Best Places to Visit in Japan

Best Places to Visit in Japan

Japan is a country that offers the tourist exotic beauty and marvelous attractions.  Unfortunately, Japan is a country where the language barrier can make travel difficult for the English-speaking visitor.  Traveling in Japan is more challenging and takes more effort than traveling in Europe, but we think you will find that the rewards are more than worth the effort.

Japan has so many outstanding places to visit during a vacation that it is difficult to choose among them. We know that your vacation time is both brief and valuable. Our recommendations for the best places to visit will help you find the right place for your vacation in Japan.

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji

Travel Caution

On March 11, 2011 at 2:46 local time in Japan, a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off of the northeastern shores of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. The massive earthquake resulted in a devastating tsunami that caused a significant number of deaths and incredible destruction of property/infrastructure, including several nuclear plants.  It will take years to repair some of the damage to the cities of northeastern Japan and there may continue to be a problem with radiation leaks for an undetermined amount of time.

    • Tokyo

      • Tokyo is where most tours of Japan start and the city is the natural places to start your introduction to this enchanting country. It is hard to understate the shock value of Tokyo to the western visitor and we believe that upon arriving in Tokyo you will finally understand the real meaning of the word “foreign”.
      • Tokyo’s attractions result from a mix of important cultural, historic, and societal trends.  We can safely say that Tokyo is unlike any other big city in the world.  It is a fabulous place to visit, but you may need a vacation from the city (if not its prices) after a few days.
Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo
Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo


  • Big Buddha, Kamakura
    Big Buddha, Kamakura

    Tokyo Guide

    • Be sure to examine our Tokyo Guide if you are considering travel to Tokyo.

    Two cities that make great day trips from Tokyo are:

      • Nikko

        • A solemn pilgrimage site for many Japanese, the shrine complex at Nikko is, also, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is closely associated with the history of the Tokugawa Shoguns. The surrounding National Park is stunning.
        • For more information, see the Nikko Tourist Association website.
      • Kamakura

        • Kamakura contains one of Japan’s best collections of shrines, temples, and monuments. In addition, the town is famous for its Great Buddha statue.
        • Visit the official Kanagawa area website for more information on visiting Kamakura.
  • Kyoto

    • Kyoto is Japan’s second most popular tourist destination. Its fame results from  a several well preserved historical sites (over 15 have been classified UNESCO World Heritages sites).
      • Kyoto was Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence through part of the First and most of the Second Millennia. The city is known as “The Thousand Year Capital” and Kyoto is the source of many aspects of the Japanese culture as we know it today.
      • Kyoto, undamaged in World War II, contains the best-preserved examples of Japan’s feudal history.
      •  If you are a temple aficionado, plan to spend several days in Kyoto.  The town has many attractions and is a pleasant place to visit.
      • The official tourism website for Kyoto can be found here.
Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan


    • Osaka

      • Osaka is another of Japan’s vibrant “big” cities: it combines its history and modern economy in a  manner that is certain to please.
    • Hiroshima

      • Modern Hiroshima is known as a “peace” center.  Destroyed at the end of World War II by an atomic bomb, Hiroshima is known for its Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum.  Be sure to visit nearby Miyajima Island for its shrine and famous torii gate.
      • Visit the Hiroshima Navigator, the official website of the city of Hiroshima, for more details on the city and its many attractions.
Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima
Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima
    • Nara

      • Once the capital of Japan, Nara is a beautiful place with splendid temples representing both Shinto and Buddhism.  Nara is near both Kyoto and Osaka.
        • The Nara City Sightseeing website, offers an excellent introduction to the wonders you will find when visiting Nara.
    • Nagasaki

      • Nagasaki was one the principal ports during Japan’s exposure to the western world in the 1600’s, giving the town the most European flavor of any of Japan’s cites.  Nagasaki was partly destroyed by an atomic bomb blast near the end of World War II.
        • Tourist Nagasaki is known for its Peace Park and the Sofuku-ji, an elegant temple whose architecture has a pronounced Chinese look.
        • The website of the Nagasaki Prefectural Tourism Federation provides an in-depth look at Nagasaki’s festivals, sightseeing and history.
          • Fuji Hakone Izu National Park

            • Mt. Fuji is Japan’s most famous and most sacred mountain.  It is held in reverence by the Japanese and climbing its trail is a rite of passage.
              • Mt Fuji is part of the  majestic Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.
              • Measuring in at slightly over 12,000 feet, Mt. Fuji is a nearly symmetrical strato-volcano that last erupted in the 18th century.
              • For detailed information on the Hakone National Park, see this website .
              • For an interesting overview of the Mount Fuji area, see the official Shizuoka Guide website.
            • The Izu peninsula and the Hakone district are known for great scenery, but are especially famous for their hot springs and rustic spas.
            • Hakone, a forested, mountainous, volcanic area is the site of some of Japan’s most popular resorts and spas.  The area is less than 100 miles from Tokyo and is a great place for a break from the city.
            • Information about the Hakone area can be found at this detailed website.
  • Daisetsuzan NP

    • Many visitors to Hokkaido (the northernmost of Japan’s islands)  travel there to enjoy the island’s reputation as  Japan’s most scenic landscape.
    • The Daisetsuzan National Park is the best place to see “wild” Japan.  The park offers the outdoor enthusiast great hiking and spectacular views.
    • Although currently only available in Japanese, click the links at the park’s website for some amazing photographs of this unique area.

Additional Resources

The official tourism website for Japan is hosted by the Japan National Tourism Organization.  The site provides additional information on the best places to visit that we cover here, as well as information on towns and attractions that we do not cover.

For country facts on Japan, as well as travel information  on driving, safety, crime, visas and other tourism related issues see this page on Japan  from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find this site useful when planning a trip to Japan.

Tags:, , , , , , ,