Japan has one of the most vibrant and multifaceted cultures of all. On one hand, it has deep-rooted traditions and customs going back thousands of years, and on the other, it is one of the most technologically and economically advanced countries in the world. This is a crucial part of what makes this country so fascinating to explore. If you have been captivated by the intricacies of the Japanese culture and wish to experience it on your visit to the place, we have this article just for you. Here are the top 7 experiences to immerse yourself in Japanese culture:
Watch a sumo wrestling match
Sumo is Japan’s national sport and an elaborate Japanese form of wrestling. It has its origins in the ancient times performed as a ritual to entertain the Shinto deities. Keeping with conventional tradition, only men engage in the sport professionally. Sumo is both a thrilling sport and a fascinating cultural experience. It is absolutely worth going out of your way to attend a basho (sumo wrestling tournament). These tournaments take place 6 times throughout the year all across Japan. Having a quintessential sumo experience is inexplicably exciting and has to be on your bucket list.
Take part in a hanami
Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, can best be described as a picnic party to enjoy the spectacular views of lush cherry blossoms, as well as drinks and food. People gather around under a blossoming tree with family and friends and lay back and have fun. These mini-festivals can be found all over the country during spring, and since the flowers bloom at different times at different places, you can have yourself this delight when you please. Even though the flowers are the main attraction, you may also get to see traditional Japanese performances. Being so very uniquely Japanese, this experience is truly a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most tourists.
Bathe in an onsen
Natural hot springs, or Onsens, are tremendously popular in Japan, and understandably so. No trip to Japan would be complete without taking a relaxing and refreshing dip in an onsen. Onsens are fuelled by volcanic activity, and are often surrounded by a resort-like infrastructure and atmosphere. Japan has over 2300 onsens to choose from to unwind in a traditional way while going easy on your wallet. There are numerous types of onsens, distinguished by the kind of minerals dissolved in the water. Each mineral provides a different health benefit of its own. But all of these hot springs, regardless of type, will have a relaxing effect on your mind and body.
Learn from the Samurais
If you want to make your trip positively unforgettable and experience the Hollywood-style samurai sword fighting for yourself, you absolutely can! As the influx of tourists increases each year, Japan has many schools where you can learn about Japanese samurai swords and how to use one in a unique class. You get to dress in an authentic hakama and kimono while completing a full performance wielding an ancient sword. A professional samurai master teaches you, in this class, the art of wielding a samurai sword and using it. In some cases, you also get a video of yourself performing an entire piece with the master for free as a souvenir.
Attend an authentic tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony, also called Chanoyu, Sado, or simply Ocha in Japanese, is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese tea. The ceremony is spiritual at heart and is a ceremonial way of drinking green tea typically in a traditional tea room with a tatami floor. Aside from the serving and receiving of tea, the main aspect of the tea ceremony is to let the guest enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the host in an environment that is far removed from the fast pace of everyday life. Traditional tea ceremonies varying in degrees of authenticities and formality are available in several sites across Japan for the tourists to experience.
Visit the snow monkeys
You might have already heard about the beautiful winter wonder landscape of Nagano where you can see the Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, taking a relaxing dip in an onsen, or hot spring. There are several snow monkey parks in Japan where you can get up close and personal with these unique monkeys and interact with them. This cheeky species of Old World monkeys do not scatter about when the humans come close to them or watch in amazement. They are the only known troop to live in such cold climates and make for an amazing sight, amidst a beautiful setting.
Wear a Kimono
Although the general population in Japan no longer dons kimonos in their daily life, they still put it on proudly during wedding ceremonies or coming-of-age celebrations. When you visit Japan, you have to experience this quintessential Japanese culture feature by wearing a kimono yourself. If you are looking for a ton of unique photos in authentic Japanese settings while wearing a gorgeous, sweeping kimono, there are several rental places available that allow for this adventure. It is extremely difficult and close to impossible for novices to put on a kimono correctly, so we recommend you choose a kimono company to help you sort it out.
Photo Credits: @saiko_ebisawa, @96_sumo.wrestling, @tourinjapancom, @fridabecker, @samuraimuseumtokyo, @photosamuraijapan, @awesome_earthpix on Instagram
See more great getaways in Japan.