From Tinder’s very own SwipeMart Konbini to a village populated with life-sized dolls, and even taking a dip in steamy hot springs housing over 70 crocodiles and alligators, Japan’s full of surprises. Here’s a not-so-ordinary guide to Japan that’ll make you go “WOW”.
Winning the hearts of travellers for ages, we already know that Japan possesses magnificent scenic views, historical castles, and beautiful floral displays with fantastic food. A traveller’s paradise on earth, the nation holds no limit when it comes to hidden gems showcasing its great history and culture. As a land where both modern outlooks and traditional beliefs walk hand-in-hand, we’re here to bring out the unique side of Japan and give you a not-so-ordinary guide when exploring the Land of Rising Sun!
Read on to discover the eccentric side of one of our favourite destinations that’s on every wanderlust’s bucket list!
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1. Nagoro Island
Image credits: CNN
Located in the valleys of Shikoku, Nagoro is one of Japan’s creepiest and most unusual villages with a sad backstory. As a slowly shrinking village, the locals had no choice but to leave for better employment. 11 years ago, elderly resident, Tsukimi Ayano, finally returned home to Nagoro only to find the entire place completely wiped out.
Faced with loneliness, she began populating the village with life-sized dolls representing former residents. Made with straw, dolls would be dressed in old clothing and placed in areas where past villagers used to work or live. Her first doll was made in her father’s likeness as she was working the land. This led to her amassing more than 350 dolls to this day.
While some might find the village a little more haunted, these dolls made the town an internet sensation. In each season, Ayano will present them in a different mood, emulating a bustling village.
Aside from the village, Nagoro boasts other tourist attractions in the area, including the Double Vine Bridges, Tsurugi Shrine, and even Mt. Tsurugi, which is accessible by chairlift.
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Watch a video on Nagoro Village here
2. Swipe Mart @ Shibuya
Image credits: SoraNews24
For our lonely city rats tired of just swiping, fret not! Tinder Japan has opened a special SwipeMart konbini (convenience store) in the busy district of Shibuya.
Located just minutes away from the famous Scramble Crossing, the mart sells exclusive merchandise, including special instant noodles, fried chicken, fruit sando (Japanese-style sandwiches), socks, boxer shorts, and shirts featuring the company’s iconic flame logo. In place of an ATM, SwipeMart features a unique Swipe Booth where users can have their new profile photos taken for the app. Perhaps it’s time for a profile change?
Aside from selling merchandise, the store also hosts special live performances. Tickets are usually free for these events but users must sign up in advance to secure their spots! Who knows? You might actually find love this time!
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Watch a video on Swipe Mart here
3. Atami Sex Museum
Image credits: Tokyo Cheapo
For a country as conservative as Japan, sex is definitely not a topic that you would expect them to be extremely open about — let alone dedicate an entire museum to it! Located in the Shizuoka prefecture, the city of Atami claims to house Japan’s best ‘Hihokan’ (a euphemistic expression used for sex museums).
Meaning ‘House of Hidden Treasures’, the Hihokan has three levels of exhibits covering a wide array of provocative positions on Japanese sexuality. This includes Japanese sex artwork, holograms, figurines depicting fetishes, and abstract nude mannequin art. Ooo, spicy.
Visitors can also enjoy a fantastic breathtaking view as they ride the cable car up to the museum which is located directly in front of Atami Castle. To break the ice and make the experience a little goofier, the Atami Sex Museum also features interactive displays with carnival games featuring a Marilyn Monroe wind machine and a giant penis ride! Now, this is something I can get behind.
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Learn more about Atami Sex Museum here
4. Starbucks @ Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya
Image credits: tsunagu Japan
As the world’s first Starbucks with tatami seating, the Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya store allows tourists to absorb the country’s rich culture and traditions with a warm drink. Situated in a traditional Japanese house, the coffeehouse leads to the World Heritage site Kiyomuzudera Temple and has a serene and relaxing atmosphere.
As you enter the compound, soak in Kyoto’s culture by appreciating the beautiful tatami room decorated with hanging scrolls. Enjoy a warm cuppa as you glance upon the tsukubai arrangement in the front yard of the tea ceremony lemoto school — the Omotesenke.
An important thing to note is that unlike most Starbucks around the world, this shop prohibits customers from waiting outside. The shop’s unique policy was derived to prevent long queues from getting in the way of passerbys. So for those who visit the Starbucks on a busy day, simply head inside and consult a staff member on the best way to wait for your turn! We promise the experience will be worth it. I mean, where else are you going to find another Starbucks just like this?
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Click here to find out more on Japan’s unique Starbucks outlet!
