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15 Best Cities to Visit in Japan

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With its enormous cities and towering skyscrapers brightly clad in neon lights, Japan is a fun country to visit, full of history and with a rich cultural heritage. Temples and shrines dot its streets, while world-class restaurants rub shoulders with ancient castles and imperial palaces, and its cities bustle with life and energy.

Bordered by beautiful natural scenes, wandering around cities like Tokyo is akin to stepping into the future, such is the innovation and technological know-how on show. With something for everyone, the best cities in Japan are exhilarating to visit.


Charming and full of cultural sights, this samurai city is steeped in history and has a lovely castle for visitors to explore. Lying on the shores of Lake Shinji, there is an old-time feel to the place, as fishermen cast their nets in the lake and the lazy river flows by.

There are a few good museums to visit, and although the historic center is easily completed in half a day, Matsue´s peaceful ambiance means that visitors often end up staying longer than they intended.


The impressive, domineering, feudal-era fortress of Himeji-jo is reputed to be the finest castle in Japan, and is the prime draw in this quiet city. Nearby, there are some lovely samurai houses to explore, with their delightful traditional gardens.

Apart from a couple of museums, there is not much to do in Himeji, though there are the usual shrines, temples and restaurants that are not too dissimilar from other Japanese cites. An easy day-trip from a number of places, history lovers will love Himeji.


A charming and welcoming place, visitors to Beppu invariably stop by to relax and soak in the hot springs that populate the city. A popular ‘onsen’ (Japanese hot spring) resort, the city has over three thousand springs and life in Beppu is heavily geared towards the tourism sector.

The steam and mist that floats through the streets lends a magical air to the town, which is located on the coast and backed by mountains. With some impressive architecture on show and a quaint, laid-back feel to the place, Beppu is a lovely city in which to sit back and relax.


An attractive city set on a hillside next to the sea, Kobe is sandwiched between the water and Mount Rokko, which rears up behind it. A historic port, the city´s small stature belies the cosmopolitan feel about its streets. When wandering around, you can find religious buildings dedicated to every major religion.

With some excellent restaurants and cool cafes on offer, as well as lively nightlife, Kobe is great fun to explore. If you use the city as a gateway, many amazing sights are just a short train journey away.

11. Nagasaki


A picturesque place, Nagasaki´s lovely location nestled peacefully amidst hills overlooking a harbor, obscures the fact that the city was tragically devastated by an atomic bomb. While many visitors come to wander around the memorials and museums dedicated to the bombing, Nagasaki has much more to offer; it is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with lots to see and do.

Once the only port open to foreign traders, this openness is still evident; there are a mix of Western and Eastern influences here, as demonstrated by the churches, temples and cuisine on offer.

10. Yokohama


Despite being less than half-an-hour away from Tokyo, Yokohama certainly has its own identity and, as Japan´s second largest city, it´s well worth checking out. Lying on a lovely bay, it is a cosmopolitan destination, as evidenced by its large foreign community, wealth of different architectural styles, and delicious cuisine from around the world.

With a lively arts and jazz scene, it is pleasant to walk along its spacious streets – despite being a major port, Yokohama feels uncluttered and clean.


The largest city in Kyushu, Fukuoka used to be two towns before the different areas joined to form the city we know today. A friendly, welcoming place, what Fukuoka lacks in terms of actual sights, it more than makes up for in its charm and pleasant atmosphere. With a couple of great museums, some great architecture, delicious ramen, and the chance to see their famous baseball team in action, Fukuoka is well worth a visit for all that it has to offer.

Lying on the banks of the river running through it, there are some lovely temples dotted around the city and its surroundings. Many people use Fukuoka as a base from which to explore the rest of Kyushu.


Home to one of the country´s most famous festivals, every year Sendai´s leafy streets are thronged with people who have come to enjoy Tanabata Matsuri. Located in the Tohuko region, it is the largest city in the area and offers an insight into the local culture, with many visitors stopping here on their way to the wilderness nearby.

With a lively nightlife scene and a delightful dilapidated castle with lovely gardens, Sendai is a pleasant place to visit and an even nicer place to live. From here, you can also head to the nearby hot springs or to Matsushima, which has one of the best views in Japan.


The capital city of the island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a chilled-out place to visit, with all the trappings of a typical Japanese city. While most people see it as a stop-off point on their way to the island´s delightful mountains and hot springs, the city itself has more than enough to keep guests entertained for a while – with fantastic restaurants, gigantic shopping malls and lively nightlife.

While people often visit during the summer, when Sapporo has a number of great festivals, the highlight of the year is during the renowned Snow Festival, when hordes of tourists descend upon the city to see the amazing sculptures.


Although the endless concrete buildings do not make Osaka a pretty place by any means, the profusion of neon lights certainly adds color and life to the city. A bustling metropolis with a lovely river meandering through its heart, Osaka is a fun place to visit with a lively local arts and music scene.

Renowned for its fantastic culinary scene and love of food, here you can dine in excellent restaurants or pick up a wide variety of great street food.


Considered to be the birthplace of Japanese civilization, this ancient former capital has a wealth of historic sites for visitors to enjoy. Easily explored on foot, the city´s undoubted highlight is the impressive Great Buddha statue, located in the lovely Todai-ji temple.

Other temples delightfully showcase the best of Japanese art and architecture, while the surrounding hills – which add to the picturesque nature of Nara – have yet more shrines and temples worth visiting.

4. Kanazawa


With beautiful temples, ancient shrines and a range of fantastic museums, this charming city lying on the Sea of Japan is not to be missed. Wonderfully preserved, its ancient neighborhoods are lovely to wander around, with the old geisha and samurai districts being particularly delightful. In fact, Kanazawa rivals Kyoto in the number of historical and cultural attractions that it has on show.

Although seldom visited by westerners, Japanese tourists flock to this city. The highlight is undoubtedly Kenroku-en, an impressive castle with idyllic gardens surrounding it.

3. Hiroshima


Lying in western Honshu, Hiroshima´s history will forever be linked to the atomic bomb which flattened the city on August 6th, 1945. Almost completely destroyed, Hiroshima has remarkably been reconstructed and is now a bustling modern city, full of life.

While many visitors come to pay their respects at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum and visit the chilling A-Bomb Dome ruins, the city has many other sights for visitors to enjoy. It also serves as a gateway to some beautiful nearby islands including famous Miyajima (shrine island).


The former capital of Japan drips with history and is reputed to be the nation´s most beautiful city. Upon arriving, however, many visitors are surprised to see Kyoto´s urban sprawl, which hides away its fantastic historical sites and rich cultural heritage. With over two thousand temples and shrines, as well as numerous Zen gardens, winding cobbled alleys and traditional teahouses, Kyoto is both the spiritual and cultural capital of Japan.

Home to a plethora of cool bars, atmospheric cafes and world-class restaurants, the city also has some fantastic palaces and villas for visitors to gaze upon. One of the best places to see the romantic cherry blossom trees, Kyoto is an amazing mix of modern and traditional influences.


Lying at the heart of the most populated place in the world, Tokyo has just under forty million people living within its metropolis. Consequently, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Appearing as if out of a sci-fi film, the city´s dazzling array of neon-lit skyscrapers are mesmerizing to behold – at night, they look even more impressive.

While Tokyo is definitely a modern, thriving city that sells a unique pop culture and fashion sense to the world, remnants of the historic city still remain. You can peacefully wander down cobbled alleys and find old-style atmospheric bars and food stands. In fact, the city is home to more Michelin star establishments than anywhere else in the world, and the food on offer is sumptuous.

Whether it is strolling around its cavernous shopping malls or exploring the different neighborhoods – each with its own vibe and identity – it would take a lifetime to see all that Tokyo has to offer.

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Map of cities in Japan

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Reader interactions.

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March 5, 2024 at 10:37 pm

I have visited 8 cities in 2023. Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji. Next will visit Sapporo and Fukuoka.

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December 13, 2020 at 2:55 am

I have visited 5 largest cities out of the 15 in the list. Eager indeed to travel to this lovely country again to fulfill my dream travelling from the southernmost city Okinawa to the Hokkaido’s most north tip in Wakkanai.

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December 2, 2020 at 3:24 pm

If it were not so expensive, I could easily live in Japan.

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October 30, 2020 at 12:26 am

Very good country indeed

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tourist cities of japan

Japan Life Travel

25 Best Cities in Japan to Visit (Excluding Tokyo)

The best cities in Japan to visit, in no particular order

January 16, 2023 Updated On February 29, 2024

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Japan is a country with a magnificent blend of traditional and ultramodern culture on display everywhere you go. Cities around Japan are full of historical and cultural sights surrounded by wonderful nature too. Here is our list of the best cities in Japan, in no particular order, excluding Tokyo . Hopefully it will inspire your next travel plans in Japan.

tourist cities of japan

Sapporo | Photo by stock_shot via Shutterstock

The capital of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Sapporo is a metropolis in the midst of nature. With snowy weather in winter and cool summers, it’s a great place to visit throughout the year. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 , so you can find high-class snow slopes. One of the biggest festivals of the year, the  Sapporo Snow Festival shouldn’t be missed either. Sapporo is a great place for a night out with good beer and fresh seafood.

tourist cities of japan

Image by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

Around 30 minutes away from Sapporo, Otaru is a small, historical, canal city nicknamed the “Venice of Japan.” When Hokkaido was colonized in the late 1800s, Otaru was a big trading and fishing port. It subsequently became the terminal for Hokkaido’s first railway between Otaru and Sapporo. Otaru is a lovely spot for a nice stroll and coffee.

tourist cities of japan

Tashirojima Island | Photo by sido kagawa via Shutterstock

Full of samurai history, Sendai is a city surrounded by both the sea and mountains. It was founded by feudal lord Date Masamune. Nicknamed the “City of Trees,” Sendai is a green metropolis with lots of activities to do throughout the four seasons. This includes cycling, SUP, walking around the Rinnoji Temple and enjoying the autumn foliage. Two hours northeast of Sendai is the famed Tashirojima Island, also known as Cat Island, which is inhabited by more than 100 cats.

tourist cities of japan

Yokohama Minatomirai by ESB Professional via Shutterstock

4. Yokohama

One of Japan’s major port cities that was opened to the world in 1859, Yokohama is a diverse place bustling with different cultures. It boasts one of the world’s most famous Chinatowns, featuring old architecture and fancy hotels. Snack your way through various Chinese cuisines and have your palms read and your fortune told by fortune tellers. Check out the preserved Western architecture with local fashion boutiques and Japanese gardens in the Yamate district. The most popular spot, though, is the futuristic waterfront Minatomirai. The Cup Noodles Museum and Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum are also worth visiting.

tourist cities of japan

Kawasaki Daishi Shrine by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

5. Kawasaki

Conveniently located between Tokyo and Yokohama, Kawasaki features museums dedicated to artists Taro Okamoto and Fujiko F Fujio, the creator of Doraemon . Other popular sites include Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple, the headquarters of the Chisan sect of Shingon Buddhism, and the Nihon Minkaen, also known as the Japan Open-air Folk Museum, which holds various exhibitions and traditional indigo dying workshops. Throughout the spring and autumn time, take a stroll in the rose garden Ikuta Greenspace, where you can gaze at a rainbow of different colored roses. Volunteer citizens tend the flowers and the managing facilities.

tourist cities of japan

Kamakura by Gengorou via Shutterstock

6. Kamakura

Once the capital during the Kamakura Shogunate era, Kamakura is a cultural coastal city in Kanagawa Prefecture. This ancient city is surrounded by three mountains and the ocean and is considered a popular summer spot to escape from the Tokyo heat. Kamakura is dotted with various spiritual sites, such as the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Hasedera Temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and Meigetsuin, known for its gorgeous hydrangea which bloom during rainy season. Foodies should grab a rice bowl of fresh shirasu, or small, young, white sardines, a local specialty. Another good option in the summer is to enjoy a local beer at an  umi-no-ie , drinking and eating establishments located on the city’s beaches.

tourist cities of japan

Kawagoe by Kanisorn Pringthongfoo via Shutterstock

Nicknamed “Little Edo”, Kawagoe is only 30 minutes away from central Tokyo. Its main shopping street, Ichibangai, is lined up with clay-walled warehouse-styled buildings, displaying its history as a supplier of commodities to Tokyo, then known as Edo. Check out Kawagoe’s historical remnants, such as the Toki no Kane (wooden bell tower), Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, Kitain Temple, Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace and much more. Visitors should try unagi, or broiled eel, a classic delicacy in Kawagoe. Take a stroll to the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine where you can purchase a special tai omikuji, that is a wooden carved red snapper fortune.

tourist cities of japan

Toshogu in Nikko | Photo by Luciano Mortula – LGM via Shutterstock

Toshogu, a luxuriously decorated shrine and mausoleum for Ieyasu Tokugawa, is one of the gems of  Nikko . Even before that, this area well known for being the core of Shinto and Buddhist Mountain worship for many centuries. Nikko National Park offers gorgeous mountainscapes, lakes, waterfalls, wild monkeys, hot springs and great hiking trails. Lake Chuzenji is a beautiful place to see autumn foliage. The colors start blossoming from the peaks of Yumoto Onsen and start descending in early October. The autumn leaves bloom in color around Lake Chuzenji in late October.

tourist cities of japan

Nagoya Castle by f11photo via Shutterstock

The fourth largest city in Japan, Nagoya is the capital of Aichi Prefecture and one of Honshu’s main industrial centers. It is home to Toyota’s main manufacturing factory and also boasts the Toyota Kaikan Museum where car nerds can geek out. In the summer, Nagoya hosts the World Cosplay Summit where anime, games, manga and pop culture explode. World famous cosplayers fly to Nagoya for an annual cosplay contest. The first castle in Japan to be named a National Treasure, Nagoya Castle is one of the largest in the country. Check out the world’s biggest planetarium in Nagoya City Science Museum, which is full of lots of fun and interactive exhibitions. The adventurous foodies can try a wide array of Nagoya dishes from misokatsu, hitsumabushi and so much more.

tourist cities of japan

Kanazawa by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

10. Kanazawa

Easily accessible from Osaka and Kyoto, Kanazawa is one of Japan’s most underrated urban metropolises. This city is full of arts and crafts, culture, nature, history and great food, especially seafood. Kanazawa specializes in gold leaf and ceramics, sushi and sake, modern art, architecture and Zen Buddhism. Visitors can find fine crafted memorabilia to take home from their travels. Check out the Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s top three gardens for gorgeous blossoms, small creeks, Japanese traditional tea houses and cottages. Take a stroll along Kanazawa’s preserved historic streets, including Higashi Chaya District, Nagamachi Samurai District and more.

tourist cities of japan

Takayama | Photo by Vachira Sat via Shutterstock

11. Takayama

Famously known for its beautifully preserved Edo Period streets, Takayama is a charming city, bustling with tradition. During the Edo Period, it was home to many artisans, merchants, carpenters and timber craftsmen, especially in Sannomachi. Local food specialties include Takayama ramen and Hida-beef. For the early birds, check out the two morning markets, one near the Miyagawa River and another in front of Takayama Jinya, where local fresh produce, jams, sweets and crafts are sold. Takayama also hosts one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals called the Takayama Festival.

tourist cities of japan

Kyomizu-dera temple by akarapong via Shutterstock

The former capital of Japan, Kyoto has much to offer in its long, deep-rooted history and traditions. Surrounded by temples, shrines and bamboo forests, there is truly an air of tranquility in the city. Kyoto is only a relatively short Shinkansen ride from Tokyo, making it a perfect weekend getaway trip from the hustle and bustle of the capital. From historic buildings, Japanese sweets, pop culture, traditional arts and crafts, there is so much to do for both first time travellers and frequent travellers, it truly does not get old.

tourist cities of japan

Photo by YUSHENG HSU via Shutterstock

The second largest city in Japan after Tokyo, Osaka is more relaxed than the capital. Visitors who enjoy a night out can expect a friendly encounter with the locals, plus should try dishes such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Get your shop on at Shinsaibashi, a shopping street with a history of more than 300 years. There is also history to this metropolis, with the Osaka Castle and the Tower of the Sun, the symbol of Expo ‘70, to discover. Don’t forget the fun spots like Universal Studios Japan where you can meet your favorite wizard or win a round of Mario Kart.

tourist cities of japan

Port of Kobe by vichie81 via Shutterstock

The capital of the Hyogo Prefecture and famously known for its beef, there is more to Kobe than meets the eye. This port city was one of the first port cities to open to foreign trade in the 19th century. Check out the Rokko Mountain and the modern art exhibition at the top of the mountain. After the hike, wind down and relax in the Arima Onsen. Explore along the port bay where the famed Kobe Port Tower is located. Have a taste of the city’s famed cuisine, Kobe beef for dinner.

tourist cities of japan

Kasuga Grand Shrine by Arif Alakbar via Shutterstock

A city crawling with wild deer which bow to visitors who bow to them, Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital in 710. The capital moved to Nagaoka in 784 due to the increasing Buddhist influence in the city. Temples and shrines worth visiting are the Todaiji Temple, Horyuji Temple, Kasuga Taisha and so much more. For nature lovers, Isuien Garden is another park to check out other than the famed Nara park with wild deer.

tourist cities of japan

Himeji Castle by Pajor Pawel via Shutterstock

The second largest city in Hyogo after Kobe, Himeji is most well known for its samurai history. One famed national treasure of Himeji is the beautifully preserved Himeji Castle. It is a national treasure and a UNESCO heritage site. While visiting the castle, check out the Kokoen Zen Garden located beside Himeji Castle. Himeji is home to various temples and shrines, including Shoshazan Engyoji Temple, famed for its appearance in The Last Samurai film. Sake lovers should sample the local sake tasting workshop at Kokoromi Standing Bar, as 95 percent of the sake is made in Hyogo.

tourist cities of japan

Miyajima Shrine | Photo by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

17. Hiroshima

A city that was once devastated during World War II, Hiroshima is now known as a city of peace. Alongside its historic sites, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, Hiroshima has a lot to offer, such as the Hiroshima Castle, Miyajima Island, Mitaki Temple, Itsukushima Shrine and more. Food lovers should try the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and visit the Wood Egg Okonomiyaki Museum.

tourist cities of japan

Naoshima Island | Photo by VTT Studio via Shutterstock

18. Okayama

Castles, trains, gardens and fairy tales, Okayama is the city of all of these things. It’s where the famous Japanese fairy tale “Momotaro” (“Peach Boy”) took place. Most tourists visit Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden. Head to Naoshima, the island of art, to check out the famed pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama and other modern art pieces for a short trip from Okayama. Check out the fun Manekineko or Lucky Cat Museum where more than 700 lucky cats were collected from all over Japan. There’s also Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, a merchant town where the canals were used to transport goods.

tourist cities of japan

Adachi Garden | Photo by Tanya Jones via Shutterstock

Matsue in Shimane Prefecture is nicknamed the “city of water” because of its location between Lake Shinji, Nakaumi Lagoon and the Sea of Japan. Check out the Matsue Castle, one of the last surviving original castles. Near Matsue is Izumo Taisha, one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan, and the Adachi Museum of Art. Matsue hosts the beautiful drum parade called Do Gyoretsu and Horanenya, a traditional Japanese boat festival. The city has beautifully preserved Edo Period samurai streets.

tourist cities of japan

Onomichi | Photo by Tanya Jones via Shutterstock

20. Onomichi

Onomichi is a quaint little city located beside the Seto Inland Sea in eastern Hiroshima Prefecture. This city is famously known for its various slopes and a cycling heaven for cyclists. The retro vibes and charming old streets are memorable with former akiya (empty house) craft shops and known to be shooting spots for famed films. Most of the city’s famous attractions are located along these slopes, including Temple Walk. Rent a bike and cycle along the Shimanami Kaido, the only connection from Honshu, Japan’s main island, to Shikoku.

tourist cities of japan

Peace Statue by TOMO via Shutterstock

21. Nagasaki

The capital of Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki is a gorgeous little port city located on Kyushu Island known for its devastating past during World War II. Nagasaki is heavily influenced by the Netherlands as it opened to foreign trade in the 17th Century. It is no wonder that the city is filled with beautiful cathedrals and churches, as the Netherlands also brought religion to the city. Japan’s oldest Chinatown, called Shinchi Chinatown, is located in Nagasak

tourist cities of japan

Kamishikimi Kumano Imasu Shrine by reason520ha via Shutterstock.

22. Kumamoto

The capital city of the prefecture, Kumamoto is known for its sleek castle. Due to its location near the active volcano, Mount Aso, Kumamoto is also nicknamed the “Land of Fire.” Take a stroll along the Suizenji Jojuen, a picturesque Japanese garden, designed as the map of an ancient road with 53 stations from Tokyo to Kyoto. It even has a miniature Mount Fuji. Check out one of Japan’s oldest hot springs, Yamaga Onsen Sakurayu. This onsen was built around 370 years ago for Tadatoshi Hosokawa, the lord of the Higo region, as a vacation home.

tourist cities of japan

Itoshima beach by kuremo via Shutterstock

23. Fukuoka

Both modern and traditional, Fukuoka is an international city. It has a long cultural connection with China and Korea due to its close distance to the two countries. This port city was heavily influenced by the West due to foreign trade when Japan first opened itself to the world. Visitors should sample a bowl of Hakata ramen, which originates from the city. It also has various breathtaking naturescapes and historic sites, including Fukuoka Castle.

tourist cities of japan

Beppu | Photo by aaron choi via Shutterstock

Famously known for its hot springs, Beppu is a city of comfort and relaxation. Visitors have a wide array of onsen to choose from; from hot water baths, mud baths, sand baths, steam baths even foots baths, called ashiyu in Japanese. Jigoku Onsen, or the Hells of Beppu, showcases seven different natural hot springs. Head to Beppu’s theme park called Kijima Kogen Park, where the waiting time for rides are up until a maximum of 30 minutes. Make sure to taste some of the hot spring water-cooked delicacies at at restaurants or shops in the city.

tourist cities of japan

Shuri Castle in Naha | Photo by torasun via Shutterstock

Located on the southern coastline of the main island of Okinawa, Naha was the commercial and political center of the former Ryuku Kingdom and is the capital of the Okinawa Prefecture. From Naha, visitors can easily access various Okinawa islands and beaches as well as historical sites, including Shuri Castle and more. For shopping and dining, the best place to go is Kokusai Street.

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Dear Japanese

12 Best Cities To Visit In Japan That Make Your Trip Worth It!

Japan is an attractive country to visit with its vibrant cities, advanced communication system, and rich culture.

Thousands of visitors come to this country every year to explore its natural scenes, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tall skyscrapers, world-class food, and ancient palaces.

You will never get tired of traveling around, and even one trip isn’t enough to visit all the cities of Japan.

tourist cities of japan

But, if it’s your first trip, you should go for the best ones.

So, here I am presenting you with the best cities to visit in Japan that have easy access across the country and are filled with loads of attractive spots.

Now, be prepared to explore each one cause you never know what specialty the next one offers you.

Here’s a quick glance on the best cities to visit in Japan

Top Cities To Visit In Japan

As Japan is a state where the new and old culture coexist side by side, often travelers get confused about which city to visit or not.

Some prefer to see the advanced side when few want to know about their ancient lifestyle.

That’s why I have listed down from major cities like Tokyo to small Japanese cities that tourists often skip as they don’t know much about those.

And, at the end of this writing, you will indeed find the answer to this question, “What city in Japan should I visit?”

Also, I will mention the approximate accommodation cost and meal price, which will help you estimate your tour budget.

Note that the prices may vary according to season and which region you choose to stay.

Let’s start with the heart of Japan, which is none other than Tokyo.

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, which offers captivating tourist spots and is also a great place to live as a foreigner .

It’s one of the most populated cities globally, with around fourteen million people living here. 

But, what makes this place great is that it has everything to suit the taste of each type of traveler. 

The moment you like to experience the dazzling city view, you may go to the Tokyo Tower, which is situated in the Shiba-Koen district of Minato.

Tokyo tower

The observation deck of this tower provides an incredible panorama of the city.

However, the night view is my favorite cause it shows how lively this place is with blinking light.

You can also visit the Electric Town (Akihabara) area, a significant shopping place for video games, manga, anime, electronics, and computer-related goods.

Akihabara photography — TOKYOLUV (@TokyoLuv) March 3, 2023

Hence, If you are a tech person, you will feel like entering into a dream paradise that can offer you vibrant technological stuff.

tourist cities of japan

For those who wanna explore the ancient site, you may head to the Sensoji Shrine, the oldest shrine in Tokyo.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Anthon (@guiot_an)

Other worth visiting places are The Imperial Palace and the Museum of Modern Art, situated next to each other in Chiyoda City.

When you want to escape from the chaotic streets of the town, a green space like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden will make your mind and body peaceful.

However, what does this metropolis have to offer to the couples?

As I said already, it is equipped with every type of fun place, and there is also a romantic dating spot here called Chidorigafuchi Moat.

Tokyo is indeed the most visited city in Japan because of its diversity and easy accessibility.

You may spend some quality time with your partner by riding a boat on the lake.

This place looks straight out from a fairy wonderland during spring, with soft pink cherry blossoms covering up the whole area.

Cherry blossom in Tokyo

And, when you are hungry, you can taste some delicious food from restaurants and food stalls.

How about eating some mouth-watering dishes at an affordable price?

Although Tokyo is an expensive city, yet you will find some top-class Michelin stars restaurants that won’t even rob your pocket.

Katsuzen, Tsuta, Zuisetsu, Saito are some of the famous restaurants that you can consider visiting.

Things to do in Tokyo 

  • Visit Sensoji Temple
  • Meiji Jingu
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • Tokyo Disneyland
  • Ghibli Museum
  • Imperial Palace

Kyoto is surely one of the most beautiful cities in Japan as it is the home of a long-listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This city displays quiet charm with shrines and tranquil gardens everywhere.

Some of the must-see spots in Kyoto are Nijo Castle, Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, The Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Katsura Imperial Villa, and The Byōdō-in Temple.

However, if you ask for my personal favorite, I will say The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest .

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

It is one of Japan’s unique locations that provides the tourists with a spectacular view and a calming sound of clattering bamboo.

