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Japan Uncovered: 7 Unusual and Unique Experiences

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Sleep in a temple in Kyosan

Japan Uncovered: 7 Unusual and Unique Experiences

Japan is a country that never fails to impress. From its rich culture to its beautiful landscapes, it’s no wonder that Japan has become a popular travel destination. However, while many tourists flock to the usual sights such as Tokyo and Kyoto, plenty of unique experiences are often overlooked. 

Mojo Gift will uncover 7 unusual and unique things to do in Japan. Whether you’re interested in cultural experiences like participating in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto or want to witness the excitement of a sumo wrestling match in Tokyo, there’s something for everyone. So if you’re looking to step off the beaten path and discover a side of Japan that’s often overlooked, keep reading to find out more about these unforgettable experiences.

Unusual and Unique Things to Do in Japan

Japan is a country full of surprises and unique experiences that can be found beyond the usual tourist destinations in Asia. Here are seven unusual and unique things to do in Japan that you won’t want to miss:

Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

One of Japan’s most enduring cultural traditions is the tea ceremony, or chanoyu. This experience is more than just drinking tea, it is a cultural performance that involves choreographed movements and rituals. Participating in a tea ceremony is a great way to experience Japanese culture firsthand and get a glimpse into the country’s rich history.

Sleep in a Temple in Koyasan

Koyasan is a small town located in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture that is known for its Buddhist temples. Spending a night in one of the temples is a unique experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture and way of life. Guests can participate in morning prayers, eat vegetarian meals, and explore the surrounding temples and forests.

Visit the Snow Monkeys in Nagano

Located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to a troop of Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys. Visitors can watch the monkeys bathe in the hot springs and play in the snow. This experience offers a rare opportunity to observe these creatures up close in their natural habitat.

Stay at a Ryokan in Hakone

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that features tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and kaiseki-style meals. Staying at a ryokan is a unique experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and hospitality. The town of Hakone, located near Mount Fuji, is known for its hot springs and scenic views, making it an ideal destination for a ryokan stay.

Try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima

Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake that is a specialty of Hiroshima. This dish is made with a variety of ingredients, including cabbage, noodles, and seafood or meat. Watching the chefs prepare this dish on the grill is an experience in itself, and trying it for the first time is a delicious and unforgettable experience.

Experience a Sumo Wrestling Match in Tokyo

Sumo wrestling is a popular and ancient sport in Japan that dates back over 1,500 years. Watching a sumo match in Tokyo is an unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into Japanese culture and traditions. Matches are held several times a year, and tickets can be purchased in advance.

Explore the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

Studio Ghibli is a world-renowned animation studio that has produced classic films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a must-visit destination for fans of the studio’s work. The museum features exhibits on the animation process, a rooftop garden, and a theater that screens short films produced exclusively for the museum.

Each of these unique experiences offers a different perspective on Japanese culture and traditions. From participating in a tea ceremony in Kyoto to exploring the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, these activities will leave a lasting impression on any traveler. Give the gift of a lifetime for anyone who loves Japan with Mojo Gift and let them choose their own unique adventure with a global experience gift card.

Japan Te Ceremony

Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

Tea ceremonies, or chanoyu, are an integral part of Japanese culture and have been practiced for centuries. The ceremony is a choreographed performance that involves preparing and serving matcha, a powdered green tea, to guests in a peaceful and meditative setting. Here’s what to expect during a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto:

Cultural Significance of Tea Ceremonies in Japan

The tea ceremony represents harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility, which are essential values in Japanese culture. The ceremony has been influenced by Zen Buddhism and has evolved over time into an art form that involves precise movements, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of tea and its preparation.

What to Expect During a Tea Ceremony

During a tea ceremony, guests are typically led into a tea room that is decorated with traditional Japanese tatami mats and a scroll hanging on the wall. The ceremony is led by a host, who prepares and serves the tea to the guests. The process involves several rituals, such as cleaning the tea utensils, preparing the tea, and serving it to the guests. The tea is typically served with Japanese sweets to balance the bitter taste of the matcha.

Places to Participate in a Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to experience a traditional tea ceremony. Here are a few recommendations:

Camellia

This tea house is located in the historic district of Gion and offers a private tea ceremony experience in a traditional Japanese setting.

En

En is a tea house located in a tranquil garden in the Higashiyama district. The tea ceremony is led by an English-speaking tea master, making it an excellent choice for non-Japanese speakers.

Tea Ceremony Room Juan

This tea room is located in the Fushimi district and offers an authentic tea ceremony experience with a knowledgeable host who explains the significance of each ritual.

Sleep in a Temple in Koyasan

Koyasan, located in the Wakayama prefecture, is a sacred mountain and home to over 100 temples, making it a popular pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Spending a night in one of these temples is a unique experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and spirituality. Here’s what you can expect when sleeping in a temple in Koyasan:

Brief History of Koyasan

Koyasan was founded in 816 by the monk Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi, who is considered the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism. The mountain and its surrounding temples have since become a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular destination for those seeking spiritual enlightenment.

