From seeing a geisha show or walking the famous Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto to exploring the bustling metropolis of Tokyo or staring out at Mount Fuji, here’s our list of the best places to visit in Japan.
Japan is a close-knit island nation that is known for its beautiful cities, unique food, amusement parks, temples, shrines 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 Hiroshima, 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 travel to Japan.
While Kyoto is viewed as the spiritual center of Japan, Tokyo is seen as the most popular, busiest, and most significant city in the country, 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 or the occasional shrine or temple.
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.
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 definitely be places 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.
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.
Also consider taking a day trip to see Mount Fuji, the iconic symbol of Japan.
Doesn’t matter if your stay in Japan is for 48 hours or two weeks, visiting Tokyo is a Japan must-see.
READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Tokyo.
Osaka is a port-based city that is full of interesting museums, attractions, and a fascinating variety of activities for any visitor to Japan.
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 go go-karting around the streets.
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.
You haven’t completed Japan sightseeing until you’ve made your way to Osaka. And from here it is just a short train ride to the famous city of Kyoto.
READ MORE: Check out our detailed guide on the best things to do in Osaka.
If you are looking for elegant cherry blossoms, peaceful Buddhist temples or the occasional Shinto shrine, then Nara is the ideal travel location for you.
Just a short distance from either Kyoto or Osaka, 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. As are long the 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 the world.
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 temple is one of the largest in the area, and plays a great role in its 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.
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.
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 gardens and contains a beautiful pond surrounded by lush trees and shrubs.
One might enjoy viewing the Tempozan Ferris wheel light up at night. And Yokohama offers beautiful fireworks shows available 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 best things to do in Yokohama.
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 makes 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 compliments the feel and aesthetic of the place due to the large collection of creative artwork.
READ MORE: Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Hakone!
Imagine a land filled with colourful flowers and elegantly designed and placed gardens that are complemented 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.
Mount Tokachi is the staple attraction of Furano and is a grand sight. Or pay a quick visit to the popular Furano Ski resort.
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.
Also be sure to tour 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 makes it one of Japan’s top tourist places is its blue colour.
Located on the east coast of Japan, the town of Murakami is a lovely and authentic place.
A short train ride from Niigata city, you can find all kinds of amazing attractions here, from ancient shrines to stunning beaches.
If you time your visit to be in September and October, you can even check out the Machiya Byobu Exhibition, where locals open up their homes to showcase their historic folding screen art.
Murakami is also a great place to stay in a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn.
READ MORE: Check out our experience of staying in the best ryokan in Murakami!
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.
Sapporo is also a great jumping-off point for exploring more of Hokkaido. So definitely use it as a base to plan your next moves to other places on the island.
Book a sightseeing tour of Sapporo to visit all the famous highlights!
READ MORE: Here’s our travel guide to the top things to do in Sapporo.
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 places 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
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 general. 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 Japan things to do is to tour 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.
While there is much to do on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is almost always at the top of the list of places to see in Japan.
Based on the prominent pagodas, the 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.
Due to the extravagant history Kyoto has throughout wars and harsh time periods, castles and unique Japanese structures have come to cover the region.
By exploring Kyoto, you have the choice to learn about Japan, its people and its culture in a very motivating, intriguing, and interesting way.
Geishas are also a prominent entertaining force in Kyoto, making it one of the best places 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 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.
Of course, no trip to Kyoto is complete without visiting Fushimi Inari, an important Shinto shrine known for its temple and the thousands of brightly coloured tori gates.
READ MORE: Don’t miss our complete guide to the best things to do in Kyoto!
Okinawa is Japan’s most tropical island. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and crystal blue ocean water, Okinawa City is a paradise for people of all ages.
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.
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 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 island is definitely where to go for surfing, scuba diving, kiteboarding and swimming with whale sharks!
READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Okinawa.
Sendai really stands out from other areas in Japan as it boasts of a popular ski resort that can only be rivalled by Furano.
Downtown Sendai is really one of the best places 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 get away 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 Japan’s most mineralised water in the entire country.
READ MORE: Check out our list of the top reasons why you should visit Tohoku!
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.
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, the people of Hiroshima have fully rebuilt the city, and today is one of the top places to visit in Japan. Among its most notable places to visit is Peace Memorial Park in the center of the city.
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.
Whether paying your respects at the Peace Memorial or simply wandering around an entirely postmodern city – Hiroshima is truly an incredible spot to explore.
READ MORE: Check out our guide to the top things to do in Hiroshima.
A short trip from either Kyoto or Hiroshima, Tottori is worth the visit. 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.
Sculptures modeled 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.
Toyami is one of the tamer cities in Japan. Nevertheless, the city is still one of the top places 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.
Tucked away in the mountains of Niigata prefecture and close to the city of Nagaoka, this stunning village is one of our favourite places in Japan!
Covered in rolling hills and deep valleys filled with terraced rice fields, this village is extremely picturesque and is still well off the beaten path.
You can get some of the best landscape photos in Japan, visit an alpaca farm, try the delicious local vegetables and even ride an e-bike all around the traditional village.
And the people in this village are some of the best in all of the country.
READ MORE: Here’s our Yamakoshi Nagaoka travel guide!
Onomichi, a short day trip from Hiroshima, 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.
When visiting Kobe, on the island of Honshu, trying their world-famous beef is a must. You can even have it along with Ramen or other traditional 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. If you are searching for a more scenic addition in Kobe, you must visit Mount Rokko. Although it pales in comparison to Mount Fuji, there are great trails and scenery to enjoy.
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 is a small village marked by beautiful green grass and traditional 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 people in this village are amazing.
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. There are a handful of temples and shrines to visit as well.
Book a tour with Klook and spend a day exploring the Shirakawa Village and Takayama, a wonderful town in the mountainous Hida region of the Gifu Prefecture.
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 of various marine life.
READ MORE: Here’s our new article with all the best things to do in Otaru!
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. Stop at a temple or shrine as there are several from which to choose.
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.
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 autumn and is an outstanding showcase of nature and grand waterfalls.
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 island nation that is known for its mountain peaks, unique architecture, and booming cities.
While travelling there are so many places to visit and experience on each island and in each city. But it is important to not overlook the small hidden gems of Japan.
Sites and areas like small traditional villages and temples can really add to your overall experience. Whether you visit a castle, temple or shrine you understand why the island of Japan and its people are so special.
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. Visit the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, stroll beneath the torii gates of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and find your favorite shrine or temple in any number of smaller villages and towns.
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!
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