Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan (2021 Edition)

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Rob Dyer The Real Japan

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I'm often asked... What are the best things to do in Japan?

But 'best' can be subjective. What I like and what you like might well be different. However, there's nothing subjective about what activities people are actually booking.

Here then are the Top 10 most popular activities in JapanThese are the most popular based on the actual number of activities booked by visitors to TheRealJapan.com*.

*Updated: March 2021


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Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan
by Rob Dyer


2020: A Year Unlike Any Other

2020 was a year unlike any other in living memory, particularly when it comes to travel.

Nevertheless, some of you were able to visit Japan at the start of last year and The Real Japan has many followers who live in Japan year round. And you were still getting out and about, albeit in a Covid-safe manner, and in smaller numbers than usual.

Closure Of Famous Names

The impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry is reflected in this year's chart, with two of the biggest attractions from last year closing as a direct result of the huge fall in international tourism.

Robot Restaurant in Tokyo (previously at #2 in our chart) first announced a temporary closure, which was later confirmed as a permanent in November 2020. 

Likewise, Kawaii Monster Cafe (also in Tokyo) closed its doors for good on 1st February this year. Last year it was at #4 in our chart.

New Entries In The Top 10

With two of the highest entries in our chart dropping out completely, that has shuffled several entries up the chart, and has seen two new entires coming into the Top 10 for the firs time.

What are they? Let's start the countdown to the Number One position and find out...


10. teamLab Planets TOKYO E-Tickets

teamLabs Planets Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Japanese installation art collective teamLab became famous the world over with their Borderless installation a few years back. 

Now, the same team behind that hit have a new immersive experience (also in Tokyo) called teamLab Planets. It's another experience in which visitors journey through room-sized digital artworks.

This time around, it's eight digital artworks based on the concept of 'Body Immersive'. Step into the museum barefoot, and immerse yourself in art-spaces that blur the lines between art and people.

This video gives you a good idea of what to expect...

  • Relax — take in each installation at your own pace
  • Immerse — navigate illuminated waters and enveloping terrains
  • Photograph — capture incredible images to light up your Instagram

9. Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s tallest tower, gives you panoramic views of the Tokyo skyline stretching all the way to Mt. Fuji on the horizon.

Skytree's design is based on a fusion of futuristic design and the beauty of traditional Japanese construction techniques. At the top, there is a spiral, glass-covered skywalk where you can ascend the final 5 meters to the highest point on the upper platform.

A section of glass floor gives you a dizzying, birds-eye view of the streets far below.

I'm not surprised to find tickets to Tokyo Skytree enter the Top 10. I've still only seen it from street level, so if you've been fortunate to take in those incredible views of Tokyo, let me know by leaving a comment below.

  • Children aged 0–5 enter for free
  • Tickets need to be booked at least one day in advance
  • Skip The Line Reserved Ticket

8. Legoland Japan, Nagoya

Legoland Japan Nagoya Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Lego was a big part of my life as a child. I was a member of the Lego Fan Club, even submitting photos of my creations in the hope of winning one of their regular prizes. I never did, but I did once win a big bag of the plastic bricks at a summer fair one time.

If Legoland had existed in the 1970s you can bet I would have been there!

So it's nice to see that Legoland Japan in Nagoya starts our Top 10. In the tradition of Lego inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen, this family-oriented theme park is where inspiring education meets exciting play.

There are over 40 rides and shows to experience in seven themed zones, plus engaging, interactive attractions where creativity runs wild.

  • Over 40 rides, shows, and interactive attractions
  • Combined Legoland + Sea Life Nagoya option available
  • Flexible E-Tickets available

7. Early Morning Training Sumo Stable Tour, Tokyo

sumo training tour Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Aside from actually attending a sumo tournament, it is possible to watch live sumo wrestling at an early-morning training session.

These sumo stable tours take place in between the tournaments and are a rare chance to witness sumo training up close. This isn't just some show put on for tourists. These are actual training sessions to which a small number of members of the public get access to.

It's possible to get an exclusive photo opportunity with wrestlers after their training for the ultimate selfie souvenir. Although the Tokyo tour is our number nine entry, the same tour is also available in Osaka - details on that can be found here.

Read Our Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament to see what happens when these giants are in competition in the ring.

  • See sumo stars close up
  • Learn about the historical roots of sumo wrestling
  • Exclusive photo opportunity with the sumo wrestlers after the training

6. Studio Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

Studio Ghibli Museum Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Anime giant Studio Ghibli's ghostly fantasy Spirited Away  won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001.

This official museum/park dedicated to Studio Ghibli films, characters and designs is a total delight and a perfect way to spend a few hours - whether you're a child or just a child at heart. It's located in Mitaka, an attractive and quiet suburb of Tokyo.

Demand for tickets regularly outstrips supply and tickets are not available at the museum and must be bought in advance. So it is essential to book in advance if you want to visit this magical world.

