The Top 10 Places to Visit in Japan

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Japan is a country like no other, with scenery ranging from the super-modern skyline of Tokyo to the scenic natural vistas of Hokkaido. There are few places you can travel that offer the sheer variety of attractions, mouth-wateringly delicious food, and simple safety that this island nation does. No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. Spend a week hiking in remote trails, enjoying the bustling neon nightlife, explore the Hogwarts-themed park or visit a Shinto temple. There are so many places to visit in Japan, you’ll be planning to return before you’ve left!

1. Tokyo

Tokyo Skytree is one of the best places to visit in Japan for an amazing view of Tokyo.
Walk to the top of Tokyo Sky Tree and enjoy the panoramic view of the city below

Tokyo is the world’s busiest metropolis, but you’ll discover that it is also home to vibrant pockets of Japanese traditional life. Exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo is an experience you won’t want to miss and who knows what you’ll find along the way? From the ultramodern delights of the city center to the gorgeous shrines scattered throughout the city, every day in this city will offer you new experiences. 

Highlights:

  • Take a trip to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the city’s tallest building and the world’s tallest freestanding tower at 634 meters tall, for incredible panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
  • From the new to the old, visit the Imperial Palace for a walk through one of the quintessential Japan attractions and a lesson in Japan’s imperial history.

Lowlight: 

  • Tokyo is a very crowded city and one of the most expensive places in the world to live in. Include it in your trip, of course, but also make sure to get out of the city and see some of Japan’s less busy towns as well.

2. Kyoto

 Kyoto is the one of the top places to visit in Japan if you want to meet a geisha.
Catch a glimpse of geishas strolling the streets of Gion, a famous geisha district

The former capital of the country, Kyoto is one of the best cities to visit in Japan. It was one of the few cities spared from the destruction of WWII, so much of the historical art and architecture of Japan has been preserved here. The sprawling city is home to over 1,600 gorgeous temple sites and is the best place to go if you want to experience a taste of traditional Japanese entertainment!

Highlights: 

  • Take a walk through the district of Gion, well known for its 17th century preserved teahouses and the traditional geisha entertainers. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time!
  • Head to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the city from the east, where you can have your love life blessed. 

Lowlight: 

  • Kyoto is a popular travel site and is working to accommodate the tourism boom it’s experiencing, but you might find things a bit crowded and difficult to navigate.

3. Nara

Home to hundreds of freely traveling deer, Nara is one of the most exciting places to visit in Japan if you're an animal lover.
Visit Nara Park and feed the deer that roam freely here

Nara is one of our favorite Japan tourist destinations, offering a completely different experience than you’ll get in some of the bigger cities. This quiet and compact city is filled with shrines and charming lantern-lit lanes you can stroll through. It is also home to the city’s famously friendly deer.

Highlights: 

  • Pay tribute to one of Nara’s most unique sights in the Todai-Ji temple; the huge structure houses a serene 16-meter Buddha statue and a peaceful atmosphere that’s the perfect antidote to Tokyo’s crowded streets.
  • Feed the deer at Nara park! Many of the city’s famous temples are located within the park’s boundaries (including Todai-Ji!), but it’s best known for the friendly deer who call it home.

Lowlight: 

  • Remember that the deer are wild animals and, as friendly as they may seem, they aren’t domesticated. The deer can get aggressive, so be careful around them.

4.Osaka

If you want to shop till you drop, Dontobori in Osaka is one of the best places to visit in Japan.
Take a stroll across Ebisu Bridge, which links two major shopping streets in Osaka

If you’re not sure where to go in Japan, but you know you want a calmer experience than Tokyo, head to Osaka. This charming port city is a little more laid back but still offers all of the delights you’re hoping for from a trip to Japan, from the Osaka Castle to one of the nation’s oldest Shinto Shrines. You’ll be able to fill up on delicious street food and party into the morning with the city’s well-known nightlife.

