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Best places to visit in japan.

Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan's civilization dates as far back as 30,000 years. Today, the archipelago seamlessly blends its rich history with its ultra-modern present. And while its capital, Tokyo, is a must-visit for first timers, Japan has so much more to offer travelers of all types, from cherry blossoms to white sand beaches to soothing onsen (hot spring spas). U.S. News took into account cultural attractions, culinary options and accessibility (among other factors) to bring you the best places to visit in Japan. Have a favorite? Vote below to help decide next year's ranking.

Izu Peninsula

japan top travel destinations

This metropolis is a feast for the senses. Neighborhoods like Ginza and Akihabara buzz with flashing lights and larger-than-life shopping, while Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Imperial Palace give you a look into Japan's storied past. There are also a number of green spaces like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which acts as a place to escape from the chaotic, concrete jungle. What's more, Tokyo is regularly regarded as a top foodie city thanks in part to its abundant Michelin-starred restaurants (the most you'll find in any city in the world), so come hungry.

japan top travel destinations

Travelers most interested in Japan's history and traditions should head to Kyoto. Centrally located on the archipelago, Kyoto has long been considered the cultural capital of Japan. Here, you'll find more than 1,000 Buddhist temples and 400-plus Shinto shrines (you can't miss the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha), including a whopping 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can also stroll through geisha districts like Gion and Miyagawacho, admire classic wooden architecture and visit traditional teahouses before checking out more modern attractions, such as the Kyoto Aquarium.

japan top travel destinations

Nikko is the place to go to see lavish architecture surrounded by nature. Head to Nikko National Park, one of Japan's oldest national parks, to enjoy an up-close look at traditional structures situated alongside mountains, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. The park is especially beautiful in fall when its trees display vivid shades of yellow, red and orange. The 103 Edo-era (1603–1868) temples and shrines in Nikko include world-renowned sites like Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple.

japan top travel destinations

Situated about 35 miles southwest of Kyoto, this port city is worth a visit for its food alone. One of the city's most famous dishes, the tasty pancake-like okonomiyaki (which means "grilled as you like it" in Japanese), is made with batter, cabbage and your choice of meat and other toppings. After you've gotten your fill of the delectable local cuisine, explore the flashy Dotonbori neighborhood, check out the reconstructed 16th-century Osaka Castle or head to contemporary sights like Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

japan top travel destinations

As Japan's second most populous city, Yokohama is often touted as a more approachable and more affordable alternative to Tokyo (located 22 miles northeast). As one of the country's first ports to open to international trade, Yokohama features unique culture fusions, including a sizable expat population, Western-style buildings in the Yamate area and the largest Chinatown in Japan (it has more businesses than residents). While here, visitors can explore Minato Mirai 21, the city's modern central district teeming with skyscrapers and shopping malls, and visit museums ranging from the Cup Noodles Museum to the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum.

japan top travel destinations

More than 160 islands comprise Okinawa, a top destination for snorkeling and diving. The Japanese prefecture boasts proximity to multiple coral reefs teeming with fish, manta rays and hammerhead sharks that you can access from beautiful beaches like those found on Okinawa's Kerama Islands. These 20-plus islands are also ideal places to see migrating whales between January and March. Back on the main island, visitors will find one of the world's largest aquariums, several castle ruins and a museum that focuses on Okinawa's unique history and culture. And on the less developed Iriomote Island, adventurous travelers can hike to awe-inspiring waterfalls.

japan top travel destinations

Spared from World War II air raids and the major natural disasters that have affected other Japanese cities, Kanazawa on the western coast is home to some of the country's best-preserved architecture from the Edo period. Sites like Kanazawa Castle, Seisonkaku Villa and Myoryuji temple are popular among visitors, as are the Higashi Chaya geisha district and Nagamachi Samurai District. Plus, no trip to Kanazawa would be complete without a visit to the resplendent Kenrokuen Garden. With its water features, bridges and a variety of flowering trees that add beauty to any season, Kenrokuen is often described as the perfect garden.

japan top travel destinations

Nestled in the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, Takayama is ideal for visitors looking for a rural retreat with a dose of history. Start your visit with a rickshaw ride through the well-preserved old town, which features sake breweries, traditional residences and shops that date back to the feudal ages. Then, head to the Hida Folk Village, a former farming village with 30 gassho-style houses. When you've worked up an appetite, indulge in must-try local specialties including Hida beef and Takayama ramen. To further immerse yourself in Takayama culture, visit during the Takayama Festival, held for two days every spring and fall.

japan top travel destinations

The country's tallest mountain and one of its most iconic landmarks is a popular destination for outdoor recreation. For centuries, Japanese artists and poets have been inspired by Mount Fuji's almost perfectly round form. The Fuji Five Lakes region at the foot of this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes a great base for the thousands of climbers who visit each year. Enjoy the area's museums and amusement park during the warmer months. Or, arrive in winter to soak in the onsen and ski Mount Fuji's slopes.

japan top travel destinations

Located on Kyushu (Japan's third-largest island), Fukuoka offers travelers a mix of urban sprawl, sandy coastlines and ancient temples and shrines. Can't-miss sights include Tochoji Temple – home of the largest sitting wooden Buddha in Japan – and Nokonoshima Island, which features colorful flower fields and beautiful views of the surrounding bay. Fukuoka is also known for its incredible Hakata ramen, so be sure to try this tasty dish at one of the city's many food stalls. Plan your visit around one of Fukuoka's lively festivals, such as the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, which takes place throughout the first half of July.

japan top travel destinations

Head to the smallest of Japan's four main islands if you're looking to get off the beaten path. Shikoku is best known for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage – a nearly 750-mile loop that covers sacred sites around the island. Whether you're trekking this path or creating your own, you'll encounter Shikoku's natural beauty (think: forest-covered mountains and an unspoiled coastline). Meanwhile, the city of Kochi features cheap eats and a well-preserved castle. If you're visiting in mid-August, add Shikoku's cultural pinnacle, Awa Odori, to your itinerary. One of the most famous festivals in Japan, this dance celebration in the city of Takushima is a must-do.

japan top travel destinations

Mountainous Hakone is one of Japan's most popular hot spring destinations. Nestled within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the town features 17 different hot springs, plus a hot spring theme park with unique baths like one with coffee and another with mulled wine. After you've dried off, visit one of Hakone's art museums, such as the Hakone Open-Air Museum, the Okada Museum of Art or the Hakone Museum of Art. No Hakone vacation would be complete without enjoying spectacular views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashinoko and the Komagatake Ropeway.

japan top travel destinations

After an earthquake caused significant damage to the city in 1995, Kobe rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan city. You'll want to remember to bring your appetite when you visit. Kobe is famous for its namesake beef, as well as its sake. It's also considered one of Japan's most attractive cities, with sleek architecture and beautiful green spaces like Sorakuen Garden. For some of the city's best views – especially at sunset – go to the top of Mount Rokko or ride the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway. End your evening exploring Nankinmachi (Kobe's compact Chinatown) or dining at one of Kobe Harborland's waterfront restaurants.

japan top travel destinations

For many, Hiroshima brings up memories of war, as the city is where the world's first atomic bomb attack occurred in 1945. But today, Hiroshima is a city of peace, with the vast Peace Memorial Park as the center for monuments and memorials like the  the Children's Peace Monument and the UNESCO-certified Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome). It is also a city of great beauty. Travelers can take a scenic stroll through Shukkeien Garden, peruse the exhibits at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art or visit Sandankyo Gorge to hike or boat past its beautiful waterfalls, caves and coves.

japan top travel destinations

Tourists flock to the island of Miyajima (formally named Itsukushima) for its prime attraction: Itsukushima Shrine and its postcard-worthy torii gate. To see the shrine at its most picturesque, try to visit during high tide, when the gate appears to float on the water. Since the island is just a 30-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima, it makes for a great day trip. However, visitors may want to stay the night at a charming ryokan (Japanese-style inn) to experience Miyajima at its most serene and walk by the illuminated shrine at night.

japan top travel destinations

An outdoor-lover's delight, Matsumoto is just 22 miles east of Kamikochi, an awe-inspiring valley in the Hotaka mountain range. But though it serves as a gateway to the Japanese Alps, this city in central Japan should not be skipped over. As the birthplace of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, known for polka dots and pumpkins, Matsumoto pays her tribute at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. Meanwhile, those who prefer more ancient masterpieces can visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the oldest and grandest castles in the country.  

japan top travel destinations

Japan's first permanent capital is famous for housing the Great Buddha, a nearly 50-foot-tall bronze statue of Buddha. You'll find this jaw-dropping national treasure in Nara's Todaiji temple, which is the one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. While on the temple grounds, explore the deer-filled Nara Park and the ornate Kasuga Taisha shrine. Also save time for visiting Yakushiji Temple, one of Japan's oldest temples that dates back to A.D. 730.

japan top travel destinations

This peninsula situated 62 miles southwest of Tokyo makes a great getaway from the busy city. It is popular among locals and tourists alike thanks to its relaxing hot springs and stunning beaches. These, along with various museums and ryokans, can be found in cities like Atami and Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula's eastern coast. During spring visits, travelers will also want to check out Kawazu's vibrant pink blooms at the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival. Meanwhile, on the southern and western coasts, vacationers will find more rugged yet equally scenic coastlines, such as Cape Irozaki and Dogashima.

Vote to Add these Destinations to the Rankings

japan top travel destinations

Chubu Sangaku National Park

japan top travel destinations

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

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Japan is somewhere I think everyone should visit. From futuristic skyscrapers to tranquil bamboo forests and neon arcades to serene temples, it’s like nowhere else on the planet.

The food is incredible, the people are ultra polite, and it has one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. We love the combination of ease of travel and glorious bewilderment.

Japan has so much to offer but where should you start? These are our picks for the 10 best places to visit in Japan, perfect for your first or second trip to the country (plus extra suggestions for the repeat visits that are likely to happen!).

I’ve included our favourite things to do in each place, how long to spend there, and where we stayed. At the end of the post you’ll find a map of all these Japan destinations to start planning your route. 

I recommend mixing a few of the popular cities (most people won’t want to miss Tokyo and Kyoto) with some quieter, more rural places in Japan to see a different side of the country and take a break from the crowds.

Video of Japan Must Sees

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Watch our short video for ideas on where to go in Japan for an amazing trip.

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Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, one of the best places to visit in Japan

If you only have time for one Japan destination, make it Kyoto.

This is traditional Japan as you imagined it—geisha in brightly coloured kimonos emerging from wooden teahouses, forests of bamboo, temples and shrines in gold and silver and scarlet, raked gravel Zen gardens, intricate feasts served on lacquered plates, graceful tea ceremonies, and markets full of intriguing but unidentifiable ingredients.

The concrete high-rises of downtown Kyoto can be disappointing, so head out towards the mountains to the surrounding neighbourhoods where you’ll find narrow stone streets, old wooden houses, monks in flowing robes, and the sounds of chanting and gongs from the many temples and shrines.

Gion is the place to spot geisha, Higashiyama has many beautiful temples to explore, and Arashiyama, up in the western hills, is one of the most traditional neighbourhoods and home to bamboo groves, quirky temples, and monkeys.

Kyoto is one of the top Japan tourist spots, so try to visit the popular temples early in the morning as they do get crowded.

In Kyoto don’t miss:

  • Wandering through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari shrine.
  • Drinking matcha in a traditional tea ceremony. We loved Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple.
  • Learning to cook traditional Japanese cuisine in a Kyoto cooking class .
  • Taking the train to the village of Kibune and walking across the valley to the beautiful Kurama-dera temple.
  • Retreating from the busy streets of Gion to the magical Yasaka-jinja at night.
  • Strolling the Philosopher’s Path.
  • Experiencing Zen Buddhist cuisine at the Tenryu-ji temple.
  • Getting off the beaten track at the quirky Otagi Nenbutsuji temple .
  • Exploring these magical Kyoto cherry blossom spots  if you visit in late-March or early-April.
  • Enjoying the magnificent autumn colours if you visit in mid to late-November (Eikando and Enkoji are our favourite temples in autumn).

How Long to Spend: 3 nights minimum but 5 nights would be better. We’ve spent two months in Kyoto and still haven’t done everything! A longer stay also allows you to avoid the crowds more easily (you have more early mornings available) and take some of these wonderful day trips from Kyoto .

Read: Our post on the many amazing things to do in Kyoto (and how to avoid the crowds) and our guide to Kyoto’s temples and shrines and the best vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto: For a traditional ryokan, we loved our huge room with private bath overlooking the garden at Ryokan Yachiyo near Nanzenji temple (choose a suite not a standard room). At central Sora Niwa Terrace we enjoyed the amazing view from its onsen and rooftop bar. Or in a quiet part of Gion, Hotel The Celestine is stylish and close to temples. Find more accommodation in Kyoto here .

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo with SkyTree in the background, a top Japan destination

If Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japan, Tokyo is its ultramodern counterpart.

It’s here you’ll find the skyscrapers, noisy arcades, busy pedestrian crossings, quirky youth fashions, and many many incredibly delicious restaurants.

If all you do in Tokyo is eat, you’ll have an amazing time—even as vegetarians we ate so well.

Tokyo is also home to some of the weirdest activities we’ve ever done. From themed cafes (cats, owls, maids, robots, goats—you name it, Tokyo has it) to sensory-overload shows and arcades to cos-play go-karting.

On my first trip to Tokyo I was overwhelmed by the sprawling city and couldn’t help comparing it unfavourably to Kyoto.

On repeat visits I’ve grown to love the city (the food certainly helped) and while it isn’t as attractive as Kyoto, there is so much to do that you won’t want to skip it.

In Tokyo don’t miss:

  • Driving a go-kart on the real roads while dressed as your favourite character. Insanity but so much fun!
  • Eating in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Memory Lane in Shinjuku .
  • Gazing at the 360º skyline from the Shibuya Sky observatory (go at sunset for day and night views)
  • Walking across the famous Shibuya Crossing.
  • Gawping at the outrageous outfits on Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
  • Visiting the brilliant DisneySea (our favourite Disney park in the world!) or neighbouring Tokyo Disneyland (or both if you have two days spare).
  • Immersing yourself in the colourful digital art museum, TeamLab Planets (and don’t miss Uzu vegan ramen afterwards).
  • Watching sumo wrestlers train— we did this morning sumo stable visit and it felt such an honour to see these impressive athletes close up.
  • Drinking green tea at the relaxing Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience (the tea course is worth it).
  • Exploring the cool neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa for cafes, vintage clothes, and record stores.

How Long to Spend: 3 – 5 nights or longer if you want to take day trips (such as to Nikko, Kawaguchiko or Hakone (for Mt Fuji), and Kamakura). We’ve spent over 6 weeks here on various trips and still find new things to do. If time is limited, I would allocate more time to Kyoto than Tokyo. 

Read: 23 cool things to do in Tokyo and the best vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo .

Where to stay in Tokyo: Read why I think Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo . My top pick is Hotel Century Southern Tower next to Shinjuku Station—our panoramic king room had an incredible view and was more spacious than most Tokyo hotel rooms. Or splurge on the luxurious Hotel Park Hyatt where the film Lost in Translation was filmed. Search for hotels in Tokyo here .

Top tip: Consider buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance as it’s so easy being able to hop on and off trains all over the country. Read our Japan Rail Pass guide for full details.

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3) Takayama

Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

Takayama is an utterly gorgeous small town on the edge of the Japan Alps and one of the best less-visited places to go in Japan.

I loved wandering the historic centre full of traditional wooden houses, colourful shrines, neatly shaped trees, and bright red bridges over the river.

In Takayama don’t miss:

  • Wandering the old town in the early morning before the crowds arrive.
  • Buying delicious fruit from the morning markets.
  • Snacking on mitarashi-dango (rice balls grilled in soy) from a street stall.
  • Seeing the extravagant floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
  • Visiting the Hida Folk Village to see traditional thatched houses.
  • Cycling through the countryside with Satoyama Experience .

How Long to Spend: 2-3 nights. We had 2 nights and wished we’d had longer because there’s lots to do in the surrounding countryside. With a longer stay you could take day trips to the traditional thatched roof houses of Shirakawa-go and go hiking in Kamikochi in the Japan Alps.

Read: 54 Best Things to do in Japan for an Unforgettable Trip

Where to stay in Takayama: We stayed at Super Hotel Hida Takayama , a good mid-range business hotel near the train station. Next time I want to stay at Oyado Koto No Yume , a ryokan with onsen which gets excellent reviews. Find more hotels in Takayama here .

Top tip: See our Japan 2 week itinerary for more details on combining these top places in Japan for an amazing trip.

Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi in Hakone, one of the top places in Japan

Mount Fuji is on most people’s lists of places to visit in Japan, but this must-see Japan landmark can be rather elusive and is often hidden by clouds.

There are a number of places you can see the mountain from ( Kawaguchiko is another great option), but Hakone is easy to reach from Tokyo and there are lots of other things to do in the area in case you are out of luck with a sighting.

Despite visiting on a cloudy, drizzly day, we were lucky that Mount Fuji emerged from the clouds above Lake Ashi and it was magical!

Hakone is also fun to visit because you can do a loop of the sights on different modes of transport—train, bus, pirate boat (yes, really!), and cable car.

In Hakone don’t miss:

  • Buying a Hakone Free Pass so you can hop on and off all the transport options on the Hakone Loop.
  • Seeing Mount Fuji from the lake or cable car.
  • Eating a black egg cooked in the hot sulphur springs at volcanic Owakudani (not really, we skipped this, but the Japanese love them).
  • Soaking in an onsen.
  • Staying in a tatami room in a ryokan (traditional inn) and enjoying an elaborate dinner.
  • Wandering the outdoor sculpture gallery at Hakone Open Air Museum .

How Long to Spend: You could visit on a day trip from Tokyo but I recommend 1-2 nights to experience a ryokan and onsen. We had one night and did part of the loop in the afternoon we arrived and the rest in the morning. While it was just enough for the main sights, we wished we’d had longer to enjoy our ryokan.

Where to stay in Hakone: Hotel Musashiya was one of the best places we stayed in Japan. It’s a modern ryokan on the shores of Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone. We loved our comfortable tatami room with lake views, the indoor and outdoor onsen baths (also with lake views), and the delicious vegetarian feast we were served in our room. It was wonderfully relaxing. Find more hotels in Hakone here .

5) Kanazawa

Kazuemachi geisha area in Kanazawa, one of the best cities to visit in Japan

Kanazawa is one of the best cities to visit in Japan, but few foreign tourists make it here.

Consider Kanazawa as a quieter alternative to Kyoto to experience geisha districts with preserved wooden buildings.

There is also one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, a stunning castle, and many art museums to explore.

In Kanazawa don’t miss:

  • Wandering Kenroku-en Garden , one of the top three gardens in Japan.
  • Exploring the wooden teahouses of the geisha districts Higashi Chaya and the quieter Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya.
  • Experiencing a traditional tea ceremony at the exquisite Gyokusen-en Gardens.

How Long to Spend: 2 nights. 

Where to stay in Kanazawa: We stayed in a standard business hotel in the centre—there are lots of budget options. Find hotels in Kanazawa here .

Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, one of the most beautiful places in Japan

Nikko is a temple town and UNESCO world heritage site in the mountains a few hours north of Tokyo and makes a cool retreat from the city. The area is famous for its vibrant autumn colours.

The temples and shrines with their vermillion gates and moss-covered stone lanterns are scattered on the wooded hillside.

The main attraction is Toshogu Shrine, a stunning complex with more than a dozen lavishly decorated red and gold buildings amongst huge, ancient cedar trees. The crowds can be overwhelming, so afterwards head to one of the quieter shrines.

In Nikko don’t miss:

  • Visiting Toshogu Shrine early to avoid the crowds
  • Playing games at atmospheric Futarasan-jinja
  • Exploring Taiyuinbyo
  • Hiking up the mountain to the peaceful Takino shrine
  • Photographing the bright red Shinkyo bridge
  • Munching on dango (grilled rice balls on a stick) from a street stall
  • Eating sushi at Komekichi Kozushi

How Long to Spend: You could visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo, but it’s worth spending a night or two to explore one of the most beautiful places in Japan including hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. 

We had one night and wished we’d had two so that we could have visited Toshogu Shrine early on the second day. 

Where to stay in Nikko: We stayed at Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station , a good budget option conveniently located close to the train stations. For more character, you could stay in a traditional ryokan with views and outdoor onsen baths such as Nikko Hoshino Yado . Find more hotels in Nikko here .

7) Koya-San

Okunoin cemetery in Koya-san, a top Japan destination

Koya-san (Mount Koya) is one of the most interesting places in Japan to experience the traditional side of the country.

This secluded and sacred temple town is located in the forest-covered mountains of Kansai and is one of the best places to get a taste of life as a monk by staying in a shukubo or temple lodging.

After wandering around the otherworldly Okunoin forest cemetery , we checked into our simple tatami room at the temple, soaked in the communal onsen bath, and enjoyed a delicious shojin ryori  vegetarian Buddhist meal.

In the morning we were up early for the chanting and meditation ceremony with the monks.

A temple stay at Koya-san is a fascinating experience and well worth the detour from Osaka or Kyoto.

How Long to Spend: 1 night. 

Read: Sleeping with Monks: A Night in a Japanese Temple in Koya-San

Where to stay in Koya-san: We stayed in Haryo-in, the cheapest temple accommodation, but it’s quite basic and I’d recommend paying more to stay at one of the more traditional temples like 1000-year-old Eko-in which gets superb reviews. Find more temple lodgings here .

Tsumago village in the Kiso Valley, a must see in Japan

Tsumago is a picture-perfect traditional mountain village in the Kiso Valley.

It is one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time on the traffic-less streets of beautifully restored wooden inns.

During the Edo period 300 years ago, Tsumago was a stop on the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo).

You can hike part of this trail to the village of Magome in about two to three hours. Unfortunately, a typhoon prevented us doing this, but it’s supposed to be a scenic and easy walk.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights. If you can arrive early enough on the first day to hike the Nakasendo Way in the afternoon, then 1 night is enough as it’s a tiny village. 

Where to stay in Tsumago: In keeping with the Edo-era atmosphere, stay in a traditional ryokan or minshuku (a simpler family-run inn). We stayed at the basic Minshuku Shimosagaya . Neighbouring Magome has more choice including the budget Chaya Hotel or historic Tajimaya .

Todaiji temple in Nara, a must do in Japan

Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital and is full of historic treasures including many UNESCO world heritage sites.

It’s one of the top Japan attractions and makes a rewarding day trip from Kyoto to visit the temples and wild deer in Nara Park.

The Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha) at Todaiji is the main sight—it’s the largest wooden building in the world and nothing prepares you for the immense sight.

Inside is the 15-metre tall gold and bronze statue of Buddha that dates back to 751.

We also love the forest shrine complex Kasuga Taisha.

How Long to Spend: Most people visit as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. You can see the highlights in half a day but a full day is better.

Where to stay in Nara: The advantages of staying overnight in Nara are avoiding the crowds with an early start and experiencing our favourite ryokan in Japan. Tsukihitei is a small traditional inn with a magical forest setting and delicious meals. It’s only a 15-minute walk to the Nara temples.

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10) hiroshima and miyajima.

Atomic Bomb Dome at Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan

Come to pay your respects to the victims of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima’s moving Peace Memorial Museum and Park and stay to explore the modern city that was almost entirely rebuilt after World War II.

Hiroshima is usually combined with a visit to the famous floating torii gate at Itsukushima shrine on nearby Miyajima Island.

You’ll also want to try the delicious local speciality okonomiyaki, a thick pancake of batter, vegetables and noodles.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights is enough to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima Island or you could visit as a long day trip from Kyoto, Osaka or Okayama. We spent 1 night in Hiroshima then 1 night on Miyajima.

Read: 14 Best Day Trips from Kyoto .

Where to stay in Hiroshima: The Sheraton Grand Hiroshima was the most spacious Western-style hotel we stayed in in Japan. We really appreciated the king size bed after a few weeks of small Japanese hotels. It’s right next to the station too. Find more hotels in Hiroshima here . Where to stay in Miyajima: While you could visit the island on a day trip, we loved seeing the top sights without the crowds at night and early in the morning. Iwaso Ryokan has the perfect location (secluded but central), beautiful meals, and our room had a view of the torii gate.

There are so many incredible places to explore in Japan. Here are some more destinations that we absolutely loved (and it was hard to leave them off the top 10 list!).

If any of these appeal to you more than the ones above (or fit into your itinerary better), then they will be just as enjoyable. 

Busy streets and giant crab of Dotonburi in Osaka at night, a popular day trip from Kyoto

Osaka is a Japan must-see for many visitors. We love the neon craziness of Dotonburi, the amazing food ( for vegetarians too ), friendly people, affordable prices, and the scary rides and brilliant Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Japan . 

But, if you have limited time on your first trip to Japan, I would probably say choose Osaka or Tokyo as they are both sprawling modern cities. 

If you are flying into or out of Kansai airport then it makes sense to spend a night or two in Osaka. You could also visit as a day trip from Kyoto. 

In Osaka, we loved staying in Shinsaibashi . The location is ideal—quiet but close to lots of cool shops and restaurants and within walking distance of Dotonburi. Hotel options include the stylish Hotel The Flag .

12) Kinosaki Onsen

Visitor to Kinosaki Onsen in kimono at night by the cherry blossom lined canal

On our first Japan trip we were terrified of getting naked in onsens, but on our latest visit we were brave enough to spend a few nights in an onsen town. 

Onsen hopping dressed in a kimono in a traditional hot spring resort is a classic Japanese experience. Kinosaki Onsen is a great place to experience it.

It’s only a few hours from Kyoto or Osaka and the canal-side town is very pretty, especially in cherry blossom season.

We stayed in a traditional tatami mat room at Morizuya Ryokan . It’s ideal for first-timers as they speak English and are very friendly, walking you through everything you need to know. The epic meals served in your room are delicious too.

Read our Kinosaki Onsen guide for all the details including onsen etiquette and how to get over your fears. 

13) Naoshima Island

The yellow pumpkin sculpture on Naoshima Art Island in Japan

Contemporary art fans will love Naoshima, a sleepy island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its art galleries and outdoor sculptures. 

We visited on a day trip from Okayama and had a wonderful day cycling around and combining art with beautiful sea views and tiny fishing villages.

Read our Naoshima Island guide for a recommended one day itinerary.

14) Okayama

Cherry blossoms at Handayama Botanical Garden, one of the best things to do in Okayama Japan

If you are interested in getting off-the-beaten-track, Okayama is a great place to visit in Japan. 

This modern city is home to one of the best gardens in the country and is especially beautiful in sakura season when you can enjoy the cherry blossoms without the crowds of Kyoto or Tokyo. 

As it’s on a bullet train line, it’s a convenient and affordable base for exploring the area including the historic Kurashiki, Naoshima Island, Himeji Castle, and Hiroshima.

We also did a fantastic bike trip on the Kibiji Bike Trail through rice fields to untouristy temples. 

Our post on the best things to do in Okayama has all our tips.

15) Himeji Castle

Hineji Castle in cherry blossom season

Himeji Castle is one of the few original castles in Japan (most were destroyed at some point and rebuilt). It’s well worth a visit, especially in cherry blossom season. 

You can easily visit in half a day from Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama (as we did) or on the way to Hiroshima. 

16) Kawaguchiko

Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchiko at sunrise from the north shore

For the best views of Mount Fuji, head to Lake Kawaguchiko. It’s especially lovely in cherry blossom or autumn leaf seasons. 

You can enjoy the views by walking or cycling around the lake or taking a trip on a cable car or boat (we hired a panda pedal boat!).

The lake is also home to one of my favourite museums and tea houses in Japan.

Kawaguchiko Lakeside Hotel is an excellent affordable option here. Unusually for Japan, our room was huge, and it’s close to the lake with Mt Fuji views from some rooms.

See my Lake Kawaguchiko guide for more tips. 

These Japan tourist attractions and off-the-beaten-path gems are on our list for our next trip:

  • Kamakura – Beaches, Buddhas, hikes and vegetarian-friendly food. You could visit as a day trip from Tokyo.
  • The Izu Peninsula – Rugged coastline, mountains, and hot springs not far from Tokyo.
  • Shirakawa-go – A village of traditional grass-roofed houses in a scenic setting. You could fit in a visit between Takayama and Kanazawa.
  • Takaragawa Onsen – A scenic onsen resort a few hours from Tokyo. It has a large mixed-gender onsen, so unusually you don’t have to be naked.
  • Hokkaido – The northernmost island of Japan known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities.
  • Okinawa – A chain of tropical islands in the far south of Japan.

Read our detailed Japan guides for everything you need to know to plan a brilliant trip.

  • 54 Best Things to Do in Japan for an Unforgettable Trip
  • Planning a Trip to Japan: Dos and Don’ts
  • Two Weeks in Japan: A Detailed Itinerary
  • Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
  • Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation
  • 20 Fascinating Books to Read Before Visiting Japan
  • Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

More Japan, Direct to your Inbox!

I hope this post has given you some ideas of where to go in Japan. Wherever you decide to visit you are sure to have an amazing trip. 

What are your favourite places in Japan? Leave a comment and let us know so we can add them to our Japan bucket list. 

If you enjoyed this post, pin it!

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58 Comments

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Awesome guide. Thank you. A lot of the accommodation is around $500aud a night! Extremely expensive. Is that normal around Japan? Me and my partner were wanting to travel around Japan in July this year but if the cost of accommodation us that expensive we might not be able to do the trip. I assume we will be able to find cheap accommodation at most places?

You can definitely find much cheaper accommodation. We did our first few Japan trips on much tighter budgets, but now have the ability to choose more special places to stay.

Your best bet is to look for business hotels in the cities – rooms are usually small but clean and well equipped. Have a browse on Booking.com and you should find plenty of options.

Planning trip(first time ever in Japan) arriving afternoon of December 18th and leaving evening of December 30th. I will be traveling with my 18 and 20 year old boys (privacy should be interesting in the tiny hotel rooms). Planning to stay in Tokyo either 5 nights with day trips to Hakone and either Kamakura or Yokohama OR 4 nights with day trip to either Kamakura or Yokohama and 1 night in Hakone. Is it worth staying the night in Hakone, or just day trip from Tokyo? Then we will spend 3 nights in Kyoto and 3 nights in Osaka (does it matter which order?) with a day trip from each city. One to Nara and one to Hiroshima and Miyajima. My 18 year old wants to have Kobe beef in Kobe, but don’t think it will happen as it’s likely not worth the time away from the other places. I’d love to be able to visit both Kamakura and Yokohama, but don’t think it will work. Likely choosing to go to Kamakura. We will return to Tokyo for the last night and spend the last day (really 1/2 day) in Tokyo before heading to the airport to fly home. Thoughts on the plan? Any specific recommendations?

I think it’s worth spending the night in Hakone if you stay in a ryokan as it will be a unique experience that you won’t get in the cities.

I would probably go to Kyoto before Osaka but it doesn’t make a huge difference. Your day trip choices sound good.

Enjoy Japan!

thank you very much for all the infos and the very beautiful photos!

Hello, Have you been to Tamba-Sasayama in Hyogo? We have a lot of nature, local food, and cultures! Tamba black beans are famous local food and also you can experience a pottery making. I hope you will visit here one day;)

We haven’t but we’ll put it on our list for our next trip this autumn! Thank you for the recommendation!

Wow, this is such a great travel guide. Thanks a lot!

Odd how all of the “best places in Japan to visit” are all in central Japan near Tokyo and Kyoto. How disappointing the travels of the writers to these other parts of the country must have been.

Have you been to the Autumn Takayama Festival? 😊

We did not buy plane tickets yet, but we were going to land on Oct 22 to experience the Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto. We heard about Takayama festival on Oct 9th and wanted to know if it’s worth changing our plans to fly in earlier for it, and if the weather will be horrible or not during that time? Thank you so mochi for your help! I’m so torn!

We haven’t been but it does look cool! I’m not sure it’s worth changing your plans for. Later in October you’ll have more of a chance of seeing fall colours in Kyoto. If you do decide to go, book your accommodation asap as it gets extremely busy during the festival.

What is the best way to get around these places? Train or car?

