I'm often asked... What are the best things to do in Japan?
But 'best' can be subjective. What I like and what you like might well be different. However, there's nothing subjective about what activities people are actually booking.
Here then are the Top 10 most popular activities in Japan. These are the most popular based on the actual number of activities booked by visitors to TheRealJapan.com*.
*This post is regularly updated. Last update: 11 April 2020 (The impact of COVID-19 has delayed updates)
Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan
by Rob Dyer
Welcome To The Top 10
I've had a good rummage and pulled out the facts and figures on what you've booked up until now. And you've been having all sorts of experiences and adventures during 2019.
Then I thought, why not share a post of those Top 10? So whenever someone asks me a similar question I can simply point them to what actually is the most popular.
Next I figured why not keep this post regularly updated so the website will always contain the current, most popular activities? So that's what I'm doing.
You can then read through them, see which (if any) you've already experienced, and discover any that are new to you.
A Few Surprises
There's a few of the 'usual suspects' in the list, but also several that I didn't see coming at all. (I had no idea that the Kawaii Monster Cafe would make the top 10 , let alone be so high.)
And the No. 1 spot might surprise you as much as it did me.
So that this Top 10 isn't just one huge tease, I've included links for you to book the activities as part of your next trip.
Here then are the Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan (as booked by members of The Real Japan Community).
Let's start the countdown to the Number One position...
10. Legoland Japan, Nagoya
Lego was a big part of my life as a child. I was a member of the Lego Fan Club, even submitting photos of my creations in the hope of winning one of their regular prizes. I never did, but I did once win a big bag of the plastic bricks at a summer fair one time.
If Legoland had existed in the 1970s you can bet I would have been there!
So it's nice to see that Legoland Japan in Nagoya starts our Top 10. In the tradition of Lego inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen, this family-oriented theme park is where inspiring education meets exciting play.
There are over 40 rides and shows to experience in seven themed zones, plus engaging, interactive attractions where creativity runs wild.
9. Early Morning Training Sumo Stable Tour, Tokyo
Aside from actually attending a sumo tournament, it is possible to watch live sumo wrestling at an early-morning training session.
These sumo stable tours take place in between the tournaments and are a rare chance to witness sumo training up close. This isn't just some show put on for tourists. These are actual training sessions to which a small number of members of the public get access to.
It's possible to get an exclusive photo opportunity with wrestlers after their training for the ultimate selfie souvenir. Although the Tokyo tour is our number nine entry, the same tour is also available in Osaka - details on that can be found here.
Read Our Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament to see what happens when these giants are in competition in the ring.
8. Studio Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
Anime giant Studio Ghibli's ghostly fantasy Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001.
This official museum/park dedicated to Studio Ghibli films, characters and designs is a total delight and a perfect way to spend a few hours - whether you're a child or just a child at heart. It's located in Mitaka, an attractive and quiet suburb of Tokyo.
Demand for tickets regularly outstrips supply and tickets are not available at the museum and must be bought in advance. So it is essential to book in advance if you want to visit this magical world.
Read Our Guide: to Visiting The Studio Ghibli Museum for top tips to make the most of your time there
7. Guided Tour of the Tokyo National Museum
Japan's National Museum first opened its doors in 1872, making it Japan’s oldest museum.
It houses a stunning and extensive collection of significant historical and cultural assets, focusing on ancient and medieval Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road.
Located in Ueno Park, in Taito, the north-eastern part of Tokyo, it's the largest in Japan, housing 87 national treasures as well as 634 cultural assets. You'll see how Japanese art has changed over time from the use of clay to the many Buddhist and samurai arts.
Read Our Guide: Secret Tour of Tokyo National Museum for a rare behind-the-scenes peek inside.
6. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
For mayhem with Minions, Harry Potter wizardry, iconic Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park, Spider-man, Terminator, Jaws magic, thrills, spills and fun, it has to be Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
I've been coming here since 2002 - during its 1st Anniversary - and it still entertains like few other theme parks. No wonder it attracted a staggering 14.9 million visitors during 2017 and is currently the 4th most-attended theme park in the world!
Read Our Guide: Universal Studios Japan: Ultimate Guide for top tips to make the most of your time there – which passes to buy, rides not to miss, shows to catch and other insider know-how.
5. Kaiyukan Aquarium, Osaka
Located next to Osaka bay, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the world's largest aquariums, and home to the gargantuan whale shark.
The best way to experience this incredible place is to make your way to the top level and then slowly make your way down to the ground floor. The interior is designed as a walkway that spirals down around the huge tanks that house an incredible array of sealife.
Come for feeding time to meet penguins, dolphins, sea lions up close... and thousands more specimens from across the Pacific.
4. Kawaii Monster Cafe, Tokyo
Reserve a seat at the Kawaii Monster Café, Tokyo, for the overwhelming kawaii dining experience designed by Sebastian Masuda. Prepare for a pop culture explosion unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
There are regular shows at the cafe dedicated to all things kawaii, from pop culture nights to burlesque shows. For fans, kawaii isn't just a fashion it's an entire subculture.
Masuda is a Japanese artist and self-proclaimed champion of all things kawaii (cute). As well as exhibiting in art galleries around the world, examples of his work and merchandise can be seen, and purchased of course, at his store 6% Dokidoki in Tokyo.
3. Visiting A Sumo Tournament
Securing tickets to the famous sumo wrestling tournaments in Japan comes in at number three. The national sumo tournament is held only 6 times a year and tickets sell out quickly. To be sure of a seat you'll need to book your tickets in advance.
Even if you're not into wrestling, visiting a sumo tournament is an entertaining and memorable way to spend from a couple of hours up to half a day.
Watch the star wrestlers arriving outside the stadium. Catch the rising stars of this national sport during the afternoon bouts. The big-name wrestlers (who are like rock stars in Japan) start their bouts around 6pm.
Read Our Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament for top tips to make the most of your time there.
2. Robot Restaurant, Tokyo
Visit Robot Restaurant Shinjuku for a night you'll never forget! Dazzling lasers, crazy decor, robots, dancers, and only-in-Japan madness. The food is nothing special, here it's all about the show.
The love it/loathe it Robot Restaurant in Tokyo's red-light district of Shinjuku is currently a solid second place in our Top 10. With Japanese travel website Voyagin regularly offering as much as 38% off the usual entry price I can understand why this has been popular.
For those who want to be in the thick of the action, front row seats are only bookable with Voyagin. Prepare to have your mind well and truly blown!
1. Watching Baseball at Koshien Stadium, Kobe
Going to a baseball game has, by far, been the most popular activity among The Real Japan community during 2019. And out of all the venues available, going to see the Hanshin Tigers at their home stadium of Koshien has topped the league.
Sure, there are bigger teams (hello Yomiuri Giants!) but there's clearly something about the fanatical nature of those who follow Kobe's finest that's firmly put watching games at Koshien Stadium at the top of our list.
Read Our Guide: to Going To A Baseball Game in Japan for top tips to make the most of your time there.
What's Missing For You?
As I said at the start, I regularly maintain this list, so there will be changes over time.
It will be interesting to see what new entries appear and which drop out, and to see which rise up or fall down the Top 10.
You may want to bookmark this post and come back to keep updated on the current Top 10 standings.
Is there anything missing from the list for you?
Maybe you've had an awesome experience that isn't in the Top 10 that you think ought to be? If so, please share your recommendations with other readers by leaving a comment below...
This Top 10 is compiled from bookings made by The Real Japan readers through the Voyagin website.
Founded in 2011, Voyagin is a travel tours and activities booking platform (in English) headquartered in Tokyo.
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