26 Best Places to Visit in Japan & Things to Do

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Bridge and the Osaka Castle

If you ask any traveler for a list of their bucket list countries, I can almost guarantee Japan will be somewhere near the top. One of the finest vacation destinations on Earth, there are hundreds of things to see and do in this remarkable nation, and you could spend a lifetime going through them all.

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best places to visit in Japan, so the hard work has been done for you. I’ve covered areas that you’re probably well acquainted with, like Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as some off-the-beaten-path destinations that are definitely worth your time.

I was blown away by the culture, food, history, natural beauty, and people when I first visited Japan, and it was heartbreaking when the time came to leave. I cannot wait to return, and with this guide, I am confident you will have a similarly unforgettable experience in the Land of the Rising Sun.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Imperial Palace/Mount Fuji
  • Park to visit – Nikko National Park
  • Free activity – Watch sumo wrestling in Tokyo’s Ryogoku district
  • Activity for kids – The National Museum of Nature and Science
  • Activity for adults – Japanese hot springs
  • Place to eat – Street eats in Osaka’s Dotonbori district
  • Best nightlife – Tokyo – hands down!
  • Place to stayHotel Granvia Hiroshima

Best Places to Visit in Japan & Things to Do

1. Sapporo 

Tower in Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo is a major city on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, and it’s actually closer to Russia than many nations you might consider “nearby to Japan,” such as Korea or China.

Sapporo’s cultural background is distinct from the rest of Japan owing to its unique history. Sapporo receives more snow every winter than any other Asian city, making it a winter wonderland.

The annual Sapporo Snow Festival in January attracts visitors from all over the world with its spectacular snow structures and sculptures.

Some of the older buildings in Sapporo look more similar to European architecture than Japanese, and I recommend learning more about the history behind some of these buildings.

In terms of food, Sapporo might be the global capital of ramen. Ramen is, by far, the most widely consumed foodstuff in the city, and you can get practically any type of ramen that you can think of, as well as other unique food and drinks that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Japan. Dining endlessly on ramen reminded me of my student days, only more delicious!

Sapporo’s beer is also considered the best in the country, and the city is home to Japan’s oldest brewer, Sapporo Breweries. You can explore on a Sapporo private customized tour, and you’ll find there are lots of bars and live entertainment venues in every corner of the city. 

But perhaps the best thing about Sapporo is the parks and squares neatly lined up in a row right at the city’s center. It explodes with life and color during cherry blossom season, and I found it a great place to relax, eat, drink, and chill with friends.

And don’t miss the relaxing hot springs in the region – an essential experience when taking in some legendary Japanese culture.

See Related: Top 10 Places to Travel

2. Osaka 

People Walking in a Store-Filled Street in Osaka 

Osaka is Japan’s second-largest urban area and the third-largest city overall. Despite its older brother, Tokyo, it is a destination you cannot overlook while visiting Japan. Osaka is located in the heart of the country, making it an excellent location to begin your Japanese adventure.

Osaka has been one of Japan’s most significant cities throughout much of history, serving as the country’s capital. As a result, several of Osaka’s notable sites are among the best things to see in the city. The Osaka Castle is a major attraction, erected in 1583, and the complex covers a huge city area.

Osaka is also one of the best cities in Japan to shop for souvenirs. You’ll find much better deals on traditional Japanese mementos in Osaka than in Tokyo, and I managed to fill my boots with trinkets for loved ones back home. On top of that, the food is incredible, and since Osaka receives fewer international tourists than Tokyo, the cuisine tends to be more “authentic” in these parts. Yum!

3. Tokyo

Vehicles Passing on a Spacious Road and Towering Buildings

A trip to Japan without seeing Tokyo is like eating lobster without butter. The macaroni without the cheese. The bacon without the eggs. You get the idea. Some would even go so far as to claim that Tokyo feels like an independent country in its own right.

The sheer size of this metropolis is unimaginable, and I doubt you’ll dispute that there’s plenty to do in Tokyo. One of the world’s entertainment and nightlife hotspots, there’s usually some performance, event, or festival in the city at any moment.

You may think of present-day Tokyo as nothing more than a contemporary cityscape, but there’s still a lot of history that remains. Try the historical area of YaNeSen, a lovely and relaxing suburb named after the Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi districts it encompasses.

