Japan is undoubtedly one of the most exciting countries to visit in the world, and if you are one for deep historical background, cultural traditions, and getting to know your location in-depth, it is also a must! With plenty of monumental sites and stunning destinations, you can actually learn a lot, even with a limited time.
Learning the language when discovering Japan is essential for a richer experience, and taking the time to learn the language can be immensely rewarding. Let’s say you’re planning your trip from Sydney; consider finding a Japanese tutor in Sydney. Or if you’re a New Yorker, you could opt for online classes based in New York or explore language schools nearby before your arrival in Japan. This proactive step will not only help you navigate the country with ease but also deepen your connection to its captivating heritage.
So, whether you are taking a group vacation or private tours to Japan, check out our recommendations to help you get to know it in the best way. Here are the top Japanese cultural treasures.
Senso-ji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo
The most significant and oldest temple in Tokyo, Senso-ji, is certainly a must-see spot on your journey to getting to know Japanese culture.
Apart from its historical background full of dramatic changes, legends surrounding it, and overall being one of the most visited sites in Japan, the temple is also known for its tea ceremonies. What used to be an everyday practice by the elite zen monks in Japan is still a very significant tradition to uphold.
The purpose of the Japanese Tea Ceremony is to create a bond between the guest and the host, all while finding inner peace. Senso-ji temple offers you an authentic experience of traditional tea ceremonies, proper matcha tea, and a simple lecture explaining the meaning and history behind it.
Eating in Osaka
Carry on expanding your knowledge on the Japanese heritage by catching a quick Tokyo to Osaka train. Here, in a city famous for its cheap yet delicious food, you might just learn all you need to know about Japanese cuisine and its background.
Weirdly enough, it is not the biggest cities that are best known for its wide variety of food choices and intricate recipes that surprise most. There is an expression in Osaka that goes along the lines of “Eat until you burst,” and while we do not recommend going to these extremes, dining and snacking are highly relevant on your trip.
Knowing a country’s cuisine is essential in any case, but if you go to Osaka, you can try it without visiting expensive restaurants and waiting on exhausting booking time. Try their street food that perfectly represents the heritage in the simplest way, offering meals like Takoyaki – ball-shaped dumplings, Okonomiyaki – savory egg pancakes, and Fugu – raw blowfish.
While you are still in Osaka, we suggest taking a short trip just outside of it and discovering the vast history and importance of the famous Mozu Tombs.
Originally consisting of more than 100 tombs, Mozu is a part of kofun – megalithic tombs in Northeast Asia, constructed between the 3rd and the 7th centuries CE. So, obviously, we have years and years of history surrounding them, but the tombs were also built to send a message.
Culturally, Mozu Tombs, like most on the Japanese archipelago, were there to represent the hierarchical order of the community. Kings, emperors, and other bodies of utmost significance and high class are buried there not only to commemorate the Japanese heroes and rulers but also to keep on reminding people about the difference in sociopolitical stances.
One of the most apparent monuments places in Japan, Mount Fuji is actually a lot more than just a nicely shaped mountain and a natural site. Sure, the volcano is the tallest one in the country, but it is also very important to the locals spiritually and culturally.
Whether you are brave enough to climb the mountain or just want to look around at the base, Mount Fuji is an entire site of traditional Japanese temples, ancient grounds, and other historical areas. Since old times, the mountain has been considered a sacred place to be worshipped. In antiquity, people used to admire Fuji and pray to it from afar, but after more than a couple of hundred years without eruptions, the locals got a little braver, and now there is a whole culture surrounding it.
Tokyo National Museum
While natural sites, sacred grounds, and cuisine are fantastic ways to learn more about Japanese cultural treasures, there is no other place that can give you as much information as a museum. And Tokyo National Museum is the best one you can visit!
With paintings, traditional Japanese crafts, historical documents, and much more else, Tokyo’s most prominent museum invites you to discover Japan’s essence and learn about its development as a cultural body. Explore the vast collections of artwork and cultural objects from all of Asia and get full-on lectures about its surprising way of life.
The exhibition includes over fifty national treasures, cultural properties, and rare artwork, so make sure you have enough time to explore. Even if you only end up scratching the surface, you will leave the country much more knowledgeable than when you first came!
Whichever site you choose to visit or whatever experience you want to indulge in, do that with an open mind and focus. The Japanese are very serious and particular about their traditions, so remember to be respectful and take it all in, whenever you are travelling to Japan. Other than that, just have fun and enjoy travelling, see the wonders in Land of the Rising Sun.