9 Things to Do During Bad-Weather Days in Japan

Updated on October 26, 2018
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Yong is a Japanophile who has survived 10 solo trips to Japan. His visits now focus on discovering the country’s lesser-known attractions.

Don’t let bad weather days dampen your Japanese holiday.
Don’t let bad weather days dampen your Japanese holiday.

It is often said that Japan—a country famous for dramatic seasonal landscapes—is perfect for visiting any time of the year. What most travel guides do not highlight, however, is that each Japanese season comes with its own list of weather inconveniences. Occasionally, some of these bad weather days in Japan get downright hazardous.

For example, the summer months of July and August are full of vibrant outdoor festivals known as matsuris. However, the searing temperature means travelers have to constantly be on guard against heat exhaustion.

Summer heatwaves are closely followed by the Japanese typhoon season. In recent years, many parts of Japan have been battered by fearsome super-typhoons. Subsequent landslides and infrastructural damage inevitably bring on significant transportation disruptions.

There are lesser inconveniences like rain and snow too. While these aren’t as threatening as heatwaves or typhoons, they can still be an immense nuisance during a Japanese holiday. But when faced with bad-weather days, there is often no choice but to “embrace nature,” so to speak, and to make the best of one’s time. The following is a list of suggestions for what to do during bad-weather days in Japan.

These suggestions do not apply to extreme conditions such as typhoons and blizzards. In those situations, you must follow official advisories and seek safe shelter.

The Japanese saying “shou ga nai” is often applicable to bad weather days, such as this rainy afternoon at Fushimi Inari Taisha. You just have to make the best of things.
The Japanese saying “shou ga nai” is often applicable to bad weather days, such as this rainy afternoon at Fushimi Inari Taisha. You just have to make the best of things.

9 Things to Do During Awful Weather in Japan

  1. Lose Yourself in a Labyrinth
  2. Head to a Super Sento
  3. Head to an Indoor Theme Park
  4. Learn Something New
  5. Attend a Performance
  6. Go for a Photo Shoot
  7. Try Your Hand at Bad Weather Photography
  8. Indulge in Manga
  9. Embrace the Bad Weather

1. Lose Yourself in a Labyrinth

What is frequently a navigational nightmare becomes a haven during bad-weather days in Japan. Major Japanese train stations are often connected with extensive underground complexes and corridors that seemingly extend forever.

Full of shops and eateries for all budgets and interests, you could easily spend a few hours within one of these labyrinths, only to discover you have but covered half the ground. Outside of underground malls, train stations such as Osaka Station are also part of larger groups of multi-use complexes. For the convenience of shoppers and travelers, these complexes are always interconnected by sheltered passageways.

Tokyo Station is so large, you could spend an entire day within it without ever stepping out of the station.
Tokyo Station is so large, you could spend an entire day within it without ever stepping out of the station.

2. Take a Dip at a Super Sento

The classic tourist image of an onsen experience, or Japanese hot-spring bathing, is that of a misty pool surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery. In my opinion, such images do not do full justice to the Japanese hot-spring bathing experience, because onsen is far from only being enjoyable at such rustic locations.

All major Japanese cities have at least one super sento—sento being the Japanese name for public baths. (The water may or may not be actual hot-spring water.) At larger establishments such as Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Tokyo, Spa World in Osaka, and Corona no Yu in Sendai, stepping into a super sento is akin to entering another world or time period, an experience that comes with atmospheric dining possibilities and various esthetic indulgences too.

Even un-themed super sentos are full of all sorts of bathing adventures to try, from whirlpool jacuzzis and waterfall baths to cold-water dips, “electrified” pools, and aromatherapy saunas. As is well known, the Japanese have long refined bathing into an art form. What better day than a bad-weather one to investigate this art form in depth?

3. Head to an Indoor Theme Park

Major Japanese theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan only close on days with extreme weather. However, unless you enjoy slushing about in soaked shoes and wearing a poncho the whole day, these are generally the places to avoid during bad-weather days in Japan.

Head instead to indoor theme parks such as Joypolis and Nanjatown in Tokyo, or Lego Land Discovery Center in Osaka. If fun rides and thrills aren’t your cup of tea, you could visit themed indoor attractions such as Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki, or Tempozan Harbor Village in Osaka.

In the case of attractions like Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, you will surely be astounded by the incredible indoor reconstructions of historical eras, on top of being entertained by quirky ad-hoc performances. With some planning, an entire day could easily breeze by at one or two of these attractions. You might even entirely forget about the gloomy skies swirling outside.

The outrageous Showa-Period interior of Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.
The outrageous Showa-Period interior of Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.

