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  • Five unusual things to see or do in Japan

    Japan, the land of hot springs, temples and cherry blossoms is the perfect destination for a culturally-fulfilling holiday. There are places that you should not miss when visiting this fascinating country: medieval castles, parks, cutting-edge buildings and amusement parks. But there is another face to Japan, one that is not necessarily marketed towards tourists, a face that may seem strange to the western eye, but which is ultimately even more fun and interesting than the beaten track.

    This list will help you discover some of the less mainstream attractions of Japan, which will surely leave you with a thirst to discover more about this fascinating country and its people. Wander down the backstreets of Tokyo, enter a few secluded and unusual clubs and visit places that you won’t find listed on standard-fare tourist brochures.

    Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo

    Tokyo is a goldmine when it comes to strange museums and exhibitions, but the Meguro Parasitological Museum tops them all. As the name suggests, you will be presented with the sight of hundreds, maybe thousands, of parasites that find their homes in the human bodies. Neatly preserved in glass cases and jars, metre-long tapeworms welcome the amazed eyes of visitors.

    The museum hosts various species of worms and other less than savoury inhabitants of the body. In addition, you can purchase t-shirts, keychains and other objects with images of, you guessed it, parasites.

    Akihabara , Tokyo

    Each neighbourhood of Tokyo is as large as a city, and each of them have their own individual features. Harajuku is well-known for its outrageous fashion, Omotesando for its architecture, and Ginza for tis high-class stores. Akihabara is the realm of geeks, technology-fans, otaku (fans of Japanese cartoons) and other fringe groups.

    Walk at night in Akihabara, and you will feel like you have been transported into a science-fiction film: bright neon lights everywhere, oversized adverts and skyscrapers with the occasional small shop nestled between them. Take your pick from the newest gadgets and comic books, or have a cup of coffee in a typical “maid cafe” where the waitresses are dressed in costumes from popular cartoon series.

    Para-para dance clubs

    One of the particularities of Japanese youth culture is the fact that there are virtually dozens of subcultures, each with their particularities and tastes. Gogyarus, girls who try to emulate the looks of California girls with extremely tanned skin, blond hair and striking make-up, have developed a dance of their own which is gaining popularity all over Japan.

    Para-para is a type of synchronized group dancing to the tunes of Eurobeat songs. It’s fun, exciting, and you’ll get the chance to mingle with the local youth. If you happen to pass by a neon-lit nightclub with the sounds of 90’s electro music blaring from it, you’ll know that you hit the right spot for a bit of para-para.

    Cosplay

    Cosplay, or costume play, is a type of performance art in which the participants dress up as their favourite characters from films, books, manga or anime (Japanese comic books and cartoons). Cosplayers usually make the costumes themselves, and put a painstaking amount of effort into looking as similar as possible to their chosen characters.

    Even if you are not a fan of a particular show, you will most likely recognize a familiar character or two. Cosplay conventions are quite common in Japan, especially in the larger cities, so you’ll probably bump into a couple of them during your stay in the country.

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