One of the latest trends in global travel, Bleisure has become an increasingly popular way of combining business and leisure - and where better than Japan?
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Did you know that Tokyo was recently voted Asia’s No. 1 Bleisure destination and one of the best in the world. We would go further to argue that Japan is possibly the perfect country for ‘Bleisure’ too. After all, it’s one of the world’s biggest, most thriving countries for business while also a top-of-the-bucket list, dream holiday destination. It’s really no surprise therefore to discover that Bleisure travellers now make up a major part of Japan’s international visitor contingent, but what is it exactly? Bleisure is one of the latest trends in global travel, but it’s much more than a buzzword - it’s a sign of the times. This new style of travel has emerged following the global changes to how we live and work following the worldwide pandemic. With more of us embracing hybrid working, a similar approach to travel and leisure has naturally evolved. Enter: ‘Bleisure’!
In this guide, we’ll explain what Bleisure is, why Japan is the perfect Bleisure destination, how it fits with Japanese concepts, and how best to get around the country with the Japan Rail Pass for unlimited work and leisure travel on Japan’s great value and super-efficient rail network.
What is Bleisure?
A portmanteau of the words Business and Leisure, Bleisure effectively describes a trip which combines work and pleasure. In other words, you’re travelling for work, but you also have time to build in some holiday time, or at least a mini-break. It can also work in reverse - you’ve booked a holiday to a country you’ve already wanted to visit and an opportunity to work has come up while you’re there. Bleisure is about combining the best of both worlds - business travel and tourism - and Bleisure travellers are often looking for high levels of business activity, unique and meaningful cultural experiences, and an efficient, high-quality infrastructure - all things Japan does practically better than anyone.
Why Is Japan Perfect For Bleisure?
In many ways, Bleisure feels like a Japanese concept. It certainly feels reminiscent of the country’s attitude to business. And even if the origins of the concept are more universal, Japan is arguably the most perfect Bleisure destination. Business is big in Japan and a very important part of the country’s culture. At the same time, Japan is also a hugely sought-after holiday destination - a place that people dream about visiting. When you bring the two together, you have a match made in heaven for Bleisure travellers, a country that’s a powerful and thriving global business centre and economy (the third biggest in the world by GDP) and also an amazing place to visit as a tourist.
Bleisure is all about using your time wisely and efficiently which feels very Japanese in itself. After all, if you’re travelling to an amazing country like Japan for work then it makes absolute sense to make some time for sightseeing and relaxing too. In today’s busy world of hybrid working and living, Bleisure travel makes best and most efficient use of your time. And crucially, Japan makes it easy as a global business centre that’s also one of the most eye-poppingly exciting, beautiful, and interesting places in the world to visit. It’s also super practical thanks to Japan’s amazing infrastructure and rail network - fast, efficient, well connected trains allow you to go from city to city, city to countryside, city to coastline, and back again, at high speed and in luxurious fashion. It’s superb value for money too if you use a JR Pass for almost unlimited travel on the country’s domestic train services. Read our Visitors Guide to Japan’s Trains and Railways for a great introduction to this incredibly useful and efficient rail network before you travel.
Alongside this, we’d also recommend investing in a PocketWifi device to ensure unlimited internet access whenever you need it - no business or ‘bleisure’ traveller should be without it in today’s world of hybrid and remote working. And finally, if it’s your first time in Japan as a Bleisure traveller and you need a helping hand, our Meet and Greet Service is the equivalent of having an expert on Japan as your personal assistant on arrival.
Best Places For Bleisure In Japan
As you might expect from a country with such an established economy, Japan’s major cities are also its biggest business centres. The country’s cities are also huge - two of them, Tokyo, and Osaka, for example are among the top 10 biggest cities in the world and even lesser known cities like Nagoya are bigger and more populous than London or New York. Thankfully, business travellers visiting Japanese cities are in for a treat. What makes Japanese cities so special? Amazing food? Lively nightlife? Beautiful culture? Fascinating history? Unique sports? Safety? Cleanliness? The latest technologies? Japan’s cities tick all of these boxes. While Tokyo has a bit of everything, other cities have their own strengths - Kyoto for culture, Osaka for food (and business), Sapporo for a different side of Japan and a taste of northern culture, and of course, it’s not just about cities, you have towering mountains like the iconic Mt. Fuji, rice fields and paddies, rivers, lakes, and even subtropical beaches if you fancy a trip to the south in between work. Japan has
1. Tokyo for Bleisure
As well as one of the world’s most important cities for business, Tokyo is a wonderland for tourists. It’s a city that has everything. It’s also incredibly well connected to the rest of Japan via train so that the countryside, coastline, mountains, and more, are always within reach in between meetings. Tokyo is a unique experience - a truly global city that’s also quintessentially Japanese, with a huge amount to see and do and a quirky character that’s all its own. From the Tokyo Tower to Tokyo Skytree (both offering panoramic views across the city’s spectacular skyline), to Shibuya Sky and Shibuya Scramble - the world’s busiest crossing - to Tokyo DisneyLand and DisneySea, to entertainment districts like Akihabara and Roppongi, the anime and manga of Nakano Broadway, and the nightlife of Golden Gai to the greenery of Yoyogi Park and the grandeur of Tokyo Imperial Palace - the list of things to see and do goes on and on and on. There’s almost too much to cover. To learn more about Tokyo’s most famous districts and which ones suit your particular interests - be it food, nightlife, culture, shopping, anime, temples, shrines, or something else - read our guides to the city’s most popular areas such as Asakusa, Chiyoda, Akihabara, Roppongi, Odaiba, Ginza, Omotesando, Ueno, and more.
Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, and in some ways, may come as a more offbeat recommendation. It’s certainly less touristy than Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. Sapporo and Hokkaido generally are becoming more and more popular with visitors - Bleisure or otherwise - who want to see a different side of Japan, as well as those who love colder, snowier climates. Hokkaido is known for its spectacular snow and winter festivals and illuminations, its ski resorts and world-leading slopes, its regional food specialities, and more - all of which make its capital, Sapporo, an increasingly cool destination. Read our guide to the Sapporo Snow Festival for more about that and our Starters Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan if that takes your fancy. You might also be interested in Asahikawa, Hokkaido’s snowy second city. For those interested in the northern island of Hokkaido, be sure to check out our 5-day Hokkaido Rail Itinerary.
Osaka is another of Japan’s mega cities. The second largest city in Japan and one of the top ten biggest cities in the world, Osaka offers many of the diverse experiences that Tokyo delivers, as well as a few of its own trademark attractions such as Osaka Castle, Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, Kuromon Seafood Market, and the legendary Dotonbori district, and the city is often called Japan’s kitchen due to its famously good seafood and legendary street food. This is ideal if you’re a foodie or need to recharge after a busy day of working. Its neon lights were one of the inspirations for Ridley Scott’s iconic film Blade Runner (he also filmed the movie Black Rain in the city in the 1980s) and it was the first Japanese city to have a capsule hotel - a concept that has swept across Japan and become synonymous with the country. Like Tokyo, Osaka is vibrant and diverse with so much to do in one city it’s almost hard to summarise. Thankfully, we’ve put together detailed guides to many of Osaka’s most popular districts for entertainment, nightlife, food, and shopping, from the legendary canal district of Dotonbori to Umeda, Shinsekai, Namba, and more. Be sure to read up on the city before you visit.
Known as the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto was formerly the country’s capital and remains a major city in its own right. It is arguably most famous for its temples, shrines, and traditional architecture. It is the No.1 Japanese city to visit for those drawn to Japan’s ancient culture, history, and spiritual heritage - ideal for a break in between work or business meetings. It also boasts the country's most famous Geisha district - the beautiful Gion - which has been aptly described as the Japan of your imagination. If Kyoto is high on your list of Japanese cities to visit, make sure you read our comprehensive guides to the city’s most iconic and beautiful landmarks, from Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion of Kyoto, to the Gion district’s famous Gion Matsuri festival, the world heritage site that is Kiyomizu-Dera, Kyoto’s ‘pure water temple’, Kyoto Tower, Nijo Castle, and Japan’s tallest wooden pagoda at the unmissable Toji Temple. As you can tell from this list, some of Japan’s most beautiful and most important temples, structures and heritage sites are to be found in Kyoto. It really is unmissable if you want to experience the mythic wonder of ‘old’ Japan.
5. Visit the Japanese countryside or coastline
Thanks to the Japan Rail Pass, the countryside or coastline of Japan is never far away. Numerous brilliant day trips are possible from any one of the cities above (as well as many others). Here are a few ideas of places you could visit and things you could do:
6.) Mt. Mitake: A One-Day Itinerary for Nature and Serenity
When the business world of Tokyo has gotten to be too much and you need a break, head to the mountains to recharge in nature. Mt. Mitake is close enough to be accessed during a day trip from Tokyo yet still feels worlds away. Originally a pilgrimage site for pilgrims to the Shinto shrine, Mitakesan has recently become popular as a hiking destination and has trails to satisfy all levels of climbers. Read our guide to Mt. Mitake: A One-Day Itinerary for Nature and Serenity for more
7.) Traveller’s Guide to Exploring the Fuji Five Lakes
A perfect Bleisure trip from Tokyo, this beautiful area is famous for its five lakes and its views of the iconic Mt. Fuji. JR Pass holders will want to take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and get off at Otsuki Station. From there, you’ll need to use the Fujikyu Railway Line to reach Kawaguchiko Station, the best place to start exploring the area.
8.) Visiting Atami Onsen and Its Soothing Hot Springs
If you only have time to visit Tokyo and Kyoto on your Bleisure trip, then getting to the mountains and back probably isn’t likely. Luckily, the onsen resort town of Atami is one of the few onsen destinations near Tokyo that is super convenient to reach.
In addition to these day trips, you may also want to consider Japan’s rural villages, rice fields, and beach destinations for relaxation time during your Bleisure trip. We have dedicated guides to each of these in our blog.
Japan has a track record of combining one thing with another to create something new and exciting. While Bleisure brings together business and leisure, our bonus recommendations below feature other examples of Japanese inventiveness and clever combinations.
- A hotel in a bookshop
Japan has a history of unusual accommodation from capsule hotels to refurbished train carriages, but they’ve also become famous for offering literature lovers the chance to spend the night in a book hotel. Read our guide to Japan’s Most Unusual Accommodation for more on the subject.
- A green oasis in a bustling city
While Japan has some of the biggest, busiest cities in the world, they’re also full of beautiful green spaces. For a great example, read our guide to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park: A Green Getaway in the Heart of the City.
- Hot springs in snowy mountains
Japan has a love of hot springs known as onsen for bathing and relaxation. It’s a huge and very important part of the culture. These hot springs are often particularly popular in cold environments. You can even bathe outdoors surrounded by snowy mountains - just ask the famous Japanese snow monkeys that spend almost every day in those bubbling hot waters. For more, read our guide to Monkey Around in Japan: The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park.