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What Japan Is Known For: 33 Famous Things To Discover

If you are intrigued by what Japan is known for, you are in for a treat!

There is no doubt that Japan is a beautiful country, attracting millions of visitors from all around the world to explore the different Japanese cities and immerse themselves into the local unique culture. 

But what exactly are the things that make Japan famous? 

You might have asked this question to people who have been to Japan and received different answers. Or you are travelling to this stunning Asian country for the first time and no one around you has been here before.  

Fret not—I have compiled a detailed list of 33 things Japan is known for so that you can sit back and relax and focus on your Japan itinerary planning

Make sure to read this helpful article until the end so that you will not be missing out on anything!

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What Japan Is Famous For

In this article, you will find a mixture of unique cultures, century-old traditions, mind-blowing innovations, and mesmerising natural splendours that are famous in the eyes of the world and where Japan can proudly boast about. 

Let’s get into it! 

What Is Japan Best Known For

  1. Mount Fuji
  2. Tokyo Skytree
  3. Castles
  4. Japanese gardens
  5. Manga & Anime
  6. Cosplay
  7. Maid cafes
  8. Cat cafes
  9. Robots
  10. Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains)
  11. Cherry blossoms
  12. Kimonos
  13. Japanese tea ceremony
  14. Geisha
  15. Calligraphy & Origami
  16. Vibrant festivals
  17. Temples & Shrines
  18. Onsens
  19. Japanese cuisine
  20. Vending Machines
  21. Unconventional snack & drink flavours
  22. Sake
  23. Convenience stores
  24. Samurai
  25. Ninjas
  26. Sumo wrestling
  27. Diverse accommodation choices
  28. Shibuya Crossing
  29. Karaoke
  30. Electronics and gadgets
  31. One-of-a-kind toilets 
  32. Politeness
  33. Safety and low crime rates

Things Japan Is Known For

1. Mount Fuji

No doubt Japan is known for Mount Fuji—the picturesque snowy mountain that is commonly seen on local postcards. 

Being the iconic symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji is also among the most stunning ones that attract visitors from all over the world to admire its beauty. 

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There are several ways to view Mount Fuji in Japan, with the easiest method: by taking a 45-minute ride on the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka

Or you prefer to enjoy the serene view of this majestic volcano from afar, make sure to head over to these popular viewpoints:

  • Chureito Pagoda, Fujiyoshida
  • Lake Kawaguchiko, Fuji Five Lakes
  • Oshino Hakkai, Hakone

Alternatively, with proper gears, you can climb up to Mount Fuji and immerse yourself in the mesmerising scenery up close. 

Note: To get a clearer view of Mount Fuji, it is best to visit during autumn or spring. Summer is the least favoured season due to poor mountain visibility. 

2. Tokyo Skytree

Being the country’s tallest building at a height of 634 metres, Tokyo Skytree makes up the list of things Japan is known for.  

Tokyo Skytree has 2 observation decks (350 and 450 metres), offering a chance to visitors to admire the stunning city skyline on one of the world’s highest observation decks. 

This Tokyo landmark also houses a large shopping complex and aquarium at the tower base, so you can look forward to spending some time exploring this spectacular skyscraper while you are at it. 

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If you can’t get enough photos of Tokyo Skytree, these are the best unobstructed spots to be at: 

  • Jikken-hashi Bridge
  • Asahi Building
  • Asakusa-dori Street

3. Castles

No one can deny that Japan is famous for its beautifully well-preserved castles

These historical buildings served as the major defence line back in the 15th century before slowly turning into military headquarters, besides acting as a confidence-boosting authority symbol among the samurais. 

There are 12 original castles in Japan and the most popular feudal castle that you should not miss visiting is Himeji Castle

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Completed in 1609, this spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site survived the numerous wars, earthquakes, and fires that took place throughout the different centuries and still stands tall to this day.

Apart from Himeji Castle, several other equally stunning original castles worth visiting include: 

  • Matsumoto Castle
  • Matsuyama Castle
  • Matsue Castle

4. Japanese Gardens

Another popular thing in Japan is none other than its world-renowned Japanese gardens. 

Being one of the unmissable highlights in Japan, you can find different Japanese garden styles such as recreational gardens, tea gardens, and Zen-based gardens.  

To enjoy the serene view, most visitors have a stroll while admiring the different garden elements that exist harmoniously creating a relaxing atmosphere—offering a great temporary escape from the bustling city life.