5. Zauo Self Fishing Restaurant (Osaka/Tokyo)
Image credits: Tripzilla
As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Keeping this old adage in mind, there’s absolutely no better place to finesse your fishing prowess than at one of Osaka’s most popular and interesting restaurants!
Known as Zauo Fishing Restaurant, this beautiful place allows diners to catch their meal of the day. The restaurant features a large wooden ‘boat’ floating on blue water filled with different kinds of fish in each area. With the rental of a free rod, diners sitting near the fish pool will be able to experience reeling in their catch of the day!
The restaurant sells baits at 200 yen, which is a rather small price to pay to enjoy many different kinds of seafood, including horse mackerel, grunt, turban shell, Japanese spiny lobster, flounder, and sea bream. Do note that the price of the fish will be significantly lower if you catch it yourself! You can even dictate how you’d like your meal to be prepared with four available cooking options – sashimi, sushi, boiled, grilled, or fried. For diners who fail to catch anything, don’t worry as you’ll be able to order directly from their menu as well but at a slightly higher price.
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Watch an IG Reel on Zauo Fishing Restaurant here
6. Drift Ice Walks @ Okhotsk Coast
Image credits: THE GATE
Partake in an otherworldly experience as you walk across the ice at the Okhotsk Sea in the sleepy town of Utoro! From the start of February until mid-March, drift ice can be found in this area that’s located in the southernmost part of the northern hemisphere.
Starting from a price of 6,000 yen, you can don a dry suit and follow an experienced guide out onto the vast ice blocks where you can hop along the Okhotsk Coast and marvel at the beauty of winter. If you’re lucky, the guides will even invite you out for an icy swim if the conditions are appropriate enough to ensure you don’t end up with frostbite!
For those who prefer to experience winter without risking your life, you can consider going for the Aurora icebreaker cruise in Abashiri. Witness the whiteness of snow or spot a baby seal or two! It’s never boring in Winter.
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Click here to learn more about the Drift Ice Walks at Okhotsk Coast
7. The Site of Reversible Destiny @ Yoro Park
Image credits: Reversible Destiny Foundation
Famous for the Yoro waterfall, Yoro Park features a very bizarre theme park. Designed by the artist —Shusaku Arakawa, and poet — Madeline Gins, watch as they showcasee their bold and reckless 30-year vision across 18,000 square meters known as The Site of Reversible Destiny.
The site consists of a main pavilion called the Critical Resemblance House and the vast bowl-like Elliptical Field. Artworks are scattered throughout the area with accompanying overview diagrams at the entrance to help you understand each project. At the Critical Resemblance House, of which the roof is uniquely shaped like a map of the Gifu Prefecture, a maze filled with furniture attached to the walls, ceiling, and floor awaits excited guests. Enter the labyrinth and be transported to a world of illusion and anti-gravity as you navigate through the vast Elliptical Field with various pavilions!
The Site of Reversible Destiny is built for children and adults as they race through the mysterious structures. Reawaken the original human senses and unlock the inner child in all of us — after all that was the artist, Shusaku Arakawa’s, intention when creating the eccentric theme park. When you move your body, don’t be surprised to feel the earth’s gravity and build a relationship within space. This theme park is bound to give you a truly outwardly enlightening experience.
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: Find out more about The Site of Reversible Destiny here
8. Oniyama Jigoku (Crocodile Hell)
Image credits: Enjoy Onsen
Lastly, no trip to Japan is complete without visiting one of its relaxing and steamy hot springs! With over 2000 hot spring sources in the town of Beppu, tourists can visit a special place to soak their stress away and get that adrenaline flowing.
Boiling at 99.1 degrees Celsius, the hot springs in Oniyama Jigoku have a greenish hue and are home to a crocodile breeding area. Since crocodiles live in areas warmer than Japan, locals have started rearing these scaley beasts since 1923. And currently, the hot spring is home to over 70 crocodiles and alligators!
Take note that the best time to visit is during feeding time which is held at 10 AM on Wednesdays and weekends for the public! Aside from seeing these powerful beasts lunge out to grab their next meal in their strong jaws, the keepers will also be educating the public on the importance of conservation for our repitilian friends. You may even get to see eggs or even baby crocodiles (truly adorable yet terrifying).
A Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan: For more on Oniyama Jigoku click here
Experience The Eccentric Side Of Japan
Now that you’ve got a list of unique sights to explore in Japan locked and loaded, you’re ready for your next adventure! Amidst the excitement of Japan being reopened, don’t forget to bring along your YouTrip card to make full use of our wholesale exchange rates, especially with the Japanese Yen hitting an all-time low!
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Stay safe and happy travelling!
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