Highlights: 

  • If you’re traveling with a family (or if you enjoy movies!), you can’t miss Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Travel from Universal Studios through the forest to Hogsmeade and on to Hogwarts for an experience you’ll be reminiscing on for years to come.
  • One of the best things about Osaka is its wealth of delicious street food. Eat your way through the city’s traditional street dishes!

Lowlight:

  • Think twice about visiting here in the summer. Although Osaka tends to be a bit more temperate than some of the other cities, in the summertime it can be stiflingly hot and humid.

5. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, the tallest active volcano in Japan is one of the top places to visit in Japan.

Climb the summit of Mount Fuji and reward yourself with a splendid view from atop

Who hasn’t dreamed of climbing up to the top of Japan’s most iconic landmark? With an assortment of hiking trails that are suitable for hikers of all fitness level, you can live the dream of reaching Mount Fuji’s summit. For those who just want to soak in the views of the mountain itself, there are plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy in the Fuji Five Lakes District. This is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in Japan!

Highlights:

  • Climb to the summit! There are four different hiking trails in Mount Fuji that will take you to the top of the mountain and have you racing down the mountain’s unique sunabashiri sand runs!
  • Take a walk through the spooky but beautiful Aokigahara Forest, or suicide forest as it’s commonly called. This forest has managed to grow on hardened lava and is said to be haunted by the ghosts of people who have died there.

Lowlight: 

  • Depending on which trail you choose and what time of year you want to hike, Mount Fuji trails can become crowded to the point where you’re waiting in line to hike. Make sure to check when the trail you want to climb will be busiest and schedule your trip so it doesn’t coincide!

6. Hiroshima

The epicenter of the bombing in WW2, the Peacce Memorial Park in Hiroshima is one of the most interesting places to visit in Japan.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial was the only building remaining on the site after the bombing. Today it serves as a powerful symbol.

Hiroshima is a city whose name the world will never forget, but in spite of the destruction lurking in its past, Hiroshima has reimagined itself as the “Peace Capital” of the world and is both safe and exciting to visit. It’s a must-see Japan destination. There is plenty of interesting history to learn about and you can pay a visit to the famous Peace Memorial on your way. Your trip to Hiroshima won’t be all about the past though, there’s plenty of nightlife to explore and fun to be had!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Peace Memorial Park. It’s located at the epicenter of the nuclear bomb blast and houses the famous ruins of the old Chamber of Industry and Commerce at the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome.
  • Take a stroll in the Shukkei-en garden, a  perfect place to experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony before going for an afternoon stroll. There was a concern that life would never be able to thrive again after the nuclear blast, but the Shukkei-en garden proves otherwise.

Lowlight:

  • Summer can be really hot and humid. You’ll want to visit the museums just to get out of the heat.

7. Hakone

Lake Ashi is one of the best places to visit in Japan if you want to check out the iconic replicated pirate ships of Hakone.
Take a pirate ship cruise in Lake Ashi and enjoy the best views of the sea
Owakundani was formed after the eruption of Mount Hakone 3000 years ago.

 Pay a visit to Owakudani, a volcanic valley and take a dip in one of its many hot springs

When you’re ready to get out of Japan’s big cities, head to Hakone for some nature therapy. This gorgeous area offers stunning views of Mount Fuji, plenty of onsen hot springs for you to enjoy a traditional soak in, and picturesque lakeside shrines that you can appreciate as you tour the area by boat. It’s the perfect place to relax for a few days surrounded by greenery.

Highlights: 

  • Take a ride on the picturesque Hakone Ropeway for jaw-dropping views of the region’s scenery. You’ll get a birds eye view of Lake Ashi, unbeatable looks at Mount Fuji, and a glimpse into the Owakudani ravine.
  • You can’t come to Hakone and not stop to bathe in one of the many onsen baths. For many people, the onsens are the whole purpose of the visit.

Lowlight:

  • During popular tourist seasons it can be difficult to find good accommodations. Plan your trip in advance to avoid this problem.