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Some of the best gardens that you ought to visit in Japan are: 

  • Kenrokuen (Kanazawa)
  • Kokedera (Kyoto) 
  • Ritsurin Koen (Takamatsu)

5. Manga & Anime

If you want to experience a rather bizarre culture that Japan is famous for, manga and anime is the answer to that. 

In Japan, manga is the Japanese version of comics whereas anime is referring to anything animation, such as cartoons, movies, and TV shows. 

So in the Japanese context, this means that anime is not just confined to only Japanese production but around the world. 

Some of the famous Japanese animes that you might have come across are: 

  • Sailor Moon
  • Pokemon
  • Dragon Ball
  • Spirited Away

To fully experience the hype of manga and anime culture, your best bet will be at Tokyo’s Akihabara

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You can find almost everything related to this unique culture in Akihabara, such as figurines, posters, trading cards, and so on.

Note: Check out my 4 Days Tokyo Itinerary to find out more about this otaku’s fav hangout place!

6. Cosplay

Cosplay is the art of wearing self-made or premade costumes of one’s favourite fictional characters in manga, anime, and video games. 

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Originating from Japan, cosplay is rising in popularity all across the world. Like-minded cosplay enthusiasts mingle and meet up once a year to showcase their prized costumes in large events such as Comiket

In Japan, the best place to hunt for unique cosplay items is in Tokyo’s Harajuku—where you can find interesting boutiques centring on teenage and cosplay fashions along the busy Takeshita Dori

7. Maid Cafes

Thanks to the hype of manga and anime culture, the multi-themed maid cafes are also among the major contributors to things that make Japan known for. 

Maid cafes are essentially restaurants and the food is served by waitresses typically dressed as maids. The maids will also engage in conversation and play games with the customers throughout the stay. 

If you are looking for an interesting travel experience that you will not find elsewhere, make sure to include a trip to maid cafes when you are in Japan!

8. Cat Cafes

Japan is known for cafes with beautiful aesthetics and pleasant ambience. And among all types of cafes, cat cafes top the list!

Over here, both local and international visitors get to enjoy their cups of coffee in the presence of free-roaming cats

These cafes are exceptionally popular among the urbanites as having a pet is thought to be less favourable due to the small living space in the city and hectic lifestyle. 

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Though petting is allowed, most cat cafes in Japan have strict rules imposed to ensure cats’ safety, such as:

  • No picking up the cats
  • No feeding the cats with outside food
  • Sanitise your hands and put on the provided indoor footwear

So if you do not mind sipping your cup of coffee surrounded by cats in the cafe without worrying about the fur floating around, then you might want to spend some time with these lovely kitties. 

9. Robots

Is Japan famous for robots? Oh yes, it is!

Robotic technologies in Japan are so advanced that more industries are incorporating these machines into their business for additional convenience, flair, and of course as attraction points. 

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You can find a robot preparing food in some restaurants, stacking stocks on the convenience store’s shelves, and even being a receptionist checking you into your hotel room in Japan. How extraordinary is that?

And if you are thinking about watching some wacky robot dance performances, Japan is definitely the right place to be.  

10. Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Trains)

The next “What is famous in Japan” thing in this list is truly a remarkable Japanese invention. And that is the shinkansen

With speeds up to 360 kilometres/hour, the shinkansen is the best and fastest way to travel across the major cities in Japan.

The latest shinkansen model, N700S, is designed to transport the passengers safely even if there is an earthquake. 

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You can get a JR pass to have unlimited shinkansen rides around the country for a period of time—making it a must-have concession for a more budget and convenient travel experience. 

A JR pass offers a time-saving, convenient, wallet-friendly approach to international visitors (like you and I), especially when you are exploring at least more than 3 cities in Japan.

Travel tip: If this is your first time visiting Japan, make sure to check out my detailed article on the 16 best apps for travel to Japan. It will help a ton!

11. Cherry Blossoms

Of all the famous things in Japan, cherry blossoms are the few captivating events that caused some parts of the country to be flooded by local and international travellers

Usually lasting from March to April, cherry blossoms signify the beginning of spring and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking

Most locals enjoy hanami (flower viewing) by having picnics with family members and friends under the blooming cherry trees. Alternatively, some prefer to have a stroll along the lined cherry trees to enjoy the equally mesmerising sakura views. 

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Here are some of the best hanami spots to enjoy the cherry blossoms views in Japan: 

  • Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)
  • Chureito Pagoda (Near Mount Fuji)
  • Philosopher’s Path (Kyoto)
  • Osaka Castle (Osaka)

12. Kimonos

Japan is famous for its traditional garment too; the kimono

Kimonos come in different styles, fabrics, and colours. In Japan, the type of kimono to put on depends on the person’s marital status, age, and specific occasions. 