If you want to shop and party on the side, check out Harajuku, the epicenter of Japanese fashion and pop culture. For venturing further afield, there’s plenty to see and do a stone’s throw from the city itself. Try an overnight trip to the Gunma Province, visit the hot springs there, and get a taste of the Japanese countryside.

In a nutshell, Tokyo has it all. It’s one of the most interesting cities in the world to visit, but you might need to steel yourself if you’re not a fan of crowds. Despite its daunting size and population, it is spotless, well-organized, and safe in nearly every nook and cranny – as is almost all traditional Japan.

I never once felt uneasy in Tokyo, but the same can’t be said for many other global cities of this magnitude. Japan is knocking it out of the park.

See Related: Top Japan Travel Hacks

4. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Lit Monument in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

The Memorial Cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a somber tribute to the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Cenotaph is a simple stone monument with an inscription that reads: “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.”

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was founded in 1955 by the city of Hiroshima and presents the area’s history before and after the bombing.

The park and museum are located in the city center, and the easiest way to get there is by taking the tram to Genbaku Dome-mae Station. Instead, I highly recommend the Cycling Peace Tour – which is a much more informative experience on the horrors of the atomic bomb from a local born and bred in the city.

There are several great places to stay in Hiroshima. Hotel Granvia Hiroshima is on the nicer side. This hotel is located in the heart of downtown Hiroshima, and it offers easy access to all of the city’s attractions. The Hiroshima Royal Park Hotel is an excellent budget-friendly option.

This hotel is located right next to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and it offers wonderful views of the park. The hotel is also just a short walk from the Hiroshima Train Station, making it a great choice for travelers.

5. Ishigaki 

White Sand Beach in Ishigaki 

If you want to go somewhere that’s a bit different from the rest of Japan, then Okinawa is a great choice. Ishigaki is an island that is part of the Okinawa Prefecture, which is located in the south and west of Japan. The most frequent languages spoken here are extremely distinct from Japanese.

The island of Ishigaki, which is part of Okinawa Prefecture, is sometimes known as the Hawaii of Japan thanks to its beautiful turquoise seas and white sand beaches. Perfect for getting away from it all, you can try some mindfulness, meditation, and yoga on a private beach; just the thing to unwind and recharge.

Aside from the beaches, Ishigaki also has extraordinary cuisine, which is far and away from the most distinct food in Japan. Fresh seafood is king here, and it’s up there with the best in the world. Since meditation isn’t really my bag, I managed to find my zen energy by consuming a fresh crab.

The island of Ishigaki has several resorts, some of which are very beautiful. Try the Tsundra Beach Retreat, the Ishigaki Resort Hotel, or a traditional ryokan at Joya.

See Related: Best Islands to Visit Around the World

6. Hakone

Temple Gate Facing the Ocean

Hakone is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. Nestled in the Japanese Alps, it’s located just a few hours from Tokyo and is easy to get to as a day trip from the big city.

This mountainous town is known for its hot springs – which I found essential for relaxing and unwinding after a day of exploration. You can also visit the boiling sulfur pits by ropeway, sail around Lake Ashi on pirate ships, or enjoy the surrounding mountains from a cable car.

When visiting Hakone, there are plenty of places to stay. We like The Prince Hakone Hotel, which offers guests a panoramic view of Mount Fuji and is within walking distance of the Hakone-Yumoto Station. We also like the historic Fujiya Hotel located in the heart of Hakone and offers guests a variety of restaurants and spa treatments.

Check out our YouTube video from this Hakone Ryokan below.

See Related: Do Hotels Take Cash? Things to Know

7. Himeji Castle

Whiet Castle on the Top of a Hill

Himeji Castle is an ancient castle in Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is definitely worth a visit. It’s especially beautiful when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and the grounds are covered in a pink carpet. It always makes me think of a scene from Kill Bill (which was actually filmed in China, but set in Tokyo).

To get to Himeji Castle, you can take a train from Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima. The journey will take around an hour, and when you get there, you can try a private custom tour of the castle with a local guide.

There are a few great places to stay near Himeji Castle, and the best one will depend on your budget and preferences. If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, then the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is a great option. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Nest Hotel Hiroshima Hatchobori is another good option, with crisp decor, blending modern with traditional Japanese accents.

