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What is Japan Famous For? 31 Japanese Claims to Fame

Ancient history and sophisticated modern technology and innovation mingle seamlessly in Japan so it is no surprise that when asking the question What is Japan Famous for the answers are a mix of the old and the new. From centruies old shrines to bullet trains, cherry blossoms to vending machines and ramen to anime here are 31 Things for which Japan is famous.

what is japan famous for cherry blossoms and mount fuji

What is Japan Famous For? 31 Japanese Claims to Fame

1. Cherry Blossom Season

Whilst cherry blossoms bloom all over the world, they are synonymous with Japan. Cherry blossoms or sakura also have a role in Japanese culture. When the cherry blossoms are out it is time to be with the people that you love. As such it is common to see family members together under cherry blossoms having picnics etc.

canal boat in japan framed by cherry blossoms

The main month for Cherry Blossom season in Japan is April. However, if you are going to visit Japan and want to see the Cherry Blossoms do check that year’s forecast before confirming your trip. And remember that Japan is a long country so the blossoms will be out at different times in different parts of Japan.

2. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, with its snow-capped peak, is Japan’s most recognisable landmark. It’s the highest mountain in Japan and reaches over 12 000 feet. You can even see it from Tokyo –  but it’s definitely worth getting up close.

The mountain is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. You can only hike the mountain during the summer months when over a million people make a pilgrimage to Mount Fuji.

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Mount Fuji

There are multiple trails you can enjoy but most people start their journey at the 5th station. From there, the climb will take you around six hours.

If you want to hike from the mountain’s base, it’s best to start in the afternoon and spend the night before finishing off the next morning.

Alternatively, a day trip to Mount Fuji is ideal if you just want to appreciate a close-up view of Japan’s most iconic attraction.

Meet, Greet and Wifi at the Airport
Japan Rail
has a brilliant Meet and Greet service where they will meet you at the airport after arrivals and get you going with your rail ticket, Pocket Wifi for Japan and take you to your next mode of transport – so good after a long journey.

japan mount fuji 1
Mount Fuji

⇒ Beautiful Japan is one of my favourite countries to visit. Check out my posts on One Day in Tokyo, 2 Day Itinerary Kyoto, 10 Day Japan Itinerary, the best things to do in Kanazawa and what to expect on the Nakasendo Trail.

3. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most important of the thousands of shrines which are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

The temple complex originated in the 8th century. The buildings themselves are stunning and you’re welcome to make an offering to the god. The main attractions, though, are the torii gates which criss-cross the woods behind the temple, forming a network of shaded walking paths along the mountain.

Japan Fushimi Inari Taisha 2
Fushimi Inari Taisha

There are thousands of these torii gates which were donated by individuals and companies. It’s not too strenuous to climb to the top. There are a few restaurants where you can rest along the way.

It will take you around 2 to 3 hours to summit Mount Inarithe mountain and return. However, you can turn around at any point.

Most people stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection, roughly the halfway mark, where you can get some lovely Kyoto views.

The Kyoto-based shrine is open at all hours and has no admission fee. It’s a top attraction in the city and can be viewed while on a day trip of the city.

Japan Fushimi Inari Taisha 1
Fushimi Inari Taisha

4. Vending Machines

It has been estimated that Japan has up to 5 million vending machines. Vending machines in Japan sell everything from umbrellas to hot lunches to even used underwear (truly). Vending machines are said to be worth over USD$60 billion in sales each year.

5. Sushi

Japan has an amazing and varied cuisine but it is perhaps best known for sushi. It is believed that sushi has been eaten in Japan since 400 AD. For centuries sushi was a luxury item only eaten by the most wealthy. However, in the 1800s Japan’s cities grew as the nation industrialised and workers needed lunch. Sushi then became available in much more affordable formats.

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A boat full of Sashimi!

Whilst sushi often features raw fish this is not always the case. Sushi is available in a huge variety of forms from hand rolls to sashimi (just raw fish without rice) to nigri (fish and rice) and can be vegetarian or feature egg and/or tofu.

6. Ramen

This delicious soup has swept the world. Well, to be fair it is much more than a soup it is a full meal. Ramen generally consists of a base of rich broth, miso and/or soy sauce and noodles. All across Japan, there are different versions of ramen. They also tend to feature a protein like pork and are topped with things like eggs, nori seaweed, and green onions.