During these modern times, this traditional Japanese costume is typically worn for special events, such as tea ceremonies and wedding dinners.

Kimono rental services are also becoming popular among the tourists in many ancient Japanese cities, particularly Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and several others.

Apart from having Insta-worthy shots, the visitors can immerse into the local culture through kimono wearing while sightseeing around the beautiful cities.  

13. Japanese Tea Ceremony 

The tea ceremony is an important Japanese tradition. 

This highly artistic ceremony is usually done in a traditional tea room with a tatami floor by the host or tea master. 

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The Japanese tea ceremony is more than merely drinking the green tea itself. It focuses on the tea preparation protocols such as the hand movements, equipment used, and even the placement of the equipment. 

The authentic tea ceremony is best experienced in Kyoto and Uji, though you can visit any tea houses scattered across the country. 

14. Geisha

Another aspect that makes what Japan is known for is its geisha

Geisha are trained, professional female artisans. 

They perform a variety of Japanese arts for the guests during dinner or banquets typically at teahouses (ochaya). Their performances include singing, dancing, instrument playing, and so on. 

First started as a maiko (geisha apprentice), the young girls underwent strict training for several years to master the creative skills before becoming geisha. 

However, geisha and maiko are often mistaken as oiran courtesans among foreign visitors due to the outfit and makeup similarities. So make sure to have your facts right. 

Though geisha are popular in Japan, it is not easy and cheap to engage with these professional artisans at ochaya. 

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The best way to meet or rather bump into geisha (if you are lucky) is by waiting for their appearances in Gion, Kyoto. This is when they leave their okiya (geisha houses) to their workplace. 

Note: Please be respectful and do not tail them. There has been an increase in incidents where visitors harassed geisha and maiko on the streets.

15. Calligraphy & Origami

Japan is also known for its traditional arts—calligraphy and origami. 

Japanese calligraphy, or shodo, emphasises the stroke order of each character.

It has 3 writing styles; kaisho (block), gyosho (semi-cursive), and sosho (cursive). One has to master the basic style skills before moving on to the advanced styles.

There are basic Japanese calligraphy classes available for tourists, and so if you are keen to learn, make sure you sign up for it!

Japan is famous for origami too, as this fascinating paper folding art originated here. 

Origami is the art of transforming a piece of paper into various shapes—such as animals and planes—without using glue or scissors

The most popular origami animal is crane that serves as a longevity symbol.  

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16. Vibrant Festivals 

Local vibrant festivals, or also known as matsuri, play an integral role in Japanese culture and tradition. 

Most of the matsuri is still being celebrated annually to this present day. To keep this old heritage alive, the celebration protocols are well-preserved and have been passed down from one generation to another over the centuries.

So during the matsuri, the Shinto god statue is lifted out from the shrine and paraded around the town or city. 

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If you are in Japan, make sure to participate in any of these well-known matsuri to experience more of this unique Japanese tradition

  • Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
  • Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka)
  • Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)

17. Temples & Shrines

The beautifully preserved temples and shrines with intricate architecture are among the major tourist attractions that make Japan known for. 

Shrines are mostly dedicated to Shinto gods, where typically the locals pay respect or pray for wealth. For temples, these sacred buildings are the worship places for Japanese Buddhists. 

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The most popular shrine in Japan can be found in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine. You can see thousands of bright orange torii gates lining up to the majestic mountain and tourists scatter everywhere along the gates for the Instagrammable shot.

If you plan to visit the most known temples in Japan, make sure to make your way to Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera Temple. Both are also located in Kyoto

18. Onsens

Do you know that Japan is famous for its relaxing onsens (natural hot springs) too?

Japanese onsens are usually packed with visitors during winter, especially at the resorts nearby Mount Fuji and Hakone. 

Nevertheless, you can also find onsen in ryokans and communal baths

You can have a dip or two in the natural minerals-filled hot spring, where the minerals are believed to be beneficial for your health. 

Note: As tattoos are still considered a taboo in Japan, some onsens deny entry to tattooed customers. So if you are inked, it is best to do some research before heading to the particular onsen.

19. Japanese Cuisine

Japanese cuisine is definitely one of the top things that make what Japan is known for! 

There are so many delectable foods in Japan that you need to get your hands (and mouth) on—sushi, ramen, yakitori, okonomiyaki, mochi, and so much more

Though Japanese food and cuisine are available worldwide, tasting authentic food prepared by the local chefs or vendors in Japan is another kind of extraordinary gastronomic experience.