Train. You might find this post helpful: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/planning-a-trip-to-japan/

very nice good work

Thanks for the detailed post with nice photographs

I forgot to include in early to mid December.

I’ve been to all the tourist sites and a few others. Where would you recommend for an overnight not far from Tokyo?

Have you been to the Izu Peninsula? We haven’t yet but our friend who lives in Tokyo recommends it. The onsens would be nice in the winter.

planning on going japan next year, getting lots of ideas from these blogs

Beppu should be on this list!

Hopefully we’ll make it there next time!

nice one thank you i learn lot of things about this web site

what about Harajuku?

I included it in the Tokyo section :)

It’s definitely worth visiting!

Hello I am relooking at your Japan highlights. I had the most amazing trip in Spring 2020 many thanks to your post which seems now to have gone and been replaced by more posts. The one thing I would like to say is that you put before Miyajama on the one i read and i have to say that this was one of my favourite spots. I totally recommend it. We also did the two walks one of which was the edo trail and the other outside of Kyoto. We stayed in Koyasan too thanks to you. Thank you again.

Hi, I’m thinking of planning a trip for me and my daughter to visit Japan but haven’t any ideas of where to start. I was thinking a two week trip but maybe more time would be needed for the things we would like to do. If staying for longer than two weeks is there visas needed ect. I haven’t a clue where to start I’ve looked at your guide which is very helpful. Would I be better of speaking to a travel agent for help and advice ??? Many thanks Paul Miller.

It depends where you are from but many nationalities (including UK and US) can stay in Japan for 90 days without a visa.

Two weeks would give you a great overview (here’s a suggested itinerary: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/ ) but if you have more time (and the budget), there’s always more to see.

I think Japan is manageable without a travel agent. See our post on planning a trip for ideas to get started: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/planning-a-trip-to-japan/

We used this page during our six week Japanese adventure and it was brilliantly helpful! Thank you!

I’m glad it helped, Alex. I hope you enjoyed Japan as much as we do.

This page has been very helpful! I am planning a two week trip to Japan next year and this has helped break down each city and what to not miss. Thanks again!

I hope someday, I can visit Japan for some other reasons. As pictures shown, fantastic and very interesting places and educational as well.

Japan has always been a remarkable place for me. I think I missed those places you described about. I hope I can give a shot on my future trip if possible. Btw thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Japanese pachislot, mechanical games,are different from foreign slot machine and popular recently. From 2020 smorking will be prohibited in the pachinko parlors or pachislot parlors. Terefore more and more people will have a good time during playing games. If you come to Japan, you might want to play them.

We keep meaning to try pachinko! That’s good news about the smoking ban!

Hi Great website thanks. We are looking to travel to Japan (arrive Tokyo) in late January for about 14 days. This is our first visit and we don’t mind driving. I would be interested to know what places you could recommend to get a real feel of Japan. Thanks

I don’t recommend driving in Japan. The train system is so efficient and it’ll be less stressful than driving. Here’s our 2 week itinerary: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/

Thanks for the guidance. If you were going in November for 6 weeks what would you do with your time Cheers Walter

That’s a great amount of time and you should so some great autumn foliage. You could visit everywhere on this list so it really depends on your interests and what pace of travel you prefer.

On our latest 7 week trip we chose to base ourselves in Kyoto for a month then travel around for a couple of weeks and finish with a week in Tokyo. If you prefer to move at a faster pace you could cover a lot of ground.

Hi Guys, great site. I was wondering why you seem to spend so much time in the large cities? I’m planning my first trip and my initial thoughts were to spend just a few days in Tokyo and Kyoto? Arent the more remote sights more rewarding?

I was also wondering about a cherry blossom visit – when if the best time to see them but to avoid the worst of the crowds??

Thanks! Chris

We love the smaller places in Japan and think the ideal trip includes a mix of them with the big cities. I wouldn’t say they are more rewarding, just different. There’s just so much to see (and eat) in Tokyo and especially Kyoto that we keep returning to them.

If you’re not a big city person a few days in Tokyo would be fine. Kyoto has a lot of history, temples, and traditional architecture (and more tourists), so you’ll only cover some of the highlights in a few days.

The cherry blossom are only in full bloom for about a week so there’s no way of avoiding the crowds in popular spots then. It’ll be slightly less crowded at the beginning or end of the blooming period, but it’s hard to predict exactly when that will be (and it varies by location).

I would focus on visiting places that have cherry blossoms but fewer crowds. We were in Kyoto at the beginning of April when the blooms just started (and it was already quite busy) then moved on to Kinosaki Onsen and Okayama where we enjoyed the blossoms without many people around.

I’ve written more about it here (and will be doing an Okayama post at some point): https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/kyoto-cherry-blossoms/

hi guys really nice blog, could you itemize it, how many days you spent in each city, village? and if you would change something, where to stay maybe longer, where shorter?

regards tomek

That’s a good idea! We’re currently travelling in Japan and will update this post soon so I’ll add that info then. If you’d like to know about a specific place now just let me know. Usually we spend a week or more in Kyoto and Tokyo and only 1-3 nights in the smaller places.

My husband and I are interested in making a second trip to Japan in March with our 5 month old baby. This will be our second trip…we’ve done Tokyo, Takayama, and Kyoto previously (along with one night in Osaka). We LOVED Takayama for its food and quaintness. We liked Tokyo but got bored after a few days. Kyoto was probably our least favorite – too touristy, What should we do for our second trip??

It’s very difficult to make recommendations without having any idea of what you like to do, how long you plan to visit, or if your baby goes everywhere with you. Given that you liked Takayama, you might consider Kanazawa, Kurashiki, and Nikko. The first two are small cities of about 400,000 that have delightful walking areas and interesting sights in general. Nikko is very small but houses the shrines of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu, who were the first and third shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate. These are UNESCO World Heritage and incredible.

You didn’t indicate when you visited Japan on your first trip. If you went to Kyoto during fall foliage you would have encountered a lot of tourists, most of whom are Japanese. Kyoto draws tourists because it is a world class city with a very large number of World Heritage sites in addition to spectacular fall color. I don’t want to sound rude regarding your Tokyo comment. I can understand not liking Tokyo because it is a bit overwhelming in size, although that is part of what makes it so enjoyable for us. However, I cannot comprehend getting bored there.

I wish you luck.

It sounds like you enjoy the smaller, more traditional places so I’d recommend Tsumago, Koya-san and Kanazawa (a bigger city but with some lovely traditional neighbourhoods). Nikko is also beautiful but we found it very crowded (it would have been quieter if we’d stayed overnight and arrived early though).

Your website is terrific. I was provided a link to a couple of regions in Italy for a major summer trip. Your comments, photos and recommendations were of such interest that my wife and I decided to completely change the first 10 days of our trip. Then I got so immersed in the various places you have gone, I decided to look at Japan. We spent a month there five years ago, and then we spent another month this December including Christmas. We have been to all but two of your 10 unmissable places in Japan and have used the trains and metros as our primary modes of transport. We would agree that Japan is a great place to visit and the people are terrific.

Since you asked for additions to your bucket list, I would like to suggest the following. Near Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima. This is the site of the great in the water torii gate, which is quite magical. The museum at the Hiroshima Peace Park provides an incredibly moving experience. Himeji Castle (White Heron Castle) is one of the original late 16th century castles and I believe the largest. It is on the route between Hiroshima and Osaka. It has been recently renovated. Osaka Station is beautifully done with some terrific surrounding buildings. The Dotonburi area is neon heaven with street food in abundance. Kyoto, as you stated, is amazing with probably more UNESCO World Heritage locations than anywhere else in the world. South of Kyoto in Uji is Byodo-in, a world heritage temple with a beautiful new museum.

I agree that Kanazawa is a really nice smaller city. Like Kyoto it was not bombed. The D.T. Suzuki Museum is an outstanding piece of architecture, although of primary interest to people steeped in Buddhism, philosophy. The Seisonkaku Villa is a 10,000 foot samurai home located at the edge of Kenrokuen Gardens and is very interesting. There are two places in Takayama you didn’t mention, each of which is very worthwhile. First, next door to the Float Museum and on the same admission ticket is the Sakurayama Nikkokan. This museum contains scale models of the shrines in Nikko. It took 33 master carpenters and 17 years to complete during the first part of the 20th century. It is incredible. Second, the Takayama Museum of Art houses an outstanding (Michelin 3 star) collection of art nouveau and art deco objects. We visited Matsumoto to see the Matsumoto Castle (Black Crow Castle). It is also one of the oldest castles in Japan.

I would also like to suggest Nagoya, which is one of Japan’s largest and most industrial cities. It is home to Toyota. Three recommendations. First, tour the Toyota Factory to get real insight into a truly sophisticated approach to assembly line manufacture. Second, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Science and Technology is phenomenal. Many demonstrations of working textile machines and auto robotics. Third, the Nagoya Palace has been rebuilt (just opened in 2018) to exact specifications of the original palace (early 1600s) including all the screens. Even though it is a replica, it’s incredible.

You covered the shrines in Nikko. I would only add that if one did nothing else but see the Nikko shrines, a trip to Japan is warranted. Finally, Tokyo is to us the most exciting city around. Never ending pleasure of wandering around. There are just too many places to enumerate. One little side note: the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku has a roof garden. You can buy incredible take away food in the basement food halls and take to the roof to eat, if the weather is good. Better than either Harrod’s or Selfridge’s.

Thanks so much for the tips David! We are returning to Japan in a few weeks for two months so we’ll try to visit some of these places.

Hi! Thanks, I am definitely gonna copy your ideas! One question – is it worth to go to Hiroshima instead of Takayama? My husband and I are gonna visit Japan in March 2019 for 9 days. I think it is not enough to fulfil your itinerary and we have to shorten it a bit. Thank you for your blog ;)

Honestly, we preferred Takayama. It’s just so pretty with the traditional Japanese architecture and we like small towns. Hiroshima is more of a big modern city BUT of course, the peace memorial is very moving, so if you really want to see that then choose Hiroshima instead (which is actually what we did on our first trip to Japan).

My husband is wanting to visit , the place that his father served in Japen . He is not sure exactly where that is ?

Hi..!! the blog is very informative.Me and my wife would be visiting Japan in Mar’19 for 8 days.We have opted for a package tour.Based on your recommendations Kyoto & Tokyo seem the 2 top places.Can you please recommend us the third place to visit..??

We are going there on a tour to Himazi with 3 homestays & I want to visit a friend in Miyago. Can we still see Mt Fuji & Kyoto after the tour? Thank you for your wonderful blog. Lynne

If you have time I don’t see why not. You can check train times/distances on the Hyperdia site http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ . Have an amazing trip!

Interesting blog, thank you for sharing your experiences! We will have 9 full days in Japan and hoping to see Tokyo, Mount Fuji ( want to stay two nights there ) Takayama, Kyoto and Hiroshima ( as a one day trip from Kyoto ). We are flying back home from Osaka ( our arrival is at Haneda ).. do you think it is do-able or are we overdoing it? Maybe we should leave out Takayama? but since we are going middle of October we are hoping to see some of autumn there..any recommendations? Thank you!

Hi Nath I think it will be a busy trip but it’s definitely possible to do all that in 9 days. I love Takayama so it’s hard to recommend skipping it. It all depends on your energy levels! If you are up for busy days then go for it! Enjoy! Erin

Wooooow love this post!! I have always dreamed of visiting Japan and seeing real Cherry blossoms.. Though I was able to make one dream a reality – see real cherry blossoms in Atok, Benguet, Philippines (but just a few because we were told that it will took two years for the trees to bloom). They look lovely!! :) I’m still not giving up on the bigger dream which is to go to Japan :D And once I get there, I’d definitely visit Kyoto coz I find their culture very rich.. from geishas to kimonos, to sushi and temples! :) See you soon Japaaaaaaaaan!

Who knew there were cherry blossoms in the Philippines?!

We’re planning to go back to Japan next year for the cherry blossom season, although I’m a little worried the crowds will be crazy. Kyoto is a definite highlight of Japan – I hope you make it there!

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Boutique Japan

30 Best Destinations in Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, one of the most important, enjoyable, and challenging steps is deciding where in Japan to go.

With so many amazing places to choose from, and so much online content to sift through, figuring out your ideal destinations can seem daunting, whether it’s your first time to Japan or a return visit.

The good news is that Japan has so many incredible urban and rural destinations (and bucket list-worthy Japan experiences ) that you basically can’t go wrong. The “bad” news is that there may be no such thing as a true “best places in Japan” list, since so much comes down to personal preferences and interests.

To help you cut through the clutter and make informed choices for your Japan trip , we’ve compiled this in-depth curated guide to 30 of Japan’s best destinations.

Originally written in 2016, this post was updated and republished on October 14, 2021.

Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island in the Yaeyama Islands group of Okinawa Japan

Your Guide to Japan’s Best Destinations

Our guide to the best places in Japan is based on our personal, firsthand experience living in and traveling throughout Japan. As Japan travel experts , this is our job!

Read more about our travel philosophy below, or jump straight into the destinations by clicking on one of the links below:

Best Cities in Japan

Most beautiful places in japan, how long should you spend in japan.

From our perspective, when it comes to something as personal as travel, there is no such thing as a true “must-visit.” It comes down to personal preference, above all. This is why we specialize in planning custom trips to Japan , so we can help our clients visit places that will be meaningful to them personally.

But we understand that “best of” lists can provide valuable inspiration, especially in the early stages of planning. So based on our travels — and our experience arranging custom Japan trips for travelers from around the world — we’ve compiled this “short” list of worthwhile and rewarding places to visit, both on and off the beaten path.

For most travelers, we suggest visiting cities and the countryside, for a varied and well-balanced experience. For example, even with as little as 1 week in Japan, you can get an introduction to the modern (and surprisingly peaceful) Tokyo, the historic (and surprisingly hip) Kyoto, and still have time for at least 1 night at a traditional ryokan in the Japanese countryside.

One final note: we couldn’t include every single place we love in Japan, and please also keep in mind that these are not listed in any particular order. Now that we’ve covered some key background, onto the fun part…

japan top travel destinations

Japan is home to some of the world’s most dynamic and fascinating cities. While exploring Japan’s urban centers — from Sapporo to Fukuoka, and everywhere in between — you’ll be able to enjoy the best of Japanese food ; shopping, art, and design; some of Japan’s best boutique and luxury hotels ; and more.

Even if you’re the type of traveler who tends to avoid big cities, we recommend giving Japan’s cities a chance. Along with being worthwhile for so many reasons, they often surprise nature-lovers with how tranquil they can be. Yes, there are busy and hectic areas, but the peaceful backstreets of cities like Tokyo and Kyoto a totally different story.

Another thing that sets Japan’s cities apart is that, along with all the excitement they offer, they’re also incredibly efficient and safe. These are among the many, many reasons we love Japan so much.

If you can only visit a couple of Japan’s cities, you’ll probably gravitate towards Tokyo and Kyoto, for good reason. In many ways these are essential destinations, especially if it’s your first trip to Japan.

Tokyo needs little introduction, and while we typically recommend people spend at least 3-4 nights here, you can get a sense for how much there is to see and do in our mini guide to One Day in Tokyo .

One of the world’s most exciting and eclectic cities, Tokyo is full of amazing restaurants (with cuisine both high and “low”), beautiful gardens, cutting-edge architecture, charming neighborhoods , and a glittering neon-filled cityscape.

There are also countless great day trips near Tokyo, including Kamakura and Nikko (both featured below), among others .

Kyoto could not be more different than Tokyo, but is equally enthralling. One of the most culturally rich cities in the world, Kyoto is what many travelers dream of when envisioning Japan.

You could easily spend weeks exploring its backstreets, generations-old craft shops and restaurants , not to mention the ancient capital’s temples and shrines . For a sense of what the city offers, see our mini guide to 3 Days in Kyoto , but for a more comprehensive view don’t miss our Guide to Kyoto .

Day trip possibilities also abound, with options including Osaka and Nara (both featured below), Kibune and Kurama, Lake Biwa and Shigaraki, and more.

Overlooking Yasaka no to Pagoda in Kyoto Japan

3. Kanazawa

Kanazawa is one of Japan’s loveliest traditional destinations, renowned for its beautifully preserved historical districts, elegant crafts, and some of the country’s best seafood and produce. Along with Kyoto, Kanazawa was spared air raids during World War II, leaving much of the historic city intact.

Along with its crafts and cuisine, highlights of Kanazawa include Kenrokuen (one of Japan’s best gardens ), the city’s lovely geisha and samurai districts, the colorful Omicho Market, the D.T. Suzuki Museum of Buddhist philosophy, the striking 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and Myoryu-ji (the Ninja Temple). See more in our Introduction to Kanazawa .

Despite its proximity to Kyoto, Osaka could not be more different from its more tradition-oriented neighbor. The rambunctious city of Osaka is best known for its culinary culture (see our guide to Osaka’s food ) and wonderfully friendly people.

For our clients, Osaka tends to be less about sights and more about tastes, but the city also offers plenty in the way of things to see and do, including the reconstructed Osaka Castle, the world-famous Osaka Aquarium, and Universal Studios Japan. For a deeper look, see our Introduction to Osaka .

5. Hiroshima and Miyajima

Most people associate Hiroshima with its tragic past, but the city — along with neighboring Miyajima — offers much more than history.

Hiroshima is best known as the site of one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the US at the end of World War II. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is located in the Peace Park, adjacent to the sobering sight of the iconic A-Bomb Dome (see our guide to the best things to do in Hiroshima ).

The Peace Park and Museum are well worth visiting, but after reliving the horrors of 1945 you’ll see that Hiroshima’s present is much brighter. Hiroshima’s people are friendly and outgoing, and in addition to the famous local specialty, okonomiyaki , Hiroshima is full of bars and restaurants offering local sake (and, in winter, the amazing local oysters).

Miyajima, located just outside the city, makes for a perfect day trip, though some travelers choose to stay on Miyajima itself (instead of, or in addition to, a stay in Hiroshima proper).

Miyajima is famous for the picturesque Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a magnificent red torii gate that appears to be floating in the waters of the Inland Sea. But Miyajima is much more than simply Itsukushima Jinja: the island offers plenty to see and do, including sea kayaking, hiking, quaint streets offering tasty local snacks, and more.

Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, just outside Hiroshima, Japan

Fukuoka is a cosmopolitan city at the northern end of the rugged Kyushu island. Also known as Hakata, the city of Fukuoka is one of Japan’s culinary capitals, and is also blessed by relatively mild weather, a buzzing energy yet laid-back feel, and access to Kyushu’s beautiful landscapes.

Fukuoka’s food is the draw for many travelers. The city is legendary for its tonkotsu ramen , and also one of few cities in Japan with a thriving yatai culture. Yatai are humble and casual food carts, where you can drink and dine among locals. In addition to its culinary highlights, Fukuoka is a magnet for creatives with a vibrant arts scene, attracting young artists and designers from throughout Japan (and Asia).

Most travelers visit Hokkaido (featured in the Most Beautiful Places in Japan section below) for its nature, and some of the world’s best skiing and snowboarding. But the island’s food is also a huge draw, and one of the best places to eat is the island’s largest city, Sapporo.

In Sapporo you can sample the mouthwatering variety of Hokkaido’s cuisine, including top-quality sushi, sashimi, and seafood in general; some of Japan’s best dairy and baked goods; premium Japanese fruits; heartwarming specialties including miso ramen, soup curry, and jingisukan (“Genghis Khan,” a grilled mutton dish); and more.

Nestled between the mountains and the sea, the port city of Kobe boasts a relaxed yet refined and cosmopolitan atmosphere. For those who have not visited, Kobe may be synonymous with beef, but the city is much more than a place to eat top-grade wagyu (as a side note, see what many people get wrong about this and other myths and misperceptions about Japan ).

Despite being so near Kyoto and Osaka, many first-time visitors to Japan miss out on Kobe’s eclectic charms: scenic mountains and harbor views, fascinating history, fantastic food (including one of Japan’s best Chinatowns), and wonderful local sake.

Kobe is also a relaxing base for visits to the nearby Arima Onsen, and day trips to Himeji and Akashi. For those interested in Japanese baseball, the local Hanshin Tigers have some of the most enthusiastic fans you’ll find anywhere on Earth.

For travelers exploring Tohoku (featured below), Sendai can be a fun and memorable place to stop off for a night or two en route to more remote locations. The city has a lively nightlife scene, with countless izakayas offering up local specialties and nihonshu (sake) from around the region. Sendai is also a convenient base for exploring the nearby Matsushima Bay and the charming port town of Shiogama.

10. Takamatsu

Takamatsu is a pleasant city on the northeast coast of Shikoku Island, another of our favorite off-the-beaten-track regions.

Most travelers stop in Takamatsu en route to more out-of-the-way destinations, such as Naoshima and the Iya Valley (both featured below). But Takamatsu itself is worth a visit, with highlights including its renowned sanuki udon noodles, the gorgeous Ritsurin Koen Garden, and the serene Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan .

Hydrangeas blooming in Kamakura Japan

Japan has no shortage of beautiful places, and below you’ll find some of our favorite villages, towns, and regions around the country. Even if you’re a hardcore city person, to complement your urban experiences we highly recommend at least one visit to the Japanese countryside.

Thanks to Japan’s world-class rail network (learn more in our Guide to Train Travel in Japan ), getting into rural Japan is easy, though in certain regions you may want to hire a private driver or rent a car, as some of the most remote areas are best explored with a vehicle.

For more rural travel inspiration, see our feature on Japan’s Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Places . Lovers of nature and relaxing rural escapes will also find inspiration in our 13-day Luxury Ryokans & the Japanese Countryside sample itinerary.

Even though we love telling people how beautiful Tohoku is, few people take us up on actually visiting! This is unfortunate for travelers who love unique destinations, but great news for people who are happy to get off the tourist track to spend time in relatively out-of-the-way locations.

The Tohoku region, located in northern Japan (just south of Hokkaido), is vast and about as remote as it gets on the country’s main island of Honshu. There are far too many highlights to list, so for a deeper look at this little-visited region see the Tohoku section of our article on Japan’s best off-the-beaten-path destinations .

12. The Kiso Valley and Nakasendo Road

One of the best places in Japan to experience a village-to-village walk, the Nakasendo Way in the Kiso Valley is a rewarding destination for travelers who love a mix of nature and tradition. The Kiso Valley is located just south of the Japan Alps (known for cities including Nagano and Matsumoto ) and north of the bustling city of Nagoya.

The best way to experience the Nakasendo Road is by spending at least a day or more walking between villages along the historic route, which was used by samurai to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period.

For a short trip, you can do the half-day hike between Magome and the stunning village of Tsumago, and spend the night at a quaint rural ryokan along the way. If you have the flexibility, consider spending 2 or 3 days along the trail, including stops in the more remote Kiso-Fukushima and Narai-juku village.

Magome village on the Nakasendo Road in Kiso Valley Japan

13. Izu Peninsula

Located just to the south and west of Tokyo, most visitors to Japan speed through Izu without even realizing it. The shinkansen (bullet train) traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto passes through the northern end of Izu, but the majority of its gems lie to the south.

Izu is overflowing with natural beauty, onsen (hot springs), and a few of our favorite spots in the peninsula include the quaint Shuzenji Onsen village, coastal Izu-Kogen, and historic Shimoda. Izu is home to several remarkable ryokans with hot springs, and is by far one of the best places to experience a luxury ryokan near Tokyo and Kyoto .

14. Koyasan (Mount Koya)

In recent years, Mount Koya has become more popular (and crowded), yet it’s still worthwhile for travelers with an interest in Buddhism and Japanese history. Approximately 2 hours south of Osaka (and 3 hours from Kyoto), it’s possible to visit Koyasan as a day trip, but for a deeper experience we recommend staying overnight in one of Mount Koya’s shukubo (temple lodgings). To learn more, see our Guide to Visiting Mount Koya .

15. Naoshima

Without a doubt one of Japan’s best art destinations , Naoshima is arguably a must for lovers of modern art and architecture. The island’s highlights include the museum-hotel Benesse House, Tadao Ando’s breathtaking Chichu Art Museum, and the quirky Art House Project. Learn more about this one-of-a-kind art island in our Guide to Naoshima .

Kabocha Pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama on Naoshima Island Japan

16. Kurashiki

One of our favorite little places in Japan’s Chugoku region (partly because of our love for Ryokan Kurashiki ), Kurashiki is a small city best known for its beautifully preserved historical district, located along a picturesque canal. Kurashiki’s old merchant district, known as the Bikan Historical Quarter, is lined with attractive former kura (storehouses) that have been lovingly preserved and converted into charming galleries, boutiques, and cafes.

Located less than an hour from Kyoto, the rural city of Nara actually preceded Kyoto as Japan’s original ancient capital. Today the city is rightly renowned for its treasure trove of UNESCO World Heritage sites, most of which are within relatively easy walking distance of one another around the central Nara Park (home to the city’s famously outgoing deer). Read more in our Guide to Visiting Nara .

18. Kinosaki Onsen

A perfect destination for travelers who love old traditional villages and hot springs, Kinosaki Onsen has been delighting onsen enthusiasts for generations. The city is blessed with a wealth of historical ryokans and bathhouses, and it is a joy to stroll through the old-fashioned town in yukata (light Japanese-style robe) and geta (wooden clogs) to soak it all in.

19. Kamakura

Another gem for lovers of history and nature, Kamakura is a laid-back seaside town about an hour south of Tokyo. Historical highlights abound, but complementing Kamakura’s rich tradition you’ll also find young transplants from cities like Tokyo running stylish little cafes and shops. To learn more, see our in-depth Introduction to Kamakura .

A couple of hours north of Tokyo, in rural Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is a mountainous destination renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage shrines and temples, surrounded by natural beauty. As a full-day trip from Tokyo, it is possible to take in many of Nikko’s highlights (which include Nikko Toshogu Shrine and the Kegon Falls), but Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen are also home to countless ryokans with hot springs for travelers who prefer to explore the area in more depth.

21. Onomichi

Along with Naoshima, the quaint port town of Onomichi is another of our favorite destinations in Japan’s colorful Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) region. Located on the southern coast of Hiroshima Prefecture, Onomichi charms travelers with its quirky atmosphere, a beguiling blend of retro and modern. Walking along its old-fashioned shotengai (central shopping arcade), you’ll encounter classic neighborhood mom-and-pop shops alongside tiny design-forward boutiques. To learn more about this offbeat town, see our Guide to Onomichi .

Onomichi is also the perfect jumping-off point for travelers looking to spend more time exploring the scenic Shimanami Kaido .

Tree on Yakushima Island Japan

Hakone is no secret, but despite its popularity remains a worthwhile destination for travelers who love nature, art, and luxurious accommodations. Along with Izu, it is one of the best and most convenient places to experience a ryokan when traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto. To read more about this scenic onsen destination, see our Guide to Visiting Hakone .

Hakone can also be a great base for views of Mount Fuji, if the weather is clear. Fujisan is notoriously “shy,” as it’s often obscured by cloud cover, but when visibility is good the vantage point from Hakone can be stunning. If seeing Mount Fuji is a top priority for you, consider the town of Kawaguchiko as an alternative.

23. Yakushima

It doesn’t get much more beautiful than Yakushima, a subtropical island off Kyushu’s southern coast. The remote island offers miles of untouched coastline and some of Japan’s most rugged hiking, with trails winding through lush forests full of mossy rocks and ancient cedar trees (some as old as 7,000 years!). Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yakushima remains largely untouched by tourism, and is a magical place to experience Japan’s natural beauty.

24. Hokkaido

Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido is renowned for its cuisine, whisky , world-class winter powder, and wide-open landscapes. Traditionally the home of the indigenous Ainu people, Hokkaido was colonized by Japan in the 19th century. Sadly, Ainu culture has suffered greatly, though in recent years there have been increasing efforts to value the history and also present-day culture of the Ainu.

You won’t find many traditional villages in Hokkaido, unlike in most other rural parts of Japan. But you will find pristine expanses of nature, unique wildlife in isolated places like the Shiretoko Peninsula, some of the best skiing and snowboarding on the planet in places like Niseko, and astoundingly good food and drink.

For more on the northern island, see the Hokkaido section of our post on Japan’s best off-the-beaten-path destinations .

Underwater view on Iriomote Island in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa Japan

25. Kumano Kodo

The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route is one of Japan’s most enchanting walks. Deep in rural Wakayama Prefecture, just a few hours south of Kyoto and Osaka, the UNESCO-recognized Kumano region is filled with spirituality and history, as well as beautiful landscapes, charming villages, hiking, and onsen .

Walks along the pilgrimage route range from day hikes all the way up to challenging multi-day walks for the more adventurous. The Kumano Kodo is also part of a Dual Pilgrim program with its sister walk, Spain’s better-known Camino de Santiago.

26. Takayama, Shirakawago & Gokayama

Established in the 16th century, Takayama is a historic town in the Hida Mountains of the Japanese Alps renowned for its traditional atmosphere and culinary offerings, including the famous Hida-gyu beef, wonderful rice and mountain vegetables, and premium sake. While the town has become popular over the years, even when the town center is filled with day-trippers a stroll in most directions will reveal quiet backstreets.

Within easy reach of Takayama, deep in the Japanese Alps are the UNESCO World Heritage historic villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama , and the off-the-beaten-path Hida-Furukawa.

Matsue, located in western Japan’s beautiful but little-visited Shimane Prefecture, is one of Japan’s hidden gems. Most visitors travel to Matsue for the breathtaking Adachi Museum of Art . In addition to its impressive collection, the Adachi Museum is most renowned for its world-famous garden, which blends almost magically into the surrounding landscape.

In Matsue itself, enjoy excellent seafood and sake, and visit Matsue-jo (Matsue Castle), one of only a handful of surviving original castles in Japan. Matsue is also the ideal base from which to visit Izumo Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest and most important Shinto shrines, as well as the idyllic Oki Islands.

28. Noto Peninsula

Jutting out into the Japan Sea, to the north of Kanazawa, is the rugged Noto Hanto (Noto Peninsula). Made famous by the wonderful book Rice, Noodle, Fish (one of our favorite Japan travel books ), Noto Hanto makes for a great self-drive destination. Visit the Wajima Market, enjoy dramatic coastal scenery, have lunch at Flatt’s , and consider spending the night at one of Noto’s beautiful onsen ryokans.

29. Yaeyama Islands

Japan is not the first place that comes to mind when most people think of beaches in Asia. Yet it’s home to one of the region’s most beautiful subtropical destinations: the Yaeyama Islands.

The whole Okinawan archipelago is full of gorgeous little islands, but for one of the most unique experiences Japan has to offer, the remote Yaeyama Islands have no equal. Geographically closer to Taiwan than to mainland Japan, the Yaeyama Islands feature not only picturesque beaches and lush jungles, but a rich Ryukyu heritage and culture, not to mention Okinawan food .

30. Iya Valley

The beautiful Iya Valley in Shikoku is one of Japan’s most hidden regions, and when you traverse the terrain you will appreciate why. It is made up of narrow river gorges and steep mountain peaks, covered in thick vegetation. Although now more accessible than in centuries past, the Iya Valley remains a fantastic place to experience rural and traditional Japan. Read more about the whole of beautiful Shikoku in our feature on Japan’s best off-the-tourist-track regions .

japan top travel destinations

One of the most common Japan travel questions we hear is, How many days should I plan to spend in Japan?

Before we elaborate, the simple answer is: as long as possible! Next to a huge country like China, Japan may look small on the map, but it’s larger than it looks.

Purely in terms of area, Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California . But in terms of places and experiences, Japan is as dense as Europe, where you can travel an hour or two in any direction and arrive at a remarkable destination. This density of incredible places is what makes Japan feel larger than it otherwise might. Most travelers only fully grasp this after a first visit, which often prompts a desire to return again as soon as possible to explore further.

Thus, we recommend you “admit defeat” from the start, and accept that you won’t be able to “do” Japan in just one trip (whether you have 2 weeks or 2 months). Trust me: we’ve spent years exploring Japan, and are not remotely near “finished”!

This being said, here are some basic guidelines to give you an idea of the possibilities depending on how long your Japan trip will be:

Less Than 1 Week in Japan

While shorter than we might normally suggest, if you’re thinking of visiting Japan for less than a week, make sure to see our article on where to go if you have 5 days in Japan .

