Japan is rapidly emerging as one of the world’s most popular tourist hotspots. Every year, a growing number of tourists go to the island nation in search of its famed sushi, breathtaking train trips, thriving cities, fascinating traditions, and offbeat pop culture.
But Japan isn’t all cute cats and robots; the country’s many islands are surprisingly simple to explore thanks to convenient rail, ferry, and bus networks.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Japan
Japan is a fantastic travel destination because it is both friendly and full of things to do. Discover the long-forgotten Ryukyu culture on Okinawa’s tropical islands and the Ainu way of life on Hokkaido’s frigid, snow-covered northern coast.
old Kyoto, the former capital of Edo, and its many attractions. See sacred sites on Shikoku, stroll the quiet alleyways of Hiroshima, or get lost in the sparkling wonders of Tokyo.
Kyoto, the former capital of Edo, is home to several historical sites that draw many tourists to Japan. See sacred sites on Shikoku, stroll the quiet alleyways of Hiroshima, or get lost in the sparkling wonders of Tokyo.
1. Kinosaki Onsen
Since the eighth century, Kinosaki has been a prominent onsen village due to its fantastic hot springs. Located in south-central Honshu, Kansai is home to numerous bathhouses and traditional inns just inland from the Sea of Japan.
The village, which is now an integral part of Toyooka, features a picturesque canal bordered with willow trees and is crossed by the Maruyama River on its way to the ocean.
There are a total of seven public onsen bathhouses where guests can soak in the warm waters, which are said to have therapeutic effects. Visitors to Kinosaki come for the hot springs, but they also enjoy the city’s ornate interiors, beautiful architecture, and picturesque gardens.
Naoshima is a beautiful Japanese island located between the larger islands of Honshu and Shikoku, surrounded by the clear seas of the Seto Inland Sea. It is a famous tourist destination because of its beautiful natural settings, excellent modern art museums, and numerous public sculptures.
Naoshima was home to a diminishing fishing population until the late 1980s, when it was chosen as the site for the Benesse Art Site. The adjacent Okayama headquarters of the Benesse company is home to several renowned museums and art galleries, including the Chichu Art Museum and the Benesse House Museum. They showcase superb architecture and are home to significant art collections; the island is also peppered with cutting-edge outdoor installations.
Naoshima may not have many attractions, but the town’s art, architecture, and landscape are sure to keep visitors occupied. Due to the Benesse project’s popularity, art museums and installations have now popped up on the other islands lying nearby.
3. Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Shirakawa-g and Gokayama are two of the most picturesque towns in all of Japan because they are nestled in the foothills of towering mountains and surrounded by wide valleys and lush forests.
They are one of the most visited places in central Honshu due to their picturesque landscapes and traditional farmhouses with thatched roofs. Even though the villages might get congested, especially around Golden Week and the cherry blossom season, it’s well worth the trip.
This is due to the lovely, serene, and rustic vibe they exude because to the unique gassho-zukuri structures that appear so stunning set among abundant fields and magnificent scenery.
In addition to the stunning natural beauty and historic farmhouses, tourists may also enjoy the Jim Homura Art Museum, shop for local products, and stay in a cosy ryokan. Hiking routes, sparkling waterfalls, and stunning vistas may also be found in the forests and mountains around Shirakawa-g and Gokayama.
Osaka, located on Osaka Bay and surrounded by more than ten satellite cities, is at the centre of one of the world’s most populous metropolitan areas. The enormous metropolis is Japan’s third largest and has long been the country’s economic and financial heart.
While the city’s never-ending concrete jungle isn’t exactly photogenic, Osaka is widely recognised as Japan’s premier destination for nightlife, cuisine, and shopping. The neon-lit Dotonbori neighbourhood is where much of the city’s nightlife takes place; here you’ll find several restaurants, bars, and other places to spend the evening.
Shinsaibashi is a covered shopping strip lined with countless establishments, including department stores, boutiques, and malls. Osaka may be most known for its vibrant restaurant and club scenes, but the city also boasts a number of fascinating cultural and historical treasures.
Its restored castle, for example, is located in a beautiful park in the heart of the city. Other well-known landmarks include the Umeda Sky Building and the Tsutenkaku tower. It is also home to two of Japan’s oldest religious buildings, Shitennoji Temple and Sumiyoshi Shrine.
