Top Japanese Pastimes to Explore for Yourself

ByJustin Hanus
Feb 15, 2019

Top Japanese Pastimes to Explore for Yourself

A great thing about Japan is there’s always something going on or something to do. By learning about the most popular pastimes, you’ll be able to properly experience the culture. Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find at least a few authentic Japanese hobbies or activities you’ll enjoy.

Manga and Anime

Manga has been around since the middle of the last century, but it has only become a facet of Japanese culture in the last couple of decades. Since manga covers every genre, people of all ages and from all backgrounds read the comics.

The most successful manga series are often turned into anime, although sometimes these adaptations have their own storylines. Anime is also ideal for those who are less into reading.


Ikebana literally means living flower. On the surface, this pastime may seem like simple flower arranging, but it is much more. Those who practice ikebana do it to feel closer to nature. It provides a form of spiritual wellbeing, much like meditation. Whether you have an artistic flair or you just want to learn more about aesthetics and color, ikebana is an activity to try.


Another way to calm your mind is to practice shodo, or calligraphy. Plus, if you’re learning Japanese, this activity will help with your writing. You’ll need a brush, ink stick, ink stone, and special mulberry paper to create this beautiful art. As you practice and gain confidence, your work will become more fluid and beautiful.


For the more active, there’s kyudo — or Japanese archery. It’s practiced in a kimono, hakama (loose pants), and tabi (socks with thick soles that have a separate space for the big toe). To succeed at kyudo, you’ll need to be dedicated, as the sport requires deep concentration and focus.

Arcade Games

The most well-known arcade game in Japan is pachinko, which is similar to pinball. Another to look out for is Taiko no Tatsujin, a rhythm game that involves hitting a Taiko drum. You also have an extensive range of games that allow you to win collectibles — either physical or virtual trading cards.


Some pastimes are only possible during certain times of the year. Hanami is one of these. It means flower viewing, and it takes place when the cherry blossom and plum trees are in bloom. Scores of people organize picnics to see the flowers together. As the blossoms happen at different times depending on where you are in the country, hanami also gives you an excellent reason to travel.


Origami (which literally means folding paper) involves twisting a single piece of paper into an elaborate form. Even beginners can create impressive shapes. As hobbyists develop their skills, they can fold models that it is difficult to believe are made from just one sheet of paper.

Many of these Japanese pastimes may be quite different from your usual hobbies. Even if you think one could never be for you, try it before you dismiss it. There’s always the chance that you develop a passion for an activity you would never have thought you could enjoy.

Miya.m [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Justin Hanus editor