find baths filled with everything from natural spring water to green tea. Come ready to relax and contemplate, since that’s what these bathhouses are primarily for today.

If you’re visiting Japan, make sure your trip is complete by adding these things above to your itinerary. There is so much to explore in Japan, and you’re sure to have an amazing time just by being surrounded by the culture. Japanese people are excited to share their heritage and traditions with tourists, so take advantage of the best sights and experiences.

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Melissa is a young and energetic writer, a mom to a sweet little boy, and a fur-mom to two perfect pooches. Before becoming the Associate Content Director for Project Female, she was a journalist specializing in topics related to women in politics and policy affecting women.

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