Japan is the place to visit to see how the world can be blended in both history and nature with modern technologies, trends, and styles. Boasting 17 UNESCO World Heritages sites, and dotted with temples, Shinto shrines, monuments and other modern wonders of technology, Japan is a country one have to marvel with. But with so many tourist attractions to choose from in cities, towns or even islands, one can get a bit overwhelmed by the choices.
So here is our take for you on Top 10 Must Visit Places in Japan:
The capital city of modern Japan and unlike other countries, this is one capital that when travellers came to would not leave in a hurry to other better place or off beaten tracks. Tokyo itself has so much charm and hidden delights that many travellers stay for a long time to discover and experience it all.
Head to Shinjuku to be awed by the skyscrapers across the skies or over to fashion streets like Harajuku or Shibuya to see the youth of today displaying the trends and styles of modern Japan. After that stumble over to Ginza neighbourhood that is well known as a shopping paradise else if that is not your thing, then the old-style temple district may be just right for you. In the morning head to the bustling Tsujiki fish market for an early breakfast of the freshest sashimi and sushi in Japan.
Regardless, Tokyo is one capital city that defies the stereotype and is actually worth visiting just for itself. If you are there during winter, you can even have a ski holiday at a mountain nearby for a quick getaway!
Mention Japan and Kyoto will come to mind to many people, dreamy yet modern, this previous capital of Japan for thousands of years is embedded with rich history and legacy. You will find temples, palaces and gardens that are grand and the epitome of Japan’s rich traditional culture, arts and style and its most refined cuisine.
Kyoto was the main backbone during the majestic imperial times and now stand as a testament to Japan’s grandeur, with more than 2 000 temples and shrines, numerous beautiful gardens and another form of heritage.
The most iconic building here is the Kinkakuji that is perched on the bank of a serene pond that reflects it in the golden sunlight. Kinkakuji used to be a shogun’s retirement villa but now used as a Zen Buddhist temple. While the famous Shinto symbol here is the Fushimi Inari-Taisha, where you would pass thousands of torii from the foot of the hill to the shrine.
Just an hour train away from Kyoto, Osaka is almost like a blend of both Tokyo and Kyoto. The famous Osaka Castle is here which is a product of Japan’s rich history again. Just about 40 minutes away is another famous tourist attractions – Himeji Castle, another Japan UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another nearby location to visit is Kobe with the remnants of the devastating 1995 earthquake but the true reason most travellers come here is for the famous Kobe beef.
As the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 m, Mount Fuji is a volcanic mountain that is famous for its natural symmetrical cone which had become a symbol of Japan. It is located on Honshu Island, southwest of Tokyo.
This picturesque mountain is well-loved by artists, poets and photographers. Thus, it had been listed as part of UNESCO World Heritage’s Cultural site for inspiring many artists for centuries. It is one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains together with Mount Tate and Mount Haku.
Scaling the peak of this long-dormant volcano is tough yet rewarding. It is estimated that 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year with 30% of it are foreigners.
Another ancient former capital of Japan in the Kansai region, Nara boasts many remnants of the past glamour as well, with eight temples, shrines, and ruins around the city. Sometimes it is overshadowed by its famous neighbour Kyoto, therefore, leaving this places less touristic but still provides many secrets and wonders to be admired.
Famous tourist attractions are the Todai-ji Temples, Kofuku-ji pagoda in the centre of Nara, Kasuga Shrine, Heikokyu Palace, Nara Park for its mercenary deer, Isui-en garden, and many others.
Naoshima is an island town in the Kagawa district, located in the Seto Inland Sea. Many travellers come here to experience the beauty and tranquillity of an island. Unlike the usual beach that comes to mind, this island actually excels in contemporary art museums, public sculptures, and installations.
One famous art museum is the Chichu Art Museum that houses installations from famous artists such as James Turrell and Claude Monet. This museum, designed by Tadao Ando, is located at the highest point of the island over a dramatic panoramic view. Another famous art museum is the Benesse Museum.
Besides that, of course, the island allows many island activities like lying in the sun on the beach, swimming in the sea and also trekking and biking around the island.
Hokkaido, located in the north of Japan, is Japan’s answer to the untamed wilderness with its great national parks. Travellers say that the place resembles the landscape of northern Europe with vast rice paddy fields, green forests surrounding clear blue lakes with snow-capped mountains in the background in the winter and rolling rainbow coloured fields of flower and tall rushing waterfalls in summer.
Hokkaido is the place to go for nature lovers and for those who seek adventures like trekking and hiking and exploring the wilderness. There are also many hot springs resorts dotted across the place for you to soak your weary muscles after a long hike.
Miyajima floating Torii, located in Hiroshima, is one of Japan’s most iconic man-made landmark as an epitome of shrines in Japan which is a symbol of their spiritual side.
The torii, a shrine gate, in Miyajima standing out in the water for seven centuries as if floating in the middle of nowhere (but at low tide, you will see it standing on mud), had fascinated many travellers. This torii dates back to the 6th century and had been a holy Shinto site and also as one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the same time, visit Hiroshima’s bomb dome to pay respect to the victim’s at Peace memorial Park that was reborn from the ashes of World War 2.
Just an hour train ride from Tokyo, this quiet little town, Kamakura, is another popular tourist destination. It is famous for its sight of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kotoku-in, the second-largest bronze Buddha in Japan.
There are also many temples and Shinto shrine around this town to be visited one by one and therefore, a whole day trip would be required. In comparison to the cities mentioned above, Kamakura is quiet and peaceful and would be a welcome respite after a few days of hustling in the cities.
Yakushima is one of the Osumi Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan and has a population of around 13,000 people. Most travellers come here to wander the forests of thousand-year-old cedar trees in Kirishima-Yaku National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is probably the only place that made it to this list which is not that well-known out of Japan. But in Japan, it is one of their top tourist destinations. This place is a uniquely different site from the rest of the must-visit places and would be worth going to commune with the ancient trees and humble yourself with the immensity of age.
There you have it, the top 10 must-visit places in Japan, but by no means a complete list of the tourist attractions or wonders of Japan. A thorough visit to Japan would take an extensive amount of time but well worth it if your budget allows as we know it can be quite costly to travel here.
If these top 10 destinations have not convinced you to come to Japan, check out our Why Visit Japan to have more inspirations!
Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Japan
Top 10 Things to Do in Osaka
Top 10 Must See and Things to Do in Nara
Top 10 Must See and Things to Do in Kamakura