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Noodles with a view in Kanazawa Japan

7. Onsens

Onsens or Hot Springs are very popular in Japan. Onsens can be found all over Japan as it is a volcanic island. It has been traditional for families to spend time on holidays in ryokans which have hot water from hot springs or onsens. Typically males and females will have separate areas at an onsen. It is customary to remove all clothes when entering the onsen.

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Courses galore for breakfast at a ryokan

Most will have an area for washing before entering the onsen (this ensures that everyone is clean when they enter the hot springs). Once you are clean it is time to enter the warm onsen and relax for as long as possible and to chat. Once you are finished it is time to put on clean pyjamas and return to your room. I loved experiencing onsen when I was in Japan – particularly at night before going to sleep. I slept incredibly well!

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Onsen bath in Japan

8. Kimonos

The kimono is a traditional dress in Japan and still worn today. It is most often worn for special occasions such as weddings, festivals, and graduations. Kimonos are traditionally made of silk, come in many colours and often feature classic Japanese designs with images of blossoms and cranes. Today kimonos are available in a range of fabrics so that they can be used for different purposes.

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So many kimonos to choose from!

9. Capsule Hotels

Capsule hotels are like a cross between a morgue and a dog shelter. Essentially your capsule contains a bed and enough room for you to get in and to get out. On average their size varies from between 1.2 to 2 metres. Once you’re in you will have a capsule either underneath or on top of you and most likely one on your left and one on your right. They are the ultimate in efficiency if you are literally just looking for somewhere to sleep.

Some capsule hotels are just for men or have separate sections or floors for each sex. There can be anywhere from 50 to 700 capsules in a room. Luggage and everything else you own are generally stored in locker rooms nearby.

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Itsukushima shrine

10. Sake

Sake means alcohol in Japanese. Nihonshu is Japanese Sake and it is made from fermented rice. It has been made in Japan since somewhere between 550 and 450 BC. It is very popular in Japan and has spread across the world. Sake can be drunk hot or cold or in between and is generally consumed in very small cups.

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Sake time

11. Toilets

Personally I am a huge fan of Japanese toilets. These exciting toilets have so much to offer versus a standard western style. There is the option to warm your seat, play music, set a fountain off in the bowl, choose where to be sprayed and at what intensity – I think they are fantastic. It is actually exciting and fun to go to the toilet in Japan.

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Fantastic entrance to a Japanese toilet!

12. Sumo Wrestling

Japan is the only country in the world where sumo wrestling is practiced at a professional level. It is believed that sumo wrestling began in Japan hundreds of years ago. Today six sumo wrestling tournaments are held each year across Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

The arena’s in which the wrestling is held provide a great view no matter where you are seated. But don’t get too comfortable as matches tend to last less than 30 seconds. It is possible to visit the morning training of sumo wrestling at a reasonable price – just make sure you are in the right city at the right time.

13. Earthquakes

Japan has more earthquakes than any other country on earth. Every month Japan experiences several small earthquakes.

14. Bullet Trains

The bullet train is unsurprisingly a high-speed train. In Japan, these fast trains are known as Shinkansen. The bullet train was launched to connect Tokyo with the outer regions of Japan to assist in building the country’s total economy. Bullet trains have been operating for over 50 years and have never had an accident. And even better they have Japanese toilets of a hotel standard.

walk the nakasendo trail

15. Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is another famous Japan landmark not to be missed. Images of the road crossing have come to typify modern Japan.

Tokyo Japan Shibuya Crossing 1
Shibuya Crossing

The Tokyo intersection is one of the busiest in the world with over 250 000 people crossing it daily. Give it a try: you have only two minutes before the light changes to make it across!

The crossing is surrounded by skyscrapers and advertising screens, giving it a Times Square kind of atmosphere. To get a good view of the crossing, head up to the Starbucks on the second floor of Shibuya Tsutaya.

⇒ Capture the sight on camera with a photography tour of Tokyo at night

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Shibuya Crossing

16. Bowing

Bowing is an essential part of the Japanese culture and children are taught to bow from a young age. Bowing can mean many things from thank you to I’m sorry.

17. Temples of Kyoto

Kyoto has over 2,000 stunning temples and shrines. The highlights include Kinkaku-Ji or the Golden Pavillion which sits on a pond, the Silver Pavillion or Ginkaku-ji and Byodo-in. Seeing temples and shrines is one of the most popular things to do in Japan.

