Japan’s appeal lies undeniably in its stunning scenery, epic history and distinctive culture. In addition to traveling to Japan to see the nation’s many amazing attractions, why not add some out-of-the-ordinary experiences to your itinerary?
Our travel coordinators have access to a wealth of fantastic prime experiences, which can help add an extra layer of authenticity and fun to your Japan tour. From atmospheric music demonstrations and lessons on creating gorgeous gold leaf designs to trips to wonderful wasabi farms, here are our top picks for delving into Japanese culture.
Enjoy a Taiko drum experience
Taiko drums are synonymous with Japanese music and there are few better places to immerse yourself in their amazing sounds than Kyoto. Plan a trip to a Taiko Dojo (exercise room) to not only hear them performed by experts, but also to learn how drums are made.
You will also have the opportunity to play the taiko drums yourself under the helpful guidance of an expert. Discover the rhythmic patterns of the music and try to recreate them yourself. Finally, you will be able to perform a complete piece, accompanied by the singing and shouting typical of Taiko’s music.
After your musical experience, why not venture to Nishiki’s night market, where you’ll see dozens of stalls serving all sorts of aromatic and delicious dishes for Kyoto and the surrounding region?
Learn the ancient art of Ikebana from a master
Even though you’ve never heard of Ikebana, you’re sure to know what it is. It is the practice of arranging Japanese flowers and Kyoto is, again, the best place to live it thanks to the fact that it is the birthplace of Ikebana.
The Japanese flower arrangement differs from the flower arrangement you might have seen in Europe for its meditative techniques and its four main principles: balance, harmony, movement, and freshness. This charming experience led by a local guide will allow you to learn the sacred craft of an expert. Watch your teacher demonstrate before you try to create a magnificent floral centerpiece.
Your Ikebana experience will conclude with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony where you will have the opportunity to question your host about the art form. For those who want to continue their Zen experience in Kyoto, a trip to the Shunkoin temple should be cards, too. It is an impressive Buddhist temple dating from the 16th century and is located within the largest temple complex in the city.
Travel to the picturesque wasabi farms of Japan
Wasabi, full of flavor and known for its spicy spice that usually pleases the eye, is a typical accompaniment to sushi and sashimi. If you are interested in seeing exactly where this hot root comes from, it is essential to travel to the Japanese prefecture of Nagano, in the heart of the country.
Matsumoto is a great place to stay in the region. The historic city is not only a wonderful destination in itself thanks to its spectacular mountainous surroundings and magnificent castle, but it is also just minutes away from one of Japan’s major wasabi production areas. The fertile land benefits from the fresh water of the nearby Japanese Alps, making it an ideal place for wasabi cultivation and a variety of other crops.
Take a tour of one of the farms, where you can see exactly how wasabi is grown and taste delicious wasabi-flavored delicacies. The mountainous region is also ideal for more active visitors who want to fit in some excursions or even go skiing. If you are interested in traveling to the ski slopes of Japan, you will find the best time to visit Japan between December and February.
Get in touch with your spiritual side at Shitaya Jinja Shrine
Many people want to experience the spiritual side of Japan. In addition to finding harmony in its landscapes or in lesser-known gems, visiting a shrine like Shitaya Jinja is a brilliant way to enjoy some peace.
You will discover this quiet destination between Ueno and Asakusa, two of the most popular tourist districts in Tokyo. Enjoy a break from the bustling city and step inside the temple complex during a locally guided private experience.
The shrine is dedicated to the goddess of fertility and fortune, Inari, and you can witness an ancient ritual, complete with bells and applause, that will take place inside. Before venturing out, wash your hands in the swamp of the gardens and take a moment to admire the traditional architecture of the sanctuary.
After the ritual, you will have the opportunity to meditate, pray, or place offerings. There will also be an opportunity to ask the shrine priest questions about the Shinto religion and receive a blessing before continuing to travel to other districts in Japan.
Stroll through the magnificent gardens and create gold leaf art in Kanazawa
Kanazawa is located on the northwest coast of Honshu Island and is the location of one of the most beautiful and celebrated gardens in Japan.
Kenrokuen has a splendid variety of winding paths, jingling springs (including the oldest in Japan!), Mini waterfalls, ancient teahouses, and charming bridges that intersect over peaceful stretches of water. There is also a charming forest full of cherries and pines, as well as a large stone lantern in the heart of the garden.
A guided tour of Kanazawa will not only give you the opportunity to enjoy the unparalleled perfection of these glorious gardens, but you will also discover the historic Nagamaki district, which was once home to the city’s samurai warriors. Afterwards, you can get to know one of the most famous crafts in the city: the art of gold leaf.
Kanazawa is famous for its artifacts adorned with shiny gold leaves. Create your own masterpiece, whether it’s a lacquered plate or chopsticks, topped with a thin, shiny gold leaf to take home as an impressive souvenir of your Japan tour.
Enjoy your taste buds with a ramen tour of Fukuoka
For those traveling to Japan and wanting to explore beyond the major cities, this should be a trip to Fukuoka. The ancient port city of southern Japan will explore an eclectic mix of ancient temples, towering skyscrapers, beautiful castles and tranquil gardens.
Fukuoka also has a very characteristic cultural scene, from its Mentai rock music (which first became popular in the 1980s) to its numerous museums and festivals. You’ll also discover that the city is dotted with high-end workshops selling beautiful silk kimonos that look more like pieces of art than pieces of clothing.
The highlight of any trip to Fukuoka should be its food. The city has no shortage of amazing noodle and yatai houses (Japanese street stalls) where you can make your way through numerous delicious ramen bowls. Why not discover some of the best during a guided food tour led by a local expert? Dinner at some of the best places in Fukuoka, including the yatai that are set up every night by the Naka River.
Enjoy meaningful experiences
Do you like travel stories from around the world? Sign up for our newsletter or sign up for one of our free webinars.