Japan is filled with incredible temples, beautiful gardens, and modern, clean cities. It also has its fair share of weird, wonderful, and wacky highlights too. The Japanese culture is modern, efficient, and yet very eccentric at the same time. It’s a place where you can find peace and zen or explore the crazy world of Japanese anime. If you want the real Japanese experience, you have to find a mix of both on your visit. To help you find a bit of the wacky, weird side, check out the sites and activities below.
One thing you will quickly notice walking through Japan is how much they love loud, noisy arcade games. Not to be confused with a standard arcade though, Pachinko parlours walk a fine line, closer to a casino. Gambling in Japan is pretty much illegal, at least when it comes to casinos. Instead Pachinko parlours use little metal balls and are set up to resemble those classic arcade games where you win tickets. The balls can be traded in after winning for items like little knickknacks or, if you have won a lot, major electronics like TVs. The gambling part comes in though as most people opt to trade in their winnings for little gold coins, which they then sell for cash around the corner in a separate shop, usually owned by the same person as the Pachinko parlours. It’s an elaborate way to bypass the laws and leads to some of the most fascinating “casinos” you’ll ever see.
Harajuku on Sunday
If you are in Tokyo on a Sunday, you simple have to visit the Harajuku neighborhood. All week long this is a great neighborhood for shopping and it is a popular teen area where you can find all the newest fashions. On Sundays though the neighborhood comes live with thousand of cosplay fans. Cosplay or “costume play” is a very popular hobby in Tokyo with people spending hours each week dressing up as their favorite anime character, video game character, or in a unique costume of their own. Both men and women of all ages participate and you will never see more creative or downright wacky costumes.
Purikura Photo Booths
After a day in Harajuku, hopefully picking up some wonderfully Japanese fashion, record the moment by stopping at any one of the thousands of Purikura photo booths spread throughout the city. These photo booths are not the standard curtin and bench kind you are use to back home. Instead they are a full photo studio where you can pose for silly photos and then embellish them digitally with an endless array of cute backgrounds, frames, overlays, etc.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Not all the wacky Japanese attractions are in the cities though. Located about an hour from the city of Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is one of Japan’s most famous sites. Each winter, as the snow covers the mountains and the surrounding forests, wild Snow Monkeys head down into the valley, drawn by the heat of the park’s famous hot springs. They don’t just enjoy the warmth from the sidelines though and in fact jump right in, lounging and swimming in the hot springs all day before heading back up to the forest at night. No where else in the world could you say you went skinny dipping with monkeys!