The 23 Best Places to Visit in Japan (2019 Edition)

Last updated on: 10 Comments

From seeing a geisha show in Kyoto to exploring the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, here’s our list of the best places to visit in Japan.

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Busy streets of Osaka – one of the amazing places to visit in Japan

Japan is a close-knit island nation that is known for its beautiful cities, unique food, amusement parks, and more.

Hidden gems and beautiful palaces are scattered around the country, from tiny villages right up to the commercial areas in Japan, such as Osaka or Tokyo.

Character or animal cafés, vending machines offering a vast array of items, and aquariums showcasing rare and unique marine life are just a few of the best and most interesting things you can view while in Japan.

Don’t travel to Japan without reading our ultimate travel guide!

The Best Places to Visit in Japan

Overall, there are so many must-see and must-experience places to visit in Japan due to the nation’s rich history, location, and culture.

If you’re planning a trip, make sure you use this list to make the most out of your vacation.

Tokyo

Tokyo is seen as the most popular, busiest, and most significant city in Japan, and there is no question why.

If you are wondering just what to do in Japan, it’s common knowledge that starting in Tokyo would have you covered as a perfect introduction to the country.

Of course, the city is largely commercialised and there are endless activities to do.

It is important, however, to not forget the little things you can visit and explore – from simple and quiet parks to humble and interesting cafés.

One unique place to visit in Tokyo would be Neko JaLaLa, a cat themed cafe that offers more than your usual coffee destination in Tokyo.

Cat cafes located throughout Japan have gained some positive publicity for their unordinary setting, but JaLaLa offers the chance to drink coffee and play with exotic and highly beloved cat breeds.

JaLaLa is located in Akihabara, so if you’re looking for more things to do in Japan, this street is fortunately full of different shops and themed cafés such as a maid cafe.

There should be no question as to why Tokyo is famous and beloved for its several towers and overall interesting architecture. Buildings like the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree should be on your travel list.

Both structures are known as Japan tourist spots and two of the best places to visit in Japan.

A trip to the Tokyo Tower offers a beautiful and breathtaking view.

The tower lights up beautifully and elegantly throughout the night, which is also a nice touch and a perfect photo scene.

The Tokyo Skytree offers several experiences throughout its tiers, aside from observation and obtaining a beautiful view.

You can enjoy a simple snack at the Skytree’s café or restaurant while also getting a beautiful view.

If you are looking for a less-commercialised and more cultural Japan attraction that is located in Tokyo, the Kaneji Buddhist temple is perfect.

Complete with intricately designed gardens, hallways, and statues, this temple is ideal for anyone looking for some relaxation time while in Tokyo.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Tokyo.

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Crosswalk in Tokyo

Osaka

Osaka is a port-based city that is full of interesting museums, attractions, and a fascinating variety of activities for any visitor to Japan.

Streets consisting of unique shops and local food help to offer a deeper cultural feel, especially with the diverse products you can only find in the country.

No tour of the best places to visit in Japan would be complete without a trip to Osaka.

One thing to enjoy about this city is its versatile points of interest. Whether it be the classic Osaka Castle or a fun amusement park such as Universal Studios Japan, Osaka really seems to have it all.

Dotonbori should ultimately be your first stop due to the influx of street food vendors, arcades, and shops.

After visiting the many wonderful fantasy worlds of Universal Studios Japan, you could attend an educational tour and experience the Osaka Aquarium.

Other popular attractions in Osaka are the beautiful and grand Tempozan Ferris Wheel, the peaceful Expo Commemoration Park, and the educational and intriguing Osaka Museum of History.

READ MORE: Check out our detailed guide on the best things to do in Osaka.

Nara

If you are looking for elegant cherry blossoms and peaceful buddhist temples, then Nara is the ideal travel location for you.

Nara City is the capital of the Nara prefecture, and is one of the most captivating and interesting places to visit in Japan.

