5 unique experiences at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Saadiq Samodien


Tokyo, one of the world's most renowned cities, will be hosting the Olympics from July 24, 2020, to August 9, 2020. It is set to be a spectacular festival of sport, music, and culture. A visit to Japan during this time may prove to be the ultimate vacation choice! Our guide looks at what you can do during your time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Spend the night with monks in a Japanese temple in Koyasan

Experience what life is really like as a Koyasan monk. The town was discovered 1200 years ago by a Kyoto monk as a sacred break away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Immerse yourself in Japanese culture by sleeping in a traditional temple alongside monks. You'll be served a vegetarian meal and participate in traditional fire ceremonies. Then in the morning, you'll join the monks in meditation between bamboo trees. During the daytime, you're able to explore the famous Okunoin cemetery and Garan sacred precinct to the backdrop of monks performing their rituals.

The easiest way to get to Koyosan is via Osaka Nankai Namba Station to Gokurakubashi Station (a two-hour journey to Koyosan ).

Red temple in Koyasan, Japan

Photographer: Svetlana Kazankova

Visit the Art Islands of Naoshima

Japan's island of Naoshima is one of the world's only art islands that should be at the top of your bucket list.

The first stop worth seeing is Benesse House, which is a museum hotel that serves as the island's masterpiece. Then there is the Art House project which provides visitors with the chance to browse through abandoned houses that have been transformed into art pieces. Not too far away is a place called I♥YU - which translates to "l love hot water." It is an exhibition of several colourful bathhouses - which you can use. You cannot leave the island without visiting the Chichu Art Museum, a collection of underground artworks that alters its appearance with the presence of light. If you're feeling adventurous, you can extend your trip by visiting the nearby art islands of Teshima and Inujima.

Don't worry about bringing food with you - the island is littered with cafes. To get there, you would need to take the bullet train to Okayama. Then, make your way to the port of Uno - where you will take a ferry to Naoshima. You should check online when the art exhibitions are open as it is closed on certain days of the week. 

Naoshima landscape in Japan

Photographer: Carlos Huang

Revitalise your body, mind, and soul in a Kusatsu Onsen

Every Japanese travel experience has to include an Onsen experience - a natural hot spring fueled by the surrounding volcanoes.

The Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma is the number one rated Onsen in Japan. It's located 1200 meters above sea level with surrounding mountains to go hiking - the perfect precursor to a relaxing warm bath. It's ensembled with a Yubatake - which regulates the heat of the water. The Kusatsu Onsen has everything you need, including a spa, a sauna, and the option to rent out a private bath. An Onsen has shown to soothe aches, accelerate metabolism, and has natural minerals which the body absorbs.

To get there, you would need to take a bus from the Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi which can take you directly to Kusatsu Onsen. Alternatively, if you're driving, plug it into your GPS, and you'll be there in no time. Remember to bring water with you, as it is essential to stay hydrated when enjoying the Onsen. 

Kusatsu Onsen hot springs in Japan

Photographer: Em7

Rewind the clock at the Kyoto's Ancient Sites

The city of Kyoto held the title of being Japan's capital - in the year 1868. Unlike Tokyo, Kyoto still has much of its historical and cultural centres untouched.

It's a city where you can capture your Instagram-worthy moments. The Kinkaku-Ji is just one such example, a Japanese temple covered in gold leaves. The Arashiyama Bamboo Groves are also worth visiting as you'll be towered by Japan's most famous tree. Furthermore, the nearby Nijō Castle is a must-visit with its squeaky nightingale floors that acted as an alarm system for ninja attacks. Finally, you'd need to stop at the Nishiki Market to dine on cuisine that you won't find elsewhere in the world.

To get there, you would need to take a bullet train to Osaka. From Osaka, it's about an 80-minute trip taking the Express Haruka Train directly to Kyoto. It is a walking city - so it's a good idea to wear something comfortable to get around. 

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

Photographer: Marcociannarel

Get active in Okinawa.

Okinawa is the perfect place if you're in the mood to get active as it consists of 150 islands to scuba dive, jet ski and snorkel.

It has one of the world's best wildlife preservation programs. A must-see is one of the largest fish tanks around - The Kuroshio Tank. It holds sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and even the rare whale shark! Okinawa also has some of Japan's best beaches and high-end hotels if you're in the mood for fine dining in luxurious settings. During the day, you can try out snorkelling and diving, which is available in abundance.

The best way to get there is to take a flight from Tokyo to Okinawa, which is about 3 hours. 

Miyakojima island landscape in Okinawa, Japan

Photographer: Simamusume

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