7 to 10 Days in Japan

This is typically the minimum timeframe we recommend. With 1 week to 10 days in Japan, you will have time for a well-rounded introduction to the country. Our 8-Day Japan Essentials: Tokyo, Kyoto & Hakone sample itinerary is a great example of how much you can see and do with about a week in the country.

10 to 14 Days in Japan

With a little extra time, you can include additional destinations, or simply spend more time immersing yourself in each place you visit. Our sample trips below provide some examples of how much you can see and do with about two weeks in Japan:

  • Two Weeks in Japan: A Perfect Itinerary
  • Luxury Japan: Art, Culture & Cuisine
  • Japan Cities, Mountains & Art
  • Luxury Ryokans & the Japanese Countryside

2 to 3 Weeks in Japan

With 2 to 3 weeks or longer in Japan, you begin to have more flexibility to visit a wider variety of regions, while also enjoying a significant degree of cultural immersion. While less common among our travelers from the US and UK, many of our Australian clients are fortunate enough to be able to devote 3 or more weeks to traveling around Japan. With this much time, the possibilities are virtually endless, so we hope our list helps you narrow things down to your own personal wish list!

Sunset Onomichi Japan

Where in Japan Will You Go?

While we couldn’t include every single one of our favorite places in Japan, we hope our guide to Japan’s best destinations helps you decide where to go on your trip.

At Boutique Japan, our specialty is crafting completely customized trips for travelers seeking unique, authentic experiences. If you are interested in learning more about working with us, please feel free to explore our trip planning process .

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The Top 15 Destinations to Visit in Japan

japan top travel destinations

There are so many fascinating cities and towns in Japan that it’s difficult to choose which one to visit. It’s a country with thousands of years of history and food culture, some of the best winter sports and diving in the world, and national parks featuring unusual and diverse landscapes. From northern Hokkaido down to the south in Okinawa, you’ve got sites worth making a trip for. Pick your base wisely and you might be able to visit more than one of these top destinations in Japan.

Matias Sanchez / Getty 

An easy day trip from Osaka or Kyoto, Nara is a compact city that feels like a step back in time. It was the first permanent capital of Japan and retains many of its historical shrines and temples. It’s often associated with the famous deer of Nara Park that bow to visitors and look for a delicious biscuit in return! From the park you can access Kasuga-Taisha Shrine—one of Japan’s most sacred sites—and Todaji Temple, home to the world’s largest bronze buddha.

 Shan.shihan/ Getty

Kyoto is everything you hope it’ll be and more. You can see thousands of years of history by exploring temples like the Kinkaku-ji and historic sites such as Kyoto Imperial Palace. Visit some of Kyoto’s beautiful shrines, including Fushimi Inari, before catching a maiko show in Gion, the city's geisha district. Aside from history, Kyoto is also a modern city filled with izakayas, wine bars, and art museums. There's so much to do, be sure to plan a few days here.

Matteo Colombo/ Getty  

There are endless things to do in Tokyo , so get ready to dig in. The capital is as bustling, busy, and bright as you might expect—but there are also quieter neighborhoods where you can still find the Tokyo of old. Some of the highlights include Shibuya and Shinjuku, neon-soaked wards that promise nightlife, restaurants, and shops aplenty. Nearby, Tokyo’s public gardens like Shinjuku Gyo-en offer a peaceful respite. Within the city, you can enjoy theme parks like Disneyland and Disney Sea, or celebrate Japan's animated film legacy by checking out Studio Ghibli Museum.

Nikko National Park

A picture-perfect and highly spiritual destination, centuries-old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are surrounded by sweeping natural landscapes in Japan’s original national park. Some of the highlights include Toshu-gu, a lavish shrine and the final resting place of the first Tokugawa shogun, and the Buddhist temple Rinno-ji, founded in the eighth century. Don’t miss the Yomei-mon, also known as Sunset Gate, one of Japan’s national treasures featuring five hundred hand-carved figures. These exceptional sights are set within one hundred hectares of nature, where you’ll find waterfalls, over a dozen hot springs to sink into, and great lakes. One of the most iconic sights here is the red Shinkyo Bridge, which stretches across the Daiya-gawa River.

Amanohasidate

Westend 61/ Getty 

Most people head to Kyoto city and don’t get a chance to explore the wider prefecture—but Amanohashidate is one of the most impressive sites in the area. Head over to the coast to see the famous three-kilometer sandbar, classified as one of Japan’s most scenic views. There are many viewpoints to enjoy here; for the best, meander over to the cable car and head up for a birds-eye view.

 DoctorEgg / Getty 

Head up to Hokkaido to visit one of Japan’s most famous ski resorts , which receives the lightest, driest snow in the region and borders the breathtaking Daisetsu-zan National Park. Not just a winter destination, Furnao is famous for its wine production; thanks to the expansive lavender fields that cover most of the region, wine infused with the herb is popular here. Combine that with beautiful, rolling hills, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into southern France.

Chiara Salvadori/ Getty 

With over a hundred baths, this is one of Japan’s favorite onsen towns . Enjoy traditional Japanese accommodation by booking a stay at any one of the town's ryokan, some of which have been around since 1879. Each of the ryokan have their own private baths to relax in, with some offering special facilities including mud, sand, and steam baths.

But there's more to Beppu than bathing. Here, you can try unique food that’s been cooked in volcanic waters, making for interesting new flavors. Just 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) from Beppu you can reach Yufuin, a mountainous town that’s filled with boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants.

Yiming Chen/ Getty

Fukuoka is a perfect city for foodies and is considered one of the major culinary destinations in the country. Make sure to try Fukuoka’s famous Hakata ramen, a form of creamy tonkotsu ramen that has made waves locally and internationally. Head to Hakata yatai stalls where more than two hundred vendors serve up the tastiest dishes in intimate lantern-lit surroundings. This is a great city to enjoy the coast, with beaches, water sports, and nearby island adventures. Visit Shikanoshima for historic monuments and shrines, or Nokonoshima, famous for its seasonal flowers.

Thanyarat07/Getty  

A convenient trip from Tokyo and Mount Fuji, Hakone has a lot to offer for those who love mountain views, hot springs, tea houses, and romantic ryokan . Yunessun and Tenzan are two of the most popular hot springs, but there are plenty of onsen to enjoy as well, including novelty baths with wine, herbs, milk, or coffee. There are more than a dozen art museums here ranging from the quaint (like the Museum of Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince) to expansive (like the Open Air Museum). There are plenty of walking options, including routes up The Great Boiling Valley, where you can try Hakone’s signature black eggs; there’s also a gondola up for an easier ride.

Kerama Shoto National Park

 Ippei Naoi/ Getty

There are about two dozen islands surrounding Okinawa, Japan's favorite vacation spot. The Kerama Islands, an archipelago of approximately 30 islands, are surrounded by healthy coral reefs and a diverse ecosystem that makes for perfect diving and snorkeling adventures. With pine forests, sheer cliffs, and mountains, the landscape offers an endless amount of photo spots and hiking options. Many of the islands are inhabited, so you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and tour agencies in this subtropical paradise.

Miyajima Island

Aladimirzakharov/Getty 

Off the coast of Hiroshima, Miyajima Island has long been regarded as one of the most scenic spots in Japan. It’s often associated with images of the torii gate of the sixth century Itsukushima Shrine; during low tide, you can walk up to the gate, but when the tide is high, it appears to float. There are many places to go hiking at Mount Misen, where you can get spectacular views of the city. The Daisho-in Temple complex sits at the foot of the mountain and is just one of the spiritual sites you can see on the island. Omotesando shopping street attracts those looking for local handmade crafts as well as street food lovers.

 Aladimirzakharov/Getty

There’s a lot to see in Hiroshima even though it’s often associated with the atomic bomb that fell on August 6, 1945. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Parks is a must-visit for this reason; here you’ll find museums, various monuments honoring those that died, and the A-Bomb Dome that survived the blast.

Hiroshima is also famous for its ramen, particularly the Onomichi style; make sure you seek out some of these tasty noodles loaded with flavor. For a different side to Hiroshima’s history, pay a visit to the beautiful Hiroshima Castle and grounds, just a 15-minute walk from the peace park.

 Annhfhung/Getty

Often described as "Little Kyoto," Kanazawa largely escaped the bombings and so has retained most of its historic buildings and sites. Here you can explore preserved Edo-period, geisha, and samurai districts as well as winding streets and beautiful buildings. Take some time to wander the pedestrian street between Katsurazaka and Renchimon gates for regional crafts, restaurants, and cafés. Later, take a stroll through what’s considered one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens. With its varied flowers and foliage, Kenrokuen, established in the 18 th century, is lush in any season. Follow the paths to higher ground to get views over the garden and visit nearby Kanazawa castle.

 Suttipongs Sutiratanachai / Getty

Whether you see the majestic Mount Fuji from afar or climb to the top of this famous peak, there’s nothing quite like seeing one of the world’s most famous mountains for yourself. Climbing Mount Fuji was once considered a pilgrimage, and as you climb up, you can see shrines and monuments dating more than a hundred years. There are four routes you can take to the top, but the Yoshida Trail is one of the most popular.

You can even hop on a bus at Shinjuku in Tokyo to get halfway up the peak. If you just want to see the mountain, then take the bus to one of the small towns beneath it like Fuji Yoshida, or get a look at it from Lake Kawaguchiko .

Edwin Gimpel/ Getty 

A UNESCO World natural heritage site, this island nature reserve features Japan’s oldest Yaku cedar trees, mossy wooden bridges, waterfalls, and streams. The Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine inspired parts of the animated film Princess Mononoke , and it’s easy to imagine forest spirits hiding within the dense woodland. There are many hiking trails and routes to choose from of varying difficulty. For a view of the island and a bit of challenge, you can hike up Taiko rock and see the trees spread out below you.

If you're not into hiking, head to the coast of the island to enjoy the hot springs and the beaches where loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs.

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21 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Japan

Written by Meagan Drillinger Updated Aug 4, 2022

Japan is an enigma. It's the perfect juxtaposition of centuries-old traditions overlapped with lightning speed, cutting-edge technology. Many first-time visitors to Japan are often surprised to learn that, as one of the world's most advanced industrialized nations, this relatively small Asian country also boasts a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years.

Indeed, long before many of Europe's most spectacular cathedrals were built, Japan's Shinto and Buddhist temples were already well-established and drawing pilgrims and patrons to their elaborate designs and décor. At the same time, the country was already perfecting the skills and trades that would set it on the path to riches, from fine porcelains and ceramics to textiles such as silk.

Much of this rich tradition has, despite wars and natural devastation, been preserved (or rebuilt), and a visit to Japan is a memorable adventure. Boasting an endless list of top attractions, fun things to do, and points of interest to explore, a vacation in Japan is certainly a great investment of time and money.

Discover the best places to visit in the country with our list of the top tourist attractions in Japan.

1. Mount Fuji

2. imperial tokyo, 3. hiroshima peace memorial park, 4. historic kyoto, 5. the island shrine of itsukushima, miyajima, 6. temple city: historic nara, 7. osaka castle, 8. chūbu-sangaku national park and the japanese alps, 9. the atsuta shrine, nagoya, 10. fukuoka castle ruins and the city's ancient festivals, 11. sapporo, hokkaido, 12. fushimi inari-taisha shrine, kyoto, 13. koyasan okunoin, 14. kiyomizu-dera, kyoto, 15. shinjuku gyoen national garden, tokyo, 16. hakone open-air museum, hakone, 17. naritasan shinsho-ji, narita, 18. okinawa churaumi aquarium, 19. matsumoto castle, nagano, 20. arashiyama monkey park, kyoto, 21. kenrokuen garden, kanazawa, tips for making the most of your visit to japan.

Mount Fuji

Without a doubt Japan's most recognizable landmark, majestic Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) is also the country's highest mountain peak. Towering 3,776 meters over an otherwise largely flat landscape to the south and east, this majestic and fabled mountain is tall enough to be seen from Tokyo, more than 100 kilometers away.

Mount Fuji has for centuries been celebrated in art and literature and is now considered so important an icon that UNESCO recognized its world cultural significance in 2013. Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park , Mount Fuji is climbed by more than a million people each summer as an act of pilgrimage, which culminates in watching the sunrise from its summit.

While some still choose to begin their climb from the base, the majority of climbers now start from above the halfway mark, at the 5th Station, resulting in a more manageable six-or-so-hour ascent. Those who do attempt the complete climb are advised to depart in the afternoon, breaking up the climb with an overnight stop at one of the "Mountain Huts" designed for this very purpose. An early start the next day gets you to the top for the sunrise.

Of course, for many, simply viewing the mountain from the distance, or from the comfort of a speeding train, is enough to say "been there, done that."

  • Read More: Exploring Mount Fuji: A Visitor's Guide

Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge

Tokyo's most famous landmark, the Imperial Palace with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats, is a must-see when visiting the nation's capital. Don't be put off by the fact that the majority of the palace is closed to the public (it's still in use by the Imperial family), as there is still enough to see simply by strolling the grounds.

In addition to the many fine views of the palace from numerous points in the surrounding parkland, visitors are permitted into the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden and other areas that are opened to the public as part of an organized tour. One of the most romantic views is of the famous Nijubashi Bridge , or "double bridge," so named for its watery reflection.

Another one of the must-sees for tourists visiting Tokyo is the famous Ginza shopping district. This always bustling area is home to the Kabuki-za Theatre with its Kabuki performances, as well as the Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre with its traditional Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku performances.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

While little needs to be said here of the horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, much can be said of the incredible efforts this vibrant city has made to commemorate the many victims of the world's first nuclear attack. Perhaps even more importantly, Hiroshima has become a symbol of lasting peace.

Visited by more than a million people each year, many from overseas, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kōen) lies at the epicenter of the atomic blast in what was once a bustling part of the city. Here you'll find a number of important monuments, memorials, and museums relating to the events of that fateful day.

In addition to the grounds and gardens with their colorful cherry blossoms, the park is where you'll find the Peace Memorial Museum, with its numerous exhibits dealing with the issue of world peace. It's also where you'll find the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace , as well as the Atom Bomb Dome , the ruins of an administrative building that lay at the center of the explosion.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hiroshima

Bamboo forest in Kyoto

One of Japan's most visited cities, lovely Kyoto – one of the few cities in the country to be spared the devastation of WWII – attracts more than 10 million visitors annually. Most of them are here to explore Kyoto's fine old streets and architecture, much of it unchanged since the Imperial family took up residence here more than 1,000 years ago.

Even then, the city was Japan's most important cultural center. This legacy, in fact, continues to this day with its many museums and art galleries, each bursting with important sculptures, paintings, and other art forms.

Highlights of Kyoto's Buddhist-influenced architecture include its many well-preserved temples, 30 of which are still in use, and important structures such as the 14th-century Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), famous for its exquisite gold-leaf-clad exterior.

Be sure to also visit Nijo Castle , a 17th-century fortress that has retained its original walls, towers, and moat. Also worth seeing are the castle's beautiful gates, along with its palace with fine interior décor.

Another landmark to visit is the original Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto-gosho ) . Built in AD 794, it's one of the city's most visited historic sites.

Finally, no visit to Kyoto is complete without spending time exploring the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove . This beautiful area of tall bamboo is just a few minutes' walk from the town center.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kyoto

The Island Shrine of Itsukushima

Just a short ferry ride from mainland Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima , famous the world over as Japan's Shrine Island. Covering an area of 30 square kilometers in Hiroshima Bay, Miyajima is best known as the home of the Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto temple dedicated to the Princess daughters of the wind god Susanoo.

Dating from the eighth century, the majority of the shrine's buildings rise out of the waters of a small bay supported only by piles. The effect at high tide is simply stunning, making these structures - including the famous Great Floating Gate (O-Torii) - appear as if they're floating on water.

Linked together by walkways and bridges, it's a fascinating place to explore, in particular its larger halls. These include the exquisite Honden (Main Hall), the Offerings Hall (Heiden), the Prayer Hall (Haiden), and the Hall of a Thousand Mats (Senjokaku).

Another notable feature is the shrine's stage, where visitors are entertained with traditional dances and musical performances. Also worth exploring are the island's exquisite grounds and gardens, home to wild deer and numerous bird colonies.

Please note: You can expect some interruptions and inconvenience from now until 2022 due to major renovations taking place at this historic site.

Temple City: Historic Nara

For centuries the hub of Japanese culture, the lovely unspoiled city of Nara is home to a large number of historic buildings, along with important national treasures and works of art.

In addition to its many historic streets, the city boasts numerous important old temples. These includ the magnificent seventh-century Kofuku-ji Temple , perhaps the best known of the Seven Great Temples of Nara; and the splendid eighth-century Todai-ji (Great East Temple), famous for its huge bronze statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), cast here in AD 749.

Also of interest in Todai-ji are its Great South Gate (Nandaimon). This spectacular two-story structure is borne on 18 columns, with two Nio statues standing eight meters tall, and it guards the temple entrance. Also of note here is the Hall of the Great Buddha, the world's largest timber building.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nara

Osaka Castle with autumn leaves

Built in 1586 by famous Japanese warrior and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi , Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō) was at the time the largest and most important fortress in the country. Although destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since, the present structure, built in 1931, remains true to the original.

Highlights of a visit include the huge five-story, 42-meter-tall main tower. Built on an imposing 14-meter-tall stone base, the tower is home to a number of displays detailing the history of the castle and the city. Be sure to visit the top floor for its superb views over Osaka, an especially attractive sight as the sun sets.

Also of interest in Osaka Castle Park is the Hokoku Shrine , while Osaka's best-known temple, Shitennō-ji , is also worth visiting and dates back to AD 59. Notable as Japan's first Buddhist temple, this lovely shrine features a five-story pagoda along with a number of other exquisitely decorated buildings. Among them are the Golden Pavilion (Kondō), with its fine statues and paintings; the Lecture Hall (Kōdō); and a lovely covered corridor linking three of the site's gates.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Osaka

Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps

Japan boasts a number of outstanding areas of natural beauty, many of them designated as national parks or, in some cases, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the country's most spectacular of these is Chūbu-Sangaku National Park in the center of Honshu. Located in the park's northern and central regions is the group of mountains collectively referred to as the Hida Mountains , or Japanese Alps.

This region contains some of the highest peaks in the country, including Hotaka at 3,190 meters, and Yari at 3,180 meters. Similar in many ways to the Alps of Central Europe - both in the character of the landscape and in its abundance of snow in winter - the Japanese Alps attract large numbers of walkers and climbers in summer and skiers in winter.

Of particular interest is the park's abundance of flora and fauna, including the rare ptarmigan and mountain antelopes found at higher altitudes. The park's many hot springs also draw visitors and led to the development of various spas and holiday resorts, the best known being Kamikōchi .

The Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, Japan

The Atsuta Shrine, in the heart of the city of Nagoya, is the most important Shinto shrine in Japan, and attracts more than five million visitors each year. Established in the first century, this religious site is famous for its preserved Imperial insignia, the "grass-mowing sword" (kusanagi-no-tsurugi), one of only three in the country.

Also of interest are its principal shrine, Hongu, surrounded by an enclosing wall, and the treasury with its numerous works of art, including old and modern paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and traditional masks. While in Nagoya, be sure to also visit Nagoya Castle . This splendid moated complex was built in 1612 and boasts a 48-meter-high main tower that is famous for its two gilded dolphins (shachi). It's also a popular place to visit for its museum, containing art treasures from the former palace, and its spectacular views over the city and the Nobi Plain.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nagoya

The ruins of Fukuoka Castle in Maizuru Park

The ruins of the once-grand Fukuoka Castle (Fukuoka-jō), built in the early 1600s, punctuate the middle of Maizuru Park. The castle was once a fine example of the prolific and majestic hilltop homes preferred by Shoguns and city rulers. But it was destroyed after the Meiji Restoration as a backlash against the feudal system.

Today, only the ruins of the castle remain, including the main gate and one of the turrets. Visitors mainly come here for the leafy walking trails and scenic lookouts, with beautiful views over the Naka River. If you climb to the top of the ruins, you can see views of the city beyond. The park is especially lovely in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Fukuoka is also well known for its many events and festivals. The best-known of these is Hakata Gion Yamakasa , a famous two-week long, 700-year-old celebration held each July that draws millions of visitors from across the country to its colorful parades, as well as its traditional races and costumes.

The city is not without its modern attractions, too. Most notable among them is Canal City Hakata , a-city-within-the-city complete with a canal running through the complex, along with great shops, hotels, restaurants, and a theater.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fukuoka

Sapporo, Hokkaido

Located on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, the city of Sapporo offers many things to do for tourists . As the island's largest city, it's a hub of cultural activity, hosting many excellent events and festivals. It also has a distinctive culinary style; a rich theatrical history; and plenty of museums, galleries, and parks.

The focal point here is very much the city's attractive downtown area, the center of which is Odori Park, a large swath of green that's very pleasant to explore. From here, you can also access points of interest such as the Sapporo TV Tower , as well as the city's famous aerial tramway, an easy walk away. The Mount Moiwa Ropeway will eventually get you to the summit's Upper Station, from where you can enjoy incredible views over the city, a real treat at night.

The mountain is also the location of the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort, a popular winter destination, especially since the 1972 Winter Olympics were held in the city. And if you're arriving in winter, be sure to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival , held here each February and drawing in excess of two million revelers.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

When you visit Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, you'll be seeing red – but in a beautiful way. One of the most important shrines in Japan, the Fushimi Inari shrine is found in southern Kyoto, made famous for the thousands (yes, thousands) of scarlet-colored gates that arch over a web of trails. These arch-covered trails command silence, so expect a very peaceful walk towards the forest around Mt. Inari.

Inari is the Shinto god of rice – one of the most important gods in Shintoism. Of the thousands of shrines dedicated to him, Fushimi Inari is decidedly the most important. Most travelers come to see the vermilion gates, but the shrine itself is also open for exploration, and the buildings are quite spectacular.

Visitors can also hike to the top of Mt. Inari, which takes roughly two to three hours round-trip. The route up the mountain is dotted with shrines and smaller gates, as well as spots to grab something to eat.

Koyasan Okunoin

While a cemetery may not seem like an obvious top attraction, Japan's Koyasan Okunoin is a great exception. One of the most sacred places in the country, this popular pilgrimage spot holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism.

Daishi, also called Kukai, is one of the most important figures in Japan's Buddhist history. It is said that he sits in eternal meditation while waiting for the Buddha of the Future. Those who make the pilgrimage to his mausoleum do so to ask for salvation in this life.

Upon reaching the cemetery, visitors will cross the Ichinohashi Bridge, which is the first bridge into the cemetery. On the way to the mausoleum, visitors will pass more than 200,000 tombstones. The path leads to Gokusho Offering Hall, where visitors can make offerings, as well as pray for family members they have lost.

A second bridge, the Gobyobashi Bridge, is what separates the most sacred center of the site from the rest of the cemetery. Here is where you'll find the Miroku Stone, as well as Torodo Hall, which is a main worship hall just in front of the mausoleum. The hall is aglow with thousands of lanterns. Behind the hall is the mausoleum itself, and it is a most awesome experience to visit.

You'll feel the power of something – whether you believe or not – as pilgrims from all over the country have come to chant and pray in the presence of Kobo Daishi.

Kiyomizu-Dera temple during cherry blossom season

Kyoto is practically overflowing with gorgeous sites and landmarks. The city is a top attraction itself. But one can't come to Kyoto without visiting Kiyomizu-Dera, or the Pure Water Temple.

One of the most important temples in Japan, Kiyomizu-Dera was built in 780 CE on the grounds of the Otowa Waterfall. It was originally built to be part of the Hosso sect of Buddhism, but later formed its own sect in the mid 20th century.

Today the UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its wooden stage, which overlooks the beautiful rooftops of Kyoto, and the marvelous trees that always put on fantastic color displays in both the fall and cherry blossom season.

On the grounds, visitors will find other important sites, like the Jishu Shrine, as well as the Otowa Waterfall itself, which still gushes at the base of the monument's main hall.

Shinjuku Gyoen park

One of Tokyo's most famous districts is the Shinjuku district, known for its electric nightlife, trendy restaurants, and upscale hotels. But the heart of the district is also home to one of Tokyo's most naturally beautiful attractions – the Shinjuku Gyoen park.

Within the park are sprawling green spaces and trails of walking paths that wind around stunning floral displays, ponds, and manicured shrubbery. Come cherry blossom season, the park is one of the best spots to catch the brilliant waves of powder pink.

The park was built during Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867) as the residence of a feudal lord. After that it became a botanical garden and then was an entertaining grounds for Japan's Imperial Family in the early 20th century. It opened in 1949 as a public park.

Within the park are three different styles of garden, including a Japanese landscape, English landscape, and French landscape.

Hakone Open-Air Museum

The town of Hakone, located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to the west of Tokyo, is known for its stunning mountains and tranquil hot spring resorts. That is reason enough to visit this stunning small town. But another top draw to this peaceful bit of paradise is the impressive Open-Air Museum.

True to its name, the outdoor museum is a sculpture park that spreads over 17 acres. Opened in 1969, it is one of the first open-air museums in Japan, featuring more than 100 sculptures all over the grounds.

One of the most impressive sculptures here is the Symphonic Sculpture, which allows visitors to climb a stained-glass tower to reach a viewing platform that overlooks the surrounding mountains, as well as the other works of art on the grounds.

In addition to the outdoor exhibits, the museum has an indoor exhibit, including one of the world's most impressive collections of Picasso . You'll find more than 300 of the great Spanish painter's works here, including his oil paintings, prints, ceramics, and sculptures.

Naritasan Shinsho-ji temple

Dating back more than 1,000 years, the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Japan. The purpose for the temple was to protect and pay homage to a statue of the Buddhist god, Fudo Myoo, which is said to have been carved by Kobo Daishi. Within the temple grounds are several buildings, including several different style pagodas, a park, and the main halls.

Approaching the temple complex is like stepping back in time. The half-mile journey from the rail station to the temple complex is a road lined with restaurants and handicraft stores. The same has been true of this street for hundreds of years. While the stores themselves may have a 21st-century appeal, the arrival experience to the temple complex has remained unchanged for centuries.

Whale shark in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Japan's Okinawa archipelago consists of more than 150 islands that speckle the area between Taiwan and Japan's mainland. This tropical environment is completely unique to other areas of Japan, home to beautiful beaches and swaying palm trees. The main island is also called Okinawa, and is home to several museums, as well as the Churaumi Aquarium.

The aquarium is widely considered to be the best in Japan, known for its Kuroshio Tank. Within this massive tank are about 60 different species of animals, but most visitors come to see the gigantic whale sharks and gliding manta rays.

Other attractions within the aquarium include a deep water exhibit, which shows off bioluminescent fish, as well as an area dedicated to tiger and bull sharks. Outside are a variety of pools that are home to dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.

Matsumoto Castle

Japan has hundreds of beautiful, historic castles. But none is as complete or mesmerizing as Matsumoto Castle. Built from 1592 to 1614, Matsumoto is located in the city of Nagano. Tip: One of the best times to visit the castle is in the spring , when the grounds of the castle are powdered a soft pink with the bloom of thousands of cherry blossoms.

Inside the castle, visitors have one of the best glimpses back into time. Matsumoto Castle has maintained its wooden interiors, giving a true historic feel to the experience. Matsumoto is considered to be one of five castles that are designated as "National Treasures of Japan." It is the oldest six-story castle tower that remains in the country.

Arashiayama Monkey Park

Located in the Arishayama section of Kyoto, the famous Arashiayama Monkey Park is one of the best things to do both in Kyoto, as well as Japan overall. A short hike up a forest-covered mountain opens up to sweeping views over the city, as well as a troop of more than 120 Japanese macaque monkeys.

The macaques roam freely in the monkey park, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with these energetic creatures. You can even feed them with food you purchase at the park. You'll find a small, wooden enclosure where you can feed the monkeys. Outside the enclosure the macaques roam freely, bouncing from branch to branch and scattering across the dirt trails.

The top of the peak also provides a great view of Kyoto and the beautiful mountain peaks in the distance. Visiting the monkey park is wonderful in both spring and fall because you'll have a bird's eye view of the cherry blossoms and the brilliant changing of the leaves.

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Perfectly manicured with the highest attention to detail, the gardens in Japan are truly works of art. To visit a Japanese garden is to step into a painting. Arguably the most beautiful garden in Japan is the Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa. The grounds used to be a part of Kanazawa Castle and were opened to the public in the 19th century.

What makes the garden so special is that it was designed around what are known as the six essentials to make a perfect garden. These include spaciousness, seclusion, antiquity, abundant water, views, and artificiality.

While exploring the grounds, visitors will pass by beautiful pools, babbling brooks, bridges, teahouses, artfully placed stones and flowerbeds, as well as sweeping views and secluded pockets.

The park is a beautiful spot to witness the cherry blossoms in the spring, as well as the sweeping autumn colors that take over in the fall.

  • Shoulder Season Travel : Due to its being blessed with so many amazing points of interest, Japan's top attractions can, during the peak summer months, get rather busy. If you can be flexible with your trip planning, create a sightseeing itinerary that will allow you to explore this beautiful country during the quieter shoulder seasons. You'll not only be rewarded by fewer lineups, but will be able to enjoy things other visitors will miss out on: spring cherry blossoms in places like Nara Park; amazing fall colors in the hillside spa destination of Jozankei Onsen; and historic structures such as Fukuoka Castle blanketed in snow.
  • Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (Train) : Thanks to its superb modern and efficient public railway system, Japan is an easy country to get around. Japan Railways is responsible for more than 21,000 kilometers of rail lines, connecting all points to larger cities such as Tokyo. The best of these is the Shinkansen Bullet Train , capable of traveling 320 kilometers per hour, making a trip such as Tokyo to Fukuoka - some 1,170 kilometers away - doable in just over six hours. Be sure to pick up your Japan Rail Pass or book your rail tours before departure to ensure savings.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Endless Day Trip Options : Wherever you choose to visit in Japan, the country's fast rail services open up endless possibilities for day trippers. Even if you are only visiting one city, you may be able to see several important tourist attractions in the surroundings. For more detail in planning your trip, see our articles on day trips from Tokyo , as well as historic Kyoto , and Osaka .

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Japan Travel Guide

The 15 BEST Places to Visit in Japan (2024 Guide)

From seeing a geisha show or walking the famous Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto to exploring the bustling metropolis of Tokyo or staring out at Mount Fuji, here’s our list of the best places to visit in Japan.

Japan is a close-knit island nation that is known for its beautiful cities, unique food, amusement parks, temples, shrines, hot springs, and more.

Hidden gems and beautiful palaces are scattered around the country, from tiny villages right up to the commercial areas in Japan, such as Hiroshima, Osaka or Tokyo.

Travellers flock to Japan to see the beauty of cherry blossom season, or to hike Mount Fuji, ski in the Japan Alps, eat delectable sushi, and more.

But there are lots of unexpected things to do in Japan as well.

Character or animal cafés, vending machines offering a vast array of items, and aquariums showcasing rare and unique marine life are just a few of the best and most interesting things you can view while in Japan.

Don’t travel to Japan without reading our ultimate travel guide!

Places To Visit In Japan, Osaka, Crowd, Busy Street

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4) Yokohama

9) hiroshima, 12) fukuoka, 13) kanazawa, 15) okinawa, anything to add to this list of great places in japan, the best places to visit in japan.

Overall, there are so many must-see and must-experience places to visit in Japan due to the nation’s rich history, location, and culture.

If you’re planning a trip, make sure you use this list to make the most out of your travel to Japan.

Tokyo, the capitol of Japan, is obviously one of the best places to go in central Japan. While Kyoto is viewed as the spiritual center of Japan, Tokyo is seen as the most popular, busiest, and most significant city in the country, and there is no question why.

If you are wondering just what to do in Japan, it’s common knowledge that starting in Tokyo would have you covered as a perfect introduction to the country.

Of course, the city is largely commercialised and there are endless activities to do, especially if you are looking for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

On a clear winter day it is even possible to have views of Mount Fuji in the distance!

It is important, however, to not forget the little things you can visit and explore – from simple and quiet parks to humble and interesting cafés or the occasional shrine or temple.

One unique place to visit in Tokyo would be Neko JaLaLa, a cat-themed cafe that offers more than your usual coffee destination in Tokyo.

