12 Best Places To Visit In Japan

Japan boasts a rich history with a blend of unique traditional cultures and advanced technological innovations. Featuring spectacular scenery, beautiful temples, Zen gardens, traditional cuisines and thrilling sporting activities, a trip to this island country would be worth your time. Also, it offers a one-stop shopping center for sophisticated art pieces ranging from ancient pottery and woodblock prints to sculptures and ink paintings.

The country of the rising sun is full of surprises for every type of traveler. Thousands of shrines, beautiful mountains, and nature, with many major attractions, can be a bit too much for someone visiting the country for the first time. To help you in your planning, check out some of the best places to visit in Japan.

From neon-painted cities and technological wonders to unique traditions and historical sights, it won't be too hard to notice why this fascinating country is popular among tourists. Japan and the capital are easily accessible from anywhere in the world. And some of the fastest trains in the world, bullet trains, make it easy to get around the country.

Japan during Spring is truly something specialJapan during Spring is truly something special.
It's not expensive to visit these best places in Japan.

1. Tokyo

One of the places you need to visit is Japan is the capital. In a way, Tokyo reflects the colors of the country. From world-class attractions to a great culinary scene, the city has so much to offer. You can start with Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo Skytree. One of the exciting attractions in the capital is Mario Kart.

To enjoy it, you can, of course, if you want, take your vehicle with you and ride around on your bike. But there is also Maricar, a company that lets you hire real go-karts, and you can drive them on the streets of the capital. If you've been to Kyoto before and don't think that Tokyo doesn't have many cultural sights to keep you busy, you might be wrong.

The ancient Imperial Palace at Tokyo hosts the popular Nijubashi Bridge with a stunning reflection on the water that makes it look like two bridges. While in Tokyo, visit the Kabuki-za and Shimbashi Enbuja theaters for an exciting experience of the traditional Odori dances and Kabuki performances.

No need to ask the characters of Big Bang Theory to realize that the paradise of friskiness par excellence is Tokyo. Harajuku to Shibuya are the places to walk, eat, sight see, watch people, be amazed, shop, fall in love: all in one afternoon.

Tokyo Sky View, Observation Deck offers the best view in Tokyo, period. Go at night to see what the future looks like. It’s in Roppongi Hills, so, ya know, more great food, shopping and all kinds of Tokyo-style feelings.

Akihabara is the neighborhood or the electronic city where you can find the most unsuspected things and in Odaiba, a group of artificial islands, is the largest Ferris wheel in the world and a theme park dedicated exclusively to technology.

In the Japanese capital you can transform into a manga character from shops to museums, dance with robots, binge on sushi and sleep in capsule hotels.

2. Kyoto

Your itinerary should include a trip to Kyoto City, featuring ancient streets and castles such as the Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the iconic Golden Pavilion. Shrines, gardens, and palaces. This is what the sacred city of Kyoto is famous for. One of the most popular destinations for foreign visitors embodies what people think about Japanese tradition.

Kyoto is the place where you can experience Japanese tradition.

From geisha to temples, bamboo forests, and gardens, Kyoto offers the true essence of historical Japan. This is one of the best places to visit in spring, and if you ask Japanese people to recommend a city to visit, they will often mention Kyoto. With iconic locations and well-maintained cityscape, this city should be on the top of your list.

Japan is on many people’s bucket lists but when they actually find themselves there, all they manage to do is explore Tokyo. Tokyo is amazing but this country has so much more to offer and you must dedicate at least one day to Kyoto.

Take the Shinkansen down to Kyoto. While there snap a picture of Mt Fuji from the train. On this day that celebrates love, the streets of Kyoto are full of pink and white cherry blossoms that this country is very well known for. In Arashiyama you’ll find a pristine lake with rowboats you can take and eat grilled fish out on the water. The classic bamboo forest is here too, and it feels like a small mountain village as you stroll through the country side.

Take a taxi UP to Kyomizu-dera and walk DOWN the philosophers path. The Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto is not a nature hike sort of walk per se but is a combination of arboretum sort of walking path with traditional tea houses and such. As pretty as it is, during cherry blossom season it would be really stunning then. It starts at the Silver Pavilion, in itself a wonderful spot and ends a few km later back in modern Kyoto.

