Whether you’re visiting Japan for the first time or looking for a new way to explore all the country has to offer, here are 17 ideas for fun cultural immersion – not only in Tokyo but also in other popular sightseeing areas including Hokkaido, Kyoto, Kyushu and more.
To bring you this roundup of unique things to do, we’ve collaborated with Omotenashi Selection, a project that brings together traditional items and experiences from around Japan and shares them with international audiences. All 17 experiences recommended here have been vetted by the OS team, so you’re guaranteed to get top-notch service and treatment no matter which option you choose.
Rickshaw On-site Service by Kurumaya Co., Ltd.
The region: Tokyo
The highlight: Bringing the rickshaw ride to you
No need to go all the way to Asakusa to take a rickshaw ride any more. Kurumaya brings the ride to you with their portable rickshaws. This makes the experience all the more meaningful as you can book it for special occasions at a place of your choosing. Surprise your better half with a romantic rickshaw ride for an anniversary celebration, or book
it to show visiting friends around your local neighborhood. sites.google.com/site/rickshawrental
Travelling Outdoor Hotel “The Caravan” by Wonder Wanderers Inc.
The region: Tokyo
The highlight: Discover Japanese nature in luxury
The Caravan is an outdoor hotel that travels around Japan. It offers tents made of 100 percent cotton, comfortable beds and a bar lounge surrounded by nature. Services vary depending on the season and location – your full-course dinner could be served near your tent overlooking a serene view of nature, or in a thrilling setting that you could never have dreamed up. wonderwanderers.com
Shojin Cuisine by Daigo
The region: Tokyo
The highlight: Exquisite omotenashi and traditional Buddhist cuisine
Shojin cuisine is a type of vegetarian meal originating in Japanese Buddhist temples. At Daigo restaurant, you can explore authentic dishes with a menu that changes regularly throughout the year, giving you options for new tastes and flavors every time you visit. Also enjoy a beautiful Japanese garden and furnishings such as tatami, sunken kotatsu tables and kakejiku (hanging scrolls), as well as thoughtful omotenashi (hospitality). www.atago-daigo.jp
Origata and Mizuhiki Arrangement Lessons by MR Office
The region: Tokyo
The highlight: Wrap gifts with traditional washi paper
Create your very own gift while learning one of Japan’s traditional crafts. The lesson is a mix of demonstration and hands-on experience, starting with a simple mizuhiki (decorative cord) and moving on to origata, the art of wrapping gifts in traditional Japanese paper. www.win-win-manners.com
Japanese-style Facial Salon “Facia Ginza” by Something Great Co., Ltd.
The region: Tokyo
The description: Experience Ginza’s finest beauty and healing treatment
To ensure this will be your best salon visit yet, the facial team starts prepping a custom experience as you walk through the door. Through a detailed forum and personal counseling session, they’ll work to find out what treatment works best for you. Cosmetics used at the salon are carefully selected from professional products developed under the supervision of doctors. They are also sold in portable quantities, perfect for taking with you when you travel. facia.tokyo
Flower Arranging Experience by UZU Hanaiku Hanaemi
The region: Kanagawa
The highlight: Enhance beautiful flower arrangements with wood shavings
Wood has extraordinary moisture-retention properties, making it the perfect “mini vase” in which to place small flowers and plant cut-offs. In this workshop, wood shavings serve as vases, but you can also break them off into smaller pieces or tie them into knots to make interesting bases. Because they retain water so well, they also work as an all-natural humidifier. Although at first glance it may seem quite simplistic – placing a flower in a curled wood shaving on a plate – there is a deeper meaning to be found in this creative activity. www.uzu-hanaemi.com
Herbarium Lesson by Ramu Chalk Paradise
The region: Saitama
The highlight: Add a Japanese twist to a beautiful flower arrangement
Creating a beautiful herbarium may seem difficult for beginners, but with expert guidance you’ll quickly get the hang of it. You’ll get to choose from a wide number of flower materials in assorted colors, and be shown how to add a hint of Japanese style by inserting a sakura-patterned paper crane and mari (Japanese decorative ball). www.ramu-chalk-paradise.net
Ibaraki Wedding Experience by P-Hapi Co., Ltd.
The region: Ibaraki
The highlight: Plan your dream wedding in Ibaraki
Another one for future brides and grooms, this service lets you turn your destination wedding into the ultimate experience. Choose from jaw-dropping venues in Ibaraki for your special day, and make use of their photography service for couples who want to take commemorative photos wearing a dress or kimono at a traditional shrine. ibaraki.wedding
Heian Costume Experience by Iyasaka Co., Ltd.
