Choose from 200 Fun Things to Do in Japan
For classic Kyoto in a nutshell, head to Arashiyama Park. The perennially popular area is rich in temples and a riot of fall colors in November, with pink cherry blossoms in April.
The park area embraces several major sights, including Tenryu-ji Temple, founded in 1339. The main temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, Tenryu-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by tranquil Zen gardens and bamboo forest.
There are many other temples in Arashiyama, including the Gio-ji, Jojakko-ji and Daikaku-ji temples. Another highlight is walking across the Moon Crossing Bridge, with views over to Mt Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Park is north-west of central Kyoto, by the Oi River. Buses run to Arashiyama from the city center, and the closest train station is JR Saga Arashiyama.
- There is an admission fee to enter the temple grounds.
- Plan between 30 minutes and an hour to admire the temple, take photos, and explore the gardens.
- A traditional Japanese teahouse is in the temple grounds, and souvenir shops, food vendors, and restaurants are just outside the gates.
- The temple grounds and walkways are wheelchair accessible.
- Performances last 50 minutes.
- Gion Corner offers tourist season discounts to encourage foreign visitors to experience Japan’s traditional arts. Check out the website for current details.
- Gion Corner has its own app for visitors to learn more about traditional arts before their visit. It can be downloaded from the Gion Corner website.
- Akasaka Palace is ideal for architecture and design enthusiasts.
- While you may be able to get a ticket at the door, people with online reservations get priority during busy times.
- There are different entrance fees to view the exterior only or the interior. Audio guides cost extra.
- Photography inside the palace is not permitted.
- Security lines at the building entrance can be long, so don’t bring large bags.
- There are elevators and accessible restrooms, but the front and back garden areas are covered in stone and gravel, so are not so easy to navigate in a wheelchair.
The circular route around the Silver Pavilion begins in a dry sand garden, named the “Sea of Silver Sand,” where a cone-like representation of Mt. Fuji has been dubbed the “Moon Viewing Platform.” The grounds open up to a moss garden featuring ponds with islands and short bridges, streams, and a variety of foliage. The path snakes up a hill leading to a viewing point of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond. The path comes full circle with up-close views of the Silver Pavilion itself. Unlike some of Kyoto’s famous temples, none of the buildings at the Silver Pavilion can be viewed from the inside.
World Bazaar serves as the entryway into the park and is similar to Main Street USA in other Magic Kingdom Parks, an area dominated by shops and restaurants. Adventureland is home to popular attractions like the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Westernland, similar to Frontierland in other parks, has an Old West theme with rides like Big Thunder Mountain and the Mark Twain Riverboat. Critter Country, one of the park’s smaller areas, has only one ride, Splash Mountain. Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland are all nearly carbon copies of the same areas in the US.
While most of the park’s attractions can be found at other Disney parks, Tokyo Disneyland has one unique ride, the Western River Railroad, which takes guests on a tour of Critter Country, Westernland and Adventureland. Tokyo DisneySea, a new park that opened in 2001, is exclusive to Japan.
As the name suggests, the alley was once filled with candy shops. In the years following World War II, candy shops gave way to black market stalls selling illegally imported American goods. Today, you won’t find much of either. What you will find is a range of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, spices and foods in more than 400 shops. For many locals, the New Year season means taking a shopping trip to Ameyoko to pick up traditional New Year’s foods like fish cakes, crab and roe.
Even if you’re not in the market for Japanese food products, a stroll down Ameyoko Shopping Street still makes for an enjoyable experience. Soak up the atmosphere, pick up some souvenirs and sample some traditional street snacks from the local vendors.
If you think this classic furled-roof temple looks familiar, take a look at a 10-yen coin, and you’ll see why. One of Japan's most famous temples, and a World Heritage Site, the image of its 11th century Phoenix Hall graces the coin and the 10,000-yen note.
The reason why this Buddhist temple is so famous is because it is one of the few remaining examples of Heian-era architecture, a textbook example of Japanese perfection.
Take a tour to see the famous statue of Amida and 42 Bodhisattvas from the 11th century. The surrounding gardens are also justly famous, with tranquil water gardens reflecting the temple's surrounding pines.
- Ginza is a must-visit for those with an interest in contemporary Japanese culture.
- The neighborhood is also a great destination for entertainment. The Kabuki-za Theater presents traditional Kabuki theater daily.
- The side streets of Ginza are home to many art galleries.
- The department store food halls generously hand out samples, making it easy to fill up cost-free.
- Dotonbori is a must-see for foodies and nightlife seekers.
- This is a good spot to try Japanese street food: look out for hot-off-the-grill yakitori kebabs, savory okonomiyaki pancakes, and deep-fried octopus balls.
- Don’t miss the iconic Glico running man, a huge illuminated sign featuring the Glico candy company’s mascot.