Japan is an island country comprised of over 6,000 islands. It has a population of about 125 million. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world (after the US and China).
In 2016, Japan received over 24 million international tourists. It’s a popular dream vacation spot for many people. However, for many people it’s out of reach (too far and too expensive being the most common reasons people don’t visit). But that doesn’t have to keep you from experiencing some of what Japan has to offer.
Check out these great resources for experiencing Japan from home including virtual tours, recipes, movies, books, and more!
5 Great Virtual Tours in Japan
There are so many awesome things to see (and do) in Japan. Check out these 5 virtual tours you can take from the comfort of your laptop.
Best Overall: 360° VR Tour of Japan
Visit Japan has a beautiful video showcasing, “Japanese tradition, modernity and nature are packed in a realistic 360° VR movie.”
You can watch it here (without VR). Or, if you have a VR headset, head over to their website for instructions on how to watch use them for a VR tour!
Even without VR, it’s a great video that really makes me want to visit Japan (again).
Best for Animal Lovers: Wild Snow Monkey Park
The Wild Snow Monkey Park (officially the Jigokudani Yaen-koen) is located in the Valley of Yokoyu River in the Nagano prefecture. For nearly 1/3 of the year, the valley is covered in deep snow.
The area is home to wild Japanese macaque (also known as Snow Monkeys) who enjoy bathing in the hot springs. Since the park opened in 1964, it’s become popular with researchers and photographers.
You can watch a live stream (video or photos) of the park on their website. However, I’ve never been lucky enough to see any monkey activity. So instead I like to watch this NatGeo video.
Best for Art Lovers: Mori Art Museum
The Mori Art Museum is a fantastic museum in Tokyo devoted to contemporary art & architecture. It’s my favorite museum in the city.
The Mori Museum has over 1,500 photos from numerous exhibits posted on their Flickr account. Check it out to view some of their past exhibits.
They also have a youtube channel which includes a guided walkthrough (by Nanjo Fumio, the exhibition curator) of the Future and the Art exhibit. It’s in Japanese so turn on the closed captions and auto-translate them into your language of choice (that’d be English for me).
Best for Gin Lovers: Kyoto Distillery
Like Gin? Me too! The Kyoto Distillery is Japan’s first dedicated artisanal gin distillery. They make KI NO BI (dry gin) using local botanicals (wherever possible).
The Kyoto Distillery offers 2 interactive virtual tours: the distillery and the bottling room. Hit play and walkthrough. When you see a little blue dot, hit the pause button and you can hover over the dots to learn more.
Best for View Lovers: Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower isn’t the highest viewpoint in Tokyo but (IMO) it’s the best. It offers 360° views of the city from multiple heights. You’re high enough off the ground to get beautiful views of Tokyo but just low enough to be able to make out so many details. It’s really the perfect height!
Google Arts & Culture has an excellent virtual tour of Tokyo Tower (including a night walkthrough).
5 Delicious Recipes from Japan
You can taste Japan at home with these 5 delicious (and not overly complex) recipes.
Ginza Mary Cocktail Recipe
Want a Bloody Mary? You won’t after trying a Ginza Mary. A Ginza Mary is like a Bloody Mary but with a Japanese twist (think Sake and Soy Sauce). This is an amazing Japanese Cocktail and I bet you’ll be serving them at future brunches!
Tokyo-Style Shrimp Tempura Recipe
Tempura is a type of battered and deep-fried food (typically meat, vegetables, and seafood). Tempura batter is a really light batter.
I love tempura and shrimp tempura is amazing. A.MAZ.ING. Turns out, it’s not even that difficult to make. The key is in the breading and oil.
Homemade Sushi Recipe (without a mat)
No list of Japanese food would be complete without sushi.
Sushi is commonly thought of as raw fish but that’s not what sushi actually is. Raw fish on it’s own is Sashimi. Sushi is vinegar-seasoned rice served with various garnishes (vegetables, raw fish, etc).
10-Minute Shoyu Ramen Recipe
Ramen means pulled noodles in Japanese. The dish Ramen is made of Ramen noodles (typically Chinese-style wheat or egg noodles) served in a seasoned broth, sometimes with meat, scallions, a boiled egg, or other accompaniments.