There should be no question as to why Tokyo is famous and beloved for its several towers and overall interesting architecture. Buildings like the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree should definitely be places on your travel list.

Both structures are known as Japan tourist spots and two of the best places to visit in Japan.

A trip to the Tokyo Tower offers a beautiful and breathtaking view.

The tower lights up beautifully and elegantly throughout the night, which is also a nice touch and a perfect photo scene.

The Tokyo Skytree offers several experiences throughout its tiers, aside from observation and obtaining a beautiful view.

If you are looking for a less-commercialised and more cultural Japan attraction that is located in Tokyo, the Kaneji Buddhist temple is one of the best things you can do.

Complete with intricately designed gardens, hallways, and statues, this temple is ideal for anyone looking for some relaxation time while in Tokyo.

Also consider taking a day trip to see Mount Fuji, the iconic symbol of Japan.

It doesn’t matter if your stay in Japan is for 48 hours or two weeks, visiting Tokyo is a Japan must-see.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Tokyo .

Tokyo, Places To Visit In Japan

Check out our Japan Vlog on going to a crazy robot restaurant in Tokyo in Japan.

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Osaka is a port-based city that is full of interesting museums, attractions, and a fascinating variety of activities for any visitor to Japan.

No tour of the best places to visit in Japan would be complete without a trip to Osaka.

One thing to enjoy about this city is its versatile points of interest, and great opportunities for the Cherry Blossom season.

Whether it be the classic Osaka Castle or a fun amusement park such as Universal Studios Japan, Osaka really seems to have it all.

Dotonbori should ultimately be your first stop due to the influx of street food vendors, arcades, and shops.

After visiting the many wonderful fantasy worlds of Universal Studios Japan, you go go-karting around the streets.

Other popular attractions in Osaka are the beautiful and grand Tempozan Ferris Wheel, the peaceful Expo Commemoration Park, and the educational and intriguing Osaka Museum of History.

You haven’t completed Japan sightseeing until you’ve made your way to Osaka. And from here it is just a short train ride to the famous city of Kyoto.

READ MORE: Check out our detailed guide on the best things to do in Osaka .

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If you are looking for elegant cherry blossoms, peaceful Buddhist temples or the occasional Shinto shrine, then Nara is the ideal travel location for you.

Just a short distance from either Kyoto or Osaka, Nara City is the capital of the Nara prefecture and is one of the most captivating and interesting places to visit in Japan.

Shrines surrounded by peaceful, well-kept canals and ponds are a popular sight. As are long the beautiful and friendly deer that roam freely throughout the prefecture – which are one of the most unique things to see in Japan.

It is apparent that Nara might truly be one of the most peaceful, down-to-earth cities in the world.

Nara Park is a central park located within the city that is full of deer that peacefully roam the park. They are a beautiful and adorable sight to visitors.

One staple of Nara would have to be the several palaces, temples, and Buddhist shrines. Todai-ji is a perfect example and is located right in the city of Nara.

This temple is one of the largest in the area, and plays a great role in its history.

Deer are frequently seen in surrounding areas around the temple, which is a nice touch.

By far, the greatest feature with Todai-ji, however, is the addition of the largest known bronze statue modelled after Buddha.

READ MORE: Here’s our ultimate list of things to do in Nara, Japan .

Deer, Nara Park, Japan, Nara, Woods

Yokohama is one of the more authentic places to visit in Japan if you would like a taste of Japanese culture, some history, and a tad bit of everything else.

One example of how Yokohama stands out against other popular cities and tourist spots in Japan would be the inclusion of Yokohama Chinatown.

Similar to Dotonbori, the Yokohama Chinatown area is ideal for those who love to experience street food as it is popularly offered and sold throughout the area.

If you are looking to take a quiet and enchanting walk, a stop at the Sankeien Garden in Yokohama couldn’t hurt as well.

A trip through this park can help relax you after a long day of exploring and visiting different streets and locations throughout the city.

The design of the garden is very traditional and reminiscent of older gardens and contains a beautiful pond surrounded by lush trees and shrubs.

One might enjoy viewing the Tempozan Ferris wheel light up at night. And Yokohama offers beautiful fireworks shows available during specific seasons.

Due to Yokohama being a port city for trading, these shows easily take place in Yokohama at the Yamashita Park, and are enjoyed greatly by both tourists and locals alike.

READ MORE: Here’s our brand new article featuring the best things to do in Yokohama .

As Okinawa is known for its glorious beaches, the small town of Hakone is known for the natural beauty of its mountainous terrain, waterways, and hot springs.

By far the most prominent and well-known attraction is Lake Ashi that makes Hakone one of the most fun places to visit in Japan.

The lake paired with other attractions makes Hakone one of the most beautiful and captivating cities to spend some time during your next vacation.

The picture-perfect and relaxing scenery also helps it make the list as one of Japan’s tourist spots. With views of Mount Fuji, Hakone is one of the best places to see and do it all.

Lake Ashi is surrounded by beautiful mountains, which help to compliment the glistening blue water.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum is also another great reason to visit Hakone, as it compliments the feel and aesthetic of the place due to the large collection of creative artwork.

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Hakone !

Lake Ashi, Japan, Boat, Nature, Lake, Hakone

The capital city of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is an absolute gem and one of the best cities on our list of Japanese tourist spots.

Whether it’s your first or fifth time to this fascinating country, make sure you spend some time in Sapporo, a metropolis that is buzzing with excitement and culture.

Whether you want to check out Japan’s biggest zoo or visit the marvelous winter snow festival, you’ll find no shortage of attractions here.

It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring more of Hokkaido, so definitely use it as a base to plan your next moves.

READ MORE: Here’s our travel guide to the top things to do in Sapporo .

With destinations like the Nagoya TV Tower and the Nagoya Castle, this area can easily be compared to Osaka and Tokyo based on the famous and must-see landmarks.

There is even a museum dedicated to science: Nagoya City Science Museum.

This museum may sound a bit general. But its complex and interactive activities help engage and educate visitors and is home to what is known as the  world’s biggest planetarium  – making it a famous gem of Japan.

Perhaps the highlight of Nagoya and one of the best things to do is to tour the Nagoya TV Tower.

This tower consists of five floors and is a beautiful sight with its glowing appearance during the night.

The sky deck, which is at the topmost floor of the tower, offers a grand view of the city and famous mountains in the area.

The Nagoya Castle is the heart of Japan and another great symbol within the nation of Japan. You wouldn’t be able to miss this elegant structure in Nagoya.

This specific castle stems all the way from the Edo period and is lined with alluring Japanese artwork that is lit and brightened up greatly by the strategically placed windows and shading.

Be careful to not forget the entertainment halls and theatres, so you can enjoy a great concert or show while in Nagoya.

And if you’re looking for views of Mount Fuji then you can add this place to your list. Nagoya offers gorgeous views of the famous Mount Fuji!

READ MORE: Here’s our list of the best things to do in Nagoya .

While there is much to do on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is almost always at the top of the list of places to see in Japan.

Based on the prominent pagodas, the influx of cherry blossoms, and the rich history included, it is no wonder why Kyoto was once the capital of the great nation of Japan.

Due to the extravagant history Kyoto has throughout wars and harsh time periods, castles and unique Japanese structures have come to cover the region.

By  exploring Kyoto , you have the choice to learn about Japan, its people and its culture in a very motivating, intriguing, and interesting way.

Geishas are also a prominent entertainment force in Kyoto, making it one of the best places in Japan to view a show.

The Sento Imperial Palace is a peaceful palace that offers a tour that is free and is a fantastic way to discover and learn about Japanese palaces and history while exploring the area.

If you are looking to buy some authentic and quality Japanese goods, Kyoto should also be in mind. Many tourists buy keepsakes or tokens from their trip here, as shopping is fantastic.

The Kitano Tenman-Gu flea market is the perfect shop for this as it offers a wide range of products such as intricately designed fans, umbrellas, and yukatas.

Of course, no trip to Kyoto is complete without visiting Fushimi Inari, an important Shinto shrine known for its temple and the thousands of brightly coloured torii gate.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our complete guide to the best things to do in Kyoto !

Pagoda, Nature, Kyoto, Japan

Recent history hasn’t been kind to Hiroshima, a city that is most famous for having the atomic bomb dropped on it during World War II, completely decimating the city.

But for such a tragic event, Hiroshima has fully rebuilt itself, and today is one of the top selections for where to go in Japan. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is one of the top Japan tourist attractions.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the main feature of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, is one of the best known places in Japan. Memorializing a terrible event near the end of World War II, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the more sacred places to visit in the city.

Nearby Miyajima Island is a fantastic place to spend a day and definitely worth a visit. The Hiroshima Castle is sure to wow you as well.

In terms of unique sights and tourist attractions, the Itsukushima Shrine really stands out, literally, by rising out of the water.

Don’t let the idea of a crumpled city stop you from visiting – Hiroshima is truly an incredible spot to explore.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Hiroshima.

When visiting Kobe, on the island of Honshu, trying their world-famous beef is a must. You can even have it along with Ramen or other traditional dishes.

Kobe could perhaps be the food destination highlight of your trip finding the best places to visit in Japan, aside from Dotonbori.

Another street to visit in Kobe would be their version of Chinatown, which offers another great opportunity to try street food.

The Kobe City Museum is also a great way to explore the great city of Kobe and its history.

Kobe’s most popular harbour known as the Kobe Harborland is the best outdoor hub for entertainment and shopping alike.

The harbour even boasts a beautiful Ferris wheel that adds a nice touch. If you are searching for a more scenic addition in Kobe, you must visit Mount Rokko. Although it pales in comparison to Mount Fuji, there are great trails and scenery to enjoy.

This landmark is favoured both by tourists and locals, and is unique in its structure when compared to various other mountains scattered throughout the great nation of Japan.

Kobe is also located near Himeji Castle, which in and of itself is a top location in Japan. Take a day trip from Kobe to the famous grounds of Himeji Castle!

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to all the top things to do in Kobe !

Otaru doesn’t always make the list of places to visit in Japan. But its canal scenery is so romantic it could even rival that of Italy.

Different vendors and stores offering a vast array of Japanese goods paired with various restaurants help to make the canal a must-stop destination.

Aside from the canal, be sure to enjoy a wonderful experience and performance at the Otaru Music Box.

The Otaru Aquarium can help finish off your trip with some educational facts and a great view of various marine life.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Otar u

Fukuoka is a fantastic city on the Kyushu island of Japan, and well worth a visit on your next trip to Japan.

With great surfing opportunities, a fascinating samurai history and plenty of sumo wrestling matches to check out, you’ll be amazed at all the great  things to do in Fukuoka.

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Japan

Kanazawa is located on Honshu Island and bordered by the Sea of Japan. Deriving its name from “marsh of gold” after legend claims a potato farmer dug up gold instead of potatoes in his field one year.

Kanazawa Castle is the city’s most notable feature and one of the best places to visit in the city. It stands tall among various other buildings that were surprisingly spared during bombings in WWII.

The original castle was destroyed in a fire in 1888. But the existing castle still stands after being rebuilt.

Kanazawa is also known for its Edo-period architecture, temples, geishas and cuisine. You can’t go wrong to add Kanazawa to your list of places to visit in Japan.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Kanazawa.

Tohoku is located northeast of Tokyo on the island of Honshu. Very much off the beaten track for most travellers, Tohoku makes the list of best places to visit in Japan for its simplicity and relationship with nature.

Those who travel here know Tohoku for its spectacular coastlines, inviting natural hot springs and intricate cave systems. It is also a great place to see some of the best cherry blossoms in Japan – without all of the crowds you will find elsewhere.

And if you are into studying where modern history meets science, Tohoku is the jumping-off point for exploring the impact of the 2011 tsunami, most notable for it’s destruction of the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

No doubt if you are looking for a place where fewer travellers visit, particularly in spring, then you absolutely must add Tohoku to your list of places to visit in Japan!

Okinawa is Japan’s most tropical island and definitely one of the more unique places to visit in Japan. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal blue ocean water, Okinawa City is a paradise for people of all ages.

A variety of restaurants are scattered all throughout the city, which is perfect if you plan to have dinner and see a show.

Koza Music Town is perfect for those looking for supreme entertainment and shows.

Besides Koza, Okinawa is simply just a paradise for music lovers due to the many different venues and shows that are offered, especially with the famous bars and clubs scattered about.

The Shurijo Castle is a must-see if you are visiting Okinawa. This palace was dedicated to the Ryukyu Kingdom, and boasts a bright red colour and an intricately paved red walkway leading up to the grand entrance of the castle.

If you’re looking for adventure on your next travels to Japan as well, then Okinawa is the place for you. This island is definitely where to go for surfing, scuba diving, kiteboarding and swimming with whale sharks!

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Okinawa .

In conclusion, Japan is a vast island nation that is known for its mountain scenery, unique architecture, cherry blossoms, and booming cities.

While travelling there are so many places to visit in Japan and experience on each island and in each city. But it is important to not overlook the small hidden gems in the rural Japan.

Sites and areas like small traditional villages and temples can really add to your overall experience. Whether you visit castles, Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines, enjoy a hot spring or two or come to see the natural beauty of cherry blossom season you understand why the island of Japan and its people are so special.

Aside from trying food in Dotonbori and shopping in the popular streets and stores in Tokyo, be sure to mark the small villages, historic sites, and grand areas for.

Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, stroll beneath the torii gate of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and find your favorite shrine or temple in any number of smaller villages and towns.

Do you have anywhere else you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below and let us know your favourite places to visit in Japan!

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

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About the Author - Gabby Boucher

After four years of working in hospitality, volunteering abroad and travelling for fun, Gabby has developed a knack for budget travel and admiration for different cultures. Her travels have taken her through the cloud forests of Ecuador, into the villages of eastern Europe, across the islands of Thailand, and to the beaches of New South Wales, Australia, where she is currently living with a working holiday visa. She plans to continue her adventures around the world for as long as possible. Follow her on her blog , and on Instagram.

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22 thoughts on “The 15 BEST Places to Visit in Japan (2024 Guide)”

Yes I have read this article and very informative article.

Glad you liked the article 🙂

My Granddaughter dream is to go to Japan since she was 11 years old, May 2022 she will be 18 and graduating High School. I want to take her there as a gift to her, because her dream has not wavered, Problem is, I am limited on income and terrified to go to another country, where I know nothing of culture or the language, I understand it is very expensive. Could you give me advice on what we could do to make this memorable for her..without it draining my bank account and where a lot of people speak English. We are country people dont know to much of the outside world, so this will be a culture shock for us. I want to respect their values as well. Any advice will be much appreciated. Food, Places to stay, Sightseeing, cherry blossom, I am leaning on traveling April 4th 2022.

Hi Connie, What an amazing gift. An experience of a lifetime. I am originally from country WA and know exactly what you mean. Japan can be expensive but it also can be reasonable on the budget side. We have an article that has a lot of information that may help you out but I will add a few more tips in. Travel Guide – https://www.nomadasaurus.com/travel-guides/travel-to-japan/ (at the bottom of this article is lots of other Japan posts) Budget – https://www.nomadasaurus.com/budget-travel-in-japan/

There are a lot of people that speck English in the major cities. But menus will be in Japanese sometimes you will find English but the prices may be more expensive. We recommend downloading Japan to English google translate. This will help you out so much. If you are connected to the internet you can hover your camera over a menu and it will translate the writing to English. You can pick up an internet dongle from the airport and have wifi where ever you go for your stay. They can be expensive. Another option is buying an international SIM card. Just check your plan and that there is no extra costs. Your phones plans may charge you international roaming and this will be very expensive. Happened to me in Ireland when I first travelled, costs nearly $1000. I had no idea. Lucky they cut it down but it was a wake up. Transport – I would look into the JR pass. This is a great way to get around the country and you can use it on local transport within the cities too. The train system is incredible and so comfortable. Stops are in English so you can read where you need to get off and at what stop. https://www.jrailpass.com/maps Getting around cities – I would recommend hopping on a city tour or do a free walking tour to get your bearings and ask advice from the guides. The guides would be able to tell you get (and cheap) local restaurants to try. We try to do this in a lot of cities when we first arrive. Getting the public trains are easy enough to get around the cities. Put some maps on your phone or print out a map before you arrive. Food – There are so many amazing stalls. These are the best local food options. They look a little questionable but if it is busy with locals then go there. We ate at a lot of machine meals. This is when you enter the restaurant and choose a meal off a machine, collect your receipt, sit down and a person will collect your receipt and then deliver your meal. These places were great. Do not miss Kyoto and Nara. We really enjoyed these places. The temples, gardens, traditional houses and the culture. When we got off the plane in Japan we went straight to Kyoto and we were so happy we did. Explore Tokyo at the end of your trip. Hope this helps. If you have anymore questions please don’t hesitate to message us. Japan is an amazing country. The people there are so welcoming and helpful.

These are great places for tourism. I must say, your post is like my tour guide now. Thank you for sharing this post with us. Thanks.

Hi Franca, glad you liked the post. Japan has so many wonderful destinations. Have a wonderful trip when you go. Take care. 🙂

Japan has been on our travel bucket list for years now but already planning to visit next year so this gave me a good idea where to go apart from Tokyo and Osaka.

You need to go Julia. I think you would love it. There is so many amazing places to see. We didn’t spend much time in Tokyo and Osaka as we are not city people. We loved Kyoto for the culture. I know it is a city but it did not feel like it. Stay in Gion District if you go. Was amazing. We would get up early and wonder around. Felt like we were the only people there sometimes. Happy planning.

I’m planning a trip to Japan and your blog has been very helpful so far! The first time I was there I mostly went from big city to city, so this time I would like to try smaller towns and your description of Shirakawa makes it sound so lovely. The problem is that Google Maps is showing me two Shirakawa towns! Did you visit the one in Fukushima or in Gifu? Thanks!

Hi Jennifer, sorry about the late reply. This is in the Gifu Prefecture. Thank you for this. I will note it in the paragraph. 🙂

We are heading to Tokyo for the Olympics in July of next year and have a little more than three weeks in Japan with 9 days at the Summer Olympics. We have been to Tokyo and Kyoto before and did most all of the sites that one would, so the timing of this article was perfect as we were looking for more to explore outside of Tokyo and Kyoto next summer after the hustle and bustle during the Olympics. Thanks for giving us a great starting point with the overview of these prefectures. Much Aloha and Kokua for the insight

Hi Dan, so sorry your comment was missed. I know your plans are obviously are cancelled as the Olympics are postponed til next year. I hope you have rescheduled and are still going. If you have time do check out Nakatsugawa. It has a traditional trail. It is beautiful and not far from Tokyo. Check out Sado Island. The coastline and hiking is so beautiful. You can catch a flight down to Oita Island and explore this off the beaten path area. Lots of onsens and great hiking. You do need to rent a car to get around as transport is very limited. Have a great time when you go to Japan.

Truly your shared all these fabulous places are the best for travelling and tourists can enjoy some time with buddies. I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places.

So glad you enjoyed your time in Japan. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article. It packed of all the information required for the first time visitors and information mentioned above in the article are more than enough gain knowledge about Japan. The article has surely helped me a lot. It would be great if the images of the all places mentioned above were there. Thumbs up for the effort.

Glad we could help. All the best

Thanks for sharing this information regarding travel and tour. I really found this very interesting. And your blog is very useful for us.

Thank you so much. Glad you found the article helpful. Happy travels

I have visiting a few cities in Japan on my bucket list. I shared the blog. The pics are awesome and I enjoyed reading the brief overview of the different cities. I get excited about everything from historical areas, to scenic, and most of all the food. Thanks for the recommendations of Dotonbori and Yokohama chinatown for popular street food.

Thank you so much David. Natalia wrote a great article and made us very jealous. Japan looks like a wonderful place. We are heading there later this year. We can not wait. 🙂

I really like to share your all these adorable images which views very fabulous and cool. I also spent a really good time at ONOMICHI during my last journey and came back with great memories.

Thank you so much. Glad the article brought back good memories for you. 🙂

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JAPAN and more

  • Destinations

J apan is fast becoming a top tourist destination visited by people all over the world. Nearly 30 million tourists come to Japan every year to visit its popular destinations and World Heritage Sites. The Japanese government has been introducing campaigns to increase foreign visitors and it has been working. Since 2013, there has been a significant increase in tourists to Japan.

10 Most Popular Japan Travel Destinations

Shibuya Crossing – Shibuya, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo , the capital, is by far one of the most popular travel destinations in Japan. There is so much to see and do, you could spend a week just exploring its city centers of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ueno, and Ginza. Notable attractions include the electronics city of Akihabara, Tokyo Tower, Kaminarimon at Asakusa, and Tokyo Disneyland.

Dotonbori – Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan

Osaka is the commercial center of Japan and famous for its unique culture and foods. Enjoy takoyaki (octopus balls) in the entertainment district of Dotonbori and stroll the shopping streets stretching from Namba to Shinsaibashi. Then head over to Osaka Castle Park for cherry blossom viewing in the spring or the tower to see views of Osaka.

Kinkakuji – Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakuji - Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is a must for every visitor to Japan. The streets are lined with ancient temples and traditional architecture to enjoy in this cultural city. Points of interest include Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji and the Gion entertainment district. Just 20 minutes south of Kyoto is Uji , famous for high-quality matcha green tea.

Nagoya Castle – Nagoya, Japan

Nagoya Castle - Nagoya, Japan

Nagoya is the fourth largest city and centrally located between Osaka and Tokyo. Attractions include the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Nagoya Castle, and the underground shopping walkways in Sakae.

Sapporo Snow Festival – Hokkaido, Japan

Sapporo Snow Festival

5. Hokkaido

Hokkaido, the northernmost island, is a place to visit year round because of its cool summers and snowy winters offering ski resorts and hot springs. Sapporo , the capital of Hokkaido, hosts the annual Snow Festival in February. Other areas of interest include Niseko, Otaru and Hakodate.

Mt. Fuji – Yamanashi, Japan

Mt. Fuji - Yamanashi, Japan

6. Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture is the highest mountain in Japan. It reaches 12,000 feet above sea level. Climbing Mount Fuji is open in the months of July and August. The Fuji Five Lakes, including Lake Kawaguchi , at the base of the mountain offer resorts, hot springs, and camping.

Hakuba Valley – Nagano, Japan

Hakuba Valley

7. Hakuba Valley

Hakuba Valley in the Japanese Alps of Nagano Prefecture was a venue at the 1998 Winter Olympics. It is famous for its ski resorts, but also has hiking trails and hot springs. Also in Nagano Prefecture are Matsumoto Castle , one of the oldest castles in Japan, the mountainous region of Kamikochi, and Nagano City .

Ishigaki island – Okinawa, Japan

Ishigaki island - Okinawa, Japan

8. Okinawa Islands

The Okinawa Islands are located in the westernmost part of Japan and have some of the most beautiful water and luxurious resorts. The coral reefs make it a great place for snorkeling and scuba diving. Naha, the capital of Okinawa Island , features Shuri Castle and a large aquarium. Other islands of interest are Iriomote, Taketomi, and Ishigaki.

Minato Mirai – Yokohama, Japan

Minato Mirai - Yokohama, Japan

9. Yokohama

Yokohama is located in Kanagawa Prefecture and is the second largest city in Japan. The port city is only 20 miles from Tokyo, so it feels like an extension of Tokyo. Tourist attractions include Chinatown, the shopping streets of Motomachi, and the Red Brick Warehouse.

Yatai Food Stalls – Fukuoka, Japan

Yatai Food Stalls - Fukuoka, Japan

10. Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the capital city on Kyushu Island and is known for its mild climate, fresh seafood, and tonkotsu ramen. The Hakata Gion Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Japan held every year in July. Fukuoka is a great base for visiting other cities in Kyushu, such as Beppu, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Nagasaki.

There are so many great Japan travel destinations that it is difficult to narrow it down to just ten. Other notable places include Hamamatsu, Himeji Castle , Hiroshima , Ise, Kamakura, Kanazawa , Kiso Valley , Koyasan , Nara , Nikko , Naoshima , Okayama , Takayama , and Wakayama.

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Becki & Shawn in Nara, Japan

Becki and Shawn Japan Travel Specialists

Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.

We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!

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  • 35 Best Places To Visit In Japan That Make It Look Right Out Of A Storybook In 2024

23 Mar 2023

Describing Japan as a ‘backpack filled with surprises for every type of traveler’ would just be the right thing to do, thanks to the thousand shrines & temples, gorgeous gardens & palaces, the spectacular mountains, and other major attractions. It’s not only the technological wonders, but also the best places to visit in Japan that have highlighted the island nation on the map. And believe us, exploring each one of them is worth every dime.

So, if you’ve never wondered about visiting there, it’s about time that you do because these must visit places in Japan  offer experiences, which you would have never had before. Get ready to impress yourself with one of the best destinations that give you a mesmerizing feeling. Known for its rich culture, you get to explore while on your trip to Japan.

Best Time To Visit Japan

Japan Road Trips

The best time to visit Japan is from March to May during the late spring. You can also plan a visit during late autumn, especially in the months from September to November for the best experiences. The temperature remains mild during this time with very little rainfall.

35 Best Places To Visit In Japan In 2024

Are you looking for beautiful places in Japan? Here are the best places to visit in Japan that you should include on your itinerary to make the best of your trip. Scroll down to know what all awaits you in this scenic land!

  • Tokyo – Essence Of Japan
  • Kyoto  – Sacred And Serene
  • Nara  – City Of Culture
  • Mt. Fuji  – A Breathtaking Marvel
  • Hokkaido  – Closer To Nature
  • Ishigaki  – Exotic Destination
  • Hiroshima  – Historically Significant City
  • Sapporo  – Forget The Heat And Humidity
  • Osaka – A Cultural Delight
  • Yakushima – Naturally Gifted
  • Hakuba – For Adventurous Activities
  • Kamakura – Where The Buddha Resides
  • Nagano – Great For Family
  • Kawaguchi – Beautiful Landscapes
  • Takayama – Away From City Life
  • Shibuya – A Bustling City
  • Naoshima – Lush-Green Island
  • Asakusa – For Parties And More
  • Akihabara – Perfect City Life
  • Odaiba – For A Rejuvenating Experience
  • Kabukicho – Nightclubs And More
  • Ueno Park – For A Breath Of Fresh Air
  • Yokohama – Charming And Vibrant
  • Nikko – Historically Rich
  • Tohoku – Relax In Nature
  • Kawagoe – Revisit The History
  • Nagoya – Traditionally Beautiful
  • Kanazawa – For Food Culture
  • Shirakawago – A Surreal Place
  • Shikoku – Where Serenity Welcomes You
  • Nagasaki – A City With Sad History
  • Kobe – Surprisingly Attractive
  • Fukuoka – Japan’s Oldest City
  • Hitsujiyama Park – For An Enormous Sight
  • Hakone –  Views Of Mount Fuji

1. Tokyo – Essence Of Japan

Tokyo

Image Source

Tokyo is the city that reflects the colors of Japan. In Japan, places to visit are endless, and exploring everything in one trip would always be impossible. But, the popular city of Tokyo still deserves the top spot in your itinerary, thanks to its anime culture and world-class attractions. And if the historical sites don’t impress you much, the city has also got a great culinary scene! This is undoubtedly amongst the best places to visit in Japan.

Top Attractions:

  • Tokyo Disneyland
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Tokyo DisneySea

Best Things To Do:

  • Spend an evening near the Tokyo Tower in Japan
  • Shop in Odaiba
  • Witness the grandeur of the Meiji Shrine

Places to stay: 

  • Guest House Trace
  • Manga Art Hotel
  • Khaosan Tokyo Samurai

Places to eat:

  • Tapas Molecular Bar
  • Ise Sueyoshi

How to reach: Tokyo is very well-connected by airways to the rest of the world, so plenty of airlines from India connect to the Narita Airport.

Must Read: Christmas In Japan: Relish The Kurisumasu Keki This Christmas

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2. Kyoto – Sacred And Serene

Kyoto

Image Credit: veronica111886 for Pixabay

The city of shrines, gardens & palaces! Of all the major Japan destinations, the sacred city of Kyoto is one of the best places to visit in Japan in spring irrespective of whether you are holidaying with your family or your partner. The iconic temples, shrines, palaces, gardens, and bamboo forests are a treat to the eyes, and you cannot afford to miss it on your first trip.

Top Attractions In Kyoto :

  • Kyoto Imperial Palace
  • Philosopher’s Walk
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

Best Things To Do In Kyoto :

  • Visit the Kiyomizu Temple
  • Explore the Nijo Castle
  • Visit the famous Kinkaku-ji
  • Village Kyoto
  • Downtown Inn Kyoto
  • Santiago Guesthouse Kyoto

Places to eat in Kyoto :

  • Samurai Juku
  • Sugarhill Kyoto
  • Saishuan Shiraki

How to reach: Osaka International Airport is the closest airport in Kyoto which is approximately 1 hour from the city.

3. Nara – City Of Culture

Nara

Home to adorable deers, temples & more! No list of the top Japan attractions can ever be complete without including Nara in it. Home to many shrines, monasteries, museums, and the famous Nara Park, this city is where you need to be to get familiarized with the famed Japanese culture and traditions. It definitely features on the list of unmissable places to visit in Japan.

  • Kasuga-taisha
  • Ninja Museum of Igaryu
  • Visit the Isuien Garden
  • Befriend the deers at the Nara-koen Park
  • Explore the Nara National Museum
  • Smile Hotel Nara
  • Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki
  • Guesthouse Nara Komachi
  • Tonkatsu Ganko Nara

How to reach: Kansai International Airport is the closest airport to Nara and it takes around 1 and half hours to reach Nara.

Suggested Read: Japan Travel Guide: Find Everything You Need To Know Before You Plan A Trip

4. Mt. Fuji – A Breathtaking Marvel

mt. fuji

Image Credit: kimura2 for Pixabay

The paradise for adventure seekers! Renowned around the world for offering the most thrilling experience in Japan, Mt. Fuji is the ultimate place to visit and definitely one of the most romantic places in Japan. While the official climbing season begins from July and ends in September, you can witness the beauty from a distance throughout the year. It is one of the best  places to visit in Japan for young adults. Needless to say, this place ought to be on your list!

  • Mount Tenjo
  • Chureito Pagoda
  • Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine
  • Go for skiing
  • Visit the Arakurayama Sengen Park
  • Enjoy the views of Mt. Fuji from the Subashiri 5th Station

Places to stay:

  • Hatago Ichiya
  • Bself Fuji Villa
  • Hotel Mount Fuji
  • Tempura Restaurant Ninja

How to reach: The nearest airport to Mount Fuji is the Shizuoka Airport which is 83.5 km away. You can hire a cab or take bus to  reach Mt Fuji.

5. Hokkaido – Closer To Nature

hokkaido

Image Credit: fisag for Pixabay

The abode of natural hot springs! Popular for its volcanoes, hot springs, and ski areas, this gorgeous Japanese island looks right out of a picture book. And it is because of its various attractions & experiences that it is an impeccable place to holiday with both your kids and significant other. Be it the beauty of the Blue Pond or the Zoo, you’d be left mesmerized. It is one of the most ideal places to visit in Japan during summer.

  • Asahiyama Zoo
  • Farm Tomita
  • Relax in the hot spring
  • Treat yourself with scrumptious seafood
  • Visit the famous national parks
  • Yorkshire Farm
  • Hotel Park Hills Hokkaido
  • Puremiahoteru – CABIN – Obihiro
  • Hokkaido Cafe
  • Hokkaido Ramen Kyowakoku

How to reach: New Chitose Airport Sapporo is the closest airport to Hokkaido. You can find local taxis and cabs for a ride.

Suggested Read: 10 Most Alluring Homestays in Japan That Define Japanese Hospitability At Its Best

6. Ishigaki – Exotic Destination

Ishigaki

Image Credit: MarcelloRabozzi for Pixabay

The most trending travel spot in Japan! Voted as the most trending travel spot for 2024, the Ishigaki Island is definitely amongst the best places to visit in Japan. Despite its size, the island has no limit when it comes to offering unique experiences to its tourists, and glamming up their holiday in the Japanese land. It has been also voted as the best places to visit in Japan in cherry blossom season.