There are temples, gardens, side streets, picturesque views the whole way down and, when you get back to the city area, you're in the Shijo/Sanjo area, which is where the best restaurants are. Kyoto doesn’t lack when it comes to cuisine either. To try a traditional Japanese meal and enjoy it in a private tatami room, make a reservation at Kitcho in advance and you can even get a meal designed specially to honor this occasion.

Find the small river a few blocks down from the big river, there are hidden streets with amazing restaurants around there, and the tourists don’t know about it. For a romantic atmosphere, you should book a traditional Japanese inn, ryokan. Here, you will have personal service, get to experience the local culture and even bathe in the natural hot springs (onsen).

3. Fuji Five Lakes

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan which is located near the Pacific Ocean. Its graceful conical form of beauty is a majestic sight from the far. Climbing the mountain has long been a religious practice and therefore it is a sacred symbol of Japan. The name “Red Fuji” is termed as it shines bright in a colorful contrast during the sunset and sunrise. Mount Fuji possesses various appearances that change with the particular period and season.

Mount Fuji, located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and one of the most significant landmarks in Japan, offers numerous breathtaking hiking trails and lets you have a magnificent view of the rising sun from its summit. One of the first things that comes to mind on the mention of Japan, has to be Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, and an active volcano.

Just at the northern foot of this mountain lies the region of Fuji Five Likes. Here you can enjoy the view of Mount Fuji, surrounded by beautiful nature. Another way to do it is to head to Hakone, a nearby hot spring resort.

Mount Fuji is one of the best places to visit in Japan.

Among the five lakes, Kawaguchiko Lake might be the easiest to access and offers plenty of outdoor activities, from camping and hiking to winter sports. In this area, you can visit the traditional Japanese inns, ryokan, and hot springs.

4. Himeji

Along with the western approach to the city of Kyoto, there's a breathtaking Himeji Castle. The first fortifications on the sites were done in the 1400s. The size and beauty of this white castle have amazed visitors for years.

White and elegant, Himeji castle takes your breath away.

The Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Treasure. When you see it in person, you'll find out why it's one of the most impressive castles, not only in Japan but maybe in all of Asia. Hyogo prefecture is also home to the city of Kobe, which is considered one of the most attractive cities in the country.

5. Nara

If you like the history of Japan, head to Nara, the first capital of the county. Even though the Nara era was less than 80 years long, this is where Japanese tradition was born. When you take a look at the architecture, you'll easily be able to notice Chinese influences. Nonetheless, Nara's landmarks are designated as World Heritage Sites.

6. Okinawa

One of the favorite holiday destinations for Japanese people is Hawaii. And the truth is that they have similar islands in Japan. If you feel like exploring Japan overseas, you have to visit Okinawa, the equivalent of the Hawaii islands. Beautiful beaches and a sub-tropical climate are some of the reasons why the vibe feels a bit different here.

People are more relaxed as they enjoy the sun and the ocean. Some of the best diving spots in the world can keep you busy for a long time.

7. Osaka

The second-largest city in Japan is home to big international companies. Other than being a business travel location, it's also a great place to visit for food. If you love Japanese cuisine, Osaka should be on your list. And it's good to know that just outside of the busy center, you can find peace in the countryside, not too far away.

Osaka has several rivers crisscrossing it, the most famous one of which would be the one cutting through the Dotonbori district. It’s also possible to go on boat sightseeing trips on these rivers. Check out shinsaibashi, ame-mura and the dotonbori at night: this is what a party looks like and you should see it at least once. Tokyo has places to party, Osaka IS a party.

Nara is beautiful and is by Osaka and Kyoto.

8. Hiroshima

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park stands in remembrance of the fateful atomic bombing of Hiroshima and commemoration of its victims. Significant monuments and memorials relating to the first nuclear attack are located here, and the Peace Memorial Museum houses the Atom Bomb Dome, the Flame of Peace, the Memorial Cenotaph and other ruins that stood after the explosion.

See the war memorial and see the “genbakku dome” at night. Miyajima is an island off of Hiroshima and it gorgeous. There’s a gondola you can take to the top of the mountain there and a really epic walk down back to the town. This is WAY better than Mt Fuji. You can also be adventurous and walk UP the mountain: it takes about 4-5 hours (bring water if you do this).

