Japan is an East Asian island nation. It is located in the northwest Pacific Ocean, with the Sea of Japan to the west and the Sea of Okhotsk to the north, as well as the East China Sea and Taiwan to the south.
Many first-time visitors to Japan are startled to hear that, in addition to being one of the world’s most advanced industrialized nations, Japan has a rich and intriguing history dating back thousands of years.
Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist temples were already well-established and attracting pilgrims and patrons for their typically lavish designs and décor, even before many of Europe’s most stunning cathedrals were completed. At the same time, the country was honing the talents and trades that would lead to prosperity, from excellent porcelain and ceramics to fabrics like silk.
Despite wars and natural disasters, much of this rich culture has been kept (or restored), and a trip to Japan is a wonderful adventure. A trip to Japan is undoubtedly a terrific investment of time and money, with an unending list of top attractions, entertaining things to do, and interesting places to see.
Our list of the top tourist attractions in Japan will help you find the best spots to visit in the country.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to Japan
Travel in the shoulder season:
Because it is blessed with so many outstanding areas of interest, Japan’s major attractions can get somewhat crowded during the high summer months. If you can be flexible with your vacation planning, you can create a sightseeing schedule that will allow you to visit this wonderful nation during the quieter shoulder seasons. You’ll not only benefit from shorter lines, but you’ll also be able to see things that other visitors would miss out on, such as spring cherry blossoms in Nara Park, spectacular fall colors in Jozankei Onsen, and ancient landmarks like Fukuoka Castle coated in winter.
Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (Train):
Because of its excellent, modern, and efficient public railway system, Japan is a simple country to navigate. apan Railways is in charge of more than 21,000 kilometers of rail lines that connect all points in Japan to major cities like Tokyo. The Shinkansen Bullet Train, which can travel at speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour, can take you from Tokyo to Fukuoka, 1,170 kilometers away, in just over six hours. To save money, pick up your Japan Rail Pass or book your rail tours before you go.
9 Best Japan Travel Places
1. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
While nothing needs to be said about the horrors of Hiroshima’s atomic bombing in August 1945, there is plenty to be said about the remarkable efforts made by this lively city to memorialize the countless victims of the world’s first nuclear attack. Hiroshima, maybe more crucially, has become a symbol of permanent peace.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Ken) is visited by over a million people each year, many of them from outside of Japan. It is located at the epicenter of the atomic blast in what was once a lively area of the city. A number of significant monuments, memorials, and museums linked to the events of that dreadful day can be found here.
In addition to the grounds and gardens with their vibrant cherry blossoms, the park is home to the Peace Memorial Museum, which houses a number of exhibits on the topic of international peace. The Atom Bomb Dome, the ruins of an administrative structure that was at the heart of the explosion, is also located here, as is the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace.
2. Kyoto the historic city
Kyoto, one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations, gets more than 10 million visitors each year. It is one of the few towns in the country that was spared the ravages of WWII. The majority of them have come to see Kyoto’s beautiful old streets and buildings, most of which have remained unaltered since the Imperial family first settled here over 1,000 years ago.
The city was already Japan’s most important cultural hub at the time. This history lives on today with the city’s several museums and art galleries, each brimming with important sculptures, paintings, and other works of art.
The many well-preserved temples, 30 of which are still in use, and major structures such as the 14th-century Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), noted for its magnificent gold-leaf-clad exterior, are highlights of Kyoto’s Buddhist-influenced architecture.
Nijo Castle, a 17th-century fortification with its original walls, towers, and moat, is also worth a visit. The castle’s gorgeous gates, as well as its palace with superb interior décor, are also worth viewing.
The old Kyoto Imperial Palace is another must-see attraction (Kyoto-gosho). It is one of the city’s most visited historic attractions, having been built in AD 794.
Finally, no trip to Kyoto would be complete without a visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This lovely bamboo grove is only a few minutes’ walk from the town center.
3. The Osaka Castle
Built in 1586 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a prominent Japanese warrior and politician, Osaka Castle (saka-j) was the country’s largest and most important castle at the time. Although it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since then, the current construction, which was built in 1931, is still true to the original.
The massive five-story, 42-meter-tall main tower is one of the highlights of a visit. The tower, which stands on a 14-meter-high stone base, houses a number of exhibits about the castle and the city’s history. Visit the top level for spectacular views of Osaka, which are especially appealing as the sun sets.
