12 Experiences very unique to Japan you should not miss!

Japan offers some unique experiences not available anywhere else in the world. When you plan a visit to Japan, try to indulge in some of these experiences- some of these are seasonal and some may not interest you. I also couldn't experience all of these but whichever ones I could, I am glad I did. 

1. Capsule Hotels: Capsule Hotels are Japan's answer to shrinking urban space. Capsules are innovative chambers, about 3 ft by 4 ft by 10 ft in size. Dozens of them put together in a room, so that a room which would otherwise house say 10 people under normal circumstances, can now provide accommodation for 50 people. Obvious benefit of this is reduced rentals. You can spend a night for about 1500-3000 Yen (INR 900 to 1800). I have a detailed post coming up about my Capsule Hotel experience. Stay tuned. You can use booking.com to search for affordable capsule hotels in any Japanese city you plan to visit.
Above: A capsule hotel in Hiroshima
Below: Me in my capsule!
2. Sakura or Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom is an annual phenomenon in Japan- cherry trees flower up and look stunningly beautiful. I was lucky that the season was on during my visit days. Few sample pictures below, I have detailed posts on Cherry blossom coming up. The season for 2017 has almost ended. You can plan for 2018. You can track this website to know the best viewing dates before planning your trip.
Sakura or Cherry blossom.
3. Mount Fuji Trekking
Almost every visitor to Japan taking bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto can see Mount Fuji from the train window. Few go closer- to places like Hakone where a slightly better view of Mount Fuji is available in the backdrop of lakes. But if you are adventurous enough, you can trek to top of Mount Fuji. Trekking season is usually mid July till September. Best done in a group, difficulty level is easy to moderate. Japan-Guide website has complete details to help you plan your trek.
I only saw Mount Fuji from my bullet train window!

4. Explore Tokyo on a goKart!
I saw many group of tourists zipping around Tokyo in goKarts. Apparently these cost about 2000 Yen an hour to rent, cheaper if you rent for several hours. You will need international drivers permit. You can ride on your own on the streets of Tokyo, but most prefer to rent in groups with one pilot assigned by rental company, who guides you around town so that tourists can simply follow him/her, without having to worry about navigation etc. This website has more details for you to book a kart

It will be indeed a cute way to explore Tokyo!
5. Sumo Wresting
Sumo Wresting is a popular sport pretty exclusive to Japan. Check this website for schedules and tickets. I coudn't witness it as no events were planned during my visit duration.

6. Cat Station Master at Kishi station (near Osaka)
Kishi railway station in Japan is very unique, because it has a cat as station master. Tourists visit here for this single reason. Original cat was Tama, which died 2 years ago. Now a replacement cat, Nitama is appointed as station master.

It is close to Osaka but I couldn't visit due to following reasons
- There is no 100% certainity that you can see the cat station master. Though its timing is 10 AM to 4PM, it is a cat and I am not sure it will be at a designated spot at specific time. Either we should get lucky or should be able to wait
- Wasn't sure if we can pet the cat or just have to view from a distance
- Because the original cat died, they seem to have got a replacement cat to keep tourist inflow alive. Otherwise nothing unique about the current cat station master. Station is commercialized in cat theme to encash the popularity.
- Going to Wakayama is almost half day round trip minimum from Osaka. I had limited time- going here meant I had to skip visiting places in Osaka. I decided the odds are not worth it and hence decided to skip it.

7. Ryokan Experience 
Ryokan are traditional Japanese houses. Tourists can book and stay here, interact with local hosts, try local costumes and cultures and so on. Unfortunately I couldn't try these- they are relatively expensive than capsule hotels and I had very little time to spend- couldn't afford to spend it indoors. On my next visit I will try these may be. Sangeetha Sumesh stayed in one and her click below

8. Hiroshima nuclear bomb dome and museum
Japan is the only country that has been victim of a nuclear bomb dropped on it. A visit to Hiroshima can help you get an idea how devastating a nuclear bomb can be. I spent a night in Hiroshima, you can plan a day if possible. My detailed Hiroshima experience and photos here
9. Cube Watermelons
Japanese farmers have found a way to produce watermelons in cube shape instead of ball- so that they are easy to store and cut. I kept an eye for these in various supermarkets I visited, but didn't find any. May be it is seasonal, may be I wasn't looking at right place. You can try for yourself.

10. Skiing 
Japan has several mountains where skiing can be done. Of course this is not unique to Japan but if you're visiting during skiing season and have the appetite and budget for the same, you can consider spending 2-3 days in a ski resort and experience skiing. Many Ski resorts like Gala Yuzawa can be reached using Japan Rail (JR Pass covered), which are just 90 mins from Tokyo. Even if you don't plan to stay or ski yourself, you can plan a day visit to get closer look of mountains and skiing. Note that Skiing is subject to weather being permissible. Hard to ensure 100% guarantee

11. Feeding deers in Nara
Japan's Nara Park near Kyoto has hundreds of wild deers roaming around freely in open area. Visitors can pet them, feed them and have good time. Will be a wonderful experience for those who love animals or have kids in the group. I have a separate post coming up on this.

12. Bullet trains
How can you go to Japan but not board bullet train? Superfast and extremely punctual bullet trains are at the core of Japan's public transportation system. Do not miss a ride in them during your visit. The fastest Nagomi ones are not covered by JR Pass, but other most other bullet trains (called as Shinkansen) are. I have a separate post coming up on Bullet train experience.
Also there was a station called Kyu Shirataki in north Japan where a train was being operated for just one school girl. One year ago the station was closed after the girl graduated.

Read my other Japan posts here, more coming up
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9 comments:

  1. Very unique indeed.What about people's culture? Why they have lost their top place in world market?

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  2. Very unique indeed.What about people's culture? Why they have lost their top place in world market?

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  3. @Satish:
    May be my visit was too short to experience culture. Everyone I interacted were polite and pleasant. I didn't find any issue but I have read reports where some part Tokyo etc residents display boards saying foreigners not welcome,

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  4. Fabulous post! If I do go to Japan will drop by here to take cues.

    A cat as a station master - that's really absurd! I don't know if I would want to go on a kart down the busy lanes of Tokyo...

    Didn't know one can trek up Mount Fuji, sure it will be an incredible experience.

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  5. @Chaitali - Fuji trekking only for select duration...
    Thanks for the comment

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  6. That's GOOD list!!
    Now let me go do a search for cube watermelons. I'm so curious about it now. :)

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  7. Capsule hotels, Cherry Blossoms, Mount Fuji and Watching Sumo wrestling are on my list, but two new ones got added - cube watermelons & exploring on a goKart! That does really look cute :) I have a silly doubt about Capsule Hotels - Do you feel suffocated in there? :)

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  8. @Reshma: If you've to spend whole day inside then yes, it is tight and one may feel suffocated. But there're common areas to relax, watch TV etc. I used the capsules only to enter and sleep, so didn't matter much.

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