Best Places to Visit in Japan

Explore a landscape embroidered with profound history, Zen Buddhism, and a combination of world’s cultures in the best places to visit in Japan.

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Dive Into Japan’s Buzzing Cities

Neon-blazed skyscrapers soaring to the sky, a sensuous riot of colors and sounds taking over the streets, and nuggets of history popping at every corner… The best cities of Japan charm visitors with their bold and soulful character. In the frenetic Tokyo, you will find a slate of cultural attractions from cramped street-food bars to organic neighborhoods. They present the most intimate edges of Japanese culture wrapped in the city’s fresh-faced vibes. Beyond an unforgettable urban scene, it harbors some of the best places to visit in Japan, like the Imperial Palace Gardens and countless shrines. In stark contrast with Tokyo’s ever-expanding diversity, Kyoto lures travelers with its time-capsuled atmosphere. Famed as the most spiritual city in Japan, it has enough authentic temples and shrines for a lifetime. Zen Buddhism is the cornerstone of life and travel here, the influences of which concentrate around the culture ladened Gion.

Take a Moving Day-Trip to Hiroshima

Japan is much about profound history as it is about raw culture, and Hiroshima is the epicenter of it all. Anchoring the western end of the island like a pinpoint statement, it is the most iconic relic of the atomic bomb. The best places to visit in Japan to experience the memory of the catastrophe are the Peace Memorial and A-Bomb Dome. They pay tribute to the victims of the explosion and send out a message of peace to the world. You will be heartbroken by the recovered items displayed in the Peace Museum, while a walk in the park will raise your hopes for a better world. No matter where you go, Hiroshima is an overwhelming city to explore. Pockets of poignant history linger even in the most relaxed stretches in the city.

best places to visit in Japan
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Welcome Spring in the Sakura Lands

If it is the quintessential Japanese nature you seek, head to the countryside where resplendent shrines and Zen gardens are a dime a dozen. In the Kansai region alone, Osaka awes with its luminous castle and surrounding gardens blanketed with Japanese cherry blossoms. Here, the ritual of introspection and boundless relaxation is essential to the fabric of local life. But the best places to visit in Japan for the ultimate rural experience are in Hakone, a natural landscape dominated by the pupil-dilating views of Mt Fuji. Lake Ashinoko offers a picture-perfect view embellished by the legendary Hakone Shrine. Further west, Koyasan takes over the scene by doubling the spiritual vibes and spicing up the landscape. You will only have time to visit some of its 100 dramatic shrines; still, it will capture your heart as the holiest site in all of Japan.

Must-See Sights in Japan

Here is everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Japan.

Garan Sacred Area

The two most prominent buildings of the Garan are the Kondo Hall and the huge Konpon Daito Pagoda. The Hall is a large wooden temple hall where major ceremonies are held.

Why You Should Visit:

A must-visit for those seeking spiritual enlightenment, Garan Sacred Area offers a serene and peaceful environment that is perfect for meditation and introspection.

Don’t Miss:

-The Garan Sacred Area is home to several temples, each with unique architectural features and stunning views. Make sure to explore each one and take in the beautiful surroundings.

-If you’re lucky, you may be able to attend a traditional Buddhist ceremony or meditation session at one of the temples.

-The Garan Sacred Area also has a museum that showcases artifacts and artwork related to the history and culture of the area. It’s a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the temples.

Keep in Mind:

-Dress modestly and remove your shoes when entering temples and shrines.

-Respect the sacredness of the area by refraining from loud noises or disruptive behavior.

-Observe the cultural rituals and practices that take place in the area and be aware of the significance of the area and its role in the history and traditions of the region.

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visit Hakone


Hugged by Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi, Hakone is a scenic town in the Japanese countryside. It is most famous for its red torii gate and Shinto shrine.

