Backpacking in Japan on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Japan

A gap year in Japan is a unique way to spend your time abroad. The country is famed for its outlandish style, beautiful temples and gardens, and cutting edge technology. If you don't want any two days to ever be the same, backpacking in Japan might just be for you.

The cities

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Chances are your Japanese backpacking adventure will kick off in Tokyo, which in many ways feels like a country unto itself. You might spend the day overloading your senses in Akihabara, otherwise known as Electric Town, immersing yourself in otaku culture before the sun sets and the neon lights spring up and you spend the night screaming your lungs out in a karaoke bar.

Or you might visit the stunning Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, or go fashion-hunting in Harajuku before kicking back in Yoyogi Park waiting for night to fall. Then get yourself over to Shinjuku for amazing food and lively bars. There's waaay too much to do in Tokyo to mention it all here.

A temple in Kyoto, Japan

Elsewhere there's Kyoto, packed with thousands of temples, shrines, and imperial palaces, Sapporo, famous for the Ice Festival and skiing (in winter, of course), and Osaka's amazing nightlife.

One of the best things about travel in Japan is that you can pretty much see the technological future of the world in the the big cities like Tokyo, while the past is the present out in the country. Tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to glass fronted designer condominiums, you might discover a sliding wooden door which leads to a traditional chamber with tatami mats, and tea ceremony. All signs of Japan's rich and beautiful history.

The scenery

Mount Fuji, Japan

Japan has some of the best mountains in the world, including the famous snowcapped Mount Fuji, the beautiful autumn colours of Mount Koya, and the cherry blossoms of Mount Yoshino. If epic scenery is your thing, Japan has you covered.

Head to the Pacific coast in the summer for scorching weather and stunning beaches, or Mount Zao in winter for skiing around the famous snow monsters, trees so festooned with snow they look like otherworldly creatures. You could also visit Jigokudani hot spring to relax in the company of bathing macaques.

The best way to experience the country is to find a good mix of cities and scenery. It's basically impossible to get bored on a gap year in Japan.