As the world slowly opens up again, we’re hoping Japan is going to open up its borders, too. In fact, there are rumours that we might be able to travel for leisure to the Land of the Rising Sun as soon as the end of the year! 

So to get yourself prepared for your adventure to Japan, why not create a Japan travel bucket list? 

I’m sure you’ve read tons of articles online about this. There’s the standard “visit these specific places” and “eat local food”, and the list goes on to more than 50 things to do! Boy, we don’t all have the time in the world to read or do that! So that’s not what we’re going to do in this article.

Instead, our Japan travel basic bucket list has only 4 activities! It’s the most basic of lists, but a really good one, if I do say so myself. 

#1: Balance City & Nature  

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The first on your Japan bucket list is balancing city and nature. Most of us think of the bright lights and neon signs of Tokyo when thinking about travelling to Japan. But keep in mind that this island nation is huge! There’s literally so much more to Japan than the Shibuya Scramble and Asakusa’s Sensoji.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo is lovely and a city that will always have a place in my heart. But you should definitely spread out your time across the mainland rather than just one city. 

Venture out to the rural areas and you’ll discover a whole other side of the country. You don’t even have to go so far. Even just a quick one to two-hour drive out of Tokyo to Yamanashi. You’d be surprised at the world of difference these two areas have. 

If going from one end of the stick to another is too extreme for you, then pick the middle ground: a suburban area, like Kawasaki and Chiba. Alternatively, you could kill two birds with one stone and pop by the mountainous town of Hakone. This is just an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. You can not only venture out of the city zone but also experience local hot springs and the beautiful nature all year round.

2: Drown in Spirituality

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The next thing on the bucket list you need to do in Japan is drowning yourself in spirituality. Scattered around the country are shrines and temples. Even with a walk down the street your accommodation is at, you can come across a few local ones.

During your time here, never stop visiting these holy grounds. If you’re visiting various cities, visit a few of them in each one. There are some uphills, making you work for the view. There are others with hidden caves where you can pray for a deep desire. There was one shrine that I went to in Fukuoka called Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine. It had a small cave but I had to really find it, though. It’s believed that if you make a wish in that cave, it’ll definitely come true. A friend of a friend wished to be married and the year after she went there, she actually did!

If you’re not sure whether the holy grounds you’re at is a temple or a shrine, look out for torii. This is a traditional Japanese gate that’s usually red. It marks the transition of mundane to sacred ground. If you see one before entering the grounds, then it’s a shrine.

3: Immerse in Culture

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The third on our Japan travel bucket list is to immerse yourself in culture. Every city that you go to will be sure to have a museum. The Land of the Rising Sun has quite a story to tell, even about the times when it wasn’t known as Nippon. While you can read about them online, these museums have information that you can’t find anywhere else. There are also artefacts that you can see with your own very eyes. 

There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor museums for you to discover. Some even have cafes for a short break in between your learning journey. If you go to outdoor ones, they might even have a foot bath!

I understand that not everyone’s interested in walking around staring at figures. If you’re not such a huge fan of history, then go to an art gallery instead. Japan is rich in art, from paintings to fashion. Take your pick of permanent and temporary exhibitions, featuring legendary local and international artists and designers.

4: Drink Your Hearts Out!

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And last but definitely not least on our bucket list: drink your hearts out! While there are lots of local delicacies, not many talk about the drinking culture. Get your fill of all the alcoholic drinks this country has to offer. Different cities have local breweries as well, so you can go on a beer tasting trip around the nation!

If you’re short on time and can’t afford to hop from city to city, don’t worry, your local bar by the accommodation has you covered. There’s everything from the standard draft beer to cocktails. In fact, some places have nomihodai (飲み放題), an all-you-can-drink deal. This is where you can… drink all you want! For a certain amount of time, of course, and for a bargain price!

Vocab Recap

In our Season 4 Episode 1 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we have more fun facts and details of a Japan travel bucket list. In that episode, we introduced new vocabulary words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Toshi (都市) — city

Inaka (田舎) — countryside or rural

Kougai (郊外) — suburban

Shizen (自然) — nature

Jinja (神社) — shrine. Another way to call a shrine is jingu (神宮)

Otera (お寺) — temple

Taisha (退社) — grand shrine

Torii (鳥居) — the red gate

Omikuji (おみくじ) — fortune slip

Hakubutsukan (博物館) — museum

Bijutsukan (美術館) — art gallery

Sake (酒) — alcoholic drinks

Nihonshu (日本酒) — Japanese rice wine

Nama bēru (生ビール) — draft beer

Kokuteru (コクテール) — cocktail 

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Nomihōdai (飲み放祭) — all-you-can-drink

Create Your Japan Travel Bucket List Now!

What did I tell ya? Our bucket list might be basic, but it’s still extensive. It’s going to get you doing the things you can only do in Japan. What are you excited to do first? Let us know!

Also, tune in to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more content like this, as well as fun and quick Japanese grammar lessons.