Kinkaku-ji golden temple kyoto japan

18. Mochi

Mochi is a very popular dessert in Japan. They are made from a glutinous rice and often also include water, sugar and cornstarch. There is a traditional ceremony in Japan called Mochitsuki which is held during the New Year. A key factor in Mochi’s popularity spreading beyond Japan has been mochi ice cream – essentially ice cream inside a mochi.

19. Tea Ceremonies

The Japanese tea ceremony requires special tools and processes. It is believed that Chinese monks originally introduced tea cermonies to the Japanese, but they have gone on to make tea ceremonies their own.

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View from the tea house

20. Origami

Origami is the art of folding paper. Sounds easy right? Origami starts with just one sheet of paper and turns it into a complex piece of art. Authentic origami does not allow cuts, glue or markings anywhere on the paper.

21. Tokyo Tower

Since its opening in 1958, the Tokyo Tower has been the landmark of Tokyo. However, in 2012 a new tower opened in Tokyo, the Tokyo Skytree. Tokyo Skytree is now the tallest tower in Tokyo at 634 metres tall vs the 333 metres of Tokyo Tower.

The highest point for observation is on Tokyo Skytree at 450 metres. Visiting one of these towers and taking in the view is a must see in Tokyo.

Skip the Queue ticket for Tokyo Skytree

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Tokyo Skytree

22. Geisha

Geisha are traditional female hostesses. Originally it is believed that geishas may have been male but they have most certainly been female in recent times. Geishas often work in hostess clubs or private facilities. Their role is to dance, perform, play instruments, read poetry play games and converse with men who can afford their time.

geishas in kyoto japan

If you are visiting Japan many of the cities offer geisha performances in the evenings often accompanied with a meal.

23. Anime and Manga (Pop Culture)

Manga is the word used to describe the very popular comic or graphic novels in Japan. Astro Boy was written in the 1950s and is one of the world’s first comic books. Anime is essentially animation and unsurprisingly came from the English word animation. It can be hand-drawn or computer-generated. Anime describes all animated works.

There are forms of anime for all ages and tastes. Most anime characters have big eyes, great hair, small noses and colourful outfits. It is estimated that this industry is worth over $USD20 billion.

24. Dotonbori, Osaka

Dotonbori is the brightly coloured downtown area of Osaka. It is famous for its bright advertising billboards and some fantastic Japanese food. The name Donbonbori refers to both the Dotonbori canal and Dotonbori street which runs parallel to the canal.

dotonbori osaka
dotonbori osaka

25. Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy is known as “shodo” which means the way of writing. There are three different types of Japanese characters. Kanji is old Japanese which was brought to the country by the Chinese. Hiragana and Katakana are more modern characters which were introduced to simplify the language.

Calligraphy is the brush strokes of these characters onto different surfaces. It is a skill that can take many years to learn.

26. Hiroshima

Around the world, Hiroshima is eponymous with World War II and atomic destruction. Today, the city strives to promote a message of peace. This is best seen in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The park is situated at the epicentre of the atomic bomb which was the world’s first nuclear attack. The area was once the heart of the city. You can learn more about what happened on that day in 1945 at the Peace Memorial Museum.

Japan Hiroshima Peace Park 1
Hiroshima Peace Park

The skeletal remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall serve as a Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It’s a poignant sight listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The park is a 15-minute tram drive from Hiroshima Station. It’s open year-round, except for the last two days of December, and has a small admission fee.

Japan Hiroshima peace park at night
Hiroshima peace park at night

⇒ Interested in Nepal? Check out my posts on the Nepal tea house, a full Everest Base Camp packing list, an Everest Base Camp trek itinerary and a day by day Everest base camp trek blog And for post-trek the fantastic boutique hotel Dwarika Hotel Kathmandu, the Dhulikhel Resort and the best places to visit in Kathmandu.

27. Snow Monkeys

Have you seen the photos of the snow monkeys bathing with their red faces? These monkeys are actually macaques and are located in the hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Whilst the monkeys can enjoy the hot springs, I am afraid that the humans are only able to admire them from afar.

Jigokudani Monkey Park japan
Jigokudani Monkey Park japan

28. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

From cultural activities to natural beauty, Kyoto’s many attractions make it one of the loveliest Japanese cities. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a stunning place that should be top of every visitor’s to-do list.

