Scott and I are fascinated by the Japanese culture and plan to travel there next year to celebrate Scott’s 30th. But until we make the 12,000 mile round trip, we will have to make do with finding other places around the world that are influenced by Japan and their zen way of life.
We’ve partnered up with some fabulous travel bloggers to offer you a list of destinations across the world that will allow you to partake in your very own kind of zen – both in Japan and elsewhere around the world.
In some ways, this is a post dedicated to Japan (especially with spring blossom well and truly on its way) – and we hope you enjoy taking a Japanese-inspired trip… wherever you end up travelling to.
Japanese-Inspired Destinations & Experiences Around The World
If you can’t yet visit Japan, there are lots of Japanese-inspired destinations around the world you can visit. Some may even be in your hometown!
Marvel at art exhibits and performances in Leiden, Netherlands
The Japan Museum Sieboldhuis in Leiden was established to celebrate the special relationship between Japan and the Netherlands.
Doctor Philip Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) lived in Japan for many years and collected thousands of treasures in the course of his stay.
After his return to the Netherlands, he bought the house at Rapenburg 19 to exhibit his large collection of Japanese artefacts including ceramics, clothing and prints. Today, this collection forms the basis of the Sieboldhuis’ permanent exhibition.
Next to that, the museum hosts a number of special exhibitions every year on Japan-related topics as well as workshops on Japanese calligraphy, Manga, origami and Japanese food and drink.
Highlight of the year is the annual Japan market, which draws thousands of interested visitors to Leiden for a programme of Japanese dance, theatre, art and food/drink.
Next to a museum, the Sieboldhuis is also home to an art centre and offices of several Japanese universities and associations. Combining all these different functions, the Sieboldhuis is truly a piece of Japan right in the heart of the Netherlands.
Recommended by Brigitte – The Life and Times Of A Dutchie Abroad
Enjoy a zen moment in New York City, USA
Japanese culture is an iconic, unique and peaceful way of life that has influenced the lives of people around the world.
One place in which this trend is clear is at the Metropolitan Museum of New York in New York City. Here, not only is an entire wing of the building dedicated to the display of Japanese art and design, but the museum has actually recreated an entire Japanese garden within the building itself.
You literally step into the open, peaceful and calm surroundings of the Japanese garden and feel as though you have entered an entirely different world.
In the stillness of the garden, all you hear is the trickling of water and you are able to leave the chaos and anxiety of the city behind. It is almost as though the Japanese Garden has instantaneous calming properties with the simple and peaceful display of nature that is set out before you.
And the best part is that you don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to experience Japanese culture. Instead, all you have to do is head to your local museum if you want to explore and experience a world that is unlike any other.
Recommended by Kelly – Girl with the Passport
Be surprised by beauty in Monaco
The Japanese Garden in Monaco is a lovely little haven in what is a rather busy area off a main street and near the convention centre.
My friend and I stumbled upon the gardens while walking around Monaco from the palace to the harbour where we wanted to grab some drinks.
It was such a lovely surprise to find a zen zone in the middle of Monaco and we loved just wandering around and seeing what the space had to offer.
The garden is rather small but it contains all sorts of Japanese accents such as a bridge, a waterfall and a little tea house.
Recommended by Kelly – A Pair of Passports
Sip authentic Japanese tea in San Francisco, USA
San Francisco is a thriving city with so many amazing things to see and do. One of the experiences in the top ten is to visit the popular Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.
Here, you can marvel at replica Japanese gardens. From tranquil zen gardens to Japanese temples, this is certainly one way to experience the Japanese culture within the west coast of the USA.
You also have the opportunity to try some original Japanese tea in the middle of the garden – how very zen!
Wander through Japanese-inspired gardens in County Wicklow, Ireland
Scott and I adore Japanese gardens as we find them so tranquil and calming. Anyone who knows us knows we’re lovers of the great outdoors and if you also combine this with the Japanese culture, then we think you’ve got a total winner!
Powerscourt Estate, just shout of an hour south of Dublin is a vast estate with several different gardens that you can wander through.
