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Explore Japan Like a Local

Updated: Jun 4

Japanese woman standing in front of shop window

Japan, with its rich heritage and advanced modernity, offers travelers an intriguing blend of old and new. However, if you want to fully experience the unique charm of this island nation, exploring it like a local can make all the difference. This guide will provide insights on how to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and explore Japan like a local.


Embrace Public Transportation

Japan's public transportation is efficient and widespread, especially the railway network. The Shinkansen, or bullet train, is an experience in itself, and local trains offer great views of the countryside. Don't forget to use local city buses or trams in cities like Kyoto and Hiroshima.

Savor the Local Cuisine

Japanese cuisine is much more than sushi and ramen. Visit Izakayas (Japanese pubs) to try a variety of dishes, from yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) to okonomiyaki (savory pancake). Local markets, like Tokyo's Tsukiji or Osaka's Kuromon, offer fresh seafood and local delicacies.

Discover Hidden Gems

While famous sites like Mount Fuji and Kyoto's temples are must-visits, explore lesser-known places too. Experience the quiet charm of rural towns like Takayama or the unique art installations of Naoshima Island. Seek out hidden gems in big cities – like the back streets of Tokyo's Shimokitazawa neighborhood, known for its vintage stores and indie culture.

Participate in Local Festivals

Japan's local festivals, or matsuri, offer a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture. From Sapporo's Snow Festival to Kyoto's Gion Matsuri, these events are full of music, dance, food, and most importantly, local spirit.

Visit an Onsen

An onsen (hot spring bath) visit is a quintessential Japanese experience. Towns like Hakone and Beppu are famous for their hot springs. Remember to follow the onsen etiquette – rinse off before entering the bath, and note that most onsens don't allow swimwear or those with tattoos.

Learn Some Japanese

While many Japanese people understand basic English, learning a few phrases in Japanese can greatly enhance your experience. Simple phrases like "Arigatou" (Thank you) or "Sumimasen" (Excuse me) can go a long way in interacting with locals. In addition, consider taking one of our favorite experiences learning some Japanese calligraphy with a matcha latte! So fun!

Respect the Culture

Japanese society values respect and etiquette. Be mindful of local customs – take off your shoes when entering someone's home or certain traditional places, avoid eating while walking, and queue orderly at stations and bus stops.

Stay at a Ryokan

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, where you can experience local hospitality. Sleep on futons, wear yukatas (casual summer kimonos), and savor a traditional kaiseki meal – a multi-course dinner that is an art form in itself.

Shop at Local Stores

From manga to matcha, Japan is a shopper's paradise. Visit local stores and flea markets for unique finds. Shopping districts like Tokyo's Ameyoko or Osaka's Shinsaibashi-suji offer a variety of local goods and delicious street food.

Exploring Japan like a local involves embracing its unique traditions, savoring its culinary offerings, and delving into its less-touristy paths. By immersing yourself in the local lifestyle, you can appreciate the depth and diversity of Japanese culture, making your visit a truly enriching experience.

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