Experience of Sleeping in a Temple

Staying in a temple in Koyasan provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese way of life. The rooms are typically simple and minimalist, with tatami mats on the floor and futon bedding to sleep on. Guests are encouraged to participate in the morning Buddhist service, which involves chanting and meditation. In the evening, guests are served a vegetarian dinner known as shojin ryori, which is made entirely of plant-based ingredients.

Recommendations for Temples to Stay In and What to Expect

There are several temples in Koyasan that offer accommodations to visitors. Here are a few recommendations:

Ekoin

This temple is located near the entrance to Koyasan and offers a range of room types, including traditional Japanese-style rooms and Western-style rooms. Guests can participate in morning prayers and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the temple’s garden.

Koyasan Onsen Fukuchi-in

This temple offers a unique experience of sleeping in a temple with a hot spring bath on site. The temple also offers a meditation class and the option to participate in the morning prayer service.

Shojoshin-in

This temple is located on the eastern side of Koyasan and offers a peaceful and tranquil setting. The temple’s guest rooms are traditional Japanese style, and guests can participate in the morning prayer service and enjoy a vegetarian dinner.

Staying in a temple in Koyasan is an unforgettable experience that provides visitors with a deep understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. It’s a must-do for anyone visiting Japan who wants to experience something truly unique.

Japanese Sonw Monkeys Nagano

Visit the Snow Monkeys in Nagano

The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, located in the Nagano prefecture, is a unique attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. The park is home to a group of Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys, who have adapted to the cold climate by developing thick fur and love for soaking in hot springs. Here’s what you can expect when visiting the snow monkeys in Nagano:

Snow Monkey Park

Snow Monkey Park is located in the mountains of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and is accessible via a short hike through the forest. The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the winter months when the monkeys are most likely to be found soaking in the hot springs. The park has a viewing platform that allows visitors to observe the monkeys from a safe distance.

Behaviors and Habits

The snow monkeys are known for their unique behaviors and habits. They are highly social and live in groups, with the dominant female being the leader of the group. The monkeys are also known for their love of hot springs, which they use to keep warm during the winter months. Visitors can watch as the monkeys relax and play in the hot springs, and may even witness a snowball fight or two.

Tips for Visiting

To get the most out of your visit to Snow Monkey Park, here are a few tips:

Dress warmly

The park is located in the mountains, and temperatures can be quite cold, especially during the winter months.

Respect the monkeys 

While the monkeys are accustomed to human visitors, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Visitors should not touch or feed the monkeys.

Visit early or late

The park can get crowded during the middle of the day, so it’s best to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Bring a camera

The snow monkeys are incredibly photogenic, and you’ll want to capture their adorable antics on camera.

Visiting the snow monkeys in Nagano is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is not to be missed. It’s a chance to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat and learn about their unique behaviors and habits.

Stay at a Ryokan in Hakone

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience in Japan, staying at a ryokan in Hakone is a must. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers an authentic cultural experience and a chance to relax and unwind. Here’s what you can expect when staying at a ryokan in Hakone:

What is a Ryokan?

A ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn that dates back to the Edo period. Ryokans are known for their traditional architecture, which typically includes tatami mat flooring, sliding doors, and minimalist decor. Many ryokans are located in scenic locations, such as inns in the mountains or by the sea.

The Ryokan Experience

The typical ryokan experience is centered around relaxation and traditional Japanese hospitality. Upon arrival, guests are typically greeted with a cup of tea and a small snack. The guest rooms are often simple and elegant, with tatami mat flooring and low furniture. Instead of a bed, guests sleep on a futon that is laid out on the tatami mats.

One of the highlights of staying at a ryokan is the food. Ryokans are known for their kaiseki-style meals, which are multi-course feasts that showcase the freshest seasonal ingredients. The meals are typically served in the guest’s room, and the dishes are presented in a beautiful and artistic way.

In addition to the food, many ryokans offer onsen, or hot spring baths, which are the perfect way to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing. The onsen experience typically involves soaking in a hot spring bath while admiring the beautiful natural surroundings.

Recommended Ryokans to Stay In

Hakone is home to many beautiful ryokans, each with their own unique charm. Here are a few ryokans that come highly recommended:

Gora Kadan

This luxurious ryokan is located in the heart of Hakone and features beautifully landscaped gardens, traditional architecture, and a variety of hot spring baths.

Yama No Chaya

This charming ryokan is situated in the mountains and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The guest rooms are cozy and comfortable, and the kaiseki meals are a true culinary delight.

Fukuzumiro

This historic ryokan dates back to the Edo period and features traditional architecture and beautiful Japanese gardens. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the staff are known for their warm hospitality.

Staying at a ryokan in Hakone is a unique and unforgettable experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in traditional Japanese culture and hospitality.

Okonomiyaki Hiroshima

Try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima

Try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima

Hiroshima is famous for its delicious and unique dish called Okonomiyaki. It’s a savory pancake made with various ingredients such as cabbage, meat, seafood, and noodles, and is topped with a sweet and savory sauce. Here’s what you need to know about trying Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima.

What is Okonomiyaki and why is it unique?

