It’s an unfortunate truth that so many of us who want to travel to Japan every year, won’t be able to.
Whether it’s the cost of the flights, getting the time off work, or personal commitments, the thought of traveling to Japan sinks further and further into the back of our minds.
Whilst, sadly, I still don’t have the mind control powers I so desperately desire which I would use to almost force you to find time to go to Japan, I might have a solution meanwhile.
I’ve already talked about how to survive your plane journey to Japan, and how to prepare for your trip, but what if you didn’t need to leave your home to experience a taste of what Japan has to offer?
Before we start I’m just going to add in a bonus way to experience Japan from home. It would have been in the original list, but I only found it a few weeks ago.
Tokyo Treat is by far my FAVORITE way to feel like I’m in Japan without leaving home. I’ll let you read this article and find out if it’s for you. I think it might be!
1. Eat Japanese food
One of the best ways to experience Japan without going there is through your stomach!
Now, I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest foodie, but there’s something about train platform ramen that really gets to me.
Maybe it’s being in the presence of the best trains in the world, or perhaps it’s the sensation of carefully slurping your ramen as others rush to catch their next train.
Either way, food is a massive part of Japan’s identity.
Here are a few easy ways to eat experience Japanese food at home:
Simple, easy, and perfect for lunch, dinner, or even just a snack!
Shove some crispy nori in there, and you’re good to go!
The perfect pocketable Japanese snack!
I like to consider them to be the Japanese version of the pocket pasty!
Whilst currently I’ve only written an article about Japanese sweets and snacks, many of the online shops listed in the post are also great places to purchase Japanese groceries.
If you want to delve deep into the Japanese food culture at home, institute the flow of time into your meal preparation.
In Japan, people prize food that shows seasonal awareness.
For instance, the height of hospitality on a plate would include something that’s just past its season, something in the middle of its season, and something that’s just coming into season.
They only have to be trace amounts or minimal parts of the meal, and the evocation of the past, present, and future will all be on one plate for the guest to enjoy
2. Watch YouTubers in Japan
I imagine a lot of you have done this already, especially if you’ve found my little website!
If not, or if you want to add to your growing YouTube subscription list, then let me help you!
Abroad in Japan has to take the medal for my favorite YouTuber in Japan, from both an informational and comical perspective.
Perhaps it’s just my deadpan British sense of humor, but with almost 3M subscribers, he’s clearly doing something right!
If you’re interested in watching YouTubers in Japan, I’ve written an entire article, including 14 of the absolute best!
Be prepared to lose a lot of your time watching all sorts of Japanese content, though!
Seeing people interact with Japan from multiple different viewpoints and situations is an incredibly valuable thing to do, especially if you’re interested in more than just the ‘Weird and wacky’ side of Japan.
Plus, it’ll also give you loads more ideas on how to experience Japan without actually going there.
And maybe they can convince you to make time to visit Japan, even if I can’t!
3. Study the Japanese language
Are you fluent in Japanese?
Well then, studying Japanese is a fantastic way to experience Japanese culture at home.
If you’ve heard anything about studying Japanese or perhaps even tried to before, perhaps you might be a little apprehensive.
Sure, it might be rated one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers, but don’t let that put you off your goals.
Depending on your level of Japanese, you could be reading books, manga, watching anime, movies, or series. It opens up a whole world that was otherwise cut off to you.
Unsure where to start? I’ve written a list of the top online Japanese learning resources to get you started.
And once you’re finished there, here are several articles dedicated to learning Japanese that will hopefully be of some help to you!
4. Follow Instagrammers in Japan
It’s becoming more and more common nowadays to wake up, roll over, grab your phone, and start scrolling.
I’m not here to tell you that’s the wrong way to live, but rather to make the most out of it.
Cover your instagram feed in helpful, inspirational, and motivational Japanese-themed accounts so that when you inevitably do start scrolling, at least it’s beneficial.
Here is a list of my favorite Japanese-themed Instagrammers.
I can now feel less guilty when I find myself scrolling on instagram because maybe some of the content I come across is a little beneficial to me!
…and if they aren’t, at least they’re some flipping amazing content creators!
5. Include Japanese cultural traditions & concepts into your day
For a few minutes, each day, allow yourself to be fully present in the moment. You deserve it.
Instead of throwing the teabag and milk into the cup whilst thinking about everything you have to do for the day, keep your mind focused on the task in hand.
The sounds the kettle makes as it boils, the weight of the dry tea, the colour, and smell of the tea as it brews, and the sound of the spoon against the cup if you use milk.
By just giving yourself a couple of minutes each day to step away from the constant thoughts in your head, you’ll understand how much more focused and productive you can be throughout the day.
This is a great way to experience probably the most important aspect of Japanese culture at home.
To me, the practical use of Wabi-Sabi is all about embracing imperfection.
Learn to appreciate the impermanence and imperfect things about life, and you’ll find life becomes a lot more humbling.
Mash together your passion, mission, profession, and vocation, and you’ve got your reason for being, Ikigai.
Actually finding it might be a little more difficult, however.
Activities and lifestyle changes that provoke continuous improvement like discipline, improving morale, being productive, and moving forward.
This started as a way to improve workplaces and employees but has quickly become a hit solution for self-improvement over in the west.
Mindfulness and meditation
Enjoyed focusing on making your cup of tea?
Now it’s time to take that idea and spread it to the rest of your day.
The feeling of the hot shower upon your skin, the sound of the cars on the road, the smell of the freshly cut grass, these are all things to become present with.
