Freaky, geeky Japan: 11 quirky things to do for travelers

Freaky, geeky Japan: 11 quirky things to do for travelers

Dressed in a French maid uniform, a young, pretty Japanese girl with long brown-dyed hair kneels next to our table: “What can I get you, Master?” she asks with a soft, but high voice while making a small bow.

This is not an adult movie or a manga comic. This is real. This is a Maid Cafe. This is Japan.

During my travels in Japan I came across a few wonderfully odd and interesting experiences ranging from cute and nerdy to futuristic and downright bizarre. Go beyond the traditional Japan sights with these alternative ’11 quirky Japanese things to do’. All are easy to arrange or see and will give you loads of geeky fun!

Flights with a Hello Kitty theme 

The. Best. Flight. Ever. Ok, this is EVA Airlines (a Taiwanese airline company), but this flight was the perfect start of my Japan trip. Even the flight attendant ended her welcome talk with ‘We wish you a happy Hello Kitty flight’! How cute is that?

Quirky Japan Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty-themed waiting room and airplane. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Futuristic Japanese toilets

Never a dull moment during a visit to a hi-tech Japanese toilet. Adjust the water pressure, use the bidet or press the flushing sound (my favorite). Afterwards, if needed, you can use the deodorizer.

Quirky Japan Toilet
Japanese toilet. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Lattes and cats at the Cat Cafe

Cat cafe’s are the gathering place for those who love overpriced lattes and of course… cats. I’m more of dog person, and even in a cat cafe, where you would think all cats would be snuggly and cuddly, I didn’t feel much of a connection. Still, it’s a big hit in Japan and a cool and geeky Japan must-do!

Quirky Japan Cat Cafe
Cat Cafe. ©Hans.

Role play at a Maid cafe

‘Welcome home, master’. This is how we were greeted upon entering the Maid Cafe. A Maid Cafe is one of the most curious things I’ve ever been to. It’s all about pink, cute (kawaii) and masters and maids. The Maid thing goes quite far and they often have thousands of fans. Some ‘geeks’ even pay weekly visits to the same maid. You can drink coffee, eat cake or play (against payment) a simple game against one of the maids. What a world!

Home Cafe is the most famous Maid Cafe chain. You can find a number of Maid Cafe’s in Akihabara in Tokyo, the electronics district. Find their website here.

Quirky Japan Maid Cafe
Maid Cafe in Tokyo. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Comic books and cheap sleeps at a Manga kissa 

A dream come true for all manga lovers and a highlight of your geeky Japan experience!

Step 1: Enter a manga kissa (they are in every city)
Step 2: Choose a comic book from their large manga library
Step 3: Retreat to your own private cubicle with a large comfy chair, a computer and video games.
Step 4: Enjoy, read and relax!
(Step 5 for travelers: Stay overnight. Some manga cafe’s allow you to stay overnight (like I did to save money). One night is only about 2500Y.)

Quirky Manga Kissaten
Manga kissa. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Claustrophobic in a capsule hotel

Capsule hotels… Although primarily meant for Japanese business men who are too drunk to go home, capsule hotels are also very suitable for low-budget travelers because of the reasonable price. I slept in a female capsule hotel in Nagoya and absolutely loved it. My capsule was approximately 1 meter high and 2 meters long and in one room there can be as many as 50 capsules stacked together. You can book your own night in a Tokyo capsule hotel here! 

Quirky Japan Capsule Hotel
Capsule Hotel. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Juicy honey vending machine

I only saw these juicy honey vending machines once in Tokyo, but they sell small keychains with the voice of a girl (making for example a moaning sound). Who doesn’t want to have that on their keyring?

Quirky Japan machine
Juicy Honey Vending Machine. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Luck and loss at Pachinko

Pachinko is a typically Japanese arcade game and if you’re in Tokyo you will hear the loud noise of the bouncing small silver pinballs all around you. In the centre of the machine is a screen playing (of course) an anime movie!

Quirky Japan Pachinko
Pachinko. ©Bunch of Backpackers

The Ganguro girls

The Ganguro girls are a Japanese fashion culture. These girls love dark tan and flashy make-up, strongly contrasting the traditional Asian beauty concept of pale skin and sweet neutral make-up tones.

Note: The girl on my photo (taken in Tokyo) is a mild (or no) Ganguro girl. WikiHow published a useful guide on How to Look Like a Ganguro Girl. 

Quirky Japan girl
Shibuya and Japanse girl. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Fun with vending machines

From remote mountain temples to Japanese city bathhouses, vending machines can be found everywhere throughout the country. The vending machines are often quite futuristic and sell everything from underwear and comic books to soft drinks and beer. Both the vending machines and the products scream: “Buy me… buy me…”

Quirky Japan vending machines
Vending machine. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Japanese transport: fast, frequent and on time

Japan is world famous for the punctuality of its trains, but in general all modes of transport are fast, frequent and on time. Also, cabins are clean and they provide good meals in the long-distance (lightning-fast) trains. If only it wasn’t so expensive!

Quirky Japan punctuality
Trains Japan. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Getting lost in the streets of Harajuku

I love Harajuku! It’s so colorful, poppy, unusual, geeky and fun! It’s not only the most famous fashion district of Tokyo, but it also became a complete separate fashion culture with young Harajuku girls and boys. The best day to visit is a sunday, when the nearby Yoyogi park is full of ‘Elvis’ groups playing rock music, Lolita girls and anime characters. It goes without saying Harajuku is perfect for some streetstyle photography.

Quirky Japan Harajuku
Harajuku. ©Bunch of Backpackers

Please note that some of the above-mentioned experiences are also considered ‘strange’ by a majority of Japanese people. 

Update June 18th 2015: This post contains some affiliate links for Hostelworld (my favorite hostelbooking website). Following the links won’t cost you anything extra, but it helps to keep this website up and running and it buys me a beer once in a while ;) 

What do you think of these quirky and geeky Japanese things?

Recommended additional reading: 

11x ‘Do As The Japanese Do’ for Travelers

28 things not to miss in Kenya

Visit Giethoorn, the picturesque Dutch village with no roads

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Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!


  1. Super leuk artikel! Ik ga in juni naar Tokyo en kan niet wachten om sommige van de dingen op je lijstje uit te proberen! Ik ben vooral nieuwsgierig naar Harajuku.

  2. Public transportation is reasonably cheap if you purchase a Japan Rail Pass. They’re valid for train (even the high speed trains!) and bus. Remember though: they can only be purchased outside Japan ahead of you trip.

  3. Japan is a great country but it was confusing to me a little bit and of course it was 7 years ago and I would love to visit in the near future and you are right those trains are always on time.

  4. Hahha, yes i just need to buy one of those. So funny :)
    Where is the vending machines? In the subway?
    I really like your post, i need to do everything when i go to Tokyo :)

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