The grove is within walking distance of the Kyoto city centre. Once you’re standing surrounded by the green stalks, you feel like you’ve been transported to another, very magical world.

Japan Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 2
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

There’s a wooden walkway that twists through the bamboo. The site offers many great photo opportunities.

Admission is free. The grove is open 24/7 so it’s best to get there ahead of the crowds. Visiting around sunrise and sunset is always a breathtaking experience.

Japan Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 1
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

29. The Imperial Palace

This immense palace complex is the official residence of Japan’s imperial family and a must-see on your Tokyo itinerary. Although most of the buildings are off-limits, some of the gardens are open to the public where you can enjoy the splendid architecture.

The Imperial Palace tokyo japan in summer
The Imperial Palace in summer

Highlights of the palace grounds include the Fushimi-yagura watchtower, the Megane-Bashi stone bridge and the iron Nijū-Bashi bridge.

The Imperial Household Agency runs free 75-minute tours Tuesday to Saturday most weeks of the year at 10 am and 1:30 pm. You can reserve your spot online up to a month in advance but no later than four days before the time. Although the tours are in Japanese, there is an app for English explanations.

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Pink petals in the moat around the Imperial Palace

30. Nara Park

Nara Park is a sprawling area that is home to a number of eye-catching buildings. Despite its urban location, you can enjoy some stunning greenery.

The legend goes that one of the gods of Kasugataisha Shrine travelled from near Tokyo to present-day Nara Park on a white deer. Since then, the deer became sacred.

Japan deer in nara park in autumn
Deer in Nara park in autumn

There are over 1400 deer in Nara Park which run wild. However, they are happy to accept bits of “deer cracker” from tourists.

On the approach to Todaiji Temple, you’ll find rickshaws queued up. Taking one of these around the park is a good idea to see the park’s attractions.

These include temples and Nara Museum. Nara Park is also a perfect spot to break for lunch, whether that’s under a shady tree or in one of the cafes.

⇒Visit Nara Park on a tour of the city

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Deers in Nara Park

31. Ninjas

A ninja was a mercenary or a covert agent in feudal Japan. They were spies, practised deception and staged surprise attacks. Ninjas have been famed in pop culture for their stealth and skills which often go far beyond that of the average human being (like walking on water). They are most well known for apparently being able to move without making any sound. Today you can learn all about ninjas at the Ninja Museum of Igaryu.

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Amazing Japanese food

Getting to Japan

Tokyo is the most common point of entry into Japan. Tokyo has two airports that receive international flights, Narita and Haneda airports. Narita Airport is quite a bit farther away from central Tokyo so if possible fly into Haneda rather than Narita airport at the start of your 10 day Japan itinerary.

Haneda handles most domestic flights (but also international flights – JAL operates from Haneda Airport) and Narida handles more international flights.

If you must fly in or out of Narida airport then I suggest using the more expensive option of the Narita Express train. The journey from Narita Airport to Tokyo station takes one hour and is direct.

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Kid friendly buddha

The good news is that if you have purchased the japan Rail pass (which is a great idea if you are spending time in Japan) it covers the Narita Express Train.

If you are flying into Haneda airport the fastest and easiest option is to take the Keikyu Airport Line to Shinagawa and then swap to the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku line to Tokyo Station. This will take about 35 minutes

Flights to Tokyo

Meet, Greet and Wifi at the Airport
Japan Rail
has a brilliant Meet and Greet service where they will meet you at the airport after arrivals and get you going with your rail ticket, Pocket Wifi for Japan and take you to your next mode of transport – so good after a long journey.

Japan Guide to Getting Around

Tokyo has a fantastic metro system. Buy your Tokyo metro pass online before you go to avoid queues (there are 24, 48 and 72-hour options available).

Travel Expert Tip - The JR Pass
The JR Pass offers amazing value to overseas visitors. The pass covers virtually every train in Japan – including most bullet trains – and costs just USD$270 for 7 days rail travel. 14 and 21-day options are also available. As is a very reasonably priced upgrade to first class. Amazing value for Japan’s excellent trains.

The Japanese currency is the Yen. Whilst many places accept credit and debit cards, cash is still the most common method of payment. Many smaller restaurants, taxis, and shops will only accept cash so do make sure you have some on you at all times during your trip.

geishas with umbrellas in kyoto

I covered all of the costs associated with writing this article. However, this fun facts about Canada post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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