Travel Guide: Top 12 Best Places to Visit in Japan
First-time travelers and even those seasoned ones can’t help but fall in love with Japan- an island country lying off the east coast of Asia. It’s clean, laid-back, has beautiful landscapes, efficient public transportation, rich culture, but most importantly, surrounded by destinations with nothing short of fun!
If you’re a culture vulture, you’ll probably be amazed by how the Japanese make a cartoon version of almost anything, thus the “kawaii” culture. There’s a lot more to discover in Japan more than this interesting and cute stuff, and to inspire you to fly at the land of the rising sun in the future, here’s an updated list of the 12 places to visit in Japan. Enjoy reading!
One of the many reasons to visit Kyoto is its sublime gardens, historic shrines, and temples. It’s famous for its entertainment district, Gion, which also stands as the center of its traditional arts and the district of the famous geiko (geisha). Here you can find admire traditional Japanese wooden houses called Machiya and transport back into the past because of its old streets. Best to stroll at night and have some free sake tastings!
Getting to Kyoto is easy with the Japan Rail Pass, especially if you’re coming from Tokyo or Osaka or from anywhere in Japan. You can hop on the Shinkansen Hikari train from either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo, and arrive at Kyoto Station.
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If you’re more of a beach person, then you’ll surely appreciate taking a detour at Ishigaki, a famous Japanese island south-west of Okinawa Honto. Aside from swimming and chilling at the beach, you can also check out the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave and Arakawa Falls which is just a short drive from Kabira Bay. It’s been a go-to holiday destination for some locals as it resembles Hawaii, for its white sandy beaches and rich mangrove forests. You can also drive around on your free time and check out the Sunflower fields which makes for a perfect backdrop for any pictures.
To get here, book a flight from Tokyo to Ishigaki which takes about 3hour and 30min. However, if you’re coming from Osaka, it will take you around 2 hours and one hour from Okinawa (Naha).
You would find nothing but the best-landscaped gardens here at Kanazawa and is also one of the most visited places during the sakura season. This capital of Ishikawa Prefecture is uncrowded and is also home to museums, and samurai and geisha houses, where most of the residences have been converted into shops and restaurants. And one of the most interesting things about this destination is that they’re known for the gold leaf production. Some of the numerous gold leaf items you can find here are gold leaf cosmetics, and even on top of ice cream and cake.
However, if you’re staying near Kanazawa and wanted to do some seafood shopping, the best option would be at Omicho Market, home to 200 shops and the place where you can find a fresh catch in the morning.
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Tokyo may the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to Japan, but let me tell you that a visit to Hiroshima might be life-changing as well. It may be a city that was nuclear-bombed during World War II but in recent years, it has become a fast-rising destination with a few surprises in its sleeves.
Some of the places you should visit are the Hiroshima Peace Park, the old street of Takehara, the picturesque Miyajima which is surrounded by seafood shops, the Mazda Museum, Hondori Shopping Arcade street, and of course the famous Hiroshima Castle. To get here, take the JR Sanyo line from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station. Afterwhich, take the 10-minute ferry ride that will bring you to the pier.
Another gorgeous destination to visit in Japan is Takayama. This place is all about old-charm, tradition, and history. It’s surrounded by preserved houses and is nestled within Hilda Mountains, making a visit worthwhile. Notable places to see here include the Takayama Jinya, which was a local government office before turned museum and the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine, the oldest shrine in Takayama. Remember to eat their famous Hida beef – a local’s most recommended dish. Some shops sell traditional local crafts, so if you’re planning to buy some pasalubong, then for sure, you can find some here.
If you’re coming from Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, ride the shinkansen on the JR Tokaido Line to Nagoya, then switch to a Hida Wide View Express Train which will reach Takayama around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
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This destination is Japan is refreshing and beautiful, and its village was even recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. It’s situated on Gifu Prefecture with a population fewer than 2,000 people.
Shirakawa-go is flocked by tourists most especially during winters and has wowed everyone with its Gassho-style thatched roof houses and lush forest. Even not in winter, during the Spring season, it is admiring to see the flowers bloom which makes this town even magical. Other attractions to see here include the Miboro Dam at Lake Miboro, Hida Tunnel, Hakusan Rindo which has a famous hiking path, Amau Pass, and Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine.
Nara has gained a lot of adoration among locals and tourists because of its abundance of animals, charming stores, and rich history. It’s located in the east of Tokyo and has easy access via bus or train. It’s a unique location where deers freely roam around the park, as the locals consider them sacred. You can buy some deer snacks and feed the deers, and pat them if you want.
You also don’t have to worry looking for someplace to eat and shop because Nara is surrounded by markets, shopping areas, and restaurants. Nara is also home to one of the biggest Buddha at Todai-ji built around in 752 and is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage site.
Touted as the world’s most satisfying city for travel in a 2013 poll by TripAdvisor, Tokyo’s popularity is continuing to grow and keeps on awing its tourists as years goes by. There’s the famous Shibuya Crossing, the gastronomic adventure in each corner of the city, the sophisticated railways, the pubs, and most especially the disciplined locals.
However, if you’re into anime and cosplay, we suggest you visit the Harajuku district and indulge yourself in an array of fashion trends, souvenirs, and costumes to choose from. And although Tokyo is a highly-urbanized city, the city also takes pride in its ‘Central Park’ where over 1,500 cherry trees bloom every spring.
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Boasting a lot of world-class attractions, there’s no wonder Osaka has been an all-time favorite for some tourists. There’s Universal Studios Japan, first to tick off your Osaka itinerary, the Osaka Castle, then the Osaka Aquarium housing the biggest fish in the world, and Umeda Sky Building, perfect for tourists who want to see the city in a bird’s eye view.
Did you know that Osaka is called the kitchen of the world? So there are lots of impressive restaurants here that wouldn’t let you down. If you want to shop, try checking out Midosuji street, Horie district, Sennichimae Doguyasuji, and Nipponbashi Denden Town.
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For some reason, Hokkaido has been one of my favorite cities in Japan, thanks to its historical landmarks, onsen, and its exciting activities during winter. It is also home to 20 volcanoes, thus the huge spectrum of hot springs.
However, if you want to make the most out of your Hokkaido visit even when it’s not winter, we suggest you hike on mountains for a change, try out some sushi and sashimi restaurants in Sapporo, savor some beer, or better yet, take a detour on its coastal town and experience some romantic charm.
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Another exciting destination to visit in Japan where it’s surrounded by mountains and rivers. Make sure to try its famous Hakata Ramen and yatai. Some of the places you need to visit are the Yanagawa or the Venice of Fukuoka.
According to locals, this is where you can taste good eel dishes. You should also visit Dazaifu, which is a famous temple area, Beppu for its onsen, and the Kokura famous for its beautiful castle. Most importantly, don’t forget to check out its vibrant nightlife – so you’ll know why it’s called the nightlife capital of Kyushu Island.
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Names as the country’s third-largest city and a port, Nagoya has also some pretty exciting places you should visit if you’ll visit Japan. Its trains are never crowded even during rush hour and no train journey takes more than 30 minutes because it’s a small city.
Consider visiting the Toyota work plant and admire its robot workforce, the Tokugawa Art Museum, and its 3 historical towns. What amazes most tourists is that is cheaper than Tokyo and that it’s surrounded by foreigner-friendly pubs and bars.
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Searching for the best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.