  • Taketomi Island
  • Ishigaki Limestone Cave
  • Indulge in snorkeling
  • Relax on the beaches
  • Savour the Ishigaki Beef
  • Ishigaki Guesthouse HIVE
  • Blue Cabin Ishigakijima
  • Ishigaki Seaside Hotel
  • Sushi Taro 

How to reach: The Ishigaki Airport is the closest, just 18 km away. Local buses and taxis are available.

7. Hiroshima –  Historically Significant City

Hiroshima

Image Credit: chaliceks for Pixabay

The city that beautifies Japan’s landscape! In spite of being known around the world for being a victim of the horrendous atomic bombings, Hiroshima continues to be one of the major places to see in Japan. And believe us, apart from the dedicated monuments and sites that reflect the history, the city also has other spellbinding attractions like the Itsukushima shrine. This is the most popular places in Japan.

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Museum
  • Hiroshima Castle
  • Itsukushima
  • Try Okonomiyaki, the local delicacy
  • Visit the Mazda Museum
  • Capture pictures at the Shukkeien Garden
  • K’s House Hiroshima
  • Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima
  • Court Hotel Hiroshima
  • Parco della Pace
  • Guttsuri-ann

How to reach: Iwakuni and Matsuyama airport are located 70 km away. Hire a cab, taxi or local bus to reach your destination.

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8. Sapporo – Forget The Heat And Humidity

sapporo

Image Credit: chaos_sun for Pixabay

A haven for beer and ski lovers! With cities like Sapporo, ‘what to see in Japan’ would never be your top concern. The city not only helps you escape the heat and humidity but also help you discover your winter wonderland during its famous Sapporo Annual Snow Festival. If not the gardens, then the huge snow sculptures would definitely steal your heart! This is one of the best places to see in Japan with family!

  • Moerenuma Park
  • Former Hokkaido Government Office
  • Mount Moiwa Observation Deck
  • Visit the Sapporo Beer Museum
  • Party in Susukino
  • Indulge in local delicacies at the Curb Market
  • The Stay Sapporo
  • Relief Sapporosusukino Hotel
  • Tmark City Hotel Sapporo
  • Gotsubo Oyster Bar
  • Hyousetsu No Mon
  • Sapporo Beer Garden

How to reach: New Chitose Airport Sapporo is the closest 53 km away. Local taxis and cabs are in abundance to drop you at your destination.

9. Osaka – A Cultural Delight

Osaka

Image Credit: 663highland for wikipedia

With the best shopping arcades, eateries that offer incredible food, and the top nightlife hotspots in the city, Osaka is one of the major places to go in Japan. Believe us, it would not only pamper the foodie or party lover in you, but also the die-hard tourist who loves witnessing the wonders of every place he or she visits. This is most preferred places to visit in Japan for first timers!

Top Attractions In Osaka :

  • Universal Studios Japan
  • Osaka Castle

Best Things To Do In Osaka :

  • Visit the Kaiyukan Aquarium
  • Visit the Hozenji Temple
  • Go beer tasting and partying at night
  • Hotel Taiyo
  • Hotel Fine Garden Juso
  • APA Hotel Osaka Higobashi Ekimae

Places to eat in Osaka :

  • Osaka Tacos
  • Giga Rabbit
  • Curry Yakumido

How to reach: Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport are the nearest airports to Osaka. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

Suggested Read: This Hidden Forest House In Japan Is A Heaven On Earth For All Nature Devotees

10. Yakushima – Naturally Gifted

Yakushima

An island of magical waterfalls! An island in Kagoshima Prefecture, Yakushima is famous for its wildlife, cedar forests, and waterfalls. If you’re someone who loves venturing into the wild for an experience of a lifetime, then this best place to visit in Japan is absolutely worth your time.

  • Senpirono Falls
  • Mt. Miyanoura
  • Kayaking or canoeing in Anbo river
  • Witness the Oko-no-taki Waterfall
  • Watch the Loggerhead turtles lay eggs
  • Seaside Hotel Yakushima
  • Guesthouse Yakushima
  • Yakushima Curry House

How to reach: Tanegashima airport is the closest to the city. Hire a cab, taxi or local bus to reach your destination.

11.  Hakuba – For Adventurous Activities

hakuba

The ultimate winter wonderland! Situated amidst the Japanese Alps, right outside the city of Nagano, Hakuba is a village cum famous winter sports hub. The various mountain resorts that offer incredible skiing, snowboarding, and hiking experiences make the city a perfect place for including it into your Japan sightseeing tour. Undoubtedly, it is considered to be one of the most famous places in Japan.

  • Mt. Shirouma
  • Hakuba Happoone Winter Resort
  • Ski at the Cortina Resort
  • Visit Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park
  • Hike to the Happo Pond
  • Courtyard by Marriott Hakuba
  • Morino lodge
  • Hakuba Highland Hotel
  • Raicho Lodge Madarao
  • Izakaya Kaz

How to reach: Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda Airports are the closest international airports. Local taxis and cabs are in abundance to drop you at your destination.

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12. Kamakura – Where The Buddha Resides

bronze buddha in kamakura

Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures for Pixabay

The Kyoto of eastern Japan! In Japan, points of interest might vary depending on the type of traveller you are. But it’s quite the opposite when it comes to the seaside town of Kamakura. Boasting bamboo groves, ancient temples, vibrant beaches, great shopping alleys, and lip-smacking local delicacies, this town has everything that would amuse you. So, you must add this destination to the list of places to visit in Japan near Tokyo itinerary.

  • Enoshima Aquarium
  • Kamakura Museum of Literature
  • Kannon Museum
  • Witness the Great Buddha of Kamakura
  • Go surfing at Shonan Beach
  • Visit the Jufukuji Temple
  • Kamakura Park Hotel
  • WeBase Hostel
  • Kebab Kamakura
  • Miyoshi Udon-noodle & Sake

How to reach: Tokyo Haneda Airport is the closest to Kamakura. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

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13. Nagano – Great For Family

Nagano

Image Credit: Nihonsuku for wikipedia

You cannot miss one of the best places to visit in Japan on your vacation which is the tropical retreat to beat the heat. Located in the heart of central Japan, Nagano is home to a lot of hidden gems like the Ninja Village for kids, Shiga Kogen Ski Resort, and Zenko-ji Temple which make it a perfect place for all the types of travellers. But, what makes it more exclusive is the pleasant breeze that surrounds the city throughout the year. You cannot miss one of the best places to visit in Japan on your vacation.

  • Matsumoto Castle
  • Visit the Zenko-ji temple
  • Enjoy winter sports at Shiga Kogen Heights Ski Resort
  • Rejuvenate at Shirahone Onsen
  • Hotel Metropolitan Nagano
  • Hotel JAL City Nagano
  • Hotel Mielparque Nagano
  • Ramen Misoya
  • Shinshu nagaya sakaba

How to reach: The nearest airport to Nagano is Matsumoto Airport which is 58 km away. Local buses and taxis are available that comfortably take you to your destinaion.

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14. Kawaguchi – Beautiful Landscapes

Kawaguchi

Japan’s most natural wonder! While this city in Japan is more famous for its Lake Kawaguchiko and the breathtaking views of Mt.Fuji in the front, it is equally known for being a paradisiacal gem for the culture vultures. The vibrant vibes and attractions of all types undoubtedly make it a great spot to tick off your bucket list.

  • Lake Kawaguchiko
  • Fujiten Snow Resort
  • Oshino Hakkai
  • Attend the Shibazakura Festival
  • Paddle Around Lake Kawaguchiko
  • Sip on Koshu Wine
  • Smile Hotel Kawaguchi
  • Wa Style Hotel Tokyo
  • Kawaguchi Station Hotel
  • Kaenzen Restaurant Kawaguchi
  • Itsumo Korean Restaurant
  • Pusan Korean Restaurant

How to reach: Tokyo Haneda Airport is the nearest airport. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

15. Takayama – Away From City Life

Takayama

The town with an old-world charm! Nestled high up in the mountains of Gifu, Takayama is amongst the best places to visit in Japan. If you’re looking for an ultimate retreat away from the bustling city life, this is where you need to go. With stunning attractions all around the city, you can experience the charm of old Japan quite easily here.

  • Hida no Sato
  • Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall
  • Sanmachi Suji District
  • Go back in time at Takayama Jinya
  • Stay in a farmhouse
  • Attend the Takayama Festival
  • Takayama Ouan
  • Ryokan Tanabe
  • Best Western Hotel Takayama
  • Suzuya Restaurant

How to reach: The nearest airport to Takayama is Toyama Airport which is 57 km away. Local taxis and cabs are in abundance to drop you at your destination.

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16. Shibuya – A Bustling City

people crossing the road in Japan

Image Credit: cegoh for Pixabay

It is said that Shibuya has an impressive 2.8 million footfall on a regular weekday. This is so because not only does this place have a spectacular crossing or as they say, ‘scramble crossing’ which is surely nothing less than a sight to behold, it also has multiple shopping places with really cool clothing brands of Tokyo. This makes Shibuya a top place for shopping in Japan . One of the main shopping places include the famous 109 shopping mall which is located in close proximity to the train station of Shibuya.

Top attractions:

  • Meiji Jingu
  • Yoyogi Park

Best things to do:

  • Enjoy the nightlife at Roppongi
  • Treat your shopping craving with Takeshita Street
  • Witness mesmerizing views with Roppongi Hills
  • Mustard Hotel Shibuya
  • Shibuya Hotel En
  • Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu
  • Ichiran Shibuya
  • Hakushu Teppanyaki

How to reach: Haneda Airport is conveniently located from the city. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

17. Naoshima – Lush-Green Island

lake view in Naoshima

A tiny island beautifully set amidst the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima offers a perfect weekend escapade from Tokyo. There’s no shortage of art museums, sculptures and modern architecture woven into the various attractions of the island. Since it’s a long journey to the island, it is best if you plan to stay there overnight just to get enough of the bliss and peace that the place has to offer. Naoshima is also considered as one of the best destinations for camping in Japan . 

  • Lee Ufan Museum
  • Benesse House
  • Naoshima Bath
  • Get ready to witness the fine work of Tadao Ando at Chichu Art Museum
  • Visit Kojin Island for some peace and quiet
  • Witness the splendid nature’s charm in Labyrinth of Cherry Blossom
  • SPARKY’s House
  • Benesse House Hotel Park Building
  • inn Hoshikuzu
  • Cafe Salon Nakaoku

How to reach: The nearest airport to Naoshima is Takamatsu Airport which is 27 km away. Hire a cab, taxi or local bus to reach your destination.

Suggested Read: Kyoto Castles Will Take You On A Tour Down The Lane Of Japan’s History

18. Asakusa – For Parties And More

Temple in Japan

Crowned as the cultural hub of Tokyo, Asakusa has a combination of things to do and multiple places to go to for different kinds of travellers. One of the good places to visit in Japan includes the Asahi Beer Hall which is like a gem for all party-goers who wish to try amazing booze in Japan. You can also try the Nakamise shopping block for a wild shopping spree in Japan.

  • Asakusa Shrine
  • Amuse Museum
  • Hanayashiki Amusement Park
  • Experience blessed vibes at Sensō-ji
  • Have a unique gaming time at Escape Game Nazobako Tokyo
  • Visit Kappabashi-dori for the various topnotch restaurants
  • Asakusa View Hotel
  • Red Planet Tokyo Asakusa
  • Smile Hotel Asakusa
  • Ramen-tei Asakusa

How to reach: The nearest airport to Asakusa is the Tokyo Haneda airport. Keisei Skyliner operates a train from Tokyo Narita to Asakusa hourly.

19. Akihabara – Perfect City Life

people walking across the road in Akihabara

Image Courtesy: goodfreephotos.com

Known as the ‘world’s geek capital’, Akihabara is famous for having a vast category of video and computer games on the planet. One of the main cafes of the like in this region is fantastical Akihabara, that will offer you a fun and engrossing gaming experience. Make sure you look out for the ones which are safe enough and not hoax in any form. You might not want to miss one of the best places to visit in Japan.

  • Tokyo Anime Center
  • Ryōgoku Edo Noren
  • Ginza Line Crossing
  • Shop at 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan
  • Witness endless lush greenery at Chidorigafuchi moat
  • Rent a bike and tour the place on your own
  • APA Hotel Akihabaraeki Denkigaiguchi
  • Akihabara Washington Hotel
  • Keikyu EX Inn Akihabara
  • Kyushu Jangara Ramen Akihabara
  • Tempura Hisago
  • Tonkatsu Marugo

How to reach: The nearest airport to Asakusa is the Tokyo Haneda airport. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

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20. Odaiba – For A Rejuvenating Experience

famous Odaiba decks

Further ahead of Rainbow Bridge, the magnificent island of Odaiba has exquisite shopping centres which also boast of a Ferris wheel inside. What else can you wish for in Japan? Another reason for the fame of this place is the installation of a Gundam statue right outside of Diver City Mall, which literally seems to be alive! Having a theme park on board, this place is nothing less than a perfect spot for your vacation in Japan!

  • Daikanransha Ferris wheel
  • Seaside Park
  • Yurikamome train
  • Indulge in a fine sushi experience at the sushi bars
  • Shop at Aqua City for a unique experience
  • Spot a few fun robots at Miraikan science museum
  • Hilton Tokyo Odaiba
  • Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba
  • Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside
  • KUA`AINA Odaiba
  • Gonpachi Odaiba
  • Zest Cantina

How to reach: The nearest airport to Asakusa is the Tokyo Haneda airport. Local taxis and cabs are in abundance to drop you at your destination.

21. Kabukicho – Nightclubs And More

marketplace with people rushing

It is indeed not strange for a place to have several neon signs. So, when you plan to visit Kabukicho, don’t be surprised to spot a few too many here. One of the main red-light areas of Japan, this place is famous for various adult indulgences and has many pubs with the same themes for all tourists passing by. Make sure you visit Shinjuku for an extraordinary virtual gaming experience here.

  • Robot Restaurant
  • Shinjuku Golden Gai
  • Museum of Haiku Literature
  • Try various fun rides at VR Zone Shinjuku
  • Watch a Tokyo Robot Evening Cabaret Show
  • Get to know more about Haiku at Museum of Haiku Literature
  • APA Hotel Higashi Shinjuku Kabukicho
  • Shinjuku Granbell Hotel
  • Oedo Ayatori

How to reach: The nearest airport is located in Tokyo i.e. the Tokyo International Airport, 18 miles from the city. Local buses and taxis are available that comfortably take you to your destination.

Suggested Read: 25 Unbeatably Fun Things To Do In Japan That All Travelers Must Try

22. Ueno Park – For A Breath Of Fresh Air

beautiful japanese tree bending

Having an array of diverse options in one place, Ueno park in Tokyo is the place to be if you wish to have a short stay in Japan. Whether you’re an history buff or not, an ancient black market like the one found in Ameya Yokocho will give you chills down the scene due to its authenticity and extraordinary fun vibes. Don’t forget to tour Yanaka if you want to explore Japan’s cultural and historic past.

  • Tokyo National Museum
  • Kaneiji Temple
  • Try Hanami to respect and experience one of the traditions of Japan
  • Visit National Museum of Nature and Science
  • Experience bliss and serenity at Ueno Toshogu Shrine
  • Candeo Hotels Ueno Koen
  • APA Hotel Keisei Ueno-Ekimae
  • Khana Pina Ueno
  • Izuei Umekawa-tei

How to reach: Tokyo Haneda Airport is the closest to Ueno Park. Hire a cab to reach the park.

23. Yokohama – Charming And Vibrant

city view at night

Having so many thrilling adventures and simply fun things to do, it is slightly sad that Yokohama doesn’t attract as many visitors as Tokyo, even though it is located quite close to Tokyo. Having a charming Minato Mirai waterfront on board, along with one of the biggest Chinatown regions, this place will surely surprise you more than you’d expect. Get ready to have a warm welcome from the locals here as it is weaved into their culture. This will sort out your query for where to visit in Japan for a romantic night!

  • Yokohama Chinatown
  • Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse
  • Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
  • Visit Enoshima island for some bliss
  • Witness a traditional Japanese garden at Sankeien Garden
  • Enjoy a fun outing at Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
  • The Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu
  • InterContinental Yokohama Grand
  • Yokohama Royal Park Hotel
  • Charcoal Grill Green
  • Azamino Ukai-tei

How to reach: The nearest international airport to Yokohama is Pohang Airport. Take a train from here or a cab if you want to reach Yokohama from here. 

Suggested Read: Exploring Japan In July: For A Perfect Experience Of The Summers

24. Nikko – Historically Rich

famous shrine in Nikko

Image Credit: ArvidO for Pixabay

Called as one of the most important regions of Eastern Japan, Nikko is located in close proximity of Tochigi Prefecture and has various shrines to be visited by travellers. These include Kanmangafuchi Abyss and Toshogu Shrine. If you wish to try something different, pay a visit to Edo Wonderland which is a theme back takes you back to the ancient era. If you’re thinking, ‘places I should visit in Japan’, make sure you don’t miss out on this one!

  • Kegon Falls
  • Nikko Futarasan jinja
  • Tobu World Square
  • Dip your toes in the hot springs of Kinugawa Onsen
  • Walk down the history with Rinnō-ji museum
  • Go hiking through Senjōgahara
  • Oku Nikko Hotel Shikisai
  • Nikko Kanaya Hotel
  • Nikko Park Lodge Mountain Side
  • Hippari-Dako
  • Gyoza no Umechan
  • Meiji-no-Yakata

How to reach: Ibaraki and Fukushima Airport are the closest ones to the city. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

25. Tohoku – Relax In Nature

famous crater lake in Tohoku

Wondering where to go in Japan? Also known as the hidden gem of Japan’s main island region, Tohoku has something for every kind of traveler planning to visit this place. But all that is just the tip of the iceberg, since the tourists from all over the world travel to this place exclusively for Aomori Nebuta Festival. Make sure to book in advance as the domestic travelers might make it a housefull!

  • Lake Ogawara
  • Hotto Plaza Suginoko Hot Spring
  • Eboshi-dake
  • Camp at Ogawarako Park
  • Try a soothing nature walk at Komaki Onsen Shibusawa Park
  • Indulge in a good dining experience at Onsen inn Matsuzono
  • Hotel New Tohoku
  • Almont Hotel Sendai
  • Westin Hotel Sendai
  • Restaurant Karinba
  • Marche Restaurant
  • Steak House Yoshino

How to reach: The best way to explore Tohoku is by buying a Japan Rail pass and visiting several attractions of the island.

Suggested Read: Japan In September: A Travel Guide For Innumerable Exploration

26. Kawagoe – Revisit The History

Kawagoe, Japan

One of the surreal Japan points of interest , Kawagoe encompasses remnants of the ancient town from the Edo Period i.e. 1603-1867 and allows visitors to disapparate to the streets from past centuries. This tiny town is known as ‘Little Edo’ and is nothing less than a paradise for history buffs. Being one of the most important cities of trade, Kawagoe envelops an extremely rich history of Edo culture and architecture.

  • Kitain Temple
  • Warehouse District
  • Honmaru Goten
  • Candy Alley
  • Visit the city museum to understand Kawagoe’s history
  • Feel the essence of spirituality in Kitain Temple
  • Explore the only remnants of Kawagoe’s palace from Edo Period
  • Kawagoe Prince Hotel
  • Kawagoe Daiichi Hotel
  • Kawagoe Tobu Hotel
  • Kawagoe Ichinoya Atre
  • cafe torocco

How to reach: Kawagoe’s nearest airports are the Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Take an airport shuttle which takes about 2 hours to reach.

27. Nagoya – Traditionally Beautiful

Nagoya, Japan

Home to little hidden gems of Japan, Nagoya is one of the unique places to visit in Japan and is often treated as a layover en route to Kyoto from Tokyo . Being one of the biggest cities in Central Japan, Nagoya was the heart of castle towns in Japan during the Edo period. Nagoya Castle is undergoing reconstruction by using traditional methods at present and this gives the explorers and wanderers a perfect chance to be a part of the rebirth of one of the most important aspects of the ancient times.

  • Nagoya Castle
  • Atsuta Jingu
  • Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens
  • Tokugawa Garden
  • Nagoya City Science Museum
  • Stroll through the castle and take in the ancient vibes of this town
  • Witness the serenity of Tokugawa Garden
  • Get in touch with the scientific technologies at the science museum
  • Explore the famous cherry blossoms and the stunning landscapes at Tsuruma Park
  • Kyoya Ryokan Nagoya
  • Hotel MyStays Nagoya Sakae
  • Nagoya JR Gate Tower Hotel
  • Atsuta Horaiken – Main Restaurant
  • Midtown BBQ – Nagoya

How to reach: The Chūbu Centrair International Airport is the closest airport to the city. You can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

Suggested Read: Cherry Blossoms Are In Full Bloom And So Is The All New Spring Flower Cruise In Japan

28. Kanazawa – For Food Culture 

Kanazawa, Japan

Serving as the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa blankets numerous historical attractions such as reconstructed residences and contemporary museums. One of the less popular tourist places in Japan , Kanazawa experiences less footfall, which makes this destination a perfect escape from the usually crowded world. Famous for its seafood, Kanazawa is a perfect jewel for those travelers who prefer taking the road less traveled.

  • Kenroku-en Garden
  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Omicho Market
  • Kanazawa Castle
  • Devour the famous authentic seafood
  • Take a tour of the castle and explore the hidden passageways and tunnels
  • Witness the beauty of the garden with three landscapes
  • Emblem Stay Kanazawa
  • Hotel Mystays Premier Kanazawa
  • Hotel Trusty Kanazawa Korinbo
  • Sushi Ippei
  • Pizzeria e Trattoria Da TAKE

How to reach: The nearest airport serving Kanazawa is in the city of Komatsu from where Japan Airlines manages a few airplanes.

29. Shirakawago – A Surreal Place

Shirakawa, Japan

Shirakawago is a cute little village in the valley of Ono District in Japan and it looks right out of a fairytale. With ‘gassho-zukuri’ buildings built by the inhabitants themselves, this destination is an epitome of the traditional village life of Japan. Shirakawago is famous for its residences that are crafted to shrug off the heavy snow from the roofs during winter months. For explorers seeking to learn about the authenticity of the Japanese countryside, Shirakawago will leave no stone unturned to help you get a glimpse of the same. This is one of the best places to go in Japan while on a solo tour.

  • Fairytale Houses
  • Gassho-zukuri Minkaen
  • Hakusan National Park
  • Get hands-on experience about the traditional life of Japan
  • Witness the soul-soothing landscapes of the village
  • Camp at the Hakusan National Park and satiate your adventurous inner self
  • Onyado Yuinosho
  • Shirakawa-go Terrace Hostel

How to reach: The nearest airport is Fukushima Airport which is 21 km away. Local buses and taxis are available that comfortably take you to your destination.

Suggested Read: 15 Nightmare Inducing Haunted Places In Japan For Daring Trip

30. Shikoku – Where Serenity Welcomes You

Shikoku Japan

Still wondering best places in Japan ? One of Japan’s four main islands, the charming island of Shikoku reflects the perfect blend of nature, tranquility, culture, and cuisine. Home to one of the oldest Japanese spa’s, Shikoku is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, pristine flowing rivers, and surreal Pacific coastline.

  • Muroto-Misaki
  • Ishizuchi-San
  • Relax your mind and soul at the oldest spa in Japan
  • Stroll along the pilgrimage route that connects around 88 temples on the island
  • Hire a cycle and explore the city like a local
  • Sunriver Oboke
  • Kotohira Kadan
  • Good food studio Cardamon

How to reach: You can travel by bus from Osaka Kansai to Shikoku via Takamatsu Chuo Interchange Bus Terminal in approximately 6 hours.

31. Nagasaki – A City With Sad History

aerial shot of city lights

Image Credit: Hruruk for Pixabay

This city of Japan too is one of the main ports lying in the southernmost region of the island. Just like the city of Hiroshima, Nagasaki is also known for its memorial of peace. You can also visit various temples as well as shrines here in order to be a witness to the cultural, religious, and historical aspects of Japan that are beautifully reflected. This is one of the most beautiful places in Japan .

  • Nagasaki Dutch Slope
  • Nagasaki Chinatown
  • Kofukuji Temple
  • Glover Garden
  • Learn the historical facts at Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
  • Witness the majestic species of penguins at Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium
  • Travel around the city in Nagasaki Electric Tramway
  • Hotel Monterey Nagasaki
  • Luke Plaza Hotel
  • Casa Blanca Guesthouse
  • Horaiken Bekkan
  • Shippoku Hamakatsu

How to reach: Kumamoto and Fukuoka Airports are the closest ones. Hire a cab, taxi or local bus to reach your destination.

Suggested Read: A Handbook Of 10 Tokyo Travel Tips For A Butter-Smooth Japanese Escape

32. Kobe – Surprisingly Attractive 

buildings and structures with river

This city lies between Mount Rokko and the sea. Although there’s a lot to see and experience here but Kobe is essentially known for its delicious beef. Therefore, ordering a burger in one of its restaurants or cafes is a must! The city comes in the way when you’re travelling from Osaka to Hiroshima via bullet train. If you want to witness the charm of this city, you should keep some extra time in hand when travelling between the two cities. This is among the best cities to visit in Japan !

  • Wakamatsu Park
  • Arima Onsen
  • Kobe Oji Zoo
  • Go for a leisure walk on Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
  • Try the scrumptious local delicacies
  • Go for the Mount Rokko trek
  • Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel
  • Kobe Sannomiya Union Hotel
  • Hotel Plaza Kobe
  • Kobe Beef Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya

How to reach: Kansai International Airport is just 70 km away from Kobe and its the nearest international airport. Local taxis and cabs are in abundance to drop you at your destination.

33. Fukuoka – Japan’s Oldest City

A building with Japanese architecture

Image Credit: Fg2 for wikipedia

Your answer where to go in Japan to explore the rich culture is Fukuoka. Known to be the oldest city in the country of Japan, a visit to this place is a must. Located in the southernmost island of Kyushu, the city is comparatively in close proximity to the mainland of Asia. Moreover, the city of Fukuoka is considered to be an imperative port since more hundreds of years. The food culture and the relaxed vibe of this place will make your travel experience simply worthwhile. So, make sure that you include this place in your itinerary as it is one of the best Japan tourist attractions. 

  • Fukuoka Castle
  • Canal City Hakata
  • Go for an evening walk at Yusentei Park
  • Pay a visit to Hakozaki Shrine
  • Go for a karaoke night
  • Plaza Hotel Premier Fukuoka
  • Plaza Hotel Tenjin
  • Yoshizuka Unagi
  • Beef Taigen
  • Hyotan Sushi

How to reach: The Saga airport is the closest one and you can find taxis from the airport to reach your destination.

Suggested Read: 7 Best Gardens In Japan Which Will Take You Into A Utopian World

34. Hitsujiyama Park – For An Enormous Sight

Picturesque Lake and Mountains

Cherry  blossom in Japan is an enormous sight to behold. The country is very famous for the spectacle and therefore visiting during this season is a must. Make Hitsujiyama Park as your next destination for a picturesque setting and get blossomed by the mesmerizing views. With a huge flora of over 400,000 trees of nine different varieties, it’s a perfect patchwork of red, white, pink, and violet. Also, the park is in close proximity to some fine dessert restaurants where you can taste the best Japanese desserts . Now, who would want to miss a visit to one of the famous places in Japan?

  • Shibazakura Hill
  • Catch the Chichibu Shibazakura Festival 
  • Hike among the many trails 
  • Buy festival snacks and souvenirs
  • Hotel Route Inn Chichibu
  • Araki Kosen Ryokan
  • Guest House Nishiki

Places to eat: 

  • Laboratorino
  • Horumon Takasago

How to reach: From Ikebukuro, the Seibu Limited Express Chichibu train goes direct to Seibu-Chichibu station and the journey  takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete.

35. Hakone – Views Of Mount Fuji

A Lake With a Mountain by its Side

If you’re wondering where to go in Japan, then Hakone is a popular area with great views of Mt. Fuji. If the weather is on your side, it can be both a great day trip as well as an overnight destination. If you are looking for a break from Tokyo, then visit Hakone, which is also a great place for a solo trip in Japan . Get mesmerized by the surrounding beauty and get excited about your next getaway which includes all the top places to visit in Japan.

  • Lake Ashinoko
  • Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
  • Open Air Museum
  • Enjoy multiple hot springs
  • Ropeway to the boiling sulphur pits
  • Crisscrossing Lake Ashi on a pirate ship
  • Kinnotake Tonosawa
  • Hakone Senkei
  • Okudo-Saryo Rikyu-an inn
  • Hakone Karaage Karatto
  • Gora Brewery & Grill
  • 808 Monsmare

How to reach: You can travel to Hakone via Odakyu Railway, Japan Railways or through the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus.

Further Read: A 10-Km-Wide Underwater Supervolcano Could Erupt And Destroy Japan

If the technological magic of the island nation couldn’t conquer your heart, we are sure that these best places to visit in Japan would! But, which one would you visit first? Plan a trip to Japan with TravelTriangle and have the best vacation! Make sure you pack a few extra clothes in case these places change your mind and you decide to extend your amazing vacation in Japan!

For our editorial codes of conduct and copyright disclaimer, please click here .

Cover Image Credit: Pxhere

Frequently Asked Questions About Places To Visit In Japan

What is the smallest town in Japan?

The smallest city by population in Japan is Utashinai which is located in Sorachi Subprefecture of Hokkaido.

What’s the oldest city in Japan?

The oldest city in Japan is Fukuoka which also happens to be the closest city to Korea.

Are there still samurai in Japan?

Samurai were abolished as Japan modernized. Although, Kanazawa still houses a samurai district and is the only city to preserve the samurai world.

What are the famous places in Japan?

The most famous places to visit in Japan are the following: 1. Mount Fiji 2. Kinkaku-Ji 3. Fushimi Inari Taisha 4. Kiyomizu-Dera 5. Arashiyama 6. Tokyo Skytree 7. Osaka Castle 8. Tokyo Tower 9. Meiji Jingu

Can I get vegetarian food in Japan?

Yes, you can get vegetarian food in Japan. The following are the best vegetarian food that you can eat in Japan: 1. Mochi 2. Nasu or Eggplant 3. Kushimono 4. Pickles or Tsukemono 5. Daikon

Is there any temple in Japan?

Yes, there are many interesting temples in Japan but the best amongst them are: 1. Kiyomizu-dera 2. Todai-ji 3. Kinkaku-ji 4. Horyu-ji 5. Senso-ji 6. Toji 7. Rengeoin Sanjusangendo 8. Higashiyama Jisho-ji

Where can I go free in Tokyo?

The most popular free places in Tokyo are the following: 1. Hanabi 2. Matsuri 3. Suntory Musashino Brewery 4. Public Parks 5. The Imperial Palace East Garden 6. Meiji Shrine 7. Harajuku

What is the most beautiful place in Japan?

There are various places in Japan that are considered to be quite beautiful. Some of them are: 1. Shirakawa-go 2. The Blue Pond 3. Fushimi Inari Shrine 4. Chureito Pagoda 5. Kanazawa

Is it expensive in Japan?

Japan is essentially expensive when it comes to travelling around, staying at hotels, or eating out. However, if you want to avoid spending too much here, you can plan your stay at a hostel or eat at less expensive food joints.

How much money do you need per day in Japan?

On average, it will cost you over INR 7,000 per day when you’re travelling in Japan.

Do I need a visa for Japan from India?

Yes, you need to get a single entry visa to visit Japan which will be valid for up to 30 days Per Entry. To get the visa you can visit Japan embassy or consulate and submit all the required documents and fees related to the visa application.

What is the best month to go to Japan?

To get the best experience of a Japan tour, you must plan your trip between March and May or September and November as the weather remains pleasant adding extra fun to your trip to Japan.

What is Japan famous for?

Japan is famous for its rich cultural heritage, including traditional arts like tea ceremonies, ikebana (flower arranging), and origami (paper folding). It's renowned for its cutting-edge technology, producing innovative electronics, robotics, and automobiles. Additionally, Japan is known for its delicious cuisine, featuring sushi, ramen, and tempura, as well as its stunning cherry blossoms during springtime.

Which month is the cherry blossom in Japan?

Cherry blossoms in Japan typically bloom in April, marking the arrival of spring. This beautiful natural phenomenon, known as the 'sakura' season, is celebrated with hanami (flower viewing) gatherings and festivals across the country as people enjoy the fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms.