9. Shikoku, Japan

This is seldom on people’s recommendations. The ocean is beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, the valleys are beautiful, the temples are beautiful: so, yeah, that’s kind of the theme in Shikoku. If you want to stay at a traditional Japanese Ryokan, Shikoku is the place. The ones in Iya Valley also have hot springs.

In the winter time, you can sit in a hot spring a the top of a snow covered mountain and feel like you’re in a poem. In the summer, the valley’s have rivers and you can go cliff diving into deep, fresh, pools: amaze-balls. Kochi is a small city at the southern end of Shikoku, which is worth visiting by itself. The drive down through the gorge from Takamatsu is spectacular. Kochi is famous for its surfing and you can also go whale watching.

10. Kyushu

Kumamoto has one of Japan’s best sights, the very active Aso volcano. If it behaves itself, you can actually go right up to the rim and peer down the rim into a live volcano. But you could certainly spent a lot more than 2 days in the area, particularly if you are driving. The area has loads of natural beauty, like the Nabegataki Falls, Yamabuki Springhead, Kikuchi Gorge, numerous mountain overlooks over the gigantic caldera, and much more.

The crown jewel however is Kurokawa, one of the country’s best hot spring areas, where you can enter hot springs outdoors in the middle of the forest with nature all around you.

Beppu and Yufuin are the 2 most famous places in Kyushu for hot springs. Yufuin is far more quiet and relaxing. Beppu is a medium sized city that along with its hot springs also has its Beppu Hells - more places that are too hot for hot springs yet show a unique atmosphere, and these days, some real local kitsch. Nearby is also one of Japan’s best monkey parks, with over 500 macaques, walking around and among you.

Kagoshima is another great place for hot springs, hot sand baths, some famous shochu liquor and black pork, and the mammoth live volcano, Sakurajima, always sitting in the background and ready to blow its top. Walking around the perimeter is an unforgettable experience.

Out of the way Miyazaki has some very nice natural scenery as well, famous for its surfing beaches, but really best known for its gorgeous Takachiho, a gorge with a really nice waterfall, created about 125,000 years ago. Its coast is very nice with several good sights like Udo Shrine and Cape Toi.

11. Yamaguchi

Back on Honshu, Fukuoka’s neighbor Yamaguchi is an often ignored and bypassed place, to the loss of all those who never stop there. Shimonoseki has some very nice sights and locations for some of Japan’s older history. In the middle of the prefecture is Akiyoshido, Japan’s finest limestone cave running 9 km long (only 1 km is open to walk through) where you can see an underground river, and above ground go hiking on Akiyoshidai, a huge karst plateau that was a huge coral reef over 300 million years ago. There is also historic Hagi, and in Nagato, the Motonosumi Inari Shrine, one of the best inari shrines in Japan. Getting a Kyushu Rail Pass can be one great way to save money and get around quickly (there are several versions), or if driving on the expressways, a Kyushu Expressway Pass is another good money saver.

12. Sapporo

When you think of Japanese winter, you tend to think of Sapporo, the ice sculptures, the snow festivals. The Shikotsu Toya National Park is located in the south of the northern island of Hokkaido. The two lakes that sit in volcanic craters, Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya stand out in the park. The area, like many other places in Japan, is famous for its hot springs. Its proximity to Sapporo makes it a very attractive destination for domestic and foreign tourists.

Thanks to its location and the spectacular nature that surrounds it, being in the middle of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Jozankei Onsen is a popular excursion from Sapporo.

Other exquisite places to visit include the Historic Osaka Castle fortress, the temples of Nara, the shrine island of Miyajima and the Japanese Alps. Finally, your stay is not complete without attending Fukuoka's traditional festivals. If you've never traveled to this part of the world, it's about time, since these best places to visit in Japan offer experiences you've never had before.

What's also great is that the country is less expensive than other major destinations. Convenient and cost-effective public transportation is an excellent option if you're traveling on a budget. Prepare to get impressed and mesmerized by the amazing country of Japan.

Kalyan Panja