8. Nikko

Shinkyo bridge is one of the most interesting places to visit in Japan as it acts an entrance to Nikko's shrines.
Take a stroll and snap a picture of Shinkyo bridge, one of the finest bridges in Japan

Come to Nikko to see the famously decadent Toshogu shrine and stay to explore the gorgeous nature of Nikko National Park. This small town has been around since the 1600s but its site has been a place of worship for Buddhist and Shinto pilgrims for much longer. If you can swing it, fall is the best time to visit to catch the leaves changing from green to a stunning red.

Highlights: 

  • Walk across Japan’s oldest bridge, the picturesque Shinkyo bridge spanning the Daiya river. It’ll cost you USD 3 to walk across, but if you stay nearby you can skip the crowds and get some unbelievable sunrise pics. 
  • The Toshogu shrine complex is filled with pagodas and statues that would be enough to visit, but once you’ve ascended the 207 steps to the inner shrine you’re in for a stunning view of the country’s most extravagant shrine.

Lowlight: 

  • At certain times of the day, the attractions in Nikko can get very crowded. Hence, you might not get as much time as you might like to take in some of the more unique sights. Your best bet is to get started early in the morning to snag some alone time and make sure you get to see everything.

9. Sapporo

Sapporo is one of the best places to visit in Japan if you want to attend the biggest winter fest in Japan.
Enjoy the fantastic ice sculptures created by the citizens of Sapporo. Photo by: COMSEVENTHFLT [CC by-SA 2.0]
Japan's noodle soup, ramen is a very famous Japanese food and a must try.
When in Japan, it is a must that you taste Hokkaido's iconic Tsukemen ramen

If you’re looking for things to do in Japan year-round, Sapporo is waiting for you. In spite of being the second largest island in the country, less than 5% of the population lives there. It’s a wild place of expansive and untouched views, steaming volcanoes, and some of the best food in the country. While its weather tends to be a little harsher than the rest of the country, in the summer you can hike and, in the winter, it transforms into a skiing paradise!

Highlights: 

  • Come in the winter to ski and visit the Sapporo snow festival, featuring hundreds of stunningly intricate ice and snow sculptures!
  • Enjoy some of the freshest (and tastiest) food in Japan. Four famous soup bases originate here, so you’re guaranteed to taste some of the best ramen you’ve ever had. 

Lowlight:

  • If you’re coming for the winter, be prepared. Sapporo gets cold, with chilling winds bringing the temperature down even further.

10. Iya Valley

The vine bridges admist the dense forest makes Iya Valley one of the best places to visit in Japan.
Walk the woven bridges made from mountain vines that swing as you walk across

Nestled deep in the mountains of Tokushima Prefecture, Iya Valley is certainly off the beaten tourist track. It is home to Japan’s famous woven vine bridges (although, full disclosure, that weaving now includes some steel cables) and a perfect jumping-off point if you’re interested in doing some hiking. Like all scenic places in Japan, you’ll also be able to soak in an onsen surrounded by nature!

Highlights: 

  • Climb across the Iya Kazurabashi vine bridges for a once in a lifetime experience. You’ll never see anything quite like them again.
  • Hike through the mountains of Shinkoku for some unspoiled natural sights. You may run into some mountain villages along the way that offer a totally different look at life in Japan.

Lowlight: 

  • Since it’s a pretty remote location, getting to Iya Valley can be a little tricky. Plan out your route carefully ahead of time and don’t count on having access to cellular data or wifi!
An over view map of the best places to visit in Japan
An overview map of the best places to visit in Japan

With so many places to visit in Japan, if you're wondering how to make the most out of your time connect with our travel experts in Japan to plan a perfect trip to Japan. Whether you want to climb Mount Fuji or eat ramen in Hokkaido, there are plenty of Japan tours that can help make your trip easier. No matter where you decide to go, you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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  • Katrina Cao
    Katrina Cao
    Travel Expert in South Korea & Japan
  • Jeff Aasgaard
    Jeff Aasgaard
    Travel Expert in Japan
  • Alan Williams
    Alan Williams
    Travel Expert in Japan
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Travel Expert in South Korea & Japan
Katrina Cao Travel Expert in South Korea & Japan
Travel Expert in Japan
Jeff Aasgaard Travel Expert in Japan
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