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Travel Inspiration 2021: What Tourists Are Most Looking Forward to in Japan (+Planning Tips!)

Travel Inspiration 2021: What Tourists Are Most Looking Forward to in Japan (+Planning Tips!)

Date published: 20 April 2020
Last updated: 29 September 2020

When we can leave our houses and flights resume, it will be time for Japan. Let’s see what these 20 people are most looking forward to!

The coronavirus has forced the majority of us to put off our travel plans, but let’s look to the future, to the exciting day when we can once again hop on a plane for the holiday of a lifetime. For many, that holiday will be to Japan. There are lots of reasons why people come to Japan but some of the most popular are: food, traditional culture, anime/manga, nature, crafts, wackiness and technology. Let’s see what people are looking forward to most in each area!

Food

Food

“Restaurant food and not having to cook!” Chloe (20s, UK)
Chloe is really looking forward to eating out on her Japan holiday. She's a coeliac so it can be tough for her to find places to eat in Japan, but she says Osaka was great with lots of options. Hiroshima was basic but serviceable, while Kyoto was a little challenging.

Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, shrines, trying the different foods and riding the bullet train” Hemi (50s, South Africa)
Hemi has a lot of things on her list.She's especially excited for the food, like sushi, vegan ramen, fluffy pancakes and unique kitkats! Definitely look out for the seasonal kitkats and sweets, as in Japan, they change with the seasons!

"Coffee Elementary School, Switch Coffee, Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory Daita and Cookie Time” Ivy (20s, Thailand)
Ivy likes experiencing the differences in culture when she travels. She's looking forward to seeing how Japanese shops differ from back home in terms of presentation and taste, and plans to try a range of Japan’s most delectable sweets. Things are definitely presented in a more “kawaii (cute)” way in Japan, it’s very important for products to look good, and for good reason!

How to Find Your Favorite Food in Japan

It looks like our interviewees are really looking forward to indulging their sweet tooth when they come to Japan. There are plenty of places that sell sweets, from convenience store fruit sandwiches to the cream-filled crepes of Harajuku. If it’s traditional sweets you’re after, Kawagoe makes a great day trip from Tokyo and has an entire street dedicated to traditional sweets.

If you’re after something a bit more savoury, try Osaka. Known as the “nation’s kitchen”, it’s especially famous for the Osaka style okonomiyaki, a kind of savoury pancake.

But if you're a sweets lover, you might want to check out something like this.

Or of course, if you're craving ramen, you could check out the ramen museum!

Traditional culture

Traditional culture

“Culture, shopping and koi” Anne (40s, New Zealand)
Anne is coming to Japan in 2021 for the culture and shopping, while her husband especially wants to go to the Japan Koi Show in February. If you’re interested in seeing the highest quality koi fish in the country and chatting to the breeders, this would certainly be a unique thing to do in Japan.

“Exploring rural areas and mixing with locals!” Janine (30s, USA)
Janine is mostly hoping to explore Japan's rural areas and mingle with the locals, hopefully making a few friends along the way.One good rural option is the Iya Valley in Shikoku, only accessible via winding mountain passes. In the village of Nagoro, there are more scarecrows than people! In fact, the scarecrows were made by a resident as a way of repopulating her hometown, and hundreds of them can be found all over the village.

“Relaxing in the hot springs” Hanna (30s, Usa)
Hanna is looking forward to relaxing in some hot springs in Hokkaido while conversing with the locals in Japanese. She's looking at the postponement of her trip as a positive thing, now she has an extra year to study Japanese!

What Traditional Spots to Add to Your 2021 Japan Plans

Staying in Tokyo? Check out the Shinagawa old town area. Just 10 minutes from Shinagawa Station, the area around Kita-shinagawa is filled with old shopping streets, shrines, temples and buildings dating back to the Edo period.

Want to try onsen? Go to Kurokawa Onsen Village in Kyushu for an authentic experience.

