Every few months or so, I go through a phase where I’m dying to go to Japan. While I have every intention of going one day, that day is likely far away in the future because not only is Japan on the opposite side of the world but it would be one expensive trip. So, in the meantime, why not create a Japan bucket list so I know exactly what I want to do when I get there?
Most of the items on this list of things to do before you die in Japan are in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Let’s dive in!
27 Things To Do In Japan Before You Die
1. Eat Sushi
The first thing on this Japan bucket list is probably the most obvious: eat sushi. I love Japanese food, so I eat sushi somewhat often, but trying the real deal in Japan would be amazing.
In particular, I’d love to go to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
2. Go Thrift Shopping In Harajuku
Harajuku is one of the most quirky places in Toyko and is where kawaii culture is from. There are lots of niche fashion stores in the area whether you love cosplay, are goth… or are… well the opposite of goth.
I’ll need to bring an empty suitcase because I anticipate spending a lot of money.
3. Go To Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a must-see in Japan. Mount Fuji can be found in Honshu, which is southwest of Tokyo, so you could see it on a day trip. It is the tallest Japanese mountain and is one of the highest volcanoes in Asia.
The last time Mount Fuji erupted was in the 1700s, so without wanting to jinx anything, it’s safe to visit.
4. See The Cherry Blossoms
One of the most famous things to do before you die in Japan is visit during cherry blossom season. The sakura trees tend to blossom from March to April, but the exact time may vary depending on the location.
5. Climb Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree is one of the most iconic sights in Japan. It’s not only the tallest tower in Japan, but in the world!
You might be interested in my Empire State experience.
6. See Tokyo Tower
Another of the most iconic sights is Tokyo Tower. It looks a little bit like the Eiffel Tower and is one of the tallest structures in Japan.
Speaking of Paris, check out my Shakespeare and Company review.
7. Walk Through Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is another must-see sight in Toyko. It’s one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Honestly, it looks pretty overwhelming but I couldn’t leave it off this Japan bucket list.
8. Stay In A Capsule Hotel
I don’t think I would want to stay in a capsule hotel for an entire trip, but I think they’re worth trying for a night or two. They’re exactly what they sound like: hotels where guests sleep in small pods.
9. Go To Ghibli Park
I’m a big Studio Ghibli fan so there were bound to be Ghibli things on my Japan bucket list. Ghibli Park only opened in 2022, but essentially, it’s a theme park with attractions from the most popular Studio Ghibli movies. It’s fairly new, so maybe there’s more to come, but it doesn’t have rides like a Western theme park does.
Be warned that the tickets are hard to get (especially for those outside Japan) and you need to buy your entrance tickets to certain areas, like Dondoko Forest separately.
10. Go To Disneyland
Speaking of rides, if you’re looking for roller-coasters, you have to go to Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland has classic Disney rides like Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.
What makes Tokyo Disneyland special is it has two castles: the classic Cinderella Castle and the Beast’s castle from Beauty and the Beast – where you can watch animatronics act out scenes from the movie. It’s also known for its amazing food, like the mochi shaped like the aliens from Toy Story.
Check out my Disney bucket list.
11. Go To DisneySea
DisneySea is the second Tokyo Disney park and arguably the most unique Disney attraction. It’s basically an ocean-themed Disney park. There are plenty of water-based rides like the Venetian gondolas and Aquatopia. There are also rides that you can typically find in Disney Studios like Tower Of Terror.
12. Try A Self Heating Bento Box
Japan is living in the future – from talking toilets to elevators that let you unpress buttons, Japan seems like a whole new world. One of the things I’m dying to try is a self-heating bento box.
13. Try Mochi
Most of this Japan bucket list revolves around food. Mochi is a must-try! For those who don’t know, it’s made from sweet glutinous rice flour and often has fun fillings and flavours.
14. Drink Matcha Tea
I love matcha tea and drink it every morning. To be blunt, so many brands that don’t taste good, but I’m sure some of it is because it has to travel so far to Ireland. I bet authentic matcha tea would be amazing.
