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Story Exploring Japan’s ‘Dark Side’

When the sun goes down there is a tendency to autopilot back to your accommodation. But to truly experience all that Japan has to offer, one should enjoy the countless diverse after-dark activities catering to the food lovers, adrenaline seekers and nature admirers. Here are 7 do-not-miss after-dark activities that can be experienced throughout the year across the regions.

 

 

Enjoy a relaxed shared eating experience 

Looking for an informal, inexpensive and fun meal with friends? Treat yourself to an izakaya experience with food sharing options that pair great with an ice-cold Japanese beer, umeshu (sweet plum wine) on the rocks or oolong tea for a refreshing alcohol-free experience. Enjoy a variety of dishes, with most izakaya featuring options like Japanese fried chicken, yakisoba noodles, sashimi and regional favourites. 

 

Where to do it?

Izakaya are easy to find throughout Japan year-round with regional chains specialising in local cuisine, such as Uoya Icho in Hokkaido, known for their fish dishes. Almost all other regions also have distinctive izakaya experiences that are not to be missed.

 

 

Hit the freshly groomed snowy slopes 

For an adrenaline-fueled experience under the lights, snap on your skis or strap into your board, to enjoy a ‘nighta’ as it is called by the locals. Some resorts illuminate slopes of various difficulty levels that are freshly groomed (with the chance to find some fresh powder along the way!). Carve turns as wide as you desire without the daytime crowds, whilst taking in the beauty of the lit-up village below. Don’t forget the extra layers to keep warm from the cool night chill! 

 

Where to do it? 

Various ski resorts across the country open night skiing from mid-December (snow fall dependent!). Some of the most popular locations include Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano.

 

 

Cruise down the river in traditional style

Yakatabune is a traditional barge style tour boat perfect for sightseeing, modelled after the Edo Period wooden luxury boats that were often elegantly decorated with gold and silver. The cruises often keep to tradition with cuisine, omotenashi (hospitality), dress - donning happi (traditional short robes) - and seating - on tatami-matted floors. Take a luxurious ride along the river in classic Japanese style with bright red lanterns illuminating the river around you.

 

Where to do it?

Despite being most well-known in Tokyo, the experience is also available in more regional areas including Kobe, Shimanto River (Kochi), Hakata, and Hita (Oita).

 

 

Bathe away your daily stresses    

Hot springs are a popular pastime across Japan, but have you ever visited an onsen at night? Wash away your worries by experiencing the natural hot spring waters in heated baths of various temperatures. The different mineral-rich waters are said to have healing properties, primarily relief from fatigue and stress. Many onsen experiences are open late at night to cater to those in need of a relaxing evening following a long day.

 

Where to do it?

Onsen experiences can be found in every region of Japan, in natural hot spring areas and in resort towns. Some of the most favoured experiences include the healing geothermal waters in Kusatsu Onsen town in Gunma Prefecture and the old-world styled Ginzan Onsen in rural Yamagata Prefecture. 

 

 

Watch nature light up the night sky 

Hotaru (firefly) viewing is an activity that evokes nostalgia for Japanese summer. The perfect activity to peacefully engage with the natural world after dark in regional Japan. For the best experience, rural locations offer the most tranquil viewing opportunity with plenty of nature and water in the absence of harsh city lights. And what makes this experience even better – it’s free! Find a spot under the stars and take in the serene view.

 

Where to do it?

Firefly season is summertime, mainly in June and July. An abundance of fireflies can be found in most woodland locations near clean bodies of water, with some highlights including Motosu Hotaru Park in Gifu Prefecture, Tsukiyono Firefly Village in the mountains of Gunma, Kushiro Shitsugen National Park in Hokkaido and the Uchio Shrine in the Hyogo Prefecture.

 

 

Grab a late-night snack at the Yatai stalls  

Are you still peckish as you head into the late hours of the evening? Stop by the open air Yatai food stalls for an atmospheric late-night meal, often open as late as 2am. The stalls are reminiscent of the wooden pushcart food stands made popular in the Meiji period, serving traditional Japanese cuisine such as ramen and gyoza. 

 

Where to do it?

The contemporary hub of Yatai is Fukuoka City, most notably in the Nakasu and Tenjin districts. Otherwise, the stalls are popular at various matsuri (traditional festivals) around the country.

 

 

Sing your heart out into the early morning 

There is no better place to belt out some classic ballads than in Japan - the birthplace of karaoke! Some places will even let you live out your true superstar fantasy with anime cosplay costumes and traditional dress available to rent for your session. Most venues offer patrons ‘liquid courage’ drinks and food to help maintain your energy levels. Most major chains have a range of songs in English, so whether you want to rock out with a group of friends or practice solo, these popular karaoke spots cater to all your late-night needs. 

 

Where to do it?

Karaoke experiences can be found all over Japan with major chains including Karaoke-kan, Big Echo, Joysound and Shidax. You can sing along for rates ranging from 100-600 yen for 30 minutes but we recommend taking up the challenge of the available ‘all-you-can-sing’ packages to keep the night going.

 

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