Unique Things in Japan: 21 Activities That You Can't Do Anywhere Else

21 Unique Things to Do in Japan That You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

You’ll be surprised at how many interesting stuff you can experience here!

It seems like just about everyone is travelling to Japan this year, especially since travel is in full swing! We totally get it; Japan is well-loved for its beautiful nature, delicious food, and unique culture. This country is known for its endless list of innovations and wondrous sights; name it and you’ll (most probably) find it. That said, the hunt for the most unique things to do in Japan is at an all-time high. 

From otherworldly natural wonders to quirky man-made attractions, here are 20 things that you can only experience in the Land of the Rising Sun. (FYI, there’s a lot more than you think!)

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Also read: 10 Unique Airbnb Homes in Japan for the Trip of a Lifetime

One-of-a-kind activities and unique things in Japan to add to your itinerary

1. Stay in the oldest hotel in the world

Oldest hotel in the world

Image credit: Booking.com

What’s a more authentic and unique experience in Japan than staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) run by the same family for over 1,300 years? Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has housed various guests; from samurai and famed shoguns (army commanders) to politicians and tourists. To top it off, it’s both the world’s oldest hotel and longest-standing hot-spring inn. 

It’s a three-and-a-half-hour car ride from Tokyo. So, why not arrange an overnight stay in this majestic inn and have a rejuvenating onsen (hot spring) experience away from the bustling city? 

2. Climb the slopes of Mount Fuji

unique things in Japan

Image credit: banyan0928

Can you say you’ve been to Japan if you haven’t visited Mount Fuji — one of its three sacred mountains? The country’s tallest peak, Mount Fuji, is an active volcano. Though its last eruption was in 1707, the lava has formed countless caves among its slopes. So, here are two notable caves you’ll be sore to miss if you’re looking for unique things in Japan:

Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave

Image credit: Terkung via Canva Pro

In the country’s tallest peak is another treasure: The Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave, which is a national monument of Japan. Descend into a majestic cave where you’ll gasp in awe at the crystal-clear ice that measures up to 30 metres high. Also, the ice can be found all year round.

Fuji Fugaku Wind Cave

Image credit: okimo via Canva Pro

A 20-minute walk from the Ice Cave, Fuji Fugaku Wind Cave has one special aspect: There are no echoes here, as the basaltic rock on its walls absorbs all sound. In addition, the cave contains light moss colonies, cooled lava structures, and ice pillars that stay cool at an average of 3°C all year. 

TripZilla Tip: For the ultimate unique Japan experience, visit Mount Fuji between July and September when it is officially open for climbing. 

3. Board the breathtaking Hydrangea Train railway

You don’t have to confine yourself to just a unique place to visit in Japan. Another one of the unique things in Japan would be their mode of transport. Chug up to an altitude of 750 metres and peer out at the spectacular sights along the Hakone Tozan Railway. It’s more commonly known as the Hydrangea Train, due to the tens of thousands of stunning native hydrangea plants that have been blooming along the tracks since the ’70s. Be sure to catch the hydrangeas in bloom from mid-June to July. 

Also read: LOOK: Japan’s New Luxury Sightseeing Train Cuts Across Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto

4. Take a glimpse into the blood-red hot springs of Chinoike Jigoku

Chinoike Jigoku

Image credit: hans-johnson

It goes without saying that the onsen is on every visitor’s list of unique places to visit in Japan. Jigoku translates to “hell”, which is often associated with reddish shades — hence the name of this onsen. Its colour is brought about by minerals and iron in the water, giving the spring a fascinating deep-red hue. To add to the formidable colour, Chinoike Jigoku also boils at 79°C, making it way too hot to bathe in. Still, it’s a sight to behold that draws in crowds looking for a one-of-a-kind picture.

Also read: 12 Hot Spring Towns in Japan to Relax & Unwind on Vacation

5. Observe macaques soaking at Jigokudani Monkey Park

 Jigokudani Monkey Park, unique things in Japan

Image credit (L-R): Sarah Karlson; hans-johnson

A close and adorable sight of macaques soaking in an onsen and interacting in large groups is definitely a unique thing in Japan you shouldn’t pass on. Located in their natural habitat, Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to Japanese macaques, aka snow monkeys. Fear not, the monkeys are accustomed to humans, so they don’t pay much heed or attack. 