Miso Soup Recipe
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup. It’s one of the most popular foods in Japan – over 75% of the population eats it at least once a day.
Miso soup is made of a dashi (a type of fish stock) with softened miso (fermented soybean) paste.
5 Best Movies Filmed in Japan
Get a glimpse of Japan watching one of these five popular movies that were filmed in Japan.ah
Best Japanese Movie Choice
In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.
Run Time: 2h 2m
Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift
Best for Franchise Lovers
A teenager becomes a major competitor in the world of drift racing after moving in with his father in Tokyo to avoid a jail sentence in America.
This is the third instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise and has a different cast from the rest of the movies. Some people loved it, many were critical of it.
Run Time: 1h 44m
Memoirs Of a Geisha
Best for Drama Lovers
Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing-village roots and became one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha. Based on the book of the same name by Arthur Golden.
Run Time: 2h 25m
Lost In Translation
Best for Comedy Lovers
A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.
Run Time: 1h 42m
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Best for Action Lovers
After awakening from a four-year coma, a former assassin wreaks vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her.
Run Time: 1h 50m
5 Best Books Set in Japan
I love to read! Check out these 5 books that are set in Japan.
Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World by Lesley Downer
Best for Non-Fiction Readers
The Western world’s fascination with the geisha has given us some wonderful fiction (such as Memoirs of a Geisha). But what about the reality?
Lesley Downer explores the geisha reality in this well-rounded portrait of this intensely private world.
(As of April 2020, Geisha is available on Kindle Unlimited)
I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume (translated by Aiko Ito & Graeme Wilson)
Best for Classics Readers
I Am a Cat is told from the perspective of a stray kitten. It was written between 1904 and 1906 and is meant to be satire (about the Meiji era foolishness of the upper class).
American Fuji by Sara Backer
Best for Detective Readers
In a rural Japanese Town, Alex Thorn – an American who speaks no Japanese – wants to find out how his son died. Gaby Stanton – also American – is recruited to help him. What follows is a memorable novel of cultural misunderstandings.
Go: A coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro (translated by Takami Nieda)
Best for Young Adult Readers
As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.
One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.
(As of April 2020, Go is available on Kindle Unlimited)
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (translated by Jay Rubin)
Best for Literary Fiction Readers
Toru, a serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. As Naoko retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
5+ Other Japan-Inspired Ideas
If the above virtual tours, recipes, movies, and books aren’t enough to make you feel like you’ve experienced Japan, try one of these ideas.
Introduce Yourself In Japanese
You don’t have to learn the entire Japanese language, but you can have some fun learning something simple. In this video by JapanesePod101, you’ll learn how to introduce yourself.
Japanese Garden Paint by Numbers
Paint by Numbers is a fun activity for those of us who want to be artistic but are terrible at it!
Create a beautiful Japanese Garden with this paint by numbers set.
A Sushi Puzzle
Spend an afternoon (or twelve) putting together this awesome 1,000 piece Sushi puzzle.
Bonus Challenge: “cook” each type of sushi!
Send Postcards of Japan
I know what you’re thinking, you didn’t really travel. But that’s no reason not to send a postcard!
People love getting mail! Tell them about your great Japan at Home activities.
Enjoy Japanese Snacks
If you’re going to watch a movie set in Japan, you’re going to need snacks. Make them Japanese snacks!
Even if you’re not going to watch a movie, these snacks are still a great choice.
Have a Cup of Matcha Tea
Matcha is a variety of shade-grown Japanese green tea leaves. They’re ground into a fine powder and mixed into hot water or recipes.
If you want to drink Matcha tea be sure to buy Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder (it’s from the first harvest and has a smoother flavour). It can also be added to recipes.
If you’re only going to be adding it to recipes, buy Culinary Grade Matcha Powder (it’s from a later harvest and has a bolder flavour).
Visit Japan from Home Today!
What did you enjoy about Japan (from the comfort of your home)? Let me know in the comments below!
Want more travel at home ideas? Check out Travel to TAIWAN from Home (by food, movies, virtual tours, & more) next
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