10 Most Popular Hobbies in Japan.

japanese arcade machines

I have 3 main hobbies.

Well, to be fair I’m interested and love learning about everything on the planet BUT…

If I had to narrow it down it would be: This website (and Japan), Photography, and Reading.

I frequently bounce around and enjoy exploring other activities I’ve never heard of. Not from fear of missing out, Just because I LOVE exploring whatever is available to me.

So it got me thinking, What are the most popular hobbies in Japan?

Having researched this country and its culture for many years, I had a rough idea about what would appear on the list.

Some of the entries, though, I really wasn’t expecting. Have a think now and see if your guesses end up on the list!

Oh and just so you dont think I’m plucking these hobbies out of the air, this entire list is backed up by Statista and their incredibly detailed sources!

10. Shopping – 買い物

Japanese shopfront
Might just be me, but Japanese shops look so flipping aesthetic…

In at number 10 on our list of the most popular hobbies in Japan is shopping.

From the outside, it’s easy to pigeonhole Japan as a technological metropolis from the future.

For those of you that have spent any extended amount of time in the country, you’ll know it’s actually a cash-centric country.

In a lot of the stores in bigger cities, you’ll probably still need to withdraw your yen before any purchase you make. And if you’re located further afield, not having cash handy will make things extremely difficult.

One big impact of Japan’s reluctance to pull away from physical cash is people often tend to shop in Brick and Mortar stores rather than online.

I mean, damn… Have you seen some of those website designs?! I wouldn’t input my financial data into something that looks like it was created on a potato!

So with the majority of an average households monthly expenses coming from physical shops rather than online, shopping at stores is something set to stay around for a good while yet.

Hint: Click here if you’re looking for the best online Japanese stores to buy from

9. Digital Communication (Twitter, messenger, LINE)

LINE app in Japan
I may or may not have downloaded LINE purely to look at stickers…

If you’ve been to Japan (Or literally just seen it on tv), it probably won’t be a surprise to you that messaging made it into the top 10 list of most popular hobbies in Japan.

Maybe I wouldn’t call this one a hobby, but it’s for sure an activity that millions of people in Japan (And lets be honest, the world) spend hours doing each and every day.

Next time you’re in the country, I challenge you to step into a train carriage that doesn’t have everyone staring down at their phones.

LINE is by far the most used messaging platform in Japan, and that can be put down to a few basic reasons:

  1. It’s designed by Japan for Japan – Whilst platforms like WhatsApp are designed for a western audience, LINE is created to be as useable as possible for a Japanese audience. You’ll also have to imagine that the majority of advertising for LINE will be domestic and likely more frequent than WhatsApp
  2. STICKERS! – In a nation that LOVES anime and cute emojis, it’s not hard to see why the stickers from LINE quickly became a national love.

People can even create and sell their own! So if you consider yourself arty, it could be worth a go ^_^

There are of course many other reasons this social media platform does so well, but those can wait for another article!

8. Watching Movies (Cinema) – 映画

retro japanese star wars poster
Where do I buy these!? Take my money!

Even though a large majority of movies dont tend to release in Japan as early as they do in the west, the Cinema continues to be one of the most popular hobbies in the country.

Though cinema admissions aren’t as high as they were in Japan in the 1950s, over the last few years (2019-2020) there has been somewhat of a resurgence.

Anime’s such as “Your Name”, “Demon Slayer – The Movie” and “Weathering With You” have all been a hit with the younger audience and have kept cinema alive, especially through the tougher years.

It’s a great way for people to socialise, especially the younger generation who would instead just be watching tv or movies at home by themselves.

7. Walking – 歩く

japanese man walking
If you haven’t seen the way light falls in Tokyo during spring, put it on your bucket list!

I attempt to get 10K steps a day, but usually average around 3K instead.

Not great, I know…

Japan as a nation has a huge walking culture with the average adult walking 6,500 steps every day.

Men in Osaka placed first with an average of 8,762 a day, and it’s the prefecture of Kanagawa where women walk the most at around 7,795 steps.

They must be doing something right, because they’re the longest living people on earth!

6. Eating out – 外食

Japanese man eating in a ramen shop
Ramen, Anyone?…

Eating out may seem like a treat (at least to me it does), but the citizens of Japan tend to do it frequently.

Let me clarify that when I say ‘eating out’ I mean anything from buying pre-made food from a convenience store and heating it up at home, to dining at an Izakaya or ramen takeout on a station platform.

A study from Statista shows that as of February 2021, 71.4% of people had eaten out since the start of the year. And that’s based on specifically eating out at major restaurant chains.