While these chimps are at the park all year round, you’ll be able to catch them soaking in the hot springs in winter. So, if you definitely want to see this one-of-a-kind sight, plan your visit between December and March. 

6. Skip into a Sanrio wonderland

Sanrio Puroland celebrates the global phenomenon of the lovely Sanrio characters. In a nutshell, the vibrant theme park is the embodiment of kawaii. Meet your favourite Sanrio characters and enjoy the sights and sounds of performances and fun rides. For those of you who aren’t usually into amusement parks, you’ll be glad to know that the rides at Sanrio Puroland are more slow-paced, ensuring a more relaxing experience. 

Plus, the true star attractions of the park are Sanrio Puroland’s performances! The park puts up multiple parades and shows at its iconic Wisdom Tree: a whimsical and colourful structure that stands tall on the first floor of the theme park. The whole Sanrio gang comes down to sing, dance, and interact with the park guests. So, do make sure you catch at least one of their shows when you’re there.

7. Relive your childhood memories at the Ghibli Museum

Ghibli Museum, unique things in japan

Image credit: George N

Known as Japan’s version of Disney, Studio Ghibli has released films we hold close to our hearts. Crowd favourites include My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. Get ready for the dreamy colours and whimsical drawings from Studio Ghibli to come to life at the Ghibli Museum! This small but meaningful museum is reminiscent of an Italian villa, with tons of greenery surrounding the various exhibit buildings. 

You’ll be tempted to capture memories of this beautiful homage to one of Japan’s most famous animation studios. However, photography isn’t permitted inside the actual museum, so it’s one of those unique experiences in Japan that you’ll have to “see to believe.” 

TripZilla Tip: Tickets are limited so you might want to book as soon as these become available.  Selling starts a month in advance for a particular month. For instance, tickets for the whole month of September go on sale on the 10th of August, and so on.

Also read: 10 Must-Visit Museums in Japan for Anime and Manga Fans

8. Spy each miniature figure in the massive Ghibli clock

Ghibli clock

Image credit: Maarten Heerlien

Studio Ghibli fans might also be intrigued by the giant Ghibli Clock that’s installed outside the Nittele Tower in Tokyo. It is intricately designed by the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki. The steampunk cuckoo clock is an impressive 10 metres high and 14 metres wide.

Its similarities with the structures and details in Howl’s Moving Castle are unmistakable; from the claws of the clock, to the flame that the miniature blacksmith uses. Take some time to soak in the intricate detailing on the clock, too. You’ll notice the men with lantern-shaped heads working alongside the men with bell-shaped heads to keep the clock ticking!

Also read: 14 Instagrammable Spots in Tokyo to Level Up Your Feed

9. Walk on ceilings and along trails in Yoro Park

In Yoro Park’s Site of Reversible Destiny, objects are quite literally reversed. Along with mazes that feature furniture under the floor, the vast and bizarre theme park is full of 148 winding paths, a bowl-shaped basin field, buildings lying on their sides, and more. Gravity has no rules in this unique place in Japan as you run, skip, and jump through its different sections. Basically, this is a true playground for the young at heart. And anyone can appreciate the creativity and engineering ingenuity of this special park. 

Apart from this unique activity, there are tons of other things to do in Yoro Park. The majestic Yoro Waterfall is known as one of the finest waterfalls in the country, you’ll definitely want to catch a view of it from the Miyuki Bridge. Moreover, the park itself boasts other picturesque and walkable attraction points, such as the Tokai Nature Trail, the Yoro Shrine, and the Furogaike Pond.

10. Visit the origins of the waving Lucky Cat

Gotokuji Temple

Image credit: Dick Thomas Johnson

Arguably the most well-known figurine from Japan is the maneki-neko, whose name translates to “beckoning cat.” It graces many households and waves its adorable white paw to beckon good fortune. Built in the 17th century, the grounds of Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo are decorated with thousands of these lucky cats that are gifts from visitors wishing for good fortune. 

