Underwear in vending machines.
Robots for food servers.
Bathing in wine.
These are just a few examples of what visitors can find and experience in Japan. Japan celebrates one of the richest histories and cohesive cultures of any country on the planet, but the country has a quirky side that it isn’t afraid to show to strangers. Strange tourist attractions in Japan range from the bizarre and unexpected to the downright freaky. All of them are one-of-a-kind and worth a visit, if only for the gawking factor.
1. Yunessan Spa
A nice bottle of wine in a Japanese restaurant can cost you half a month’s rent, but for the low price of ¥2800 ($28USD), you can bathe in it all day at Yunessan Spa, a Hot Springs Amusement Park & Spa Resort in Hakone. The spa offers 24 water attractions in addition to the wine bath, including coffee, Japanese sake, and green tea spas. Please remember to bring a bathing suit… and avoid drinking from the spas.
2. Love Hotels
Often referenced in whispers in Japanese clubs and bars, love hotels are small, often unmarked hotels where rooms are rented for short periods of time – from a few hours to an entire night. The primary purpose is – well, I’ll let you take a guess, but they are rarely used for business meetings. Most often found near major roads on the outskirts of a city, love hotels usually look odd and display a neon light or two – often the only way to spot them. Don’t expect to see a concierge or even receptionist; to maintain anonymity, guests pay through a vending machine or in front of a screen that obscures an employee.
3. Capsule Hotels
While we’re on the topic of hotels, many tourists seek out a night in a Capsule Hotel, an experience often described as sleeping in a coffin. The “rooms” consist of capsules stacked on top of another. The guest opens a door, climbs in, and sleeps in a plastic or fiberglass block roughly 6-7 feet long by 3-4 feet wide. Lockers are provided for belongings. Maybe surprisingly, capsule hotels often book up on weekend nights, especially, when drunk party-goers stumble in for somewhere to sleep.
4. Robot Restaurant
Neon lights, video screens, and mirrors decorate this vivid, other worldly restaurant in Tokyo, where patrons pay ¥5000 ($50USD) to eat less-than-appetizing pre-packaged meals and watch servers in bikinis battle each other with enormous robots. The three-hour-long nightly shows draw huge crowds, at least some of whom have to be asking themselves, “What?”
5. Makomanai Takino – Easter Island, Japan
It’s true that many Japanese people will tell you they prefer not to travel, and why would they need to when the rest of the world is brought to them? Makomonai Takino Cemetery in Hokkaido replicates the Moai statues on Easter Island in what amounts to a bizarre but astonishing feat. If that’s not enough worldliness, there’s also a Stonehenge replication at the site.
6. Jigokudani Monkey Park
More of a strange and very cool natural phenomenon than a man-made cultural wonder, Jigokudani Monkey Park got its name from the multitudes of monkeys that gather in the famous hot spring area near Nagano. Steam rises above the springs, and boiling water pops over frozen ground. Encased by steep cliffs and dense forests, it’s a stunningly gorgeous site that wild Snow Monkeys seems to enjoy, as well. The monkeys can be seen relaxing in the hot springs during the day before ether disappear into the trees at night.
Read more about things to do in Japan in winter, including warming up at the Jigokudani Monkey Park
7. Odaiba Island, Japan
On the surface, Odaiba Island is a typical Japanese shopping center near Tokyo. Step inside and peek around corners, and you’ll get a few unexpected surprises – like a an Edo period bathhouse, a ramen theme park, and a mock Statue of Liberty. Oddities abound in this very strange, entertaining mall.
Browse tours of Odaiba
8. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Before there were shops trying to bring back real ramen with homemade noodles and slow-cooked brother, there was Cup Noodle, the Japanese instant ramen empire. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, located in Osaka, shares the history of Cup Noodle and lets visitors make their own, a thing to be pretty excited about, indeed!
9. Yoro Park: The Site of Reversible Destiny
Prepare to have your senses distorted and your sense of right side up turned upside down at Yoro Park: The Site of Reversible Destiny. Opened in 1995 by an art organization, the park is an “experience park” that presents visitors with the unexpected to make them question their physical and spiritual orientation in the world. Yoro Park is in Gifu.
10. Cat Island
So-called “cat ladies” have nothing on Tashirojima, a small island in Miyagi, Japan where feral cats run the land. Old belief has it that feeding and breeding cats will bring wealth and good fortune. The cats agree – there are more of them than humans here. There’s even a small cat shrine in the middle of the island.
11. Okunoshima – Rabbit Island
While we’re on islands ruled by animals, there’s the bizarre story of Okunoshima, or Rabbit Island. Before World War II, the island served as a top secret military site for manufacturing deadly chemical gas for use in warfare. Many say that rabbits were used to test the poisonous effects. No matter how they got there, the rabbits have won. In recent years, Rabbit Island has gained popularity over the Internet, making it a sought after destination. It’s between Hiroshima and Kyushu.
12. Vending Machines
Only in Japan do vending machines quality as a veritable tourist attraction. Found all over Japan, vending machines in this part of the world sell more than caffeinated beverages and crunchy snacks; you’ll find bags of rice in various sizes, condoms, live beetles, cups of hot noodles, dry ice, and even pornographic magazines.
13. 8 Hells of Beppu
The entire town seems to be enveloped in thick steam. Many claim that the whole city smells rotten. This is Beppu, a city in Kyushu, Japan, famous for the 8 “Hells” or natural hot water springs. Unlike their cousins – the onsens, in which visitors can bathe – these famous scenic landmarks are for viewing only. The “sea hell” shows off blue water, another is famous for mud bubbles, still another features hot, red water, and Monster Mountain Hell houses and breeds crocodiles.
14. Sanrio Puroland – Hello Kitty Theme Park
Cuddle up to the big white and pink cat for a picture every five feet at Sanrio Puroland, a theme park dedicated to Japan’s most iconic character. Every building, ride, and show features the famous cat. Her home is even on display, in which all the furniture and items display her own image. She’s a cat with an ego.
15. Meguro Parasite Museum
One of the most unusual museums in Tokyo, Meguro Parasite Museum displays over 45,000 specimens ranging from the longest tape worm on record to a decapitated, bug-infested turtle’s head. It’s self-proclaimed as the world’s only parasite museum.
Read more about unusual museums in Tokyo