Making Travel in Japan More Exciting! The Appeal of Immersive Tourism

Japan is an increasingly popular destination for people planning or considering international travel, particularly in Asia but also around the world. In recent years, as the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased, there has been a growing demand not only for traditional sightseeing, but also for unique experiences that can only be found in Japan.

The appeal of tourism in Japan is no longer limited to just enjoying its snow-covered landscapes, but also to immersing oneself in experiences such as shoveling snow off roofs and entrances known as yukikaki. Instead of just eating delicious udon and soba noodles where they are best known, tourists are drawn to experiences where they can make these noodles themselves. This kind of immersive tourism is attracting a lot of attention. But what makes this immersive tourism, which allows visitors to experience the daily life and other unique experiences of Japan, so appealing?

Immersive Tourism Experiences that Bring You Closer to the Life and Culture of Snowy Regions

The Chuetsu area of Niigata Prefecture is known as one of the snowiest regions in Japan and offers immersive tourism experiences that make the most of this snowy characteristic.

Snow is not only a vital part of life in snowy regions but also a blessing that has given birth to a rich food culture. To truly experience this you must not just eat the food, but instead experience cooking with locals who are well-versed in regional cuisine right on the doma earthen floor of a traditional home. While preparing local stews and soups that are commonly made in the area, you also get to engage in lively conversations making the experience even more enjoyable. One of the joys is learning unique local wisdom through these conversations, such as how to preserve food in the snow.

Cooking with the locals on the doma earthen floor is an experience available to visitors. (Photo courtesy of ryugon)

What's unique is the use of a traditional kamado rice cooker, which has been around for over 50 years. In Japan, kamado rice cookers were commonly used in homes until around the 1950s, but nowadays very few homes use them. As a result, the experience of lighting a fire in a traditional kamado is quite rare. Rice cooked in a kamado shines brightly, enhancing its luster and flavor.

The rice cooked in a kamado has a shine to it and is very delicious. (Photos courtesy of ryugon)

In addition to cooking, there are also programs to experience yukikaki, or snow shoveling. After receiving a lecture from the locals on how to shovel snow, participants actually help out. The hard yukikaki work is then rewarded with lunch and a hot spring bath.

For people who live in areas of Japan where snow rarely accumulates, yukikaki is a valuable experience. (Photos courtesy of ryugon)

The history of the people who have lived for over 2000 years in areas where more than one meter of snow accumulates is also garnering interest from countries other than Japan. The charm of snow country culture, which can be felt through these immersive tourism experiences, is likely to attract even more attention in the future.

Aiming to Restore Vitality in the Midst of Rich Nature

In Minakami Town, located in the northern part of Gunma Prefecture and amidst the bounty of nature, "health tourism" is offered with the goal of healing both mind and body through activities.

Outdoor sports are often pursued for the thrill, but health tourism approaches them from a different angle. The goal is to make participants aware of the health benefits that these activities can provide.

The health tourism programs in this city are customized according to the participants' demographics, group size, season, time and objectives. There are programs that blend active and inactive activities, offering a varied pace. For example, after rafting to get the body moving, participants can enjoy a meal made with seasonal ingredients at a hotel, followed by a peaceful walk in the forest the next day before heading home. These programs are popular with students and office workers looking for a refreshing break from their busy lives.

Left: Enjoying Japan’s scenery while rafting in a valley.
Right: Seasonal bento lunch made with fresh ingredients. (Photos courtesy of the Minakami Town Tourism Association)

Left: Walking in a nature-rich environment.
Right: Health tourism participants are often company colleagues and student groups. (Photos courtesy of the Minakami Town Tourism Association)

When students facing exams participated in health tourism, the program was designed with the intention of making them aware of the importance of moderate exercise and spending time in nature. The hope is that participants will take this experience back into their daily lives, perhaps by visiting parks to immerse themselves in nature during study breaks, and use it as a way to maintain their mental and physical health.

Immersive Tea Ceremony in a Tea Field

Enjoy tea enveloped in the natural fragrances of a tea field. (Photo courtesy of Ureshino Chadoki)

In Ureshino City, Saga Prefecture, known as a famous tea-producing area in Japan, you can enjoy a tea ceremony conducted by tea farmers or knowledgeable concierges in a special room set up in the tea fields.

Tourists can choose their preferred setting for the ceremony, whether it's a tea room with a beautiful view of the mountains or one surrounded by cypress and cedar trees. This unique experience of enjoying tea with a 500-year history in an extraordinary setting offers a special way to heal both mind and body.

Enjoying tea amidst beautiful greenery. (Photos courtesy of Ureshino Chadoki)

Immersed in 360 degrees of cypress and cedar, the experience in this sanctuary-like setting cleanses the soul. (Photos courtesy of Ureshino Chadoki)

Beyond what has been presented here, Japan offers many more immersive tourism experiences that take advantage of the local characteristics of the area. Such experiences may completely change your perception of Japan entirely. When you travel to Japan, be sure to consider exploring these immersive tourism opportunities.