What are the best activities to do in Japan when it’s either too hot or too wet to go outside? Find out in our top 10 indoor activities in Japan.
If you’re looking for the best indoor activities in Japan then you’ve come to the right place. Japan’s weather is as beautiful as it is diverse, with tropical sunshine in the south and snowy mountains in the north. Of course, like everywhere else, it can rain from time to time, especially during the rainy season, and it can also get very hot and humid in the height of summer, so much so you may seek to take a break indoors every now and then. Thankfully, there’s a vast amount to do indoors in Japan, whichever part of this amazing country you’re planning to visit. From the incredible food to sumo and kabuki, futuristic computer game arcades and shopping malls, to historic Edo period castles and palaces, and beautifully serene shrines and temples, Japan has something for everyone and everything on that list can be enjoyed indoors. In today’s blog, we’ll give you our top 10 indoor recommendations and advice on getting around with the Japan Rail Pass - the best and most affordable way to travel across the wonderful country of Japan.
Top 10 Indoor Activities in Japan
There’s so much to see and do indoors while you’re in Japan, it’s hard to pick just ten recommendations. Even so, we’ve tried to do just that. Here are our Top 10 ideas when you want to stay inside:
Eating and drinking
Sushi. Ramen. Sashimi. Gyoza dumplings. Yakisoba noodles. Miso soup. Yakitori. Kobe beef. Tempura. Takoyaki. Okonomiyaki. The list goes on and on. Japan is a paradise for food lovers! Foodies from all over the world travel to Japan’s Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. However, Japan’s legendary cuisine is not restricted to its major cities, but is spread right across the entirety of the country. And it’s not all fine dining either. Japan is full of small, local producers, street food vendors and stalls, and family-run restaurants. This is a country where regional flavours, locally-sourced ingredients, and ancient culinary traditions come together to create a quality and diversity which has to be tasted to be believed, and that can only be experienced if the whole island is explored. If you’re new to Japanese food, our Beginners Guide to Japanese Food and its Regional Dishes.
Japan is also a great place to visit if you like a drink, with a thriving craft beer scene, world-renowned Japanese whisky, and its own homegrown favourites such as sake. Something that we also recommend to every lover of good food and drink (and every visitor to Japan) to try while in the country is the inimitable and unforgettable experience of eating and drinking at an Izakaya – the traditional Japanese equivalent of a ‘gastropub’. These lively and unique places are neither bars or restaurants, but something in between with rounds of drinks served with food being the order of the day. Find out why it’s such a great experience in our guide to Why You Should Visit an Izakaya restaurant in Japan.
Sumo is quintessentially Japanese. Big, bold, steeped in history and tradition, and completely unique. Sumo is so synonymous with Japan, it’s hard to imagine it existing anywhere else and at the same time, it’s also quite a surprising national sport for a country with a reputation for being understated and polite. The opportunity to see two titans collide in the ring is not to be missed. The pre-match rituals alone are an incredible traditional spectacle for fans, particularly international visitors, as well as the unique atmosphere in the arena. There really is no other sport quite like it. Matches are held in stadiums and take place all day from 8am to 6pm. The main matches, featuring the highest ranked sumo, take place in the afternoon. You can watch some of the lower ranked wrestlers in the morning, but the stadium doesn’t tend to fill up until later in the day. Just make sure you’re seated for the main events, as you won’t want to miss those – the atmosphere in the arena will also be at its peak then. Stadiums sell snacks and drinks and it’s also possible to pre-order special bento boxes to enjoy at the event. Bento are essentially Japanese lunch boxes (of exceptionally high-quality) and you can get them to take on train journeys too. This variety is called Ekiben and they’re so good they have a cult following. Find out more about these in our Guide to Ekiben. Bonus tip: When attending a match, you can rent English audio commentary head-sets if you’d like a play-by-play account of the action. And be sure to duck if a lower ranked wrestler happens to defeat the Yokozuna grand champion, as Japanese fans might throw their cushions! Find out more in our full Guide to Sumo in Japan.
Relax in an onsen
A Japanese onsen refers to a hot spring. The term sometimes extends out to encompass bathing facilities as well as hotels/inns, traditional ryokan, and spas that are built surrounding the landmark. Besides being a fun activity for the family, onsen have deep ties within Japanese culture. Since Japan is one of the most volcanically active countries, you’ll find onsen and onsen resorts, from traditional bathhouses to more contemporary spas, right across Japan. If you’re looking to experience the real Japan then a visiting an onsen should be high on your to-do list. As well as the cultural signaficance, the geothermally heated springs offer potential benefits such as pain alleviation, clearing up skin, reduced fatigue, overall stress reduction, and since the vast majority are indoors they can keep you out of any adverse weather. We’ve written a number of blog posts about onsen that we recommend such as Shima onsen, the world-heritage town of Yunotsu, and Atami hot springs. All three can be reached with the JR Pass and Japan’s domestic rail network, with Shima and Atami in particular very accessible from Tokyo.