One of which is the stunning Japanese-inspired garden where you’ll have the pleasure of seeing cherry blossom trees, tiny bridges and Japanese-inspired statues.
Be prepared to spend quite a few hours here – you won’t want to leave!
Explore a tranquil Japanese Buddhist temple in Hawaii, USA
Whilst driving around the island of Oahu in Hawaii, we had the pleasure of stumbling across a Buddhist Temple near Kaneohe. This is Byodo-In Temple and it is positively stunning.
With the glistening koi fish pond and the golden Japanese gong to signify your respects for Buddhism, this temple will have you admiring part of the Japanese culture for several hours at least.
The fact that this temple also has a backdrop of the dramatic Hawaiian mountains simply adds to the pleasure of finding this hidden gem out in the countryside.
Wander around a Japanese zen garden in London, England
London is renowned for its pretty spaces but you might not expect to find a beautiful Japanese zen garden here.
Holland Park (east of Hyde Park) is a stunning place to explore and is home to the Kyoto Garden, which is every bit as zen as it sounds. It’s also still fairly unknown among first time visitors to London (at least for now) so get there while you can!
Mini Japan Bucket List
And when you do finally make it to Japan, here are some unique experiences and destinations you simply cannot miss!
Admire all the blossom in Ueno Park, Tokyo
Japan is one of those countries I had been wanting to visit. I knew a few people that had been and heard amazing things but it is always so much better to experience them for yourself.
I chose to go during cherry blossom season and wow is this a great time to visit. Forgetting for a moment how beautiful the cherry blossom is, what made Japan so special for me was the locals’ total love and respect of the cherry blossom known as sakura.
Ueno Park in Tokyo is a beautiful place to visit. There are hundreds of Japanese people picnicking under the trees and celebrating the sakura with a drink or two!
Japan also has some awesome castles, nothing like anything I had even seen before. My favourite was Himeji-jo Castle, which is just a short walk up from the train station. You can spend a good couple of hours exploring the different levels. Outside there are some great photo opportunities too.
Japan is known for its great food but once you visit you realise how much more it has to offer. I simply loved every bit of it.
Recommended by Becky – Becky The Traveller
Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Tokyo (with sushi and sake!)
Japan is thrilling in every sense of the word. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never be at a loss for things to do or sights to see.
If it’s your first time in bustling Tokyo, take a stroll down the infamous Takeshita Dori street. Located in Harajuku, it lives up to every bit of its name – it’s the perfect place to wander for an hour or two.
Once you work up an appetite, don’t miss out on a chance to try some authentic Japanese sushi and sake. Head over to the Ginza area and visit Sushidokoro Ginza Fukusuke.
It’s all super fresh, so you may want to just order one of everything. They offer everything from Sea Urchin to Salmon Roe – you really can’t go wrong here. The sake also doesn’t hurt…
Recommended by Ashlyn – From Heart And Seoul
Relax in hot springs in Hakone
A place in Japan which is definitely worth a visit is Hakone. During my trip to Japan, I visited among others this beautiful place. Hakone is located between the cities Tokyo and Shizuoka and gives a perfect picture of the inlands of Japan.
Hakone is well-known for its many hot springs resorts. I’ve also stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan where we had to eat and walk around the hotel in our kimono. During the day we could use the hotel’s hot spring – the place is very serene.
Furthermore, Hakone features a big lake named Lake Ashi. During one day of our trip, we took a boat tour over the lake.
Normally, you can have a great view of Mount Fuji when you are on the lake, but unfortunately we didn’t have great weather, as it was very misty. However, we did visit the boiling sulphur springs of the Owakudani Valley, which can also be found in the Hakone region.
Recommended by Tamara – Girlswanderlust
Well, there you have it! Our suggestions for experiencing a bit of Japanese culture throughout the world. Thank you again to the awesome travel bloggers who helped with this piece.
Whether you are fortunate enough to be travelling to Japan itself or staying closer to home, we hope you’ve found some inspiration to go and find your own little piece of Japan. What do you think of these ideas? Are there any other Japanese-inspired places around the world that we’ve missed out? Write us a little note in the comments to let us know…
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