As a destination that’s at the top of thousands of bucket lists, it’s no surprise that Japan is a top location to travel to throughout the year. Filled with its own unique culture, amazing sights and countless things to do, there’s never a dull moment on a holiday to this country that’s both historic and ultra-modern. But if you’re looking to go beyond the tourist traps, and see Japan like the locals do, then your best bet is to set aside those package holidays and take a look further afield.
Here are our top tips for experiencing Japan in an entirely different light:
Acknowledge Japan’s many festivals
While Japan is well-known for its cherry blossom festival, which draws vast crowds of locals and tourists each year, there’s far more to this country than just that single event. Japan celebrates a range of different exciting festivals throughout the year, from the Tori-no-Ichi festival, a celebrated day of harvest which can be readily seen in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, to the Gion Matsuri festival of floats in Kyoto. While these festivals may not be the first you think of when you visit Japan, they are worthwhile for those who want to get more out of this fascinating country.
Visit restaurants and cafes off the beaten path
With 39 per cent of Millenials and Gen Z-ers choosing jobs based on the ability to travel, it’s not a surprise that Japan is one of their top destinations for work and fun. This means that many of Tokyo’s more popular districts are saturated with visitors both in town for business and blowing off steam at the many bars and chain restaurants. But while the tourist-heavy areas have often been quite Westernised – with plenty of McDonalds and KFCs available – getting off the beaten track can lead to some great hidden gems. Some of the best local restaurants and cafes are just holes in the wall, or further out in residential districts. If you’re willing to travel a bit further out, experiencing the full culture of Japan is more accessible than you might think.
Get outside of the major cities
While Tokyo and Kyoto hold their own form of city-based charm, there’s nothing quite like getting out into the Japanese countryside and experiencing its many towns and villages, to see what Japan is really about. Beyond those bustling cities, Japan has a great depth of different living styles and destinations, from coastal towns to mountain villages, incredible forests to sweeping farmland. If you genuinely want to see Japan like a local, getting out of the city is the best way to do so and to avoid the high level of tourism in the country’s most popular locations.
As a country with so much to do and see, it’s not a surprise that Japan continues to be a top destination (with Tokyo, in particular, holding many exciting sights and sounds). From themed cafes to arcades, incredible shopping to amazing historical sites, Japan has it all. But to see the country as the locals do is truly something completely different, and well worth trying at least for one day if you’re planning to visit this incredible destination.