Why You Should Visit:

Nestled in the scenic foothills of Mt. Fuji, Hakone is a picturesque getaway that offers breathtaking views, relaxing hot springs, and a range of outdoor activities to enjoy.

Don’t Miss:

-One of the best ways to take in the natural beauty of Hakone is to take a cable car ride up to the top of Mt. Hakone. The views are breathtaking!

-Hakone is known for its natural hot springs, or onsen. There are several onsen resorts in the area where you can relax and unwind in the warm waters.

-This outdoor museum features sculptures and artwork from around the world set amidst the beautiful Hakone landscape.

Keep in Mind:

-Be prepared for the possibility of volcanic activity and natural disasters in the area.

-Be respectful of the local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes when entering certain establishments.

-Take advantage of the variety of transportation options available in the area, such as cable cars, boats, and buses.

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visit Hiroshima


A modern city on Honshu Island, was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Today, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the 1945 event.

Why You Should Visit:

Despite its tragic past, Hiroshima has risen from the ashes to become a vibrant and bustling city that boasts a rich cultural heritage, mouth-watering cuisine, and a friendly and welcoming local community.

Don’t Miss:

-Visit the Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

-Hiroshima is known for its version of this savory pancake dish, which features layers of noodles, vegetables, and meat or seafood.

-This building is one of the few structures that survived the bombing, and has been preserved as a memorial and symbol of peace.

Keep in Mind:

-Be respectful of the city’s tragic history and the significance of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

-Show respect to the survivors and their families, and be mindful of the impact of the atomic bombing on the city and its people.

-Explore the local cuisine, such as Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and oysters.

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Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan, brimming with Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and dazzling gardens and palaces. It is the best city to experience Japan’s cultural nuances.

Why You Should Visit:

Home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, Kyoto is a must-visit destination for those interested in Japanese culture and history. From the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine to the serene gardens of Kinkaku-ji, there is something for everyone in this historic city.

Don’t Miss:

-Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of torii gates, which create a striking and memorable visual experience.

-Gion is known for its traditional architecture and geisha culture. Take a stroll through the streets and you may be lucky enough to spot a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) on their way to work.

-Visit the Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This temple is one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks.

Keep in Mind:

-Respect the local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes when entering certain establishments.

-Be mindful of the large number of tourists in the area and try to avoid peak travel times.

-Take advantage of the many temples, shrines, and gardens in the area, and learn about their cultural and historical significance.

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visit Osaka


The large port city of Osaka is one of the trendiest cosmopolitan urban centers in Japan. It is a traveler’s hub with vibrant nightlife and top-notch international cuisine.

Why You Should Visit:

Known as the “Kitchen of Japan,” Osaka is a food lover’s paradise that is renowned for its delicious street food, world-class restaurants, and vibrant nightlife scene.

Don’t Miss:

-Visit Osaka Castle, a must-see for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. The castle grounds also offer great views of the city.

-Osaka is known for this popular street food, which consists of small balls of batter filled with diced octopus and other ingredients.

-Visit Dotonbori. This bustling street is a popular spot for shopping, dining, and nightlife. It’s a great place to soak up the energy and excitement of Osaka.

Keep in Mind:

-Osaka has a great public transportation system, including subways and buses, so it’s easy to get around.

-English signage may not be as prevalent as in some other Japanese cities, so it’s a good idea to have a map or translator app handy.

-If you’re planning to visit popular tourist spots, consider purchasing tickets in advance to avoid long lines.

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The mountainous Takayama town is an idyllic place nestling Japan’s age-old traditions and rural charm. Hida Folk Village is one of its highlight attractions.

Why You Should Visit:

Tucked away in the Japanese Alps, Takayama is a charming and picturesque town that offers visitors a glimpse into Japan’s traditional way of life. From historic temples to quaint streets lined with traditional wooden houses, there is plenty to see and do in Takayama.

Don’t Miss:

-The historic district of Takayama is filled with traditional wooden buildings and charming shops and restaurants. It’s a great place to get a taste of traditional Japan.