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20. Vending Machines

If you forget to bring your socks after reaching Japan, you don’t have to visit the physical stores to buy them. Because you can easily get them from the vending machines scattered across the country!

Japan is known for its bizarre collection of vending machines selling all kinds of stuff, from fresh flowers to burgers or even underwear.

With about 5.5 million vending machines in place around the country, you can expect to see at least one of these rectangle-shaped convenience instruments no matter where you go in Japan—be it in a small, rustic town or on top of a mountain. 

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21. Unconventional Snack & Drink Flavours

Apart from vending machines, Japan is also known for producing unconventional snack and drink flavours. 

Here are some of the weird snacks and drinks combination that you need to try in Japan:

  • Basashi based ice cream (Basashi is a type of horse meat)
  • Chocolate-covered crackers
  • Eel flavoured soda
  • Tomato latte
  • Sake infused Kit Kat

And who knows, maybe you will get hooked on any of these!

Travel tip: Check out my detailed article on top snacks in Japan to try and where to get them even if you are not flying there anytime soon!

22. Sake

Of course, we can’t leave sake out of this “What Japan Is Known For” list!

This Japanese rice wine has a long history dating back to 450 BC where sake was first produced for consumption. 

The best place to enjoy drinking sake in Japan is at an izakaya (casual Japanese bar) while pairing it with some light snacks. You can drink it cold or hot depending on your preference or season. 

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Alternatively, you can sign up for sake brewery tours for sake tasting while visiting the production site for a unique travel experience. 

Some of Japan’s most famous sake brewery regions are Kyoto, Kobe, and Niigata

Note: In Japan, you need to mention “Nihonshu” if you want to get your hands on the real sake. Generally, the word “sake” means alcoholic drinks in the local language. So make sure you ask for the right thing!

23. Convenience Stores

Japan’s convenience stores really live up to their name—offering a wide range of food and drinks selection, manga, ATMs, and so much more under one roof.

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Over here, the main convenience store operators are Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-11.

Locally known as konbini, you can easily fill your stomach with affordable meals such as obento (lunch boxes) for less than US$10 in the convenience store. 

You can also connect to the store’s Wifi for free if you do not have any local SIM data (budget traveller mode is on). 

Even if you are not a big fan of convenience stores, walking around the store and checking out the available items is an enjoyable activity itself as the operators constantly offer innovative product lines and services to better serve their customers. 

Thanks to these, foreign visitors can’t help but enter konbini to see any new creative products whenever visiting this country!

24. Samurai

Japan is famous for its highly trained warriors, samurai

Samurai started emerging during the Heian Period (794-1185) where each feudal lord needed a group of the skilled army to fight off each other to protect their territories. 

And gradually during the Edo Period (1603-1867), the samurai became the highest-ranking social caste and showered with privileges before the system was eventually abolished—signifying the end of the feudal era in Japan. 

You can still see the ancient samurai artefacts in certain museums, such as Tokyo’s Swords Museum and Nagoya’s Tokugawa Art Museum

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Alternatively, you can visit some of the popular samurai districts in Japan to have a glimpse into the samurai’s living style by exploring their well-preserved residences.

Some of the mesmerising samurai districts to visit are Kakunodate and Kitsuki

25. Ninjas

During the samurai era, there was another group of trained warriors known as ninja

However, ninja were covert operatives who specialised in assassination, infiltration, and sabotage. 

They were famous for using deception tricks on their enemies to accomplish their ultimate goals. 

The best places in Japan to learn more about the ninja’s authentic history and culture will be at Iga (Iga Ninja Museum) and Nagano (Togakure Ninpo Museum)

Travel tip: If you are planning to visit Nagano, check out my Off The Beaten Path Japan article to know other must-visit highlights.

26. Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national and most beloved sport. 

Only professionally practised by men, a sumo match takes place between two wrestlers where they try to wrestle their opponent out of the dohyo (ring) to win the match.

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There are 6 sumo tournaments organised annually in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.  

If you are keen to watch the sumo match live (and you should try so when you are in Japan), make sure to get the ticket early as it tends to sell out fast. 

Alternatively, you can opt for a visit to the sumo stable to learn more about sumo morning training and their unique way of life.  

27. Diverse Accommodation Choices

You will be spoiled by Japan’s numerous accommodation choices when you are travelling to this nation. 

The most typical and budget accommodation option in Japan is a capsule hotel

You will be provided with a bed in a “pod” that comes with a charging socket and TV.  Lockers are provided too to keep your belongings while showers and dining places are shared among the hotel tenants.