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17 Best Places to Visit in Japan

Last updated on February 5, 2024 by Carl Austin and Becky Griswold - 6 Comments

Japan is quickly becoming one of the top travel destinations in the world. More and more people are traveling to the island nation every year, lured by the promise of fresh sushi, amazing train rides, safe cities, intriguing traditions, and quirky pop culture. But there’s more to Japan than cat and robot cafes; its many islands are surprisingly easy to travel around and well connected by railways, ferries and bus services.

Japan is a warm, welcoming and endlessly interesting travel destination with something for everyone. Learn about Ainu culture in the cold, snow-coated northern island of Hokkaido and discover the often forgotten Ryukyu culture in the tropical islands of Okinawa.

and the ancient wonders of the Edo capital of Kyoto. Embark on temple pilgrimages in Shikoku, explore the peaceful streets of Hiroshima or get lost in the never-ending glittering delights in the buzzing streets of Tokyo.

Map of Places to Visit in Japan

Map of Places to Visit in Japan

Some of the most popular places to visit in Japan can be found in the Edo capital of Kyoto with its ancient wonders. Embark on temple pilgrimages in Shikoku, explore the peaceful streets of Hiroshima or get lost in the never-ending glittering delights in the buzzing streets of Tokyo.

In this post, we'll cover:

17. Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen

Famed for its fabulous hot springs, Kinosaki has been a popular onsen town since the eighth century. Set just inland from the Sea of Japan, its numerous bathhouses and traditional inns lie in the Kansai region of south-central Honshu.

Now considered to be part of the city of Toyooka, the small town is bisected by a lovely willow-lined canal, while the Maruyama River passes nearby on its way to the sea. In total, there are seven public onsen bathhouses for visitors to try out; their warm waters are reputed to have healing properties. With elaborate interiors, fine architecture, and pretty gardens, the hot springs are the main reason that people visit Kinosaki.

Staying in a ryokan is a quintessential part of this experience, and lots of the traditional inns can be found around town. In addition, Kinosaki also has lots of shops, cafes and restaurants that sell local handicrafts and tasty delicacies with the town being mainly known for its fresh seafood.

16. Naoshima

Naoshima

Surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Seto Inland Sea, the idyllic island of Naoshima lies between the main Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Due to its lovely scenery, fantastic contemporary art museums, and numerous outdoor sculptures , it is a very popular tourist destination.

Before being chosen as the location for the Benesse Art Site in the late 80s, Naoshima was home to a dwindling fishing community. The Benesse corporation based in nearby Okayama then set up some world-class art galleries , such as the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum. Set amid some sublime scenery, these exhibit some exquisite architecture and house important art collections, while innovative outdoor installations are also scattered around the island.

While there is not all that much to do in the town of the same name, Naoshima certainly has enough arresting art, architecture, and scenery to keep visitors entertained. Thanks to the Benesse project’s success, art museums and installations have also popped up on the other islands lying nearby.

15. Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Lying amid majestic mountains with sweeping valleys and verdant forests all around, Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are two of the prettiest villages in the whole of Japan. Famed for their spectacular settings and traditional thatched-roof farmhouses, they count among central Honshu’s most popular tourist attractions.

While this means they can get quite crowded, particularly during Golden Week and the cherry blossom season , the villages really are a treat to visit. This is because the distinctive gassho-zukuri buildings that look so stunning surrounded by fertile farmland and magnificent nature lend them a very charming, peaceful and rustic feel.

Shirakawa-go

Besides taking in the incredible scenery and historic farmhouses, visitors can check out the Jim Homura Art Museum, buy some local handicrafts, and stay in a traditional ryokan inn . In addition to this, the mountains and forests surrounding Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are home to scenic hiking trails, twinkling waterfalls, and breathtaking viewpoints.

Osaka

Lying at the heart of one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world, Osaka is set on the shores of Osaka Bay and is surrounded by more than ten satellite cities. The sprawling metropolis is the third-largest in Japan and has long been a major economic hub and important financial center.

While its endless concrete jungle is not all that pretty to look at, Osaka is considered the best place to eat, drink and party in Japan. Much of its nightlife is centered around the neon-lit Dotonbori district , which boasts plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment options. For shopping, Shinsaibashi is the place to go; endless department stores, boutiques, and malls line the covered shopping street.

Osaka Castle

Although most people visit for its thriving culinary scene and nightlife, Osaka does have some interesting historical sights and landmarks that are worth checking out.

Its reconstructed castle , for instance, lies in a lovely park in the city center, while the Umeda Sky Building and Tsutenkaku tower count among its most recognizable sights. In addition, it boasts Sumiyoshi Shrine and Shitennoji Temple – two of the oldest religious sites in Japan.

13. Kiso Valley

Kiso Valley

Once part of the historic Nakasendo trade route connecting Kyoto to Edo (present-day Tokyo), Kiso Valley is home to several charming old post stations as well as lovely scenery. Coated in thick forest and surrounded by steep mountains, the valley is centered around the Kiso River and lies in Nagano Prefecture in Central Japan.

Due to its well-preserved historical sights and dramatic mountain scenery , the valley is now a very popular tourist destination. One of its most famous and scenic stretches lies between the two Edo period post towns of Magome and Tsumago; many people choose to hike from one to the other. After strolling through verdant forests and crossing bubbling streams, there are plenty of atmospheric old buildings for you to take in and cozy ryokans for you to stay at.

Kiso Valley also has the charming post town of Nagai for visitors to check out, as well as delightful hiking trails that weave through the surrounding landscape.

12. Koya-san

Koya-san

Located just to the south of Osaka in Wakayama Prefecture, Koya-san is primarily known as being the center of Shingon Buddhism . Edged by eight prominent peaks, the gorgeous mount is home to an abundance of temples, shrines and pagodas, as well as pristine nature and scenery.

First settled all the way back in 819 CE, the original monastery has since grown to include over 120 temples. Of these, Kongobu-ji , the head temple, is undoubtedly the most important and impressive with its centuries-old ceremonial halls, traditional buildings, and idyllic rock garden . Konpon Daito is also worth visiting for its lovely pagoda – as is the large and atmospheric graveyard of Okunoin.

While many people visit Koya-san as a day trip from Osaka , staying over and sleeping in one of the temples is an amazing way to experience monastic life on the mount. Besides visiting its numerous sacred sites and historic temples and shrines, there are loads of wonderful hikes you can do around the surrounding mountains and forests.

11. Ishigaki

Ishigaki

Located west of Okinawa, Ishigaki is Japan’s premier beach destination and makes a good base to explore the other islands in the Yaeyama archipelago . Blessed with Japan’s best beaches , it is particularly popular with families since the beaches at Fusaki and Maezato are net-protected.

Located 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo, Ishigaki may not have the shrines and temples that other Japanese cities have, but it does have an exuberant nightlife for visitors who have the energy after a day of beachcombing, water sports or climbing Mount Nosoko.

10. Miyajima

Miyajima

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, the small island of Miyajima lies in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay , surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea. Besides boasting one of the famed ‘Three Views of Japan,’ it is also home to some lovely scenery and a number of temples and shrines.

Miyajima – or ‘Shrine Island’ – is just the popular nickname for the island of Itsukushima, which has long been considered a holy place. Dominating its interior are the scenic and sacred slopes of Mount Misen , where you can find various Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and a fantastic five-story pagoda. Its gentle hills and lush forests make for some excellent hiking, and you’ll often come across tame deer wandering freely around the island.

Miyajima’s main attraction, however, is the ‘floating’ torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine that lies just off its shores. One of the most renowned and recognizable sights in Japan, it makes for some fabulous photos and attracts hordes of tourists every year.

9. Kanazawa

Kanazawa

Located in the northwest of Ishikawa Prefecture, the historic city of Kanazawa lies between the wild waters of the Sea of Japan and the towering Japanese Alps. Long overlooked due to its remote setting, it is an increasingly popular destination and boasts a rich history, culture and heritage.

In the center of the city, you can find a fantastic centuries-old castle to explore, as well as charming and well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Their narrow alleys are lined by traditional houses, cosy tea shops, and a number of atmospheric temples and shrines. Kanazawa is also home to some great museums and the busy Omicho Market, renowned for its fresh seafood.

Its most famous attraction is the lovingly landscaped Kenroku-en, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. Wonderful to visit at any time of year, it is home to a huge variety of trees and plants, with scenic ponds, bridges, and stone lanterns on display.

8. Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Hiroshima, located on Honshu Island, is younger than many Japanese cities, less than 500 years old, but its fate was forever sealed in history on August 6, 1945, when it became the first city in the world to have an atomic bomb dropped on it.

Although more than 60 percent of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed, the city has managed to make an amazing recovery since that devastating blast. In fact, by 1974, the city had actually managed to double its pre-war population, and it has also become a popular tourist destination.

Hiroshima

One of the most popular attractions in this city is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which was created in memory of all those who lost their lives or were injured by the atomic bomb. This large park is home to several interesting sites, including the Peace Memorial Museum where visitors can see the effect the bomb had on the citizens of Hiroshima.

Another must-see tourist site is the great Torii , a wooden shrine gateway that appears to be floating in the sea at high tide. The Torii is located on nearby Miyajima Island.

7. Kamakura

Kamakura

Set on the scenic shores of Sagami Bay, with forest-coated hills surrounding it, Kamakura is a top-rated destination and lies just an hour-long train ride to the south of Tokyo . As it was once the capital of Japan, the coastal city is home to many important landmarks and a plethora of beautiful temples and shrines.

Its defining symbol and most famous sight is the Great Buddha of Kamakura , which is 13.35 meters high. Made out of bronze, the mighty figure towers over its surroundings and is one of the city’s most famed and photographed attractions. The large Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine also attracts crowds of visitors, as do the pretty and peaceful zen temples of Kenchoji and Engakuji.

Surfing near Enoshima

While Kamakura certainly has a lot of interesting historical and cultural sights on offer, the center of the city also boasts lots of fantastic shops and eateries. Many people also come to go hiking amidst its stunning nature or to enjoy sunbathing, swimming or surfing at one of its beautiful beaches.

Nikko

Located at the entrance to Nikko National Park , Nikko is set in a spectacular spot amid the mountains, with lush forests lying around it. Besides being famed for its scenery, the city boasts a wealth of important Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and is located in Tochigi Prefecture.

Impressively, Nikko is home to two mausoleums of Tokugawa Shoguns ; these can be found at the extensive and extravagant Tosho-gu complex. Surrounded by towering cedars, the site showcases wonderful Edo-era architecture, with countless shrines, temples, and pagodas.

Nikko Shrine

While the complex is undoubtedly Nikko’s main attraction , two of its most famous and photographed sights are the centuries-old Shinkyo Bridge and twinkling Kegon Falls, both of which are rightfully lauded for their beauty.

In addition to this, many people visit Nikko for the lovely nature and scenery surrounding it. Tucked away among its endless mountains and forests, you can find sparkling waterfalls and lakes , as well as bubbling streams and boiling hot springs. Very easy to visit from Tokyo, all of Nikko’s historical, cultural, and scenic sights lie just a two-hour train journey from the nation’s capital.

5. Takayama

Takayama

Nestled away among the northern Japanese Alps of Central Honshu, the small city of Takayama is a very picturesque place. Famed for its traditional townscape, stunning riverside setting, and unique culture and customs, it is fast becoming one of the region’s most popular attractions .

In its well-preserved historic quarter, visitors can find lots of exquisite architecture dating to the Edo period , as well as little sake breweries, boutiques, and fantastic old merchants’ homes. Shrines, temples and museums abound in Takayama, while numerous morning markets can be found near to the river.

floating puppet festival.

At the Hida Folk Village , you can watch artisans make local handicrafts and wander around a recreated mountain village, full of traditional thatched-roof farmhouses.

Due to its isolated setting, Takayama developed its own rich culture and traditions, as evidenced by the two famous festivals of Sanno Matsuri and Yahata Matsuri. During the festivities, large and lavishly decorated floats parade through the city, which is magically lit up by lanterns. Many people visit during the festivals for the lively ambience and atmosphere.

Hakone

Boasting beautiful mountain scenery, relaxing hot springs, and a number of world-class art museums, Hakone is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. Located just a short train ride to the southwest of Tokyo, the town lies on the shores of tranquil Lake Ashi, with iconic Mount Fuji rising in the distance.

A pleasant and picturesque place, Hakone is home to many lonsens and ryokans, so visiting one of the bathhouses and staying in a traditional inn is a must when in town. In addition, exquisite sculptures and artworks can be found in its numerous galleries and museums, while small shops and boutiques sell locally made handicrafts.

shira-ito waterfalls

One of the most popular things to do is take a boat ride on one of the pirate ships that sail around Lake Ashi . From aboard their decks, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the lake’s stunning scenery and majestic Mount Fuji in the distance.

While Hakone can get quite crowded, especially during weekends and holidays, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park has loads of peaceful hiking trails for you to explore if you want to escape the crowds.

Nara Deer

Nara, once known as Heijo, was the first permanent capital of Japan, established in 710. The capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784 when the government was threatened by powerful Buddhist monasteries. Located less than an hour from Kyoto , the city boasts a plethora of important and impressive historic sights, with countless temples and shrines.

Most of its main attractions can be found in the gorgeous, green Nara Park , also home to the city’s multitude of tame deer that amble about asking tourists for food. Here you’ll find the multi-storey pagodas of Kofuku-ji and splendid stone lanterns of Kasuga Taisha, as well as a couple of lovingly landscaped Japanese gardens.

Nara

The highlight, however, is Todai-ji Temple with its awe-inspiring architecture and enormous Great Buddha.

Besides its plethora of well-preserved historic buildings , Nara has a couple of excellent museums for visitors to check out, as well as the charming old merchant district of Naramachi. With so much history, art, and architecture on show, the former capital is certainly not to be missed out on.

Kyoto

Kyoto today is the capital only of Kyoto prefecture, but it once served as the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of old Japan , Kyoto should definitely be on your itinerary.

Because of its historical significance, this city was largely spared much of the destructive bombing that occurred throughout the rest of Japan during World War II.

Higashiyama

Located on central Honshu Island, this city of 1.5 million people, also boasts more than 1,000 temples and shrines, including one of the most photographed, the Golden Pavilion . In addition to the large number of religious structures, Kyoto is home to gorgeous Nijo Castle , the former residence of the Tokugawa shoguns.

Higashiyama, a well-preserved historic district and Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district are also must-visit attractions . But Kyoto is not just about history, this city also boasts a world-class aquarium and for fun, you can learn how to become a Japanese assassin at the Ninja Training Dojo.

Tokyo

Travelers who like to mingle with people will love Tokyo. The Japanese capital’s metropolitan area is the most populous in the world. From viewing spring cherry blossoms in traditional gardens to the fish market at Tuskiji. Tokyo blends the ancient with the new, from shrines to karaoke bars.

It’s hard to be bored in frenetic, fast-paced Tokyo where even a walk down the streets can be interesting. This city’s Shibuya intersection , for example, is famous for its controlled mob crossing. Another interesting neighborhood in Tokyo is Harajuku, known throughout the world for its amazing street fashion, including but definitely not limited to goth-Lolitas, punk or kawaii schoolgirls.

Ueno Park

Tokyo is also home to several world-class museums and numerous shrines, including the most famous, the Meiji Shrine, and Sensoji Temple, one of its oldest.

Then there is the Tsukiji Fish Market . In most cities, a fish market wouldn’t be a tourist attraction, but this is the world’s busiest and largest, and it also happens to be on the itinerary of just about every visitor to Tokyo. Plus, it is one of the best places on the planet to get extremely fresh sushi. One caveat, because you’ll be visiting the fish market early in the morning, you’ll be having your sushi for breakfast.

Other interesting attractions in Tokyo include the Imperial Palace, the residence of the emperor, and Tokyo Tower. Fortunately, getting around Tokyo is easy as this city boasts a large and relatively easy-to-use transit system. If you have the time, you’ll definitely want to consider taking a day trip to beautiful Mount Fuji.

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Reader interactions.

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July 31, 2019 at 7:26 pm

The article helped me a lot to gain information about the places. The map marked with the places from article made the work easy to know about the locations. Where to stay option was unique and will surely help while visiting there. Thank you for this amazing article.

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June 1, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Hiroshima, but not Miyajima?

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March 20, 2017 at 7:52 am

List is really fascinating, How much time would be needed to visit all the above mentioned places. planning a visit in november this year.

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June 17, 2016 at 8:29 am

Been to Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura and Tokyo in the list. Really really love how you guys have ranked the top 10 by “areas” because most other websites ranks by “attractions” which really frustrates me.

I’ve been to Japan twice and I already visited the popular ones that people usually goes to like Osaka, Mt Fuji and Nagoya. I’m planning a third trip with the intention of visiting other areas like Takayama and Kanazawa but it’s really hard to find websites introducing the less visited areas. So REALLY REALLY LIKE how the less visited places were also included.

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December 11, 2015 at 5:32 am

I have only been to 3 of the places mentioned,but many many others not mentioned. For me Kyoto beats,Tokyo and Nara…but then I have spent much more time in Kyoto and find it easy to get around.

Kyoto has so many beautiful temples,shrines and gardens and it is a relaxing place to walk around. I suppose a feature here is the Gion area,in the CBD,where you will certainly see the Maiko walking around in kimono, adding that special touch of old Japan. Of course, you find Tokyo exciting and Nara is well worth a visit;especially as it is so close to Kyoto. Visit all 3 if you can.

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May 16, 2015 at 8:36 am

Japan, the only asian country in G7, great country also friendly people

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8 Must-Stop Places on a Trip Around Japan

Visit both well-loved and lesser-known places on your next japan trip..

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Shot of of building in Gion/downtown area of Kyoto

Kyoto is one of Japan’s must-visit places.

Photo by Jessie Beck

Since May 2023 , travelers to Japan have no longer been needing a COVID test or proof of vaccination to travel there. Tourists are back in full force— nearly 2 million foreign leisure and business visitors visited the country in April 2023. According to AFAR’s Jessie Beck , who visited in May, the sheer amount of visitors can feel overwhelming. (A couple of tips: Plan to make restaurant reservations months in advance for upscale eateries and explore more well-known cities, like Kyoto , in the early morning before the crowds come.)

But Japan’s strong culture of hospitality, attention to detail, reliable public transport, hot springs , and cuisine still make it worth visiting, even during peak season. With the weak yen , it is a bargain.

Whether you want to visit Tokyo or one of Japan’s lesser-known places , here are eight of the best to consider on your next trip.

Crowds pass below colorful signs in Akihabara. The historic electronics district has evolved into a shopping area for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods.

Since the late 19th century, Tokyo has been the capital of Japan.

Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Ever since it reopened, Tokyo has lured travelers with new attractions like the 2023-opened Tokyu Kabukicho Tower , Japan’s largest hotel and entertainment complex. But walk around for a distinct feel for some of Tokyo’s neighborhoods: Omotesando for fashion, Broadway Nakano for pop subculture, Asakusa for traditional culture, and Ginza for shopping.

One thing not to miss is Tsukiji Market , an area that brings in vendors selling fresh seafood and small bites both raw and grilled. (Note that the part of the market where fish auctions take place has moved a couple of miles away to Toyosu.) There are food halls in the basement of many department stores, known as depachika .

Where to stay

  • Book now: Hoshinoya Tokyo

To experience Japanese culture in a way that evokes the five senses, head to the Hoshinoya Tokyo . AFAR senior deputy editor Jennifer Flowers recommends the stay in part for its atmosphere, which includes elements like woven tatami flooring and live traditional music in the reception lounge.

Left picture displays boat sailing through the Arashiyama district, right picture displays a lantern from around the Gion/downtown area of Kyoto

There’s plenty to explore in Japan’s former capital, from the boats of the Arashiyama district to the nightlife of Kyoto’s downtown area.

Photos by Jessie Beck

Travelers have long visited the former capital of Japan to see its temples and shrines, the golden pavilion at Kinkakuji, and the rock garden at Ryoanji. Go deeper by walking down its narrow alleys, where small independently owned shops offer handcrafted wares like copper tea caddies at Kaikadō or shibori-dyed scarves at Bunzaburo. Along with whisky and sake , Kyoto is famous for tea, so visit the Ippodo tea shop or take a 30-minute train ride to the Uji tea district, where tea is harvested.

  • Book now: Ace Hotel

Kyoto became home to Asia’s first Ace Hotel when it opened in June 2020. AFAR contributor Adam Graham notes that the 213-room stay offers the “vintage brickwork, big windows, and lofty ceilings that you’d expect from Seattle-born Ace.”

Early morning shoppers peruse fresh seafood at the the Omicho Market.

Omicho Market has been a part of Kanazawa for more than three centuries.

3. Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Take a 3.5-hour trip northwest from Tokyo by rail and land in Kanazawa, a port city on the Sea of Japan famous for its seafood: the nodoguro black throat perch and shiro ebi white shrimp. After eating some of the daily catch at places like Omicho Market , carefully peruse the lacquerware and vibrant Kutaniyaki porcelain—this regional capital in Japan’s west also has a rich history of arts and crafts.

Many of Kanazawa’s major sites are all within walking distance, including the Kenroku-en Garden . (It is one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan” from the Edo period that exemplifies the garden design of that time.)

  • Book now: Hyatt Centric

Conveniently located next to the station, the Hyatt Centric hotel’s rooftop bar has memorable views of the city.

Matsushima, Japan coastal landscape from Mt. Otakamori

Matsushima is about half an hour outside of Sendai.

4. Sendai, Miyagi

The gateway to the northern Tōhoku region, Sendai offers a short train ride into the mountains to visit the Nikka Miyagikyo whisky distillery (be sure to make a reservation for a visit). Farther along on the same train tracks is Yamadera, a Buddhist temple at the top of a small mountain with scenic views of the surrounding valley.

An especially popular day trip is to Matsushima, literally “pine tree island.” Matsushima has been a muse for artists and poets for hundreds of years and is one of Japan’s top scenic spots. The bay is dotted with more than 250 islands covered with pine trees that are best witnessed from a ferry. Near the ferry terminal are two historic temples: Entsuin and Zuiganji.

  • Book now: The Westin Sendai

The Westin is in one of Sendai’s tallest buildings. It is about a 10-minute walk from the station and offers spacious rooms.

Long exposure of Floating Torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima, Hiroshima (gate sign reads Itsukushima Shrine)

Depending on when you visit, the red torii gate by Itsukushima Shrine could look like it’s floating in water.

Photo by Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock

5. Hiroshima

Make time for a contemplative and quiet visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum to see the A-Bomb Dome , a memorial where the atomic bomb was dropped during World War II. But Hiroshima also has historic sites that survived, such as Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei-en Garden, once the home of Emperor Meiji in the 19th century. Hiroshima’s local cuisine includes oysters, a savory Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki pancake filled with noodles, and a local style of shiru nashi spicy ramen with very little soup.

Take a 30-minute scenic Sanyo train ride from Hiroshima’s center to Miyajimaguchi Station, where a 10-minute ferry leads visitors to a massive red torii gate. This landmark in the bay marks the entrance to the colorful Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. At high tide, the red gate will appear to be floating in water; at low tide, visitors can walk to the gate.

  • Book now: Simose Art Garden Villa

The Simose Art Garden Villas, one of AFAR’s best hotels to book in Japan , is both an art complex and resort. The getaway opened in April 2023, featuring 10 villas (5 “Waterside villas” and 5 “Forest villas”) and a restaurant.

Left photo displays soba noodles at a restaurant, right photo displays view of Mt Yotei from Niseko's ski slopes

Hit Niseko’s ski slopes, then warm up with some soba noodles at places like Teuchi-Soba Ichimura .

6. Niseko, Hokkaido

Skiers and snowboarders descend on Niseko each winter for the fresh powder. Due to its geography, the area is famous for its perfect, dry snow. So many tourists come to ski that English is more likely to be heard on the streets than Japanese during ski season.

There are four major ski resort areas to explore: Annupuri, Hanazono, Hirafu, and Niseko Village. AFAR’s Jessie Beck notes that Niseko’s ski area, in particular, has an après-ski scene for many types of travelers—from an evening soak in an onsen to a rowdy night out.

  • Book now: Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono

Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono has ski-in and ski-out access, several restaurants, and luxurious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Matsumoto City Museum of Art built in 2002. Museum specialized are installations and paintings by Japanese artists

Get immersed in Matsumoto’s colorful culture at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

Photo by cowardlion/Shutterstock

7. Matsumoto, Nagano

Arts and crafts define this city. Visit the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum , the largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints in the nation. The Mingei-kan Museum showcases Mingei traditional folk crafts, and the Matsumoto City Museum of Art has a permanent exhibit of Yayoi Kusama , a Matsumoto native. Matsumoto, in the heart of the Japanese Alps, is also home to Matsumoto Castle , which is a designated national treasure.

On the way back to Tokyo, consider a day trip to Suwa, just south of Matsumoto, to visit several of the sake breweries, including Masumi, founded in 1662.

  • Book now: Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

The Mingei culture of traditional crafts is at the heart of the Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu with pieces throughout the hotel and in some of the rooms. Matsumoto’s oldest hotel, it also has hot springs on the property.

Young people celebrating a sake festival in the old town of Hida Takayama, Japan on November 14, 2010

Don’t miss out on celebrations like the sake festival in Hida Takayama.

Photo by PIXEL to the PEOPLE/Shutterstock

8. Hida Takayama, Gifu

Hida Takayama can be reached via Japan Rail Hida limited express train from Nagoya station. The ride on the train is scenic as it follows a blue river winding into the Japanese Alps north of Nagoya. Its historic old town, Furui Machi Nami, retains the charms of days gone by; the morning market is one of the biggest in Japan.

Near Hida Takayama is Shirakawa Village , a World Heritage site, famous for its wooden homes with thatched roofs.

  • Book now: Honjin Hiranoya

A stay at this traditional Japanese ryokan includes dinner and breakfast, with local specialties like Hida wagyu beef. The area is known for its onsen hot springs, ideal for a long soak after a day of sightseeing.

Hiking among Asheville’s gorgeous landscapes is a popular pastime among travelers and locals alike.

Top 25 Popular Tourist Attractions in Japan

kyoto kimono

One of the most exciting parts when planning an international trip is deciding where to visit the country. We can help you complete your itinerary smoothly with a comprehensive list of the most popular tourist attractions that will never disappoint you. Here are the 25 best tourist attractions that we recommend in Japan! 

Check Out The Most Popular Tour in Tokyo This Month!

japan top travel destinations

2. Shibuya Crossing

3. yokohama minatomirai, 4. nikko , 5. mt. fuji, 6. shirakawago, 7. snow monkey park, 8. osaka dotonbori, 9. kyoto (fushimi inari), 10. nara park, 11. miyajima, 12. okinawa, 13. animal islands , 14. naoshima, the art island , 15. yakushima , 16. ghibli locations , 17. gaming spots , 18. seto inland sea , 19. sanriku coast , 20. hida takayama , 21. nakasendo , 22. original castles , 23. big buddha statues , 24. unique theme parks , 25. onsen spots near tokyo , find the other tours, where to stay in japan, other articles you might like.

Sapporo is known as the largest city in Hokkaido with a population of about 2 million people. While it plays a role as a political and economic center, it also boasts a range of tourist attractions and popular spots which attract people from around the world. Sapporo Clock Tower is an iconic landmark with 130 years of history which is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. Goryokaku refers to a historical spot featuring a star-shaped fort located in a peaceful park known as a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. Susukino is a lively drinking district that offers a range of entertaining experiences as well as a number of Izakaya bars. Sapporo Snow Festival is a symbolic annual festival held in February that fascinates visitors with incredible exhibitions of ice sculptures! Don’t forget to try fresh seafood and local specialties, including high-quality crabs and Sapporo Miso ramen!

clock tower sapporo

To enjoy Sapporo to the fullest, take a guided tour! The guide will pick you up at your hotel and you can explore the downtown area with popular tourist spots, the central wholesale market, shrines, and parks! ▶ Book Hokkaido 1-Day Highlight Private Walking Tour

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Located in the Shibuya area in Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing is widely known as the busiest crossing in the world. It consists of 5 crossroads that allow pedestrians to come and go in every direction of the crossing. At the busiest time of the day, more than 3,000 people are estimated to cross it at the same time without bumping into each other, which creates an incredible view! Shibuya Scramble Square is a giant shopping complex that features Shibuya Sky , a popular observation deck offering 360-degree views of the iconic crossing as well as the Shibuya district full of skyscrapers!

shibuya crossing

Yokohama Minatomirai refers to a popular sightseeing district in Kanagawa prefecture with a range of commercial complexes and entertaining spots. It plays a role as the economic and shopping center of Yokohama, the second-largest city in Japan by a population which is accessible in less than 30 minutes by train from Tokyo. Visit Yokohama Landmark Tower which offers a spectacular night view of Yokohama city from the observation deck at the elevation of 273 meters. Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse is home to numerous shops and restaurants selling a large variety of products and items perfect for a gift. Head to Cup Noodles Museum to learn the history of instant noodles which originated in Japan through interactive exhibitions. You can also attend noodle-making classes as well as pay extra to design your own noodle cups!  

Yokohama night view

Nikko is a peaceful city nestled in the northwestern part of Tochigi prefecture. From Tokyo, it can be reached in approximately 2 hours by train, making it a perfect weekend trip destination. It is home to Nikko Toshogu , a world-famous Shinto shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the first Shogun of Tokugawa Shogunate which once ruled the entire country for 260 years from the beginning of the 17th century. The original establishment of the shrine dates back to 1617, and it has been visited by numerous tourists as a symbolic structure listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical sites in the Nikko area. You can explore the sacred shrine grounds full of magnificent buildings, including 8 National Treasure and 34 Important Cultural Properties. Kegon Falls is another popular spot that offers a refreshing experience in nature with impressive scenery created by the beautiful waterfall and surroundings!

In this tour, you can explore the must-visit spots in Nikko with a knowledgeable guide. Starting from Asakusa in Tokyo, the guide will take you to the World Heritage Site, Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Waterfall, and safely bring you back to Tokyo. If you are planning to make a one day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, book this tour! ▶ Book the Best Nikko Private Walking Tour here        

Nikko Toshogu Shrine Yomei Gate

There is no doubt that Mt. Fuji is a must-visit place since it’s a symbolic mountain in Japan. Known as the highest mountain in Japan, it fascinates numerous visitors with its extraordinary beauty and presence. You can enjoy the symbolic peak from a distance, or tackle the exciting hiking trails which allow you to explore the surrounding nature. It also offers a variety of outdoor adventures such as kayaking or boat cruise at scenic lakes called Fuji Five Lakes (”Fujigoko” in Japanese) . BBQ and camping can be other options around there. Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Japan’s Iconic Mt.Fuji

Mt Fuji

Winter is the best season to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped mountain and also it is said January and February is the best time to see Mt.Fuji with a clear view. Read 12 Recommended Places to See the Best View of Mt.Fuji for the reason and the best viewing spots.

If you are looking for a guided tour around Mt. Fuji, check out our Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo! Departing from Shinjuku, you can travel comfortably to the Mt. Fuji area by bus and explore the highlights including Chureito Pagoda, Aokigahara Forest, and more.

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Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago attracts people around the globe despite age or nationality. The beautiful village is nestled in a peaceful mountainous area in Gifu prefecture . What makes it a world-famous place is the stunning scenery created by traditional Japanese houses called Gassho-zukuri. It features a unique architectural style such as a steep thatched roof which protects the house from heavy snowfall in winter. Exploring the beautiful village also allows you to take a glimpse of the local community that has preserved the impressive scenery and traditional lifestyle for centuries! Winter changes the peaceful village into a white world completely covered with snow!