In case you choose to visit Kyoto, I will suggest you not miss this place cause it’s such a place that resembles earthly heaven.

For an exceptional sightseeing experience, you should go to the entertainment district of Gion.

There you will find geishas walking around the streets lined up with the wooden folk houses.

Kyoto is Japan’s religious center with over 1000 Buddhist temples.

Rather than spotting geishas on the street, you can also witness their dance performances during Miyako Odori, a traditional dance festival.

Geisha dance performance kyoto

This feast occurs during spring, so if you are willing to come to Japan during this period, you should not miss this performance.

As this town has both traditional cafes and world-class restaurants, you can enjoy some traditional food as well as modern cuisine, whatever you prefer.

To name a few restaurants in Kyoto are Honke Owariya , Gozanbo , Gion Karyo , Ippudo Ramen, Den Shichi Sushi Saiin, etc.

In case you are a vegan, you may go to Ajiro, famous for its vegetarian Shojin cuisine.

Moreover, you don’t even need to worry about finding affordable accommodation within the town as Kyoto is one of the cheap cities in Japan according to living costs.

Things to do in Kyoto

  • Fushimi Inari Taisha
  • Nishiki Market
  • Nijō Castle
  • Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
  • Kyoto Tower
  • Kyoto National Museum
  • Hokan-ji Temple
  • Kōdai-ji Temple
  • Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
  • Kyoto Aquarium

Nagoya, located in the largest city of the central Chubu region of Japan, is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. 

With its unmissable landmarks, unique attractions and remarkable shopping, it’s no wonder why it draws admirers from around the globe. For those who want to truly enjoy the vibrant city, here’s why Nagoya should be the next city you add to your bucket list.

As one of the prime ports in Japan, Nagoya can offer something for everyone. For those curious to explore, the city is home to two iconic landmarks. First, there’s the Nagoya Castle , with its imposing walls and white towers, a sight not to miss! 

tourist cities of japan

Then, there’s Atsuta Shrine , offering an air of spirituality and tranquility to visitors. Both are located in close proximity to each other, allowing sightseers to take in the wonders of these revered locations.

For families, the city’s kid-friendly amusement parks make it an ideal spot for an action-filled, fun-filled holiday. 

Legoland Japan and Nagashima Spa Land promise a unique theme park experience. With their wealth of rides and activities, they’re sure to be a hit with children of all ages.

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Shopping fans can delight in Nagoya’s renowned shopping district. Its two covered shopping malls, Sakae and Osu , offer an unforgettable array of goods, from designer handbags to quirky souvenirs. 

Adjacent to these is a bustling open-air shopping area which is especially popular during festivals.

As a hub for Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains, you can travel to and from the city easily and conveniently. This makes it even easier to immerse yourself in Nagoya’s range of delightful attractions.

In a nutshell, Nagoya has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s culture, ride some thrilling rides or go on a shopping spree, you’re sure to have a memorable time in this unique destination.

Things to do in Nagoya

  • Nagoya Castle
  • Nagoya City Science Museum
  • The Tokugawa Art Museum
  • Legoland Japan Resort
  • Inuyama Castle
  • Miwa Shrine

Japan is an incredible nation known for its culture, rich history, modern life and stunning scenery. But, Japan is also home to some of the world’s most interesting and exciting cities to visit, with each offering something unique. 

One of these cities is Yokohama, located in the Tokyo urban area and Japan’s second most populated city. 

If you’re looking to explore the vibrant culture and splendid attractions that Japan has to offer, then Yokohama is well worth visiting.

Just a 20-minute train south of Tokyo Station , Yokohama is full of places to explore, experiences to enjoy and adventures to be had. 

No visit is complete without experiencing Yokohama’s renowned bay , which is best seen from the many viewpoints and observation decks around this iconic port city. 

Relaxing boat trips are also available around the bay, offering you superb views of the area. 

Of course, one of the most popular attractions is Yokohama’s Chinatown with its bustling atmosphere, traditional temples and delicious cuisine. 


Visitors can sample some of the many different types of food available in the area before spending hours exploring the vibrant streets and markets.

When you’re looking for something a bit more cultural, the Minato Mirai area of the city is a must. Here, you will find modern architecture, entertainment complexes, shopping centers, beautiful gardens, amusement parks, outdoor markets and many more. 

Other attractions in the vicinity include the huge Cosmo World amusement park , which contains a variety of thrill rides, the Museum of Yokohama and Yokohama Stadium – both of which are home to several different sports teams. 

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For an overview of the city, visitors can take the Yokohama Bay Cruise for a one hour journey around the port area.

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When planning a trip to Yokohama, you should also remember that there’s a plethora of great accommodation options. 

Whether you’re after a luxurious hotel or a cozy guesthouse, you’re sure to find something suitable. You can also explore the city using its highly efficient public transport system or by joining one of the many guided tours that are available.

With so much to see and do, it’s no surprise that Yokohama is one of the best cities to visit in Japan! Getting there is easy, and exploring this vibrant port city is an unforgettable experience. 

From Chinatown’s traditional temples to views of world-renowned bay, Yokohama offers something for everyone.

Things to do in Yokohama

  • Yokohama Chinatown
  • Yokohama Cosmoworld
  • Yokohama Motomachi Shopping Street
  • Kirin Brewery Yokohama Factory
  • Yokohama Anpanman Children’s Museum
  • Kanazawa Zoological Gardens
  • Hokokuji Temple
  • Isshiki Beach
  • Enoshima Iwaya Cave

Kobe is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan, providing visitors with stunning views of a mountain range one side and the sea on the other. 

The city is the sixth-largest in Japan, encompassing the area between Osaka and Kyoto , making it an ideal location for travelers wanting to combine both excursions in one stop. 

Kobe is also renowned for being the birthplace of one of the most famous Japanese dishes, Kobe beef . 

Although it’s a little hard to find outside of Kobe, its intense marbling, robust flavor, and tender texture make it a truly unique culinary experience. It’s best to explore the city’s various eateries and vibrant atmosphere to truly savor this delicacy.

Other than Kobe beef, the city of Kobe is also home to many other cultural attractions. 

Whether one enjoys strolling along the harbor or taking in the misty atmosphere of Nunobiki Falls , the city has a lot to offer. 

Some popular sites include the Ikuta Shrine , Harborland, Kitano Ijinkan, and Meriken Park . All of these destinations showcase something beautiful and unique that guests are sure to enjoy.

Ikuta Shrine

Those who enjoy shopping and nightlife will find no lack of activities in Kobe. Around the harbor, there are many restaurants and venues designed to provide a pleasant atmosphere to grab a bite to eat or simply relax. 

The many arcades, tourist attractions, and souvenir shops scattered around the city offer an excellent opportunity to explore and shop local goods.

Kobe is a vibrant city and a great place to explore for anyone visiting Japan. And with Kobe beef on the menu, the experience is even more memorable. So why not come and see what the city has to offer? Its stunning views, fascinating sites, and delightful cuisine await.

Things to do in Kobe

  • Ikuta Jinja
  • Kobe Harborland
  • Kobe Ōji Zoo
  • Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
  • Nunobiki Waterfall

Fukuoka is a bustling yet historical city that is one of the main tourist destinations for anyone visiting southern Japan. It is famed for its abundance of incredible restaurants, unique shopping experiences, and vibrant nightlife. 

As the largest city on the island of Kyushu , Fukuoka is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a mix of traditional Japanese culture and urban exploration.

Fukuoka is renowned for its incredibly impressive culinary scene , with a wide selection of mouthwatering dishes available to sample. Freshly caught seafood is widely available in a variety of different flavors and styles. 

Some of the most popular items include ramen and yakitori, but there’s also an abundance of traditional Japanese meals and even global cuisines. Fukuoka is a great destination for foodies looking for exceptional dishes.

The shopping in Fukuoka rivals that of any other city in Japan. It’s a great destination to stock up on souvenirs or find the perfect gift for any occasion. 

Everywhere you turn you’ll find something you won’t be able to turn down. From traditional Japanese artwork to the latest fashion, there’s something for everyone.

Fukuoka’s nightlife is also renowned among tourists. There are ample bars and restaurants scattered throughout the city, ranging from prestigious drinking establishments to electrifying nightclubs. 

A night on the town in Fukuoka promises never-ending fun and amusement, whether you’re looking for a place to chat with friends while sampling sake or a neon-lit club to hit the dance floor.

Whether you’re looking for amazing travel experiences or unique cultural encounters, Fukuoka is a great destination for all kinds of travelers. 

From its hustling streets to its incredible food and nightlife, there is something for everyone in this city. 

No matter what you’re looking for, Fukuoka is a fantastic place to explore and experience an amazing part of Japan.

Things to do in Fukuoka

  • Kushida-jinja Shrine
  • Fukuoka Tower
  • Marine World
  • Fukuoka Castle Ruins

Hiroshima is one of Japan’s must-see cities as it carries a sorrowful history.

On August 6 th , 1945, this town was almost totally destroyed by the atomic bomb.

This past history is perhaps the main reason why so many foreigners come to visit this place.

Now, want to know the dark memory of this city? Then, you should go to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Here, you can watch the skeletal remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which documents the bombing of this city during WWII. 

Atomic Bomb Dome Hiroshima

At the heart of this town, you will find the Hiroshima castle, covered in black glaze and ornate wood.

The castle is the home to a shrine and a Samurai museum. 

A Samurai performance occurs right outside the palace walls every week, popular among locals and foreigners. 

Samurai performance

In case you are a car enthusiast, the Mazda Museum will let you experience some outstanding vehicle displays and an overview of Mazda’s history.

When talking about the food, you should try the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a type of pancake stuffed with cabbage, a fried egg, bean sprouts, noodles, and sweet sauce.

In case you stay in this town for a day, I suggest you travel to Miyajima Island to see Itsukushima Shrine and the well-known “floating” torii gate.

During high tide, the torii gate seems to float on the blue waters, and while the current is low, you can walk up to the gate.

Things to do in Hiroshima

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – East Building
  • Atomic Bomb Dome
  • Hiroshima Castle
  • Children’s Peace Monument
  • Hijiyama Park

On a high-speed train from Kyoto, you can reach Nara in less than one hour.

So, if you are staying in Kyoto, you can easily have a day trip to this city. But, when you want to explore the whole town, stay at least one night.

It is one of the most interesting cities in Japan because you will find over 1,000 deer roaming freely in Nara Park, which is a rare sight.

Remember that these deer hold National Treasure Status, and you should not bother or harm them anyway.

Nara Park deer

After spending some time with these adorable animals, you can head to Tōdai-ji Temple, constructed in 752.

This shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has Japan’s most giant bronze Buddha statue, which is 15 meters tall.

Near the entrance of the temple grounds, you will find The Todaiji Museum that has a splendid collection of Buddhist art.

Another nearby temple is Kasuga Taisha, where you can arrive by walking on a stone lantern-lined path. 

On the evening of 3 rd February and 14 to 15 August, a feast takes place in this shrine called Mantoro, which features around 3,000 lanterns placed along the pathways.

Kasuga Taisha lantern illumination

The effect is truly magical, and if you are in Nara on these dates, don’t miss it.

When you wanna enjoy a little hike, you may walk up to the summit of Mount Wakakusa.

It’s also this city’s top place for Sakura viewing. The grassy slope of this mountain is lined by cherry trees that start to bloom around early April.

Wanna flex some skiing & snowboarding techniques?

Well, coming to Sapporo will give you the opportunity to showcase your snow activity skills.

It is also one of the coolest cities in Japan, where you will find the finest snow powder in the country.

Sapporo snow skiing

Sapporo, best known as the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is the capital of the northern island of Hokkaido.

But, what makes this city so special is the Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracts ice sculptors from everywhere in the country to build massive ice statues and castles.

At night, colorful lights illuminate the statues, which is one of the main charms of this celebration.

As it is held every February, if you come here this month, don’t forget to attend this celebration.

sapporo snow illumination

While in town, I will ask you to take some time to pay a visit to the Ishiya Chocolate Factory and try their special white chocolate.

Then, have a walk around the Historical Village of Hokkaido, which is an open-air museum presenting sixty-period structures, each of them showcasing what the initiated life was once in this region.

After that, you may head to Mount Moiwa and take a cable car to the top.

From there, you can see the open view of this city and other natural spaces surrounding it.

Compared to other cities in Japan, Osaka has the nicest foreigner-friendly atmosphere.

The locals are extroverted type, making you feel like you are in your home country.

Osaka is also renowned as Japan’s street food capital. Some famous snacks are takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

Takoyaki street food

As it’s a small town, you will get to experience an almost rural Japanese charm here.

During WWII, this city was heavily bombarded, that’s why it lacks historical sight compared to the other cities in Japan.

However, the good thing is, you can buy some vintage clothes and electronics at better prices than in Tokyo.

Two must-see spots of this city include the Open Air Museum of Japanese Farmhouses and the National Bunraku Theatre, where you can watch the ancient art of Japanese puppetry.

Osaka Castle is another great place to visit. There you can take a Gozabune boat and admire the 16 th -century palace from the water.

Gozabune boat osaka castle

This region is also home to many onsens (thermal baths), which some people think of as a spa, but trying it out will give a unique cultural experience.

Sendai is known for its different types of festivals. Among them, the most popular one is Tanabata Matsuri.

It is also recognized as the “star festival”, which is held on the 7 th day of the 7 th month of every year.

As stated by a Chinese legend, the two stars Vega and Altair, which are generally detached from each other via the milky way, can meet on this day.

Tanabata Festival

Because the 7 th month of the year nearly matches with August instead of July, following the lunar calendar , that’s why Tanabata is still celebrated on 7 th August in some areas of Japan like Sendai.

On the other hand, in some regions, it is celebrated on 7 th July.

One trendy Tanabata custom is writing wishes on a piece of paper and then hanging them on a specially built bamboo tree, hoping for that wish to come true.

Tanabata wish paper

This city’s other attractions are the Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth, SS30 observation deck,  Sendai Castle Ruins, and Zuihoden Temple.

From here, you can also head towards the nearby Matsushima that provides one of the best views in Japan.

Kanazawa has some fantastic ancient architecture, such as Kanazawa Castle and the attractive gardens surrounding it.

At the bottom of the castle, the Nagamachi Samurai district is located where you can catch a glimpse of the old lifestyle of samurai and their families.

Nagamachi Samurai district

In a different region of the town, the Higashi Geisha District will let you experience the chaya or teahouses where the geishas used to entertain the wealthy people once.

Here you can drop by the Ochaya Shima Museum to learn about how the geishas used to live.

Many of the former geisha houses have been transformed into guest houses or restaurants.

Kanazawa Geisha district

However, most of the houses are dedicated to the exhibition of past memories and are now a nationally assigned Important Cultural Asset.

You can also visit the Gold Leaf Sakuda Shop and buy a souvenir decorated with gold leaf, which is a traditional local craft.

Also, try some wagashi sweets and a cup of green tea at the nearby teahouse to refresh your mind and stomach!

Shortly, Kanazawa is one of the best cities in Japan for tourists who are fascinated to know about some past culture of this country.

Travelers often visit the major cities in Japan like Tokyo, Osaka, or Sapporo and miss out on something stunning like Takayama. 

Situated deep in the mountains of central Japan, this city is prominent for the great preservation of its Edo Period (1603-1868) ancient center, known as the Sannomachi.

Long ago, this city was under the direct control of the shogunate .

Now, the town attracts visitors to see the Edo streetscape and buildings.

Hida folk village

During the winter season, these ancient houses, the Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum and the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine look straight out of a picture while covered in soft snow.

If you stay in Takayama overnight, I suggest you sleep in ryokans, small inns that provide traditional accommodations, authentic local food, and tea ceremonies.

However, I like the Hida No Sato Folk Village most, which is only a 20-minute drive away from the city center.

It’s an open-air museum including over 30 historical thatch-roof houses. 

Shirakawago village

Another world-famous village is Shirakawa-go that also has traditional houses which are over 250 years old.

But, you have to leave the city for a short day trip to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located in Oita Prefecture, Beppu is Japan’s iconic Onsen region. There are hundreds of hot springs with diverse atmospheres in this city.

But, these onsens are divided into eight areas, and that’s why Beppu is also known as Beppu Hatto, which means 8 springs in Japanese.

You can choose to stay in an onsen ryokan and enjoy the warm spring.

Beppu hot spring

To name a few such inns are Yamada Bessou, Kannawaen, Nagominoyado Mutsuki, Hotel Umine and Nogami Honkan.

After spending a hectic travel day, you may relax here and let all your worries wash out.

The steam and mist that floats throughout the streets will make you feel like flying on an Aladdin magic carpet as the air looks like drifting clouds!!

Beppu city view

I believe coming to Beppu will be worth every sweat of yours as it has some impressive architecture and a quiet, laid-back feel to the place.

Himeji is placed in the Kansai region of Japan.

The top attraction of this city is the magnificent Himeji Castle. It’s both a designated national treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nearby the castle, there are some samurai houses and Japanese-style gardens that you can explore.

Himeji Castle

As, in less than one hour from Osaka or Kyoto, you can reach this place, you don’t even need to stay overnight here to explore all the spots.

Hence, a short day trip to this city will be enough to visit all the attractions. 

If you choose to eat your lunch here, you may try out some delicious food from a nearby restaurants like Yamayoshi, Iccyoura, Ju Ju, or Takopia.

Although the nuclear attack in WWII destroyed Nagasaki, it slowly rebuilt over the following few decades.

You can have a glance at that history in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Also, a walk around Peace Park will let you see many memorials and monuments.

Mount Inasa stands in this city from where you can have a “10 million dollar view”!!

Well, don’t get panicked!!

As the view of Nagasaki is one of the prettiest in Japan, it has a nickname which is 10 million dollar view.

Nagasaki night view

To experience it, you need to take a ropeway cable car up to Mount Inasa.

Once you climb to the observation platform, you will have a 360-degree view of the whole city and the port. 

Off to the bay of Nagasaki, Hashima Island is located, which is an abandoned place.

Hashima island

Once, this land was used as a forced labor camp and to access undersea coal.

The scene of the destroyed structure of an island from the famous James Bond movie Skyfall was shot here, and now it’s open for visitors.

So, don’t miss out on going here anyway in case you are a big fan of this blockbuster movie.

Top Cities to Visit in Japan On Your First Trip

I know that it’s hard to visit all the cities I mentioned when you are in this country for a short vacation.

However, if you are in Japan for the first time, I suggest you plan a tour to the following cities at least because these have the most tourist attractions.

Also, these places are well-connected by the bullet train, so you can easily travel from one to another.

A 10-day trip will be enough to cover up all the locations of these cities.

In case you are on a long break, try to visit all the locations that I talked about.

I can ensure you that it will be worth spending every moment in this country and you will return home with utmost satisfaction.

Okay, dear, we are at the end of our journey.

Let’s wrap it up here.

Hopefully, you have no questions remaining in your mind regarding the best cities to visit in Japan after going through this writing.

Whether you come here with your family, friends, or alone, you will be able to have a great time here.

Lastly, have a good day. 

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Best places to visit in japan.

Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan's civilization dates as far back as 30,000 years. Today, the archipelago seamlessly blends its rich history with its ultra-modern present. And while its capital, Tokyo, is a must-visit for first timers, Japan has so much more to offer travelers of all types, from cherry blossoms to white sand beaches to soothing onsen (hot spring spas). U.S. News took into account cultural attractions, culinary options and accessibility (among other factors) to bring you the best places to visit in Japan. Have a favorite? Vote below to help decide next year's ranking.

Izu Peninsula

tourist cities of japan

This metropolis is a feast for the senses. Neighborhoods like Ginza and Akihabara buzz with flashing lights and larger-than-life shopping, while Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Imperial Palace give you a look into Japan's storied past. There are also a number of green spaces like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which acts as a place to escape from the chaotic, concrete jungle. What's more, Tokyo is regularly regarded as a top foodie city thanks in part to its abundant Michelin-starred restaurants (the most you'll find in any city in the world), so come hungry.

tourist cities of japan

Travelers most interested in Japan's history and traditions should head to Kyoto. Centrally located on the archipelago, Kyoto has long been considered the cultural capital of Japan. Here, you'll find more than 1,000 Buddhist temples and 400-plus Shinto shrines (you can't miss the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha), including a whopping 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can also stroll through geisha districts like Gion and Miyagawacho, admire classic wooden architecture and visit traditional teahouses before checking out more modern attractions, such as the Kyoto Aquarium.

tourist cities of japan

Nikko is the place to go to see lavish architecture surrounded by nature. Head to Nikko National Park, one of Japan's oldest national parks, to enjoy an up-close look at traditional structures situated alongside mountains, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. The park is especially beautiful in fall when its trees display vivid shades of yellow, red and orange. The 103 Edo-era (1603–1868) temples and shrines in Nikko include world-renowned sites like Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple.

tourist cities of japan

Situated about 35 miles southwest of Kyoto, this port city is worth a visit for its food alone. One of the city's most famous dishes, the tasty pancake-like okonomiyaki (which means "grilled as you like it" in Japanese), is made with batter, cabbage and your choice of meat and other toppings. After you've gotten your fill of the delectable local cuisine, explore the flashy Dotonbori neighborhood, check out the reconstructed 16th-century Osaka Castle or head to contemporary sights like Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

tourist cities of japan

As Japan's second most populous city, Yokohama is often touted as a more approachable and more affordable alternative to Tokyo (located 22 miles northeast). As one of the country's first ports to open to international trade, Yokohama features unique culture fusions, including a sizable expat population, Western-style buildings in the Yamate area and the largest Chinatown in Japan (it has more businesses than residents). While here, visitors can explore Minato Mirai 21, the city's modern central district teeming with skyscrapers and shopping malls, and visit museums ranging from the Cup Noodles Museum to the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum.

tourist cities of japan

More than 160 islands comprise Okinawa, a top destination for snorkeling and diving. The Japanese prefecture boasts proximity to multiple coral reefs teeming with fish, manta rays and hammerhead sharks that you can access from beautiful beaches like those found on Okinawa's Kerama Islands. These 20-plus islands are also ideal places to see migrating whales between January and March. Back on the main island, visitors will find one of the world's largest aquariums, several castle ruins and a museum that focuses on Okinawa's unique history and culture. And on the less developed Iriomote Island, adventurous travelers can hike to awe-inspiring waterfalls.

tourist cities of japan

Spared from World War II air raids and the major natural disasters that have affected other Japanese cities, Kanazawa on the western coast is home to some of the country's best-preserved architecture from the Edo period. Sites like Kanazawa Castle, Seisonkaku Villa and Myoryuji temple are popular among visitors, as are the Higashi Chaya geisha district and Nagamachi Samurai District. Plus, no trip to Kanazawa would be complete without a visit to the resplendent Kenrokuen Garden. With its water features, bridges and a variety of flowering trees that add beauty to any season, Kenrokuen is often described as the perfect garden.

tourist cities of japan

Nestled in the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, Takayama is ideal for visitors looking for a rural retreat with a dose of history. Start your visit with a rickshaw ride through the well-preserved old town, which features sake breweries, traditional residences and shops that date back to the feudal ages. Then, head to the Hida Folk Village, a former farming village with 30 gassho-style houses. When you've worked up an appetite, indulge in must-try local specialties including Hida beef and Takayama ramen. To further immerse yourself in Takayama culture, visit during the Takayama Festival, held for two days every spring and fall.

tourist cities of japan

The country's tallest mountain and one of its most iconic landmarks is a popular destination for outdoor recreation. For centuries, Japanese artists and poets have been inspired by Mount Fuji's almost perfectly round form. The Fuji Five Lakes region at the foot of this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes a great base for the thousands of climbers who visit each year. Enjoy the area's museums and amusement park during the warmer months. Or, arrive in winter to soak in the onsen and ski Mount Fuji's slopes.

tourist cities of japan

Located on Kyushu (Japan's third-largest island), Fukuoka offers travelers a mix of urban sprawl, sandy coastlines and ancient temples and shrines. Can't-miss sights include Tochoji Temple – home of the largest sitting wooden Buddha in Japan – and Nokonoshima Island, which features colorful flower fields and beautiful views of the surrounding bay. Fukuoka is also known for its incredible Hakata ramen, so be sure to try this tasty dish at one of the city's many food stalls. Plan your visit around one of Fukuoka's lively festivals, such as the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, which takes place throughout the first half of July.

tourist cities of japan

Head to the smallest of Japan's four main islands if you're looking to get off the beaten path. Shikoku is best known for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage – a nearly 750-mile loop that covers sacred sites around the island. Whether you're trekking this path or creating your own, you'll encounter Shikoku's natural beauty (think: forest-covered mountains and an unspoiled coastline). Meanwhile, the city of Kochi features cheap eats and a well-preserved castle. If you're visiting in mid-August, add Shikoku's cultural pinnacle, Awa Odori, to your itinerary. One of the most famous festivals in Japan, this dance celebration in the city of Takushima is a must-do.

tourist cities of japan

Mountainous Hakone is one of Japan's most popular hot spring destinations. Nestled within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the town features 17 different hot springs, plus a hot spring theme park with unique baths like one with coffee and another with mulled wine. After you've dried off, visit one of Hakone's art museums, such as the Hakone Open-Air Museum, the Okada Museum of Art or the Hakone Museum of Art. No Hakone vacation would be complete without enjoying spectacular views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashinoko and the Komagatake Ropeway.

tourist cities of japan

After an earthquake caused significant damage to the city in 1995, Kobe rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan city. You'll want to remember to bring your appetite when you visit. Kobe is famous for its namesake beef, as well as its sake. It's also considered one of Japan's most attractive cities, with sleek architecture and beautiful green spaces like Sorakuen Garden. For some of the city's best views – especially at sunset – go to the top of Mount Rokko or ride the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway. End your evening exploring Nankinmachi (Kobe's compact Chinatown) or dining at one of Kobe Harborland's waterfront restaurants.

tourist cities of japan

For many, Hiroshima brings up memories of war, as the city is where the world's first atomic bomb attack occurred in 1945. But today, Hiroshima is a city of peace, with the vast Peace Memorial Park as the center for monuments and memorials like the  the Children's Peace Monument and the UNESCO-certified Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome). It is also a city of great beauty. Travelers can take a scenic stroll through Shukkeien Garden, peruse the exhibits at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art or visit Sandankyo Gorge to hike or boat past its beautiful waterfalls, caves and coves.

tourist cities of japan

Tourists flock to the island of Miyajima (formally named Itsukushima) for its prime attraction: Itsukushima Shrine and its postcard-worthy torii gate. To see the shrine at its most picturesque, try to visit during high tide, when the gate appears to float on the water. Since the island is just a 30-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima, it makes for a great day trip. However, visitors may want to stay the night at a charming ryokan (Japanese-style inn) to experience Miyajima at its most serene and walk by the illuminated shrine at night.

tourist cities of japan

An outdoor-lover's delight, Matsumoto is just 22 miles east of Kamikochi, an awe-inspiring valley in the Hotaka mountain range. But though it serves as a gateway to the Japanese Alps, this city in central Japan should not be skipped over. As the birthplace of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, known for polka dots and pumpkins, Matsumoto pays her tribute at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. Meanwhile, those who prefer more ancient masterpieces can visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the oldest and grandest castles in the country.  

tourist cities of japan

Japan's first permanent capital is famous for housing the Great Buddha, a nearly 50-foot-tall bronze statue of Buddha. You'll find this jaw-dropping national treasure in Nara's Todaiji temple, which is the one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. While on the temple grounds, explore the deer-filled Nara Park and the ornate Kasuga Taisha shrine. Also save time for visiting Yakushiji Temple, one of Japan's oldest temples that dates back to A.D. 730.

tourist cities of japan

This peninsula situated 62 miles southwest of Tokyo makes a great getaway from the busy city. It is popular among locals and tourists alike thanks to its relaxing hot springs and stunning beaches. These, along with various museums and ryokans, can be found in cities like Atami and Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula's eastern coast. During spring visits, travelers will also want to check out Kawazu's vibrant pink blooms at the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival. Meanwhile, on the southern and western coasts, vacationers will find more rugged yet equally scenic coastlines, such as Cape Irozaki and Dogashima.