Whether the sound, sight, or smell provokes a positive or negative reaction, don’t judge it.
Understand that it’s your reaction, and move on.
I like to think of myself a crane perched in a river. The river and everything it carries moves around me, and unfortunately, I cannot stop it.
Instead of flailing about, I ground myself in the situation and only move to grab the fish when I need to.
The same is true about life, we can’t control many things that happen to us, but we can always control our reaction.
Mindfulness and meditation is a great way to explore this further, and eventually lead a more content life.
‘Zazen’ or Japanese zen meditation is the next step you can take after practising mindfulness.
It involves practising many of the same techniques as mindfulness, but sitting in silence instead of going about your day.
This is of course a lot more challenging than mindfulness, but the results can also be extensive.
You may have heard the phrase ‘Tidy home, tidy mind’ or something similar. It simply means that if your surroundings are clean and tidy, your mind is likely to be a lot more settled and focused.
Now imagine the effects of getting rid of things you don’t need, and becoming happier with a simple life, at least in a possessions sense.
Whilst it won’t work for all, those it does work for swear by it.
Take a look at my Japanese minimalism guide here.
Interested in learning more?
Here is a list of 7 Japanese life concepts to help you through the day. I hope they help! ^_^
6. Splurge at an online Japanese store
One of the best things about Japan for me was being surrounded by thousands of Japanese things every day.
It sounds completely obvious, which it is, but I really love it.
That becomes a little harder when you’re stuck at home with absolutely nothing.
So, how do we rectify this? A little retail therapy!
It’s beyond easy to order things from Japan now, not like it used to be.
You’ve got sooo many options that you’ll likely be spoilt for choice, which normally ends up bad for your wallet…
You don’t have to go too mad, but one or two things that you see every day in your house might give you the pickup you need. At least, that’s how it works for me!
It could even be as simple as some Japanese tea, or a book, or a little anime figurine you place on your desk as you work.
I know this is one way that gets me excited about the next trip to Japan, so I’ll continue to fool myself that spending hundreds on Japanese-based products is a good idea!
7. Take a virtual tour
Virtual tours, for some people, will be the single best way to experience Japan from home.
You name it, and there’s likely a virtual tour of your favourite place in Japan or the place you just didn’t quite get the time to visit last time you were there.
JRPass have an entire list of virtual tours you can undertake online, so I’ll leave the bulk of their list untouched with the exception of one.
Cute Capybara having an onsen! ^_^ So cute!
8. Stream Japanese series & Films
Another great way to feel as though you’re experiencing Japan at home is by streaming Japanese video content.
Movies, series, anime, if it’s Japanese, you should stream it!
Dubbed vs Subbed
A lot of the time, when people begin watching programs from Japan, they find themselves wondering whether to watch it with either subtitles or with the voice dubbed over.
I categorically sit on the subtitle side for two reasons.
The first, is this is how the director truly wanted the film to be viewed, and so to get the most authentic experience you should watch it with subtitles.
The other reason is that when something is dubbed, it will often get slightly changed to be more recognisable to a western audience.
So whilst the subtitles might be confusing in one or two points, they’ll be an almost direct translation, whereas dubbed videos will attempt to adapt to English speakers.
Hint, that never goes too well.
Also, if you’re watching anime or a film on Netflix, you may find you’re limited only to content from your country.
A simple way around that is to use a VPN, which will basically trick the platform into thinking you’re watching from another country (among other things).
9. Create a Japanese garden
The Japanese as a people are incredibly connected to nature.
Forest bathing, Bonsai trees, moss gardens, shintoism, the list is huge.
The idea of a Japanese garden is to bring a sense of calm and nature into our busy lives. This is normally achieved through purposeful planting, understanding how you want the garden to feel before you start, using wood, water, stone, and plants to tell a story.
So if you’ve got any kind of outside space, or perhaps even a windowsill, creating a Japanese Zen garden is a fantastic way to experience the serenity of Japan without leaving your home.
Then every day, you can look at your garden or dedicated space and have it as a brief moment of escape.
10. Plan for when you will go
Even though it may seem close to impossible to think you can have a holiday to Japan with your current lifestyle or circumstances, it’s not.
Don’t think you have enough time to visit? I’d argue that two weeks is more than enough time to see some sites in Japan. And even one week if you’re feeling really brave!
Think it costs too much to fly out? I’ve seen budget flights to Haneda and Narita airpot (in Tokyo) for as little as $500 return. That’s from the UK as well as the US.
Think it costs too much once you’re there? If you are happy with not eating out every night and cooking a few times for yourself, you’ll be fine. I love tofu, and for the equivalent amount I can get for £3 in the UK, costs around 20p in Japan. That’s silly cheap!
Here’s a list of well prices airbnb’s you may consider travelling to instead of hotels!
Bonus: Attend a local Japanese event Bonus of going to events in your town/country
Technically, you won’t be able to do this one from the comfort of your home, but it’s still a great way to experience Japan without actually travelling there.
Here in the UK, all I have to do is type in ‘Japan events near me’ to google and there are more than enough places to keep me busy.
Language classes, cooking classes, national events, film/anime nights, Japanese gardens, Japanese museums. The list is practically endless.
Another benefit of attending local Japanese events is that you’ll probably meet people who are just a passionate about Japan as you are, if not more!
Whilst nothing, of course, can replace the act of visiting Japan, these 10 ideas might just tide you over until you can finally set foot on that plane again!