-Visit the Hida Folk Village. This open-air museum showcases traditional houses and artifacts from the Hida region.

-Takayama’s morning markets are also worth visiting. Held daily from around 6:00 am to noon, the markets sell a variety of local produce, snacks, and handicrafts.

Keep in Mind:

-Takayama is a small town, so it’s easy to get around on foot.

-Some shops and restaurants may be closed on certain days of the week, so it’s a good idea to check in advance.

-Takayama can get quite cold in the winter, so make sure to pack warm clothing.

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best places to visit in Japan


Japan’s busy capital mixes the ultramodern and the traditional from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. The Imperial Palace sits amid large public gardens.

Why You Should Visit:

A bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends the traditional with the modern, Tokyo is a city that never sleeps. With a wealth of attractions ranging from world-class museums to trendy fashion boutiques, Tokyo has something for everyone.

Don’t Miss:

-Tokyo is a city of contrasts, with each neighborhood having its own unique character. Don’t miss visiting Shibuya for its famous crossing, Harajuku for its quirky fashion scene, and Akihabara for its electronics and anime culture.

-Tokyo has several ancient temples and shrines that are worth visiting, such as Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, and the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda.

-Don’t miss trying sushi, ramen, tempura, and yakitori.

Keep in Mind:

-Tokyo is a very large city, so it’s a good idea to plan your itinerary by area to avoid spending too much time on transportation.

-Many restaurants and shops in Tokyo are cash-only, so make sure to have yen on hand.

-Japan’s subway and train systems can be confusing, but there are many resources available to help navigate, including apps and English signage.

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visit Miyajima

Miyajima Island

A small island in Hiroshima Bay, it is known for its forests and ancient temples. Just offshore, the giant orange Great Torii Gate is partially submerged at high tide.

Why You Should Visit:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the iconic floating Torii gate, Miyajima Island is a magical place that is steeped in history and natural beauty. From hiking to temples to watching the sunset over the Seto Inland Sea, Miyajima Island is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Japan.

Don’t Miss:

-Visit the Itsukushima Shrine. This is the most famous attraction on Miyajima Island, and for good reason.

-Miyajima Island has several hiking trails, but Mount Misen is the most popular. The hike can be challenging, but the views from the top are breathtaking.

-Miyajima Island is known for its seafood, especially oysters. Don’t miss trying some grilled oysters or a local specialty called anago meshi, which is grilled conger eel on top of rice.

Keep in Mind:

-Miyajima Island is located near Hiroshima, so it’s easy to visit as a day trip from there, or you can stay overnight on the island.

-During high tide, Itsukushima Shrine appears to be floating on the water, so it’s best to visit during this time for the full experience.

-Miyajima Island is home to many deer, which are considered sacred by locals. While they may be friendly, be mindful of their behavior and don’t feed them or get too close.

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Japan FAQ

What are some popular things to do in Kyoto?

Kyoto, Japan is a city with rich cultural heritage and a plethora of attractions for tourists to explore. Some popular things to do in Kyoto include visiting the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of vermilion torii gates, admiring the stunning Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) temple, strolling through the historic Higashiyama district with its traditional buildings and charming streets, and experiencing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at one of the city’s many tea houses. Other must-visit sites include the Kiyomizu-dera temple, Arashiyama bamboo forest, Nishiki market, and Gion district known for its geisha culture.

What are the best places to try famous foods in Japan?

Japan is a country renowned for its culinary delights, and there are many places to try famous foods. Some of the best places to sample authentic Japanese cuisine include Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, where you can find fresh sushi and sashimi, and Osaka’s Dotonbori district, which is famous for its street food such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Kyoto is known for its traditional kaiseki cuisine, while Fukuoka is famous for its rich and flavorful tonkotsu ramen. Hokkaido is a great destination for seafood lovers, with fresh seafood available in many coastal towns. Wherever you go in Japan, there are plenty of opportunities to try the country’s unique and delicious food.