Shrines surrounded by peaceful, well-kept canals and ponds are a popular sight, along with beautiful and friendly deer that roam freely throughout the prefecture, which are one of the most unique things to see in Japan.

It is apparent that Nara might truly be one of the most peaceful, down-to-earth cities in Japan and even the world.

Even with the peaceful nature of Nara, there are still many activities to enjoy and things to see.

If you are captivated by the large presence of deer, Nara Park should be at the top of your destination list.

Nara Park is a central park located within the city that is full of deer that peacefully roam the park. They are a beautiful and adorable sight to visitors.

One staple of Nara would have to be the several palaces, temples, and Buddhist shrines. Todai-ji is a perfect example and is located right in the city of Nara.

This specific temple is one of the largest in the area, and plays a great role in Japanese history.

Deer are frequently seen in surrounding areas around the temple, which is a nice touch.

By far, the greatest feature with Todai-ji, however, is the addition of the largest known bronze statue modelled after Buddha.

READ MORE: Here’s our ultimate list of things to do in Nara, Japan.

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Deer in Nara Park

Yokohama

Yokohama is one of the more cultural places to visit in Japan if you would like a taste of Japanese culture, some history, and a tad bit of everything else.

One example of how Yokohama stands out against other popular cities and tourist spots in Japan would be the inclusion of Yokohama Chinatown.

Japan’s culture is extensive and has a long history, but why not try to experience some Chinese street food and catch a glimpse of beautiful lanterns?

Similar to Dotonbori, the Yokohama Chinatown area is ideal for those who love to experience street food as it is popularly offered and sold throughout the area.

If you are looking to take a quiet and entrancing walk, a stop at the Sankeien Garden in Yokohama couldn’t hurt as well.

A trip through this park can help relax you after a long day of exploring and visiting different streets and locations throughout the city.

The design of the garden is very traditional and reminiscent of older Japanese gardens, and contains a beautiful pond surrounded by lush trees and shrubs.

One might enjoy viewing the Tempozan Ferris wheel light up at night.

Yokohama offers beautiful fireworks shows available only during specific seasons.

Due to Yokohama being a port city for trading, these shows easily take place in Yokohama at the Yamashita Park, and are enjoyed greatly by both tourists and locals alike.

READ MORE: Here’s our brand new article featuring the bestthings to do in Yokohama.

Hakone

As Okinawa is known for its glorious beaches, the small town of Hakone is known for its mountainous terrain, waterways, and hot springs.

By far the most prominent and well-known attraction is Lake Ashi that makes Hakone one of the most fun places to visit in Japan.

The lake paired with other attractions make Hakone one of the most beautiful and captivating cities to spend some time during your next vacation.

The picture-perfect and relaxing scenery also helps it make the list as one of Japan’s tourist spots.

Lake Ashi is surrounded by beautiful mountains, which help to compliment the glistening blue water.

The Hakone Open Air Museum is also another great reason to visit Hakone, as it helps compliment the feel and aesthetic of the place due to the large collection of creative artwork.

While Hakone isn’t as commercialised or booming like other cities, the feel and aesthetics can’t be replicated.

Hakone can work as a peaceful getaway, a chance to experience beautiful lakes, rivers, and other waterways. We recommend staying at a resort and trying some delicious street food.

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Gorgeous Lake Ashi in Hakone

Furano

Imagine a land filled with colourful flowers and elegantly designed and placed gardens that are complimented with beautiful cottages – that would be Furano, Japan.

Furano is located within the Hokkaido prefecture and is perfect for anyone looking to explore and experience Japan and Japanese culture in a unique and different way.

Instead of shopping malls and packed shopping streets, Furano offers a new experience by offering the most beautiful and colourful flower fields, ski resorts, and rustic factories.

Like Lake Ashi, Mount Tokachi is the staple attraction of Furano and is a grand sight.