8. Go Izakaya Hopping

Street Filled with Lanterns, Restaurants and Shops

You don’t have to be in Spain to enjoy tapas. An izakaya is a type of Japanese bar that serves small, tapas-style dishes as well as drinks. It translates as “stay-drink-place,” which is great since I always want to stay and drink wherever I go.

They are often lively and informal eateries that offer a great way to try lots of different dishes and connect with locals and travelers alike. There are several izakayas that you can visit when in Japan. Some of the best ones include:

  • Jidaiya – This izakaya is located in Osaka and is known for its traditional atmosphere and delicious food.
  • Kichisen – This izakaya is located in Kyoto and is known for its fresh seafood and stunning decor.
  • Ishi – This izakaya is located in Fukuoka and is known for its delicious yakitori skewers.
  • Yumeya – This izakaya is located in Hiroshima and is known for its fresh seafood and amazing atmosphere.

Izakaya hopping is a great way to try lots of different dishes and drinks in Japan. Each izakaya has its own unique atmosphere and menu, so you can experience a variety of different things by visiting just a few.

Alternatively, why not try your hand at izakaya-style cooking? This afternoon Japanese cookery class in Kyoto will teach you how to make these delicious dishes yourself, so you can continue to enjoy them even when you return home. The problem is, once everyone tastes it, you’ll have to make it repeatedly.

9. Naoshima

Tow Woman Facing the Ocean

Naoshima is a small and lush-green island located in the Seto Inland Sea. The island is home to various art museums, sculptures, and new architectural pieces that are integrated into the landscape. Naoshima makes for a great weekend getaway from Tokyo and is also a great place to camp in Japan.

Naoshima can be accessed by plane or ferry. The Naoshima Airport is located 27 kilometers from the island’s capital, and the closest ferry terminal is Miyanoura Port, which is nine kilometers away. If you don’t fancy making your own way there, you can take the stress out of things by enjoying a two-day tour from Osaka or Koyoto.

The closest accommodation is Miyanoura Port, which offers a few hotels and guesthouses. There is also a selection of hotels located on the island of Naoshima, such as MY LODGE Naoshima.

But why stop there? There are 727 islands to explore in the Seto Inland Sea, an area famous for its natural beauty and rich history. Use Naoshima as a jumping-off point, but try not to stay too long on all the beautiful beaches. There’s still so much more to visit in Japan.

10. Yakushima

Deer in Yakushima Island

Yakushima is a prefecture island that is known for its nature reserves and waterfalls. You can enjoy hikes through the forests, stroll along the beaches, and take in the sights and sounds of the waterfalls.

Getting to Yakushima is easiest by plane. There are airports in Kagoshima and Osaka, and both airports have flights to Yakushima. You can also get to the island via ferry from Kagoshima or Osaka.

There are a few different places to stay in Yakushima. If you are looking for a place to hang your hat near the beaches, Miyanoura is the best place to stay. There are several hotels and inns in the area, and it is easy to get to the sands from this location.

If (like me) lush green forests are more to your taste, then Anbo is a great option. There are several guesthouses and minshuku in the area, and it is close to some of the best hiking trails on the island. The Anbo River made me wish to ship my kayak over, but tours are available if you’ve left home without a paddle.

11. Shinjuku, Tokyo 

People Crossing a Pedestrian

Yes, I’m aware that Tokyo has already been cited in the list, but if Tokyo can be considered its own country, then the Shinjuku district could well be the capital within a capital.

In any one street in Shinjuku, you’ll almost certainly come into contact with a thousand individuals worldwide. Despite making up just 1% of Tokyo’s population, tourists outnumber residents in Shinjuku by a ratio of 3:1.

The simple reason for that is Shinjuku has so many things to do! All modern life is here, and some of Japan’s best restaurants, retailers, concert venues, bars, and countless other unique attractions are located in Shinjuku, often less than a mile away from each other. Try a bar-hopping tour, or late-night foodie tour to experience the hectic culinary scene and make some new friends.

Shinjuku also offers seemingly never-ending shopping districts that carry everything from top to bottom brands, ranging from luxury brands like Gucci to fast fashion companies like H&M.

