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Get off the beaten track in Japan to discover the country’s array of unique attractions, from an island full of cats to a robot restaurant. Experience culture shock at a maid cafe, go on a go-karting adventure in a superhero costume or marvel at bowing deer. Step away from the typical tourist attractions put these unique things to do in Japan on your next travel itinerary.
Dine at the Robot Restaurant
Considered one of the most unique experiences you can have in Tokyo, the Robot Restaurant treats its diners to dazzling performances that feature giant robot battles and bikini-clad taiko drummers. The show is highlighted by bright lights and lasers, live music and a ton of bizarre costumes. You never know what you’ll see at this restaurant, a 40-foot long robotic snake or sharks with laser beams.
Dress up and go Super Hero Go Karting
Instead of taking a regular tour of Tokyo, take a go-kart tour of Tokyo that lets you dress up in your favorite character costume and zip around the capital city’s streets like a video game character. MariCAR’s unique tours put you in the driving seat and let you feel like you’re in Mario Kart as you play the music of your choice and cruise past Tokyo Tower, Roppongi and Shibuya.
Visit a fox-themed zoo Zao Fox Village
Located in Miyagi Prefecture, Zao Fox Village is the perfect place for animal enthusiasts. It’s here that you can encounter more than 100 foxes at the base of Mt. Zao and get close enough to pet them, provided you offer them a snack first. The foxes live free-range in a picturesque garden surrounded by nature and the animal sanctuary even offers a “huge a baby fox” experience in spring. In Japan, foxes are said to be messengers of Inari Okami, the Shinto deity of fertility, prosperity and rice.
Receive good fortune on Cat Island
You’ve got to be a fan of felines to visit Tashirojima, or “Cat Island”, as this small island in the Tohoku region of northern Japan boasts more cats than people. The Japanese believe that cats bring good fortune, so local residents of this area make sure that cats are well fed and taken care of, which has led to a steady increase in population. The island even has a cat shrine along with cat shaped cabins you can stay overnight in.
See monkeys bathing in hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park
Home to the world-famous “snow monkeys”, Jigokudani Monkey Park is a unique place to relax and unwind. Surrounded by snow-covered mountains tucked away in the Nagano Prefecture, the hot springs are a popular spot for seeing these curious primates submerged in the steaming waters. Over 160 Japanese Macaque monkeys inhabit the area and offer an unforgettable opportunity to observe them in the wild as they blissfully unwind.
Explore stone caverns at Oya History Museum
Built into a massive former stone quarry in northwestern Utsunomiya, walking into the Oya History Museum is like stepping into a scene from “Indiana Jones”. It’s here that you can learn about the long history of the mining industry that dates back to the 17th century and explore the underground cavern that is large enough to fit a baseball field and 196 feet at its deepest point. A popular venue for movies and music videos, it’s also used as a concert hall, theatre and for weddings.
Pet furry bunnies on Rabbit Island
A small island in the Seto Inland Sea, Okunoshima, or “Rabbit Island”, is two miles off the coast of the Japanese city of Takehara in Hiroshima Prefecture. The small island is only 2.5 miles around and can be explored in less than an hour, but it’s cuddly residents make up for its lack of size. It boasts over 1,000 cute furry bunnies that come in all shapes and sizes, with babies looking like cotton fluff to black, orange and brindle rabbits all roaming around and greeting visitors.
Marvel at the Kumano Nachi Taisha
While Japan is home to plenty of picturesque temples, none are quite like Kumano Nachi Taisha, which boasts a backdrop of the tallest waterfall in the country. Located a few miles from the coastal hot spring resort of Katsuura, the shrine here is a part of a large complex of religious sites that have both Buddhist and Shinto influences. Admire the three-story pagoda and watch as the 436-foot Nachi Falls waterfall showcases its natural beauty to create a postcard-perfect view.
Take a drift ice cruise in Hokkaido
During winter, head to Hokkaido’s northeastern coast and the Shiretoko Peninsula, as it is the southernmost region of the northern hemisphere and is a great place to see drifting sea ice. Floating across the Sea of Okhotsk from northeastern Russia, the ice can be seen from a cruise that travels alongside the coast. For a more adventurous route, participate in ice drift tours where you can put on a wetsuit and be led onto the ice by guides.
Meet bowing deer in Nara
You can visit Nara to see some of Japan’s richest collection of traditional sites, but this popular day trip from Kyoto is also famed for its resident bowing deer that roam the city. Once considered sacred messengers of the gods, animal enthusiasts can now meet around 1,200 deer and spend an entire day feeding the curious creatures deer crackers. The deer are so polite that they will make a bowing gesture in order to charm visitors and entice them to offer more treats.
Explore the remote Aogashima Island
One of the most remote destinations in Japan, Aogashima Island is located 222 miles south of Tokyo. The volcanic island has around 160 residents living on it, with its biggest attraction being its incredible display of nature. You can spend your time in this vast expanse hiking and spotting wildlife, while stargazing is considered a must due to the island’s lack of street lights and light pollution. There are also natural saunas on the island for when you want to relax in complete isolation.