Also read: Off the Beaten Path in Tokyo: 16 Best Things to Do That Are Under the Tourist Radar

11. Gain prosperity at Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Zeniarai Benten Shrine

Image credit: Adrián Pérez

Does glancing at your bank account make you sigh? Your pocket may deepen by paying a visit to Zeniarai Benten Shrine. Zeniarai means “coin washing,” and legend has it that visitors who wash their coins in the shrine’s spring will eventually have double the amount. When you enter the cave, you’ll put your money into the baskets provided and use the scoopers to retrieve the holy water to wash your cash (and bless your finances).  So, go ahead and try one of the unique things to do in Japan by washing your coins here. Of course, the more coins you wash, the merrier. 

12. Amble through the ever-changing Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Image credit: bethom33

Giving a new meaning to the word “countless,” the number of torii (symbolic structures marking sacred sites) gates in Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine increases every year. Some of the torii date back to the eighth century and are donated by some famous figures, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi: one of the most famous samurai

Currently, there are over 10,000 torii gates. They occupy a four-kilometre path that winds around Mount Inari. Take part in one of the unique things to do in Japan and stroll on this path where Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. Clearly, Fushimi Inari Shrine is a must-visit for film buffs and culture fanatics. 

Also read: 10 Kyoto Historical Sites That Will Take You Back to Ancient Japan 

13. Embrace otaku culture in Akihabara

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Without question, Akihabara is a haven for every otaku (anime, cosplay, and gaming enthusiast). Expect the cheapest deals and the widest variety of unique things in Japan, from manga to J-pop merch. There are also themed cafes, where you’ll be served by rookie voice actors, surrounded by railway paraphernalia, and more. 

Moreover, Akihabara is a well-known hub for purchasing electronics. This shopping district features hundreds of shops selling the latest computers, gaming consoles, and home appliances! Whether you’re always on the prowl for the latest tech products or looking to just browse, head over to the huge Yodobashi electronics store next to Akihabara Station and start your shopping spree there!

Also read: The Ultimate Japan Travel Guide for Gamers & Anime Fans  

14. Try out innovative vending machines

Japanese vending machine

Image credit: Nicholas Cole

In Japan, do as the Japanese do and check out the convenience of their advanced vending machines. Walking down the street and feeling peckish? Find a vending machine, pop in some cash and your instant ramen is dispensed. Have a spontaneous date or just a partner to spoil? Get a bouquet on the go. 

You can also customise your own Hanko seal — a round stamp with your name on it. It’s just one of the small unique things in Japan that make for quintessential souvenirs

15. Spot the terrifying Godzilla head

Godzilla head statue

Image credit: amaka_san

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be familiar with Godzilla. The King of the Monsters makes an off-screen appearance with his head, which lets out his signature roar every few minutes. The imposing Godzilla Head statue towers above Toho Cinemas Shinjuku; both the statue and the complex are owned by the media group behind the Godzilla franchise. 

16. Feast on Owakudani black eggs

unique things to do in japan

Image credit: Yusuke Kawasaki

Otherwise called the Great Boiling Valley, Owakudani in Hakone has a hot sulphur spring that boils regular eggs and dyes the eggshells in a black colour. This is the only place in the world where you’ll be able to find naturally-occurring black eggs! Legend also has it that eating just one of these eggs can add seven years to one’s life. 

17. Visit the first-ever cafe to have resident micropigs

Japan is abundant in animal cafes — from dogs and cats to hedgehogs and owls. But amongst these charming animal-centric cafes, Japan’s pig cafes are almost synonymous with the country itself, as it was the first country to introduce piglets as a central theme to a cafe. 

In particular, Mipig Cafe is the Japanese pig cafe to visit. With 10 outlets across the country, each cafe has its own unique sub-concept; such as a forest theme in Harajuku and a ryokan theme in Kyoto. Yet, all cafes feature the iconic wooden furniture that its original outlet in Meguro has. Mipig Cafe stars affectionate micropigs which freely roam about the space. What really draws the crowds in is the opportunity to interact with the cute critters in the cosy interior of the cafe, it is truly a healing experience for those who visit! 