4. Learn Something New

There are many day lessons geared towards travelers of all ages and backgrounds in Japan, from cooking courses and mediation tutorials to Japanese-language crash courses and cultural introductions. At certain travel destinations, there are even unique Japanese hands-on experiences such as manga drawing or Ikebana-style flower arrangements.

In short, if you’re open to learning, there’s no shortage of experts in Japan eager to share their knowledge with you. Along the way, you might even pick up a new lifelong hobby!

5. Attend a Performance

Traditional Japanese performing arts such as Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku are renowned throughout the world, with the attendance of any of these performances easily the high point of a Japanese holiday.

In the event that traditional arts do not appeal to you, you could also consider western or pop culture offerings such as jazz gigs, “Idol” performances, or even a maid café session. For those who happen to be in the biggest cities, and are seeking experiences that are really different, there are out-of-this-world vampire-, ninja-, medieval-warlord-, and Anime- themed restaurants to try too.

Lastly, animal cafes have taken Japan by storm in recent years. Incessant rain throughout the day? No problem. Watch the world refresh itself while surrounded by genteel feline companions or adoring puppies. The experience will rejuvenate you.

A Maiko dance performance in Kyoto.
A Maiko dance performance in Kyoto.

6. Go for a Photo Shoot

You don’t always need to head to a temple or castle to experience traditional Japanese culture. How about bringing the culture to yourself? Many establishments in Kyoto offer tourists the opportunity to dress up in traditional Japanese attire for professional, themed photo shoots. (Some even allow you to take a stroll around town.)

While a little rarer, other Japanese cities have also started offering similar packages in recent years, for example, in Nagoya and in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Naturally, such dress-up experiences are not limited to only kimonos and hakamas. At “geek hubs” such as Tokyo’s Akihabara, there are many fun-filled cosplaying packages. For the enthusiastic, just deciding which costume to go for might take up a whole hour.

7. Try Your Hand at Bad-Weather Photography

Bad weather in Japan isn’t necessarily deluges, blizzards, or typhoons. A lot of times, it’s no more than incessant drizzling the entire day. With some research and preparation beforehand, these depressing days could actually be golden opportunities for unique photographs.

Be it neon-lit streets or historical districts, or just a simple paddy field, the world takes on a whole new look when washed by the elements, particularly at night. In fact, bad-weather photography is considered by many professional photographers to be a golden opportunity for masterpieces. If you looking to increase viewership for your social media accounts, such opportunities might be what you need to instantly go viral.

Safety First

Always remember, safety is paramount during bad-weather photography. Keep the following in mind.

  • Be prepared for sudden changes in environmental conditions. Always check forecasts beforehand.
  • Be sure to adequately protect your gear. A drenched camera will require expensive maintenance.
  • Do not be obsessive. It is sheer stupidity to continue to snap away when lightning is flashing every other second or when waves are getting higher and higher.

The Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa on a rainy night.
The Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa on a rainy night.

8. Indulge in Manga

Without a doubt, manga is one of the pillars of modern Japanese entertainment. Some fans even consider manga to be Japan’s greatest offering to international pop culture. Therefore, why not make use of a bad weather day in Japan to check out or indulge in the country’s most beloved storytelling form?

Apart from manga museums in Kyoto, Kitakyushu, etc., the country is full of manga cafes where for a low entrance fee, you can lounge for hours amidst thousands of titles. The storytelling form is renowned for its broad coverage of themes and subjects, so even if you can't read a word of Japanese, chances are, you’ll still find something interesting to browse through.

Incidentally, larger manga cafes often provide unlimited drinks, WiFi, console gaming, television, paid showers, and private booths for rental. You might get so comfortable, you don’t wish to leave even after the skies have cleared.

2-in-1 Solution

Some super sentos, such as Manyo-no-Yu in Fukuoka city, have massive manga collections in their relaxation rooms. Manyo-no-Yu has a collection of over 10,000 titles.

9. Embrace Bad Weather

Again, when it is but a constant drizzle, it might not be that awful an idea to let your hair down for a few hours and just venture out. While you will get wet and possibly a little grimy, chances are, you might also be rewarded with sights most other tourists do not get to see.

Moreover, with everybody else hiding indoors, typically overcrowded attractions should be blissfully empty. In some cases, this might be your best opportunity to enter a popular attraction without having to queue beforehand for an hour. Momentarily, the beauty of Japan is all yours.

Drenched torii offerings at Fushimi Inari Shrine during a bad weather day.
Drenched torii offerings at Fushimi Inari Shrine during a bad weather day.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Kuan Leong Yong

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