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7 Quirky Things to Try When Travelling in Japan

No travel destination can offer quite the same variety of weird and wonderful attractions as Japan. From hyper-futuristic, neon-drenched cities to carefully curated temple gardens, Japan has something for travellers of every temperament. 

Here are seven quirky things to try while travelling in Japan.

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Wayne Anthony

12. March 2019

1. Watch robot cabaret

There's nothing quite like settling down to dinner and a show at Tokyo's Robot Restaurant. The spectacle of huge robotic monsters and neon-clad dancers moving to a pulsing electronic soundtrack makes for a sensory overload that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

2. Stay at the robot hotel

Two robot receptionists at a robot hotel. Nope, these receptionists are not human! Photo: Henn Na Hotel. 

What better place to retire after your robot-themed dinner than a hotel staffed by – you guessed it – robots? Thirty minutes away from the Robot Restaurant, Henn Na Hotel Tokyo Ginza offers unique accommodation with an even more unique workforce. Check-in desks are staffed by humanoid robots and, strangely, velociraptors, and each room also comes with a robot assistant.

3. Immerse yourself in Otaku culture in Akihabara

The Akihabara shopping centre in Japan. Photo: Flickr/Nakasi. 

By now you may be craving some human contact, so before leaving Tokyo make sure you visit Akihabara. This vibrant shopping hub is densely packed with electronics, manga, and videogame retailers, and is always overflowing with tourists and locals searching for premium electronics and obscure pop culture collectables.

4. Meet Elvis in Yoyogi Park

Cherry blossoms in Yoyogi Park.Cherry blossoms in Yoyogi Park. Photo: Flickr/Kyle Hasegawa. 

Tokyo isn't all about the future, though. When you've had enough of the cyberpunk vibes of Akihabara, head over to the green oasis of calm that is Yoyogi Park. If it's a Sunday, you may find yourself transported back in time to the American 1950s, as hordes of Japanese rock 'n' rollers and Elvis impersonators descend on the park to practise their best Elvis dancing en masse.

5. Feed the monkeys of Arashiyama Monkey Park

A macaque with her baby in Arashiyama Monkey Park.Adorable macaque baby. Photo: Flickr/Andrea Schaffer.

If Elvis isn't your thing, head to Kyoto to find another beautiful natural space with another unusual set of inhabitants. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is home to over a hundred wild Macaque monkeys, and for a small fee you can feed and play with these energetic creatures. A word of warning, though: while used to humans, these monkeys are still wild, and shouldn't be touched or picked up, however tempting it might be!

6. Hike Mt. Atago

Not nearly as popular as the trails ascending Mt. Fuji, a hike up Mt. Atago (Kyoto's tallest mountain) nevertheless rewards adventurous climbers with stunning views, secret shrines, and vibrant wildlife. This is a tough but manageable climb that should be avoided in winter. If you're planning to get out into the wild in Japan, whether for monkeys or mountains, it's always best to ensure you have a good travel insurance plan with emergency medical care.

7. Visit the art island of Naoshima

Kids playing on Naoshima Island, Japan. Kids playing on Naoshima island. Unsplash/Rena. 

If dancing robots, wild monkeys and Elvis impersonators have left you with a serious need for some quiet contemplation, round out your stay in Japan with a trip to Naoshima. The 'art island', as it is locally known, is an oasis of outdoor sculptures, contemporary art exhibits, and unique interactive installations. Breathtaking natural beauty meets elegant modernist design on this island paradise, which is a perfect place to end your Japanese adventure.

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