The region: Kyoto
The highlight: Transform yourself into a Heian-period noble
This photo studio is part of a new service offered by traditional costume store Iyasaka. Here, you can try on faithfully recreated Heian costumes and enjoy a photoshoot. The studio resembles Kyoto’s traditional Kyomachiya townhouses, allowing visitors to enjoy an authentic atmosphere. Photo session plans are flexible and the shoot will be documented by a highly skilled photographer familiar with the Heian period. www.iyasaka-kyoto.co.jp
Kazari Maki-zushi Certified Instructor Qualification Course by Sushi College Rollmakiko
The region: Mie
The highlight: Master artistic, delicious sushi
The main defining characteristic of kazari maki-zushi is its unique, colorful designs. These decorative sushi rolls are made using natural ingredients such as fish eggs, kinshi tamago (thinly sliced egg crepe) and vegetables. In this course, which begins with the simple design of a sakura (cherry blossom) flower, you will learn 10 maki-zushi designs, including seabream and Japanese kanji characters. Original patterns can be added as an option upon request, including portraits and popular characters. rollmakiko.com
Mirai Seisakusho Confectionery Shop for Children by Patissier eS Koyama Co., Ltd.
The region: Hyogo
The highlight: A confectionery shop designed exclusively for kids
Mirai Seisakusho, the Future Factory, is designed to provide children with an engaging experience that not only lets them enjoy confections, but makes them feel like they’re exploring a secret futuristic universe. Look forward to fun devices such as an electronic roulette game that activates after every purchase and a projection mapping conveyor belt. www.es-koyama.com
Makeup Transformation Experience by Jyosou Shinshi
The region: Osaka
The highlight: A male-to-female makeover
Not your conventional tourist attraction, but then again Japan has never shied away from a bit of dress-up. Whether you’re into cosplay or simply curious to see what you might look like as a woman, this private makeover session will make for an interesting activity on your itinerary. Your transformation will be done by an award-winning contemporary makeup artist, and the service includes wigs and costumes. www.zyosoushinshi.com
TOHOKU AND HOKKAIDO REGIONS
Charcoal-grilled Senbei-making Experience by Yamanaka Senbei Honpo
The region: Fukushima
The highlight: Learn the techniques of senbei cracker artisans
The senbei crackers you’ll be creating here are flavored only with yomogi (Japanese mugwort) herb and salt so as to maximize the taste of just-grilled senbei. Compare the taste to the traditional tamari soy sauce senbei crackers, which are given to participants as a souvenir. Because the heat from the charcoal grill cooks the senbei to the core, it produces a crisp and light texture while maintaining a certain amount of fluffiness, which sets it apart from those grilled with gas burners or far-infrared cookers. www.yamanaka-senbei.com
Glass Blowing Experience by Glass Studio Nakamori
The region: Hokkaido
The highlight: A traditional craft for both kids and adults in the “city of glass”
Glassware production is a traditional art in Otaru city, dating back to the Taisho era. The glass studio, located near Otaru Station, allows you to create this local traditional craft. Select the shape and color of your choice from a wide variety of options. nakamoriglass.strikingly.com
Kumihimo Experience by KTP
The region: Fukuoka
The highlight: Braid silk threads to create beautiful gifts
During this lesson, you can experience braiding techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation, using traditional tools. It’s a fusion of past and modern culture: the kumihimo braiding itself is done using a time-honored method, but the items you create are contemporary accessories including bracelets, anklets and earrings. www.masumimusubi.com
Angel Express by R Wedding Co., Ltd.
The region: Fukuoka
The highlight: Give your wedding guests a gift to remember
Planning a wedding in Japan? Then this is an experience for you to gift to your wedding guests. At Angel Express, you can select from over 4,000 kinds of hikidemono (gifts for wedding guests) and the staff will package them beautifully using noshi (a special kind of wrapping paper) and include a unique poem. Guests will receive a message card at your wedding informing them to expect their delivered gift at a later date. The service is available for over 40 delivery locations. www.angelexpress.jp
Visit the “Twenty-Four Eyes” Movie Studio Village
The region: Kagawa
The highlight: Explore the Golden Age of Japanese cinema
Immerse yourself in the nostalgic atmosphere of the classic Showa-period film Twenty-Four Eyes at this movie-set village on Shodoshima Island. Based on the novel by Sakae Tsuboi, the story was first made into a film in 1954 during the Golden Age of Japanese cinema and was filmed at this custom-made village. The island itself is a popular tourist destination packed with plenty more things to do and see while you’re there. 24hitomi.or.jp