15. Go To The Ghibli Museum
Another must for Studio Ghibli fans is to drop by the Ghibli Museum. You can see exhibits from your favorite movie, catch a short film, and more.
It’s also hard to get tickets for the Ghibli Museum. Check out this post by Japan Wonder Travel for some advice.
16. Go To The “Lucky Cat” Temple
There are so many beautiful temples in Japan worth visiting. One in particular I’m keen to visit is the Gotokuji Temple, also known as the Maneki Neko “Lucky Cat” temple. It’s believed to be where lucky cats originated from.
You can buy fortunes at the temple as well as lucky cat figures. You can bring yours home until your wish comes through and then bring it back to the temple, or just leave it there entirely.
It should go without saying, but be respectful.
17. Ride a Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Since not everything on my Japan bucket list is in Tokyo, I’ll have to do quite a bit of travelling. The fastest ways to get around is via a Shinkansen, or bullet train.
If you don’t catch a bullet train, some of the standard trains have adorable themes, like Pikachu or Hello Kitty.
18. Order Ramen From A Vending Machine
You can get almost anything from a vending machine in Japan. It’s perfect for introverts or those struggling with the language barrier (although, I do intend on learning some Japanese phrases before going.)
Imagine getting a ready-to-eat meal from a vending machine?
19. Hike Through The Torii Gates At Fushimi Inari
If you’re the type of person who likes to be active when travelling (although, it sounds like there will already be a lot of walking on my dream Japan trip) then the Fushimi-Inari hike in Kyoto is a must.
Much of the journey is through the Shinto shrine gates but you’ll also see some shrines on the way. Overall, it takes around three hours if you want to do the whole thing. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto so get there early or brace yourself for crowds.
20. Walk Through A Bamboo Forest
I like hiking, but sometimes it would be nice to see something different. That’s why seeing a bamboo forest earned a spot on my Japan before you die list. Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo Grove looks so mesmerizing and tranquil.
21. Relax At An Onsen
Onsen are natural hot springs, typically in bathhouses, in Japan. It would be a great way to unwind, but since I have tattoos, my options are limited.
22. Collect Gachapon
Capsule machines are also a thing in Europe, so it’s not that I’ve never used one of these before. I came across a Pokémon one on holiday in Spain as a kid and was ecstatic. However, the options are much more limited here.
They’re a huge deal in Japan and you can get almost anything in them.
23. Go To A Pokémon Center
Pokémon Centers are official Pokémon shops in Japan. Each center has limited edition items and features. For example, the one in Shibuya has a life-sized Mew-two, so you really need to visit a few of them. As a lifetime Pokémon fan, my inner child will be very happy when I can finally visit.
There are even Pokémon cafés where you can get cute Pikachu themed meals and more. Check out Chip Lifestyle‘s guide to learn more about the Poké Centers.
24. Collect Eki Stamps
If you love journalling or free travel mementos, you have to add collecting eki stamps to your Japan bucket list. Eki stamps are stamps you can collect at train stations and some other places in Japan. You’ll have to bring a blank notebook, but some places may have paper you can use. Each location has a unique design so you have to collect them all.
You might also be interested in my sustainable junk journalling post.
25. Make My Own Instant Ramen At The Cup Noodle Museum
Cup Noodle is one of my favourite lazy meals. Imagine getting to learn about the history of Cup Noodle and customizing your very own.
All the instant ramen varieties are one of the things I’m most excited about.
26. Go To Super Nintendo World
I’m still dying to go to Universal Studios in general, but the Universal Park in Osaka is special because it’s home to Super Nintendo World. It’s a Mario-themed area in the park, where you can meet Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad. Plus, forget the Disneyland castle, you can get a picture with Bowser’s castle and enjoy the Mario Kart ride.
27. Look For Cute Manhole Covers
This might sound like a weird one, but it’s just another thing that makes Japan beautiful. Many Japanese manhole covers have beautiful designs on them, like Mount Fuji, temples, and even Pokémon!
Japan Bucket List: Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed my Japan before you die list. Have you ever been? If so, what did you see (or would like to see.) Stay tuned for an update when I get to visit Japan one day!