Mipig’s selection of food and beverage is also not to be overlooked. Don’t miss out on the doughnuts that are decorated to resemble the piglets; they’re oh-so adorable! As the cafe is wildly popular amongst locals and tourists alike, make sure to make a reservation with the cafe so you can avoid queuing for hours!

18. Tour top attractions in a go-kart while wearing quirky costumes

City tours are available all across the world, in the form of buses, boats, and even just walking! And while the same can be said for Japan, those who are looking for a special way to tour the city should experience Japan’s go-kart tours! Inspired by the famous Nintendo game, Mario Kart, travellers will each drive their own kart down Japan’s top sights. 

Japan has several shops that offer this unique way to tour the city, from Tokyo to Osaka. Many of them even provide costumes for you to dress up as your favourite characters while cruising down the streets. This is definitely one of the more unique things to do in Japan!

Also read: Tokyo or Osaka: Which City in Japan Should You Visit First?

19. Shop for limited-edition merchandise at Tokyo Character Street

As the epicentre for all things kawaii, the streets of Japan are lined with shops selling stickers, keychains, clothing, even pots and pans carrying the designs of famous character franchises like Sanrio, Pokémon, Super Mario; just to name a few! Well, if you’re planning on stocking up on merchandise of your favourite cartoon characters, then you need to check out Tokyo Character Street

This shopping haven is conveniently located on the first basement floor of First Avenue Tokyo Station, just beside the JR Tokyo Station Yaesu Underground Central Gate. Stroll through this curated underground shopping street, each shop selling authentic merchandise of the specific character or franchise. In fact, some items are only available here at this underground mall. There is also a frequent rotation of limited-time-only character stores popping up along the corridors of the mall, so head there before they sell out their cutest items!  Trust us, you’ll want to make some room in your luggage for your finds at this must-visit shopping spot!

20. Snap all the photos at the most aesthetic poop museum

Japan is home to a myriad of top history, science, and art museums that deserve a list of their own. But, if you’re looking for something quirky and unique to Japan in its concept, Unko Museum in DiverCity Tokyo Plaza is a must-visit. Unko means “poop” (yes, Japan also has a place solely dedicated to poop), and this museum is cleverly themed with plenty of poop-inspired artworks and photo spots. 

For the squeamish, don’t worry — the poop here is artificial, coming in twisty ice cream shapes instead of the realistic shapes that we’re all too familiar with. Apart from that, the funky toilet bowls, neon signages of poop-paraphernalia, and colourful artifacts really make this museum of poop stand out from its counterparts across the world. There are also fun games to play at the museum, including a game that tests your hand-eye coordination by trying to catch falling pieces of poop. Get ready for an afternoon filled with laughter as you take as many wacky pictures and partake in the activities with your travel buddies.

21. Hitch a ride from the adorable fruit bus stops

Now, here’s a set of unique things in Japan that you can easily weave into your itinerary. In the town of Konagai in Nagasaki Prefecture, along National Route 207, you’ll find operational bus stops in the shape of different fruits. Inspired by the pumpkin-shaped carriage in Cinderella, these fruit-shaped domes were installed in 1990 and still remain as vibrant as ever today! Known as “Tokimeki Fruit-shaped Bus Stop Avenue,” the highway features five different types of fruits: strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, orange, and tomato. They’re the perfect backdrop for your next Instagram update!

Also read: 30 Useful Japanese Phrases You Need to Learn Before Travelling to Japan

And, that rounds up the list of unique things to do in Japan! Enjoy your splendid trip to the country hailed as one of the most popular and hospitable destinations.

About Authors

Beautrice Oh
Beautrice Oh

Beautrice enjoys exploring new places and jumps at any chance to try something new. She loves learning about different cultures through their food, landmarks, and hidden local spots (if she can find them)! Always enthusiastic for an adventure, she plans itineraries that fully immerse herself in the destination’s culture, and will never forget to bring along her camera to capture the memories.


Tamlyn Richards

Tamlyn enjoys collecting mementos, from flight tickets to photo booth pictures, for her journal entries. She can often be found trawling the internet for the next rom-com or horror show to binge when she isn't planning for her next getaway.