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The 10 best cities to visit in Japan in 2021

Best cities to visit in Japan

Japan’s diverse culture makes it somewhat of a paradox, with the entire country being a delicate blend of ultra-modern and beautifully traditional. A short trip along the winding alleys of the best cities in Japan unveils a labyrinth of endless activity and exploration.

The best cities to visit in Japan will vary depending on your interests, but luckily the country has something for everyone, ranging from beautiful beaches to modern metropolises.

What are the best cities to visit in Japan?

Top cities in japan to immerse yourself in culture and history, best cities in japan for urban travel, top cities in japan to experience nature, best city in japan for a gastronomical experience, best cities in japan to immerse yourself in culture and history.

Best cities to visit in Japan, Kyoto

Compared to some of the more modern cities in Japan, Kyoto feels more traditional, and that is precisely why you should visit. The former capital is dripping with history, and you will find numerous beautiful temples.

I recommend waking up early and heading up Fushimi Inari Shrine before the crowds come. Then take a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path and bask in the area’s serenity. I rented a bicycle to explore the whole city and recommend it highly.

Kyoto’s biggest attraction comes to life in late March to early April, and the cherry blossom spots bloom and are indeed a sight to behold.

The food in Kyoto makes it one of the best cities in Japan. The ramen I had here was the best in Japan. You can find Kyoto GOGYO around Nishiki Market, but you’ll have to wait in line.

READ MORE: Kyoto is also one of the best romantic anniversary destinations in the world

Best cities in Japan, Hiroshima

Steeped in history from the infamous atomic bomb which destroyed the city in 1945, Hiroshima is one of the top cities in Japan for those seeking some history.

Pay your respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, commonly called the Genbaku Dome, Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, and visit the area’s museum for a closer delve into the events of that fateful August 6th day.

The local speciality is okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake, and it is delicious. Nearby you can find Miyajima Island, which requires a short ferry ride to visit. There is a giant floating torii gate which is one of the largest in Japan. The island is also full of deer like at Nara, so if you are short on time, I’d recommend coming here because the island coupled with the city of Hiroshima means there is more to do.

READ MORE: When is the best time to visit Japan?

Cities to visit in Japan, Himeji

The serenity and accessibility of Himeji makes it the perfect destination for a 1-day getaway from the busy life in Osaka.

Be sure to visit the Himeji Castle, a UNESCO Heritage Site and a National Treasure of Japan. The magnificent white castle is the biggest and most visited castle in the nation and boasts a rich history and significance.

The entrance fee here is about $10 for adults and $3 for students. Expect to spend about 2 to 4 hours exploring the six levels of the Main Keep. If you are lucky, you could secure a ticket in the peak season and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

Don’t forget to visit Kokoen Garden or Engyo-ji Temple for some incredible views.

READ MORE: Himeji Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world

Top cities in Japan for urban travel

Best cities in Japan, Osaka

Osaka was the first city I visited in Japan and my overall favourite, it’s one of the best cities to visit in Japan.

The metro area is excellent to explore on foot, and the parks are beautiful. Make sure to visit Shirokita Park, which is near the waterfront and then take a stroll down the river and enjoy a drink at one of the many riverside bars.

Stepping foot into Dotonbori, the main tourist area, is an assault on the senses at first. But you’ll be left in awe as the chaotic nightlight makes way for neon lights and canal boats. Enjoy some food on one of the many nightspots that line the canal and soak everything in.

If you have time, the Osaka aquarium is also worth taking a visit too as it’s one of the largest in the world.

READ MORE: Did you know that Osaka is one of the largest cities in the world (although it’s not the largest in Japan)?

Best cities to visit in Japan, Tokyo

Tokyo has something for everyone. It’s one of the best cities to visit in Japan (and in the world) if you are looking for some diversity. It has Akihabara for all the diehard anime fans and more traditional spots like the cramped bars of Shinjuku Golden Gai for those wanting a taste of the city’s nightlife.

Simply walking the streets of Shinjuku and soaking up the atmosphere is an activity in itself. But be sure to check out Ameya Yokocho market in Ueno and stop at the host of incredible street food spots. It’s also a popular shopping district and nearby the beautiful Ueno Park.

I’d also highly recommend getting a free birdseye view of the city up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which is located in Shinjuku. For something unique, take a trip down to TeamLab Borderless for an immersive digital art experience.

READ MORE: Amazing Tokyo made our list of the top 10 best cities in the world

Cities to visit in Japan, Narita

Home to Japan’s busiest airport and located about 60 kilometres away from Tokyo, tourists tend to leave Narita out of the itinerary. If you are lucky enough to get a long layover in Narita Airport, I recommend venturing out into the area for a few hidden gems.

For a day trip, you can check out Japan’s first aeronautical museum and experience a flight simulator. For some last-minute shopping, head to Aeon Mall or Shisui Premium Outlet and you could grab some really good deals. If you are travelling for business looking to just relax, get in an onsen fix at Yamato No Yu or have a quick stroll on “Plane-Spotting Hill” Sakura-no-Yama Park.

READ MORE: Discover why Japan is one of the best and safest places in the world for solo female travel

Best cities in Japan to experience nature

Best cities in Japan, Hakone

Sitting just an hour and a half from Tokyo, I am often amazed at how many people pass Hakone by. The mountainous area is one of the top cities in Japan for a retreat from the chaos of Tokyo and is well known for the abundance of onsens, the Japanese hot spring resorts.

Make sure to get a Hakone Free Pass which enables you to use all transport in the region under one travel card. A boat ride across Lake Ashi will give you a spectacular view of the famous red torii gate, and on a clear day, you’ll even get a glimpse of Mount Fuji. A cable car over Ōwakudani, the active volcano, is also included in the pass.

For the active among you, I highly recommend hiking up Mount Kintoki. At 1,212m above sea level, it takes a few hours to climb but will give you a perfect view of the snow-capped Mount Fuji. The hike alone made this one of my top cities in Japan. It’s also free.

READ MORE: Japan is home to one of the world’s best and biggest roller coasters

Cities to visit in Japan, Naha

Naha is one of the best cities in Japan if you are looking for a beach break while on your Japanese adventure. It is the capital of Okinawa, a beautiful prefecture made up of an array of islands.

While in Naha make sure to check out the Naminoue Beach for some sun, Shurijo Castle for some culture, and First Makishi Public Market for a bite to eat. Naha acts as a hub for the other islands in the region. So take a boat tour to explore the variety of snorkelling, swimming, and other activities on offer.

READ MORE: While in Okinawa make sure you explore one of the largest aquariums in the world

Top cities in Japan, Beppu

The city of Beppu is the most popular hot spring resort in Japan – a title brought about by having over 2,000 hot springs vents that account for 10% of the vents in the country. Domestic and foreign travelers flock to Beppu just for its unbeatable range of onsen activities.

Besides the conventional hot water, the resorts here offer other bath types such as mud, steam or sand baths. After you have pampered yourself with the abundance of thermal water that Beppu has to offer, check out some of the ‘hells”, which are hot springs for viewing only. I would recommend visiting Umi Jigoku or Chinoike Jigoku for a more interesting photo op.

Foodies can have a taste of fugu, or blowfish, in the various restaurants scattered in the area. For those feeling a little less adventurous, have a go at steam cooking at Jisokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center.

READ MORE: Japan regularly is at the top of the safest countries to visit

Top cities in Japan, Kobe

The Japanese have always been known for their precision, reliability and expertise in their craft. For food, Kobe is the perfect summation of gastronomical excellence. If there has to be a city that foodies cannot miss out, it’s Kobe – for Kobe beef, obviously.

The city is not just good for its famous beef. Indulge in sake at the breweries in Nada while checking out the various museums in Japan’s district with the top sake production – admission is free.

If you need to get in a good workout, a 40-60 minute hiking trail from Shin-Kobe Station will take you through some decent views of Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden. The best view awaits you at the top station of Shin-Kobe Ropeway, where you can get an aerial view of the city at the observatory.

READ MORE: Are you a foodie? Would you dare trying the most bizarre and weird food from around the world ?

The beauty of Japan is that there is something for every traveler. Whether it’s taking in the breathtaking views of the skyline in the metropolis or stumbling upon a quaint eatery in a cobbled alley, Japan offers a truly unique experience for each visitor she welcomes.

Check out our Japan Travel Guide for tips on everything you need to know when planning your trip to Japan so you can make the most of your time in the Land of the Rising Sun!

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13 of the Best Cities to Visit in Japan

Pinterest Image: Best Cities to Visit in Japan: Tokyo with image of Akihabara and Tokyo Tower illuminated in the city skyline

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When I think of Japan, one of the first things that come to mind are sprawling cities combining futuristic technology with traditional Japanese culture.

Some of the best cities to visit in Japan include the megalopolis of Tokyo, beautiful and traditional Kyoto, and smaller, quaint cities such as Takayama.

No matter which amazing cities you choose to visit on your tour of Japan , you’re sure to have a great time full of exciting sights, activities, and delicious food.

Planning a trip to Japan? Keep reading for a list of the best cities to visit in Japan!

Table of Contents

Tokyo, Japan cityscape at night

The Best Cities to Visit in Japan: Getting Around

Japan is known for the shinkansen , the incredibly fast bullet train that runs from city to city. Many of the places on this list of the best cities to visit in Japan are connected by shinkansen lines, making it very easy to travel from city to city.

If you’re planning on traveling on the shinkansen during your visit to Japan, consider getting a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) , which includes either 7, 14, or 21 days of unlimited rail travel throughout Japan. With a JR Pass , you’ll be able to travel between the best cities to visit in Japan, as well as around the cities themselves on JR Line trains and buses. I used a JR Pass on my trip to Japan and it was a lifesaver – it was so nice being able to just hop on the train without worry!

Keep in mind that you must purchase your JR Pass BEFORE arriving in Japan. You will order your JR Pass to be delivered to your home address. Once you arrive in Japan, you can activate it at a JR Office, which can be found at airports and major train stations. Click here to order your JR Pass before your visit to Japan .

Read More: Japan Travel Tips: Everything to Know Before Traveling to Japan

The Best Cities to Visit in Japan: Tokyo

Not only is Tokyo is one of the best cities to visit in Japan, it’s also one of the best cities to visit in the world. If you’re planning your first trip to Japan , you need to make sure that Tokyo is on your itinerary. There are few cities where you can visit an ancient shrine, go kart through the city dressed as your favorite cartoon character , and spend less than $10 to eat at a Michelin-starred ramen restaurant – all in the same day!

Tokyo city view with Tokyo Tower - best cities to visit in Japan

Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city, and there’s no shortage of things to add to your Tokyo bucket list . Each of Tokyo’s districts offers something exciting to visitors: Asakusa is perfect for experiencing Tokyo’s historical side, while Odaiba will make you feel like you’re stepping years into the future. Akihabara is geek central, full of shops selling electronics and anime collectibles, arcades, and maid cafés, and Harajuku is Tokyo’s home to fashion and youth culture. All of these districts and more are full of fun things to do, securing Tokyo’s spot as one of the best cities to visit in Japan.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Tokyo Bucket List

Looking for a delicious spot to eat? You won’t have to look very far, as Tokyo is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. As of January 2021, Tokyo is home to 212 Michelin starred restaurants – and a meal at some of them won’t break the bank. Sample Michelin-starred ramen at Tsuta, where bowls of ramen start at just ¥800 (a little more than $7 USD). If you’re feeling like splurging, treat yourself to yakitori (meat skewers) at the Michelin-starred Toriki, where the set meal costs ¥5500 (about $50 USD), which is a bargain when compared to other Michelin-starred restaurants around the globe.

READ MORE: Exciting Day Trips from Tokyo, Japan

Find places to stay in Tokyo: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Tokyo on GetYourGuide and Voyagin

Japan’s second largest city, Osaka, is known as Japan’s kitchen and is one of the best cities to visit in Japan for exciting foodie experiences. Many favorite Japanese foods like okonomiyaki and takoyaki originated in Osaka.

Osaka japan best cities in Japan

There is no shortage of exciting things to see and do in Osaka. Dotonbori, the “heart of Osaka,” is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Here, you’ll find bright neon lights, animatronic signs, and the famous Glico running man. Osaka Castle and its surrounding park are also worth a visit, as is the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan , which is the largest aquarium in the world. Osaka is also home to Universal Studios Japan , which is a must-stop for amusement park fans.

You can’t visit “Japan’s kitchen” without sampling all of the local cuisine! Much like Tokyo, it will be difficult to find a bad meal in Osaka. No trip to Osaka is complete without sampling okonomiyaki, which is a type of savory pancake filled with vegetables, meat, seafood, and other delicious toppings. Locals and tourists alike flock to Yakizen to sample this famous Osakan dish. To sample an assortment of Osaka’s best dishes, consider taking a food tour of Osaka .

Find places to stay in Osaka: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Osaka on GetYourGuide and Voyagin

Kyoto is the second most visited city in Japan for good reason: this former capital of Japan is full of culture and beauty around every corner. With so many amazing things to see and do, Kyoto is worth a spot on everyone’s Japan bucket list .

To feel like you’ve stepped back in time, take a walk around Gion, the city’s most famous geisha district. Here, you’ll find traditional wooden merchant houses and if you’re lucky, you might spot a geisha or a maiko (a geisha apprentice) walking to or from work. If you do spot a geisha or a maiko, make sure to treat them with respect and do not stop them for photos – only photograph them respectfully from afar.

Young women wearing traditional Japanese Kimono with japan umbrella at Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street in Kyoto, Japa

Kyoto is home to over 400 Shinto shrines and more than 1600 Buddhist temples. The most famous shrine in Kyoto (and possibly in all of Japan) is Fushimi Inari Shrine. This beautiful Shinto shrine is home to thousands of vermillion torii gates that wind along trails up the side of a mountain. This shrine is one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto and gets extremely busy during the day, so go during the early morning hours for a more peaceful visit (and better photos).

Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, is a Buddhist temple and another of Kyoto’s most beautiful religious sites. Other must-visit temples and shrines in Kyoto include Kiyomizu Temple and Heian Shrine.

If you’re spending at least two days in Kyoto , I recommend visiting Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto. Arashiyama is home to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest as well as the Arashiyama Monkey Park, where you can hike to the top of a mountain and see wild maqaque monkeys. There are plenty of attractions in Arashiyama to keep you busy for a day.

READ MORE: Free Things to Do in Kyoto, Japan

Find places to stay in Kyoto: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Kyoto on GetYourGuide and Voyagin

Hiroshima – Best Cities to Visit in Japan

Hiroshima is a Japanese city best known for its painful history: the atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States on August 6, 1945. Today, Hiroshima is one of the best cities to visit in Japan; despite its dark history, the city was rebuilt and is now thriving.

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima Japan. Hiroshima is one of the best cities to visit in Japan for history buffs.

If you only have one day to spend in Hiroshima, spend it learning about the city’s history. Visit the Peace Memorial Museum, which will take you back through Hiroshima’s history before, during, and after August 6, 1945. The Peace Memorial Park surrounds the museum and is home to memorials dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb. Nearby the park is the Atomic Bomb Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Before the bombing, this building was known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall; after the bombing, it was the only structure near the bomb’s hypocenter that was still standing.

If you have a few days to spend in Hiroshima , take a day trip to Miyajima Island (the ferry is included with a JR Pass). Miyajima Island is home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine and torii gate, which seemingly floats on water at high tide.

Find places to stay in Hiroshima: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Hiroshima on GetYourGuide and Voyagin

Contributed by Lena Yamaguchi of Nagoya Foodie // Instagram

Nagoya is Japan’s fourth largest city and is often overlooked by travelers only interested in the so called Golden Triangle consisting of Tokyo , Osaka, and Kyoto . But what many people don’t know is that Nagoya has a rich history, delicious food, and interesting and unique things to do .

Nagoya downtown skyline in Japan - best cities to visit in Japan

The area around Nagoya is the home of the famous 3 warlords who are attributed for the unification of Japan in the 16th and 17th century. The Nagoya Castle was founded as a second defense line between the forces in Tokyo (then Edo) and opposing warlords in Osaka.

Nagoya Castle on a sunny day

People who are interested in Japanese history should check out Nagoya Castle with it’s beautiful residence building called the Honmaru Palace as well as the Tokugawa Art Museum where you will find a huge collection of old artifacts and relics from the founding of Nagoya. If you are more interested in technology, visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology or the SGMaglev Rail Park. Nagoya is the home of Japan’s biggest car maker Toyota.

Nagoya is famous for its cuisine in Japan, and if you have every complained that Japanese food is too bland, Nagoya is the place to go. Their local cuisine has strong flavors. I highly recommend Miso Katsu, a pork cutlet topped with a red miso sauce. You can try it at Yabaton . If you love food and unique experiences you could also join a food tour of Nagoya. This is the best way to explore the city as you experience not only its cuisine but also the culture and history.

Find places to stay in Nagoya: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Nagoya on GetYourGuide and Voyagin

Nara – The Best Cities to Visit in Japan

Contributed by Claire of The Adventurous Flashpacker // Facebook

Nara is known for its friendly, free roaming deer who wander around Nara Park and weave in and out of Nara’s beautiful temples. In fact, with over 1200 deer calling Nara home, it’s impossible not to bump into Nara’s most famous locals!

Nara’s deer are very accustomed to people and aren’t exactly shy, so keep your food well under wraps lest it stolen by a sneaky deer. Instead, buy a packet of deer cookies from a street side vendor, and hold your ground while you’re surrounded by ravenous deer eating right out of your hand.

A deer eating a cookie at the Nara Deer Park in Nara, Japan

Even without the deer, Nara is one of the best cities to visit in Japan in its own right. Nara was the capital of Japan way back in the 8th century AD and is filled with ancient temples, making it extremely picturesque to walk around. Some of the most beautiful temples in Nara are the Kofuku-ji temple complex with its 5-storied pagoda and octagon shaped temple, Todai-ji temple with its imposing wooden gates, and Kasuga-taisha temple with its hundreds of stone lanterns lining the paths around the temple.

All templed out? Visit the traditional Japanese gardens in Nara like Isuien gardens and Yoshiki-en, and explore the historic streets of Naramachi where you’ll find traditional wooden houses, shops, galleries and restaurants. Sold on Nara? The good news is that it’s easy to take a day trip to Nara from Osaka or Kyoto , as it’s a mere 35-50 minutes by train depending on what line you take.

Find places to stay in Nara: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Nara on GetYourGuide

Contributed by Amber Hoffman of Food and Drink Destinations // Facebook

For most travelers to Japan, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the must-visit cities. While these are cities worth visiting, there is one particular Japanese city that gets overlooked: Sapporo.

Winter light up in Sapporo Japan - prettiest cities to visit in Japan

The capital city of the northern island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is often referred to as the “Wild West of Japan” and is one of Japan’s best cities to visit. A city of outcasts and wanderers, Sapporo is most famous as the jumping off point for Japan’s ski areas. Sapporo is a much more relaxed city compared to the likes of Tokyo. Wide, tree-lined streets, similar to Paris, run throughout the city, making it very pedestrian friendly. Odori Park sits in the middle of Sapporo providing a slice of nature among the city’s skyscrapers.

Characteristic of many Japanese cities, the food in Sapporo is unlike any other. Hokkaido is the dairy producing region of Japan. As a result, many dishes include dairy, which is unusual in Japan. This includes the beloved ramen in Sapporo, which includes a pad of butter and corn. Thanks to the cold waters off Hokkaido, snow crab and hairy crab is abound and can be enjoyed at restaurants all across Sapporo.

Sapporo ramen - Sapporo is one of the best cities to visit in Japan for foodies

Sapporo is also the home of the famous Japanese beer which shares the same name. The Sapporo Beer Museum showcases the history of beer brewing in Japan and is certainly worth a visit. Over the winter, Odori Park is lit up for a winter illuminations. Each February, Sapporo hosts a winter festival where larger than life ice sculptures come alive. Within a 45 minute drive of Sapporo, travelers can visit beaches in the summer and explore some of Japan’s natural beauty. A 90 minute flight from Tokyo, Sapporo is well worth the visit.

Find places to stay in Sapporo: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Sapporo on GetYourGuide

Best Cities to Visit in Japan – Nagasaki

Contributed by Sarah Carter of ASocialNomad // Pinterest

As one of the closest Japanese cities to the Asian mainland, it has been that location that’s played a big part in Nagasaki’s history. Located on the northwest coast of Kyushu , Nagasaki might be most well known for being one of the two cities destroyed in the atomic bombings of World War II, but her history is much broader than that.

Nagasaki, Japan Cityscape - unique cities to visit in Japan

Come to Nagasaki to understand the Dutch and the Portuguese influence here – on house design, on food, and how Nagasaki was at one time the only port open to foreigners. Come to find a feeling of peace in the Atomic Bomb Museum and the peace park that you may not find in the crowds of Hiroshima. The museums here are in-depth, extremely balanced, and interesting, and the city is usually quiet.

Nagasaki is a historic city in Japan and one of the best cities to visit

There’s an excellent streetcar system that means that traveling around the city is very, very easy! There are interesting histories too, when it comes to religion, with monuments to Japan’s “26 Saints’, martyred at a time when Christianity was outlawed here.

There are seriously interesting foods to try here – with influences from the students in the city, in the cheap and filling Champon, the Chinese-influenced Shippoku Ryori, and fabulous cakes from Portuguese missionaries too! And when you tire of the city, it is easy to take a trip to Gunkanjima – or Battleship Island, an old coal mine that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site – and a seriously cool photo opportunity too!

Find places to stay in Nagasaki: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Nagasaki on GetYourGuide

Contributed by James Ian of Travel Collecting // Pinterest

Takayama, nestled in the Japanese alps in Gifu prefecture, is a great place to connect to Japan’s history and is one of the best cities to visit in Japan. The city itself has lots to see and do, and there are several amazing highlights nearby as well.

one of the best cities to visit in Japan is Takayama

The highlight of visiting Takayama is Sanmachi, the old town. The buildings here are dark aged latticed wood and really give a sense of age and history. It is fun to wander the narrow streets, but even more fun to stop in at the shops, restaurants, and sake breweries. Look for the picturesque barrels outside, then stop in to sample different types of sake. Hida beef – marbled with fat and so delicious it will literally melt in your mouth – is a local specialty.

Takayama is a great place to stay in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) and experience traditional Japanese hospitality firsthand. Don’t miss having an incredible multi-course haute cuisine kaiseki dinner.

Easy day trips include Shirakawa-go – an incredible village of gassho-zukuiri houses – traditional farmhouses with steep thatched roofs. There is a stunning lookout from the nearby mountain where you can see the entire village laid out below. Another day trip is Kamikochi, an adorable resort town in a stunning mountain setting that is a great place for hiking or soaking in an onsen (hot mineral springs). Finally, you can’t miss Hida Folk Village, a reconstructed village of traditional buildings set around a beautiful lake.

Takayama is not on the main tourist trail in Japan, but it absolutely should be!

Find places to stay in Takayama: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Takayama on GetYourGuide

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Matsumoto is a fairly small and easily navigable city with one must-see attraction — its castle. Many of the castles that can be visited in Japan today, such as the castles in Hiroshima and Osaka, are unfortunately modern reconstructions. The Matsumoto castle, however, is the real deal. Built in 1614, it is the oldest Japanese castle still standing, and it’s one of four castles in Japan that have been designated as “National Treasures”.

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto, Japan, one of the best cities to visit in Japan

I highly recommend joining one of the free guided tours offered by a local volunteer association. You should see their booth on the way to the castle entrance. Our guide Ito Yuki, an English teacher at a local elementary school, was very passionate and had a talent for explaining Japanese history in a way that was easy for outsiders with little background knowledge to understand. Matsumoto Castle is often called the Crow Castle because it is painted black, in contrast to the more famous castle in Himeji, which is white. As the Matsumoto castle is smaller than the Himeji one, it only takes about an hour to visit.

