I swear there must be more tangible things in Japan than there are stars in the universe.
After yearning to visit Japan for several years, my first visit was perhaps one of the most thoroughly enjoyable and unique experiences I’ve ever had. There’s so many reasons to visit Japan right now – it’s jam-packed with history, tradition, culture and distinctive traits – curious travellers are starting to catch on.
In 2016 for the first time visitors to Japan surpassed the 20 million mark and with increased flights from Australia, Jetstar claimed their flight bookings to Japan soared by 70%. Even news outlets are questioning whether Japan is the new Bali for Australians, and I totally get why.
Reason #18 listed below will probably come as the biggest surprise and is partially why Japan is absolutely THE place I could keep going back to over and over and over and over and over… Well, you get it!
What are the reasons to visit Japan right now?
Visitor numbers to Japan have skyrocketed up almost 40% since 2013, according to JNTO. I hope I can inspire you to plan your own trip that helps you stay ahead of the curve as these numbers are expected to explode in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
NOTE: You can find all my personal tried-and-tested itineraries, travel guides and much more here on my popular Japan travel blog. Each covers things to do, where to stay, where to eat, costs and more – I even explain how to overcome the language barrier.
As I first wrote this article in March 2017, please note due to overtourism issues in Japan I’ve made offbeat destinations along Japan’s New Golden Route a focus, as well as hidden gems, alternatives to popular spots in major cities my main focus to help you “blend in” and be more of an invisible tourist. Take a look once you’re done here for more inspiration!
Without further ado, let’s get into the reasons to visit Japan right now! I haven’t mentioned the obvious stunning natural scenery and world-class snowfields (which is enough for me to babble about in its own dedicated article), so below you’ll find 18 other reasons why Japan will become one of your favourite travel destinations too:
1. Overwhelming politeness
Despite Japan being one of the more densely populated countries in the world, you’ll barely notice. Everyone has an unbelievable amount of respect for the personal space of others. If you’re like me and believe people should have a low-impact on one another you’ll sure be in heaven!
The Japanese are incredibly orderly – people reliably walk on the left and wait their turn in queues ever so patiently (no pushing, thank goodness).
You’re greeted and farewelled with a gentle bow and if you’re accidentally nudged in an elevator you can expect a polite sumimasen (sorry) to immediately follow. This level of politeness is so ingrained into their culture, you can’t help but feel like Japan is the place you’d want to be when the world is ending.
2. You can find absolutely anything you want
As I always like to say, “If you can’t find a particular item in Tokyo, it probably doesn’t exist.” The same thing can probably be said for Osaka, too.
Prepare to be blown away by the amount of ‘stuff’ in the big cities. I swear there must be more tangible things in Japan then there are stars in the universe. I stocked up on traditional hand-crafted souvenirs during my visit – I couldn’t get enough!
3. Vending machines
They are absolutely everywhere, even in the most obscure of places and sell everything from hot noodles to socks, umbrellas to fresh eggs, burgers to bananas, neckties to Lego. You’ll also be amazed to discover the machines even sell alcohol. There are 5.5 million vending machines across Japan – that’s one for every 23 people.
4. Japan can read your mind
Need a toilet? Oh, there’s one! Thirsty in the serene backstreets of Kyoto? Look, here’s a random vending machine. Aching legs from wandering a long while? Win, there’s a bench to rest.
Whatever you want and whenever you need it, something will magically appear almost on cue. It’s truly mind-boggling.
5. Shinkansen (bullet trains)
These literally feel as though you’re on a plane travelling on the ground rather than in the clouds. Quiet, super speedy (comfortably hitting 300km/h) with food and alcohol available for purchase, you could set your watch by the accuracy of their departures.
People are so courteous of others on the shinkansen you’ll be expected to have your phone on silent, speak at a low volume and will even see mothers whisk their crying babies out of the carriage as to not disturb other travellers. So peaceful!
