So you’ve arrived in Japan and you’re ready to absorb the culture like a sponge. Aside from shopping for Japanese souvenirs at Donki and visiting some of the famous shrines and temples, have you thought about how you would like to spend your downtime? Are you wondering where the Japanese go to unwind after a busy day?
In a professional or business setting, Japanese people have a reputation of being very serious, well-mannered and polite, but when their work is done, they often form groups and head out on the town to let loose. How can you spend your off-time in Japan like a local? Look no further than the following places for inspiration:
1. They Sing Their Hearts Out At Karaoke
It’s no secret that the Japanese love karaoke — a word which has also made its way into English vocabulary. The word “karaoke” actually comes from the two Japanese words “empty” and “orchestra”, to convey the meaning of a music track with no vocals. After a stressful day at work, many Japanese people can be found gathering with friends and colleagues at karaoke boxes around the city, singing their hearts out to the latest idol tracks, and even Western hits.
Many popular karaoke establishments offer perks like delicious food, all-you-can-drink, and overnight packages that extend until the first train of the following day, for those who want to sing their heart out all night long.
Alternatively, try out one of the Nightlife experiences on TripJunction, offered by locals!
2. They Let Loose In An Izakaya
What is an “izakaya”? Izakaya are like Japanese “pubs”—a popular place to gather after a long day at work for some food and drink. What is on the menu will vary from place to place, but they will generally serve salty foods like yakitori, fried chicken, edamame, noodles, stir-fry, and other dishes that are meant to be paired with alcohol. These establishments are often bustling with noise and laughter and generally start getting busy around 7 or 8pm, leading into the late evening. Looking for a place to start? I recommend the retro-themed Izakaya, Hanbey, which has several locations across Tokyo.
Experience and enjoy Izakaya just like locals do, together with locals! Check out Nightlife experiences on TripJunction!
3. They Stay Active
Sports are a common after-school recreational activity for students in Japan, and many keep an active lifestyle even after they’ve graduated. Former classmates will get together to organize soccer games or hit up local batting cages to maintain camaraderie and keep up their competitive spirit. Looking to get in on the action? Round One in Odaiba City is a great place to visit with a small group of friends. For a flat rate, you can enjoy access to the whole facility to use as you please. With a video gaming floor, a sports floor, and a roller skating rink, you’re guaranteed to find something that pleases everybody.
4. They Chase The Latest Trends
Whether it’s the latest quirky fashion accessory, or the most “instagrammable” cafe, Japan’s young cultural landscape is constantly shifting as trends come and go. Want to know what’s hot? Head to a youth culture hub, such as Shibuya or Harajuku, and follow the crowds.
Popular cafes will usually have long line-ups, and you’re also bound to run into some quirky fashionistas during your excursion. Want to do research beforehand? Check the hashtags on Instagram in your target area to know what’s buzzing. You can also check Google Maps to see which shops around you have the best reviews — many of the most popular places will have a few English reviews already!
5. They Enjoy The Changing Seasons
Japanese people are very sensitive to the change of seasons and have events to look forward to all-year-round to coincide with the flow of time. If you are lucky enough to visit Japan in the springtime, for example, you may experience the “hanami” season, when Japanese people like to picnic underneath the cherry blossom trees.
In the summer you can enjoy shaved ice, fireworks, and many outdoor events. This is also a great time to try wearing a Japanese yukata—you will blend right in with the locals when visiting a traditional summer event, such as a festival.
In the colder months, you can venture outside of Tokyo to enjoy a natural hot spring bath, eat warm foods such as hot pot and sukiyaki, and enjoy the changing leaves. No matter what the season, there are special activities that coincide with it.
So there you have it, 5 ways that the Japanese like to spend their free time. We hope that you’ve found these tips inspiring, and worth taking into consideration when planning your next stay in Japan! If you’d like more ideas for your travel itinerary, feel free to browse our guided tours page as well.