Japan has to be one of the coolest and quirkiest countries to visit on this planet. From their colourful fashion to their themed cafes, unfamiliar customs and vast array of unusual attractions, I decided to pick 8 of the weirdest things to do in Japan that any visit will no doubt love!
8 Weird Things to Do In Japan
1. Meguro Parasite Museum
Ever wanted to see the world’s longest tapeworm? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Situated in Meguro, a relatively quiet neighborhood in Japan, is the Meguro Parasite Museum. It hosts the world’s largest collection of preserved parasites, in the numbers over 45 000 with around 300 on display at any given time.
It’s a relatively small museum, since parasites are also generally quite tiny, and the collection is spread over two floors. The first floor displays a range of parasites that infect animals, and the second is home to a display of parasites that inhabit human bodies. As such, this is not for the faint of heart.
The museum is home to an 8-meter tapeworm, the longest specimen in the world, among other preserved parasitic organisms such as some impressively large roundworms, and then a few wonderfully stored pairings of parasite and host (or victim). The museum also opened a gift shop a number of years back, to keep funding coming in, so be sure to buy a parasite keyring or t-shirt to lend them your support.
2. Department H Fetish Event
If you’re into fetish parties, or strip/drag shows, then Department H in Uguisudani is the place to go. It’s one of Tokyo’s best-known fetish parties, and for good reason. In attending Department H, you’re likely to bump into some of Japan’s most famous crossdressers and cosplayers involved in some strange and unique performances and activities.
You can expect to see everything from naked antics, to strip shows, bondage, suspension, performative fetish rituals or quirky activities like spitting or faux-bloodplay. All in all, it’s quite the experience, and most certainly not for the more prudish or reserved of us.
However, if you’re interested in meeting people and learning about Japan’s LGBT culture, Department H is the place to be. Be sure to dress up if you’re going to attend! You’ll be given a Y2000 discount on your cover charge, and likely feel a lot less out of place. After all, cosplay is one of the cool things in Japan that’s not as popular elsewhere around the world.
3. Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel
If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings films, you’ll likely not have forgotten the sprawling caverns of the mines of Moria. Well, the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel is just about a replica of those mines, only modern, bigger, and functioning.
Located in the city of Kasukabe in the Saitama Prefecture, the channel is the world’s largest below-level water diversion facility, built to prevent flooding during the rainy and typhoon seasons in Japan. It was started in 1992 and completed in 2006, making it a relatively new addition in Japan’s history. At its best, the gaping 65m x 32m silos in addition to the 177m x 78m x 25m main chamber with all the pillars, can pump up to 200 tons of water per second into the Edo River.
This is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Tokyo, as it’s just about the only one of its kind and size in the world. You can tour the channel for free, but your guide may not be able to speak English, so bring a local friend if you can.
4. Hedgehog Cafe
If you’re looking to visit one of Japan’s strange cafe’s, we’d recommend giving the Robot Cafe and Maid Cafe a miss, and heading straight to the Hedgehog Cafe.
For Y1300 you can play with a hedgehog in a small dollhouse (as well as gain access to bottomless self-service tea or coffee). The cafe states that you may bring your own food and drink, and their hours are 11:00 – 19:00 in an attempt to meet the hedgehogs’ nocturnal sleep habits halfway.
There are, however, concerns of animal cruelty in the hedgehog cafe, so be sure to read up about it beforehand to see where you stand, and whether or not it’s something you’d want to support.
5. FM Synthesizer Vending Machines
With over 5 million vending machines countrywide, Japan is undoubtedly the vending machine capital of the world. You can buy anything from snacks to drinks, cigarettes, booze, sweets and even full meals from these vending machines – and now you can even buy synthesizer chips from them. Throwing your money into a random, unknown vending machine is one of the best things to do in Japan for a first-time tourist.
FM Synthesizers are a type of synth that came after the first stage of modular and analog synths, and before the modern era of digital synths – think Toto’s Africa era in music. The Z80 vending machines offer a host of FM-synthesis chips from famous vintage arcade games, salvaged from the old machines.
If you build your own synths, or are looking for a reason to do so, then be careful to keep your eyes peeled for one of the Z80 vending machines – you’re most likely to find them around the Akihabara shopping hub, famous for its electronics.
6. Capsule Hotel
Capsule or pod hotels are something you’ve likely heard of, or seen in reference in some obscure YouTube documentary on overpopulation. They’re essentially collections of tiny, bed-sized rooms or ‘capsules’ which exist as a budget option for overnight business travelers who are simply looking for a place to sleep.
Some of these capsule hotels are rather barebones and simple, and some others like the Capsule Hotel Astil Dotonbori in Osaka are quite well-kitted out – with flat screen TV’s, charging points, USB hubs and Wi-Fi.
These capsule hotels make for a fun way to spend the night if you find yourself in an area you like, and what a cheap spot to set up for the night. They’re a one-of-a-kind experience, although they are beginning to catch on and spread to places like Russia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan.
7. Oya Museum
The Oya Museum is the second massive, underground stone bunker on this list – and visiting it is also one of the most unique things to do in Japan. Oya is a soft, volcanic stone used for sidewalks, buildings, and even tombs in Japan. The mine was used mostly during the Edo period, and is available for a tour in addition to the museum – all 20 000 square meters of it.
In the museum is a rich documentation of the history of the mine, from photographs and letters to tools, equipment, and even lunch boxes and flasks belonging to the miners. It details the history of the mines, as well as the extremely harsh and sometimes inhumane conditions in which the miners were forced to work.
The halls of the mine are now used as an exhibition or concert space, and are exquisitely lit in an artful manner, with a number of mannequins and displays structured around the halls depicting the old mining life. If this wasn’t enough to convince you, the caves were even used to secretly build fighter planes during WW2.
8. Alice in a Labyrinth Restaurant
If you’re looking for one of those unusual things to do in Tokyo, then the Alice in a Labyrinth Restaurant is a good bet. As the name suggests, it’s based on the seminal works Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
The design of the restaurant is reminiscent of the trippy, ‘descent-into-madness’ world that is Alice in Wonderland, with bendy ceilings, playing cards everywhere, confusingly designed decor, and a menu that goes fully in hand with the theme.
Whether you’re eating a dessert shaped like the Cheshire Cat or a playing card-looking appetizer, you’re in for a treat if you’re a fan of wackiness and the hat mad hatter. This is a nice spot to reserve a dinner at if you’re looking for something both well-made and delicious, and well-freaky.
Hi! I’m Janet Newenham, an Irish-born digital nomad and blogger. My blog, Journalist On The Run, is a journal of my travels and career hurdles, as well as a “bucket list for life.” In my youth, reading inspired me to create and achieve goals for my future.
My long list of goals took me to places I could never have dreamed of, each one inspiring me toward the next. Along the way, I picked up a few awards like “Digital Media Travel Journalist Of The Year” in both 2017 and 2019 while simply doing what I love.
Now, well into my 30s, I’ve seen so many of the world’s alcoves that it would be wrong not to share my experiences with you. This blog is my way of taking you around the world with me, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
My goal was to visit 50 countries before I hit 30. I never imagined that at 37, I could proudly say I’ve seen 101 of the world’s beautiful countries. Of course, no matter how much you think you’ve traveled, there is still so much left to see, and I look forward to going on the run with you.