The shinkansen are an absolute must to experience when you’re in Japan. If you’re interested in learning more about travelling across Japan by bullet train, you can find it at the conclusion of my 2 week Japan Itinerary for first-timers!
6. Wagyu beef
If you haven’t tried it, you need this in your life. At one restaurant in a Shibuya laneway, we ordered so much that the staff (and even chef) were laughing at us saying it was “too much”. We replied, “Never!” Best of all you can cook it yourself at your table, see the juices forming, fat melting, the mouth-watering aroma of sizzling beef teasing your nostrils…
Damn, as if you need any more reasons to visit Japan! Find out what restaurant I’m referring to in my personal Tokyo itinerary.
TIP: Nothing beats cooking with locals to learn more about Japanese culture! If you enjoy mouth-watering wagyu beef, this sukiyaki cooking class will be for you. The perfect souvenir is one you can eat!
Japan’s traditional rice-based alcoholic beverage, enjoyed hot or cold. There are so many kinds available that will have you wanting to try them all. Although you pour the sake bottle into an ochoko for drinking so it doesn’t seem like much, be warned this stuff really catches up with you! Sparking sake is a tastebud’s delight.
8. “Kawaii” wherever you look
Kawaii かわいい is the Japanese word to describe something as “cute”. You’re going to be overloaded in Japan, and in a good way! Cute cartoons, cute logos, cute food, cute inanimate objects… You name it! There’s enough here to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Be sure you visit a Maid Café for a huge dose.
For more information about tickets and pricing for Tokyo’s most popular Maid Cafe click here!
9. Japanese art
So unique for its time that the great masters of the Western world namely Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh were largely inspired and intrigued by it. There were so many arty souvenirs from Japan, I went a little crazy!
Japanese art is full of symbolism. For instance with my artworks below, the pair of cranes represent a loving relationship whilst the koi fish symbolises a long and happy life.
10. Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Although it caters to tourists you will never experience anything else as eccentric, entertaining and abdominal-achingly hilarious as the Robot Restaurant show. Just the waiting area itself must be seen to be believed, it’s surely the blingiest room in the world.
The show epitomises everything that’s stereotypically awesome about Japan: Robots dancing to techno, cow-riding pandas, maids with backpacks of beer on tap, flashing lights, grooving girls, boxing jungle animals and fire-breathing dinosaurs.
To find out more information on Robot Restaurant pricing and tickets click here.
I absolutely loved this show and would even go again!
11. No tipping
Woohoo! That means more money left over for shopping, right?!
As an Australian, I found this to be one of the most refreshing bonuses for my visit to Japan as we don’t really do tipping either. Pretty much most places we visit abroad expect a tip on top – Japan was a wonderful exception.
The Japanese actually find it offensive because good service is expected as standard, not done for monetary reward. Although you may mean well by leaving a tip, there’s no need to as sometimes it can come across as a kind of insult to the locals.
TIP: Japan is NOT as expensive as you think: There seems to be a stigma attached that it’s one of the most expensive travel destinations.
12. Incredible castles
They are peppered all over the country and some date back to the 15th century. Osaka Castle deserves a special mention here, it’s one of the best preserved castles in Japan. The museum inside is worth the visit and the 360-degree view over Osaka from the top is fantastic!
Why not check out my 3 days in Osaka itinerary that also includes a day trip to Nara while you’re at it?
13. Impeccable attention to detail
With. Literally. Everything.
You’ll be convinced everyone in Japan has OCD (and I absolutely loved it!!) Every magazine, pamphlet, items in a store are presented immaculately and meals are served up like little artworks. Even a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto will blow you away with the amount of symbolism used in each gesture.
Even on arrival at the Narita airport baggage carousel you’ll notice every suitcase has been handled with care because they’re all sitting upright with baggage tags easily visible to their owners. Such a stark contrast to when you’re reunited with your tattered suitcase at Heathrow airport!
14. Temples and areas of respect
This is what makes you really feel like you’re in Japan. The zen gardens are incredibly relaxing with their perfectly raked gravel and manicured grounds. These are truly some of the most spectacular gardens you’ll ever see and the atmosphere in each is very tranquil and calming.
