Photo: iStock/ Satoshi-K

5 popular hobbies to try in Japan

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By Lilly Seiler

After moving to Japan, the excitement and chaos eventually settle, and you might find yourself stuck in a daily routine. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your week, why not pick up a new hobby? There are tons of unique Japanese pastimes, plus Western hobbies and sports just as loved in Japan.

Pursuing a hobby in Japan is a fantastic way to get that extra cultural immersion while working on your personal growth. As a plus, you can make new friends, connect within the community and access a creative outlet for stress relief and self-expression.

Here are five popular and accessible hobbies in Japan:

1. Playing the Koto

The traditional koto takes a lot of time a dedication. Photo: iStock: razvan

For the musically inclined, the koto is a gorgeous instrument to try. The koto is a traditional stringed instrument played in Japan for millennia. Its quiet, delicate sound is commonly utilized in Japanese classical music. Practicing the koto is similar to practicing the guitar, where learners benefit most through one-on-one instruction. You’ll also need to know a bit of Japanese, as chords are typically found on the side and written in kanji.

A unique aspect of playing the koto is using tsume picks, which are worn around the right hand’s index, middle fingers and thumb. They’re a cross between guitar picks and fingernails and can be tricky to get used to. Try searching for tutors online with these terms:

琴 レッスン (koto ressun/ koto lesson)

初 心者向むけの琴教室  (shoshinsha muke no koto kyoshitsu/ koto classroom for beginners)

琴の先生 (koto no sensei/ koto teacher)

You can also visit your local community center, music schools or universities. When in doubt, ask around! I was offered twice to practice for free with some co-workers who happened to own a koto as well, so don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. In my experience, Japanese locals are happy for the opportunity to share their culture.

Koto playing is a beautiful way to learn more about Japanese culture while expressing yourself through music.

2. Ceramics

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© GaijinPot

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It’s not on the list, but I’d like to learn to play shogi. I can already play chess, Chinese chess and, to a limited extent, go. Would be interesting to see if there are any similarities.

Out of the ones up there, I wouldn’t mind giving ceramics a try (would like to make a fruit bowl).

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