16 Unique Things in Japan That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else

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

Traverse otherworldly landscapes and immerse in cultural heritage.

With Japan slowly opening its doors to foreign travellers, the hearts of anime fans, film buffs, and nature lovers have awakened. 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 are at an all-time high. So, here are 16 things that you can only experience in the Land of the Rising Sun. 

1. Stay in the oldest hotel in the world

What’s a more authentic and unique experience in Japan than staying in a hotel 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 also the longest-standing hot-spring inn and offers a clear view of Mount Fuji

Also read: Japan to Welcome Select Foreign Tourists in Small Tour Groups

2. Climb the slopes of Mount Fuji

unique things in Japan

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Speaking of Mount Fuji, can you say you’ve been to Japan if you haven’t visited 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

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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

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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 three-degrees Celsius all year. 

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 among 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

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It goes without saying that the onsen (hot spring) 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 (hot spring). Its colour is brought about by minerals and iron in the water, giving the spring its iconic blood-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. 

5. Observe macaques soaking at Jigokudani Monkey Park

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A close and adorable sight of macaques soaking in an onsen and interacting in large groups is definitely a unique thing in Japan not to be passed 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. 

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. 

7. Go soul-searching in Studio Ghibli Museum

unique things to do in japan

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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. So, immerse yourself in the world of your most beloved anime. However, photography isn’t permitted inside the museum, so it’s one of those unique experiences in Japan that you’ll have to “see to believe.” 

Final tip: Tickets are limited so you might want to book as soon as these become available.  Selling starts three months in advance for a particular month. For instance, tickets for the whole month of September go on sale on the first day of July, and so on.

8. Spy each miniature figure in the massive Ghibli clock

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

Also read: 10 Destinations in Asia That Inspired (Or Were Inspired by) Studio Ghibli Movies

9. Expect the unexpected at Yoro Park

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In Yoro Park, aka the 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 laying on its side, and more. Gravity has no rules in this unique place in Japan as you run, skip, and jump through its different sections. 

10. Visit the origins of the waving Lucky Cat

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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 are decorated with thousands of these lucky cats that are gifts from visitors wishing for good fortune. 

11. Gain prosperity at Zeniarai Benten Shrine

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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. So, immerse yourself in one of the unique things to do in Japan and wash your coins. Of course, the more coins you wash, the merrier. 

12. Amble through the ever-changing Fushimi Inari Shrine

unique things to do in japan

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Giving a new meaning to the word “countless,” the number of torii (symbolic structures marking sacred sites) gates in Fushimi Inari Shrine frequently increase every year. The oldest ones date back to the eighth century, most notably the ​grand entrance gate donated in 1589 by 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 the Inari mountain. 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. 

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. 

Also read: A Japan Guide: The Ultimate Must-Visit List for Gamers & Anime Fans!

14. Try out innovative vending machines

unique things in japan

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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

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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 head towers above Toho Cinema in Shibuya, which is under the same media group that created 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. 

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 Author

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.