On top of that, if you’ve seen almost any movie set in Tokyo, there’s a good chance it had a scene or two set in Shinjuku. The district is basically what we all thought the “future” would look like in the 80s and 90s. Ahhhh, how I miss those days…

Not everything in Shinjuku is flashy or fast-paced. The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the quietest places in all of Tokyo, and it’s the perfect spot for you to forget all your troubles and relax. Trust me – you’re going to need it.

See Related: Where to Stay in Shinjuku, Tokyo

12. Take a Ride on the Bullet Train

View of a CRH high-speed bullet train
Aleksei / Adobe Stock

The Japanese Bullet Train, or Shinkansen, is one of the world’s most famous and efficient trains. With a top speed of 320 kilometers per hour, it can get you from city to city quickly and comfortably.

Whether taking a short trip or embarking on a longer journey, the Shinkansen is a great way to see Japan. I’ve never experienced efficiency quite like it, and I think it’s a crying shame that this kind of transportation isn’t available in the US. It’s the closest thing to teleportation our species has!

If you’re planning on doing a lot of traveling in Japan, a Japan Rail Pass may be a good investment.

JR Passes are valid for travel on all JR trains, including the Shinkansen, and can save you a lot of money if you visit multiple cities. Be sure to do your research and figure out if a JR Pass is worth your trip.

13. Kyoto 

Woman Wearing Kimono and Surroudned with Traditional Japanese House

Kyoto is probably the most well-known Japanese city outside of Tokyo, and there’s a reason behind it – other than the fact that they share exactly the same letters, and it’s a Phoebe Bridgers song. This bustling city is worth visiting during your first or tenth trip to Japan.

Kyoto is a city where you can experience the traditional side of Japan, as well as the modern – home to more than 1,000 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – more than any other location in the world. That’s a lot of culture, my friends!

Before exploring more modern sights like the Kyoto Aquarium, take some time to explore ancient wooden structures and visit traditional teahouses. This city boasts numerous historical landmarks, including ancient temples and shrines, man-made lakes with gardens filled with cherry blossoms, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, several museums in the Kyoto University area, and more.

This metropolis is a great place to spend a few days exploring, and with so much to see and do, you’ll never get bored. Unlike many of Japan’s major cities, Kyoto was largely spared from the effects of World War II, which means it has more old buildings than elsewhere in Japan.

Furthermore, there are many ancient gardens from hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago that are all so well-preserved and maintained that they feel like you’ve traveled through time.

Kyoto is also home to the International Manga Museum, dedicated entirely to manga that any anime lover will enjoy. If you’ve ever watched some seriously crazy Japanese stuff online, this is the place for you.

Although I recommend you spend at least a few weeks, if not a few months, inside this amazing historic city, you can do a guided day trip if you’re pushed for time, which will cover the most popular sights. 

See Related: Kyoto vs Tokyo: What is the Difference?

14. Soak in an Onsen

Smoke Coming from a Hot Spring

An onsen is a hot springs pool either in a private or public setting. Japan is rich in lava and volcanic activity reflected in an onsen in every part.

Onsens were traditionally separated based on gender, which carries on to this day for the vast majority of onsens. The similar sentos are indoor baths that are heated with normal heat. If you travel to Japan during winter, a dip in an onsen is necessary, as is a stay in a ryokan.

A ryokan is a traditional inn offering guests rooms with tatami flooring and futon bedding. Most ryokans also include a public bathing area where guests can enjoy a hot spring bath, and they serve meals in their guest rooms, typically featuring Japanese cuisines such as sushi, sashimi, and teppanyaki.

You can expect a luxurious, relaxing, and authentic Japanese experience when you stay at a private ryokan with an onsen. Many of these ryokans are located in stunning locations, such as near rivers or the mountains, and offer amazing views. To my mind, this kind of immersion turns a good vacation into a great one.

Note that if you have tattoos, bathing in an onsen or a sento might be off-limits, as most Japanese public or shared bathing areas forbid body art.

15. Nagano

Skies Reflection on a Lake in Nagano, Japan

Nagano is a city located in central Japan, well-known for its tropical climate, which offers a respite from the summer heat. Nagano is also home to several attractions, including the Ninja Village, Shiga Kogen Ski Resort, and Zenko-ji temple. These attractions make Nagano an attractive destination for tourists of all ages.

