Visitors from all over the world peregrinate to the Land of the Rising Sun all year round. Get to know the fascinating culture of Japan intimately.
State-of-the-art technology intermingles with centuries-old traditional kimonos and yukatas on any ordinary street, while the often snowy volcanic mountain range of the Nihon Arupusu contrasts strikingly against the cultivated cherry trees in bloom.
Home to a profoundly rich and complex culture, there is always something to do in Japan. A country of both contrast and nuance where modern and traditional cultures clash and mix openly, it is truly a paradise for avid cultural explorers that want to experience something new.
As a first-time visitor, with so many places to explore and things to do, Japan can be quite overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t have to worry too much about travel times from one point to the other, since the Shinkansen (the Japanese high-speed train system) is one of the fastest and most reliable transportation networks in the world.
But if you truly want to immerse fully in the exuberant Japanese culture, we made a list of cultural experiences you don’t want to miss during your visit to the country. Join us to discover the best activities and sights in Japan!
Spend the night in a temple
If you have always been curious about what it’s like to live as a monk in a Buddhist shrine or temple, you can arrange to stay overnight in one to have the full experience. Whether you are looking for a genuine spiritual connection or just moved by curiosity, staying in a temple is a very interesting experience that can offer a window into the deep spirituality of the country.
Usually, the experience involves sleeping in a very minimal tatami room, eating a frugal vegetarian meal, and attending morning prayers the day after. You can easily find temple lodgings around important cities like Kyoto and Nara.
Join a traditional festival
Japanese festivals (called matsuri) are vibrant and colorful experiences where you can freely participate in the celebrations among locals and fellow tourists alike. Eat delicious food on sticks and enjoy lively shows, music, and parades
The best part? Everyone can dance and follow the many traditions that comprise these traditional Japanese festivals. The Aomori Nebuta Festival is a favorite of tourists and a major festival in the country, and it is very easy to join as a volunteer or just dance along with other revelers.
Dress in a traditional kimono
It would be a pity to join a festival and not dress in a kimono or yukata (a lighter summer version of the former). Japanese garments are famed for their finesse and elegance, and most traditional clothing can be pretty expensive, especially when you include all the necessary accessories.
Fortunately, tourists can enjoy the experience of dressing in traditional Japanese clothes thanks to the many rental shops where you can get one-day or even overnight rental clothing for both men and women, allowing you to completely immerse in the culture as well as get some great photos to brag about to family and colleagues back home.
Learn the way of the samurai
Bushido (literally meaning ‘way of the warrior’) is also known as the samurai code, a philosophical guide of conduct for the samurai of the past. This code of conduct is almost 800 years old and teaches priceless virtues like self-discipline, respect, and modesty.
But you don’t have to be a samurai to delve into the invaluable wisdom of the Bushido. Visitors can join samurai workshops in all major cities of the country, like Kyoto, Osaka, or Tokyo. During these classes, you will get a deeper understanding of the strict ethics that lie behind the actions and politeness of not only historical real samurai but also Japanese people in general.
The ritual of tea
After learning about Bushido and wearing a kimono at a summer festival, joining a tea ceremony seems like the next logical step to getting a better grasp of Japanese traditional culture. The ritual surrounding tea is - unsurprisingly, in a country where every ordinary action has a deeper meaning - about much more than just drinking tea.
A faithful miniature or reflection of Japanese values and aesthetic ideals, you can join a tea ceremony as a tourist with the help of experienced hosts that will guide you through each step, while you get to taste some of the most renowned kinds of tea in the world. You can find tea salons in all major cities, and don’t even need to worry too much about the language barrier: most of them have English-speaking hosts.
This is just a sample - you can make your own journey to Japan!
Japan is a beautiful country with countless things to do and places to see. In such an intricate culture, tourists might become shy of committing a cultural faux pas or doing something inappropriate in the wrong place or time, but don’t worry too much about that.
Japanese are inherently polite and friendly people, and they will gladly help you out as long as you remain respectful of their traditions and beliefs. Even if you don’t speak the language, they will try their best to make you feel at home.