Skip to main content

21 mind-blowing reasons to visit Japan other than cherry blossom season

Contiki travellers in Japan Photo: Contiki

Ramen, robots, ridiculously beautiful sights… you name it, Japan has it covered. From the north to the south, everywhere you look there’s something that is guaranteed to make you gasp. From sights like Mount Fuji and ancient temples, unique cultural traditions, and all the amazing food, Japan is a culture shock and a half. 

While you may know it best as the land that blooms into bright pink cherry blossoms every spring, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Japan as well! It’s mind-blowing for sure, so let’s get into 21 reasons to visit…

1. The country’s vastness

Though Japan isn’t the biggest country on the globe, it’s an extremely varied one with all sorts of landscapes sprinkled throughout. When you think of Japan, you may only think of buzzing Tokyo or the smaller cities of Osaka and Kyoto. But did you know that Japan is also home to thick forests, snow-capped mountains that stretch high into the sky, and beaches that sink into the ocean?

Even the cities themselves sprawl away into the horizon: Tokyo’s boundaries seem never-ending when you look over it from the top of Tokyo Tower. So, if you’re looking to get lost or to experience seven worlds in one, then Japan is the destination for you. You could spend months here and never bump into the same thing. 

2. The mouth-watering food

It’s no surprise that Japanese food has made the list of reasons to visit Japan – I mean, it’s widely accepted as one of the most delicious cuisines ever with fresh seafood and umami flavours that are sure to delight. Whether you’re hitting up street food favourites, local market stalls, or dining at the finest restaurants, all your meals will be a hit. 

Revel in rustic ramen bars that will have you slurping on noodles all day long, try the freshest sushi in the world and mind-boggling kit-kat flavours, go crazy for katsu and don’t forget about the wagyu beef that will have you questioning every steak you’ve ever had. Your taste buds will find a whole new meaning to the word ‘tasty’ and you’ll never be able to go back.

3. To experience the super fast train

Besides the gorgeous cherry blossom season and the iconic Mount Fuji (which always makes a great backdrop for your selfies and photo dumps), Japan is also known for the Shinkansen Bullet Train. Reaching speeds of 320km/h you’ll be able to zoom across the country in no time at all and visit all your major bucket list stops in a week! Make sure to purchase a rail pass so you can travel anytime you like. 

The Shinkansen Bullet Train is definitely something that’s worth experiencing, especially if you’re a fan of train travel because there’s really no other mode of transportation like it. Some of the trains are even themed, so if you’re lucky you may be hopping onto a pink Hello Kitty carriage or an electric Pokémon one. That’s the thing about Japan: they know how to stay at the cutting edge of technology while keeping things fun. 

Tokyo, Japan

Image source:Contiki

4. All the unique theme parks

Speaking of fun, Japan is home to some truly exciting and unique theme parks the likes of which you won’t get anywhere else. If you’re a kid at heart, a lover of gut-twisting rides, or a pop culture fanatic, then there’s a park here for you.

Japan’s iteration of the famous Disneyland theme parks is pretty special with pastel decorations and themed foods with local flavours. More culturally unique, though, is the Studio Ghibli park, which comprises a massive morsel of land including ponds and hills and woods, interspersed with sculptures and play areas built around the beloved film characters like Totoro and Porco Rosso. There’s also Japan’s Universal Studios which features an Attack on Titan section for anime fans, complete with terrifying life-size titan installations – enter if you dare!

Japan off the beaten path: unique destinations to visit

Japan off the beaten path: unique destinations to visit

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre May 10, 2023

5. To visit all the pristine gardens…

Japan has a reputation for its zen gardens. Luscious parks filled with ponds, stepping stones, moon bridges and perfectly manicured shrubbery, or sections filled with pebbles or sand, raked into intricate patterns – there are different gardens all over the country, and your trip to Japan isn’t complete without visiting at least one. The Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu is a perfect example of how stunning these areas are. With a tea house on the edge, you can spend all day sipping drinks, nibbling on snacks, and roaming through the bonsais and gingkos.

6. … And the National Parks

Japan is also home to jaw-droppingly beautiful National Parks all over the country. Some are dotted with waterfalls, others are home to forest-clad mountains, and others are vibrant with blooming flowers and brilliant autumn foliage. A lot of these National Parks are also home to temples and shrines of worship, lending these spaces a mythical feel that’ll truly transport you to another world. If that’s not enough reason to visit Japan, I don’t know what is…

Fuji Hakone Izu National Park, Akan Mashu National Park, and Nikko National Park are some of the better known parks, but no matter where you end up on the island you’re never very far from something to explore. You can discover the full breadth of the country’s natural beauty in total serenity.

7. To marvel at the most beautiful seasons

Certain parts of the world don’t see the seasons changing that much, but in Japan the shift is not only noticeable but also incredibly beautiful. Of course spring time is decorated with delicate cherry blossoms, but the summer is characterised by bright sun and glittering beaches, the autumn is home to bursts of colour as the leaves start to fall and create golden paths, and the winter is host to snow that blankets the land and makes everything sparkle.

