Japan Must Dos and See – my ultimate Bucket List

Japan Must See
Japan Must See

The creation of my Tokyo bucket list comes a bit late into our stay in Japan. For me, an extreme over planner and constant worrier, it seems a bit out of character!

When I put “pen-to-paper”, I was actually overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas and suggestions from all the dog-eared and page-marked little reminders I had set myself.

There is an abundant amount of state-of-the-art electronics and architecture, a constantly evolving fashion scene, incredible history and historic locations and fascinating cultural traditions. It is easy imagine a never-ending list of things one must do and see.

You can imagine adding the very necessary must-see things like visit a temple, eat ramen, try sushi or go shopping in Shibuya to your bucket list. But for me, these things are all a part of my daily life, here in Japan.

I suppose that this is a good thing, because my list is not short! There are places that I simply must see, both within Japan and abroad. Although Tokyo is not exactly a simple launch pad for Asia, we are much closer to it here than from Switzerland!

A work in progress, and in no particular order:

Climb Mt Fuji
To quote an old Japanese proverb, “There are two kinds of fools; those who never climb Mt. Fuji…. and those who climb it twice.” I passed on my first opportunity to do this last month – but still have time. Anyone joining?

Stand Up Paddle Board in Okinawa

One thing that impresses me is the diversity of nature in Japan. There is some of the best powder skiing in the north and tropical beaches in the south….so while Johan will “bucket-list” the north, I have got the beaches covered. I cannot wait to swim in the clear blue waters of Okinawa.

Sing Karaoke

The nightlife culture in Tokyo is like I have never seen. From businessmen and women, to families and everything in between – all come together and let their collective hair down. While I love singing, I am quite clear on how terrible I am. But, despite the fact that I am much more comfortable to watch others belt it out, channelling their inner diva, I will not pass up the opportunity to sign karaoke and join the culture club.

Go to a Hanami

During the cherry blossom season, or Sakura, there is a shift in the social life in Japan. Parks, neighbourhoods, rivers, all become picnic grounds for millions, wanting to sip a wine under a cherry tree, full of blossoms. It is a social and cultural event that sweeps through and brings together the nature and the wonder.


Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum

I expect this to be sad and reflective, but something I must experience while living here. The park, the A-bomb dome, all reminders and memorials to our past.

Practice Yoga in Bali

Of course I’ve read Eat, Prey Love. And of course I fell in love with Bali. Holiday booked for end of this month!

Drive a Caravan in New Zealand

That’s right, Andrea, I am coming! I had plans to do this, 6 years ago with Lulu and Friso. We were all set to go, visit our dear friend and caravan around. Until I found out I was pregnant with Cleo. But, not that we are “so close”, it is on the list!

Walk thru the streets of Hoi An

Even though it has lost its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, much of the architecture and spirit has been preserved. I can imagine walking down the lantern-lit streets in the evenings, popping into a gallery or two on the way to dinner.

Goto a Baseball Game

Out side of America, Japan has the largest baseball community. The joke is that, when told that baseball is the Great American Pastime, locals are actually surprised!

I have spent many memorable evenings at the stadium (Yankee!), ate a few dirty water dogs and cheered New York through each game of the Subway Series.

So, it would be natural to catch a game or two while living here, in baseball’s second home. With five of the twelve professional teams located within Tokyo, we are spoiled for choice.

Camp Lakeside, at the Foot of Mt. Fuji

It is no coincidence that Fuji-san shows up twice on my list. I guess for all of my “I am a beach-girl” talk, I also adore those gorgeous beauties called mountains.

About 3 years ago, we bought tents, sleeping bags, etc. etc. to go camping. We made it as far as the back garden and, even then, Johan split halfway thru the night.

But, from friends here, I hear about these amazing experiences camping under the stars, lakeside with the majestic Fuji-san in the back. I’m in!

Take a Picture of a Snow Monkey

I just have to be in the neighbourhood of these little onsen-loving guys, the Japanese Macaques. To watch them bathe in the hot pools and observe their behavior… and take loads of pictures!

Have a Conversation with a Local

I was at a farmers’ market shortly after arriving in Tokyo. The fruits were organic, the produce totally new, but what impressed me the most was that Western guy who belted out fluent Japanese to his local mates. Impressive. I want that.

And those already crossed-off:

Watch a Sumo Match

I will be honest; my fascination with Sumo was probably more to do with the theatre than the actual fight. And that was a good thing. I visited Sumo last weekend (yeah – off the list!) and the ceremony of getting ready to fight lasts quite a bit longer than the fight, itself!

Between the pageantry, the culture and the competitive spirit (and of course with copious amounts of Sapporo) it was easy to forge that we were twisted up like pretzels in that little box!

Visit Kyoto’s Ancient Sites

A visit to any shrine or temple is more than a gaze at history. The religion and the meaning behind is still very much embedded and intertwined into the every day culture of the Japanese.

Another one, which has been ticked off my list, but one that I plan to visit more than once.

Overnight in a Ryokan

I thought I would giggle out loud when we were invited to take our shoes off, upon entering the hotel lobby. The look on Johan’s father’s face! Priceless.

But there is something about sleeping on the floor, a private onsen and a very large and diverse evening meal served in your hotel room that is quintessentially Japanese and very enchanting.

Being an expat in a foreign land is magical.

I lived years and years in New York before meeting Johan. And all of a sudden, he wanted to go to parks and cycle to monuments…I was gobsmacked! Aside from opera in the park, or a run around the reservoir, I hadn’t given the parks of NYC much thought. But, as an expat, Johan was super keen to see everything.

I suppose it is like living by the sea, you take the ocean for granted. But if you know that your time is limited in any way, you see that water a bit more clearly.

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