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to spent a night here so that you can arrive when the doors open at 8:30 am and beat most of the crowds. And the city does have a few other attractions, such as the city museum right next to the castle, which is free when you show your castle entrance ticket. Nawate-dori is an old street filled with lots of cafés and cute shops, great for souvenir shopping. And be sure to try the local specialties, such as oyaki (a type of filled steamed dumpling) and soba noodles. Kobayashi Soba has been around since 1889 and is a great place to try soba noodle soup. They even have vegan and vegetarian versions, which is rare as the broth usually contains fish.

Find a place to stay in Matsumoto: | Agoda

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Yokohama was once the expatriate hub in the region, long before Tokyo took its place. You will find this city is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be because it has some exciting little finds that you won’t find in other parts of Japan. Yokohama is the second-largest city in Japan, which makes Yokohama Station a great people-watching location during rush hour as it has been rated in the top 10 busiest stations in the world.

Yokohama, Japan city skyline from the bay at twilight - best cities to visit in Japan

Yokohama Chinatown opened in 1859 when the ports in Yokohama first opened for trade and has been a permanent fixture ever since. With over 600 stores in this area, it is currently the largest Chinatown in Asia. Lunchtime can be somewhat chaotic, but well worth the wait. You will find most people lining up for Panda-man buns; these are delicious buns filled with many things, including matcha, hot chocolate or pork.

The Cup Noodles Museum is a must if you are big into history. This museum brings to life the development of ramen noodles and the invention of the cup noodle. This place is a fun interactive museum for not only the kids but for the young at heart, with the opportunity to make your own noodles to take away.

Motmachi shopping street is a fabulous blend of European culture. Spending the day strolling down the cobblestone walkway, browsing in the windows of the little boutiques, and then stopping for a bite at one of the many cafes. You are forgiven for believing that you are somewhere in France rather than Japan.

The food in Yokohama like most of Japan is full of history; many places have been opened to the public for generations. Whether you choose to visit this fantastic city during summer, winter, or cherry blossom season, you will not be disappointed.

Find places to stay in Yokohama: | Agoda

Explore things to do in Yokohama on GetYourGuide

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While the majority of travelers enter Hokkaido by the popular Sapporo, there is a lesser-known city that is laid-back, offers fewer crowds at its cultural experiences, and free sake at its brewery! Welcome to Asahikawa.

Asahikawa, Japan winter cityscape in Hokkaido.

This city in central Hokkaido is part of the Kamikawa subprefecture and the second biggest in the region. It is known for its winter sports and ice sculpture festival which takes place every February. During the festival, impressive ice sculptures in the shape of animals and mountains take over the streets to celebrate the unique theme of that year.

During the rest of the year, there are many things to do in Asahikawa such as visiting the Kamikawa shrine, learning about the Ainu history at the Asahikawa City Museum and testing sake at the Otokoyama brewery . Shoppers should migrate to Heiwa dōri kaimono kōen street and AEON Mall where you can also dine on cheap ramen and Taiyaki sweet snacks.

Kamikawa Shrine in Asahikawa, Japan, one of the best laidback cities to visit in Japan

A sleepy city during the day, the alleys become alive at night with locals spilling out of snack bars and traditional Izakaya restaurants.

Asahikawa is close to many of the photogenic locations in Hokkaido such as the flower fields of Furano, making it a great base for a day trips or a Hokkaido road trip! You can also get to Higashikawa, a hip village with many ex-pats, and Daisetsuzan National Park (Taisetsuzan) for hikes and skiing plus Japan’s excellent onsen hotels from the city. A trip to Asahikawa is more of a cultural experience than just a holiday!

Find places to stay in Asahikawa: | Agoda

Nagano – Best Cities to Visit in Japan

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Nagano is a beautiful city nestled in the mountains of Honshu and it is a must-see destination during your trip to Japan. Nagano is easily reached by Shinkansen from Tokyo and the journey takes around an hour and a half.

Snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park near Nagano, Japan

Nagano is one of the best cities to visit in Japan for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, and the Winter Olympics was held here back in 1988. If you plan on visiting during the winter, make sure to stay in an onsen which is the perfect way to rejuvenate after a long day on the slopes!

Another famous thing to do in this region is to visit the snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park – while they can be visited year-round, it is best to see them in their natural habitat during the winter months. It is quite a trek to the park so make sure you wrap up warm and wear appropriate footwear!

There are plenty of other activities on offer in Nagano during the rest of the year such as a visit to Zenko-Ji, Japan’s most important Buddhist temple, walking the Togakushi shrine path, and hiking in Kamikochi which is at its most beautiful during cherry blossom season.

Find places to stay in Nagano: | Agoda

Have you been to any of these beautiful Japanese cities? If so, which is your favorite?

Planning a trip to Japan? Read these posts next:

  • Unique Experiences to Add to Your Japan Bucket List
  • The Ultimate Tokyo Bucket List
  • Exciting Day Trips to Take from Tokyo, Japan
  • Free Things to Do in Kyoto, Japan
  • Japan Travel Tips: Everything to Know Before Traveling to Japan
  • Hiking Mount Fuji via the Yoshida Trail

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After traveling outside of the US for the first time while studying abroad, I quickly developed a love for travel and an obsession for exploring as much of the world as possible. Now, I'm on a mission to teach college students, young adults, and anyone else who wants to see the world how to travel while minimizing their expenses and maximizing their experiences.

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The Top 10 Cities in Japan That Every Tourist Should Visit

tourist cities of japan

While Japan is a largely homogeneous nation, you will be pleasantly surprised to find out how every city still boasts a unique blend of local gourmet options, funky festivals, and amazing landmarks. Japan's amazing cities have much to offer to visitors, so regardless of whether you are a history buff or shopaholic, you will definitely find some cities that will tug at your heartstrings. Introducing the 10 best Japanese cities you ought not to miss, chosen by the tsunagu Japan team.

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

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1. Tokyo: The City That Has Something For Everyone!

As the nation's bustling capital, Tokyo leads the world in fashion trends, so it is truly a shoppers' paradise where you can purchase anything you fancy - at your desired budget. Fashionistas can source for quality designs at trendy stores littered all over Tokyo.  Shibuya  and  Shinjuku appeal to youthful shopaholics who wish to revamp their wardrobe with famous Japanese brands while teenagers can enjoy shopping at the many characterful shops at Takeshita Street , just a street across from JR Harajuku Station . More well-heeled consumers will enjoy indulging in retail therapy at the sophisticated boutique stores in Omotesando . 

Or if you prefer to shop for bargains at neighbourhood haunts and chat with local proprietors, try your luck at shotengai (shopping streets) like Tenjin-dori Shotengai . Shimokitazawa is also another area you should check out if you are into vintage secondhand clothing; these clothes look unbelievably chic, which will showcase your fashion style at a steal of a price. To aid you in your planning, we have compiled a list of the 10 shopping streets you ought to visit .

Tokyo also tops global charts when it comes to the world's best liveable cities - and no wonder. It is an excellent place for families as it offers interesting indoor attractions and outdoor spaces for them to spend quality time together.

If you love amusement parks, you can bring your family to great theme parks like Sanrio Puroland and Yomiuri Land. If you wish to inculcate a budding love of science in your children, you may want to help them broaden their science knowledge at Miraikan - The National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology . For families who would ike to spend some time with Mother Nature, they can look to parks like Asukayama Park  and Yoyogi Park where they can have leisurely walks and scrumptious picnics.

There are many other things you can do in Tokyo, so here's a great article to inspire some ideas: 50 Things To Do In Tokyo . Alternatively, if you don't have a lot of time to look around the city, consider checking out our 1-day Tokyo travel itinerary .

2. Kanazawa: The City That Seamlessly Blends The Old And New

Bestowed with the name of "Little Kyoto", Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture and attracts throngs of tourists every year as it straddles comfortably between the old and new, truly evoking unique atmospheric vibes. Moreover, it is easily accessible as one can reach it via a 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo.

Particularly, architecture and urban planning enthusiasts will have their breath taken away by the magnificent sight of JR Kanazawa Station . Boasting a towering wooden torii   gate that is integrated with steel beams and interweaving glass, it pays homage to its past while looking forward to the future. You will be also intrigued at how new life has been breathed into the traditional tea houses in the Higashi Chaya District as they have been remarkably preserved and now feature local shops that sell Kanazawa's signature desserts and souvenirs.

Also, architecture enthusiasts will enjoy the visual feast that is offered by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa . Its circular, glass-walled building gives rise to a sense of openness, and its iconic exhibits like Leandro Erlich’s "Swimming Pool" invite you to immerse yourself in the creative space. Experts seem to approve; after all, it was conferred an award in the 9th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition in 2004.

Are you pumped to visit Kanazawa? We have consolidated 11 of the best tourist spots in Kanazawa for you.

3. Kyoto: The Ancient City That Never Sleeps

If Tokyo is the pulsating fashion hub of Japan, Kyoto is then endowed with its ancient soul. Cultural buffs   who are keen to understand Japan's rich, vibrant history will do well to visit this old cultural capital as it showcases 17 shrines and temples that are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Admire the scale of the magnificent Kiyomizu-dera Temple from afar. Gaze in awe at the splendor of Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) and Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavilion) . Stare into the mystical world of  Ryoan-ji Temple 's dry rock garden. For all this and other great sightseeing spots, why not check out our carefully curated travel guide to enjoying Kyoto in all its glory and splendor?

After a long day of sightseeing, you will be pleased to know that Kyoto offers a distinctive mood at night. Night goers will definitely have an exciting time exploring the energetic nightlife scene, said to be one of the hippest in the whole of Japan. Lose yourself in music and dance your troubles away at established night clubs like Club Metro and World . If dancing isn't quite your thing, fret not. You can have an equally boisterous night by eating it up at one of the many izakaya (Japanese-style bars)  at Ponto-cho , the night hub of Kyoto.

Indeed, a refined city by day, a happening city by night!

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

4. Osaka: The City That Lets You Eat And Play!

Located in the heart of the Kansai region and easily reached from Kansai International Airport, Osaka City attracts travellers who love the dynamism of big cities. Foodies, in particular, should not miss it out as Osaka gives your tastebuds a gastronomic treat with its wide range of scrumptious food, including kushiage (deep fried skewers), takoyaki (flour-based batter with octopus), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and more. Be sure to check out the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi areas whose dizzying range of eateries leaves you spoiled for choice.

Aside from eateries, Osaka showcases plenty of leisure spots that will enable couples to create precious memories together. For example, you can have a romantic moment with your loved one at the  Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel  as you share things with each other while taking in the panoramic view of the Osaka Bay. Or you can try out the various fun water attractions at Spa World that will help you soak your worries away. 

Another great option for couples, as well as families, is to enjoy the various Hollywood-themed attractions at Universal Studios Japan (USJ). You can lose yourself in the mystical world of Harry Potter or unleash your inner child in the world of Minions. Your partner will thank you for adding USJ into the itinerary!

In fact, there is tons to do in Osaka, so let our article  50 Things to Do in Osaka  be your guide. 

5. Hiroshima: The City That Appeals To Both History and Sports Fans

Renowned worldwide as an international city of peace, Hiroshima City was the first city (and one of only two cities in history) to be devastated by a nuclear bomb. The history buffs among you must be intrigued to find out how Hiroshima got back on its feet after World War II.

A landmark not to be missed then is the  Atomic Bomb Dome , as it is a stark visual reminder of the immediate aftermath of the bomb explosion. After battling to recover from this tragedy, Hiroshima is now an advocate of peace as it advocates the abolition of nuclear weapons. Such determination can be felt inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as actual survivors bring visitors on guided tours to give compelling real-person accounts.

After taking in the horrors of the nuclear devastation, it will be good to rejuvenate your spirits. Hence, watching a live sports event may just be the antidote for that. Baseball attracts a large following in Hiroshima, so sporting fans will be giddy with excitement to watch the local team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, play at the  MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium . Soak in the sheer exuberance of die-hard fans as they erupt in rapturous cheers and motivate the Hiroshima Toyo Carp players. Being one with the crowd will help you experience the passionate side of Japanese people!

If you hope to spend a few days in Hiroshima, make them count with our article on 25 Amazing Things To Do In Hiroshima !

6. Kobe: The Multicultural City That Brightens Up Your Night

History lovers will naturally gravitate towards Kobe City as its identity as a port city helped facilitate its development as a melting pot of diverse cultures. Even as early as 1887, many foreigner merchants settled down in Kobe, bringing with them their unique way of life. You could expose your family to these foreign cultures by visiting the Kitano Foreign Residences . It's like travelling around the world in 80 minutes, as you get to visit England House, France House and Italian House, among others!

Also not to be missed is Nankinmachi , which is a bustling Chinatown area. You will have an amazing time soaking up Chinese vibes by tucking into delectable Chinese dishes and watching lion dances during festive occasions.

If you can't make it to the cultural events in Nankinmachi, don't be too disappointed. After all, you can come to Kobe during the first half of December and view the spellbinding spectacle that is Kobe Luminarie . Couples, especially, will rejoice at the chance to take Instaworthy photographs in front of the colorful installations erected in the  Higashi Yuenchi Park in the city center. It's a great way to usher in the festive season with other citizens of the world!

While you are in Kobe, check out our dining guide: Top 10 Places to Dine in Kobe .

7. Kumamoto: The Castle City That Doesn't Give Up

Located in the heart of Kyushu Island, Kumamoto Prefecture offers an illustrious past in the form of Kumamoto Castle , which is located in its capital. One of Japan's top 3 castles, Kumamoto Castle struck awe in the hearts of many visitors, especially castle fans, with its unique curved  mushakaeshi  (literally means "samurai return") stone walls that were aimed to deter incoming invaders.

Unfortunately, earthquakes in 2016 resulted in significant damage to Kumamoto Castle, but this may just add to its charm. Kumamoto people are determined to restore the castle to its former glory, so it is still a great idea to visit it and see the massive fortress from outside. Let's feel its indomitable spirit!

Kumamoto City also has a festival that's just out there.  Does  Drunken Horse Festival  pique your curiosity? Festival-goers will be thrilled to witness how the city comes alive with people from each neighborhood decked out in elaborate costumes and dancing to the systematic beat of drums. What's more, burly men from each contingent will guide one horse which tramps along the noisy streets. If you are lucky, you may even spot a foal or two!

Other tourist attractions in Kumamoto City include Suizenji Park and  Sakuranobaba Josaien . Read our " 7 Must-Visit Kumamoto Tourist Spots Recovering from the 2016 Earthquake " for more details.

8. Beppu: The Mountainous Onsen City

One of the definitive Japanese experiences is dipping in a hot spring and letting its warmth refresh you. Onsen lovers will do well to check out Beppu in Oita Prefecture, as it boasts more than a hundred hot springs, each of them offering serene views of the quiet countryside. Some onsen even reach legendary status because of their gorgeousness; you must make time for the eight legendary jikoku (hells) for instance. Umi Jikoku  will soothe your spirits with its calm cobalt-blue waters while Chinoike Jigoku  will set your adrenaline pumping with its fiery red waters.

The other hells are tantalizingly described in our article " What's Hell? The Abundant Hot Springs in Beppu Meant Only to be Seen ". 

Nature lovers and outdoorsy people will relish the chance to hike up Mt. Tsurumi , where they will be rewarded with an unparalleled panoramic view of the mountainscape. If you would rather not sweat, well you can take the Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway up and enjoy the feeling of being one with nature!

9. Sapporo: The City With The Million-Dollar Night View

Located in the northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo City radiates its elegance at night. Use the ropeway at Mt. Moiwa Sanroku Railway Station to get to the summit of Mt. Moiwa  where you will be rewarded with a stunning overhead view of the city. It's definitely a great spot for couples and families as they can enjoy one another's company while enjoying how Sapporo City dazzles much like resplendent jewels. 

In fact, here are other great views in Sapporo as well as the rest of Hokkaido Prefecture. Do read our   Best 5 Night Views in Hokkaido That You Won't Want to Miss!   article for travel inspiration. 

On the other hand, winter aficionados will surely take to the idea of skiing in Sapporo as it is home to many luxurious, yet reasonably-priced ski resorts that enable them to take in its spectacular scenery. Some of these resorts even open at night, so you can literally ski from morning till night! Moreover, every February, Sapporo will host the Sapporo Snow Festival at Odori Park for one whole week. Gallivant from site to site (there are three sites in total) and get up close and personal with awe-inspiring snow statues and ice sculptures!

10. Naha, Okinawa: The City For Slow Eating and Shopping!

Located in the south of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture is on the radar of many travellers' lists. For one, it functions on island time , where things just slow down and Okinawans engage you in delightful small talk, thus evoking a relaxed atmosphere. For another, it charms visitors with its original culture, which sets it apart from the rest of Japan. So Naha City is surely the best city for you to cast away your worries and absorb the island aura leisurely.

Makishi Public Market could be a stop on your to-do list as you can try out a yummy mish-mash of influences of Western comfort and signature local dishes, including goya champuru (stir-fried bitter melon with tofu, pork, and eggs) and taco rice (taco fillings served on a rice bowl). You must also visit Kokusai Street , where you can continue to eat up a feast by trying out umibudo (sea grapes) and soki soba (noodle soup with pork spare ribs), among other dishes. Then, spend a lazy afternoon patronizing the many stores and buying quirky fashion items and other souvenirs. In other words, time to shop till you drop.

Because we know that your curiosity has been piqued, we have prepared a comprehensive list of 50 Things to Do in Okinawa for you. 

You may be introverted or extroverted; you may embrace the buzz of the big cities or retreat into the comfort of the countryside; you may like to shop until you drop or seek solace in Mother Nature. One thing's for sure: you will definitely find a city that appeals to you. Come to Japan and have a whale of a time!

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our  Facebook ,  Twitter , or  Instagram !

Title Image: Pabkov /

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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12 Must-Visit Cities in Japan: Your Ultimate Guide for First-Time Visitors

tourist cities of japan

Welcome to a journey through Japan, a land where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modern life. This guide is your ticket to exploring the best cities in Japan , each offering its own unique slice of Japanese culture, history, and cuisine. Japan, a harmonious blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge innovation, is divided into 9 captivating regions and 47 dynamic prefectures , each boasting its own distinct charm and attractions.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, these cities provide a diverse range of experiences that showcase the vibrant heart of Japan. Get ready to delve into the bustling streets, serene temples, and hidden gems that make these cities in Japan a must-visit destination. From the bustling metropolis of Tokyo , where towering skyscrapers coexist with historic temples, to the lesser-known gems often overlooked by tourists, Japan’s cities are a testament to the country’s rich history and rapid advancement.

Our curated list of the top 12 cities in Japan will guide you through the heart of this remarkable country. It will take you beyond the well-trodden paths and into the soul of Japan, where every city tells a story, every meal is a celebration, and every moment is steeped in tradition and innovation. So pack your bags and prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey through the land of the rising sun.

1. Tokyo: Japan’s Dazzling Capital

As the capital of Japan, Tokyo is a bustling metropolis that perfectly blends tradition and modernity.


Tokyo , a city where the ultramodern meets centuries-old traditions, offers an unparalleled experience for every traveler. This bustling metropolis, the heart of Japan , is a vibrant blend of history, culture, and innovation. Begin your journey in the neon-lit streets of Akihabara , known as Electric Town , where technology and pop culture fuse in an electrifying atmosphere. Here, amidst the towering skyscrapers, you’ll find everything from the latest gadgets to anime merchandise, making it a paradise for tech enthusiasts and geeks alike. Just a stone’s throw away is the Sensoji Temple , Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, offering a serene contrast to the city’s high-tech vibe. The temple, with its rich history and spiritual ambiance, is a testament to Tokyo’s ability to preserve its heritage amidst rapid modernization.

Not far from here lies the Imperial Palace , a symbol of Japan’s royal history, sitting adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art . This juxtaposition of the ancient and the contemporary is a recurring theme in Tokyo, offering a unique blend of experiences for visitors.

Tokyo also prides itself on its unusual and fascinating tourist attractions. From the quirky Kite Museum to the enchanting Studio Ghibli Museum , there’s no shortage of unique places to explore. The Parasitological Museum adds a peculiar yet intriguing dimension to Tokyo’s diverse array of attractions.

The city’s love for arcade games is palpable in places like the Gigo Sega Building , a gaming haven with multiple floors dedicated to everything from classic arcade games to the latest in virtual reality. One of Tokyo’s most cherished traditions is the viewing of cherry blossoms, or sakura . This beautiful natural spectacle, occurring briefly in spring, transforms the city into a canvas of soft pink hues. Parks and gardens become social hubs, as locals and tourists alike gather under the blossoming trees, a practice deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.

2. Osaka: The Kitchen of Japan

Known for its modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, and hearty street food, Osaka is a city that never sleeps. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Osaka Castle and try the famous Okonomiyaki.

tourist cities of japan

Osaka , often dubbed as Japan’s kitchen, is a city that truly comes alive through its food. This bustling metropolis, with its neon-lit streets and vivacious energy, offers a stark contrast to the serene elegance of Kyoto . In Osaka , the food is not just a part of life; it’s a celebration of life itself. The city’s culinary scene is diverse and expansive, ranging from street food stalls serving up delectable takoyaki (octopus balls) to high-end restaurants offering the finest sushi. The most famous dish here is undoubtedly okonomiyaki , a savory pancake loaded with a variety of ingredients, which is a testament to Osaka’s love for hearty and flavorful food.

Dotonbori , the heart of Osaka’s entertainment district, is a sensory overload with its dazzling array of neon signs and bustling crowds. This area, especially at night, is a spectacle of urban energy, where locals and tourists alike gather to indulge in the city’s culinary delights and lively atmosphere. A visit to Osaka Castle provides a journey back in time. This historic landmark, surrounded by moats and verdant gardens, stands as a proud reminder of Osaka’s storied past. The castle, particularly during cherry blossom season, offers a picturesque setting that beautifully contrasts with the city’s urban landscape. For a panoramic view of Osaka, head to the Umeda Sky Building . The observatory here offers a stunning 360-degree view of the cityscape, showcasing Osaka’s sprawling expanse and its dynamic blend of modernity and tradition.

Osaka’s charm extends beyond its culinary and architectural wonders. The city is a hub of cultural experiences, from traditional puppet theaters and bustling fish markets to contemporary art galleries and live music venues. The people of Osaka are known for their friendly and outgoing nature, adding a warm and welcoming layer to the city’s vibrant character. 

Osaka’s unique blend of flavors, sights, and sounds makes it an essential stop on any Japanese itinerary. It’s a city where every street corner reveals a new taste, a new sight, a new experience. In Osaka, the rhythm of the city is dictated by the joy of living, and every visitor is invited to partake in this celebration.

3. Kyoto: The Cultural Heart

If you’re looking for a taste of traditional Japan, Kyoto is the place to be. With its ancient temples, traditional tea houses, and beautiful geisha district, Kyoto is like stepping back in time.

tourist cities of japan

Kyoto , the cultural jewel of Japan, is a city where time slows down and the past comes alive. As the former imperial capital , it is a place deeply rooted in tradition, art, and spirituality. Kyoto’s charm lies in its tranquility, a stark contrast to the bustling energy of Tokyo . In Kyoto , you are greeted by the sight of elegant geishas in colorful kimonos, walking gracefully along the cobbled streets of Gion, the city’s most famous geisha district . The district, with its wooden machiya houses, retains an air of the bygone era, offering a glimpse into the old-world Japan.

The city is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, each telling its own story of Japan’s rich history and culture. The iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine , with its seemingly endless pathway of vermilion torii gates , offers a spiritual journey up the sacred Mount Inari. This shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, is a place of reflection and peace. Another jewel in Kyoto’s crown is the Kinkaku-ji , or the Golden Pavilion . Set against a backdrop of lush greenery and reflected in a mirror-like pond, it’s a stunning example of Japanese garden design and architecture.

Kyoto also celebrates the beauty of nature. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove , a pathway surrounded by towering bamboo, creates an otherworldly and serene experience. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the sounds and sights of nature, away from the city’s hustle and bustle. No visit to Kyoto is complete without experiencing its traditional tea houses. These are places where the art of the Japanese tea ceremony is practiced with utmost precision and respect. Each movement and gesture in the tea ceremony is a form of meditation, reflecting the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

During spring, Kyoto transforms into a wonderland of cherry blossoms. The Philosopher’s Path, a stone path lined with hundreds of cherry trees, becomes a popular spot for hanami , the traditional cherry blossom viewing. The beauty of sakura in full bloom, coupled with the city’s historic backdrop, creates a mesmerizing spectacle. Kyoto’s legacy as the cultural heart of Japan is evident in its preservation of arts, crafts, and traditions. It’s a city where the spirit of old Japan is not just maintained but celebrated with every temple, garden, and festival. A visit to Kyoto is a journey through the living history, an experience that stays with you long after you leave.

4. Hiroshima: City of Peace

Known for its poignant Peace Memorial Park and A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima is a city that symbolizes resilience and peace, set against the backdrop of beautiful Miyajima Island.

tourist cities of japan

Hiroshima , a city marked by its history, stands today as a beacon of peace and hope. Known globally for the tragic atomic bombing during World War II , Hiroshima has transformed its past into a powerful message of peace and resilience. The city’s ability to rebuild and renew itself is nothing short of inspirational.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a poignant reminder of the past and a symbol of the city’s commitment to peace. Within the park, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum provides a deeply moving and educational experience, detailing the events of the bombing and its aftermath. The Atomic Bomb Dome , preserved in its post-bombing state, stands as a haunting but necessary reminder of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and the importance of peace. Beyond its historical significance, Hiroshima offers a rich cultural and natural landscape. A short ferry ride from the city is Miyajima Island, known for the iconic Itsukushima Shrine and its “floating” torii gate . This beautiful island, with its lush forests and tranquil waters, provides a serene escape from the city and a chance to connect with Japan’s spiritual and natural beauty.

Hiroshima’s culinary scene is also noteworthy, particularly for its Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a layered pancake that is a local specialty. The city’s vibrant downtown area offers a variety of dining options, from traditional Japanese cuisine to international flavors, catering to every palate.