Yes, I said Ninja Village. Outta my way, kids! In 1998, Nagano hosted the Winter Olympics due to its ideal positioning in the Japanese Alps.

This event was a great success and drew in tourists from all over the world. The Winter Olympics were a major boon to the local economy and helped to establish Nagano as a major tourist destination.

Nagano is located in the middle of Japan, making it a convenient destination to reach by plane, train, or car. The city has its airport, which offers flights to and from cities in Japan and abroad.

Nagano is also serviced by the Shinkansen bullet train, which makes the trip from Tokyo in just a few hours. Finally, Nagano is accessible by car via the Chūō Expressway. There are several excellent places to stay in Nagano, and we recommend the Hotel Metropolitan Nagano or the Dormy Inn Nagano.

16. Yokohama 

Cityscape of Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama is the second-largest city in Japan, but it’s quite different from both Tokyo and Osaka. Much like Osaka, Yokohama has always been a city that existed in Tokyo’s shadow.

Most of this city is relatively new and modern because it was completely leveled by multiple earthquakes in the early 20th century, and what remained was all but destroyed in World War II.

But since then, Yohokama has made a serious rebound as a city, and it has turned into one of the best Japanese cities to visit. 

The coolest part of Yokohama would have to be Minato Mirai, which literally translates to “harbor of the future”. It’s one of the most modern and high-tech districts in all of Japan, and it’s one of the reasons why Japan has such a “futuristic” reputation. It’s an awesome place to explore, take some pictures, and appreciate technology. And speaking of technology – thanks Japan!

Yokohama is also home to Japan’s largest Chinatown, and a trip there is pretty much like being in China itself. Some go as far as to consider Yokohama as the Japanese San Fransisco, minus the giant orange bridge.

Other interesting things about Yokohama include the ramen museum, which is pretty much a shrine with all the ramen information in the world. Thousands of poor students pilgrimage here yearly (I’m kidding).

17. Kamakura

Giant Buddha Statue in Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura is a historic seashore village that was once the capital of Japan. It is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and is a popular tourist destination for those interested in Japanese history and culture.

The political center of medieval Japan, Kamakura, dates back to 1063, is located in the Kantō region of Japan, and is easily accessible from Tokyo.

There are many things to see and do in Kamakura, including visiting the temples, hiking through the bamboo forests, and enjoying the seaside. Kamakura should be on your radar if you’re interested in or practicing Buddhism.

There are many places to stay in Kamakura, including hotels, ryokan (Japanese inns), and guest houses like the Tosei Hotel Cocone Kamakura. There are also several restaurants and cafes in the area, as well as a few souvenir shops. Everyone needs a little Buddha statue in their homes.

18. Takayama

Red Japanese Temple Gate in a Forest

Takayama is a gorgeous little town located on the edge of the Japanese Alps. Visiting this town will almost make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

While Kyoto might be similarly historic, it’s still a major metropolis, whereas Takayama manages to preserve its old-world aura with a small-town feel. Takayama’s historic district is aesthetically pleasing to just stroll around in, take some pictures, and learn more about the town’s history.

The town is famous around Japan for having the best Sake in the country, and it’s pretty much impossible to go to any street in this town without coming across a Sake bar that dates back hundreds of years. The problem for me was that I don’t actually like Sake, but if you do – knock yourself out!

Takayama is home to a lot of traditional festivals and the Japanese culture that we’ve all come to know and love is extremely well-preserved here. Unlike other cities in Japan, western influence hasn’t made its inroads in this small town, which gives it a unique character, making it feel more authentically Japanese.

But the most striking thing about this town is its natural scenery. Europeans might easily confuse it for Switzerland or Northern Italy, and it’s one of the most naturally beautiful places you will ever see.

19. Shibuya

People Passing on the Pedestrian in Shibuya

Shibuya is a thriving city located in Tokyo, Japan. It is well-known for its incredible shopping opportunities, as well as its lively nightlife. In addition, Shibuya is home to many popular tourist attractions, including the Hachiko statue, the Shibuya Crossing, and the 109 shopping mall.

