‘Japan is never boring - the 13 coolest things to see and do’

‘Pet a meerkat, buy a cat hat, eat a sea urchin, heated toilet seats, drink a can of wine -this is the life’

Japan is never boring and always bemusing. If you are planning a visit to Japan, or are there already for the Rugby World Cup, here are my top tips on things to do and watch out for during your visit that will bring a smile to your face:

Wine in a can

Before Britain's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott got an awful time for drinking a cocktail in a can on a train, we were drinking wine in a can in Japan where it can be bought in vending machines up and down the land. This is Chardonnay, so you can stay classy. You can get hot coffee in a can from vending machines too. Heaven is a place on earth.

Hot seats


The highlight of any stay - the toilets. Simply wash and go. Sit down, read the paper on a heated toilet seat and all you need to do is press a button. The water closets do all the work you will ever need. It is hot at the moment in Tokyo, so the Ireland squad might not need to feel the heat from the seat, but in wintertime, it is the gift that keeps on giving. The campaign for #JapaneseJacks for Ireland starts here.

Seven Sushi

Food is brilliant in Japan. It is all good and the art of never-ever tipping is an interesting concept.The Japanese find it insulting. Workers are paid adequately in Japan I was told, therefore they do not rely on the guessing game of tipping to pay their rent. Try Japanese curry emporia, but don’t do what I did and go full monty in the mistaken belief that the Japanese don’t like it hot. They do. Try sushi. Try yakitori. Try everything. Finally, try sea urchin. It is a taste sensation. Who knew?

Amuse yourself

Before Tokyo, Bray was my high spot for amusements. The bar has now been raised. Who doesn’t need another Pikachu? Tick. As for a hat for a cat ... why didn’t we think of that? Maybe it is because in Ireland we are apparently relatively new to specialist cat food, rather than scraps. We are certainly new to cat hats, but for 100 yen (or 84 cents), they are certainly something to bring back for the cat.

That’s the way to do it

This week The Irish Times Rugby Correspondent Gerry Thornley marvelled at the Japanese ability to wait in an orderly line. That's a queue folks. They have even immortalised the queue by drawing it on every platform in every town. Guess what? They get on that line and every train leaves on time. Who would have thought it?


While the chatter is of amusements, make sure you visit a Pachinko emporium. You won’t have time to work out how it works, but your shiny metal balls may win you some money. It is noisy and you won’t influence anyone, but you might make friends - the sort of friends you might not swap addresses with.

Mister Donut

You may scoff. Actually you will scoff. Forget sliced pan, the Japanese have the best flour in the world. Donuts are cheap and cheerful. And light. You can use your Pasmo (Metro) card in the local convenience store where you can pick up the lightest crustless egg sandwiches in the world. That is official.

Scarlett for ya

Naturally Lost in Translation puns abound during the Rugby World Cup. But hey ho, if you listen carefully you will see the fiscal sense. Wait till opening time. Go up in the lift to the bar actors Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray hung out in The Park Hyatt, Tokyo. For the price of a swanky cocktail and all the posh nuts you can eat, a man will tinkle the ivories, and you can sit in leather chair, enjoy the views and feel like a star. Or pay the same money for entry to a government building, see the view, but do it on the dry and with no nuts. You decide.

Battle for equality

Women in Japan are amazing. They play rugby, they do sumo (outside the ring as not all the battles are won), they are champing at the bit for equality. The ads in Tokyo scream inclusivity. The women of Fukuoka are inspirational and supportive (shout out to Tomoe and Megumi). A lot done, more to do, but they are doing it. Go sisters.

Petting animals

This is a country that has immortalised stroking animals and drinking lager. There is nothing not to like about that unless you aren’t fond of animals, which I’m not. I like lager though.


Making rugby results pale into insignificance, Japan plays respectful host and memory keeper to some of humanity's greatest atrocities. If you get the opportunity to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki do. Make an origami peace crane and sign the non-nuclear proliferation treaty.

Exactly what it says on the tin

The Japanese know how to name their shops. I have nothing else to say.

At the touch of a button

Learn the art ordering food and drink on on iPad. For the anti-social this is a boon. You don’t need Japanese if you are only saying arrigato (thankyou ) for your beer and meat on a stick. Konichiwa ....

All photographs taken on last year’s holiday to see my son in Japan. He is still there. Thanks for asking