Okonomiyaki is a popular dish in Japan, but each region has its own twist on the recipe. In Hiroshima, Okonomiyaki is layered instead of mixed, and it typically includes noodles. The dish is cooked on a griddle in front of you, and you can watch as the layers are carefully assembled.

How is Okonomiyaki prepared

The base of Okonomiyaki is made from a batter of flour, eggs, and dashi (a broth made from fish and kelp). Cabbage and other vegetables are then added to the batter, along with your choice of protein, such as pork belly, shrimp, or squid. Noodles, usually udon, are also added to the mix in Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. The ingredients are then cooked on a hot griddle, layered one by one, and topped with a sweet and savory sauce, mayonnaise, and green onions.

The best restaurants in Hiroshima to try Okonomiyaki.

If you’re looking to try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, you won’t have to look far. There are many restaurants that specialize in the dish, and each has its own unique take. Some of the most highly recommended restaurants include Okonomimura, a multi-story building with over 20 Okonomiyaki restaurants to choose from, and Hassei, a small, family-owned restaurant that has been serving Okonomiyaki for over 50 years. No matter where you choose to try it, Okonomiyaki is a must-eat when visiting Hiroshima.

Sumo wrestling in Japan

Experience a Sumo Wrestling Match in Tokyo

If you’re looking for a quintessential Japanese cultural experience, look no further than a sumo wrestling match. Sumo wrestling is an ancient Japanese sport that has been around for centuries and holds a special place in Japanese culture.

The Cultural Significance of Sumo Wrestling in Japan

Sumo wrestling is not just a sport in Japan – it’s a way of life. It’s considered one of the country’s most important cultural traditions, with a history dating back over a thousand years. Sumo wrestlers are seen as modern-day samurai, and their strict training regimens and disciplined lifestyles are respected and admired by many.

The Atmosphere and Excitement of Attending a Match

Attending a sumo match is a unique experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. From the moment you arrive at the stadium, you’ll be swept up in the excitement and energy of the crowd. The matches themselves are intense and captivating, with the wrestlers displaying incredible strength, agility, and skill.

Tips for Attending and Purchasing Tickets

If you’re interested in attending a sumo match, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, matches are only held a few times a year, so you’ll need to plan your trip accordingly. Second, tickets can be difficult to come by, especially for popular matches, so it’s best to book well in advance. Finally, be sure to arrive early to get a good seat and soak up the pre-match atmosphere.

With these tips in mind, attending a sumo wrestling match in Tokyo is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss your chance to witness this ancient and revered Japanese tradition in person.

Explore the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo: History, Exhibits, and Tips

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio that has gained worldwide fame for its critically acclaimed films. The studio has produced numerous award-winning films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. The Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a must-visit attraction for fans of the studio and its films.

History and Significance of Studio Ghibli

Founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli has become one of the most beloved animation studios in the world. The studio’s films are known for their stunning animation, rich storytelling, and magical worlds. Ghibli films often explore themes such as environmentalism, childhood, and the power of imagination.

Exhibits and Experience at the Museum

The Ghibli Museum is a whimsical and enchanting space that offers visitors a glimpse into the world of Studio Ghibli. The museum features exhibits on the animation process, including storyboarding and cel animation, as well as a replica of director Miyazaki’s studio. Visitors can also view original artwork, watch short films exclusive to the museum, and explore a rooftop garden inspired by the film Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Tips for Purchasing Tickets and Visiting

Tickets to the Ghibli Museum are in high demand and can be difficult to obtain. Visitors should plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance. Tickets can be purchased online or at a Lawson convenience store in Japan. It’s important to note that tickets are timed and visitors must enter the museum during their designated time slot. Photography is not allowed inside the museum, but visitors can take photos outside and in the rooftop garden. The museum also has a gift shop featuring Ghibli-themed merchandise.

Mojo Gift experience gift card

Unleash the Magic of Japan with Mojo Gift

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS​

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers a unique cultural experience. These inns often feature tatami-matted rooms, communal hot springs baths, and traditional Japanese cuisine. Staying in a ryokan is a great way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and hospitality.

Tickets for sumo wrestling matches in Tokyo can be purchased online or at the venue. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance to ensure availability, as matches can sell out quickly. You can also purchase tickets through tour companies that offer package deals.

The Ghibli Museum features exhibits on the animation process, including storyboarding and cel animation, as well as a replica of director Miyazaki's studio. Visitors can also view original artwork, watch short films exclusive to the museum, and explore a rooftop garden inspired by the film Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Snow monkeys, also known as Japanese macaques, are a species of monkey native to Japan. They are known for their ability to survive in cold climates and can be seen soaking in hot springs in the winter. The Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano is a popular destination to see snow monkeys.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake that typically includes cabbage, meat or seafood, and a variety of toppings. In Hiroshima, okonomiyaki is made with layers of ingredients, including noodles, and is known as Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Popular restaurants to try this dish include Okonomimura and Hassei.

Mojo Gift cards are global experience gift cards that can be used all around the world. Purchase a gift card and ship it for free to the lucky receiver. THey can then choose from thousands of experiences around the globe.