Japan is home to an overwhelming number of stunning sights and interesting attractions. It would take several trips or a longer stay to cover most of them. Shortlisting the country’s most beautiful places to see may be a tall order. But here are some of the breathtaking sights you would not want to miss.
Location: Island in Philippine Sea
Highlights: Smallest village in Japan located in a volcanic island in the Philippine Sea, inhabited by roughly 200 people, remote and not easy to access, dreamy view of the night sky from the island
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Location: Arashiyama, Kyoto
Highlights: Towering bamboo groves with walking paths for a fairytale-like experience
Blue Pond (Aoiike)
Location: Biei, Hokkaido
Highlights: Dreamy and otherworldly blue color of the pond, set against a backdrop of enchanting scenery
Highlights: UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its gasshō-zukuri houses with attractions like the traditional villages of Shirakawa-gō close by
Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)
Highlights: Zen temple overlooking a pond, striking facade with gold leaf covering its top floors
Hitachi Seaside Park
Highlights: Daisogen Flower Garden, Giant “Flower Ring” Ferris Wheel, Hitachinaka Nature Forest, Kaori no Tani, Miharashi Area for its nemophilas (baby blue eyes) and kochias (summer cypress) that bloom April to May and October respectively, Rose Garden, Sakyu Garden, Suisen Garden and Tamago no Mori Flower Garden
Location: Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima
Highlights: Shinto shrine that features a “floating” torii gate
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Location: Yamanouchi, Nagano
Highlights: Breathtaking scenery, see the wild Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) bathing in the hot springs
Kawachi Fuji Garden
Location: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Highlights: Stunning and whimsical wisteria tunnel, see pink, white and purple wisterias in bloom
Location: Matsumoto, Nagano
Highlights: Historic castle also known as Crow Castle (Karasu-jo) for its black facade, Japan’s oldest castle
Highlights: Touted as Japan’s holiest mountain, the spiritual home of Shingon Buddhism with over 100 temples and monasteries
Location: Nachikatsuura, Wakayama
Highlights: One of the most popular waterfalls in Japan, the nearby Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, part of the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
The Land of the Rising Sun is a treasure trove of attractions waiting to be explored. Picking a destination can be a challenge given the wealth of choices available. With so many to choose from, we pick seven of the many cities and towns across Japan that should be on your bucket list.
Top reasons to go: Kyoto is home to seventeen UNESCO Heritage Sites and numerous temples and shrines each one begging to be explored. It also has the only remaining Geisha district in Japan. Must-see sights include Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Fushimi Inari-taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine), Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Heian Shrine, Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion), Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kuramadera Temple, Kyoto International Manga Museum, Maruyama Park, Nijō Castle, Nishiki Market, Ryōan-ji, Sanjūsangen-dō, Shimogamo Shrine, Tetsugaku no Michi (Philosopher’s Walk), Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (Toei Kyoto Studio Park), Tōfuku-ji, and more.
Top reasons to go: The juxtaposition of the old and new makes Tokyo a great place to visit and explore. From food, craft beer, shopping, and sightseeing spots, the city is brimming with interesting things to see and experience. Try not to miss some of its best attractions like the Edo-Tokyo Museum, Ghibli Museum, Harajuku, Imperial Palace, Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine), Odaiba, Sensō-ji, Roppongi , Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji Market, Ueno Park, and Yoyogi Park among many others.
Top reasons to go: This bustling port city is home to the historic Osaka Castle. It also boasts of delicious street food and a vibrant nightlife. Top sightseeing destinations include Dotonbori, Nakanoshima, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Science Museum, Ōsaka Tenman-gū, Shitennoji, Tennōji Park, Tsutenkaku, Umeda Sky Building , and Universal Studios Japan.
Top reasons to go: Hakone may not be a top-of-mind destination for overseas travelers visiting Japan. But it is one place worth adding to the bucket list. Breathtaking scenery, unspoiled nature, onsens, and ryokans are just some of the town’s biggest draws. The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone Shrine, Lake Ashi, and Ōwakudani are must-sees.
Top reasons to go: Nagoya is more known as an industrial hub than a top tourist destination in Japan. But it does not mean that it is lacking in touristy things to see and do. Its many attractions include the Atsuta Shrine, Higashiyama Sky Tower, Hisaya Ōdori Park, Inuyama Castle, Nagashima Spa Land, Nagoya Castle, Nōbi Plain, Ōsu, Ōsu Kannon, Sakae, and SCMaglev and Railway Park.
Top reasons to go: An urban vibe, top rated beef, and beautiful scenery are just some of the reasons to visit Kobe. The city has its share of ancient shrines, eye-catching modern architecture, delicious cuisines including its delectable marbled beef), and shopping destinations. Among its top attractions are the Arima Onsen, Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Harborland & Meriken Park, Ikuta Jinja, Kobe City Museum of Literature, Kobe Port Tower, Nunobiki Falls, Rokkō Island, Tor Road, and Mount Rokkō.
Top reasons to go: Sapporo’s beer, ramen, and annual Snow Festival should be enough reason to go. The city is also known for its skiing destinations. Top sights and must-experience things include the Historic Village of Hokkaido, Moerenuma Park, Mount Moiwa, Nijo Market, Odori Park, Okurayama Observatory, Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, Sapporo Beer Museum, Sapporo Factory, Sapporo Station, Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo Snow Festival), Shiroi Koibito Park, Susukino, and the Tokeidai (Clock Tower).