Interested in traditional villages? Visit Shirakawa-go or the lesser-known Gokayama, both filled with thatched-roof cottages. You can even stay the night in one!

Anime & Manga

Anime & Manga
Image: PJ_Photography / Shutterstock.com

“The flying train from Midori Days” Nina (Australia)
Nina wants to see the flying train she saw in the Midori Days anime. She can catch it in Ofuna, so could combine it with a day trip to Kamakura or Enoshima!

“The Ghibli Museum” Adrianna (20s, USA)
Adrianna is so excited to finally see the Ghibli Museum, and Sanrio Puroland. As any fan of Studio Ghibli knows, the museum is a must-see!

“Going to the Naruto x Boruto Collaboration Theme Park” Emily (20s, USA)
Emily says that her fiance and her are huge anime fans, so they're "looking forward to going to Nijigen-no-mori in Awajishima to visit the Naruto x Boruto Collaboration Theme Park". They also plan to come back in a few years when the planned new Ghibli Theme Park opens. The theme park is scheduled to open in 2022 and will feature Ghibli’s Giant Warehouse, a My Neighbour Totoro themed Dondoko Forest, a Princess Mononoke Village and a Spirited Away dining area.* Sounds amazing!
*Source: https://www.pref.aichi.jp/ghibli-park/index.html

Where All The Otaku and Manga Lovers Go

I’m sure any anime lover out there knows about Akihabara, but did you know that Nakano Broadway is just as popular for Japanese anime fans? It’s just a few minutes from Shinjuku by train, so easy to check out.

If you’re into kawaii, try Sanrio Puroland, home of Hello Kitty.

For female anime fans, Ikebukuro is the place to be. Try the “Otome Road” for a whole row of anime goods shops.

Nature

Nature

“Soaking in a hot spring surrounded by cherry blossoms” Pamela (20s, USA)
Pamela plans to come to Japan next Spring so she can fulfil her dream of going to an outdoor hot spring and seeing cherry blossoms while watching Mount Fuji. She plans to stay in an onsen hotel in Kawaguchiko with a view of Mt. Fuji from the room, although she's considering a "rustic cabin with a secluded outside onsen".

“ Walking and experiencing Japan as a family” Michelle (30s, UK)
Michelle and her familyare excited about the culture, the autumn leaves and experiencing Japan as a family.As a photographer, she's excited to take pictures of the autumn leaves in Kyoto and the Fuji area.

“Cycling the Shimanami Kaido” Sadia (UK)
Sadia is so excited to go cycling on the Shimanami Kaido. She hopes she'll be able to get off the beaten path and discover some serene spots. The Shimanami Kaido is a 60km cycling road that connects Shikoku to mainland Japan and offers cyclists scenic views of the sparkling ocean and surrounding islands.

How to Make the Most of Japan’s Nature

As you might know, Japan is all about seasonality. Make sure you match your trip to the season. Spring for cherry blossoms, winter for snow, autumn for leaves and summer for festivals.

Coming in summer – go to the Akita Kanto Festival to see teams lifting 12m high, 50kg real flaming lanterns..on their heads! It’s a giant parade with lively music and chanting. Be sure to watch out for falling hot wax when the lanterns get dropped!

An autumn trip planned? – take a hike in Oze National Park to see not only autumn leaves but flaming red grass in the marshlands.

Prefer winter? – Try Myoko Kogen for a more authentic Japanese ski town experience than you’ll find in tourist-dominated Niseko and Hakuba.

Coming for Spring – you must try Mt. Yoshino in Nara – it has over 30,000 trees and blooms in stages, first the bottom groves until finally the top of the mountain becomes covered in pink. This means you’ll be guaranteed to see cherry blossoms no matter when in late March-mid April you go.

Crafts

Crafts
Image: Antonina Polushkina / Shutterstock.com

“ Taking a Japanese handicraft class” Jen (20s, USA)
Jen is planning to try and see cherry blossoms and snow on the same visit. She could visit Izu in February to see the “kawazu sakura”, an early-blooming pinker sakura. From there, up North to the snow! She's also especially hoping to take a Japanese handicraft class, perhaps making a traditional doll or teacup, or a woven reed fan.