Families will enjoy exploring the city’s numerous parks and gardens, while foodies will love trying the local restaurants. The Hachiko statue is a popular tourist attraction in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan. The statue commemorates Hachiko, an Akita dog who faithfully waited for his owner at the train station each day, even after his owner passed away.

Today, the Hachiko statue is a symbol of loyalty and devotion. It reminded me very much of the Greyfriars Bobby legend in Edinburgh.

Shibuya is also home to Haneda Airport, making it easy to access from anywhere in the world. If you’re looking for affordable accommodation, there are several budget-friendly options available, such as the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyo and the hostel Sakura House. These establishments offer clean and comfortable rooms at a fraction of the cost of traditional hotels.

20. Odaiba

Boat Cruising in a River at Odaiba, Japan

Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay that is home to a number of shopping and entertainment destinations, including the upscale Oedo Onsen Monogatari. The island was popular among tourists for the life-size Gundam statues on display in the mall of Diver City until they were removed in 2017.

A high-tech entertainment hub, if you go with kids, there’s a strong chance they will handcuff themselves to the attractions and never want to leave. Top tip – put a luggage tracker in their pockets so you can find them easily.

There are lots of accommodation options near Odaiba, but the best place to stay is definitely Conrad Tokyo, a luxurious hotel on Odaiba’s waterfront that offers stunning views of the city skyline and Rainbow Bridge.

21. Mount Fuji

Cherry Blossoms and Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji needs no introduction, but I’ll give it one since you’re here. It’s pretty much the most iconic cultural landmark in all of Japan, being the subject of all sorts of paintings, movies, TV shows, poems, and novels from inside and outside the country. It’s actually an active snow-capped volcano, one of the tallest in the world. 

It’s an important spiritual site in Japan, and it’s pretty clear why. Just looking at Mount Fuji is inspiring.  To reach the volcano, all you need is a moderate fitness level. Thousands of tourists with no prior experience climb to its peak every year.

The area around Mount Fuji is as beautiful as the peak itself, and climbing up to get a panoramic view of the whole area (as well as Tokyo) is the best payoff for all that hard work. If you don’t like hiking to the summit, you can take a leisurely, private Mount Fuji sightseeing tour instead, an effortless day trip from Tokyo.

See Related: Reasons Why You Need to Visit Japan

22. Kobe 

City Lights at Night

Kobe is Japan’s seventh-largest city, so it’s not really talked about as much as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto as one of the must-see Japanese tourist attractions. Still, according to many experts, it might just be the best city in all of Japan to visit, if not the single-best tourist attraction. Period.

Famous for its namesake beef, Kobe has a reputation for being extremely pleasant. The weather is never too extreme no matter what time of the year it is, and on top of that, Kobe is surrounded by nature. You’ll be able to see mountains, forests, lakes, and beaches all over the city, sometimes even incorporated with the city infrastructure itself. 

Kobe is also home to some of Japan’s most well-known landmarks. The tall Kobe Port Tower is not only a sight to look at but also the perfect place to enjoy gorgeous 360-degree panoramic views of the entire city and countryside. Try a private walking tour with a local guide to see it all.

There are also many historic buildings and temples, such as the Jain Temple with white marble, which you won’t see anywhere else in Japan. 

But overall, Kobe is great because it’s so laid back. Most residents like spending weekends relaxing on the beaches or in the city’s many parks. The weather makes it a perfect place to spend time outdoors. If you’re gonna visit Japan, you have to visit this incredible city. 

For sociable, solo travelers, I highly recommend the Kobe Guesthouse MAYA. If you’re pushing the boat out, try the very highly-rated Orient Hotel.

23. Nara

Deer by the Japanese Temple Gate

Nara is located in the Kansai region of Japan and is easily accessible from other cities in the area, such as Kyoto and Osaka.

The easiest way to get to Nara is by train, with the JR Nara Line running between Nara and Kyoto and the Kintetsu Nara Line running between Nara and Osaka. Some buses run between Nara and other nearby cities.

A day tour from Koyoto is also a good option. If you’re looking for a place in Japan rich in history and culture, Nara is your destination. With its well-preserved temples and shrines, Nara is the land that time forgot.

Check out the Todai-ji Temple, home to one of the world’s largest Buddha statues, and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, with thousands of stone lanterns.

