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How I Would Entertain Guest in Japan

First,  assume for a moment that nobody really cares whether or not your guests have been to Japan.   So what they went overseas for five days.  And let us also assume that after your guests return back  yonder they show off their pictures to their neighbors, of course the neighbors  won’t  really care because they can’t really relate to your guest’s experience.  They’ll just feign ignorantly on about how wonderful your guest’s pictures are, and how much they envy them.

 You get my point?

Nevertheless, one of the  best ways to entertain guest in Japan would be to give them a chance to ride on the shinkansen (bullet train), show them Mount Fujii, and if you can, let them take part in a live tea ceremony.   Maybe even give them a chance to see Akihabara.   Don’t take them to temples unless you have to because you have to assume they know absolutely nothing about Japanese history, and if they did  at one point they probably forgot everything.   What’s the use of visiting a temple if  you know nothing of its history, or could care less for that matter, maybe?   Most young Japanese people don’t even care.

If time permits I also recommend taking them to places where they can interact with things, like the Iga Ninja museum where they can take pictures with old ninjas, or even learn how to throw stars called しゅりけん(手裏剣)shurikin.  Summer season is usually the best time to for this activity.

You could also give  them a chance to dress up like a Maiko or even a Samurai, then take pictures of them and this way they can get a nice laugh when they show their friends at work.

I had a best friend come out here.  Nice guy, white guy, New Yoaka, culinary specialist.  However, even with all of his gastronomical knowledge he wasn’t able to fully  appreciate the Japanese palate. 

So here’s the official way I’d entertain guest if I absolutely had to:

1) Food, food, food.  Nothing exotic.  Start off with recognizable favorites from Japan, like tempura, and yakiniku that way they won’t crave something heavier later on.  If their diet changes too soon, coupled with jet lag they’ll enjoy their trip less.  Sometimes McDonald’s is okay for lunch. 

2) Don’t rely on mass transit to get around  Rent a car.  Choose easy routes.  Just jump on the Kanetsu Expressway and ride it out to Niigata.  Show them the backcountry or maybe even Gunma.  Get lost a little.

3) Don’t do onsen unless it's mixed bathing.   Instead take them to Yunneson in Hakone that way they can spend time walking around in swim suits with you.  Remember to try akasuri (あかすり)垢すり, which is called skin peeling in English.   Japan will be the cheapest and most accessible place to get it done.  Everybody has to try akasuri at least once while they’re here!  It’s a must.  I get it twice a year.

4) Take them driving driving driving.  Sometimes people can soak in a lot more of the surroundings when in a car rather than on foot.   Sometimes you do not have to talk the experience away.  Let them feel the country for themselves.

5) Shrines are better to visit because they are less crowded.  Show them how to wash their hands and teach them a little about the shrines history.  Kamakura is the perfect spot for this.
Remember, never forget the wagashi, or Japanese confectionary.  It’s a must that they sit down and appreciate some good wagashi.  Go to an expensive place, not cheap place.

Lastly, and this is a big one.  Remember to take your guest to a real authentic (あかちょうちん 赤提灯 akachochin) or red lantern eatery, which is a place that working-class people can drink inexpensively.  The reason being is that they need to experience the real side of everyday working - class Japanese people.

That’s it!


  1. While I agree that getting out into the country is a great idea, I think that showing off the efficiency of the public transportation system is a good way to show off Japan's culture as well.

  2. Personally, I would prefer the efficiency and ubiquity of public transportation. It is a major attraction of Japanese society for me. Most definitely no McDonalds. Ramen or curry before any US fastfood.

  3. Hi Six,

    Isn't New York's mass transit network efficient? How it relates to culture I don't know. Just technological acheivements.

    Hi Peter,

    Remind your guest that the last train is at midnight, and then try to explain efficiency. Other countries do better. Accessibility would be a better feature.

    In Tokyo, the subway lines don't loop. Not too efficient either.

  4. I agree that those midnite subway cutoffs are a major hassle although the London Tube is no better in this respect. Loops? How many of the NY lines loop?

    My opinion includes JR and the other rail systems that criscross the country and connect cities with highspeed rail links. As for culture, what about all the underground shops and restaurants that cluster around major subway stations?

  5. Peter,

    Loop could be irrelevant, though, the London Underground has a segment of tracks that do loop near Heathrow, and there's a segment of subway that loops in New York.

    I do think Japan's mass transit network is efficient, one of the best in the world in my opinion, and it would be a good experience for guests to ride on a local commuter or a high speed rail line, but to make that the central mode of transportation is something I wouldn't recommend, especially during the summer months when the humidity and heat reach record highs!

    I wouldn't mind driving to Osaki station then riding the Yamanote line around the loop. That way you can stop at various station for shopping or whatever.

  6. I accept your generous offer to drive me around! Thank you very much! (:-0

  7. "Don’t take them to temples unless you have to because you have to assume they know absolutely nothing about Japanese history"
    This is just dumb. Of course go to some temples and shrines. Maybe some will even have information in the language your guest can understand. Why does a person need to learn the entire background of a beautiful building in order to visit the building?

    By your reasoning, here is a good plan: If your visitor is from a large city, take the visitor to a large city in Japan. Go to the business district and find an office building. An yoffice building will suffice. Go into the lobby and look around. Then leave. If your visitor is from a rural area, well, take he or she to a rural area in Japan. View the open space. Your visitor will marvel at how similar it looks to home. Get back in your car. Drive. Get into slow-moving traffic. Just like back home!

    When your visitor returns home, he or she will have an excellent story to tell!

  8. Mark!

    Thanks for the compliment. Actually,
    a temple would be nice, but not my taste. I prefer shrines. Where I come it's easy to find temples.

    Temple visits usually require a lot of walking and reading. I recommend that place in Akasaka as it is foreigner friendly and may be interesting for most poeple who don't know much about temples.


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