Another good way to experience Furano is a quick visit to the popular Furano Ski resort, and to rent out a cottage rather than to stay in your typical hotel room.

The Furano Flower Fields are also a one-of-a-kind view and experience. They are located at Farm Tomita, and feature several species of flowers – from summer flowers to lavender.

Perhaps the second most beautiful attraction in Furano would be the Blue Pond, otherwise known as Aoiike.

On the surface, it could simply just sound like another elegant Japanese pond, but the one unique feature about this attraction that has it known to be one of Japan’s tourist spot is its colour.

Water comes in shades of blue or is seen as clear, but Aoiikes uniquely occurring colour is a blue rarely ever seen in nature and is due to the minerals that lie dissolving under the surface.

Sapporo

The capital city of Hokkaido is an absolute gem on our list of Japan tourist spots.

Whether it’s your first or fifth time to this fascinating country, make sure you spend some time in Sapporo, a metropolis that is buzzing with excitement and culture.

Whether you want to check out Japan’s biggest zoo or visit the marvellous winter snow festival, you’ll find no shortage of attractions here.

It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring more of Hokkaido, so definitely use it as a base to plan your next moves.

READ MORE: Here’s our travel guide to the top things to do in Sapporo.

Karuizawa

Another town surrounded by vast mountainous terrain, Karuizawa is a small resort town surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Mount Asama is located in Karuizawa, and is known to be an active volcano ranked in the A group. That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beautiful sights and landmarks located in Karuizawa.

Usui Pass Deck is the perfect location to view the several alluring mountains and mountain peaks.

Besides mountains, Karuizawa is one of the best places to visit in Japan to enjoy the nature and scenery. Shiraito Falls is a prime example of just how outstanding and somewhat inviting the scenery is.

Shiraito Falls should be one of the number one reasons to visit Karuizawa as it is a set of waterfalls that make for a great view, great photos, and fantastic memories.

If you’re lucky, you might even witness a rainbow occurrence in this area.

After visiting Shiraito Falls, a tour through the Senju Museum would be an ideal complement, as it is a museum dedicated to adverse beauty, abstract art, and offers a great view of various waterfalls.

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Japan

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Karuizawa

Nagoya

With destinations like the Nagoya TV Tower and the Nagoya Castle, this area can easily be compared to Osaka and Tokyo based on the famous and must-see landmarks.

There is even a museum dedicated to science.

This museum may sound a bit simple, but its complex and interactive activities help engage and educate visitors, and is home to what is known as the world’s biggest planetarium – making it a famous gem of Japan.

Perhaps the highlight of Nagoya and one of the greatest things to see in Japan is the Nagoya TV Tower.

This tower consists of five floors and is a beautiful sight with its glowing appearance during the night.

The sky deck, which is at the topmost floor of the tower, offers a grand view of the city and famous mountains in the area.

The Nagoya castle is the heart of Japan and another great symbol within the nation of Japan. You wouldn’t be able to miss this elegant structure in Nagoya.

This specific castle stems all the way from the Edo period and is lined with alluring Japanese artwork that is lit and brightened up greatly by the strategically placed windows and shading.

Be careful to not forget the entertainment halls and theatres, so you can enjoy a great concert or show while in Nagoya.

READ MORE: Here’s our list of the best things to do in Nagoya.

Kyoto

Based on the prominent pagodas, influx of cherry blossoms, and the rich history included, it is no wonder why Kyoto was once the capital of the great nation of Japan.

Many cities and towns in Japan have some sort of cultural influence, but due to Kyoto’s extravagant history throughout wars and harsh time periods, castles and unique Japanese structures have come to cover the land.

By exploring Kyoto, you have the choice to learn about Japan and its culture in a very motivating, intriguing, and interesting way.

Geishas are also a prominent entertaining force in Kyoto, making it the best area in Japan to view a show.

The Sento Imperial Palace is a peaceful palace that offers a tour that is free and is a fantastic way to discover and learn about Japanese palaces and history while exploring the area.