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For more traditional accommodation options, you can opt for a ryokan or minshuku. Both options usually are meals inclusive too. 

Note: Minshuku is typically family operated. The popular place to experience a stay at minshuku is at Gokayama.

If you are looking for a unique lodging experience in Japan, your best bet will be at shukubo (Buddhist temple lodgings). 

Open to tourists, a stay at shukubo comes with vegetarian meals. Tourists are also offered a chance to join the monks’ morning prayers, so this will definitely further enhance your travel experience. 

28. Shibuya Crossing

Of course, you could not miss one of the world’s busiest crossings—the Shibuya crossing!

This bustling crossing is Tokyo’s must-visit highlight

Surrounded by tall buildings and neon lights from big ads boards, it is estimated that about 3000 people cross this junction at a time, which is pretty mind-blowing. 

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If you think this famed intersection looks familiar, that is because Shibuya Crossing is a popular filming site for both local and international films, including Lost in Translation and Tokyo Drift of The Fast and The Furious sequel. 

29. Karaoke

Do you know that Japan is famous for karaoke? In fact, this music playing and lyric showing equipment was invented by a famed Japanese drummer back in the 1970s!

Singing karaoke is a favourite pastime among the Japanese. 

This fun activity is also getting popular among Western tourists who are looking for some unique Asian things to do at night in Japan

Typically found in major cities, you can easily sing your lungs out in a private booth at the karaoke establishments. 

And that is okay if your pitch goes wrong. Everyone is too busy pouring their souls into the karaoke song to notice that!

30. Electronics & Gadgets

There is one place in Japan that is dedicated to selling all sorts of electronics and gadgets, attracting a large crowd of both local and international visitors. 

And that is in Akihabara, Tokyo

You can find hundreds of electrical shops in this bustling district, offering various brands and electronics equipment such as cameras, laptops, phones, and so much more. 

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Note: Most of the gadgets here are intended for Japanese use. If you want to get international friendly models, make sure to head over to Akky, a local chain electronic store.  

31. One-Of-A-Kind Toilets

Japanese toilets can be mind-blowing for those who are first-time visitors to the Land of Rising Sun—and definitely an innovative invention that makes what Japan is known for!

These improvised Western-style toilets have many interesting features. These include a heated seat, built-in bidet, and even a dryer for your buttocks

There is even a button to press on to play the music that is meant to cover whatever noise you are making in the cubicle, be it answering the phone or nature’s call. 

32. Politeness

Japan is famous for its politeness too, which is an integral part of its culture. 

The Japanese people bow to each other as a sign of greeting. There are different types of bow, from a simple head nod to the deep waist bending.

Besides greeting, the locals also bow to convey apology or gratitude or ask for a favour. 

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33. Safety & Low Crime Rates

Also known for its safety, Japan is ranked as one of the world’s safest countries in the world. 

It is rather common to see locals’ personal belongings such as bags are left unattended on the table in public spaces while getting their stuff done.

There are also some cases where tourists misplaced their phones and rushed back to the original place only to find out the gadgets was surprisingly left untouched.

Nevertheless, low crime rates does not mean no crime at all. It is always recommended to stay alert to the surroundings and keep your belongings with you at all times no matter which country you are visiting.

Make sure to get travel insurance before you kickstart your wanderlust journey. And you get yours online (fuss free) at World Nomads before flying into Japan!

What Is Japan Culture Known For

Japan culture is known for its unique diversity where the century-old tradition coexists harmoniously with the ever-changing modernity, creating a truly fascinating country that has much to offer to fellow visitors. 

One of Japan’s important philosophies, Zen, is gaining popularity not just within the country but also overseas such as in the United States and Europe where it is being incorporated into businesses or practised daily by the residents to improve the quality of life. 

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What Is Japan Known For Producing

Internationally, Japan is known for producing and exporting cars, automotives accessories, electrical machinery, medical equipment, gems, iron, and even ships.  

What Japan Is Known For—Conclusion

So here you go—33 fascinating things on what Japan is known for to check out while you are in this beautiful East Asian country. 

From well-preserved traditional arts and heritage, innovative technological inventions, unusual food and beverages options to wonderful natural splendours, there ought to be something in Japan that will make you go “wow” and pleasantly amazed. 

Do you have any other things that Japan is known for that you would like to add to the list? Let me know—I would really love to hear from you!

And if you find this article useful and entertaining, make sure to share it with your family members and friends. Or save this article up for your upcoming trip (that you can certainly refer to as your Japan bucket list)!

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