Despite its painful history, Hiroshima is a city full of life, beauty, and optimism. The friendly nature of its people and the city’s commitment to peace and harmony make it a unique and meaningful destination for travelers from around the world. Hiroshima is not just a city to visit; it’s a place to reflect, learn, and be inspired.

5. Nara: Ancient and Tranquil

Home to the friendly deer of Nara Park, the magnificent Todai-ji Temple, and rich in ancient Japanese history and culture.

tourist cities of japan

Nara , often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Kyoto , is a city steeped in Japan’s earliest history and cultural heritage. As the first permanent capital of Japan, Nara holds a special place in the Japanese heart and history, offering a more relaxed and intimate experience compared to the larger tourist destinations. The city’s most iconic residents are the hundreds of free-roaming deer in Nara Park. These friendly deer add a unique charm to the city’s already serene atmosphere. Visitors can feed and interact with these gentle creatures, creating a memorable experience.

At the heart of Nara Park is Todai-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site . This temple houses the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), a colossal bronze statue that is one of the largest in the world. The temple’s grandeur and the tranquil surroundings make it a must-visit site for anyone interested in Japan’s religious and architectural history. Another significant shrine, Kasuga Taisha, is famous for its hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns that line the pathways. During the Lantern Festivals in February and August, these lanterns are lit up, creating an ethereal and magical atmosphere that transports visitors to another time.

Apart from its historical sites, Nara is also known for its traditional crafts and local cuisine. The city’s quaint streets are filled with shops selling Nara’s famed calligraphy brushes and elegant kimonos. Local food specialties, such as kakinoha sushi (sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves) and mochi (rice cakes), offer a taste of the region’s culinary delights.

Nara’s charm lies in its peaceful ambiance and the feeling of stepping back into a time where history is preserved and revered. The city’s rich cultural heritage, combined with its natural beauty, makes it a tranquil oasis and a perfect day trip for those seeking a quieter, more reflective experience of Japan.

6. Sapporo: Snow and Festivals

A winter wonderland famous for its Snow Festival, this city is a haven for seafood lovers and hosts the renowned Sapporo Beer Museum.

tourist cities of japan

Sapporo , the capital city of Hokkaido , Japan’s northernmost island, presents a delightful contrast to the country’s more traditional destinations. Renowned for its annual Snow Festival , Sapporo is a winter lover’s paradise, offering a blend of stunning snowy landscapes and vibrant city life. In winter, Sapporo transforms into a magical snowy wonderland, hosting the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. This festival draws visitors worldwide to witness enormous and intricately carved ice sculptures that light up the night. The city becomes a canvas for artists who turn snow and ice into breathtaking works of art.

But Sapporo is not just about its winter charm. Throughout the year, it offers a plethora of experiences. The city is a haven for food enthusiasts, particularly known for its fresh seafood and the iconic Sapporo ramen , served in a miso-based broth, a local specialty that warms you up during the chilly weather. The Sapporo Beer Museum , dedicated to Japan’s oldest beer brand, offers a journey through the history of beer in Japan, complete with tastings.

For nature lovers, the surrounding areas of Sapporo are a must-explore. The nearby mountains provide excellent opportunities for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. Mount Moiwa, accessible by a ropeway, offers a panoramic view of the city, especially enchanting at night. During the warmer months, Odori Park , in the heart of the city, becomes a lively spot for locals and tourists. The park, stretching across 13 blocks, is a green oasis amidst the urban landscape, hosting numerous events and festivals throughout the year.

Sapporo’s urban layout, designed based on a grid system, makes it a uniquely navigable city in Japan. The city’s architecture, from the historic Clock Tower to the modern JR Tower , reflects its blend of past and present. The charm of Sapporo lies in its ability to offer a vibrant city life, set against the backdrop of Hokkaido’s stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re visiting for its snowy spectacle or its culinary delights, Sapporo provides a unique and unforgettable Japanese experience.

7. Fukuoka: Dynamic and Diverse

A vibrant city known for its bustling food stalls serving Hakata ramen, along with historical sites like the ancient Kushida Shrine.

tourist cities of japan

Fukuoka , a dynamic city on the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu Island , offers a rich tapestry of urban excitement and serene nature. Known for its ancient temples, modern shopping malls, and bustling food stalls, Fukuoka seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. As you explore the city, the vibrant atmosphere of Nakasu, Fukuoka’s entertainment district, is captivating. This area comes alive at night with its yatai (street food stalls), where you can savor local delicacies like Hakata ramen , known for its rich tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, and mentaiko (spicy cod roe), a Fukuoka specialty.

Fukuoka’s historical side is just as compelling. The Kushida Shrine , a Shinto shrine established in 757, is a serene retreat in the heart of the city. This shrine, known for its elaborate float races during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival , is steeped in history and local culture.

For a taste of nature, Ohori Park , with its expansive pond and walking paths, offers a peaceful respite from the urban hustle. The park, inspired by classical Chinese gardens, is a perfect spot for leisurely strolls or picnics under the cherry blossoms in spring.

Another highlight is Fukuoka Castle , a reminder of the city’s feudal past. Though only a few ruins remain, the castle grounds transform into a splendid viewing spot for cherry blossoms, drawing visitors from all over. Fukuoka is not just a destination; it’s an experience that encapsulates the spirit of Japan’s diversity. From its ancient shrines and natural beauty to its lively streets and culinary scene, Fukuoka is a city that invites exploration and leaves a lasting impression.

8. Kanazawa: Preserved Edo-Era Beauty

Preserving the charm of old Japan with attractions like the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden and historical districts that harken back to the Edo period.

tourist cities of japan

Kanazawa, often referred to as a smaller, more accessible Kyoto, is a city where the charm of old Japan is beautifully preserved. Nestled next to the Sea of Japan in the Ishikawa Prefecture, this city is a treasure trove of cultural heritage, historic neighborhoods, and exquisite gardens. One of Kanazawa’s most renowned attractions is the Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of the three great gardens of Japan. This stunningly landscaped garden, known for its perfect harmony and traditional beauty, offers a peaceful escape with its streams, ponds, and seasonal flowers.

The city’s historical districts, such as the Higashi Chaya District, are a window into Japan’s past. Here, the well-preserved teahouses and narrow lanes evoke the Edo period’s atmosphere, providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of geishas and samurai. Visitors can explore these districts to experience traditional crafts like gold leaf gilding, a craft Kanazawa is famous for.

Kanazawa Castle, another highlight, adds to the city’s historic charm. Though partially reconstructed, the castle’s architecture and its surrounding park are a testament to the city’s feudal past and its enduring cultural significance. The city also boasts a vibrant arts scene, exemplified by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum, known for its innovative design and interactive exhibits, reflects Kanazawa’s blend of the traditional and the modern.

Kanazawa’s culinary scene is as rich as its culture. The city is known for its high-quality seafood, particularly sushi and sashimi, thanks to its proximity to the Sea of Japan. Additionally, Kaga cuisine, a style of cooking native to the region, offers a unique and refined taste of the local culture. Kanazawa, with its blend of historical elegance and contemporary culture, is a must-visit for those looking to experience the quieter, more intimate side of Japan. The city’s ability to maintain its historical integrity while embracing modernity makes it a uniquely charming destination.

9. Kobe: Scenic Harbor City

Famous for its exquisite Kobe beef, this scenic city is beautifully set between mountains and the sea, offering a rich blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication.

tourist cities of japan

Kobe, nestled between the Rokko mountain range and the waters of Osaka Bay, is a city known for its scenic beauty, cultural diversity, and culinary excellence. This cosmopolitan port city, with its unique blend of Japanese and foreign influences, offers a distinct experience that sets it apart from other Japanese cities. One of Kobe’s most famous contributions to global cuisine is Kobe beef, known for its flavor, tenderness, and well-marbled texture. Dining in Kobe offers a chance to experience this world-renowned delicacy at its source. The city’s culinary scene, however, is not limited to its beef; it also offers a variety of international and traditional Japanese cuisines, a testament to its history as a port open to foreign influence.

Kobe’s cultural landscape is as diverse as its culinary offerings. The Ikuta Shrine, one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, stands in stark contrast to the modern architecture and urban layout of the city. Kobe also houses the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum, which pays tribute to the resilience of the city and its people following the devastating 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Nature lovers will find solace in the serene surroundings of the Nunobiki Herb Garden and the panoramic views from the top of Mount Rokko. The Nunobiki Falls, located just behind the city, offer a picturesque hiking trail leading to one of Japan’s most celebrated natural landmarks.

Kobe’s waterfront area, Meriken Park, showcases the city’s modern side with its contemporary art installations, the iconic Kobe Port Tower, and the maritime museum. The park is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, providing spectacular views of the bay, especially at night.

The city’s vibrant atmosphere is further highlighted in the Nankinmachi district, Kobe’s own Chinatown, known for its lively streets, colorful shops, and diverse range of street food. In Kobe, the harmonious blend of natural beauty, rich history, diverse culture, and culinary delights creates an environment that is both exciting and comforting. Whether exploring its scenic landscapes, delving into its cultural heritage, or indulging in its gastronomic pleasures, Kobe offers a unique and memorable experience for every visitor.

10. Yokohama: Cosmopolitan Port City

A cosmopolitan port city with a unique blend of Japanese and international influences, featuring a lively Chinatown and beautiful waterfront areas.

tourist cities of japan

12. Nagasaki

A city with a poignant history and a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, known for its historical sites related to the atomic bombing and a diverse cultural heritage.

tourist cities of japan

Nagasaki, a city with a rich history and cultural diversity, offers a unique blend of Japanese, Chinese, and Western influences. As Japan’s early gateway to the West, Nagasaki’s districts are adorned with European-style homes and a significant Christian population. The city’s international flair is also reflected in its cuisine.

Nagasaki Shippoku, a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Western cuisine, is a must-try. The city is also known for its Nagasaki Chanpon, a flavorful noodle soup with variations including pork, vegetable, and seafood. For dessert, indulge in Castella Sponge Cake, a Portuguese-inspired fluffy and moist cake with a golden brown surface, sweet aroma, and rich taste.

The city is not just about food. It offers a plethora of attractions for history buffs and nature lovers alike. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park provide a sobering look at the city’s past. For a breathtaking view, take a trip up Mount Inasa, renowned for its stunning night views.

For a unique experience, visit Gunkanjima, an abandoned coal mining island, now a haunting tourist attraction. Nagasaki’s beautiful beaches and the crystal-clear seas surrounding the Goto Islands are perfect for swimmers, divers, and sea kayakers. Whether you’re a foodie, history enthusiast, or nature lover, Nagasaki promises an unforgettable journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

The 12 best cities in Japan to visit are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kobe, Nara, Kanazawa, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Yokohama.

Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is known for its scenic beauty. The city offers some of the best views in Japan, especially during the cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons.

Yokohama offers a range of attractions to visit, including the beautifully landscaped Yokohama Bay, the world-class Yokohama Museum of Art, and the iconic Minato Mirai 21 district—famed for its towering skyscrapers and stunning waterfront views.

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan. It’s a great place to visit because it’s home to over a thousand temples and shrines, beautiful traditional gardens, the historic Gion district, and the famous Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are both famous cities in Japan that are worth visiting for their historical significance. Other cities with significant historical landmarks include Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura.

Yes, that’s correct. Osaka is often referred to as the “Kitchen of Japan”. The city is a gastronomic paradise, featuring a wide variety of delectable street foods and high-end dining options. Dotonbori Street in Osaka is famous for its diverse food scene.

The city of Beppu, located on the island of Kyushu, is considered one of the best places in Japan for onsens or hot springs. Other cities with popular onsens include Hakone, Kusatsu, and Izu.

Osaka is a city that is great for kids as it’s home to popular attractions like Universal Studios Japan. Tokyo, with its Disneyland and DisneySea parks, is another great city for kids to visit in Japan.

Tokyo, being the largest city in Japan, offers the most extensive shopping options. Other cities with excellent shopping districts include Osaka, Kyoto, and Fukuoka.

For a classic Japan experience, you should visit cities like Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan; Nara, the city with numerous ancient temples; and Tokyo, the modern metropolis that has preserved its historical charm.

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David Balan

Hi, I'm David, an Indian expat living in Tokyo since 2017. Passionate about revealing Tokyo's hidden gems, I aim to bring Japan's unique blend of tradition, technology, and pop culture to a global audience. Join me as I explore the many facets of this fascinating country.

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10 Must Visit Cities in Japan

Best Cities and Tourist Attractions in Japan

tourist cities of japan

What’s the best city in Japan?? If you are wondering which Japanese cities you visit should visit, check out our list of “10 Must-Visit Cities in Japan” including popular tourist destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka as well as the best tourist attractions in each city!

Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis. This may be the first choice for many travellers visiting Japan. Tokyo offers full of entertainments and ultimate choices to fulfill the time such as sightseeing, shopping, dining, cultural experience, nature and more. The city will never let you bored.

-Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑)

The spacious traditional Japanese style garden, Shinjuku Gyoen is located in the heart of Shinjuku district, one of the busiest areas in Tokyo.

More info: Tokyo’s “Central Park”: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

-Asakusa (浅草)

tourist cities of japan

While Tokyo is best known for its modern and cutting edge culture, Asakusa is the best area to explore the historical side of Tokyo.

More info: Asakusa : 13 Best Things to Do

Check more info about things to do in Tokyo:

Tokyo Bucket List : 30 Top Things to Do

The historical capital of Japan, Kyoto retains astonishing Japanese history and tradition for over 1,000 years, and stands as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

-Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

tourist cities of japan

The incredible tunnel of red torii gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine has become one of the most photographed places in the country.

More info: Fushimi Inari Taisha: Kyoto’s Most Visited Shrine by Foreign Visitors!

-Kinkakuji Temple (金閣寺)

tourist cities of japan

The golden pavilion, Kinkakuji Temple is the Zen Buddhist temple which has been founded in 1397. The temple displays stunning scenery in each season.

More info: Kinkakuji Temple: Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion

Check more info about things to do in Kyoto:

25 Top Things to Do in Kyoto: Kyoto Bucket List

Osaka is the second largest city after Tokyo and the economic capital of western Japan. Osaka has its own unique culture and the lively atmosphere. There are numbers of tourist attractions including Osaka’s proud local dishes like Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki.

-Dotonbori (道頓堀)

tourist cities of japan

Osaka’s busiest district, Dotombori area is famous for the flashy neon lights and unique shop displays. Also it’s the best place to taste local dishes as hundreds of restaurants, bars and street vendors gather within this area.

More info: Dotonbori: Things to Do

-Universal Studios Japan

tourist cities of japan

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is one of the biggest amusement parks in the world, offering fun and thrilling rides and attractions featuring popular movies such as Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Minions and more.

Related article: Universal Studios Japan Guide

Check more info about things to do in Osaka:

25 Top Things to Do in Osaka: Osaka Bucket List

4. Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the largest and northernmost prefecture in Japan, which is gifted with the tremendous land and great unspoilt natures. It’s a perfect travel destination for nature lovers. The prefecture is also known as the biggest gourmet region with local products including seafood, vegetables and diary food.

-Niseko (ニセコ)

tourist cities of japan

Niseko is a famous ski resort which fascinates a large number of skiers and snowboarders from all around the world by its great quality powder snow and astonishing landscape.

Related article:  Best Niseko Ski Resorts in Hokkaido

-Flower Fields

tourist cities of japan

While ski and snowboarding are the main attraction in Hokkaido during winter, Hokkaido’s colourful flowers fascinates visitors from all around the world during spring and summer. The central area of Hokkaido such as Furano and Biei has several amazing farms and flower fields.

Related article: Best Flower Fields to Visit in Hokkaido

Check more info about things to do in Hokkaido:

20 Top Things to Do in Hokkaido

5. Hiroshima

Hiroshima is the largest city of Chugoku region and known as the first city which atomic bomb was dropped on 6th August in 1945. With two UNESCO world heritage sites, Hiroshima offers tourists its rich history and some breathtaking scenery.

-Hiroshima Peace Memorial ( 広島平和記念碑)

tourist cities of japan

Hiroshima Peace Memorial is the ruin of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945, and serves as a memorial to the people who were killed as well as to the world to remember the tragic history. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Related article: Hiroshima Peace Memorial

– Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

tourist cities of japan

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hiroshima Prefecture, Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island is known the magnificent floating red torii gate, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan.

More info: Miyajima Island Hiroshima : Best Things to Do

Check more info about things to do in Hiroshima:

Hiroshima : 10 Best Things to Do

6. Kanawaga

Kanagawa’s capital city, Yokohama is perhaps the second busiest business city in Japan. Located in south-west side of Tokyo, Kanagawa prefecture offers diverse tourist attractions such as cities, history, beaches, Onsen, amusement facilities and more, which are popular day-trip destinations from Tokyo.

-Hakone (箱根)

tourist cities of japan

Hakone is one of the most popular Onsen resorts in Japan, and very accessible from Tokyo. The onsen town has various tourist attractions such as the scenic lake, Lake Ashi, and the stunning view of Mt Fuji.

More info: Hakone: 10 Best Things to Do

Kamakura (鎌倉)

tourist cities of japan

Kamakura is often called the Kyoto of East as it used to be a capital town back in Kamakura Period (1185–1333), and there are numbers of historical monuments such as temples and shrines.

More info: Kamakura : 10 Best Things to Do

Check more info about things to do in Kanagawa:

Kanagawa: 10 Best Things to Do

Southern tropical island of Japan, Okinawa is definitely the no.1 beach destinations in Japan. Okinawa has beautiful beaches, and world-class diving and snorkelling spots. The prefecture is rich in history and its own deep culture still strongly remains.

tourist cities of japan

The transparent water and the pure white sand, Okinawa’s beaches attracts millions of visitors every year, and there are numbers of beach resorts on main island and remote islands of Okinawa.

More info: Okinawa Beaches: Best Season to Visit

– Churaumi Aquarium  (美ら海水族館)

tourist cities of japan

Churaumi Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Japan and displays hundred kinds of sea creatures. The best highlight of the aquarium is the whale shark swimming freely in the massive fish tank with 7,500,000 liters of water.

Ticket info: Churaumi Aquarium Ticket with Full Day Bus Tour of Okinawa!

Check more info about things to do in Okinawa:

20 Top Things to Do in Okinawa: Okinawa Bucket List

Nagano is full of treasures of great nature with Northern Japan Alps, highlands, valley and hot springs where you can enjoy all year around: hiking and driving in summer, and Onsen and skiing in winter. Hakuba is one of the most popular ski resorts in the world.

-Kamikochi (上高地)

tourist cities of japan

The most famous scenic hiking spot in Japan, Kamikochi is often described as the Yosemite Valley of Japan. The astonishing mountain scenery can be enjoyed from spring to autumn.

More info: Kamikochi Japan Alps : Best Place to Hike in Japan

-Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑)

tourist cities of japan

The famous “the Bathing Snow Monkeys” can be seen in the mountain of Nagano Prefecture. Over 150 monkeys inhabit in this park and often bathe in the natural pool with hot spring water in the cold and snowy winter.

More info: Jigokudani Monkey Park: Meet Snow Monkeys

Check more info about things to do in Nagano:

Nagano : 10 Best Things to Do

The door to the capital city. Chiba is the prefecture located east side of Tokyo where the busiest international airport Narita Airport is located. Chiba is a popular side trip destination from Tokyo offering a variety of attractions such as Tokyo Disney Resort, beaches, and historical monuments.

-Naritasan Temple (成田山新勝寺)

tourist cities of japan

The large Buddhist temple complex, Naritasan Temple is not too far from Narita Airport, and a popular place to visit for a couple of hours before/after going to the airport.

-Tokyo Disney Resort

tourist cities of japan

Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea) is the most visited amusement parks in Japan, where guests can have a magical and dreamy experience with fun attractions, adorable characters and seasonal events.

Related article: Tokyo Disneyland: Best Things to Do Tokyo DisneySea: Best Things to Do

10. Fukuoka

The hub in Kyushu region with an international airport which is currently increasing more and more flights connecting to abroad and welcomes foreign visitors every year. Fukuoka is one of the gourmet capitals in Japan offering delicious local dishes including iconic Hakata Ramen.

-Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (大宰府天満宮)

tourist cities of japan

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is one of the most important Tenmangu shrine complexes in Japan, inviting millions of worshipers every year. The approach to the shrine is lined with numbers of shops and restaurants which is a great place for shopping and eating out.

– Local Food

tourist cities of japan

One of the most famous local dishes from Fukuoka is Tonkotsu Ramen. Two most popular Ramen shops: Ichiran and Ippudo are both from Fukuoka Prefecture. There are many more iconic local delicacies such as Motsu Nabe (hot pot dish), Mentaiko (cod roe), Yakitori (chicken skewers), Amaou strawberry, etc. Food stalls are pretty common in Fukuoka Prefecture where you can taste the authentic local dishes with affordable price.

Check more info about things to do in Fukuoka:

Fukuoka : Best Things to Do

Thanks for reading! Which cities in Japan do you want to visit most?? There are 47 prefectures in Japan in total, and each city has very special and unique attractions 🙂

For more information about the greatest places in Japan, here are some more articles for you to check out !

10 Hottest Places to Visit in Japan

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Kyoto: 15 Best Things to Do apart from Temples and Shrines

"The world is my oyster" A globetrotter 🌎 and hammock lover 🌞 who loves taking adventures to fuel wanderlust. Born and raised in Japan, I have lived and explored countries around the world. As a resident of Japan and based on my travel experience, I'd love to share my knowledge and tips for travelling Japan with my readers. I hope my story will help you plan your trip and have a great time in Japan 🌈

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The 15 BEST Places to Visit in Japan (2024 Guide)

Gabby Boucher

  • Last Updated: January 27, 2024

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, hot springs, 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.

Travellers flock to Japan to see the beauty of cherry blossom season, or to hike Mount Fuji, ski in the Japan Alps, eat delectable sushi, and more.

But there are lots of unexpected things to do in Japan as well.

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!

Places To Visit In Japan, Osaka, Crowd, Busy Street

Table of Contents

4) Yokohama

9) hiroshima, 12) fukuoka, 13) kanazawa, 15) okinawa, anything to add to this list of great places in japan, 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.

Tokyo, the capitol of Japan, is obviously one of the best places to go in central 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, especially if you are looking for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

On a clear winter day it is even possible to have views of Mount Fuji in the distance!

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 one of the best things you can do.

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.

It 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 .

Tokyo, Places To Visit In Japan

Check out our Japan Vlog on going to a crazy robot restaurant in Tokyo in Japan.

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, and great opportunities for the Cherry Blossom season.

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 .

Deer, Nara Park, Japan, Nara, Woods

Yokohama is one of the more authentic 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 enchanting 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 the natural beauty of 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. With views of Mount Fuji, Hakone is one of the best places to see and do it all.

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 !

Lake Ashi, Japan, Boat, Nature, Lake, Hakone

The capital city of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is an absolute gem and one of the best cities on our list of Japanese 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 marvelous winter snow festival, you’ll find no shortage of attractions here.

It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring more of Hokkaido, so definitely use it as a base to plan your next moves.

READ MORE: Here’s our travel guide to the top things to do in Sapporo .

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: Nagoya City Science Museum.

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 best 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.

And if you’re looking for views of Mount Fuji then you can add this place to your list. Nagoya offers gorgeous views of the famous Mount Fuji!

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 entertainment 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 torii gate.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our complete guide to the best things to do in Kyoto !

Pagoda, Nature, Kyoto, Japan

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 II, completely decimating the city.

But for such a tragic event, Hiroshima has fully rebuilt itself, and today is one of the top selections for where to go in Japan. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is one of the top Japan tourist attractions.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the main feature of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, is one of the best known places in Japan. Memorializing a terrible event near the end of World War II, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the more sacred places to visit in the city.

Nearby Miyajima Island is a fantastic place to spend a day and definitely worth a visit. The Hiroshima Castle is sure to wow you as well.

In terms of unique sights and tourist attractions, the Itsukushima Shrine really stands out, literally, by rising out of the water.

Don’t let the idea of a crumpled city stop you from visiting – Hiroshima is truly an incredible spot to explore.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Hiroshima.

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 finding the best places to visit 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.

Kobe is also located near Himeji Castle, which in and of itself is a top location in Japan. Take a day trip from Kobe to the famous grounds of Himeji Castle!

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to all the top things to do in Kobe !

Otaru doesn’t always make the list of places to visit in Japan. But its 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: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Otar u

Fukuoka is a fantastic city on the Kyushu island of Japan, and well worth a visit on your next trip to Japan.

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.

READ MORE: Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Japan

Kanazawa is located on Honshu Island and bordered by the Sea of Japan. Deriving its name from “marsh of gold” after legend claims a potato farmer dug up gold instead of potatoes in his field one year.

Kanazawa Castle is the city’s most notable feature and one of the best places to visit in the city. It stands tall among various other buildings that were surprisingly spared during bombings in WWII.

The original castle was destroyed in a fire in 1888. But the existing castle still stands after being rebuilt.

Kanazawa is also known for its Edo-period architecture, temples, geishas and cuisine. You can’t go wrong to add Kanazawa to your list of places to visit in Japan.

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to the best things to do in Kanazawa.

Tohoku is located northeast of Tokyo on the island of Honshu. Very much off the beaten track for most travellers, Tohoku makes the list of best places to visit in Japan for its simplicity and relationship with nature.

Those who travel here know Tohoku for its spectacular coastlines, inviting natural hot springs and intricate cave systems. It is also a great place to see some of the best cherry blossoms in Japan – without all of the crowds you will find elsewhere.

And if you are into studying where modern history meets science, Tohoku is the jumping-off point for exploring the impact of the 2011 tsunami, most notable for it’s destruction of the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

No doubt if you are looking for a place where fewer travellers visit, particularly in spring, then you absolutely must add Tohoku to your list of places to visit in Japan!

Okinawa is Japan’s most tropical island and definitely one of the more unique places to visit in Japan. 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 .

In conclusion, Japan is a vast island nation that is known for its mountain scenery, unique architecture, cherry blossoms, and booming cities.

While travelling there are so many places to visit in Japan and experience on each island and in each city. But it is important to not overlook the small hidden gems in the rural Japan.

