Japan is like an onion, and the more times you visit this fascinating land of dynamic metropolises, imperial palaces, and thousands of shrines and temples, the more layers you can peel back, uncovering another side to the Land of the Rising Sun that few other tourists see.

Sure, first-timers to Japan should definitely make a beeline for the main tourist hot spots, such as Mount Fuji in Tokyo, a traditional Sumo tournament, the temples of Kyoto and the delicious street food in Osaka.

But scratch beneath the surface of Japan’s major cities, and what you’ll find is a whole new world, steeped in centuries of culture and rich heritage.

Here are seven off-the-beaten-track experiences you’ll find in some of Japan’s bigger cities which are guaranteed to give you – or your clients – a different taste of Japan.


1. Be a ninja for a day.


Think you have what it takes to be a real ninja?

Then head on over to the Togakushi Ninja Village in Nagano, dress up, and be a ninja for a day.

This interactive, ninja-themed amusement park offers a huge variety of exciting and stimulating facilities for both young and old.

You may never want to leave.


2. Visit a traditional hot spring.


Soak in a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring) at the Kurokawa Hot Springs in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, and let the day’s stress melt away as volcanically heated water soothes your body and mind.

In Japan, the minerals in onsen water are believed to produce various health benefits for the body, so do yourself a favour and don’t go home without soaking at least one time.


3. Dress up as a geisha.


Put on a kimono and get your hair and make-up done for a complete transformation into a maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto, and get a real sense of traditional Japanese fashion.

Just don’t forget to bring your camera!


4. Learn to cook Japanese food.


Be a MasterChef for a day at Osaka Kitchen and learn how to make Japanese food from a seasoned pro.

Osaka has a reputation for being the food capital in Japan, so it’s probably the best place for a cooking lesson.

Oh, and just in case your creations don’t cut the mustard, don’t worry: just head down to the Dotombori area for the best food in the city.


5. Learn how to meditate.


Kyoto is the centre of Zen culture in Japan, so why not learn how to meditate (in English) at the Taizo-in Zen Buddhist Temple whilst you’re in town?

Visitors to Taizo-in can practice zazen (seated meditation) for up to an hour and learn about this centuries-old spiritual practice.

Although we can’t guarantee you’ll achieve enlightenment during your sitting, we can guarantee you’ll feel a greater sense of calm.


6. Experience a traditional tea ceremony.


Take part in a 30-minute tea ceremony at Senrian (website in Japanese) in Osaka and get a taste of this traditional Japanese custom.

Suitable for the absolute beginner (don’t worry as perfect manners aren’t necessary here), you’ll be sipping delicious tea whilst looking out over a beautiful garden.

You may never drink coffee again!

Are you ready to delve a little deeper into the wonders of Japan? Become a certified Japan Travel Specialist by completing JNTO’s new e-learning program at https://elearning.jnto.org.au/

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