Always loved the idea of visiting Japan? You may have been forced to put it on hold during the pandemic, now that the culturally rich country has reopened its borders to tourists in October, don’t let anything else stop you.
Although it is still wise to keep an eye on the country entry rulesmake your Japanese travel dreams come true, with these amazing experiences you won’t see, ever forget.
Swimming on the “sea of clouds”
There is a Japanese word for these low-altitude layers of clouds: unkai. Like the northern lights, this natural event can never be guaranteed. Still, you can increase your chances by visiting the most famous unkai spots in the morning during September and October.
Our favorite unkai spot? This is probably self-explanatory Unkai Platform in Hokkaido, or Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Okayama Prefecture (pictured above) sits 1,410.8 feet on the peak of Mount Gagyu, known as Japan’s “mountain castle in the sky.” Visit Bitchu Matsuyama Castle’s Unkai Observatory for a breathtaking view of the sea of clouds.
Sum up the traditional charm of Kyoto
Discover the many traditions of Japan and more rural attractions at visit its cultural capital Kyoto – you can read our full independent guide here.
Expect Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Samurai museums, and picturesque gardens and palaces. With Kyoto being the setting for several movies, books, and anime, it will almost feel like returning to a familiar place (yes, even if you’re visiting it for the first time!).
Try skiing with a difference
How is skiing in Japan different from Europe? Thanks to its unique climate and location, Japan is known for its abundance of powder snow: light, dry, and… fun to ski! Go in #Japanuary to make the most of it. Apart from the steepest slopes, this country tends to offer shorter and gentler ones with trees and great views. Instead of boozy bars, après-ski in Japan begins with a visit to an “onsen”, one of the country’s iconic hot springs and bathing facilities.
Hokkaido is particularly famous for its ski resorts, such as Niseko and Rusutsu, and so are the Japanese Alps on the main island of Honshu (especially Nozawaonsen, Shiga Kogen, and the Hakuba Valley). Or, try a ski trip with a stop at Takayama, a historic city full of wooden merchant houses from the Edo Period.
Kuidaore (“eat until you drop”) in Osaka
The concept of kuidaore, or “eat until you drop”, is often associated with this city — known as the nation’s kitchen — and especially with its neon-lit district of DÅ tonbori. Choose from unique regional dishes and mouth-watering recipes from all over the country (and beyond!).
Must-haves include okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake), takoyaki (octopus balls) and kushikatsu (skewered meat and veggies). For a hearty bowl of ramen, lose yourself in the lively Minami and Tennoji wards.
Check out the real life art of ‘Monet’s pond’
Technically, this pond in Seki is nameless. Because of its crystal-clear surface and colorful water lilies, however, Instagram is now famous for looking exactly like Monet’s paintings (but with Japanese carp swimming around). Visit in early summer to see the water lilies in full bloom or in autumn when the trees around the pond turn red.
While in Seki, explore the local temples, the Traditional Swordsmith Museum, and the vast Japanese Cedar forest.
Enjoy tea with furry friends in an animal cafe
Spending time with animals can have a de-stressing effect and boost your feel-good hormones. Fortunately, cafes where you can pet and play with them are very popular in Japan, especially in Tokyo. Not all animal cafes are ethical, however. So, try to support those who make a positive difference in the lives of their residents. Cat and Dog Rescue Café Lua and Neco Republic are homes for rescue or sheltered cats looking for a home.
Alexandra is the founder Traveling Sisters, a women-only app and community of verified members, aims to make traveling easier, safer, and more fun for women, helping them meet like-minded travelers and share their journey. As a travel and holiday guide for the Evening Standard, Alexandra covers trending destinations, city guides and travel hacks