The Hokoku Shrine is also worth visiting at Osaka Castle Park, as is Osaka’s most well-known temple, Shitenn-ji, which dates from AD 59. This gorgeous shrine, which includes a five-story pagoda and a variety of other exquisitely adorned buildings, is known as Japan’s earliest Buddhist temple. The Golden Pavilion (Kond), with its superb statues and paintings; the Lecture Hall (Kd); and a lovely covered hallway connecting three of the site’s gates are just a few of them.
4. Imperial Tokyo
The Imperial Palace, with its lovely 17th-century gardens enclosed by walls and moats, is a must-see for anybody visiting the nation’s capital. Don’t let the fact that most of the palace is closed to the public (it’s still in use by the Imperial family) deter you; there’s plenty to see just meandering around the grounds.
Visitors are allowed inside the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden and other places that are available to the public as part of an arranged tour, in addition to the many beautiful views of the palace from various points in the surrounding parkland. The famed Nijubashi Bridge, or “double bridge,” is known for its aquatic reflection and offers one of the most picturesque views.
The famous Ginza shopping district is another must-see for tourists visiting Tokyo. The Kabuki-za Theatre, which hosts Kabuki plays, and the Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre, which hosts traditional Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku performances, are both located in this always-bustling region.
5. Sapporo Hokkaido
The city of Sapporo, which is located on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, offers a variety of tourist attractions. As the island’s major city, it’s a cultural hotspot, holding a slew of fantastic events and festivals. It also features a particular culinary flair, a long history of theater, and numerous museums, galleries, and parks.
The city’s lovely central section is the focal point here, with Odori Park at its heart, a vast swath of green that’s really delightful to explore. The Sapporo TV Tower, as well as the city’s famous aerial tramway, are both easily accessible from here. The Mount Moiwa Ropeway will eventually take you to the summit’s upper station, where you may enjoy spectacular views of the city, which is especially enjoyable at night.
The Mount Moiwa Ski Resort is located on the mountain, and it is a famous winter destination, especially since the city hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics. If you’re visiting in the winter, don’t miss the Sapporo Snow Festival, which takes place every February and attracts over two million visitors.
6. Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji (Fuji-san), without a doubt Japan’s most iconic sight, is also the country’s tallest mountain summit. This spectacular and fabled mountain, which rises 3,776 meters above an otherwise fairly flat landscape to the south and east, can be seen from Tokyo, more than 100 kilometers away.
Mount Fuji has been praised in art and literature for ages, and it is now regarded as such an iconic figure that UNESCO acknowledged its global cultural value in 2013. Mount Fuji, which is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, is ascended by over a million people each summer as a pilgrimage that culminates in a dawn view from its peak.
While some climbers still start at the bottom, the majority now begin their ascent beyond the halfway point, at the 5th Station, resulting in a more manageable six-hour trek. Those planning to complete the climb should leave in the afternoon, breaking it up with an overnight stay at one of the “mountain huts” created specifically for this purpose. You can go to the summit at dawn the next day if you get up early.
For many, simply seeing the mountain from afar, or from the safety of a speeding train, is enough to declare, “been there, done that.”
7. The Island Shrine of Itsukushima
The island of Miyajima, often known as Japan’s Shrine Island, is only a short ferry trip from mainland Hiroshima. Miyajima is primarily known for the Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto temple dedicated to the Princess Daughters of the Wind God Susanoo, which spans 30 square kilometers in Hiroshima Bay.
The majority of the shrine’s buildings, which date from the eighth century, rise out of the waters of a small bay, supported only by piling. At high tide, the effect is breathtaking, giving various monuments, especially the famous Great Floating Gate (O-Torii), the appearance of floating on water.
It’s a wonderful area to explore, especially the larger rooms, which are connected by walkways and bridges. The Honden (Main Hall), the Offerings Hall (Heiden), the Prayer Hall (Haiden), and the Hall of a Thousand Mats are only a few of them (Senjokaku).
The shrine’s stage is another prominent feature, where visitors can enjoy traditional dances and musical performances. The island’s beautiful lawns and gardens, which are home to wild deer and numerous bird colonies, are well worth seeing.
Please be aware that substantial repairs to this historic landmark will cause some disruption and inconvenience from now until end of 2022.
8. Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps
Many of Japan’s remarkable natural features have been recognized as national parks or, in certain circumstances, as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Chbu-Sangaku National Park in Honshu’s middle is one of the country’s most spectacular. The Hida Mountains, or Japanese Alps, are a series of mountains that may be found in the park’s northern and central parts.
Hotaka, at 3,190 meters, and Yari, at 3,180 meters, are two of the country’s highest peaks in this region. The Japanese Alps are similar to the Alps of Central Europe in many ways, including the character of the scenery and the availability of snow in winter. They draw significant numbers of walkers and climbers in the summer and skiers in the winter.