This may be down to small living spaces or perhaps social and work culture.

Either way, it’s a vital and positive part of Japanese society.

5. Driving – ドライブ

JDM scene Japan
I dont actually drive, but that’s absolutely a cool looking car!

I’ve already talked at length about Japanese Kei Cars, and the country’s fascination with interesting cars doesn’t end there.

If you’ve seen any of the fast and furious movies, you know Japan is home to some incredibly skilled Drifters, street racers, and beautiful four-wheeled machines.

Whilst the 80’s and 90’s were the peak years for street racing in Japan, if you’re in the right place at the right time (Honestly no idea where that could be, sorry!) you’ll still catch the odd race or two!

Tip: If you’re happy enough seeing these beautiful cars in a legal way, head over to the Daikoku Parking area in Yokohama. Do yourself a favour and dont look it up online if you plan to go!

There is literally so much I could say about Japan’s obsession with cars but it really would take an entire article.

If you really wanna see something ‘Japan Crazy’ type in ‘Dekotora Trucks’ to google images.

I dare ya!

4. Domestic Travel – 国内旅行

Japan river boat trip
If this was my daily commute, I might actually get a proper 9-5!

Domestic travel comes in at number 4 on our list of most popular Japanese hobbies, and rightly so.

According to these sources, the most popular form of domestic travel in Japan is overnight travel.

Apparently the expenditure of overnight travel is also slightly more than same-day travel. Then again, that’s not too shocking to believe if you’ve ever stayed in a Traditional Ryokan or incredible airbnb.

Those places are literally stunning!

Domestic travel has taken a hit since early 2020 (Because of the event that shall not be named…) and has likely had a negative impact affect on the Japanese travel economy.

Since this time, however, I’ve seen numerous internal travel advertising campaigns, so I’m sure those numbers will inflate again fairly soon.

3. Listening To Music – 音楽

Japanese vinyl music
Tenno, listen to Tenno and thank me later!

Listening to music in Japan is extremely popular.

But maybe not in the way you think!

Take a moment and think about where you’ve listened to music over the past year.

I’d wager the majority of you would probably say an audio streaming platform like Spotify, and that’s totally understandable.

They’re easy to use, can be listened to anywhere, and have a huge library of music.

In 2017, the Recording Industry Association of Japan showed the second most popular way to digest music in Japan was through CD’s.

Just me that remembers carrying a CD walkman? What an awesome blast from the past!

Youtube was the most popular at 42.7% of people using it to listen to their favourite artists. And Spotify came way down the bottom with a measly 6% of people listening to the streaming platform.

Why is music streaming not popular in Japan?

According to the RIAJ, people just dont know about it. Take a look at these figures from a survey of 2,216 people:

15.5% of people knew they (streaming services like Spotify) existed

Of those people, only 11.2% said they would consider paying for it.

As the second largest market in the world for recorded music, there’s clearly a space for streaming services to boom, but that all depends on whether people want to adopt it or not.

For now, physical music like CD’s and vinyl are still king!

2. Reading (For Pleasure) – 読む

deer in Japan reading
Even Deer like to read sometimes!

Though you’ll mostly catch people on trains etc on their phones messaging and gaming, take a little closer and you’ll likely see a large number of people reading throughout the country.

Quite a few of these people may be reading on digital devices, but they’re reading none the less.

According to Statista, in 2018 84.5% of people read paper books, and 35.6% read E-Books. Honestly a much higher percentage for books than I first thought.

I have a kindle and absolutely love it, but something has to be said about turning physical pages in a book.

Kindle’s really can’t compare on that front!

1. Watching Videos – ビデオ

To be fair, this could probably be anywhere in the world…

Did you guess it?

I’m pretty certain some of you did, because it’s honestly not that much of a suprise.

Everywhere you go in Japan, you’ll see tons of people on their phone.

Often they’ll be gaming, or messaging, but apparently watching videos is by far the number one most popular hobby in Japan.

From a survey conducted December 2020, 38.9% of people stated they watched online videos (on YouTube, Social Media, or TV) at least once per day.

It also states at least 73.1% of people watch videos online at least once per week.

With the way the world is headed, I dont see that number slowing down any time soon. In fact I’d love to check in again around 5 years time to see how high that number has climbed.

If we take a look at this old NY Times newspaper from the 1980s it says that people in Tokyo watch on average ‘8 Hours 12 minutes a day’ compared with ‘6 Hours 44 minutes’ in the US.

This put Japan WAY ahead of any other country, and that was over 40 years ago! So it’s clear Japan has quite an obsession with watching videos, just the medium they’re watched on may have evolved.

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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