Shirakawago

Have you ever imagined wild monkeys bathing in a hot spring? It may sound unreal, but actually does exist as a world-famous tourist attraction in Japan! Snow Monkey Park is a unique nature park which has suddenly become famous when it was featured in Life , the American magazine. Visitors can watch wild monkeys move around freely in a great natural environment. Nestled at the elevation of 850 meters, the park is covered with snow when the temperature drops during a long winter season. The severe weather encourages monkeys to soak in a natural hot spring bath to warm up their body, which attracts numerous international tourists every year.

snow monkey

Known as the second largest city in Japan, Osaka awaits you with a lively atmosphere unique to the Kansai region which is completely different from what you can experience in Tokyo! Dotonbori refers to a vibrant downtown district with numerous shops, restaurants, Izakaya bars, entertaining spots and much more! Walking around the area will easily deprive you a couple of hours with too many things to do and see. Ebisubashi is a symbolic bridge over Dotonbori canal which is a perfect spot to take memorable photos with a giant signboard known as Guriko Sign . Try local specialties such as Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki . Enjoy a memorable nightlife at Izakaya bars offering high-quality Japanese sake and a variety of dishes!   ▼Join our Osaka Highlights Private Walking Tour including Dotonbori Street, Hozenjiyokocho Backstreet, Osaka Castle, Kuromon Market, and more

japan top travel destinations

Kyoto never stops fascinating visitors with the extraordinary townscape with beautiful shrines and temples. It used to be an ancient capital of Japan until Tokyo took over its place and became the largest center of economy and politics. Walking around the scenic town will take you to world-famous historic sites such as Arashiyama , a peaceful area known for the stunning bamboo grove. Kiyomizudera is a sacred Buddhist temple designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. 

Another highlight you should not miss is Fushimi Inari a Shinto shrine situated at the base of Mt. Inari. The scenic shrine is visited by numerous tourists from around the world as the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. It welcomes visitors with Senbon-torii (千本鳥居) , which literally refers to a thousand red Torii gates creating stunning scenery. Visiting there in the early morning will enable you to take stunning pictures of beautiful Tori gates without crowds. It is also a perfect hiking spot that allows you to explore the mysterious and sacred shrine grounds while feeling the refreshing air.   

Fushimi inari autumn

Popular tours in Kyoto to discover hidden stories and spots in the town ▼Kyoto Private Tour (Customizable)

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▼Kyoto Food and Drink Tour at Nishiki Street & Gion

japan top travel destinations

▼Kyoto Maiko & Geisha Performance and Cultural Walking Tour in Gion

japan top travel destinations

It is about a 50 minutes train ride from Kyoto to reach Nara , which is known as another historic city. It is home to numerous historical spots such as Todaiji , a symbolic Buddhist temple established by the emperor Shomu in the early 8th century. Nara offers not only traditional temples and historical sites but more! Nara Park is a vast park which opened in 1880. It covers approximately 502ha with a number of popular historic sites such as Todaiji, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum around. Nara Park is also known as Deer Park since over 1,000 deer actually live in the park! You can buy some deer crackers to feed them and some deer even bow to you to get a cracker! But be careful, these deer are usually tame and friendly but can be aggressive sometimes. Nara Park is also known as a popular cherry blossom viewing spot which is filled with stunningly beautiful pink flowers in spring! ▼Book our Private Walking Tour in Nara

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Miyajima is a scenic island which belongs to Hatsukaichi city in Hiroshima prefecture. It can be reached by regular ferry service from Miyajima-guchi pier which takes passengers to the scenic spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As you take the first step into the island, you will be welcomed by friendly deer living there. But unlike deer in Nara Park, it is strictly prohibited to feed them. Itsukushima Shrine is an iconic Shinto shrine which was originally established in 1168. It is also widely famous for the floating Torii gate, which refers to the symbolic giant Torii gate standing in the water. The breathtaking scenery created by the contrast of blue ocean and blight red Tori gate attracts tourists from around the world! Don’t forget to try local specialties such as Okonomiyaki and fresh oysters at restaurants!     ▼Book our Hiroshima Private Tour

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If you are planning a long trip in Japan, head to Okinawa to make the most of your time! You can take direct flights from domestic airports such as Narita , Kansai International Airport and Chubu Centrair to reach the southernmost prefecture consisting of numerous remote islands. The emerald-green ocean and sandy white beaches allow you to discover the beauty of untouched nature through a range of guided tours for marine activities such as sea kayaking and snorkeling. Naha is a prefectural capital which boasts popular tourist attractions such as a remain of Shurijo Castle and Kokusaidori street which is a perfect shopping hub.  

Miyakojima is one of the remote islands that belong to Okinawa. Take a relaxing stroll at Maehama beach while feeling the comfortable sea breeze. You can also rent a car and drive across Irabu Ohashi Bridge which boasts a length of 3,540 meters, making it the largest free bridge in Japan!  

Irabu Ohashi Okinawa

Japan features some animal islands where visitors can see wild animals inhabited among people or on uninhabited islands. Cat islands, rabbit islands, sheep islands and monkey island etc., there are a variety of animal islands in Japan. Tashiro Island in Miyagi prefecture is known as a cat island where over 100 cats live while only about 60 people live there. There is even a shrine dedicated to cats on the island! Okuno Island in the Seto Inland Sea is a so-called rabbit island where over 900 wild rabbits inhabit having its dark history. The island itself was used to develop gas weapons during the war and hid from the map. The combination of interesting history and adorable rabbits attract many tourists in and outside of Japan.  To find which animal islands you can visit, read our article; 10 must-visit animal islands that will surprise you in Japan  

cat islands

Naoshima , located in the Seto Inland Sea which is also known as the art island, is getting popular among the tourists. With beautiful ocean views and colorful artworks displayed open-air around the island, Naoshima became the center of Japan’s showcase of contemporary arts. There are many galleries and museums that you can visit, the old and new architectures will satisfy all the art lovers. Most iconic artworks are red and yellow pumpkins by a famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Red Pumpkin is located near the Miyanoura Port, so most likely the first thing you will see on the island is this. Yellow pumpkin is only 10 minutes away by bus. Rent a bicycle or car if you want to travel around Naoshima in a day! 

Red pumpkin Yayaoi Kusama Naoshima

Yakushima is an island in Kyushu , about 90% of the island is covered by mountainous areas and forests, which makes it a very popular spot for hiking. It’s also known as the difficult hikes which takes 9 hours to complete in a round trip, but you can choose hiking courses depending on your level. The easiest one is only 30 minutes long which is suitable for children and beginners. Yakushima offers breathtaking beauty in nature which takes you away from the hustle and bustle in the city.  Recommended: 3 Best Yakushima Hiking Trails for First-Timers

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There are some places that are said to be the models of famous Ghibli spots in Japan. Yakushima is one of them, it is said to serve as an inspiration for Princess Mononoke. Other Ghibli locations in Japan are Dogo Onsen in Ehime prefecture where you can see the hot spring bathhouse which looks like a bathhouse from the film!

In this article with 10 Ghibli movie locations you can visit in Japan , you can find actual locations of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo and so on comparing the actual places and movie scenes. 

japan top travel destinations

Gaming culture is something that Japan is proud of.  With unique Otaku (geek or nerd) culture , you can enjoy some gaming related spots especially in Tokyo. Akihabara is known as the Otaku town featuring a variety of game shops and arcade game centers, as well as Nakano . If you have been enjoying Japanese games, visit real-life video game locations . You will be surprised how accurate they draw in the game! 

japan top travel destinations

Surprisingly, there are 727 islands in the Seto Inland Sea . These islands lie between the Japanese main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Its mild climate and relaxing atmosphere often compare with Mediterranean islands. One of the best ways to enjoy the stunning islands in Seto Inland Sea is cycling on Shimanami Kaido which is a cycling trail that connects Ehime prefecture and Hiroshima prefecture. 

Seto Inland Sea

Sanriku Coast stretches from southern Aomori prefecture through Iwate prefecture in the Tohoku region . The beautiful coastline creates scenic ocean views with cliffs and rock formations. In 2011, the tragic disaster hit the area with a huge earthquake and tsunami and you can visit the memorial museums to learn about the disaster. Still many efforts will be needed to reconstruct the area but beautiful sceneries remind us of the power of nature at the same time while appreciating its beauty. Just enjoying the area is also fine, but it’ll be more meaningful if you can take some time to think of the lesson learned from the past which local people try to pass down to the next generations. 

Kitayamazaki Coast sanriku

Hida Takayama is located in the mountainous area in Gifu prefecture. If you are interested in history and nature, you will love it there! Traditional merchant houses, restaurants and shops which date back to the Edo period are lined at the old Sanmachi Suji district which is one of the iconic places in the Hida Takayama area. If you have seen a Japanese animated film called Your Name , the film took place around this area. Also Hida Beef is a very known wagyu from Hida Takayama, you can easily find grilled beef skewers and beef sushi on the street. Don’t forget to try some! 

Hida Takayama

Nakasendo is an old trail which connects between Edo (old Tokyo) and Kyoto which was prosper during the Edo period. Today, it’s a popular hiking trail to enjoy traditional buildings and mountains. Magome and Tsumago are especially popular for both sightseeing and hiking spots in the Nakasendo trail. They are the old post towns situated in the mountains where still many historical houses are preserved. You can enjoy 3 to 4 hours hiking between these two towns. The route is combined with gentle slopes and sudden uphill, special hiking gears are not necessary but if you are worried, you can also take a bus or drive a car between the towns! 

Magome

Japan used to have over 25,000 castles but as time passes with wars, natural disasters and the movement of modernization, there are only 12 original castles left. Original castles mean having a castle tower (main keep) which was built during the Edo period or earlier. Probably the most popular castle for tourists is Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture. This beautiful white castle is often referred to as Shirasagi-jo, meaning White Heron. It is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites . Of course other castles have their own unique appearance and beauty, the towns around the castles are also attractive with some historical sites and traditional shops. 

japan top travel destinations

Kamakura Daibutsu and Nara Daibutsu are the most famous big buddha statues in Japan, but actually there are more stunning buddha statues that you can visit. Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki prefecture is the tallest Buddha statue which is twice as big as the Statue of Liberty in New York. Hill of the Buddha in Hokkaido is a photogenic spot which was designed by a popular Japanese architect Tadao Ando . But you think the Buddha statues are all the same? Actually when you look carefully, each Buddha statue has completely different faces! 

Recommended: 10 Famous Buddha Statues in Japan

japan top travel destinations

Not only beautiful nature and historical sites, but Japan is popular for its unique theme parks as well. Tokyo Disney Resorts and Universal Studio Japan are the top theme parks, but there are theme parks which recreated the townscape of foreign countries such as Huis Ten Bosch which is modeled after Netherland and Tokyo German Village. 

japan top travel destinations

Seemingly Japanese people have quite a passion toward onsen, you can enjoy onsen all year round, days and nights, with some great benefits for your body. You can’t complete your Japan trip without experiencing unique bathing culture here. Onsen spots near Tokyo are also popular tourist attractions especially Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma prefecture. Read our article about how to take a Japanese onsen since there are things to know including manners before you go! 

japan top travel destinations

Japan Wonder Travel Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan.  From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots!  In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

▶ Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

tsukiji tour

▶ Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours) There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

▶ Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

mount fuji chureito pagoda

▶ Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.

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▶ Tour Packages If you want to make travel easier, we suggest you look into tour packages.There are a wide range of tour packages out there to suit the accomodate for each traveler needs. Click the button below to find the best tour package from various Tour Operators!

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Japan awaits you with a range of memorable experiences that can be found at great tourist spots across the country. Immerse yourself in the scenic nature spots as well as historical sites surviving for centuries. It will make your once in a life time experience in Japan!

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Happy traveling!

Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Once every two weeks we will introduce you to our latest content.

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24 Reasons to Visit Japan, Voted the 'Best Country in the World' by Our Readers

By Tokyo Halfie

Uji canal in Kyoto

Japan was voted the best country in the world in the 2023 Readers' Choice Awards . Here, resident foodie and travel connoisseur Tokyo Halfie explains 24 reasons why you should visit Japan in 2024.

With a rich cultural heritage that eloquently integrates tradition and innovation, Japan is full of juxtapositions. After a two-year entry restriction that was lifted earlier this year, international travelers are flocking back to explore the splendors the country has to offer.

The diverse landscape unveils its ever-changing tapestry of colors, from the delicate pink sakura cherry blossoms in the spring to the vibrant fiery gradation of koyo autumn foliage. The seasonal transitions are beautifully mirrored in its remarkable dining scene, featuring shun-no-shokuzai (seasonal ingredients).

From the vivacious festivals in cities to serene onsen hot springs in the countryside, there are boundless possibilities for discovery.

Aerial Tokyo City View with Tokyo Tower Minato Tokyo Japan.

Tokyo Tower

1. The thriving restaurant scene

First and foremost, Tokyo has some of the best restaurants in the world, from casual rustic walk-ins to globally acclaimed omakase spots. Chefs dedicate their lives to mastering techniques with their shokunin spirit—the virtue of seeking perfection in their craft. Intricately prepared dishes are served with impeccable service, stemming from the tradition of omotenashi—a deep-rooted psyche of taking care of guests.

2. The vast spectrum of cuisines

The country offers various cuisines, ranging from traditional genres (sushi, tempura, and kaiseki) to progressive and experimental fusions. The appreciation for the change in seasons is often ingrained in any genre, featuring domestically sourced fresh produce Japan’s diverse landscape offers a wide variety of local vegetables, seafood and meat throughout the year. Each region will have their local speciality, whether it be seasonal ingredients or kyodo ryori (literally translating to ‘regional cuisine’).

Stack of sake barrels

3. The finely brewed sake

Sake literally translates to ‘alcohol’ in Japanese—rice wine is technically referred to as nihonshu. The beverage was initially brewed in Shinto shrines, and has held a sacred place in the country’s culture. Its production process encapsulates centuries of craftsmanship, carefully blending premium rice, pure water, yeast, and koji fungus. The mountainous terrains provide mineral-rich natural waters, with each water source greatly influencing the character and flavour notes of the final product.

4. Stunning spring blossoms

With flowers emerging after a cold winter, spring represents “new beginnings” in Japan (including the school year, which starts in April). The first sakura, or cherry blossom, appears in the southern islands, and the phenomenon moves its way northwards. There are over 600 types of sakura trees across the country with varying shades of pink. Petals gradually unfold outwards until reaching their peak mankai (full bloom) for a mere few days.

5. Festive summer activities

Summer marks the matsuri festival season, with each region hosting their annual bon-odori (traditional communal dance) or hanabi-taikai (fireworks convention). Many will attend wearing a yukata, a lighter and more casual version of a kimono. Generally, yatai vendors can be found at these celebrations, serving a variety of street food including yakisoba (stir-fried noodles with soy and oyster sauces) and ringo-ame (candy apples).

6. Glorious autumn foliage

As temperatures gradually decline following the scorching summer, the renowned koyo or autumn foliage begins in mid-September in Hokkaido. Leaves transition from shades of green to a breathtaking gradation of red, orange and yellow. The peak season in Kyoto is generally around mid to late November when many visit the stunning zen gardens at Buddhist temples and their colouring momiji (Japanese maple) trees.

7. Refreshing winter weather

Contrary to the grey British winters, the Kanto region (including Tokyo) is usually dry and crisp this time of year, with higher chances of blue skies. Snow can be enjoyed in the mountains, hosting world-renowned ski resorts such as Niseko and Hakuba. It is also the best season to enjoy the onsen (hot springs) at serene Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns)—even snow monkeys can be found bathing in the wild at Jigokudani Monkey Park .

Tsukiji Market Tokyo A bright red fish placed in ice for sale in a fish market.

8. Juxtapositions in Tokyo

The Japanese capital is the epitome of paradoxes—the organized chaos of the Scramble Crossing in Shibuya is just one of many examples, with thousands of pedestrians crossing simultaneously. The tranquil Meiji-Jingu Shrine is located next to the pop-culture epicenter Harajuku; the Imperial Palace and pristinely trimmed trees are within walking distance from the bustling business district in Marunouchi. From the early-morning fish market in Toyosu to late-night cocktails in Roppongi, Tokyo is a city that never sleeps.

9. Astonishing history in Kyoto

This historic city was once the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, from the 8th to 19th centuries. It is home to over 3,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, 16 of which are registered as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites . From the magnificent Kinkakuji Temple (also known as the “Golden Pavilion”) to the incredible Kiyomizu-dera Temple, there is an abundance of extraordinary monuments. The Arashiyama bamboo forest and the red gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine also top many bucket lists .

10. Natural treasures in Hokkaido

The largest prefecture in Japan is also the northernmost island, renowned for its natural wonders. The diverse landscapes and surrounding oceans provide an affluent range of fresh ingredients, including seasonal seafood and vegetables. From blissful spring walks in colorful flower fields to powder-skiing in the winter mountains or slurping miso ramen at the local hole-in-the-wall to tasting delicacies, the region offers myriad activities.

11. Craftsmanship in Hokuriku

Hokuriku is located along the Sea of Japan on the northwestern side of the country’s main island Honshu. The local delicacy Kobako-gani (female snow crab) can only be eaten between November and December, the most popular months to visit Ishikawa and its capital Kanazawa. For those seeking an artisanal experience, Fukui prefecture is rich in craftsmanship, including handmade knives, Echizen washi paper and pottery.

12. Casual bites in Kyushu

In the south of Japan, eight prefectures make up the Kyushu region. The Hakata district in Fukuoka is famous for its casual bites, which are referred to as B-kyu gurume (literally translating to “B-grade” gourmet). The regional ramen here is prepared with a tonkotsu pork-based broth, and served with thin noodles. Other local favorites include mizutaki (chicken hotpot), gyoza (dumplings) and mentaiko (spiced pollock roe).

13. The art island Naoshima

Once nearly-abandoned fishing islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima, along with Teshima and Inujima, were transformed into ‘art islands’ over the last few decades. Museums and art displays can be found all around the islands, including the iconic yellow pumpkin sculpture by the legendary Yayoi Kusama. The Art House Project renovated seven kominka old houses into interactive exhibitions; the Chichu Art Museum by celebrated architect Tadao Ando and the Lee Ufan Museum are also not to be missed.

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Family with small child hiking through rainforest of Yakushima Island Kagoshima Japan

14. The rainforest in Yakushima

A temperate rainforest stretches across the sub-tropical island, which is another UNESCO World Heritage. Many travelers trek through the moss-covered forest to appreciate the 83-feet-high Jomon-Sugi, the oldest Cryptomeria tree that is believed to be a few thousand years old. The enchanted national park is also said to be the inspiration for the acclaimed animation film Princess Mononoke by Studio Ghibli, which is also known for creating My Neighbor Totoro .

15. The tropical Okinawa

Beautiful white sand beaches can be found on the tropical islands of Okinawa. Some of the most-visited include the Honto main island, as well as Ishigaki and Miyako islands. Snorkelling and scuba diving with tropical fish in the clear water are popular activities in the summer – those with luck may even encounter turtles, manta rays, or even sharks. In more urban areas, Ryukyu architecture including castles and fortresses are scattered throughout.

People fishing at kawaguchiko lake in the morning

16. Magnificent Mount Fuji

The majestic and symmetrical form of Mount Fuji captures the essence of nature’s grandeur and is even visible from Tokyo on a clear day. Its spiritual presence can be enjoyed throughout the seasons, with cherry blossom trees adorning its surrounding forests in the spring to the snow-capped peak in the winter. The tranquil Ashinoko Lake in Hakone is a favored destination to enjoy picturesque views of the symbolic mountain.

17. Relaxing hot springs

With over 100 active volcanoes, Japan has thousands of onsen hot spring locations. Whether it be at a rustic town bath or a luxurious traditional ryokan, visitors can soak in mineral-rich waters to relax and rejuvenate. There are several unwritten rules when bathing—the most important etiquette is to shower before entering fully unclothed (swimsuits are generally prohibited) for sanitary reasons.

alleys in the famous Shinjuku district in Tokyo Japan.

18. The abundance of architecture

The architecture in Japan blends history and modernization, with ancient landmarks coexisting alongside futuristic skyscrapers. Many temples and shrines date back over a thousand years, whilst high-rises continuously emerge with innovative designs (including Azabudai Hills , a multi-year project still in progress as of autumn 2023). Tadao Ando is one of the country’s most notable architects, often featuring concrete in his minimalistic and spacious structures.

19. World class contemporary art

Japan has a flourishing contemporary art scene, led by internationally celebrated artists including Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. Their avant-garde works can be discovered at galleries and museums around the country. Polka dots and infinity rooms by Kusama redefine perception, while Murakami blends pop culture and traditional Japanese motifs with vibrant flower-like characters. Nara’s wide-eyed characters evoke both innocence and rebellion with timeless charm.

Kawagoe Festival

20. Seasonal festivals

The Japanese calendar is rife with festivals, celebrating each season with traditional rituals. In the spring, friends and family gather at ohanami picnics to admire the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms; bamboo branches are covered with colorful tanzaku paper during the Tanabata star festival in the summer. Mochi offerings are made during the tsukimi autumn moon festival, and snow festivals in the winter showcase ice sculptures.

21. The efficient public transport

The nation takes great pride in its incredible public transport system, which is widely known for its reliability and punctuality. The Shinkansen bullet trains operate frequently, swiftly transferring passengers across the country at speeds of up to 300 km/h. Subways and trains , which are most pleasant outside commuting hours, arrive on time by the minute. Those traveling from abroad are able to apply for the Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited travel on specified rail lines for a set period of time.

22. The outstanding cleanliness

The country’s reputation for exceptional cleanliness extends far beyond its tidy streets, reflecting a culture deeply rooted in respect. There is a sense of communal responsibility to keep public areas clean for others, stemming from early years in the classroom where students partake in cleaning routines. Furthermore, it is customary in Japanese homes to remove shoes before entering. Travelers may find limited access to rubbish bins outdoors—the norm is for one to take home their own trash.

Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku Tokyo

23. The trustworthy safety

Japan consistently ranks as one of the safest countries globally, with impressively low crime rates. Cash found on the street is typically handed to the police (totaling a few billion yen every year, or several tens of millions of pounds), simply out of goodwill—a testament to a society that profoundly honors integrity. It is also not uncommon for children to commute to school unsupervised. The trust in the community is demonstrated in the heartwarming show Old Enough! , which follows kindergarteners adventuring on errands alone for their first time.

24. Thoughtful customer service

The commitment to customer service is second to none, attributed by politeness and attention to detail. The omotenashi culture wholeheartedly embodies hospitality, proactively anticipating the needs of guests. From hotel concierge to staff at shopping malls, visitors are regularly welcomed and attended to with pristine care. Bowing is an example of the inherently embedded mindset of humility, a respectful gesture that is ingrained in society.

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As one of Hoshinoya Tokyo 's Edo Meisters—a concierge specializing in the history of the Kanda, Nihonbashi, and Ningyocho neighborhoods—Ryota Onaka knows his hometown. His ideal day exploring our readers' Number 1 Large International City involves craft, tempura, and sweet treats.

“Stepping inside Tenmo feels like you're traveling back in time. It has a beautiful atmosphere and a long history: It started as a food stall in 1885. Ask the chef to prepare butterbur-sprout tempura or the sweetfish if you visit in the spring.”

”This confectionery is famous for its traditional Japanese treats, but its most popular item is kintsuba: red bean paste wrapped in wheat-flour dough. Most kintsuba in Tokyo is square because it's easier to make, but Eitaro Sohonpo still does the classic round version—the shape it's supposed to be. Order a hot coffee or tea, and watch the cooks bake them in front of you.”

“The store, Ubukeya , is originally from Osaka but opened an outpost in Tokyo in the 1800s and still sells daily essentials like scissors, tweezers, and knives. All the items are made by hand, and each product is really special. Part of the name means ‘baby hair’ because their blades are so thin and sharp.”

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The Tokyo EDITION, Ginza

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  • Things to Do

10 Best Travel Destinations in Japan 2024

Where to Go in Japan 2024

Japan Travel Destinations 2024

Where to go in 2024? For those considering traveling to Japan, we have carefully selected places to visit in 2024. You might be surprised to find that the most famous spots are not included, but that’s because this is the most up-to-date list (For classic tourist attractions in Japan, check this 30 Best Things to Do in Japan ).

Should you visit Tokyo, Kyoto, or Hiroshima in 2024? Indeed, these cities are justifiably famous for their diverse and satisfying attractions. However, they might be too crowded for some, or lack novelty for those who are experienced visitors to Japan. Therefore, we have chosen Japan’s destinations for 2024 based on our original research.

This list contains many hidden gems that are not widely known to foreigners but are truly wonderful. Of course, it also includes places that were already popular, but we have selected those that have a special reason to be visited in 2024. Reflecting the ever-changing situation in Japan, this travel guide also incorporates the latest trends.

Check out the coolest travel destinations in Japan for 2024 and make your next trip to Japan a fresh and fantastic experience!

10. Naoshima (Kagawa)

Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama in Naoshima

In the remote region of Shikoku , Naoshima (直島) , or the regional name of Setouchi, has been relatively well-known for some time, especially among art-loving travelers. In 2024, it remains one of the best places to visit in Japan. Although Naoshima belongs to Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku, it is geographically closer to Okayama Prefecture in Chugoku Region.

Naoshima is famous for Yayoi Kusama’s objects located at the edge of the port. The spotted yellow and red pumpkins are must-see pieces for art enthusiasts. The island hosts various art spots worth visiting, including Chichu Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando, Lee Ufan Museum , and Benesse House Museum .

Every three years, the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, including Naoshima, host the Setouchi Triennale , an international contemporary art festival. The next event is scheduled for 2025, but Naoshima is always a place where you can enjoy the fusion of art and nature.

For those visiting Naoshima, a side trip to the neighboring island of Shodoshima is also recommended. Though less known, it offers fantastic tourist attractions such as Angel Road and Olive Park. Combining this with visits to places like Hiroshima can make for a wonderful itinerary.

9. Yutoku Inari Shrine (Saga)

Yutoku Inari Shrine in Saga

Located at the westernmost part of the Japanese archipelago, Kyushu Region , far from central areas like Tokyo, is still an unexplored territory for many international tourists. Despite its rich nature, unique food culture, and impressive historical buildings, Kyushu is mostly known for its hot springs. In Saga, located in the north of Kyushu, you can find Yutoku Inari Shrine (祐徳稲荷神社) , offering a unique and breathtaking view.

Shrines with Torii gates and main halls where people pray are among the most interesting tourist attractions for international travelers. Yutoku Inari Shrine is notable not only for its splendid Romon gate welcoming visitors but also for its bright red hanging structures that function as scaffolding for the buildings located on high ground. Moreover, Yutoku Inari Shrine is counted as one of Japan’s three major Inari shrines, along with Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto and Kasama Inari Shrine in Ibaraki.

In Saga, you can also witness mystical sights like Ouo Shrine , floating in the Ariake Sea in Tara Town. With its many hidden gems, Saga could be a great focal point for a trip to Kyushu in 2024.

For more information about Saga, check these lists!

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Saga

8. Ikebukuro (Tokyo)

Nighttime cityscape of Ikebukuro

Tokyo remains the gateway and the most popular tourist area for trips to Japan, and its charms seem almost fully explored. However, tourism trends in Tokyo continue to evolve year by year. What should you do in Tokyo in 2024? Explore pop culture in Shibuya or Harajuku? Experience the nightlife in Shinjuku? Shop for anime and manga in Akihabara? Enjoy high-end sushi in Ginza?

What I’d like to introduce this time is Ikebukuro (池袋) . It’s a well-known district domestically, famous for its large electronics stores and department stores near the station. However, the reason to focus on Ikebukuro now is that it’s becoming a new hub for pop culture. While Akihabara is often associated with otaku culture like anime and manga, Ikebukuro has been gaining renewed attention, especially with the major anime store Animate having its grand reopening in 2023. There are also stores themed around Studio Ghibli, Pokémon, One Piece, and Evangelion in Ikebukuro.

Moreover, Ikebukuro offers affordable hotels and hostels, and a wide variety of easy-to-enjoy Japanese foods like ramen and conveyor belt sushi. Geographically, Ikebukuro is centrally located in Tokyo and serves as a hub for many JR lines and subways. Experience a Tokyo closer to the daily life of the Japanese in Ikebukuro.

For more information about Ikebukuro and Tokyo, check these lists!

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Ikebukuro

▶️ 30 Best Things to Do in Tokyo

7. Awaji Island (Hyogo)

Scenery from Awaji Island

Are you satisfied with just visiting Osaka and Kyoto when you travel to the Kansai area? I want to avoid such typical answers in this latest Japan travel guide. The place to visit in 2024 is Awaji Island (淡路島) , known domestically as Awajishima, in Hyogo. While Hyogo is famous for the port city Kobe , Awaji Island is an island in the Seto Inland Sea, roughly the same size as Guam or Singapore.

So, what to see in Awaji Island? Awaji Island is a land of significant importance in Japanese mythology, featured in Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. There are many sacred spots, such as Izanagi Jingu Shrine , Onokoro Island Shrine , and Eshima Island . Hyogo Prefectural Park: Awaji Hanasajiki , with its colorful seasonal flowers, is also a must-see.

Opened in 2022, Zenbo Seinei offers a Zen experience while enjoying the great nature of Awaji Island. Naruto Strait is famous for its whirlpools, and a whirlpool cruise could be a special experience for you. Additionally, Awaji Island, aiming for local production for local consumption, offers fresh food utilizing local ingredients.

Awaji Island is a nearby island to the previously mentioned Naoshima and Shodoshima, connected to Kobe City by the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and to Naruto City in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, by the Naruto Kaikyo Bridge. Therefore, access from the main island and Shikoku is good.

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Hyogo

6. Hiraizumi (Iwate)

Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi (平泉) , located in Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan, is a historically rich and beautiful area not very well known to foreigners but holds great potential to gain global recognition in the future. The Tohoku region, being the true northern end of the Japanese archipelago, sees fewer tourists compared to urban areas, despite its convenient transportation options like the Shinkansen, making it a treasure trove of hidden gems.

This town of Hiraizumi, situated in the southernmost part of Iwate Prefecture, is known as the base of the Oshu Fujiwara clan during the late Heian period. It flourished as a major city next to the then-capital, Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto). The most important historical sites in this town brimming with history are Chusonji Temple  and Motsuji Temple , both founded around 850 AD. Chusonji Temple is known for its Golden Hall, which encapsulates the essence of Heian period art, crafts, and architecture, along with many other cultural properties. It’s arguably the most famous temple in Tohoku Region.

Furthermore, Motsuji Temple hosts a Jodo garden centered around a large pond and almost perfectly preserved Heian period temple remains. An event called Gokusui no En, which recreates the elegant traditional Japanese Waka poetry games of the Heian period, is held in the beautiful gardens of the temple every fourth Sunday of May, offering a unique experience. Each season offers its own charm, making it a great destination any time of the year.

For more information about Iwate, check these lists!

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Iwate

5. Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route (Toyama)

Kurobe Dam, the endpoint of the Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route

The Tateyama-Kurobe area in Toyama Prefecture has long been a favorite among both domestic and international tourists, particularly known for its towering snow walls and breathtaking mountainous landscapes. Why is Tateyama-Kurobe a must-visit destination in 2024? It’s because the new Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route (黒部宇奈月キャニオンルート) will finally be opened to the public that year.

The Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route is a new 18-kilometer path connecting Keyakidaira Station in the Kurobe Gorge to the upstream Kurobe Dam. It intersects vertically with the classic Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route . Initially developed as a construction route for utility projects like the construction of the Kurobe River Fourth Power Station, this route will be open to the public from 2024. Many yet-to-be-seen attractions of Kurobe await discovery. First, you’ll have the opportunity to ride on vehicles uncommon in daily life, such as construction trolleys and vertical shaft elevators. Additionally, stunning natural scenery awaits, including panoramic views of Mount Okugane and Mount Hakuba Yarigatake.

Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route are also close to prime tourist destinations such as the mountainous regions of Nagano , Hida Takayama in Gifu, and Kanazawa in Ishikawa. Thus, including these new spots in your itinerary can make for a fulfilling journey.

For more information about Toyama, check these lists!

▶️ 12 Best Things to Do in Toyama

4. Chichibu (Saitama)

Shibazakura in Hitsujiyama Park, Chichibu

Saitama, a vast prefecture adjacent to Tokyo, is still not widely recognized internationally as a tourist destination. Moreover, the abundance of natural beauty in Saitama is not very well known. Among its regions, Chichibu (秩父) , located at the westernmost end of Saitama, offers encounters with historical buildings and somewhat unusual natural landscapes.