Of course, no visit to Nara would be complete without a stroll through Nara Park, where you’ll be treated to sightings of tame deer. For somewhere to hang your hats, there are a couple of places to stay near the city’s top tourist attractions.

The Nara Hotel is conveniently located next to Nara Park and is within walking distance of all the temples and shrines in the city. And for those who want to be in the heart of the action, the JR Tower Hotel in Osaka is a great choice, as it is just a short train ride away from Nara.

24. Ueno Park

Couples Paddling on a Lake at Ueno Park

Ueno Park is a place where people can find both the Japanese countryside and also enjoy modern city life. The park is home to temples, shrines, a zoo, a museum, and more. There are also many shops and restaurants in the area.

Ueno Park is easily accessible by train as it’s located right next to the Ueno Station, which makes it a convenient destination for tourists. There are also many other attractions in the area that people can visit, such as the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Nature and Science – our top pick for best attractions for kids.

For digs, Hotel Resol Ueno is an excellent choice for people who want to stay near the park. Rooms are comfortable and spacious, and the hotel has a good selection of restaurants and bars for people to enjoy.

Another great option is the Capsule Inn Ueno. This hostel is just a few minutes from the park and offers guests a unique experience. The rooms are small but comfortable, and many different facilities and services are available on-site.

25. Explore a Japanese castle

Tope of a White Castle in Osaka, Japan

Castles in Japan have a long and varied history. The first castles in Japan were built in the 6th Century, and they served as simple fortifications to protect against attacks from neighboring countries.

In the 12th Century, the first castle towers were built, and these structures became increasingly important in subsequent centuries. Of course, anyone who has ever played Age of Empires will already know all this.

By the 16th Century, Japan had been unified under a single ruler, and castles became an important part of the country’s political and military strategy. Many famous Japanese castles were built during this period, including Osaka Castle and Hiroshima Castle.

Alas, a great number of Japanese castles were destroyed in World War II, but many have been rebuilt since then. Today, Japanese castles remain a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into Japan’s fascinating history and culture. From the Imperial Palace to the castles of the Samurai, here are some of the best castles to visit in Japan:

26. Universal Studios Japan

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan
DRN Studio / Shutterstock.com

When visiting a country as culturally and historically rich as Japan, sometimes, you might want to take a little break from all that educational stimulation. And that’s perfectly okay – you’re on holiday, after all.

The Japanese version of the world-famous Universal Studios attraction is notable for being the first to open its doors outside of the United States, which it did in 2001. Located close to the buzzing city of Osaka, it is the fifth most-visited theme park in the world, and a trip here is a great way to mix things up on your vacation.

It spans 130 acres, with 11 different zones, each packed with attractions to keep all the family happy. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the latest addition and is a must-visit for fans of the “Boy Who Lived.” Of course, in these parts, Nintendo World is also a hugely popular choice for all things Mario.

If you’re staying in or around Osaka, a visit to Universal Studios Japan makes a great day trip, so be sure to pick up a park ticket with transportation. Alternatively, you can stay close by in a comfortable vacation rental, while the aptly named Park Front Hotel is the closest digs to the attraction itself.

FAQ

What is the prettiest city in Japan?

Kyoto. Especially between March and May in the cherry blossom season. Yoshino is one of the best places to visit to see the spring cherry blossoms, and the town has some memorable vacation rentals to stay in while you’re there.

Where is the most visited place in Japan?

Tokyo’s capital has long been a popular tourist destination for Japan. Millions of people visit yearly to enjoy the city’s iconic landmarks and diverse culture.

When is the best time to visit Japan?

The best time to visit Japan is during the spring and summer months. The weather is mild, and there is very little rain, making it the perfect time to explore all Japan offers.

Japan is a great place to visit any time of year, but the late autumn months can offer a unique experience that cannot be found at other times and a more affordable price. The leaves are changing color, and the weather is cool and crisp, making it the perfect time to explore the country’s many autumn attractions.

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Stuart Jameson
WRITTEN BY

Stuart Jameson

With over 70 countries under his belt, Stuart is a well-seasoned globetrotter hailing from the UK, now living in Madison, Wisconsin. After traveling the world for seven years (including a hitchhike from Germany to Cambodia) his current mission is to visit all 50 states before turning 50 - something he's going to fail to do if he keeps collecting board games.

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