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Japanese Cultural Experiences You Should Try

Travelling is essentially all about gaining experiences.

Visiting places is one experience.

But there are many more too, like participating in cultural activities and engaging with local people.

Here are the 6 types of cultural experiences that will help you immerse yourself in Japan and learn more about Japanese culture, history and the people.

I believe even adding one of these cultural experiences to your travel itinerary will make your trip much more enjoyable and enlightening.

1. Arts and Crafts

Japanese craftsmanship has a long history.

What’s widely respected about Japanese craftsmanship is that their skills are handed down from generation to generation, so it’s impressive to see the old traditions being preserved even through modern day Japan.

In many fields, these traditions are evolving by the efforts of younger generations, which is also fascinating to see.

There are hundreds of crafts in Japan.

Pottery, lacquerware and kimono are probably the major ones.

But there are many others like washi paper, glassware and kitchen knives to name a few.

Many of these items are simply breathtaking thanks to Japanese shokunin or craftspeople who are generally known for their attention to detail, a sense of pride in their skills, and persistence to produce the best.

Some of the popular cultural activities include visiting craftsmen’s workshops and learning how to make a product with these craftspeople.

These cultural activities are a great choice if you want to feel the spirit of Japanese monozukuri or manufacturing.


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2. The Way

The Way is known as Dou in Japanese.

Traditional cultural activities under this category were originally developed or perfected as self-discipline practice among the nobility and samurai warriors.

Later, they became available to the ordinary people.

In Japanese society, each of these traditional activities are usually carried out by different schools in a hierarchy system.

The Way is also referred to as Michi or Road in Japanese, suggesting that you should keep improving your skills at whatever age you are.

Major cultural activities in this category are sado or tea ceremony, kado or ikebana, shodo or calligraphy, budo or martial arts.

It will be a perfect opportunity if you want to learn the essence of traditional Japan directly from a Japanese shihan or senior instructor in a particular field.

3. Food and Drink

Food and drink are what you may be looking forward to the most when you visit Japan.

You can simply sample Japanese food and drink for lunch or dinner.

But if you want to immerse yourself a little bit further, it’s definitely a good idea to try out some cultural activities related to Japanese food and drink.

For example, learning how to make Japanese dishes is one of them; you can make sushi, home-made meals, or even Japanese sweets.

The other option is joining a tour that shows you around the making of Japanese ingredients like sake, miso, or tea.

These experiences will give you a chance to talk to Japanese people, from chefs, to mothers and grandmothers, to brewers and farmers, and to eat the meals or get a taste of what the locals produce on site.

4. Spirituality and Religious Traditions

Visiting a shrine or temple might already be on your itinerary.

But why don’t you explore some other options to get a deeper experience, like staying at a temple lodge called shukubo?

At a shukubo, you’ll be provided with accommodation, meals, and a chance to participate in a morning service to the buddhist altar.

These places are usually found in what’s known as sacred mountains where monks and mountain ascetics have traditionally had their training because the shukubo were originally constructed to be used for such training and lodging.

Nowadays, there are shukubo that are more accessible by ordinary worshippers and tourists and some of their services are almost like what’s provided at ryokan or Japanese-style inns so you’ll have different choices depending on where to visit.

Another cultural activity you might want to consider is walking on pilgrimage routes such as Shikoku Henro, Kumano Kodo, and Dewa Sanzan.

5. Theatre Performances

There are many forms of entertainment nowadays.