Japan is a must-visit for first-time travelers, although it has so much more to offer travelers of all types. It is considered under cultural attractions, culinary options, and accessibility (among other factors) to bring you Japan’s best places to visit.
Japan’s civilization dates as distant back as 30,000 years. It is better known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Today, the archipelago perfectly blends its rich history with its ultra-modern present.
Let’s check out some of the best places to visit in Japan
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 Imperial Palace look into Japan’s storied past. There are also several 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 to its abundant Michelin-starred restaurants (the most you’ll find in any city in the world), so come hungry.
This port city, situated about 35 miles southwest of Kyoto, is worth visiting for its food alone. One of the city’s most well-known dishes, the tasty pancake-like okonomiyaki (which means “grilled as you like it” in Japanese), is assembled with batter, cabbage, and your selection of meat and other toppings. After you’ve got your filling of the delectable local cuisine:
Explore the flashy Dotonbori neighborhood.Check out the reconstructed 16th-century Osaka Castle.Head to contemporary panoramas like the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Universal Studios Japan.
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, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can also stroll through geisha districts like Gion and Miyagawacho, admire the classic wooden architecture and visit traditional teahouses before checking out more modern attractions, such as the Kyoto Aquarium.
For many, Hiroshima fetches up memories of war, as the city is where the world’s first atomic bomb raid occurred in 1945. But today, Hiroshima is a city of relaxation, with monuments and memorials like the Children’s Peace Monument, the Peace Memorial Park, and the UNESCO-certified Atomic Bomb Dome. It is also a city of extraordinary beauty. Travelers can take a picturesque stroll through Shukkeien Garden, peruse the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits, or visit Sandankyo Gorge to hike or boat past its beautiful waterfalls, caves, and coves.
Americans might only associate the name Nagasaki with the dropping of the second atomic bomb during World War II. Today, this city on the northwestern part of Kyushu island pays homage to the devastation at sights like the Nagasaki Peace Park and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. But you’ll find an array of fun outdoor attractions here, too. Head to Glover Garden or Mount Inasa for sweeping panoramas. Also, save time by strolling through Nagasaki’s Chinatown to shop and savor authentic Chinese fare in Japan’s oldest Chinatown.
Located on Kyushu (Japan’s third-largest island), Fukuoka suggests to travelers a mix of urban sprawl, sandy coastlines, and age-old temples and shrines. Can’t-miss views include Tochoji Temple – home of the most giant posing wooden Buddha in Japan – and Nokonoshima Island, which features kaleidoscopic flower fields and stunning views of the surrounding bay. Fukuoka is also comprehended for its incredible ramen, so be sure to try this tasty dish at one of the city’s many food stalls.
The country’s tallest mountain and one of its most iconic symbols is a popular destination for outdoor recreation. For centuries, Mount Fuji’s almost perfectly round form has inspired Japanese artists and poets. The Fuji Five Lakes province at the foot of this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes an excellent base for the thousands of climbers who visit each year. Enjoy the area’s museums and amusement parks during the warmer months. Or, come in winter to ski Mount Fuji’s slopes and soak in the hot springs.
Japan’s first permanent capital is well-known for housing the Great Buddha, a more than 50-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Buddha. You’ll uncover this jaw-dropping national treasure in Nara’s Todai-Ji temple, the largest wooden building globally. While on the temple grounds, explore the deer-filled Nara Park and the ornate Kasuga Taisha shrine. Also, save time by visiting Yakushiji Temple, a property considered one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara.
This peninsula situated 62 miles southwest of Tokyo makes a great getaway from the busy city. It is popular among residents and tourists alike thanks to its relaxing hot springs and stunning white sand beaches. These, along with various museums and ryokans (Japanese-style inns), 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 cherry blossoms. Meanwhile, vacationers will find more rugged yet equally scenic coastlines on the southern and western coasts, such as Dogashima.
Hokkaido island’s capital city is perhaps best known for its ties to the 1972 Winter Olympics. It’s hardly surprising, then, that Sapporo’s main draw is its winter activities. In addition to featuring top-notch ski slopes, the city hosts the Sapporo Snow Festival every February with large, elaborate snow sculptures. Plus, Sapporo offers a variety of tasty brews and bites. First, learn about the city’s beer at the Sapporo Beer Museum. Then, grab a bowl of ramen in the Susukino entertainment district. Have more of a sweet tooth? Visit chocolate-themed Shiroi Koibito Park.
Mountainous Hakone is one of Japan’s most famous 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 Okada Museum of Art, the Hakone Open-Air Museum, or the Hakone Museum of Art. Of course, no Hakone vacation would be complete without enjoying spectacular views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashinoko and the Komagatake Ropeway.