What are the best places to go shopping in Japan?

Japan is a shopping paradise, with a variety of unique and innovative stores to choose from. Some of the best places to go shopping in Japan include Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district, the upscale Ginza neighborhood, and Osaka’s Namba area. Additionally, the Akihabara district in Tokyo is a must-visit for electronics enthusiasts, while Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is ideal for traditional Japanese handicrafts and local food products. Don’t forget to explore the numerous department stores, malls, and shopping streets scattered throughout the country, where you can find anything from high-end luxury brands to affordable souvenirs.

What are some good day trips from Tokyo?

There are several great day trips you can take from Tokyo. One popular destination is Kamakura, a coastal city with beautiful shrines, temples, and beaches. Another option is Nikko, a town known for its stunning nature and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You could also visit Mount Fuji, Japan’s iconic mountain, and explore the surrounding areas, such as the Fuji Five Lakes region or the charming town of Kawaguchiko. If you’re interested in history and culture, consider a trip to the city of Nikko, home to the famous Toshogu Shrine, or the traditional town of Kawagoe, known for its well-preserved Edo-era buildings.

How do I use a Japanese onsen (hot spring)?

To use a Japanese onsen, first, you will need to remove your shoes and store them in the provided shoe lockers. Next, pay the entrance fee and obtain a towel, which you can use to cover yourself while walking around the onsen area. Then, proceed to the gender-separated changing rooms and remove all clothing. After washing yourself thoroughly with soap and water, you can enter the onsen pool, making sure to keep your towel out of the water. Relax in the hot water and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but remember to observe proper etiquette, such as not splashing or making loud noises. Afterward, dry off and return to the changing room to dress. It’s a great way to experience a traditional Japanese cultural activity while relaxing and rejuvenating your body.

What are some unique cultural experiences to have in Japan?

There are numerous unique cultural experiences to have in Japan. One such experience is attending a traditional tea ceremony, where you can learn about the history and rituals associated with preparing and serving Japanese green tea. Another is visiting a sumo stable to watch the training of sumo wrestlers, the country’s national sport. Participating in a taiko drumming workshop or a calligraphy class can also provide a deeper understanding of Japanese art and culture. Additionally, you could try wearing a kimono or yukata and strolling through a historic district, such as Kyoto’s Gion, to experience the traditional atmosphere of Japan.

What are some good hiking trails in Japan?

Japan offers numerous hiking trails with stunning scenery and a range of difficulty levels. One popular trail is the Kumano Kodo, a network of pilgrimage routes in the Kii Peninsula that includes ancient shrines and temples, as well as hot springs and waterfalls. The Nakasendo Trail, an old highway connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, offers a glimpse into traditional Japanese villages and landscapes. For more challenging hikes, the Northern Japan Alps, including the peaks of Mount Fuji, Mount Tateyama, and Mount Yari, offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Yakushima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another great destination for hiking, with trails through ancient forests and along rugged coastlines.

How do I attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony?

To attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, you typically need to be invited by a host who is well-versed in the practice. It’s important to dress appropriately and arrive on time. During the ceremony, you’ll be served a bowl of matcha tea and a small snack while you observe the intricate and deliberate movements of the host. It’s important to be respectful and follow the customs and etiquette, such as bowing and using both hands to receive the tea. It’s also customary to express gratitude to the host after the ceremony.

What are some tips for traveling on a budget in Japan?

Traveling on a budget in Japan can be a challenge, as Japan is known to be an expensive country. However, there are several ways to save money while exploring this beautiful country. One of the most effective ways is to use public transportation, such as trains and buses, instead of renting a car or taking a taxi. It’s also important to eat like a local, which means looking for affordable local eateries and convenience store food. Staying in budget accommodations, such as hostels and capsule hotels, can also help keep costs down.

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