If you are looking to buy some authentic and quality Japanese goods, Kyoto should also be in mind. Many tourists buy keepsakes or tokens from their trip here, as the shopping is fantastic.

The Kitano Tenman-Gu flea market is the perfect shop for this as it offers a wide range of products such as intricately designed fans, umbrellas, and yukatas.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our complete guide to the best things to do in Kyoto!

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One of many pagodas in Kyoto

Okinawa

Surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal blue ocean water, Okinawa City is a paradise for people of all ages.

The museums seem to be geared more towards children, so their inclusion could make family vacations perfect.

A variety of restaurants are scattered all throughout the city, which is perfect if you plan to have dinner and see a show.

Koza Music Town is perfect for those looking for supreme entertainment and shows, so be sure to stop and visit.

Besides Koza, Okinawa is simply just a paradise for music lovers due to the many different venues and shows that are offered, especially with the famous bars and clubs scattered about.

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the most famous and best aquariums in Japan. Restaurants and gift shops are offered in the aquarium, as well as different areas to explore – from the deep sea zone to a look at the coral reef area, both house unique creatures visible with a grand view.

The Shurijo Castle is a must-see if you are visiting Okinawa.

This palace was dedicated to the Ryukyu Kingdom, and boasts a bright red colour and an intricately paved red walkway leading up to the grand entrance of the castle.

If you’re looking for adventure on your next travels to Japan as well, then Okinawa is the place for you. This is where to go for surfing, scuba diving, kite boarding and swimming with whale sharks!

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Okinawa.

Sendai

Sendai really stands out from other areas in Japan as it boasts of a popular ski resort that can only be rivalled by Furano.

Sendai is a somewhat small and more close-knit city that offers hidden gems.

Downtown Sendai is really the best to visit during its festival seasons as get to immerse in the culture and get a chance to view beautiful streamers and enjoy performances.

One standout piece in Sendai is the Zuihoden Mausoleum.

Of course many of Japan’s popular areas and cities are home to temples, but the Zuihoden Mausoleum is a sacred area that is completely dedicated to Masamune and his family members.

Mount Zao is perfect for anyone looking to getaway and have nice views along with a possible ski trip – just one of the best adventure activities in Japan.

Zao Onsen is perhaps the best resort to stay in while you enjoy your time there, as it is a hot spring resort that includes some of the Japan’s most mineralised water in the entire country.

ski resort, sendai, japan
Fantastic ski resort in Sendai

Kitakyushi

Kitakyushi is located on Japan’s Kyushu Island. A ferry ride may prove enjoyable to some, and it is a great way to reach the island and Kitakyushi.

Moreover, a glimpse at the elegant Shirasu couldn’t hurt. This lighthouse is known and admired for its use of traditional Japanese architecture.

For a more educational experience, the Museum of Natural History and Human History seems to be straight out of a whimsical movie setting.

The inclusion of this museum alone is worth the peaceful ferry ride and visit to Kitakyushu.

Also known as the Journey of Life Museum, this museum consists of large dinosaur bones pieced together into these ancient creatures’ true form.

One thing Japan is known for is its vast gardens, flower fields, and cherry blossom trees. No garden is as extravagant as the Fuji Garden located in Kitakyushi, however.

This Japan attraction consists of flowers positioned in an array over you as you walk under and view them.

Hiroshima

Recent history hasn’t been kind to Hiroshima, a city that is most famous for having the atomic bomb dropped on it during World War 2, completely decimating the city.

But for such a tragic event, Hiroshima has fully rebuilt itself, and today is one of the top selections for where to go in Japan.

Nearby Miyajima Island is a fantastic place to spend a day. The Hiroshima Castle is sure to wow you as well.

In terms of unique sights, the Itsukushima Shrine really stands out, literally, by rising out of the water.

