Sightseeing – what to book in advance

Whether you need to book any sightseeing in advance depends on what you plan to see. Some attractions have limited tickets each day and sell out quickly so it’s worth booking these as early as possible. For other attractions booking in advance means you avoid waiting in queues. You may also want to book in advance so that everything is organised, or to simplify money management.

What should you book in advance?

Tickets for some popular attractions and events sell out quickly. It’s worth checking the website to see how far in advance tickets are released, and then getting in to book as soon as possible after they are released. In this category are:

Ghibli Museum

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Sumo matches

Seasonal geisha performances in Kyoto (Miyako Odori, Kamogawa Odori and others, often able to be purchased through your local JTB office or booked via your hotel.)

Fuji Rock

In some cases, such as the Yayoi Kusama Museum, they won’t even sell tickets at the entrance. For some other attractions it is usually possible to buy tickets on the day, but buying tickets in advance will save wasting time in queues. This applies to:

Teamlab Borderless


Universal Studios

During busy holiday periods, tickets may also sell out for these attractions.

Japan has a system of “goodwill guides” who are volunteer tourist guides. They speak English (and other foreign languages) and will show visitors around free of charge, although you are expected to pay their expenses such as transport, admissions and lunch. These guides need to be booked at least two weeks in advance, so you and the guide can arrange where to meet and what to see. This is a popular service and at times there may not be enough volunteer guides available

What should you avoid booking in advance

For attractions where booking in advance isn’t necessary, consider whether you want to do so because you want to have everything organised, or whether it would be better to retain some flexibility.

Enjoyment of attractions such as Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo City View can be heavily influenced by the weather, so you may want to wait until closer to the date to decide whether to go. The same applies for day tours to places such as Hakone, where the view of Mt Fuji is heavily weather dependent.

Final words

Having booked an attraction, tour or activity, make sure that you know how to get there, and that you get there by the specified time. Punctuality is highly valued in Japan and if you are late, the tour may have already departed or your time slot for a museum or activity may no longer be available.

I have linked to the official website of the relevant attraction or event and I do not get any commission as a result of you clicking through to the website. There are various tour agencies or booking sites that may offer tickets, sometimes as part of a package. Check carefully that they are authorised to resell tickets, and that the price is reasonable compared to the official site.

If there is something you would really like to go to and you can’t find an official website, try a JTB office in your country. They sell tickets to many attractions and events.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.