No matter what time of year you visit Japan, you’ll be in for a treat. Our Japan Winter Wonder trip will let you see the country in a way you haven’t seen before!

8. To hit the slopes

One of the best reasons to visit Japan in the winter is the skiing scene. Often referred to as the Japanese alps, the country’s mountain ranges are perfect for anyone wanting to have some snow-sport fun. The most common skiing destinations are Hakuba, Niseko, and Shiga Kogen, but anywhere there’s a mountain with snow is most likely a place you can ski. 

The ski resorts are outfitted with cosy cabins, twinkling icy sights, and plenty of travellers who probably love sports and Japan as much as you – so get mingling and make friends! 

11 most interesting facts about Japanese culture and etiquette

11 most interesting facts about Japanese culture and etiquette

Natalie Siagian
by Natalie Siagian Jun 28, 2016

9. The wildlife

Wildlife may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of reasons to visit Japan, but the country has lots of adorable and majestic animals to view from a distance! The most well known are the miniature deer of the Nara district which are friendly and just want you to feed them lots and lots of treats! You can take a day trip to Nara on our Japan in a Week trip so you can see these cheeky deer for yourself.

Japan is also home to the fluffy and slightly scruffy snow monkey. As their name suggests, these monkeys live in the snow, and can be found in Japan’s northern regions. The best place to view them responsibly is at the Jigokudani Monkey Park, which is covered in snow for most of the year, and where the monkeys can be seen bathing in hot springs. Maybe we’re closer to primates than we thought…

Lastly, bird-lovers gather, because Japan is also home to the infinitely elegant red-crowned crane, which is a prominent icon in a lot of Japanese artwork. The crane is mostly found in the Hokkaido region and can be seen pecking about in the snow and flying gracefully through cloudless skies. Wow!

10. For Okinawa

Okinawa was once a US military base, and the island off Japan’s southern coast (close to Taiwan) has quite a sad history. However, it’s a must-visit destination, and a place like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The island is the smallest of Japan’s prefectures, and has the lowest population as well. But what it lacks in size and people, it more than makes up for with its rich scenery and sandy beaches where crystal waters lap at white sand and invite you in.

Okinawa is quite warm, so prepare for the sun and dress accordingly. You’ll be able to roam through cities, visit temples and the American Village, and eat lots of delicious food. Visiting Okinawa is a great getaway from Japan’s main island for a few days.

11. For Hokkaido

When hitting up Japan, most travellers tend to stick around Tokyo and the neighbouring cities, but if you journey up north, you’ll find one of the most beautiful places on earth. Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost region, and it can be a bit of a trek to get to, but it’s so, so worth it. 

Hokkaido is one of the best places to ski in Japan, so definitely make the trip if you’re visiting in winter. But if you’re here in spring or summer you’ll be in for a treat: Hokkaido is filled with rolling fields of flowers which bloom in colourful stripes of pink, purple, blue, red, and yellow. This is also where you can find the unique Shirogane Blue Pond which features thin trees growing out of the bluest water. Hokkaido is just beautiful in general, and you’ll be able to view some stunning landscapes and experience unique culture all over this island. 

12. The history and culture

If there’s one reason to visit Japan it’s to experience the history and culture. Japanese culture is intricate and so interesting! From the traditional art of kimonos and textiles, to woodblock printing, the complexity of sushi, the glory of sumo wrestling, and the many shinto shrines – the cultural heritage of Japan spans far and wide and there’s a real joy in discovering as much of it as you can. 

With the culture comes a particular set of rules as well, so make sure to do your due diligence and research before your departure. There are a fair few table etiquette rules as well, so keep those in mind. 

Contiki culture hubs: Japanese culture edition

Contiki culture hubs: Japanese culture edition

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Oct 04, 2023

13. To admire all the temples

Shinto shrines and temples are perhaps Japan’s most mesmerising attractions. Often painted red and decorated with ink black kanji, golden or jade details, and swooping tiles, they carve an impressive figure against any landscape. Torii gates are popular destinations as well and pertain to the Shinto belief. If you’re interested in Japanese spirituality then making a stop at any of these is a must.

If you do choose to visit any shinto shrines or temples it’s important to remember that these are historical locations of worship, so a proper outfit is required. Make sure to cover up as much skin as possible – short sleeves are okay, but don’t wear any shorts or anything too cropped. If you have tattoos, it’s best to try to cover them up as much as possible. 

Some of the most beautiful shrines, temples, and Torii gates include Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Meiji Shrine, Itsukushima Shrine, Sensō-ji, and Motonosumi Shrine.