Kabuki is a traditional and highly-stylised Japanese theatre that’s as quintessentially Japanese as Sumo wrestling and sushi. It’s ideal for when the weather is less than perfect and you’re getting the chance to experience one of the country’s most authentic and historic cultural displays. Why not try Kabukiza in Ginza, Tokyo? You can even book a special five-hour performance which will give the weather plenty of time to improve.
Indoor theme parks
You’ll find a number of fantastic theme parks across Japan, many with extensive indoor areas and rides when the weather isn’t at its best. From Universal Studios in Osaka with the newly opened Super Nintendo World to Tokyo Disneyland and the new Ghilbli Park, there’s no shortage of indoor theme parks to keep you entertained.
Surrounded by seas, Japan boasts some of the world’s most diverse and spectacular sealife. This is showcased by the country’s world-leading aquariums, which allow you to get up close and personal with whales, sharks, manta rays, giant crabs, and more, in state-of-the-art indoor environments. Read our guide to the The Best Aquariums in Japan for some specific recommendations. This list includes the famous Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which is generally regarded as one of the best aquariums in the world.
Computer game arcades
When the weather outside isn’t to your liking, why not venture into virtual worlds instead? You can literally do this in Japan thanks to the huge number of state-of-the-art arcades, such as Sega’s Joypolis, which is fully equipped with virtual reality games suites. Computer games are much loved in Japan – so much so that there is a word for the culture that surrounds it, Otaku. From the word for ‘house’, Otaku is often used interchangeably to describe geek culture although what it actually means is someone so passionate about their hobbies or interests that they never leave the house. It was originally ascribed to manga and anime lovers, but it is regularly used to describe gamers too. And of course, one of the advantages of not leaving the house is not getting wet or overheating! If you love gaming and don’t like the rain, you might want to consider a trip to Sony’s famous showroom in Tokyo, Club Sega and Sega Joypolis, or the famous Super Potato game store. For much more on computer games, anime, cosplay and more, read our guide to Japan for gamers, Otaku, and J-Culture Fans.
Indoor and underground shopping centres
You’ll be able to shop until you drop in Japan and many of the country’s biggest malls are safely indoors making it the perfect pastime if the weather isn’t behaving. Almost every Japanese city is home to major shopping malls packed with international brand names. One of these, which just opened in 2022, is the five-storey Mikan Shimokita, which can be found beneath Shimokitazawa Station in laid-back, bohemian, Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. Meanwhile, for high-end luxury shopping try Omotesando, known as Tokyo’s Fifth Avenue, or the Ginza area in central Tokyo. Famous for high-end fashion, brands and electronics, Ginza is closely located near Tokyo station and easy to access. The district is a prevalent and trendy upscale shopping area, with a diverse range of renowned department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffee-houses. Grand Front Osaka similarly offers more than 260 international brand name shops, world-class restaurants, entertainment, and more, in one giant complex in the Umeda district of Osaka. Finally, for a more traditional Japanese shopping experience, read our guide to traditional covered shopping streets and markets known as Shotengai. There are still 15,000 across Japan and well worth a visit if you prefer local shops and a glimpse of an older Japan.
Staying in unique accommodation
Japan is famous for inventing the capsule hotel, but that’s not the end of their innovation in accommodation. Visitors to Japan can sleep in former train carriages, in bookshops, and more. Japan’s accommodation is so interesting that it can be a highlight in itself just to experience it and enjoy the environment, whether it’s a themed capsule, bookshop hotel, or train hostel. Read our full guide to The Most Unusual Accommodation in Japan for an in-depth look at this subject and our best recommendations.
Visit a museum: from Japanese art, culture, and history to Studio Ghibli!
Japan boasts some of the world’s finest museums and art galleries as well as some truly unique cultural experiences, from the Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the Japanese animation studio, to the pot noodle museum and more! Whether it’s high culture or something a little more weird and wonderful, if you’re looking for an indoor activities then Japan’s many museums and galleries are a great idea and it’s easy to get around and visit those in different cities as long as you’re armed with your Japan Rail Pass for unlimited travel on the country’s domestic rail network.
As you can see from the list above, there’s no shortage of fun, interesting, and enjoyable things to see and do indoors in Japan. Here are our bonus recommendations for this topic:
- One of the main reasons why you might be looking for indoor activities is the weather? Japan has a rainy season each summer and June in particular is known as the month of water. It can also get very hot and humid later in the summer, so having a long list of exciting indoor activities is a great idea to keep yourself entertained while cooling off.
- Japan is famous for its temples, shrines, castles, and palaces, and we would have placed them on this list, except that most are a mixture of outdoor and indoor experiences i.e. gardens and grounds as well as interiors. Even so, they should be high on your list of places to visit.
- Our Meet and Greet Service if you would appreciate a helping hand on your arrival in Japan. One of our Japanese travel specialists will meet you in person at the airport, activate your JR Pass, help you reserve train tickets, and book anything else you may want to do upon arriving in Japan. It’s like having a personal assistant to look after you on arrival.
- Similarly, investing in a PocketWifi device means you can stay connected to family and friends online, check directions, language tips, and more, without worrying about running out of data. Our PocketWifi offers unlimited data, supports up to five devices, and they are easy to pick up on arrival and drop off at the end of your trip.