Kyoto is home to over 1600 temples and gardens. Find out what the hidden gems of Kyoto are and what you can fit into a four day Kyoto itinerary. I’ve shared my personal itinerary and advice tailored specifically for first-time visitors to Japan!
If you’re a language hoarder like me, you’ll know that a little bit of the local linguistics will go a long way in Japan. The look of delight and surprise you’ll see when you greet or farewell someone in Japanese will warm your heart (maybe it’s because they have 3 alphabets!)
Check my quick guide to how to learn Japanese for tourists to help prepare for your future trip. All you need to know are a few basic phrases!
16. Fascinating Toilets
I’m sure you’ve probably heard about all the little features available to you when nature calls. From different types of music to waterfall sounds, you’ve just gotta try them all. I was also very impressed with the cleanliness of public toilets, they’re just as clean as your hotel bathroom!
Unlike many places across Europe, you can be assured whilst travelling around Japan that the locals aren’t trying to rip you off as they’re very genuine and respectful. Also boasting a low crime rate, in Japan you’ll feel safe not having to worry about pickpockets or scams.
18. Finally, Japan is NOT as expensive as you think
There seems to be a stigma attached that it’s one of the most expensive travel destinations, although in reality Japan hasn’t been that way since the early 1990’s after their bubble economy crashed. From my experience, Switzerland and the UK are significantly more expensive than Japan.
Today, the weaker Japanese Yen means a great exchange rate for travellers of most countries. Obviously like anywhere else around the globe, if you stay in touristy Ginza (Tokyo), expect to pay top dollar for drinks and food if you don’t venture outside the neighbourhood.
Elsewhere it isn’t difficult to find a meal for under JPY 1000 (USD 9.00), Tokyo Metro tickets are only a few hundred Yen (USD 2.00-4.00) each way and hotels are very reasonable priced. You should see the breathtaking view from my Hiroshima 4-star hotel room, a steal at USD 115.00 per night when I booked:
Need more inspiration for Japan?
I can also help get your itinerary planning off to a good start by sharing my tips for visiting Japan as well as helpful insider info so you can make the most of your experience! Tailored especially for first-time visitors, these are my tried-and-tested personal itineraries I used during my trip.
They each cover things to do, costs, getting around, what to eat and recommendations for where to stay. View my full Japan archive here that includes my day-by-day travel guides and exclusive tips for visiting Japan!
If these reasons to visit Japan convinced you to make it happen…
It’s best if you be a mindful and Invisible Tourist. Overtourism in Japan is starting to become a real thing… The influx of tourists in recent years has given rise to a series of issues created by these new visitors.
If these issues continue, it’s only fair to guess that Japan’s social fabric could slowly be eaten away by these careless visitors who have little to no knowledge of the local customs and etiquette. Aren’t these unique customs and traditions a reason why we visit a country?
Nobody likes an annoying tourist, so I’ve created this list of crucial do’s and don’ts to follow in Japan. What may be acceptable behaviour at home may surprise you that it could be a taboo in Japan! Blend in, practice good manners and you’ll have the most rewarding time.
For further reading, here are some more things to consider in order to prevent yourself from becoming part of the issue of overtourism in Japan.
Concluding reasons to visit Japan
Oh, Japan. I’m so fond of you. There are many more reasons to visit Japan that I could add to this list but we’d be here forever! You’ll just have to visit Japan right now to see for yourself before the “expensive” reputation is forgotten and hoards of people want discover what makes her such an amazing travel destination.
Allow yourself to let your guard down a little, open your mind and enjoy the wonders this incredible country and its people have to offer. Don’t forget to head on over to my Japan travel blog to find out the exciting destinations you can visit within this incredible country!
Are hoping to visit this marvellous country? I hope my reasons to visit Japan are enough to convince you! If so, why not get your trip planning off to a good start by comparing hotel prices in Tokyo here?
Until next time,
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