14. The glorious hot springs

Another huge part of Japanese culture is the mineral rich hot springs that are available to visit basically all over the country! These hot springs, or Onsen as they’re named in Japan, have been around for ever – mentions of them can be traced back to the time of many emperors and even from accounts about the Shinto gods. 

Taking a day to relax and decompress at a Japanese Onsen is something you simply can’t afford to not do when you visit Japan – it’s all a matter of finding the perfect one. Most Onsen function like hotels or spas where you can go to soak in the springs and then stay the night in tatami rooms. Food is available as well. 

Traditionally, Onsen baths were separated by gender, and certain places still do this, however a few others have been modernised and allow unisex bathing. Similar to the temples, if you have tattoos these should be covered up. Seeing as Onsen baths are typically enjoyed naked, it’s best to buy some skin-coloured stickers that you can pop over your ink – certain Onsen provide these for you!

15. The unique attractions

One of the best reasons to visit Japan is the fact that it’s simply unlike anywhere else, and we really mean that. I mean, where else in the world can you enjoy a coffee and a kawaii dessert at a cat cafe or maid cafe? Or visit the robot hotel? Tokyo’s Harajuku quarter never fails to stun with its loud and eccentric fashion and youth culture, but if peace and quiet is more your vibe you can always have a meal at one of the many personal ramen bars. You don’t want to miss any of Japan’s super unique attractions.

Contiki travellers in Japan

Image source:Contiki

16. The thick forests of Yakushima

We touched on Studio Ghibli earlier, but this is the real prize! If you’re a lover of the whimsical anime films, especially Princess Mononoke or My Neighbour Totoro, then you have to make a trip to Yakushima. This island is covered in a thick rainforest: the trees are sturdy with winding roots, most surfaces are blanketed with moss, and it’s green as far as the eye can see. If you fancy getting lost on holiday, this is the place to do it. It’s as special as it is magical! 

In need of some whimsy? Add these real life Studio Ghibli locations to your bucket list!

In need of some whimsy? Add these real life Studio Ghibli locations to your bucket list!

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Feb 27, 2024

17. The festivals

A country of deep traditions, the festivals in Japan are out of this world. Some are fairly regular, like celebrations in mid-July and August that showcase scintillating firework shows, or Sapporo’s snow festival and the New Year’s festivities. Others are a little more on the wild side… Have you heard of Kishiwada Danjiri in which wooden floats are lugged at high speeds? Or Wakakusa Yamayaki where a hill is lit on fire? Or even Kanamara Matsuri, a festival dedicated to celebrating penises? No matter what time of year you visit Japan, there’s always something fun going on. 

Attending a festival is definitely a great reason to visit Japan. It’s a chance to really get to grips with the customs and traditions, and get to know the locals as well. Plus, most festivals are accompanied with some really delicious signature dishes. On top of that, many people wear Yukatas, a lighter version of a Kimono – they’re beautiful, and as long as you’re respectful you can wear one too and really immerse yourself in the celebrations.

18. The sake

No – really, sake will blow your mind! The Japanese national drink is a rice wine which has been made in the country for thousands of years, so not only is it aged and fabled, but you know it’s great quality as well. 

You can enjoy sake with your meals at most sit-in diners and restaurants, but it’s stronger than you might think so watch out. Couple this with some karaoke and seriously good city nightlife and you are in for a great time.

19. All the UNESCO World Heritage Sites

We’ve talked about the National Parks and the many Shinto Temples, and these are all very impressive, but Japan has so many more UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its belt! A few have been listed already like Yakushima Island, Itsukushima Shrine, and Kinkaku-ji, but others include the staggering Himeji Castle, the sobering Atomic Bomb Dome which pays homage to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the venerable Mount Kōya, and Gokayama: a village which has preserved centuries hold homes and traditions.

20. The pop culture and the fashion

One of the best reasons to visit Japan is the pop culture and the fashion for sure. At once extremely advanced, and yet also living in a retro space, exploring Tokyo and other cities can be quite an event. Japanese pop culture is quite bright: anime, one of the country’s largest exports, is a larger than life style, and you’ll be able to purchase lots of merch that matches that vibe, and original mangas. You can visit places like the Nintendo store or go real life street racing like in Mario Kart!

The fashion goes right along with it: so much of it is avant-garde and based purely around a person’s personal interests – you can really read these people like a book! But other sides of Japanese fashion include traditional garms like kimonos, made by hand from the finest materials and infused with so much meaning and history. Just getting to witness it is something special.

21. To learn the language

Finally, one of the best reasons to visit Japan is to learn the language. Perhaps you’re already taking classes or struggling alone with Duolingo, or maybe you want to become a citizen of the world and learn as many languages as possible. Whatever your reason, though, the locals will be pleased – there’s nothing better than making an effort.

To learn a language it’s always a great idea to head to places where it’s most spoken, so if you want to become fluent quickly we recommend spending a few weeks in Japan (with Contiki?). 

Up next

Recommended by us

Stop dreaming and make sh*t happen!