People often ask me why I continue to find my way back to Japan despite all the other options in the world. The answer is pretty straightforward: safety and relaxation. While there is nothing soothing about navigating the Tokyo subway system, working your way into Japan’s relaxing attractions is like stepping into a hot bath – and not just because of the heat and humidity.

1. Onsen

Photo: Raita Futo

If you’re going to soak in hot springs for your Japanese relaxation experience, there are several options: quiet escapes with a romantic partner to places in the countryside where you will have a private bath and meals; trendy urban bathhouses with pools smelling like ramen and champagne. Whatever waters you desire, Japan has them.

2. Ryokan

Photo: Sharonang

If you want to escape Tokyo for a night or two, an evening in a traditional Japanese inn is not only a unique cultural experience, but a relaxing one. Arrive with enough time for tea and changing into your yukata (loose robes) before having a dinner of fish, rice, noodles, and veggies in a beautiful presentation. Sleeping on a futon over tatami mats makes you feel like you’re sinking into the floor… but the buckwheat hull-filled pillows aren’t to everyone’s liking.

3. Massage

Photo: Easmane

There are sketchy places to get that kind of “special” massage, but for the most part the practice is professional in Japan. Deep pressure, or shiatsu, massages can be found for as little as 3-4000 yen/hour if you shop around… just be sure to tell them you like it strong.

4. Nature

Outside the bright lights of Shinjuku are a variety of escapes that make themselves available at different times of the year. Cherry blossom season and its parties are well known, but autumnal colors and celebrations come in at a close second. Wisteria season in May isn’t too far behind. If you need something a bit more tactile, you can always pet the deer in Nara or hike a mountain when the crowds aren’t out.

5. Cat cafes

While many of the other animal cafes in Japan are ethically questionable – owls, for one – cat cafes are filled with enchanting felines, young and old, with some available for adoption. Grab a drink and pet some kitties.