Sites and areas like small traditional villages and temples can really add to your overall experience. Whether you visit castles, Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines, enjoy a hot spring or two or come to see the natural beauty of cherry blossom season 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 Hiroshima Peace Memorial, stroll beneath the torii gate 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!

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

Gabby Boucher

Gabby Boucher

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Yes I have read this article and very informative article.

Glad you liked the article 🙂

My Granddaughter dream is to go to Japan since she was 11 years old, May 2022 she will be 18 and graduating High School. I want to take her there as a gift to her, because her dream has not wavered, Problem is, I am limited on income and terrified to go to another country, where I know nothing of culture or the language, I understand it is very expensive. Could you give me advice on what we could do to make this memorable for her..without it draining my bank account and where a lot of people speak English. We are country people dont know to much of the outside world, so this will be a culture shock for us. I want to respect their values as well. Any advice will be much appreciated. Food, Places to stay, Sightseeing, cherry blossom, I am leaning on traveling April 4th 2022.

Hi Connie, What an amazing gift. An experience of a lifetime. I am originally from country WA and know exactly what you mean. Japan can be expensive but it also can be reasonable on the budget side. We have an article that has a lot of information that may help you out but I will add a few more tips in. Travel Guide – (at the bottom of this article is lots of other Japan posts) Budget –

There are a lot of people that speck English in the major cities. But menus will be in Japanese sometimes you will find English but the prices may be more expensive. We recommend downloading Japan to English google translate. This will help you out so much. If you are connected to the internet you can hover your camera over a menu and it will translate the writing to English. You can pick up an internet dongle from the airport and have wifi where ever you go for your stay. They can be expensive. Another option is buying an international SIM card. Just check your plan and that there is no extra costs. Your phones plans may charge you international roaming and this will be very expensive. Happened to me in Ireland when I first travelled, costs nearly $1000. I had no idea. Lucky they cut it down but it was a wake up. Transport – I would look into the JR pass. This is a great way to get around the country and you can use it on local transport within the cities too. The train system is incredible and so comfortable. Stops are in English so you can read where you need to get off and at what stop. Getting around cities – I would recommend hopping on a city tour or do a free walking tour to get your bearings and ask advice from the guides. The guides would be able to tell you get (and cheap) local restaurants to try. We try to do this in a lot of cities when we first arrive. Getting the public trains are easy enough to get around the cities. Put some maps on your phone or print out a map before you arrive. Food – There are so many amazing stalls. These are the best local food options. They look a little questionable but if it is busy with locals then go there. We ate at a lot of machine meals. This is when you enter the restaurant and choose a meal off a machine, collect your receipt, sit down and a person will collect your receipt and then deliver your meal. These places were great. Do not miss Kyoto and Nara. We really enjoyed these places. The temples, gardens, traditional houses and the culture. When we got off the plane in Japan we went straight to Kyoto and we were so happy we did. Explore Tokyo at the end of your trip. Hope this helps. If you have anymore questions please don’t hesitate to message us. Japan is an amazing country. The people there are so welcoming and helpful.

These are great places for tourism. I must say, your post is like my tour guide now. Thank you for sharing this post with us. Thanks.

Hi Franca, glad you liked the post. Japan has so many wonderful destinations. Have a wonderful trip when you go. Take care. 🙂

Japan has been on our travel bucket list for years now but already planning to visit next year so this gave me a good idea where to go apart from Tokyo and Osaka.

You need to go Julia. I think you would love it. There is so many amazing places to see. We didn’t spend much time in Tokyo and Osaka as we are not city people. We loved Kyoto for the culture. I know it is a city but it did not feel like it. Stay in Gion District if you go. Was amazing. We would get up early and wonder around. Felt like we were the only people there sometimes. Happy planning.

I’m planning a trip to Japan and your blog has been very helpful so far! The first time I was there I mostly went from big city to city, so this time I would like to try smaller towns and your description of Shirakawa makes it sound so lovely. The problem is that Google Maps is showing me two Shirakawa towns! Did you visit the one in Fukushima or in Gifu? Thanks!

Hi Jennifer, sorry about the late reply. This is in the Gifu Prefecture. Thank you for this. I will note it in the paragraph. 🙂

We are heading to Tokyo for the Olympics in July of next year and have a little more than three weeks in Japan with 9 days at the Summer Olympics. We have been to Tokyo and Kyoto before and did most all of the sites that one would, so the timing of this article was perfect as we were looking for more to explore outside of Tokyo and Kyoto next summer after the hustle and bustle during the Olympics. Thanks for giving us a great starting point with the overview of these prefectures. Much Aloha and Kokua for the insight

Hi Dan, so sorry your comment was missed. I know your plans are obviously are cancelled as the Olympics are postponed til next year. I hope you have rescheduled and are still going. If you have time do check out Nakatsugawa. It has a traditional trail. It is beautiful and not far from Tokyo. Check out Sado Island. The coastline and hiking is so beautiful. You can catch a flight down to Oita Island and explore this off the beaten path area. Lots of onsens and great hiking. You do need to rent a car to get around as transport is very limited. Have a great time when you go to Japan.

Truly your shared all these fabulous places are the best for travelling and tourists can enjoy some time with buddies. I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places.

So glad you enjoyed your time in Japan. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article. It packed of all the information required for the first time visitors and information mentioned above in the article are more than enough gain knowledge about Japan. The article has surely helped me a lot. It would be great if the images of the all places mentioned above were there. Thumbs up for the effort.

Glad we could help. All the best

Thanks for sharing this information regarding travel and tour. I really found this very interesting. And your blog is very useful for us.

Thank you so much. Glad you found the article helpful. Happy travels

I have visiting a few cities in Japan on my bucket list. I shared the blog. The pics are awesome and I enjoyed reading the brief overview of the different cities. I get excited about everything from historical areas, to scenic, and most of all the food. Thanks for the recommendations of Dotonbori and Yokohama chinatown for popular street food.

Thank you so much David. Natalia wrote a great article and made us very jealous. Japan looks like a wonderful place. We are heading there later this year. We can not wait. 🙂

I really like to share your all these adorable images which views very fabulous and cool. I also spent a really good time at ONOMICHI during my last journey and came back with great memories.

Thank you so much. Glad the article brought back good memories for you. 🙂

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

14 Best Cities in Japan To Visit This Year

Written By: ThePlanetD Team

Updated On: February 19, 2024

Everyone should explore Japan at least once in their lifetime. Japan has thousands of hidden gems and is a year-round destination. You can visit its ski resorts in winter or the beautiful coastline in summer. And, whatever the season, Japan’s cities are always ready to welcome you with fascinating attractions, delicious street food, and bucket loads of culture.

The real question is, which of the cities in Japan should you visit? In an ideal world, all of them. However, this guide will narrow it down to the absolute best cities.

Table of Contents

Explore Japan: The Top Cities in Japan

Japan has some incredible cities. From Tokyo to Sapporo, these are the best cities in Japan for your next adventure. Let’s dive straight in.

Cities in Japan Tokyo

When you think of cities in Japan, it’s safe to say that Tokyo will be in your top three. As the capital, Tokyo is one of the major Japanese cities and attracts millions of tourists a year. It is also the largest city in Japan, with an estimated population of around 14 million people .

Think busy streets, fast-paced entertainment, and flashing neon lights – Tokyo is hectic but exciting. Tokyo is where to visit if you want to be right in the thick of all the action, with plenty of museums to tour, shopping to bag, and fun to be had. The sheer size of the city is exciting in itself.

So, where do you begin? What are the  best things to do in Tokyo ? Well, after visiting the city a few times we suggest starting with Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower may look familiar, and it should be. The tower was heavily inspired by the Eiffel Tower. In fact, the only difference is that Tokyo Tower is 333 meters tall and red and white.

Japanese Cities Tokyo

Heading to the top of the tower, you can learn about Tokyo’s architectural history en route, finishing with a spectacular view of the beautiful city below. Nearby, there’s also Tokyo Skytree which stands at a dizzying 634 meters and is the tallest tower in the world – so be prepared to spend at least a few hours amongst the clouds.

To appreciate Tokyo’s atmosphere on the ground, head to Golden Gai for a downtown vibe or Shibuya Crossing for a CBD experience. Allow time to visit museums like the Mori Art Museum, Japan Olympic Museum, and NHL Museum of Broadcasting.

Cities in Japan Osaka

Osaka is another one of Japan’s large cities. Osaka has a strong character, and the port city has a commercial soul with lots going on at all hours of day and night. There’s always street food to taste, a bar to hop to, and attractions to visit. Osaka is a great place to visit if you love a mixture of partying, relaxing, and sightseeing. The city has lots of personality and a balance of everything – like a compromise with no sacrifice.

To appreciate the history of Osaka, a trip to Osaka Castle should be on your itinerary. The 16th-century castle is surrounded by cherry trees and a moat, and Osaka Castle is one of the prettiest places to visit in the city. While, if you want a day of light-hearted fun, there’s Universal Studios Japan to explore. The theme park has Hollywood-themed rides, and it’s conveniently located just outside the center of Osaka.

Finally, Osaka is the famous home of one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. Sumiyoshi Taisha is a popular Shinto shrine to visit – on tourism or religious grounds. We recommend visiting to fully experience Japan’s beautiful religious culture.

Cities in Japan Kyoto

Tokyo might be the capital today, but Kyoto was once the country’s capital. In the center of the Kansai region, Kyoto is one of Japan’s most traditional cities. In Kyoto, you’ll find classic dark wood houses and plenty of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. If you are chasing culture and tradition, Kyoto is a great place to explore in Japan.

To experience the traditional streets lined by wooden houses, head to Gion. You can wander in the early morning for the quietest streets or at night to see the cobbled roads lit by paper lanterns. Visiting the many temples of Kyoto is also a must-do on your trip, especially the Golden Pavilion. You can admire the Golden Pavilion from across its pond, being wowed by the golden tint that gives it its name and popularity.

Looking for picturesque scenes? Head to the bamboo forest of Arashiyama or the red columned walkways of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. Kyoto is full of stunning scenery and eye-opening cultural attractions. You can read more in our guides on the  best places  and  things to do in Kyoto .

4. Hiroshima

Cities in Japan Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a name not many forget. Sadly, the reason behind Hiroshima being one of the most famous cities in Japan is the atomic bombing that occurred in 1945. The US dropped an atomic bomb on the large city, causing over 100,000 casualties. Visitors to the city can now pay their respects to the victims and destruction at many memorable attractions, including the Peace Park.

There is much to appreciate about Hiroshima in its own right, though. Food lovers should sample the Japanese pancake, nicknamed Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. There’s also Hiroshima Castle to tour and Shukkei-en scenic garden to stroll. Hiroshima’s culture and history have not been tainted by the tragic atomic bomb, and you’ll love the city’s variety of attractions.

Cities in Japan Nagoya

Nagoya is known for manufacturing and shipping and is the capital of the Aichi Prefecture. Have you heard of Honda? Toyota? Mitsubishi? All of these big automotive brands were developed in Nagoya. Nagoya has an innovative, industrial atmosphere, ideal for those wanting to experience the business side of Japan.

Visitors should tour the Toyota Exhibition Hall to get a better idea of automotive production in Japan. Nagoya Castle is great for a historical introduction to Nagoya. There are also one-off events in Nagoya like the Nagoya Sumo Tournament in July, the Nagoya Matsuri festival in October, and the World Cosplay Summit in July and August.

Nagoya has lots going on, so don’t forget to check the city’s schedule. And, in your downtime, make sure to try some miso katsu – miso katsu is a regional specialty.

Cities in Japan Saitama

Looking to visit the  real  side of Japan? Saitama is a primarily residential city, perfect for getting a quieter experience of Japan. One of the best ways to experience a country is by escaping its main tourist areas. If you prefer this style of travel, Saitama is the place for you. Many residents use Saitama as a commuter town, traveling to Tokyo for work during the week.

So, what’s there to see in Saitama? Hitsujiiyama Park is a gorgeous place to visit and is famed for its carpet-like growth of pink moss. For those who like tasting sessions, you can also take a sake tour around the city – sampling the traditional Japanese alcohol. Saitama is a beautiful place to visit, not too far away from the other major cities but far enough away to escape the constant buzz.

Cities in Japan fukuoka

Another of the major cities in Japan is Fukuoka. Fukuoka is famous for its beautiful islands and sits on the coastline, surrounded by gorgeous beaches perfect for a summer getaway. The port city is located in Fukuoka Prefecture. The prefecture capital is popular among young professionals, students, and businesses.

The city’s main attractions are Fukuoka Castle, Kyushu National Museum, and Dazaifu Tenman-gu, a shrine to the god of education. Fukuoka is a definite metropolis. If you love an exciting city atmosphere full of action, bold cuisine, and entertainment, Fukuoka is perfect. It lacks the history of Kyoto and the popularity of Tokyo. Still, if you want a fun ‘second city’, you’ll have a fantastic time.

Cities in Japan Nara

Nara is most famous for its deer population. If you’ve seen pictures of Nara online, chances are you’ve seen the idyllic temple scenes. The temples are surrounded by green space and Bambi-look-a-likes – cute, we know. Like Kyoto, Nara was also once a capital city. However, now, Nara is better known for its serene atmosphere and regal history.

The top things to do in Nara are to visit Nara Deer Park, Todai-Ji Temple, and Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine. You could easily spend a whole day temple-hopping though, and Nara is full of peaceful places for visitors to immerse themselves in Japan’s beautiful culture.

Nara is also easy to combine with visiting other cities in Japan. Traveling from Kyoto to Nara is just a short train ride, taking around 45 minutes one way.

9. Nagasaki

Cities in Japan Nagasaki

Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki was victim to an atomic bomb in 1945. The devastation was heartbreaking, and visitors can pay their respects today at attractions like the Peace Park. Nagasaki has many other aspects that make it an educational destination though. Nagasaki is one of the largest port cities in Japan and has a long history of trading with Europe.

The result is a fusion of European and Japanese culture and influence. You’ll find Christian sites like Oura Cathedral amongst the collection of stunning shrines and temples. To immerse yourself in the history of Japan’s international relations, you really can’t find a better place.

Then, when you’re ready, you can visit the Atomic Hypocenter Park and Peace Park to discover the darker side of Nagasaki’s history. The city has lots for you to learn.

10. Sapporo

Cities in Japan Sapporo

Do you recognize the name Sapporo? The city of Sapporo just happens to be the namesake (and birthplace) of one of Japan’s most famous beer brands. Sapporo is the capital of the Hokkaido Prefecture and is easily one of the best cities in Japan. Situated on Japan’s Northern Island, Sapporo is well-combined with a visit to Tokyo.

Visitors can tour the Sapporo Beer Museum or ride up to the top of the Sapporo TV Tower. There’s a fantastic mixture of attractions in Sapporo. It has that city buzz, with lots of big-city-style entertainment and tourist infrastructure.

If you can, coincide your visit to Sapporo with the Snow Festival. The winter festival is one of the best in the world, and the winter wonderland spreads 1.5 km – full of ice sculptures, an ice skating rink, and sledding areas.

Cities in Japan Kobe

Kobe is one of Japan’s largest port cities, beginning to overflow with glitzy skyscrapers and modern living. This is not what got Kobe its place in this guide though; its food scene is what makes it stand apart from Japan’s other best cities. Kobe is world famous for its Kobe beef and renowned for its seafood. If you visit Kobe, be prepared to splash out on daily restaurant meals, as its cuisine is too tempting to pass by.

We suggest exploring Kitano Village to see Kobe’s old-school architecture. Of course, if you walk by a steakhouse, be sure to pop in and grab a table for a taste of Kobe beef. Steak Aoyama is a small, family-run steakhouse with an excellent reputation for delicious meals and pretty reasonable prices. Finish your day with a stroll around the harbor, with views of the modern skyline lighting up after dark.

Got a bit of extra time? Hike up Mount Rokko. Mount Rokko overshadows the city as a beautiful but fierce natural landmark. There are a range of route options so take a look at which best suits your fitness and technical abilities.

Cities in Japan Nikko

Nikko is one of the smallest cities in Japan. Situated in the Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is surrounded by the Japanese Alps. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country – let alone just amongst Japan’s best cities.

You can explore Nikko itself or use the city as a gateway to Nikko National Park. You’ll find temples, monkeys, and natural scenery galore. Nikko is perfect for lovers of the great outdoors. Visitors can easily balance hiking days and outdoor activities with sightseeing in the Nikko city center.

When it comes to  things to do in Nikko , the Shinko Bridge is a must. The iconic red bridge is the postcard image of Nikko, and you should add it to even the shortest of itineraries. We also recommend spending at least a day temple hopping. Outside of Nikko, Kegon Falls is fantastic to visit. And, if you get a chance, take a scenic boat tour down the Kinugawa River.

Nikko is beautiful. To get off the beaten track and surround yourself with nature, look no further. Nikko has a serenity that the major cities in Japan just can’t provide. We stayed in a traditional Ryokan in Nikko, and you can read about our experience  here .

Cities in Japan Matsue

Matsue is in the Shimane Prefecture on the southwest coast of Japan. The large city is called ‘the water city’, thanks to its location between the sea and Lake Shinji. Mastue is less popular than major cities like Tokyo, but those who stray off the beaten path will be richly rewarded. Matsue is full of feudal history, historical sites, and beautiful scenery.

The best things to do are to visit Matsue Castle, the Adachi Museum of Art, and one of the shrines. The Yaegaki and Miho shrines are both famous for their beauty. While, if you want to embrace the water activities of ‘the water city’, you can take a sunset cruise on Lake Shinji.

Matsue has a relaxing atmosphere and is an excellent summer destination. It is one of the best cities to unwind and learn on the same trip.

Cities in Japan Beppu

Beppu isn’t always included in lists of the best cities in Japan. Sure, Beppu isn’t one of Japan’s major cities. However, it is one of the country’s most exciting places to visit. Beppu is a geologist’s delight and the best destination for hot springs in Japan. If you want a spa getaway or just to experience the natural wonders in Japan, Beppu is worth visiting.

Since Beppu has over 2,000 hot spring sources, you’ll have lots of spa-related things to do in the city. You can choose heated mineral springs or bathe in nutrient-rich heated mud or sand baths. You could even steam your own food over the onsen steam.

Want something totally different? Take a cable car trip up the Beppu Ropeway or visit the Harmonyland theme park. Beppe is one of the best cities in Japan for a short getaway and is definitely worth a space on your itinerary.

Final Thoughts

Cool cities in Japan

There are so many amazing cities in Japan. The country is a treasure trove of fascinating urban scenes, and you’ll find a unique culture,  traditions , and delicious  food . Whether you want the neon lights of Tokyo or the blue waters of the sea by Fukuoka, you’ll quickly find a city to suit your needs and interests. Besides, all of these cities in Japan are worth visiting.

We hope that you have a wonderful visit to  Japan . The country is sure to inspire a return visit, so prepare to fall in love.

Plan Your Next Trip to Japan With These Resources:

  • The Best Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
  • Best Day Trips from Tokyo
  • The 17 Best Things to Do in Kyoto, Japan
  • Traditional Japanese Food: 20 Dishes You Can Try in Japan or At Home
  • Mind-Blowing Facts about Japan
  • Things to do in Kamakura Japan – The Ultimate Seaside Escape
  • Complete Nikko Japan Travel Guide – 18 Things to do and Places to See

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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Best cities to visit in Japan

The Japanese archipelago consists of more than 6,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, forming one of the most populated countries in the world with a population of approximately 127 million people. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, and are divided into eight regions .

Japan is a country rich with tradition, culture, and technology. Each city offers visitors its unique take on Japanese culture. In this section, you will find everything you need to know about the best cities to visit while in Japan. What to do, where to eat, shop, when to go and how to use your JR Pass to move around from city to city.

Shibuya crossing in Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. It is one of the most captivating cities in the world, from the majestic temples of traditional Japan to the bright neon lights of Shibuya.

Tokyo has something for everyone and it is definitely a place to visit once in a lifetime. Plan your trip to Tokyo to perfection by reading our guides.

Golden Pavilion in Kyoto (Kansai)

Kyoto is also home to some of Japan’s most iconic landmarks, with some of the most sublime and exquisite gardens, temples and masterpieces you will ever see.

Dotonbori neon lights in Osaka

Osaka city is also deemed a culinary paradise: its nickname Tenka no Daidokoro means the nation’s kitchen.


Yokohama and Mount Fuji

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Japan Travel Guide Blog

Go, Find, Explore Japan.

The Best 10 must-visit cities in Japan. 2023 updated

by Jupiter Ishida · Published June 2, 2022 · Updated February 3, 2023

Japan border opened for tourist! So now is the time to think about where should you visit Japan. I’ll show you 10 of my recommended city. One thing, you guys might know about Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. So that I’ll skip these three major places, Let’s get started!


  • 3 Hiroshima
  • 8 Yamanashi
  • 11 Explore more Japan

If you like enjoying the beach, visit Okinawa(おきなわ). Located in the southern part of Japan, Okinawa is a southern paradise consisting of several islands. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful ocean, Okinawa’s unique culture, delicious food, and cheerful people.

IIshigaki island

If you wanna know about Okinawa more, this post can be good for you!

5 must-visit islands in Okinawa, Japan

If you like nature, visit Hokkaido. Hokkaido is located in the northernmost part of Japan and is the largest prefecture in Japan. Its vast land area is home to numerous national natural parks that impress visitors. It also offers delicious seafood, making Hokkaido a unique tourist destination among Japanese people.

rebun island

If you wanna know about Hokkaido more, this post can be good for you!

5 must-visit city in Hokkaido, Japan

Hiroshima is probably the most famous place in Japan. From learning about the dark history of the past to the delicious food and scenery, Hiroshima is an exceptional destination that attracts many travelers. Hiroshima has my favorite city. It is Onomichi. It has a dynamic cityscape, a sacred mountain, and an observatory from which you can see the whole city. I highly recommend it.


If you wanna know about Onomichi more, this post should be good for you!

Best 10 things to do in Onomichi, Japan

Kagawa is a popular tourist destination belonging to the Shikoku region. The calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea and the beautiful scenery are excellent, but the udon noodles are best! There are a ridiculous number of udon restaurants in Kagawa, and they are cheap and delicious. You should definitely try them!


If you wanna know about Udon more, this post should be good for you!

Best 5 Udon shops in Kagawa, Japan

Toyama is my favorite city. But actually, it is not a very famous tourist destination. Why do I love Toyama so much? There are two reasons. Firstly, you can see 3,000-meter mountains from the city. And you can take a cable car to the top of the hill. The view is absolutely fantastic. And second, sushi. It is said that Toyama Bay produces the best fish in Japan, and the taste is by far the most delicious. I love Toyama and highly recommend you

toyama city

If you wanna know about Toyama more, this post should be good for you!

The 10 Best Sushi restaurants in Toyama

Shimane is known as a sacred place. Hiroshima is nearby. It takes about 2 hours by bus from Hiroshima and 3 hours by train from Osaka. Places to visit in Shimane are Matsue, Izumo, and Gotsu. Matsue is home to Matsue Castle, where you can enjoy the castle town. Izumo is known as the place where Japan began, and you can see IzumoTaisha Shrine and the black tiles from the observatory. Gotsu is known as the city farthest away from Tokyo, where you can enjoy the original landscape of Japan, and the view of windmills on the beach cannot be seen anywhere else. The fish is also excellent as it faces the Sea of Japan.

matsue castle

If you wanna know about Shimane more, this post can be good for you!

Best 10 things to do and places to visit in Shimane, Japan 2022

Miyagi Prefecture is the next recommendation. It takes only two hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train. Sendai, the central city of Miyagi Prefecture, is the largest city in Tohoku; remember the great earthquake and tsunami that hit in 2011? The Tohoku region was severely damaged but has recovered remarkably quickly. Since my first visit here after the earthquake, I have visited Miyagi every year. The specialty is beef tongue. It tastes twice as good when eaten with chili peppers. Triangular thick fried tofu is also delicious.

tourist cities of japan

If you wanna know about Sendai more, this post can be good for you!

The Best 5 restaurants in Sendai, Japan

Yamanashi is a prefecture famous for Mt. It can be easily reached from Tokyo in an hour and a half by bus or train. I have never climbed Mt. Fuji, but I have heard very good things about it. Even if you don’t climb it, just looking at it is a wonderful experience. Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi is overwhelmingly beautiful. Also, in the central city of Kofu, there is a beautiful valley called Shosenkyo. The specialty is Houtou, a thick udon noodle. Although Yamanashi is far from the sea, many people love sushi, and it is said that Yamanashi has the largest number of sushi restaurants per capita in Japan.

lake Kawaguchi

If you wanna know about Yamanashi more, this post can be good for you!

Best 10 things to do and visit place in Yamanashi 2022

Tochigi is one of the prefectures in the Kanto region. Tochigi is one of the prefectures in the Kanto region, and is a great place to visit for sightseeing, as it can be easily reached by train from Tokyo in a day trip. The first is Utsunomiya. In Utsunomiya, you must eat gyoza (dumplings). Many people travel from Tokyo just to eat Utsunomiya Gyoza, which has evolved in its own unique way. Here you can enjoy the nostalgic streets of the old days. It is currently popular as a filming location for movies because of the old buildings and other structures that still remain.


The last one is Gifu. This is my hometown. The southern part of the city is a thriving bedroom community because Nagoya, a major city, is only 30 minutes away. The northern part is home to the World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go. Old houses with thatched roofs still remain, and you can enjoy the original landscape of Japan. Hida beef is a famous food. Along with Kobe Beef and Matsuzaka Beef, Hida Beef is one of the three most popular beef in Japan. You can enjoy delicious yakiniku at a reasonable price at a yakiniku restaurant.

tourist cities of japan

Explore more Japan

In this blog, I showed five of my recommendations, but actually I have more and more favorite places, so stay tuned to the blog and Instagram, and TikTok. If you like Japanese Curry, this post might be good for you THE BEST 10 JAPANESE CURRY RESTAURANTS IN TOKYO Thank you for reading it and see you next time!

You may also like...