Don’t let the idea of a crumpled city stop you from visiting – Hiroshima is truly an incredible spot to explore.

READ MORE: Check out our guide to the top things to do in Hiroshima.

Tottori

Picturesque and full of beautiful beaches, you would be surprised at how entrancing sand can be in the city of Tottori.

The sand and dunes play a significant role in Tottori’s history as there is even a museum dedicated to them.

Japan is the country of unusual museums and the sand museum, by far, is one of the most unique concepts.

The museums offer a view of several different sculptures made completely out of sand and they are more than just standard sand castles.

Sculptures modelled after royalty and gods are a popular sight, but perhaps the best sculptures you can view in this museum are the giant replica temples and palaces.

tottori park, park, tottori, japan
Tottori Park

Toyami

Toyami is one of the tamer cities in Japan. Nevertheless, the city is still worth visiting for its shrines, grand mountain view, and the Kansui Park.

The canal and bridge surrounded by two towers are the heart of the Kansui Park. Another great place to visit is Mount Yakushi – one of Japan’s most famous mountains.

The mountain is considered a national park, making it perfect to explore, have a picnic, and enjoy the scenery.

The Toyama Glass Art museum should top off your trip.

The glass art museum is a perfect way to view different glass sculptures and art crafted from glass throughout different exhibits.

Onomichi

Onomichi is the ideal vacation area in Japan for those who would like to remain active during their stay.

With activities such as cycling, exploring this small and underrated city becomes a lot more fun. The best areas for cycling are the expressway and Shimanami Kaido.

Another fun calorie-burning activity is the temple walk, which is just an entrancing and fun walk through the downtown streets of Onomichi.

Perhaps the most popular temple in Onomichi is the Kosanji Temple, which is somewhat a hidden gem of Japan.

The temple doesn’t have a long history, but still contains many fun activities and a walkthrough tour you are bound to enjoy.

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View of Onomichi

Kobe

When visiting Kobe, trying their world-famous beef is a must. You can even have it along with Ramen or other dishes.

Kobe could perhaps be the food destination highlight of your trip in Japan aside from Dotonbori.

Another street to visit in Kobe would be their version of Chinatown, which offers another great opportunity to try street food.

The Kobe City Museum is also a great way to explore the great city of Kobe and its history.

Kobe’s most popular harbour known as the Kobe Harborland is the best outdoor hub for entertainment and shopping alike.

The harbour even boasts a beautiful Ferris wheel that adds a nice touch to the harbour. If you are searching for a more scenic addition in Kobe, you must visit Mount Rokko.

This landmark is favoured both by tourists and locals, and is unique in its structure when compared to various other mountains scattered throughout the great nation of Japan.

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to all the top things to do in Kobe!

Shirakawa

Shirakawa is a small village marked by beautiful green grass and gassho houses.

Due to its size and perceived significance, Shirakawa can be somewhat overlooked by most tourists and travelers.

The overall population is actually quite small, but if you are looking for a close-knit and warm feel, stopping by Shirakawa and enjoying the beautiful flowers wouldn’t hurt.

The versatile vacations offered by Shirakawa are a huge bonus.

The unique house structures and shops can be enjoyed throughout the year, whether it be the summer or the winter.

During the colder months of the year, the village resembles a small snow globe that is whimsical in appearance and fun to enjoy.

shirikawa, winter, snow, japan
Shirikawa in winter

Otaru

Otaru’s canal scenery is so romantic it could even rival that of Italy.

Different vendors and stores offering a vast array of Japanese goods paired with various restaurants help to make the canal a must-stop destination.

Aside from the canal, be sure to enjoy a wonderful experience and performance at the Otaru Music Box.

The Otaru Aquarium can help finish off your trip with some educational facts and a great view at various marine life.

Hida

Japan is full of different mountainous terrains and areas but Hida is perfect for those who would love to enjoy the outdoors – especially those looking for a camping trip. One destination for such is Mount Kurobegoro.