Mitsumine Shrine , Chichibu Shrine , and Hodosan Shrine are collectively known as the Chichibu Sanja (Three Shrines of Chichibu). Particularly noteworthy is Chichibu Night Festival held by Chichibu Shrine in early December, a tradition boasting 350 years. The festival reaches its peak on December 3rd, featuring numerous festival floats parading all day and a fireworks display.

In Hitsujiyama Park , during spring, you can enjoy a landscape of about 1,000 cherry trees and ground-covering Shibazakura (moss phlox), creating a pink scenery that fills both the ground and the sky. In winter, a visit to the Icicles of Misotsuchi is recommended, where you can admire the art of ice created by the harsh winter conditions in Chichibu.

Although it takes about two hours from Tokyo, the Chichibu area is accessible by train, making it a suitable destination for day trips for travelers starting from Tokyo.

For more information about Chichibu and Saitama, check these lists!

▶️ Best Things to Do in Chichibu

▶️ 13 Best Things to Do in Saitama

3. Niseko (Hokkaido)

Snowy landscape of Niseko

Niseko (ニセコ) in Hokkaido is now one of the most famous tourist areas in Japan, attracting not only short-term travelers but also many long-term visitors from all over the world. And still in 2024, it remains one of the top destinations to travel to in Japan. Niseko is located slightly west of Sapporo, the central city of Hokkaido, and New Chitose Airport.

The main attraction of Niseko is undoubtedly its high-quality snow, which is called powder snow, perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Niseko United , comprising Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort, Niseko Village Ski Resort, Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, and Niseko Hanazono Ski Resort, is well-known. The nearby Rusutsu Resort Ski Area is also popular.

Even outside of winter, visitors can enjoy the natural blessings of Mount Yotei , towering over the Niseko area. Fukidashi Park in Kyogoku Town is famous for its delicious water, a natural creation of the park and Mount Yotei. The cleanest Shiribetsu River, flowing at the base of the Niseko mountain range, offers enjoyable river activities. Of course, Niseko also offers the abundant fresh seafood commonly known in Hokkaido and high-quality natural onsen (hot springs).

For more information about Niseko and Hokkaido, check these lists!

▶️ 7 Best Accommodations in Niseko Ski Resorts

▶️ 25 Best Things to Do in Hokkaido

2. Beppu (Oita)

Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell) in Beppu Onsen

Throughout this article, we’ve introduced several hot spots in Kyushu Region, but if you haven’t been there yet, Beppu (別府) is currently one of the best places to visit in Japan. Beppu offers an authentic Japanese cultural experience and remains largely untouched by globalization, allowing visitors to see an untouched Japan.

Located in the central eastern part of Kyushu, in Oita Prefecture, Beppu is nationally recognized as one of the most famous onsen destinations among the Japanese. While hot springs are found throughout Japan, for a genuine onsen experience, Beppu is the place to go. The area, stretching from Beppu Bay through Aso Kuju, and to the Shimabara Peninsula, is blessed with hot spring waters heated by underground magma from past volcanic activities. The history of Beppu’s hot springs is profound, as they are even mentioned in ancient Japanese texts dating back to the 8th century.

Beppu is home to eight hot spring towns, known as Beppu Hatto . These towns boast over a hundered hot spring facilities, offering a variety of onsen experiences. At Beppu’s Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour) , visitors can see the natural hot springs up close.

Although many tourists from East Asia start their journey in Fukuoka, a major city in Kyushu, for those entering Japan through airports in Tokyo (Narita or Haneda) or Osaka, Kyushu can seem a bit distant. However, Kyushu has been gaining recognition recently, especially among younger generations, partly as it was featured as the setting for the famous anime director Makoto Shinkai’s 2022 anime movie Suzume and has statues of characters from the popular series One Piece.

For more information about Beppu and Oita, check these lists!

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Beppu

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Oita

1. Ishigaki Island (Okinawa)

Beautiful Kabira Bay in Ishigaki Island

The island that shone as Japan’s best travel destination in 2024 is Ishigaki Island (石垣島) , an island prefecture at the southernmost tip of Japan in Okinawa. Okinawa itself is the most popular beach resort in Japan, attracting tourists year-round for its beautiful seas, unique culture, and tropical cuisine. Following the main island, the allure of Okinawa’s numerous remote islands stands out. Okinawa has over 100 remote islands, with more than 30 inhabited.

Among these, Ishigaki Island is one of the largest, along with Iriomote Island and Miyako Island , and is already well-known domestically. Located significantly southwest of the main island, Ishigaki is accessible not only via Naha on the main island but also by direct flights from Tokyo.

First and foremost, Ishigaki Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer tourists than the main island. It’s known for sights like Kabira Bay with its emerald green waters and the Kabira Ishizaki Manta Scramble , a diving spot famous for manta rays. Exploring hidden beautiful beaches or enjoying local foods like Ishigaki Beef are also great options.

A trip to the neighboring Taketomi Island by ferry is highly recommended for a different natural experience. A visit to Ishigaki Island and its neighboring islands allows for an encounter with different nature and culture, arguably offering a more unique experience than the main island of Okinawa. It’s best to visit before it becomes the most famous beach resort.

For more information about Ishigaki Island and Okinawa, check these lists!

▶️ 10 Best Things to Do in Ishigaki Island

▶️ 25 Best Things to Do in Okinawa

Here is the list of the best places to visit in Japan for 2024, based on current trends. You may have encountered many names that are not widely known. However, these places hold the true charm of Japan. Please do find your own wonderful experience there.

If you’re looking to delve deeper into Japanese travel information and tips, the following articles should also be of help to you. Be sure to check them out.

▶️ A Comprehensive Guide to Trains in Japan: Including Shinkansen and Japan Rail Pass

▶️ Japanese Currency: A Guide for Travelers

▶️ Which Pocket WiFi Rental is the Best in Japan?

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80% of the trending global travel destinations for 2024 are in Asia, according to new report—here's the full list

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Experts predict that in 2024 travelers will look away from popular destinations like London and Paris, and that interest in major cities in Asia will continue to rise .

This month, Tripadvisor announced its Travelers' Choice Best of the Best Destination Awards, which ranks the world's top trending destinations for 2024.

The ranking was determined based on the quality and quantity of reviews from global travelers for accommodations, restaurants and "things to do" that were posted to Tripadvisor from October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023.

No. 1 trending travel destination 2024: Toyko

Tokyo is the top trending destination for 2024, according to Tripadvisor.

Japan was among the last countries to ease border closures after the Covid-19 pandemic and now that they are open again, tourists are getting in line to visit the country.

Tokyo is also among the top 24 worldwide destinations among non-U.S. travelers this year, according to Airbnb  data shared with CNBC.

Search traffic for Japan has more than tripled for trips during the first nine months of 2024 relative to the same period in 2023—a larger increase than any other nation, Airbnb said.

Tokyo, Japan, is one of the world's most livable cities and is home to the world's tallest tower, Tokyo Skytree .

As of 2023, Tokyo is home to 41 headquarters of companies listed in the annual Fortune Global 500 .

Top 10 trending global travel destinations 2024

  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Halong Bay, Vietnam
  • Palawan Island, Philippines
  • Sapa, Vietnam
  • Bogota, Colombia
  • Pattaya, Thailand
  • Alajuela, Costa Rica
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Seoul, South Korea is the No. 2 trending global destination this year.

The city was one of the most visited Asian cities in 2023, according to market research company Euromonitor International.

In the same year, flight bookings to Seoul increased 191%, double from 2022, a Trip.com representative told CNBC Travel .

Seoul, South Korea, is known for its music and entertainment industry, and the area is home to over a dozen Fortune Global 500 companies, including Samsung and LG.

Want to land your dream job in 2024?  Take CNBC's new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Get started today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

I live in a $62/month dumpster that I built for $5,000 – take a look inside

Feb 6, 2024

These Are The Most Searched Travel Destinations In 2024

Trending travel destinations.

Tripadvisor announced its Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Destination Awards, ranking the world’s top trending destinations for 2024. These are the winners

Credit: Canva

Tokyo, Japan

This dynamic city blends modern skyscrapers and historic temples, offering a unique fusion of traditional Japanese culture and cutting-edge technology.

Seoul, South Korea

A vibrant city pulsating with K-pop beats, bustling markets, and palaces, seamlessly merging ancient traditions with contemporary trends.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

A UNESCO World Heritage site known for its breathtaking karst landscapes, where emerald waters are dotted with thousands of limestone islands and islets.

Palawan Island, Philippines

A tropical paradise boasting pristine beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and the stunning underground river of Puerto Princesa.

Sapa, Vietnam

A mountainous retreat surrounded by terraced rice fields and ethnic minority villages, Sapa offers travellers trekking opportunities and a glimpse into traditional hill tribe cultures.

Bogota, Colombia

This vibrant capital city nestled in the Andes features a mix of colonial architecture, colourful street art, and a thriving cultural scene.

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Pattaya, thailand.

A coastal city known for its lively nightlife, vibrant street markets, and picturesque beaches, making it a popular destination for both relaxation and entertainment.

Alajuela, Costa Rica

A charming town near San Jose, surrounded by coffee plantations and adorned with historical architecture, Alajuela serves as a gateway to Costa Rica's natural wonders.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia’s capital city situated along the banks of the Mekong River, offers a blend of ancient Khmer history, French colonial architecture, and a burgeoning urban landscape.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A cosmopolitan hub featuring iconic skyscrapers like the Petronas Towers, diverse culinary delights, and a rich culture that reflects Malaysia's multicultural society.

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15 travel tips (and what not to do) when you're in Japan

Rebecca Milner

Dec 16, 2023 • 7 min read

Young woman eating ramen noodle in old Japanese restaurant

Many say that Japan’s customs can be intimidating for outsiders. Don’t listen to them © istock

Japan has a reputation as an etiquette-bound place that can be intimidating for first-time visitors. Don’t buy it. The traditions here are no more formal or constricting than in many other destinations around the world. Moreover, most locals are more than willing to help out or give foreign travelers a pass for any perceived faux pas.

As with just about anything in life, expectation management is key. Put your mind at ease with our top tips for smooth traveling in Japan .

1. Book accommodation in advance (and arrive at the right time)

You can probably get a room at a basic business hotel without a reservation in a pinch, but why risk it? Top accommodations can book up weeks or even months in advance, so it's best to plan ahead. Particularly busy travel periods include the first week of January, cherry blossom season (late March through April, depending on the destination), “Golden Week” (April 29 to May 5) and August.

You should also keep in mind that smaller inns or ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) often have fixed check-in times outside of which staff won’t be present, and rooms won’t be made up. Coordinate your arrival time in advance.

A girl rides suitcase by cabstand in airport in Japan

2. Pack light for a visit to Japan

Since hotel rooms in Japan tend to be small, especially in cities, there is little room for large suitcases – which can also be a pain to wrangle on public transport. Never a bad idea, packing on the lighter side is especially advisable for Japan.

Note that religious sights such as Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines don’t have dress codes. High-end restaurants, bars and clubs sometimes do, but that usually just means no sleeveless shirts or sandals on men.

Keep in mind that you might find yourself sitting on the floor when dining out, which can be uncomfortable in short (or tight) clothing.

3. Buy a data-heavy SIM card at the airport

Count on relying on a substantial amount of data navigating in Japan, so get a data-heavy SIM card at the airport. Japan’s address system is notoriously difficult to navigate – even for locals – so smartphones with navigation apps have been a real boon for travelers.

 Close-up of Japanese traditional geta sandals with name of ryokan (hotel) written on them at Kinosaki Onsen

4. Bring shoes you can easily slip off

Comfortable walking shoes are a must. You’ll also likely have to take your shoes off frequently at religious sights, traditional inns and some restaurants – you’ll thank yourself later if you pack shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

Since you’ll be slipping into a pair of communal slippers when you take your own shoes off, many visitors prefer to wear socks.

5. Learn how to use a bidet toilet

Called “washlets,” Japan’s high-tech, electronic bidet toilets will wash and dry your delicate parts with the touch of a button. (Don’t worry about any language barrier; the pictograms on the buttons are easy to understand.)

Other toilet customs in Japan might throw you for a loop. Motion-sensor-activated sound machines in the women’s toilets are intended to conceal, um, sensitive noises. Also expect dedicated toilet slippers in shoes-off establishments.

Note that there is frequently a lack of towels and hand dryers (locals carry small cloths with them for this reason).

6. Come prepared for the weather

Summers in Japan are hot and humid, which can mean a real risk of heatstroke. Carry water with you, and a folding umbrella with UV blocking is useful – and does double duty in case of a sudden shower. Late June is the start of the annual rainy season, when it can rain without end for days; this can last a few weeks or through most of July. 

Rains, as well as punishing winds, are likely again during typhoon season, which runs from September through October (earlier in Okinawa ).

Typhoons can cause serious travel disruption; monitor the situation with the  Japan Meteorological Agency ’s storm and other weather warnings, which are available in English. Winters can get chilly, and  Tōhoku and Hokkaidō  up north can get huge dumps of snow.

Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores are handy for weather-related necessities like umbrellas, hats, cooling wipes and pocket warmers.

Waitress serving traditional food at Fujiya Ryokan accommodation in Kawayu Onsen on the Kumano Kodo

7. Make sure to carry cash...

In rural Japan and at older family businesses in cities, credit cards may not be accepted. It’s wise to assume you’ll need to pay cash at country ryokan and smaller restaurants and shops; stock up when you’re in a town with an ATM (cashpoint). To pay as the Japanese do, place your cash or card in the small tray at the register rather than handing either to the cashier.

8. ...But don’t worry about tipping

Though tour guides who regularly take foreign tourists around might expect extra, Japan has no custom of tipping, and an attempt to add to your bill will more often than not fluster or embarrass staff. In lieu of tipping, some bars and restaurants will charge a flat-rate service fee, usually around ¥300–500 (US$2.50–4.25) per person; others, typically fancy ones, will automatically add a 10% service charge to the bill.

Nozomi style bullet train in Kyoto railway station, Kyoto, Japan

9. Learn the art of queueing in Japan

The Japanese are big on queues, forming neat lines everywhere from check-out counters to train platforms. (Regarding the latter: after the train doors open, it’s everyone for themselves when it comes to scoring a seat.)

10. Stand to the left (or to the right)

Always ride on one side of the escalator – but which side depends on where you are. In Kanto and eastwards, it’s to the left; in Kansai and westwards, it’s to the right. (The dividing point is somewhere just west of Nagoya .) Incidentally, train operators want passengers to stand on both sides of the escalator and refrain from walking altogether, even if commuters have so far shrugged at these guidelines. 

11. Note when the last train leaves

City subways run until 1am at the very latest. If you miss the last train for the night, the alternative is to catch a taxi, which can be expensive. 

People, mostly youngsters, walk through Takeshita Dori near Harajuku train station, Toyko

12. Avoid the morning commute in Tokyo

For Tokyoites, the morning commute is a contact sport. On weekdays from 7:30am to 9am, millions squeeze into trains across the city, sometimes helped along by station staff who make sure everyone’s packed in. Shinjuku Station, the busiest in the world, sees an average of over 3.5 million commuters daily; there are more than 200 exits leading in and out of the complex.

13. Eating in public is generally a no-no in Japan

It’s considered bad form to eat in public, especially while walking. Exceptions include the shinkansen (bullet train) and other reserved-seat limited-express trains, where it is customary to eat a bentō (boxed meal) on board; plus at festivals or market streets with food vendors; on a picnic; and of course if you're eating ice cream.

It’s also okay to take sips from a resealable beverage container, like a water bottle. Elsewhere, other dining etiquette rules apply.

14. Know what to do in an earthquake or tsunami

Japan is one of the most seismically active places on the planet. While strong earthquakes are rare, minor temblors happen all the time. If this occurs during your time here, stay calm and take your cue from those around you. Head under a table or stand in a doorway if the shaking picks up; strict building codes generally keep harm to a minimum.

Rarer but more dangerous tsunami can follow a significant quake. Should this occur, listen for tsunami warnings and get to higher ground fast if you are near the coast. 

Man in an onsen or hot spring in Yufuin, Japan

15. Learn some Japanese lingo 

English is widely spoken in cities and around major tourist attractions; in rural areas, though, it can be hit or miss. Some Japanese words that will come in handy when dining out: 

• omori (large portion, often free at ramen stalls) • okawari (refill)  • mochikaeri (takeaway)  • tennai de (eat-in)  • onegai shimasu (please). Follow up any of your orders or requests with this; for example, if you want tea, say, “O-cha onegai shimasu.”  • sumimasen (excuse me)  • arigato gozaimasu (thank you). Because it’s a bit of a mouthful, it’s tempting to shorten it to simply arigato . Think of it as the difference between “thank you” and “thanks” and go for the politer “arigato gozaimasu.” • toire (toilet; pronounced “to-ee-rey”)

This article was first published April 2022 and updated December 2023

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Where to travel in 2024, without crowds

12 destinations across italy, japan, mexico and more to add to your travel wish list.

We made it through January, which means it’s time to put away resolutions you won’t keep and nurture the habit that will stick: more travel.

Health and wellness experts have determined that taking multiple vacations a year is beneficial to your overall well-being. To actually decompress, though, you’ll want to go somewhere with room to breathe. Crowds have clogged up Paris , Rome and Tokyo , especially in the high seasons.

To plan a trip away from the pack, we asked industry experts for their favorite under-the-radar destinations. We also considered our collective travels, putting a premium on opportunities to spot wildlife, sample local cooking, relax by the water and commune with nature.

japan top travel destinations

(Shutterstock)

japan top travel destinations

Bracciano, Italy

Italy remains one of the most desirable destinations for Americans, meaning popular spots (Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como) will stay crowded and expensive. Enter Lake Bracciano, a picturesque place that has fallen off Americans’ radars since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married there in 2006. “You have this really, really rich medieval and Renaissance history, but nobody goes there,” said Rome-based cookbook author and tour guide Katie Parla . You can get to Bracciano easily from Rome in about an hour and change.

Don’t miss: Viterbo, another overlooked gem, is about 30 miles north of Bracciano — or take a direct train from Rome in two hours or less. “It is just a vast, beautiful, haunted, magical, medieval city,” Parla said.

A sunny day on Lake Bracciano near Rome.

Fukui , Japan

If the past few months are any indication, tourism in Japan could surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024. To escape the urban sprawl and see one of the most spiritual parts of the country, go to Fukui. Naomi Mano, president and chief executive of the Tokyo-based travel company Luxurique , says the city is a destination for temples , onsens (hot spring baths), art and food (specifically Echizen crab ). With a new bullet train line set to open in March , travelers can get to Fukui from Tokyo in about three hours.

Don’t miss: Mano sends visitors to Eiheiji Temple , one of the most important sites for Zen Buddhists. “It’s the temple where all of the Zen monks go to train to become higher monks,” she said.

Eiheiji Temple is an important site for Zen Buddhists monks in training.

Asheville, N.C.

Asheville has achieved the tricky balance of staying down to earth while catering to refined tastes. Restaurants in the western North Carolina city are regulars on the James Beard Awards circuit. Two of its breweries medaled in last year’s World Beer Cup . Independent hotels in repurposed buildings, such as Zelda Dearest , the Radical and the Flat Iron , are opening at a steady clip. Yet, whenever you wish to return to Asheville’s roots, take a walk in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Don’t miss: The mile-long Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail , which encompasses three neighborhoods, introduces visitors to pillars of the community, such as Alderman Newton Shepard, a formerly enslaved man who in 1882 became the city’s first Black person to win an election .

Diners and tourists outside the French Broad Chocolate Lounge near Pack Square in Asheville.

Dhërmi, Albania

Over the past few years, Albania has been quietly heating up as Europe’s next big beach spot. Clear water, rugged coast and affordable accommodations all call out to tourists. And unlike some of its Balkan neighbors, “it is untouched,” said Ema, the anonymous Albanian travel journalist who runs the award-winning magazine and Instagram account Ema’s Light . Rent a car and head to the Albanian Riviera, where you’ll find a constellation of small towns with perfect beaches, such as Dhërmi.

Don’t miss: The capital city of Tirana is a must-visit worth at least two to three days of your trip for its restaurants and history, Ema says.

The Dhërmi Beach at Dhërmi, Albania.

Popayán, Colombia

This UNESCO City of Gastronomy is full of restaurants, outdoor markets and street vendors. Two points of pride in the traditional cuisine are empanadas stuffed with pipián — a puree of potatoes, peanuts and spices — and desamargado valluno , a dessert made from candied fruit peels. The capital of the Cauca state is also known as “La Ciudad Blanca” because of its bone-white buildings.

Don’t miss : Daniel Buitrón Jaramillo of Colombia Ecotravel recommends Mora Castilla , a small cafe in the historic center, for classic empanaditas and champús, a drink made of pineapple, maize and tart lulo fruit.

View of the Cathedral Basilica Our Lady of the Assumption in Popayán, Colombia, in the morning.

japan top travel destinations

(Martin Zwick/Getty Images)

japan top travel destinations

(Robert Harding/Shutterstock)

Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Orkney Islands are more uninhabited than occupied, at least by humans. Of these 70 isles off the northern coast of Scotland, less than two dozen are developed. Gray seals outnumber people by several hundred, and flocks of puffins, guillemots and seaweed-grazing sheep dot the rocky coastlines. Papa Westray , one of the smaller Orkneys, boasts some 60 archaeological sites, and North Ronaldsay lights up at night as a Dark Sky Island .

Don’t miss: The Heart of Neolithic Orkney , part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, is a collection of ancient sites that includes a domestic settlement with stone furnishings and the Stones of Stenness, a henge of upright monuments standing nearly 20 feet tall.

Standing Stones of Stenness, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Holbox heals what ails so much of Mexico’s resort-heavy Yucatán Peninsula. The 26-mile-long island north of Cancún does not have traffic, because of a car ban, or high rises, because of building height restrictions. The main form of transportation is bike or golf cart on dirt roads. To cross from the mainland, visitors must take a 25-minute ferry from Chiquilá (or a private jet). Holbox, which means “Black Box” in the Mayan language, is part of the Yum Balam reserve. One of its biggest return guests is the whale shark.

Don’t miss : On moonless nights, head to Punta Cocos Beach to swim or paddle with bioluminescent plankton that illuminate the water like hundreds of fairy lights.

No cars are allowed on Isla Holbox in Mexico.

The S chist Villages , Portugal

Tucked into mountainsides, through scenic valleys and snaking rivers, the Schist Villages (or Aldeias do Xisto, in Portuguese) is a network of 27 quaint towns. The villages — which date back to the 12th century and are named after the stone with which they were built — are particularly popular with hikers , bikers and nature lovers. You’ll find accommodations for all budgets, with luxury properties, such as the Casas do Côro in Marialva, and the Cerdeira Home for Creativity , a collection of nine restored Schist houses for rent.

Don’t miss: Lisbon-based journalist and food researcher Miguel Andrade says Talasnal is a highlight in the lush Lousã mountain region. Try one of his favorite Portuguese dishes, chanfana, a goat stew traditionally cooked with red wine in a clay pot over an open fire.

The view over the Piodão schist medieval mountain village in Portugal.

Tairawhiti Gisborne, New Zealand

Destination: Gisborne, the largest town in the North Island’s Tairawhiti Gisborne region, is advertised as the first spot in the world to greet the sunrise. No wonder so many surfers rise early to catch some of the best waves in the country. The East Coast area is steeped in Maori culture. The Tairawhiti Museum holds a vast collection of Indigenous art, including stonework, textiles and painted panels. The 2.5-mile Tupapa Heritage Trail is paved with history, landmarks and legends that Maori storytellers summon to life on the Tupapa app.

Don’t miss: Start the day atop Maunga Hikurangi, the sacred mountain of the Ngati Porou people where nine wood carvings of Maui and his whanau (family) bear witness to the rising sun.

Wood carvings of Maui and his family stand on the sacred mountain Maunga Hikurangi in Gisborne, New Zealand.

japan top travel destinations

(Jennifer M. Ramos/Getty Images)

japan top travel destinations

(Christine Wehrmeier/Getty Images)

japan top travel destinations

(Afriandi/Getty Images)

Fredericksburg, Tex.

Swimming holes. Wide-open spaces. Funky towns and burgeoning wineries. The Texas Hill Country screams road trip. Consider Fredericksburg for its German-Texas heritage (with beer gardens and Bavarian fare galore), says Austin-based travel journalist Pam LeBlanc. The town is known for its peaches and its National Museum of the Pacific War , plus a slew of mom-and-pop boutiques and restaurants. The chic Albert Hotel is opening this year, or you can camp in Pedernales Falls State Park, where LeBlanc loves taking a dip in the cypress-lined river.

Don’t miss: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is 17 miles north of Fredericksburg, “where you can hike to the top of a huge dome of pink granite or go rock climbing,” LeBlanc said in an email.

The pink dome of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a draw for hikers and climbers.

Toledo District, Belize

For a Caribbean escape far from crowds, head to the southernmost district of Belize. “There is a lot to do,” Belizean birding guide Roni Martinez said, such as exploring waterfalls, caves and large rainforest reserves, and learning about the mix of people who have made Toledo home, including Maya and East Indian communities.

Don’t miss: As most of Toledo has rocky shores, Martinez recommends taking a boat tour to nearby islands — such as the Port Honduras Marine Reserve — for “picture-perfect” white-sand beaches.

A waterfall in Rio Blanco National Park in the Toledo District of Belize.

Sumba, Indonesia

Bali may be the most well-known of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, but it’s not the only one worth visiting. With new hotels and a population of wild horses that gallop across golden beaches, Sumba comes highly recommended by Catherine Heald, chief executive of the Asia-focused luxury tour operator Remote Lands . Beyond Sumba’s lush hillsides and surfable turquoise water, the island boasts beautiful thatched-roof architecture.

Don’t miss: Consider a side quest to Komodo National Park , home to some 5,700 of its titular dragons as well as world-class scuba diving. You can fly or sail to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

An aerial view of Wainyapu village in Sumba, Indonesia.

About this story

Editing by Gabe Hiatt . Design and development by Katty Huertas . Design editing by Christine Ashack . Photo editing by Lauren Bulbin . Copy editing by Jamie Zega .

Where to go

Our favorite destinations: In 2023, we explored an Alaskan bear paradise, Brooklyn’s famous pizzerias and a hidden gem in Italy, among other highlights . Traveler extraordinaire Rick Steves gave us this hot tip: don’t skip Europe’s second cities .

Travel like a local: Residents share their favorite places in our top city guides: New Orleans , Rome , Tokyo and Mexico City .

National parks: This comprehensive guide has details on all 63 U.S. national parks. For a deep dive into five of the most well-known, you can listen to the Field Trip podcast . Then explore tips from locals for visiting Yosemite , Glacier and Everglades .

Tales from the road: Dolly Parton has opened a new resort at her theme park complex in Tennessee, while “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have a new hotel in Waco . Road-trippers may be just as excited to see the cartoon beaver at Buc-ee’s , and bargain-hunters should consider a stop at the Unclaimed Baggage store in Scottsboro, Ala.

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As Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis, Tokyo offers tradition and innovation, and unlimited opportunities to eat, shop and explore

Tokyo is located on Tokyo Bay in the Kanto region of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. The closest airport airports are Haneda officially known as Tokyo International Airport, and Narita Airport , Japan's largest international airport. Tokyo is known for its fashion and shopping, from the trendy shopping districts of Harajuku and Shibuya , to the luxury flagships of Ginza . Shinjuku is the thriving business district; a mix of gleaming skyscrapers and atmospheric back streets with tiny bars. Asakusa is the heart of Tokyo’s downtown, with ancient temples and traditional stores. Tokyo is a foodie paradise with more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, along with hundreds of cheap and delicious ramen shops. Tokyo Weather Tokyo has mild spring weather, followed by hot and humid summers punctuated with typhoons. Autumn in Tokyo is cool and fresh, followed by cold, dry winters. Snow is rare but has been known to fall in the first few months of the year. The one week forecast for Tokyo is an accurate guide to the weather for the coming week.

How to Get There

  • Exploring Tokyo's dizzying array of restaurant and dining options, from theme cafes to haute cuisine
  • Checking out the latest electronics, games and gadgets at Akihabara, the home of technology and anime culture
  • Experiencing vibrant youth culture in Harajuku and Shibuya, the trend capitals of Tokyo
  • Visiting Tokyo' s most famous temple, Sensoji, before ferrying down the Sumida River and learning the role the city's waterways played in Edo-era Tokyo

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Tokyo Station

Cherry Blossoms

Forecast of first bloom

14 Mar 2023

Forecast of full bloom

22 Mar 2023

Explore Tokyo by Area

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Trending Attractions in Tokyo

Imperial Palace Outer Gardens

Local Specialties

Tokyo Pattern-Dyed Fabrics

The beauty of Tokyo Komon is in its subtlety. The fabric appears to be a solid color from a distance but up close a delicate pattern is revealed through repeated dots and tiny lines. Once worn by high-ranking samurai, komon is now prized for its beauty and the skills required in its production.

food-craft

Tokyo Dyed Silk

Elegance and sophistication define the subtle designs of Tokyo Yuzen kimonos, still produced in the city today. This technique of dyeing and hand-painting silk dates back over 300 years, and is unique in that the entire process from design to completion is handled by a solitary artist, allowing for wonderful individuality.

food-craft

Fukagawa-Meshi

Fukagawa-meshi combines clams, miso and leeks to make a warming, flavorful soup that is poured over a bowl of rice. Clams and leeks are first boiled together to create a rich, briny broth, before miso is then added. The resulting soup and clams are then poured over a bowl of white rice. Fukagawa-meshi is typically eaten with chopsticks so don't be afraid to pick up the bowl and slurp. Outside of the Fukagawa district of Tokyo, this dish can be hard to find.

food-craft

Murayama Oshima Pongee Silk

Prized for making beautiful, natural, lightweight kimonos, Musashi-Murayama Tsumugi is a blend of silk and cotton dyed in a unique process known as itajime, where the threads are bound to a wooden board and splashed with color. The result is a distinctive blurred effect in blues and browns.

japan top travel destinations

Tokyo Shamo

A breed of chicken imported to Japan from Thailand as gamecocks. As a delicacy, Tokyo shamo yield an oil-rich cut of chicken that is perfect for grilling yakitori style.

food-craft

A savory pancake made of finely chopped cabbage, flour, egg and dashi. Other ingredients such as pork, shrimp and octopus are added according to your tastes. Monjayaki has more dashi in its batter than its Kansai cousin, okonomiyaki, giving it a melted cheese texture.

food-craft

Edomae Sushi

The style of sushi most familiar worldwide. As Edo, which is now Tokyo, became wealthier, sushi became a less formal, faster style of dining. Busy Tokyoites simply sat down at the counter and called out their orders to the nearest itamae—the chefs.

food-craft

Japanese Swords

Japanese swords are revered for the strength and beauty of their blades as well as the “spirit of the samurai” history they represent. Regarded as works of art more than as weapons, superb examples of these swords can be viewed at the Japanese Sword Museum in Sumida, Tokyo.

food-craft

Edo Cut Glass

Originally made in Edo—present-day Tokyo—kiriko is decorated entirely with precision cuts. Exquisite patterns characterize these statement pieces, making this cut glassware a perfect addition to any bar set.

food-craft

Seasonal Highlights

See the city take on a gentler appearance as the plum blossoms and cherry blossoms flower. Stretch out on a mat, drink sake and eat Japanese dumplings under the blooms at Shinjuku Gyoen, Yoyogi, Ueno or Inokashira parks. Parks have different rules and regulations so make sure to check before visiting.

Meguro River sakura-SPR

Enjoy one of Japan's largest fireworks displays at the Sumida River. Head for Mt. Takao for its seasonal beer garden and to see some fireflies.

kameido shrine

Visit gardens such as Koishikawa Korakuen, or hike the Okutama mountains for fantastic fall foliage. Temperatures cool but the event calendar heats up with the Tokyo Game Show and Tokyo International Film Festival.

hibiya-koen park

Winter illuminations appear throughout the city, ice-skating rinks open and revelers crowd shrines and temples such as Sensoji Temple and Meiji-jingu Shrine for New Year pilgrimages and festivities.

hibiya-koen park

Related Links

Search for accommodation in Tokyo

Online Reservation Sites

How to get to Haneda Airport

Others

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