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.
Looking For Virtual Experiences and Tours?
If you're unable to travel to Japan right now or would like a quick and easy way to virtually explore everything from bustling cities to quiet rural areas of the country, then check out my guide to 10 Top Rated Virtual Japan Tours.
Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan
by Rob Dyer
2020 and 2021 were years unlike any other in living memory, particularly when it comes to travel.
Nevertheless, some of you were able to visit Japan before we knew what 'lockdowns' were, and The Real Japan has many followers who live in Japan year round. And you were still getting out and about, albeit in a Covid-safe manner, and in smaller numbers than usual.
Closure Of Famous Names
The impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry is reflected in this year's chart, with two of the biggest attractions from last year closing as a direct result of the huge fall in international tourism.
Robot Restaurant in Tokyo (previously at #2 in our chart) first announced a temporary closure, which was later confirmed as a permanent in November 2020.
Likewise, Kawaii Monster Cafe (also in Tokyo) closed its doors for good on 1st February 2021. Previously it was at #4 in our chart.
New Entries In The Top 10
With two of the highest entries in our chart dropping out completely, that has shuffled several entries up the chart, and has seen two new entires coming into the Top 10 for the firs time.
What are they? Let's start the countdown to the Number One position and find out...
10. teamLab Planets TOKYO E-Tickets
Japanese installation art collective teamLab became famous the world over with their Borderless installation a few years back.
Now, the same team behind that hit have a new immersive experience (also in Tokyo) called teamLab Planets. It's another experience in which visitors journey through room-sized digital artworks.
This time around, it's eight digital artworks based on the concept of 'Body Immersive'. Step into the museum barefoot, and immerse yourself in art-spaces that blur the lines between art and people.
This video gives you a good idea of what to expect...
9. Tokyo Skytree
Skytree's design is based on a fusion of futuristic design and the beauty of traditional Japanese construction techniques. At the top, there is a spiral, glass-covered skywalk where you can ascend the final 5 meters to the highest point on the upper platform.
A section of glass floor gives you a dizzying, birds-eye view of the streets far below.
I'm not surprised to find tickets to Tokyo Skytree enter the Top 10. I've still only seen it from street level, so if you've been fortunate to take in those incredible views of Tokyo, let me know by leaving a comment below.
8. 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.
Read My Guide: to What Is Special About Nagoya? to learn more about Japan's 4th largest city.
7. 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 My Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament to see what happens when these giants are in competition in the ring.
6. 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
5. 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.
4. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
For mayhem with Minions, Harry Potter wizardry, the world's first Super Nintendo World park, 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.
3. 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.
2. 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 My Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament for top tips to make the most of your time there.
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. 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 My 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 things change over time. It's 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 others by leaving a comment below...
VIDEO: Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan - April 2021 Edition
About the Author
A writer and publisher from England, Rob has been exploring Japan’s 6,800 islands since 2000. He specialises in travelling off the beaten track, whether on remote atolls or in the hidden streets of major cities. He’s the founder of TheRealJapan.com.
This Top 10 is compiled from bookings made by The Real Japan readers through the Rakuten Travel Experiences website.
Previoulsy know as Voyagin, Rakuten Travel Experiences is a travel tours and activities booking platform (in English) headquartered in Tokyo and owned by Rakuten.
Takuten Travel Experiences website
Recommended Japan Travel Resources
Japan Travel Guidebook
Get my book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese HERE.
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