Back in the city of Hida, we recommend you visit Dozogai Street. It is full of various canals and waterways running through.

Overall, Hida is a bit of a hidden and quiet gem located in Japan that boasts beautiful sites and a great way to connect with nature.

hida river, japan
Hida river

Hamamatsu

Similar to Lake Ashi, Lake Hamana is a crystal blue lake that attracts many tourists. Although called a lake, it is now considered to be a lagoon.

A weekend during your stay in Hamamatsu is not complete without visiting the lake. After visiting the lake, you may head to Hamamatsu Flower Park for its beautiful scenery.

Atera no Nanataki Falls is a nature park best visited in the Autumn time, and is an outstanding showcase of nature and grand waterfalls.

Fukuoka

Fukuoka is a fantastic city on the Kyushu island of Japan, and well worth visiting on your next trip.

With great surfing opportunities, a fascinating samurai history and plenty of sumo wrestling matches to check out, you’ll be amazed at all the great things to do in Fukuoka.

Anything to Add to This List of Where to Go in Japan?

In conclusion, Japan is a vast nation that is known for its mountain peaks, unique architecture, and booming cities.

While travelling, there are so many things to visit and experience in each city, but it is important to not overlook the small hidden gems of Japan.

Sites and areas like small villages and temples can really add to your overall experience.

Aside from trying food in Dotonbori and shopping in the popular streets and stores in Tokyo, be sure to mark the small villages, historic sites, and grand areas for.

Do you have anywhere else you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below and let us know your favourite places to visit in Japan!

About the author

Natalia Djajic

Natalia was born in country that no longer exists (Yugoslavia) but grew up in Belgrade, Serbia. Currently she works as a marketing manager at a tour company in Belgrade. Since a young age, she enjoyed travelling and exploring new cultures, which lead her all across Europe and eventually to the US where she spent her summers during her university years. The next stop is Paris, where she will stay for two years to obtain her Masters in management. She loves storytelling and enjoys working as a freelance writer. Her passions are street photography, music festivals and surprisingly, boxing too.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Dan

    We are heading to Tokyo for the Olympics in July of next year and have a little more than three weeks in Japan with 9 days at the Summer Olympics. We have been to Tokyo and Kyoto before and did most all of the sites that one would, so the timing of this article was perfect as we were looking for more to explore outside of Tokyo and Kyoto next summer after the hustle and bustle during the Olympics. Thanks for giving us a great starting point with the overview of these prefectures. Much Aloha and Kokua for the insight

    jenny121

    Truly your shared all these fabulous places are the best for travelling and tourists can enjoy some time with buddies. I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places.

    Aman Maharjan

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article. It packed of all the information required for the first time visitors and information mentioned above in the article are more than enough gain knowledge about Japan. The article has surely helped me a lot. It would be great if the images of the all places mentioned above were there. Thumbs up for the effort.

      Alesha and Jarryd

      Glad we could help. All the best

    Neha

    Thanks for sharing this information regarding travel and tour. I really found this very interesting. And your blog is very useful for us.

      Alesha and Jarryd

      Thank you so much. Glad you found the article helpful. Happy travels

    davidjcheung

    I have visiting a few cities in Japan on my bucket list. I shared the blog. The pics are awesome and I enjoyed reading the brief overview of the different cities. I get excited about everything from historical areas, to scenic, and most of all the food. Thanks for the recommendations of Dotonbori and Yokohama chinatown for popular street food.

      Alesha and Jarryd

      Thank you so much David. Natalia wrote a great article and made us very jealous. Japan looks like a wonderful place. We are heading there later this year. We can not wait. 🙂

    javelin

    I really like to share your all these adorable images which views very fabulous and cool. I also spent a really good time at ONOMICHI
    during my last journey and came back with great memories.

      Alesha and Jarryd

      Thank you so much. Glad the article brought back good memories for you. 🙂

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