The Best Things to do in Toyama, Japan

June 3, 2022

 by Jupiter Ishida · Published June 3, 2022 · Last modified October 17, 2022

IIshigaki island

June 4, 2022

 by Jupiter Ishida · Published June 4, 2022 · Last modified June 5, 2022


June 15, 2022

 by Jupiter Ishida · Published June 15, 2022

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Amazing Jupiter I will be sure to visit all of these places!

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Thank you, Christopher! Yeah, you will have a great time there for sure!

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Kinkakuji, the Golden temple Kyoto, one of the best places to visit in Japan.

16 Unmissable Places to Visit in Japan in 2024

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Japan is somewhere I think everyone should visit. From futuristic skyscrapers to tranquil bamboo forests and neon arcades to serene temples, it’s like nowhere else on the planet.

The food is incredible, the people are ultra polite, and it has one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. We love the combination of ease of travel and glorious bewilderment.

Japan has so much to offer but where should you start? These are our picks for the 10 best places to visit in Japan, perfect for your first or second trip to the country (plus extra suggestions for the repeat visits that are likely to happen!).

I’ve included our favourite things to do in each place, how long to spend there, and where we stayed. At the end of the post you’ll find a map of all these Japan destinations to start planning your route. 

I recommend mixing a few of the popular cities (most people won’t want to miss Tokyo and Kyoto) with some quieter, more rural places in Japan to see a different side of the country and take a break from the crowds.

Video of Japan Must Sees

Top places to visit in japan, more amazing japan destinations, and a few more places to go in japan, best places to visit in japan map, japan travel tips.

Watch our short video for ideas on where to go in Japan for an amazing trip.

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Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, one of the best places to visit in Japan

If you only have time for one Japan destination, make it Kyoto.

This is traditional Japan as you imagined it—geisha in brightly coloured kimonos emerging from wooden teahouses, forests of bamboo, temples and shrines in gold and silver and scarlet, raked gravel Zen gardens, intricate feasts served on lacquered plates, graceful tea ceremonies, and markets full of intriguing but unidentifiable ingredients.

The concrete high-rises of downtown Kyoto can be disappointing, so head out towards the mountains to the surrounding neighbourhoods where you’ll find narrow stone streets, old wooden houses, monks in flowing robes, and the sounds of chanting and gongs from the many temples and shrines.

Gion is the place to spot geisha, Higashiyama has many beautiful temples to explore, and Arashiyama, up in the western hills, is one of the most traditional neighbourhoods and home to bamboo groves, quirky temples, and monkeys.

Kyoto is one of the top Japan tourist spots, so try to visit the popular temples early in the morning as they do get crowded.

In Kyoto don’t miss:

  • Wandering through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari shrine.
  • Drinking matcha in a traditional tea ceremony. We loved Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple.
  • Learning to cook traditional Japanese cuisine in a Kyoto cooking class .
  • Taking the train to the village of Kibune and walking across the valley to the beautiful Kurama-dera temple.
  • Retreating from the busy streets of Gion to the magical Yasaka-jinja at night.
  • Strolling the Philosopher’s Path.
  • Experiencing Zen Buddhist cuisine at the Tenryu-ji temple.
  • Getting off the beaten track at the quirky Otagi Nenbutsuji temple .
  • Exploring these magical Kyoto cherry blossom spots  if you visit in late-March or early-April.
  • Enjoying the magnificent autumn colours if you visit in mid to late-November (Eikando and Enkoji are our favourite temples in autumn).

How Long to Spend: 3 nights minimum but 5 nights would be better. We’ve spent two months in Kyoto and still haven’t done everything! A longer stay also allows you to avoid the crowds more easily (you have more early mornings available) and take some of these wonderful day trips from Kyoto .

Read: Our post on the many amazing things to do in Kyoto (and how to avoid the crowds) and our guide to Kyoto’s temples and shrines and the best vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto: For a traditional ryokan, we loved our huge room with private bath overlooking the garden at Ryokan Yachiyo near Nanzenji temple (choose a suite not a standard room). At central Sora Niwa Terrace we enjoyed the amazing view from its onsen and rooftop bar. Or in a quiet part of Gion, Hotel The Celestine is stylish and close to temples. Find more accommodation in Kyoto here .

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo with SkyTree in the background, a top Japan destination

If Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japan, Tokyo is its ultramodern counterpart.

It’s here you’ll find the skyscrapers, noisy arcades, busy pedestrian crossings, quirky youth fashions, and many many incredibly delicious restaurants.

If all you do in Tokyo is eat, you’ll have an amazing time—even as vegetarians we ate so well.

Tokyo is also home to some of the weirdest activities we’ve ever done. From themed cafes (cats, owls, maids, robots, goats—you name it, Tokyo has it) to sensory-overload shows and arcades to cos-play go-karting.

On my first trip to Tokyo I was overwhelmed by the sprawling city and couldn’t help comparing it unfavourably to Kyoto.

On repeat visits I’ve grown to love the city (the food certainly helped) and while it isn’t as attractive as Kyoto, there is so much to do that you won’t want to skip it.

In Tokyo don’t miss:

  • Driving a go-kart on the real roads while dressed as your favourite character. Insanity but so much fun!
  • Eating in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Memory Lane in Shinjuku .
  • Gazing at the 360º skyline from the Shibuya Sky observatory (go at sunset for day and night views)
  • Walking across the famous Shibuya Crossing.
  • Gawping at the outrageous outfits on Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
  • Visiting the brilliant DisneySea (our favourite Disney park in the world!) or neighbouring Tokyo Disneyland (or both if you have two days spare).
  • Immersing yourself in the colourful digital art museum, TeamLab Planets (and don’t miss Uzu vegan ramen afterwards).
  • Watching sumo wrestlers train— we did this morning sumo stable visit and it felt such an honour to see these impressive athletes close up.
  • Drinking green tea at the relaxing Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience (the tea course is worth it).
  • Exploring the cool neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa for cafes, vintage clothes, and record stores.

How Long to Spend: 3 – 5 nights or longer if you want to take day trips (such as to Nikko, Kawaguchiko or Hakone (for Mt Fuji), and Kamakura). We’ve spent over 6 weeks here on various trips and still find new things to do. If time is limited, I would allocate more time to Kyoto than Tokyo. 

Read: 23 cool things to do in Tokyo and the best vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo .

Where to stay in Tokyo: Read why I think Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo . My top pick is Hotel Century Southern Tower next to Shinjuku Station—our panoramic king room had an incredible view and was more spacious than most Tokyo hotel rooms. Or splurge on the luxurious Hotel Park Hyatt where the film Lost in Translation was filmed. Search for hotels in Tokyo here .

Top tip: Consider buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance as it’s so easy being able to hop on and off trains all over the country. Read our Japan Rail Pass guide for full details.

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3) Takayama

Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

Takayama is an utterly gorgeous small town on the edge of the Japan Alps and one of the best less-visited places to go in Japan.

I loved wandering the historic centre full of traditional wooden houses, colourful shrines, neatly shaped trees, and bright red bridges over the river.

In Takayama don’t miss:

  • Wandering the old town in the early morning before the crowds arrive.
  • Buying delicious fruit from the morning markets.
  • Snacking on mitarashi-dango (rice balls grilled in soy) from a street stall.
  • Seeing the extravagant floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
  • Visiting the Hida Folk Village to see traditional thatched houses.
  • Cycling through the countryside with Satoyama Experience .

How Long to Spend: 2-3 nights. We had 2 nights and wished we’d had longer because there’s lots to do in the surrounding countryside. With a longer stay you could take day trips to the traditional thatched roof houses of Shirakawa-go and go hiking in Kamikochi in the Japan Alps.

Read: 54 Best Things to do in Japan for an Unforgettable Trip

Where to stay in Takayama: We stayed at Super Hotel Hida Takayama , a good mid-range business hotel near the train station. Next time I want to stay at Oyado Koto No Yume , a ryokan with onsen which gets excellent reviews. Find more hotels in Takayama here .

Top tip: See our Japan 2 week itinerary for more details on combining these top places in Japan for an amazing trip.

Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi in Hakone, one of the top places in Japan

Mount Fuji is on most people’s lists of places to visit in Japan, but this must-see Japan landmark can be rather elusive and is often hidden by clouds.

There are a number of places you can see the mountain from ( Kawaguchiko is another great option), but Hakone is easy to reach from Tokyo and there are lots of other things to do in the area in case you are out of luck with a sighting.

Despite visiting on a cloudy, drizzly day, we were lucky that Mount Fuji emerged from the clouds above Lake Ashi and it was magical!

Hakone is also fun to visit because you can do a loop of the sights on different modes of transport—train, bus, pirate boat (yes, really!), and cable car.

In Hakone don’t miss:

  • Buying a Hakone Free Pass so you can hop on and off all the transport options on the Hakone Loop.
  • Seeing Mount Fuji from the lake or cable car.
  • Eating a black egg cooked in the hot sulphur springs at volcanic Owakudani (not really, we skipped this, but the Japanese love them).
  • Soaking in an onsen.
  • Staying in a tatami room in a ryokan (traditional inn) and enjoying an elaborate dinner.
  • Wandering the outdoor sculpture gallery at Hakone Open Air Museum .

How Long to Spend: You could visit on a day trip from Tokyo but I recommend 1-2 nights to experience a ryokan and onsen. We had one night and did part of the loop in the afternoon we arrived and the rest in the morning. While it was just enough for the main sights, we wished we’d had longer to enjoy our ryokan.

Where to stay in Hakone: Hotel Musashiya was one of the best places we stayed in Japan. It’s a modern ryokan on the shores of Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone. We loved our comfortable tatami room with lake views, the indoor and outdoor onsen baths (also with lake views), and the delicious vegetarian feast we were served in our room. It was wonderfully relaxing. Find more hotels in Hakone here .

5) Kanazawa

Kazuemachi geisha area in Kanazawa, one of the best cities to visit in Japan

Kanazawa is one of the best cities to visit in Japan, but few foreign tourists make it here.

Consider Kanazawa as a quieter alternative to Kyoto to experience geisha districts with preserved wooden buildings.

There is also one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, a stunning castle, and many art museums to explore.

In Kanazawa don’t miss:

  • Wandering Kenroku-en Garden , one of the top three gardens in Japan.
  • Exploring the wooden teahouses of the geisha districts Higashi Chaya and the quieter Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya.
  • Experiencing a traditional tea ceremony at the exquisite Gyokusen-en Gardens.

How Long to Spend: 2 nights. 

Where to stay in Kanazawa: We stayed in a standard business hotel in the centre—there are lots of budget options. Find hotels in Kanazawa here .

Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, one of the most beautiful places in Japan

Nikko is a temple town and UNESCO world heritage site in the mountains a few hours north of Tokyo and makes a cool retreat from the city. The area is famous for its vibrant autumn colours.

The temples and shrines with their vermillion gates and moss-covered stone lanterns are scattered on the wooded hillside.

The main attraction is Toshogu Shrine, a stunning complex with more than a dozen lavishly decorated red and gold buildings amongst huge, ancient cedar trees. The crowds can be overwhelming, so afterwards head to one of the quieter shrines.

In Nikko don’t miss:

  • Visiting Toshogu Shrine early to avoid the crowds
  • Playing games at atmospheric Futarasan-jinja
  • Exploring Taiyuinbyo
  • Hiking up the mountain to the peaceful Takino shrine
  • Photographing the bright red Shinkyo bridge
  • Munching on dango (grilled rice balls on a stick) from a street stall
  • Eating sushi at Komekichi Kozushi

How Long to Spend: You could visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo, but it’s worth spending a night or two to explore one of the most beautiful places in Japan including hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. 

We had one night and wished we’d had two so that we could have visited Toshogu Shrine early on the second day. 

Where to stay in Nikko: We stayed at Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station , a good budget option conveniently located close to the train stations. For more character, you could stay in a traditional ryokan with views and outdoor onsen baths such as Nikko Hoshino Yado . Find more hotels in Nikko here .

7) Koya-San

Okunoin cemetery in Koya-san, a top Japan destination

Koya-san (Mount Koya) is one of the most interesting places in Japan to experience the traditional side of the country.

This secluded and sacred temple town is located in the forest-covered mountains of Kansai and is one of the best places to get a taste of life as a monk by staying in a shukubo or temple lodging.

After wandering around the otherworldly Okunoin forest cemetery , we checked into our simple tatami room at the temple, soaked in the communal onsen bath, and enjoyed a delicious shojin ryori  vegetarian Buddhist meal.

In the morning we were up early for the chanting and meditation ceremony with the monks.

A temple stay at Koya-san is a fascinating experience and well worth the detour from Osaka or Kyoto.

How Long to Spend: 1 night. 

Read: Sleeping with Monks: A Night in a Japanese Temple in Koya-San

Where to stay in Koya-san: We stayed in Haryo-in, the cheapest temple accommodation, but it’s quite basic and I’d recommend paying more to stay at one of the more traditional temples like 1000-year-old Eko-in which gets superb reviews. Find more temple lodgings here .

Tsumago village in the Kiso Valley, a must see in Japan

Tsumago is a picture-perfect traditional mountain village in the Kiso Valley.

It is one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time on the traffic-less streets of beautifully restored wooden inns.

During the Edo period 300 years ago, Tsumago was a stop on the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo).

You can hike part of this trail to the village of Magome in about two to three hours. Unfortunately, a typhoon prevented us doing this, but it’s supposed to be a scenic and easy walk.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights. If you can arrive early enough on the first day to hike the Nakasendo Way in the afternoon, then 1 night is enough as it’s a tiny village. 

Where to stay in Tsumago: In keeping with the Edo-era atmosphere, stay in a traditional ryokan or minshuku (a simpler family-run inn). We stayed at the basic Minshuku Shimosagaya . Neighbouring Magome has more choice including the budget Chaya Hotel or historic Tajimaya .

Todaiji temple in Nara, a must do in Japan

Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital and is full of historic treasures including many UNESCO world heritage sites.

It’s one of the top Japan attractions and makes a rewarding day trip from Kyoto to visit the temples and wild deer in Nara Park.

The Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha) at Todaiji is the main sight—it’s the largest wooden building in the world and nothing prepares you for the immense sight.

Inside is the 15-metre tall gold and bronze statue of Buddha that dates back to 751.

We also love the forest shrine complex Kasuga Taisha.

How Long to Spend: Most people visit as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. You can see the highlights in half a day but a full day is better.

Where to stay in Nara: The advantages of staying overnight in Nara are avoiding the crowds with an early start and experiencing our favourite ryokan in Japan. Tsukihitei is a small traditional inn with a magical forest setting and delicious meals. It’s only a 15-minute walk to the Nara temples.

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10) hiroshima and miyajima.

Atomic Bomb Dome at Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan

Come to pay your respects to the victims of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima’s moving Peace Memorial Museum and Park and stay to explore the modern city that was almost entirely rebuilt after World War II.

Hiroshima is usually combined with a visit to the famous floating torii gate at Itsukushima shrine on nearby Miyajima Island.

You’ll also want to try the delicious local speciality okonomiyaki, a thick pancake of batter, vegetables and noodles.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights is enough to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima Island or you could visit as a long day trip from Kyoto, Osaka or Okayama. We spent 1 night in Hiroshima then 1 night on Miyajima.

Read: 14 Best Day Trips from Kyoto .

Where to stay in Hiroshima: The Sheraton Grand Hiroshima was the most spacious Western-style hotel we stayed in in Japan. We really appreciated the king size bed after a few weeks of small Japanese hotels. It’s right next to the station too. Find more hotels in Hiroshima here . Where to stay in Miyajima: While you could visit the island on a day trip, we loved seeing the top sights without the crowds at night and early in the morning. Iwaso Ryokan has the perfect location (secluded but central), beautiful meals, and our room had a view of the torii gate.

There are so many incredible places to explore in Japan. Here are some more destinations that we absolutely loved (and it was hard to leave them off the top 10 list!).

If any of these appeal to you more than the ones above (or fit into your itinerary better), then they will be just as enjoyable. 

Busy streets and giant crab of Dotonburi in Osaka at night, a popular day trip from Kyoto

Osaka is a Japan must-see for many visitors. We love the neon craziness of Dotonburi, the amazing food ( for vegetarians too ), friendly people, affordable prices, and the scary rides and brilliant Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Japan . 

But, if you have limited time on your first trip to Japan, I would probably say choose Osaka or Tokyo as they are both sprawling modern cities. 

If you are flying into or out of Kansai airport then it makes sense to spend a night or two in Osaka. You could also visit as a day trip from Kyoto. 

In Osaka, we loved staying in Shinsaibashi . The location is ideal—quiet but close to lots of cool shops and restaurants and within walking distance of Dotonburi. Hotel options include the stylish Hotel The Flag .

12) Kinosaki Onsen

Visitor to Kinosaki Onsen in kimono at night by the cherry blossom lined canal

On our first Japan trip we were terrified of getting naked in onsens, but on our latest visit we were brave enough to spend a few nights in an onsen town. 

Onsen hopping dressed in a kimono in a traditional hot spring resort is a classic Japanese experience. Kinosaki Onsen is a great place to experience it.

It’s only a few hours from Kyoto or Osaka and the canal-side town is very pretty, especially in cherry blossom season.

We stayed in a traditional tatami mat room at Morizuya Ryokan . It’s ideal for first-timers as they speak English and are very friendly, walking you through everything you need to know. The epic meals served in your room are delicious too.

Read our Kinosaki Onsen guide for all the details including onsen etiquette and how to get over your fears. 

13) Naoshima Island

The yellow pumpkin sculpture on Naoshima Art Island in Japan

Contemporary art fans will love Naoshima, a sleepy island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its art galleries and outdoor sculptures. 

We visited on a day trip from Okayama and had a wonderful day cycling around and combining art with beautiful sea views and tiny fishing villages.

Read our Naoshima Island guide for a recommended one day itinerary.

14) Okayama

Cherry blossoms at Handayama Botanical Garden, one of the best things to do in Okayama Japan

If you are interested in getting off-the-beaten-track, Okayama is a great place to visit in Japan. 

This modern city is home to one of the best gardens in the country and is especially beautiful in sakura season when you can enjoy the cherry blossoms without the crowds of Kyoto or Tokyo. 

As it’s on a bullet train line, it’s a convenient and affordable base for exploring the area including the historic Kurashiki, Naoshima Island, Himeji Castle, and Hiroshima.

We also did a fantastic bike trip on the Kibiji Bike Trail through rice fields to untouristy temples. 

Our post on the best things to do in Okayama has all our tips.

15) Himeji Castle

Hineji Castle in cherry blossom season

Himeji Castle is one of the few original castles in Japan (most were destroyed at some point and rebuilt). It’s well worth a visit, especially in cherry blossom season. 

You can easily visit in half a day from Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama (as we did) or on the way to Hiroshima. 

16) Kawaguchiko

Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchiko at sunrise from the north shore

For the best views of Mount Fuji, head to Lake Kawaguchiko. It’s especially lovely in cherry blossom or autumn leaf seasons. 

You can enjoy the views by walking or cycling around the lake or taking a trip on a cable car or boat (we hired a panda pedal boat!).

The lake is also home to one of my favourite museums and tea houses in Japan.

Kawaguchiko Lakeside Hotel is an excellent affordable option here. Unusually for Japan, our room was huge, and it’s close to the lake with Mt Fuji views from some rooms.

See my Lake Kawaguchiko guide for more tips. 

These Japan tourist attractions and off-the-beaten-path gems are on our list for our next trip:

  • Kamakura – Beaches, Buddhas, hikes and vegetarian-friendly food. You could visit as a day trip from Tokyo.
  • The Izu Peninsula – Rugged coastline, mountains, and hot springs not far from Tokyo.
  • Shirakawa-go – A village of traditional grass-roofed houses in a scenic setting. You could fit in a visit between Takayama and Kanazawa.
  • Takaragawa Onsen – A scenic onsen resort a few hours from Tokyo. It has a large mixed-gender onsen, so unusually you don’t have to be naked.
  • Hokkaido – The northernmost island of Japan known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities.
  • Okinawa – A chain of tropical islands in the far south of Japan.

Read our detailed Japan guides for everything you need to know to plan a brilliant trip.

  • 54 Best Things to Do in Japan for an Unforgettable Trip
  • Planning a Trip to Japan: Dos and Don’ts
  • Two Weeks in Japan: A Detailed Itinerary
  • Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
  • Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation
  • 20 Fascinating Books to Read Before Visiting Japan
  • Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

More Japan, Direct to your Inbox!

I hope this post has given you some ideas of where to go in Japan. Wherever you decide to visit you are sure to have an amazing trip. 

What are your favourite places in Japan? Leave a comment and let us know so we can add them to our Japan bucket list. 

If you enjoyed this post, pin it!

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First of all – your posts are fantastic and so full of great detail. We are planning our first trip to Japan in November. First draft is 5 days Tokyo – 2 days Hakone – 5 days Kyoto – 3 days Hiroshima – 4 days Tokyo.

I was trying to see how to fit Lake Kawaguchi or Takayama or Kanazawa into the trip but they all seem to require quite the journey time given the other places we have picked. Wondering if it would be better to add some days to the end of the trip and just visit from Tokyo. So maybe do Tokyo to Kanazawa for a couple of days. Not particular keen on 5-6 hour trip from Takayama back to Tokyo so may have to skip that.

Reply ↓

Hi Kevin I would do Tokyo – Hakone – Takayama – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Tokyo.

We did Tokyo – Hakone – Takayama – Kanazawa on our 2 week itinerary:

I prefer Takayama to Kanazawa, especially as you already have lots of big cities on your itinerary. If you really want to fit it in, do so between Takayama and Kyoto.

Lake Kawaguchi is harder to fit in. You could do it as a day trip from Tokyo at the end if you didn’t see Mt Fuji at Hakone (due to clouds) and if you have the energy.

One thing you might also consider is reducing Hiroshima to 2 nights and adding a night on Miyajima Island. We did that last October (one night in each) and really preferred the island after the day trippers had left and early in the morning. You might catch the autumn colour on the island if you are visiting later in November. Again, it changes up the pace from the cities.

If you have big suitcases, you could use a luggage delivery service from Hiroshima to Tokyo and just take a day bag for the overnight (we decided against that but only had a carry on suitcase and laptop bag each).

Good luck with the planning and enjoy Japan!

Erin – Thanks for the advice – good to hear input from someone who has actually experienced it

Apologies for posting the reply so many times – i kept picking the wrong reply option

Awesome guide. Thank you. A lot of the accommodation is around $500aud a night! Extremely expensive. Is that normal around Japan? Me and my partner were wanting to travel around Japan in July this year but if the cost of accommodation us that expensive we might not be able to do the trip. I assume we will be able to find cheap accommodation at most places?

You can definitely find much cheaper accommodation. We did our first few Japan trips on much tighter budgets, but now have the ability to choose more special places to stay.

Your best bet is to look for business hotels in the cities – rooms are usually small but clean and well equipped. Have a browse on and you should find plenty of options.

Planning trip(first time ever in Japan) arriving afternoon of December 18th and leaving evening of December 30th. I will be traveling with my 18 and 20 year old boys (privacy should be interesting in the tiny hotel rooms). Planning to stay in Tokyo either 5 nights with day trips to Hakone and either Kamakura or Yokohama OR 4 nights with day trip to either Kamakura or Yokohama and 1 night in Hakone. Is it worth staying the night in Hakone, or just day trip from Tokyo? Then we will spend 3 nights in Kyoto and 3 nights in Osaka (does it matter which order?) with a day trip from each city. One to Nara and one to Hiroshima and Miyajima. My 18 year old wants to have Kobe beef in Kobe, but don’t think it will happen as it’s likely not worth the time away from the other places. I’d love to be able to visit both Kamakura and Yokohama, but don’t think it will work. Likely choosing to go to Kamakura. We will return to Tokyo for the last night and spend the last day (really 1/2 day) in Tokyo before heading to the airport to fly home. Thoughts on the plan? Any specific recommendations?

I think it’s worth spending the night in Hakone if you stay in a ryokan as it will be a unique experience that you won’t get in the cities.

I would probably go to Kyoto before Osaka but it doesn’t make a huge difference. Your day trip choices sound good.

Enjoy Japan!

thank you very much for all the infos and the very beautiful photos!

Hello, Have you been to Tamba-Sasayama in Hyogo? We have a lot of nature, local food, and cultures! Tamba black beans are famous local food and also you can experience a pottery making. I hope you will visit here one day;)

We haven’t but we’ll put it on our list for our next trip this autumn! Thank you for the recommendation!

Wow, this is such a great travel guide. Thanks a lot!

Odd how all of the “best places in Japan to visit” are all in central Japan near Tokyo and Kyoto. How disappointing the travels of the writers to these other parts of the country must have been.

Have you been to the Autumn Takayama Festival? 😊

We did not buy plane tickets yet, but we were going to land on Oct 22 to experience the Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto. We heard about Takayama festival on Oct 9th and wanted to know if it’s worth changing our plans to fly in earlier for it, and if the weather will be horrible or not during that time? Thank you so mochi for your help! I’m so torn!

We haven’t been but it does look cool! I’m not sure it’s worth changing your plans for. Later in October you’ll have more of a chance of seeing fall colours in Kyoto. If you do decide to go, book your accommodation asap as it gets extremely busy during the festival.

What is the best way to get around these places? Train or car?

Train. You might find this post helpful:

very nice good work

Thanks for the detailed post with nice photographs

I forgot to include in early to mid December.

I’ve been to all the tourist sites and a few others. Where would you recommend for an overnight not far from Tokyo?

Have you been to the Izu Peninsula? We haven’t yet but our friend who lives in Tokyo recommends it. The onsens would be nice in the winter.

planning on going japan next year, getting lots of ideas from these blogs

Beppu should be on this list!

Hopefully we’ll make it there next time!

nice one thank you i learn lot of things about this web site

what about Harajuku?

I included it in the Tokyo section :)

It’s definitely worth visiting!

Hello I am relooking at your Japan highlights. I had the most amazing trip in Spring 2020 many thanks to your post which seems now to have gone and been replaced by more posts. The one thing I would like to say is that you put before Miyajama on the one i read and i have to say that this was one of my favourite spots. I totally recommend it. We also did the two walks one of which was the edo trail and the other outside of Kyoto. We stayed in Koyasan too thanks to you. Thank you again.