Read Our Guide: to Visiting The Studio Ghibli Museum for top tips to make the most of your time there

  • Select preorder or last-minute options
  • Watch one of Miyazaki's earliest films
  • Ghibli Ticket Guarantee

5. Guided Tour of the Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Japan's National Museum first opened its doors in 1872, making it Japan’s oldest museum.

It houses a stunning and extensive collection of significant historical and cultural assets, focusing on ancient and medieval Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road.

Located in Ueno Park, in Taito, the north-eastern part of Tokyo, it's the largest in Japan, housing 87 national treasures as well as 634 cultural assets. You'll see how Japanese art has changed over time from the use of clay to the many Buddhist and samurai arts.

Read Our Guide:  Secret Tour of Tokyo National Museum for a rare behind-the-scenes peek inside.

  • The best place to enjoy and learn Japanese culture and history
  • 114,000 items, including 87 National Treasures
  • Samurai armor, sword, Ukiyoe, Buddhist sculptures

4. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka

Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Japan USJ Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

For mayhem with Minions, Harry Potter wizardry, the world's first Super Nintendo World park, iconic Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park, Spider-man, Terminator, Jaws  magic, thrills, spills and fun, it has to be Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

I've been coming here since 2002 - during its 1st Anniversary - and it still entertains like few other theme parks. No wonder it attracted a staggering 14.9 million visitors during 2017 and is currently the 4th most-attended theme park in the world!

Read Our Guide: Universal Studios Japan: Ultimate Guide for top tips to make the most of your time there – which passes to buy, rides not to miss, shows to catch and other insider know-how.

  • 1, 1.5, and 2 Day Studio Passes
  • Universal Express Passes - skip the queues
  • Royal Studio Passes - all rides, all attractions!

3. Kaiyukan Aquarium, Osaka

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan The Real Japan

Located next to Osaka bay, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the world's largest aquariums, and home to the gargantuan whale shark.

The best way to experience this incredible place is to make your way to the top level and then slowly make your way down to the ground floor. The interior is designed as a walkway that spirals down around the huge tanks that house an incredible array of sealife.

Come for feeding time to meet penguins, dolphins, sea lions up close, and thousands more specimens from across the Pacific.

  • One of the largest aquariums in the world
  • Over 30,000 marine creatures from 620 species
  • 15 tanks showcasing regions of the Pacific Rim

2. Visiting A Sumo Tournament

Sumo Wrestling Tournament Tickets The Real Japan

Securing tickets to the famous sumo wrestling tournaments in Japan comes in at number three. The national sumo tournament is held only 6 times a year and tickets sell out quickly. To be sure of a seat you'll need to book your tickets in advance.

Even if you're not into wrestling, visiting a sumo tournament is an entertaining and memorable way to spend from a couple of hours up to half a day.

Watch the star wrestlers arriving outside the stadium. Catch the rising stars of this national sport during the afternoon bouts. The big-name wrestlers (who are like rock stars in Japan) start their bouts around 6pm.

Read Our Guide: to Visiting A Sumo Tournament for top tips to make the most of your time there.

  • Reserve your tickets in advance before they sell out!
  • Enter and leave the sumo tournament anytime on your ticket date
  • Rated #1 Experience in Asia in the 2018 TripAdvisor™ Travelers' Choice Awards

1. Watching Baseball at Koshien Stadium, Kobe

baseball in Japan Top 10 most popular activities in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Going to a baseball game has, by far, been the most popular activity among The Real Japan community. And out of all the venues available, going to see the Hanshin Tigers at their home stadium of Koshien has topped the league.

Sure, there are bigger teams (hello Yomiuri Giants) but there's clearly something about the fanatical nature of those who follow Kobe's finest that's firmly put watching games at Koshien Stadium at the top of our list.

Read Our Guide: to Going To A Baseball Game in Japan for top tips to make the most of your time there.

  • 24 hour ticket collection
  • Hanshin Tigers are the oldest professional club in Japan
  • Koshien Stadium is situated between Osaka and Kobe

What's Missing For You?

As I said at the start, I regularly maintain this list, so things change over time. It's interesting to see what new entries appear and which drop out, and to see which rise up or fall down the Top 10.

You may want to bookmark this post and come back to keep updated on the current Top 10 standings.

Is there anything missing from the list for you?

Maybe you've had an awesome experience that isn't in the Top 10 that you think ought to be? If so, please share your recommendations with others by leaving a comment below...

VIDEO: Top 10 Most Popular Activities in Japan - April 2021 Edition

Resources

This Top 10 is compiled from bookings made by The Real Japan readers through the Voyagin website.

Founded in 2011, Voyagin is a travel tours and activities booking platform (in English) headquartered in Tokyo and owned by Rakuten.

Voyagin website

GoVoyagin.com

Japan Travel Guidebook

Get my book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese HERE.

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