“Doing some glass blowing in Akita” Laura (20s, UK)
Laura (is hoping to go to Studio Vetro in Akita to do some glass blowing. After that, she had been planning on visiting the Genbikei Gorge, but a misspelling accident led her to discover the Geibikei Gorge, which she now intends to visit instead as she's fallen in love with it! As she says - "It was a very very happy accident"!

What Crafts and Experiences to do in Japan 2021

If you’re doing Nara, try the hands-on carving and ceramics experiences at the Nara Craft Museum

If you love all the realistic food samples that restaurants display, go to Kappabashi Street in Tokyo and try a fake food making experience.

If you want to go off-the-beaten-track, try Umi-no-Kyoto. Try their silk weaving experience.

If you want a day trip from Tokyo, try Ogawamachi. There you can go hiking, try a giant roller slide, soak in an onsen and do traditional washi paper making.

Modern and Quirky Japan

Modern and Quirky Japan

“Find lots of quirky and different shops, bars and cafes” Naomi (30s, New Zealand)
Naomi wants to experience both the historic and modern sides of Japan. She wants to see the use of space in large cities, and how every little bit is used. In her quest for quirky shops, areas like Kichijoji or Koenji could suit her as they’re known for their interesting shopping arcades.

“Go up the new Shibuya Sky”Mira (40s, Finland)
Mira has so many things she wants to do - "see the temples, the City lights and neon signs, try different foods and drinks, view the cherry blossoms, go to old Gion in Kyoto, visit Hiroshima and Shibuya Sky”. A nice mix of modern and traditional.

“The fashions..and the toilets!” Andrea (40s,, USA)
Andrea is coming to Japan for "The fashions, museums, Mt. Fuji, onsens, manga and anime, and the toilets". She wants to go to the Kyoto Avanti Mall which she says sells everything from luxury to hip street styles. She likes the way women dress very chic with a lot of lace, A-line skirts, and pleats.

“Weird Japanese things” Vu (40s, Australia)
Vu is keen to see "weird things which only Japan has". That calls for a visit to Daiso. Or maybe the Poo Museum!
“Mastering the UFO catchers” Irene (Canada)
Irene is planning to come with her kids, who are looking forward to "teaching their friends how to master the arcades, especially the UFO catchers". Odaiba may be the place for them, with Joypolis hosting a modern arcade and the Decks mall home to an old-fashioned Showa-era arcade.

“Seeing the weirdest food combinations” Fred (60s, UK)
Fred is interested to see if people really do eat strawberry sandwiches as he finds the idea quite baffling! Well Fred, they do. Cream filled, strawberry sandwiches. I admit, I’ve also seen grape.

How to Get the Most Out of “Weird Japan”

For weird and wacky Japan, try these places:

This poop-themed museum
・Thousands of “lucky cats” at the Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo
The Kawaii Monster Cafe in Tokyo
・The Robot Restaurant

Tokyo is possibly the best place to find the really kooky spots, but of course there are plenty around the country too, what's your favorite?

  • Gotokuji
    • Address 2-24-7, Gotokuji, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, 154-0021
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Miyanosaka Station (Tokyu Setagaya Line)
      5 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3426-1437

Did the plans of these 20 people give you any ideas for your own trip? You might be stuck inside now, but it won’t be forever. Planning your next holiday is a great way to beat the boredom and inspire yourself. Japan has something for everyone, so start dreaming and plan for those dreams to become your 2021 reality!

Written by:

Dara Robinson

Dara Robinson

Hello! I am Dara. Originally from New Zealand, I've lived in 5 different countries and have been calling Japan home for the past six years. I love to travel and do outdoor adventure activities and hikes. I've been to 44/47 Japanese prefectures..and counting.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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