5. Kiso Valley
Kiso Valley is a beautiful area that was once a stop along the famous Nakasendo commerce route from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The Kiso River runs through a valley in Nagano Prefecture in Central Japan, which is covered in dense forest and flanked by steep mountains.
The valley’s stunning mountain landscape and well-preserved historical sites have made it a popular holiday spot. Many visitors opt to walk the section of the trail that connects the Edo period post towns of Magome and Tsumago since it is one of the most beautiful in Japan.
Following a day of hiking through lush forests and stepping across rushing streams, there are many historic sites to explore and quaint ryokans to rest your head at night. In addition to the beautiful hiking paths that wind through the valley, Kiso Valley is home to the quaint post town of Nagai.
Koya-san, in the Wakayama Prefecture to the south of Osaka, is widely recognised as the spiritual epicentre of the Shingon school of Japanese Buddhism. The beautiful mountain has eight distinct summits and is home to several religious buildings, including temples, shrines, and pagodas, as well as stunning natural landscapes.
Over 120 temples have been added to the original monastery since it was established in 819 CE. Of these, the head temple, Kongobu-ji, with its ancient ceremonial halls, traditional architecture, and picturesque rock garden, stands out as the most significant and spectacular.
The huge and eerie Okunoin Cemetery is a must-see, as is the beautiful pagoda at Konpon Daito. Nights spent in a temple provide an unforgettable glimpse into monastic life on Koya-san, which is visited by many Osakans on day trips.
In addition to the many historic temples and shrines and religious places, there are numerous beautiful treks to be had in the surrounding mountains and forests.
Ishigaki is the best beach in Japan and a great home base for exploring the rest of the Yaeyama Islands to the west of Okinawa. The beaches at Fusaki and Maezato are popular with families because they are safe from waves and sharks thanks to protective nets.
Situated 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometres) south of Tokyo, Ishigaki has a lively nightlife for those who still have energy after a day of beachcombing, water sports, or hiking Mount Nosoko.
Miyajima, a small island in Hiroshima Bay to the northwest, is one of the most visited places in Japan. It is surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea. Beautiful landscapes and religious sites (including one of the “Three Views of Japan”) can be found here.
The island of Itsukushima has been revered as a sacred site for centuries, although the locals just call it “Shrine Island” (Miyajima). The beautiful and sacred slopes of Mount Misen dominate its interior, and there you’ll find a number of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and a stunning five-story pagoda.
Its mellow hills and lush forests are perfect for hiking, and the island is populated with friendly deer that roam freely. Nonetheless, the ‘floating’ torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is Miyajima’s greatest feature, and it can be found just offshore. As one of the most well-known landmarks in Japan, it is a popular tourist destination and the subject of countless stunning photographs.
Kanazawa, a city steeped in history, may be found in the northwest of Ishikawa Prefecture, nestled between the raging waters of the Sea of Japan and the jagged peaks of the Japanese Alps. Formerly ignored because of its isolation, it is now a popular tourist spot with a storied past and vibrant present.
A beautiful castle dating back centuries awaits exploration in the heart of the city, together with lovely and remarkably preserved samurai and geisha quarters. Traditional homes, cosy tea shops, and evocative temples and shrines line their winding streets. In addition to its abundance of delicious seafood, Kanazawa is also known for its excellent museums.
The Kenroku-en Garden, which has been meticulously tended to, is the city’s most recognisable feature. Beautiful in any season, the garden features a wide range of flora and fauna, including picturesque ponds, bridges, and stone lanterns.
Kamakura, approximately an hour and a half by train south of Tokyo, is a popular tourist destination known for its location on the beautiful Sagami Bay and the forested hills that surround it. The city on the seashore is Japan’s former capital, therefore it features several historic sites and stunning religious buildings.
The Big Buddha of Kamakura, standing at an impressive 13.35 metres, is the city’s unmistakable icon and top tourist attraction. The bronze statue is a popular tourist destination because of its striking appearance and the stories it tells.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kenchoji, and Engakuji, two beautiful Zen temples, also draw significant crowds. Kamakura’s city centre is home to many great stores and restaurants in addition to the many fascinating historical sites. Hiking in the gorgeous countryside and relaxing on the beach or in the water are additional popular activities.