The park’s diverse flora and animals, which include uncommon ptarmigan and mountain antelopes found at higher elevations, are particularly interesting. The park’s numerous hot springs also attract visitors, leading to the establishment of a number of spas and vacation resorts, the most well-known of which is Kamikchi.
9. Fukuoka Castle and the City’s Ancient Festivals
Fukuoka Castle (Fukuoka-j) is one of the few surviving examples of the once numerous and grand hilltop mansions chosen by the Shoguns and city rulers. It is one of the highlights of a visit to Fukuoka. This majestic castle, which was formerly part of a vast complex that encompassed an area of 47,000 square meters, still amazes with its grandeur and location on a tall foundation overlooking the Naka River.
Fukuoka is also recognized for its many festivals and events. The most well-known of these is Hakata Gion Yamakasa, a 700-year-old, two-week-long festival celebrated each July that attracts millions of tourists from throughout the country to its colorful parades, traditional races, and costumes.
Modern attractions abound throughout the city as well. Of these, Hakata, a city-within-a-city with a canal flowing through it, as well as magnificent stores, hotels, restaurants, and a theater, is the most noteworthy.
15 Interesting Japan Facts:
The land that gave you sushi, bonsai, and Tokyo’s brilliant lights is full of fascinating facts. Learn 15 fascinating facts about Japan.
- Japan is made up of 6,852 islands. The islands were once connected to Asia’s eastern coast until tectonic activity separated them, forming the Sea of Japan some 15 million years ago.
- The Japanese language has a different word order than the English language. Instead of ordering sentences by subject-verb-object (example: I write words), Japanese uses subject-object-verb (example: I words write).
- Over a thousand tame sika deer roam the streets of Nara, Japan. The deer, which were once thought to be heavenly animals, are now protected as a national asset (though some are being slaughtered for harming plant life) and may be seen bowing to tourists in exchange for crackers sold on site.
- From the 12th century through the end of feudalism in the 19th century, the samurai were a powerful warrior class in Japan. A samurai basically possessed a license to kill, with the power to slay any commoner who threatened their honor. For a samurai who committed dishonor to his lord, ritual suicide (known as seppuku) was a revered tradition.
- In Japan, the bow is an essential form of greeting, and people strive to perfect it. Bow depth is important-lower bows imply greater respect.
- Both men and women wear the kimono, a traditional Japanese attire. It is made up of a long robe-like garment that wraps around the body with the left side always covering the right. The obi is a belt that secures the kimono. A kimono can cost upwards of $10,000.
- Geishas have been entertaining in Japan since the 18th century and are famed for their extravagant wigs and white cosmetics. The geisha’s face and neck are mostly covered in white powder, yet unpainted areas in the shape of a W are often left on the neck, which is considered attractive.
- Tatami, or rice straw mats, are used to tile traditional Japanese rooms. The length of a mat is always twice its breadth, and its size is set by area. As a result, the number of mats required to cover the space is frequently used to determine room size.
- The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is a species of primate that prefers colder climates than other primates. The macaques of Nagano Prefecture are famous for bathing in hot springs throughout the winter.
- The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the world’s largest seafood market. The market employs about 60,000 people and is open most mornings at 3 a.m., with the famed wholesale tuna auctions starting at 5 a.m.
- In 2020, Japan will host its second summer Olympics and fourth overall in Tokyo. The games’ tagline is “Discover Tokyo,” and the mascot is a blue-and-white superhero with the ability to teleport, chosen by Japanese students.
- Japan is well-known for its exquisite gardens, which are meticulously planned and maintained and are considered works of art. Borrowed scenery is a key component of garden design; it refers to the use of materials from outside the garden’s bounds, such as mountains, to create a backdrop.
- Cherry blossoms in Japan. Sakura, or Japanese cherry blossom, is the country’s national flower, and it symbolizes hope and rejuvenation. Because cherry blossoms only bloom for a short time in the spring, their beauty also represents the transience of existence.
- According to the geography, on the eastern edge of Asia, Japan is an archipelago, or string of islands. Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu are the four main islands. In addition, there are almost 4,000 tiny islands! Japan’s closest mainland neighbors include Russia’s Siberian region in the north, as well as Korea and China to the south.
- Life expectancy in Japan. Japanese people live longer than Canadians, with a healthy life expectancy of 74.8 years compared to 73.2 years. Japanese people have a longer life expectancy due to fewer fatalities from ischemic heart disease and malignancies, especially breast and prostate cancer.
- Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu are the eight Japanese regions (which include the prefecture of Okinawa).
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