There are the places that everyone recommends you visit… the temples of Kyoto… Nara’s giant Buddha statue… the cement jungle that is Tokyo…
To those people I say “bah” and “pshhh, you don’t know what you’re missing out on,” because there’s a whole category of places you’d never think of visiting in Japan that aren’t on the radars of pretty much any Japan travel resources. Some of these areas are what’s known as Bkyuu (B級 = B-rank) spots. As in, where the “Akyuu” spots are the Golden Pavilions and the Todaijis and the Tokyo Towers of the world, the “Bkyuu” spots are the less touristy, weirder, and usually harder to get to. Luckily for you, these are the places I tend to spend most of my time in.
Some of these places we’ve written about – others we’ll be writing and doing video about in the future. All of them are Bkyuu and off the beaten track. The kinds of places people aren’t telling you about.
Okunoshima aka Rabbit Island
In WWII, Okunoshima had a big ol’ poison gas factory. Now, it’s an island covered in rabbits (and possibly some buried containers of poison gas, but that’s just in case the rabbits grow intelligent, I’m sure). One theory is that after the war they were going to kill all the rabbits to help hide the evidence, but local youngsters let them all free before anyone could do that. Today, with a lack of predators and 50+ years of breeding time, there’s a rabbit infestation. Thankfully, tourists seem to like rabbits. It’s also home to a government-run hotel (very nice, I’ve been there), a museum, and some haikyo (ruins) if the rabbits aren’t doing it for you. If you like to feed rabbits, hang out on islands, and walk/bike around a lot, Okunoshima’s your very own rabbit paradise. Be warned, it’s gotten pretty popular in the years since I’ve been there, so grab a reservation to the hotel a few weeks in advance.
Makomanai Takino (aka Easter Island, Japan)
You could go to see the the Moai statues over on Easter Island, or, you could just head on up to the Makomonai Takino Cemetary in Hokkaido, Japan for a somewhat less original experience. It’s a little ways outside of Sapporo, and hard to get to in the winter (all that snow!), but seems like a nice and relaxing (and bizarre) day trip to me. I’m hoping to make it here the next time I’m in Hokkaido when it’s not during blizzard season. If the Moai statues aren’t enough for you, there’s also a Stonehenge replication and daibutsu (giant Buddha) there as well and 1,800,473㎡ worth of land to explore. It’s also a cemetery too.
Meguro Parasite Museum
A half-day is all you need to visit the Meguro Parasite Museum in the Meguro district of Tokyo. Why would you want to visit a parasite museum, let alone this one? Well, first of all, this is the only parasite museum in the world. So, if you’re going to visit one, it’s going to be this one. Second, you’re never going to be able to see things like this in person unless you’re the proud host of said parasites. Come here to enjoy giant tape worms, parasitic turtle heads, educational maps, and more! We spent maybe an hour or so here, but it was very educational and interesting. So, if you’re into science, or if you’re just into weird things, head on over to the Meguro Parasite Museum. Give them a donation, though, they need your yens to do all that parasite-related research upstairs!
Jesus Christ’s Gravesite
We wrote about how Jesus trekked over to Japan (while letting his brother die on the cross) a couple thousands years ago, but it’s worth bringing up again for this Bkyuu list. Why? Well, I think it’s an interesting story. That being said, I wouldn’t make a pilgrimage out here (even for the Christ Matsuri), but if you are in Aomori already, perhaps traversing the distance between Hokkaido and Central Japan, it might be worth the trip. You may even meet one of Jesus’ Japanese ancestors, if you’re lucky!
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
I’m not super into Osaka, but there were times in my (younger) life where I was really into instant ramen. Of course, the king of instant ramen is Cup Noodle, and yes, there’s a Cup Noodle Museum. Not only can you learn about the history of Cup Noodle (pretty interesting, actually!) but you can also make your own Cup Noodle, which I think is the best part. I’m not going to be eating mine… that is until some future night where I’m really hungry and really desperate.
Oh, and if you haven’t eaten Japanese Cup Noodle, you’re in for a treat. It’s quite different from the non-Japanese version and actually tastes good, I think. You’d be surprised at the difference.
Yoro Park: The Site Of Reversible Destiny
Also known as the “Site of Reversible Destiny” (that should give you an idea), this park was made by Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, and is one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever been. It’s designed to be that way, though, so you can go there expecting upside down buildings, giant dangerous tree holes, and places scary for people who don’t like heights.
I also made a video about it a while back, when I visited with my friend Hiroyuki.
This was one of the most interesting places I’ve been to, I think. Every turn was a mini-adventure with something to explore and discover.
Tashirojima, aka Cat Island
A “bizarre places Japan” list wouldn’t be complete without Cat Island! I visited here a couple months before the Tohoku Earthquake. Then, we visited it again in February of this year (“Return To Cat Island” anyone?). If you’re into cats, this is your cat paradise. The island has had it rough with an aging population and damage from the Tohoku Earthquake, but you can get there again now and there are plenty of cats ready to try and murder you for sustenance the moment you turn around…
Here’s Part 1 of the Cat Island Trilogy…
Bonus: Did you know a group of cats is called a Clowder? There are many clowders here.
While some of these places have been around a while, this one is fairly new. The Robot Restaurant in Tokyo is… uh… I don’t know how to describe it, to be honest. You pay your 4000ish yen, you go inside, you sit, and you eat your terrible bento (you’re not here for the food, that’s for sure). Then, the show begins. Scantily clad ladies do battle in giant robot / panda / Captain America suits. Then, they ride out on giant robot ladies. Then there are dinosaurs. Then, people fly around slowly and you give them high fives. Not sure how else to describe it, but it’s a weird experience leaving me scratching my head while smiling and laughing at the same time.
Jigokudani (aka Monkey Park)
I’ve been here a couple times now, and it’s verging on not being a Bkyuu spot anymore, but I’m going to include it anyways. You can do a day trip from Tokyo to here, but I recommend staying the night somewhere nearby so you can arrive early. There are other things to do here, but of course the main attraction is the macaques. They spend time warming themselves in the hot springs (uh oh, they’re leaaarrnninng). They’re also very tame, and will often let you get within inches of their face to take pictures. Don’t blame me if they tear off your face with their monkey strength. They’re still wild after all.
Mostly, though, I’d recommend you get there early. People will snag the best spots and never, ever leave (I’m looking at you Australian tourists). I’m thinking that they’re peeing into catheter or wearing Depends™. It’s the only way.
World’s Shortest Escalator
We found this gem thanks to hippikiller (his video below)… the world’s shortest escalator! This is like… ironic tourism at its best. You can go down this escalator hundreds of times if you want, and nobody will care, you included! Afterwards, I recommend going up one of the longer escalators so you can really feel the difference. Also, go to the game center in the building because you’ll probably be really bored by this point.
Still, it’s an easy day-trip out of Tokyo, so if you need to mark another check off your Guinness Book Of World Records checklist you can do it quite easily (and quickly).
More Bizarre Japanese Tourist Spots
So, I know there’s a lot more out there worth visiting, but these were my ten. I was thinking about throwing in Naoshima for the James Bond Museum or perhaps Zauo, the restaurant where you can catch your own fish (indoors!). What (odd/Bkyuu) places do you recommend in Japan? I know there’s a million more Bkyuu places in Japan worth (or not worth) visiting, so what are your tops?