Hi, I’m thinking of planning a trip for me and my daughter to visit Japan but haven’t any ideas of where to start. I was thinking a two week trip but maybe more time would be needed for the things we would like to do. If staying for longer than two weeks is there visas needed ect. I haven’t a clue where to start I’ve looked at your guide which is very helpful. Would I be better of speaking to a travel agent for help and advice ??? Many thanks Paul Miller.

It depends where you are from but many nationalities (including UK and US) can stay in Japan for 90 days without a visa.

Two weeks would give you a great overview (here’s a suggested itinerary: ) but if you have more time (and the budget), there’s always more to see.

I think Japan is manageable without a travel agent. See our post on planning a trip for ideas to get started:

We used this page during our six week Japanese adventure and it was brilliantly helpful! Thank you!

I’m glad it helped, Alex. I hope you enjoyed Japan as much as we do.

This page has been very helpful! I am planning a two week trip to Japan next year and this has helped break down each city and what to not miss. Thanks again!

I hope someday, I can visit Japan for some other reasons. As pictures shown, fantastic and very interesting places and educational as well.

Japan has always been a remarkable place for me. I think I missed those places you described about. I hope I can give a shot on my future trip if possible. Btw thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Japanese pachislot, mechanical games,are different from foreign slot machine and popular recently. From 2020 smorking will be prohibited in the pachinko parlors or pachislot parlors. Terefore more and more people will have a good time during playing games. If you come to Japan, you might want to play them.

We keep meaning to try pachinko! That’s good news about the smoking ban!

Hi Great website thanks. We are looking to travel to Japan (arrive Tokyo) in late January for about 14 days. This is our first visit and we don’t mind driving. I would be interested to know what places you could recommend to get a real feel of Japan. Thanks

I don’t recommend driving in Japan. The train system is so efficient and it’ll be less stressful than driving. Here’s our 2 week itinerary:

Thanks for the guidance. If you were going in November for 6 weeks what would you do with your time Cheers Walter

That’s a great amount of time and you should so some great autumn foliage. You could visit everywhere on this list so it really depends on your interests and what pace of travel you prefer.

On our latest 7 week trip we chose to base ourselves in Kyoto for a month then travel around for a couple of weeks and finish with a week in Tokyo. If you prefer to move at a faster pace you could cover a lot of ground.

Hi Guys, great site. I was wondering why you seem to spend so much time in the large cities? I’m planning my first trip and my initial thoughts were to spend just a few days in Tokyo and Kyoto? Arent the more remote sights more rewarding?

I was also wondering about a cherry blossom visit – when if the best time to see them but to avoid the worst of the crowds??

Thanks! Chris

We love the smaller places in Japan and think the ideal trip includes a mix of them with the big cities. I wouldn’t say they are more rewarding, just different. There’s just so much to see (and eat) in Tokyo and especially Kyoto that we keep returning to them.

If you’re not a big city person a few days in Tokyo would be fine. Kyoto has a lot of history, temples, and traditional architecture (and more tourists), so you’ll only cover some of the highlights in a few days.

The cherry blossom are only in full bloom for about a week so there’s no way of avoiding the crowds in popular spots then. It’ll be slightly less crowded at the beginning or end of the blooming period, but it’s hard to predict exactly when that will be (and it varies by location).

I would focus on visiting places that have cherry blossoms but fewer crowds. We were in Kyoto at the beginning of April when the blooms just started (and it was already quite busy) then moved on to Kinosaki Onsen and Okayama where we enjoyed the blossoms without many people around.

I’ve written more about it here (and will be doing an Okayama post at some point):

hi guys really nice blog, could you itemize it, how many days you spent in each city, village? and if you would change something, where to stay maybe longer, where shorter?

regards tomek

That’s a good idea! We’re currently travelling in Japan and will update this post soon so I’ll add that info then. If you’d like to know about a specific place now just let me know. Usually we spend a week or more in Kyoto and Tokyo and only 1-3 nights in the smaller places.

My husband and I are interested in making a second trip to Japan in March with our 5 month old baby. This will be our second trip…we’ve done Tokyo, Takayama, and Kyoto previously (along with one night in Osaka). We LOVED Takayama for its food and quaintness. We liked Tokyo but got bored after a few days. Kyoto was probably our least favorite – too touristy, What should we do for our second trip??

It’s very difficult to make recommendations without having any idea of what you like to do, how long you plan to visit, or if your baby goes everywhere with you. Given that you liked Takayama, you might consider Kanazawa, Kurashiki, and Nikko. The first two are small cities of about 400,000 that have delightful walking areas and interesting sights in general. Nikko is very small but houses the shrines of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu, who were the first and third shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate. These are UNESCO World Heritage and incredible.

You didn’t indicate when you visited Japan on your first trip. If you went to Kyoto during fall foliage you would have encountered a lot of tourists, most of whom are Japanese. Kyoto draws tourists because it is a world class city with a very large number of World Heritage sites in addition to spectacular fall color. I don’t want to sound rude regarding your Tokyo comment. I can understand not liking Tokyo because it is a bit overwhelming in size, although that is part of what makes it so enjoyable for us. However, I cannot comprehend getting bored there.

I wish you luck.

It sounds like you enjoy the smaller, more traditional places so I’d recommend Tsumago, Koya-san and Kanazawa (a bigger city but with some lovely traditional neighbourhoods). Nikko is also beautiful but we found it very crowded (it would have been quieter if we’d stayed overnight and arrived early though).

Your website is terrific. I was provided a link to a couple of regions in Italy for a major summer trip. Your comments, photos and recommendations were of such interest that my wife and I decided to completely change the first 10 days of our trip. Then I got so immersed in the various places you have gone, I decided to look at Japan. We spent a month there five years ago, and then we spent another month this December including Christmas. We have been to all but two of your 10 unmissable places in Japan and have used the trains and metros as our primary modes of transport. We would agree that Japan is a great place to visit and the people are terrific.

Since you asked for additions to your bucket list, I would like to suggest the following. Near Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima. This is the site of the great in the water torii gate, which is quite magical. The museum at the Hiroshima Peace Park provides an incredibly moving experience. Himeji Castle (White Heron Castle) is one of the original late 16th century castles and I believe the largest. It is on the route between Hiroshima and Osaka. It has been recently renovated. Osaka Station is beautifully done with some terrific surrounding buildings. The Dotonburi area is neon heaven with street food in abundance. Kyoto, as you stated, is amazing with probably more UNESCO World Heritage locations than anywhere else in the world. South of Kyoto in Uji is Byodo-in, a world heritage temple with a beautiful new museum.

I agree that Kanazawa is a really nice smaller city. Like Kyoto it was not bombed. The D.T. Suzuki Museum is an outstanding piece of architecture, although of primary interest to people steeped in Buddhism, philosophy. The Seisonkaku Villa is a 10,000 foot samurai home located at the edge of Kenrokuen Gardens and is very interesting. There are two places in Takayama you didn’t mention, each of which is very worthwhile. First, next door to the Float Museum and on the same admission ticket is the Sakurayama Nikkokan. This museum contains scale models of the shrines in Nikko. It took 33 master carpenters and 17 years to complete during the first part of the 20th century. It is incredible. Second, the Takayama Museum of Art houses an outstanding (Michelin 3 star) collection of art nouveau and art deco objects. We visited Matsumoto to see the Matsumoto Castle (Black Crow Castle). It is also one of the oldest castles in Japan.

I would also like to suggest Nagoya, which is one of Japan’s largest and most industrial cities. It is home to Toyota. Three recommendations. First, tour the Toyota Factory to get real insight into a truly sophisticated approach to assembly line manufacture. Second, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Science and Technology is phenomenal. Many demonstrations of working textile machines and auto robotics. Third, the Nagoya Palace has been rebuilt (just opened in 2018) to exact specifications of the original palace (early 1600s) including all the screens. Even though it is a replica, it’s incredible.

You covered the shrines in Nikko. I would only add that if one did nothing else but see the Nikko shrines, a trip to Japan is warranted. Finally, Tokyo is to us the most exciting city around. Never ending pleasure of wandering around. There are just too many places to enumerate. One little side note: the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku has a roof garden. You can buy incredible take away food in the basement food halls and take to the roof to eat, if the weather is good. Better than either Harrod’s or Selfridge’s.

Thanks so much for the tips David! We are returning to Japan in a few weeks for two months so we’ll try to visit some of these places.

Hi! Thanks, I am definitely gonna copy your ideas! One question – is it worth to go to Hiroshima instead of Takayama? My husband and I are gonna visit Japan in March 2019 for 9 days. I think it is not enough to fulfil your itinerary and we have to shorten it a bit. Thank you for your blog ;)

Honestly, we preferred Takayama. It’s just so pretty with the traditional Japanese architecture and we like small towns. Hiroshima is more of a big modern city BUT of course, the peace memorial is very moving, so if you really want to see that then choose Hiroshima instead (which is actually what we did on our first trip to Japan).

My husband is wanting to visit , the place that his father served in Japen . He is not sure exactly where that is ?

Hi..!! the blog is very informative.Me and my wife would be visiting Japan in Mar’19 for 8 days.We have opted for a package tour.Based on your recommendations Kyoto & Tokyo seem the 2 top places.Can you please recommend us the third place to visit..??

We are going there on a tour to Himazi with 3 homestays & I want to visit a friend in Miyago. Can we still see Mt Fuji & Kyoto after the tour? Thank you for your wonderful blog. Lynne

If you have time I don’t see why not. You can check train times/distances on the Hyperdia site . Have an amazing trip!

Interesting blog, thank you for sharing your experiences! We will have 9 full days in Japan and hoping to see Tokyo, Mount Fuji ( want to stay two nights there ) Takayama, Kyoto and Hiroshima ( as a one day trip from Kyoto ). We are flying back home from Osaka ( our arrival is at Haneda ).. do you think it is do-able or are we overdoing it? Maybe we should leave out Takayama? but since we are going middle of October we are hoping to see some of autumn there..any recommendations? Thank you!

Hi Nath I think it will be a busy trip but it’s definitely possible to do all that in 9 days. I love Takayama so it’s hard to recommend skipping it. It all depends on your energy levels! If you are up for busy days then go for it! Enjoy! Erin

Wooooow love this post!! I have always dreamed of visiting Japan and seeing real Cherry blossoms.. Though I was able to make one dream a reality – see real cherry blossoms in Atok, Benguet, Philippines (but just a few because we were told that it will took two years for the trees to bloom). They look lovely!! :) I’m still not giving up on the bigger dream which is to go to Japan :D And once I get there, I’d definitely visit Kyoto coz I find their culture very rich.. from geishas to kimonos, to sushi and temples! :) See you soon Japaaaaaaaaan!

Who knew there were cherry blossoms in the Philippines?!

We’re planning to go back to Japan next year for the cherry blossom season, although I’m a little worried the crowds will be crazy. Kyoto is a definite highlight of Japan – I hope you make it there!

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tourist cities of japan

16 Japanese Cities To Visit Besides Tokyo And Kyoto

  • Osaka: Experience incredible nightlife and outstanding cuisine in this seaside city known for its energetic atmosphere and delicious food.
  • Naoshima: Discover the art island with its galleries, sculptures, and installations, and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and sea views.
  • Himeji: Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Himeji-jo castle and explore the picturesque Mount Shosha and Kokoen garden for a diverse cultural experience.

As Japan finally opens its borders to eager travelers after one of the strictest lockdowns that the world has seen, most itineraries focus on the shopping districts of Tokyo and the Buddhist temples of Kyoto. Occasionally, the street food of Osaka might make it to the list.

Few consider venturing beyond the big cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, but for those who dare try, thrilling adventures await in Japan's best cities. From former homes of samurai warriors and current cities of geishas, hot springs spas, traditional architecture, and ski mountains — these cities deserve a spot on everyone’s Japanese bucket list.

UPDATE: 2023/10/09 19:32 EST BY MARIA BOU INK

Japan's beauty is not limited to Tokyo and Kyoto. The country is a hub of wonderful towns that are worth a trip. Therefore, this list was updated to include two of the best cities to visit in Japan besides Tokyo and Kyoto.

Related: Beautiful Tourist Pics Showcasing The Best Things Japan Is Known For

If tourists want to sample some of the greatest cuisine and beverages Japan has to offer, they should head over to Osaka , a seaside city famed for its incredible nightlife and outstanding cuisine. Tokyo's big-city energy is also present here but on a little lesser scale. This way, tourists can visit cities in Japan other than Tokyo and Kyoto while having the same vibes and escaping the crowds. Tourists are recommended to visit the Osaka Castle and Park in between all of their eating and exploring. It is one of the most well-known sights in Japan and is definitely worth visiting.

  • Some attractions: Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Universal Studio Japan, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, etc.

The island of Naoshima, which is reachable via ferry, is a wonderful location. The area is referred to as the art island, and tourists may find galleries, sculptures, and installations everywhere they go, especially if they stay at the upscale Benesse House, which serves as both a hotel and a museum of modern art. On the island, there are two towns, both of which include charming stores and little restaurants. There are also sea views everywhere, which enhances the tranquil atmosphere.

  • Some attractions: The Yellow Pumpkin, Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima Public Bath I Love Yu, etc.

Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site castle , Himeji is worth a special trip for the Himeji-jo castle alone. Widely considered to be the finest example of 17th-century feudal-era Japanese architecture that still survives, Himeji-jo may be the reason tourists visit this city in Japan, but Himeji gives them several reasons to stay. On the outskirts of the city is the picturesque Mount Shosha, with a Buddhist temple at its peak. And if a hike isn’t someone’s cup of tea, tourists can spend a day at the Kokoen garden, which is made of nine walled gardens connected by a network of streams, waterfalls, and ponds and sits on the former feudal lord’s residence.

  • Some attractions: Himeji Castle, Engyoji, Himeji Central Park, etc.

Related: Three Days In Japan: 10 Cities You Can Explore In Only 72 Hours

Matsue’s location on a peninsula by the Sea of Japan with Lake Shinji on its west and Lake Nakaumi on the east has given the city another name: The City of Water. While the water bodies that surround it have given Matsue its second name, there are also water bodies within the city. Canals with boat tours for tourists flow through the city, old samurai houses flank its streets, and Matsue is home to one of only twelve medieval castles that are preserved in their original state in Japan. But that’s not all: the city has long attracted curious travelers with its rich myths and legends related to Matsue being the place where Japanese gods descend.

  • Some attractions: Matsue-jō Castle, Yuushien, Yaegaki Shrine, etc.

Yokohama is the second-largest Japanese city and the first to have opened its ports to the world at the end of the Edo Period. The port city quickly transformed from a small fishing village to a major city when foreign trade introduced new cultures to the old Japanese traditions of the village. As a result, Yokohama offers a contrast between old and new, and travelers can explore the streets of Yokohama to see the Western influence on the Japanese way of life everywhere. Tourists can visit traditional Japanese gardens and tea rooms, ramen and instant cup noodle museums, giant ferry wheels reminiscent of the London Eye, and one of the largest Chinatowns in the whole country.

  • Some attractions: Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum, Yokohama Chinatown, Yokohama Cosmoworld, etc.

For those who like the crowds of Tokyo but wish for a city just a tad more quite than the Japanese capital, Fukuoka’s contemporary attractions make it the ideal city. Fukuoka is Japan’s eighth most populous city and balances urban life with the natural beauty that is synonymous with Japan. The port city is filled with hot springs, hike trails, tea plantations, and sake breweries. But the best part, perhaps, is the fact that Fukuoka happens to be the city that invented tonkatsu ramen , so for those who’d like to slurp their way through Japan via its ramen, Fukuoka has to be the starting place.

  • Some attractions: Ohori Park, Marine World, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, etc.

Hokkaido is an island region of Japan that is known for its hot springs, ski mountains, and volcanoes. Hakodate — located on the island’s southern tip — is one of the largest cities in Hokkaido and was voted Japan’s most attractive city in 2015. Visitors can hike to Mount Hakodate and enjoy spectacular views of the city surrounded by the sea, soak in the hot springs, go down ski slopes, or take in the views of the Mount Komagatake volcano from the lakes of Onuma Park. The best part of the port city, however, is its food. Surrounded by the sea, Hakodate is famous for its freshly-caught seafood, and the Hakodate Morning Market is the best place to enjoy it.

  • Some attractions: Goryokaku, Goryokaku Tower, Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, etc.

Related: After Cherry Blossom Season, Here Are 10 Unique Activities To Enjoy In Japan This Fall

Kyoto isn’t the only city in Japan famous for its Buddhist monasteries and temples. Formerly known as Heijo-Kyo , Nara was once Japan’s capital city and is now home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites . The Horyuji Area of Nara was the first to be on the list and includes 48 Buddhist sites, all of which are of immense importance to the Japanese culture and religion. Also on the list are areas with several temples and historical monuments from ancient times when Nara was still the capital, as well as pilgrimage routes and sites on the Kii Mountain. Tourists can end their tour of the temples and spiritual sites of Nara with a friendly visit to greet the deers at the Nara Park or stroll through Imaicho — a merchant town preserved from the Edo period that will take everyone back in time.

  • Some attractions: Today-ji, Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, etc.

Nagasaki is most often associated with the atomic bomb and the tragedy that followed. Still, the city has a lot more to offer beyond the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Nagasaki Peace Park, which attract most tourists. Not only is the city home to several stunning islands off its coast, but Nagasaki has consistently ranked on top of the list of places with the best night views in Japan . Travelers can hop onto a ropeway to the peak of Mount Inasa and enjoy spectacular views of Nagasaki as it lights up after sunset. More surprisingly, however, Japan’s first and oldest Chinatown happens to be in Nagasaki, and it has continued to serve Japanese-Chinese fusion foods since the 17th century.

  • S ome attractions: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park, Glover Garden, etc.

For those whose idea of a holiday in Japan includes spending hours soaking in hot water springs, Beppu is the place to be. Beppu’s gushes of hot spring water rank second highest in the world and the highest in Japan, gushing more than 100,000 liters of water each minute through thousands of hot springs. Not only does the abundance of hot springs make Beppu the Onsen City of Japan, but Beppu also has several boiling ponds known as Jigoku or hell. Locals use these Jigoku ponds for cooking food as well, giving rise to a culinary custom known as Jigoku-Mushi, or hell-steaming, that is peculiar to Beppu.

  • Some attractions: Kannawa Hot Springs, Beppu Ropeway, Shidaka Lake, etc.

Takayama is several things: A city surrounded by the Japanese Alps, Japan’s ski destination, home to bustling morning markets and festivals dating back to the 1600s, and a place where Japanese tradition flourishes through some of the country’s most beautifully preserved villages. Takayama’s Sanmachi area, in particular, houses preserved thatched-roof houses from which antique dealers and artisans sell their wares, and hidden cafes and brewers dish out hot coffees and icy sake to any visitors who manage to spot them.

  • Some attractions: Takayama Jinya, Hida Folk Village, Shinhotaka Ropeway, etc.

The city that served as the seat of the second most powerful feudal clan in Japan during the Edo period, Kanazawa has always been a place of great cultural significance in Japan. More importantly, Kanazawa was the second largest city after Kyoto, which managed to remain safe from the bombings of World War II. As a result, most of the city’s old castles, gardens, samurai, and geisha districts have survived the test of time. That being said, Kanazawa also houses the iconic 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and is the city where traditional teahouses and crafts, including Kaga-yuzen (a silk dying technique), ohi ware (tea ceremony bowls), and gold leaf production continue to prosper.

  • Some attractions: Kenroku-en, Higashi Chaya District, Myouryouji, etc.

Related: Unwind & Relax In Japan: The Best Onsens To Soothe Your Soul


Shirakawa-go is not a city but a traditional Japanese alpine village stuck in time . It is part of a national park and is a great place to visit to see the way things used to be in Japan. Here (and its sister village Gokayama), visitors may feel like they are living in the world of the 2003 movie, The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise (although it was actually filmed in New Zealand).

These traditional villages are UNESCO World Heritage Listed and are a great example of how Japan works to preserve its heritage.

  • Some attractions: Wada House, Gassho-zukuri Minkaen, Myozenji, etc.

Hiroshima is one of only two cities to ever be hit with a nuclear bomb . It is also a testament to how cities can bounce back from destruction, being today a thriving city of over one million people. It was founded in 1589 as a castle town but transformed into a major industrial hub (which made it a target for nuclear bombing).

Today visitors can see the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Hiroshima Peace Memorial and commemorate the bombing wishing for such destruction to never again return to this planet.

  • Some attractions: Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Atomic Bomb Dome, etc.

Sapporo is the capital of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. It is the largest city north of Tokyo and is considered the cultural and economic center of Hokkaido. The city hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics and is one of the best places in Japan to enjoy the winter season. Come in early February and attend the Sapporo Snow Festival. The festival draws over 2 million visitors from far and wide. Additionally, Sapporo is home to the only beer museum in Japan - the Sapporo Beer Museum.

  • Some attractions: Hokkaido Jingu, Moerenuma Park, Sapporo Beer Museum, etc.

Naha is the capital of the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan ( Okinawa is Japan's fifth major island ). The city has a population of around 300,000 and enjoys a humid subtropical climate (quite the opposite of Hokkaido's Sapporo). It is a stunning city and the gateway to Okinawa Island (which Americans may recall from the costly American invasion of the islands in World War Two). One of the top attractions in the city is the restored and rebuilt Shuri Castle (a former royal palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom).

  • Some attractions: Shuri Castle, Naminoue Shrine, Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, etc.

16 Japanese Cities To Visit Besides Tokyo And Kyoto

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16 May 2023 - 8 min read

10 Best Cities Worth To Visit In Japan According To Tourists [with map!]

No doubt, Japan is one among the best holiday destinations in Asia. For us, coming to Japan has been a beautiful dream for the past two years. Now that Japan arranges to reopen the border for independent tourists, it is time to hunt for the best city to visit in Japan and make your itinerary!

Well, it will be really hard to decide which one is the best city in Japan, the most beautiful one, the most refreshing one, and more. In fact, the cities in Japan have their own characteristics. The best nature city might go to Kyoto, but it doesn’t mean that other cities don’t have nature destinations.

Although it will be easy to spot the best modern city in Japan. It goes to Tokyo, and following it is Osaka.

Map of cities in Japan

Maps of Japan - Best Cities in Japan

Best and popular Cities to Visit in Japan

Here are some of the cities in Japan we recommend you visit on your next holiday!

Tokyo - Best Cities in Japan

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. When visiting Japan, more often than not, you will land in Tokyo first. The capital city of Japan is home to two international airports, Narita and Haneda. Set your foot outside the door and plenty of interesting attractions awaits.

Tokyo offers a beautiful blend of history and culture, both traditional and modern. It houses a number of historical sites, from Asakusa Kannon, the oldest temple in Japan, to the Imperial Palace, where the emperor resides. On the modern side of the spectrum, you’ll find the popular Disneysea theme park, Shinjuku entertainment center, and Ginza shopping district.

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Kyoto - Best Cities in Japan

Kyoto, considered by many as Japan’s most beautiful city, was the Japanese capital until the government was moved to Tokyo in 1868. Japan’s former capital, Kyoto, houses hundreds of Buddhist and Shinto shrines. Each shrine has an interesting history and, very important for young travelers nowadays, an Instagrammable look.

Located northwest of Kyoto, the Kinkaku-ji shrine was built above a reflective pool and has a gold-plated wall. You can also find Fushimi Inari Taisha, which has a row of red temple gates (Torii) you’ve most definitely seen on various websites and social media. Also, don’t miss the chance to visit Kiyomizudera Temple which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Osaka - Best Cities in Japan

Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city and was the country’s first capital. As the second-largest metropolitan city after Tokyo, Osaka is the economic powerhouse and It is considered a vital economic center in Japan.. Formerly known as Naniwa, Osaka houses one of the most important sites in Japan’s history, the Osaka Palace. The castle was built in the 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the military leader who succeeded in uniting Japan.

Osaka is also home to Universal Studios Japan, a theme park from one of the major film studios in Hollywood. Another place that you should not miss while visiting Osaka is Shinsaibashi, which is an entertainment center and a great place to buy souvenirs for your loved ones at home.

4. Yokohama

Yokohama - Best Cities in Japan

Located south of Tokyo, Yokohama is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second-largest city in Japan by population. It houses an abundance of famous sightseeing sites like the seaside urban area Minato Mirai, the historic Red Brick Warehouse, and the Yokohama Chinatown.

Big fans of Japanese cuisine will get a kick out of their visit to Yokohama as the city has one of the most interesting museums around, the Ramen Museum. Aside from learning its history, you can eat, shop, and even try to make your own ramen there.

5. Hiroshima

Hiroshima - Best Cities in Japan

You are probably familiar with Hiroshima because of its history. Hiroshima is said to be the first city that is attacked by an atomic bomb in the world. Right now, Hiroshima is one of people’s favorite destinations, making it one of the best cities in Japan to visit during the holiday.

When you visit Hiroshima, it wouldn’t be gloomy at all due to the history of it. Although, there are some places in Hiroshima that will remind people of the story of the bombing. The Atomic Bomb Dome or also known as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is one of them.

The more heartbreaking place related to the 1945 tragedy is the nearby Children’s Peace Monument. It will makes you think about the children that died because of the bombing.

But, don’t worry, Hiroshima also has plenty of cheerful places. Get to know the culture more by visiting Itsukushima Shrine and enjoy its beauty. Get amazed by the castles in Hiroshima, like Hiroshima Castle and Fukuyama Castle.

Also, strolling around to get some delicious food would be a great idea!

Nara - Best Cities in Japan

The next best city to visit in Japan is Nara. Nara is close to Osaka and Kyoto. For those of you that love cultural trips, Nara is a must-visit city for you. It will greet you with their collections of temples.

Nara has plenty of temples! There are Todaiji Temple, Horyuji Temple, Kasuga Taisha, Toshodaiji Temple, and more. Of course each temple will have its own characteristic and story, so you can visit them one by one if you like.

Other than those temples, you can enjoy the outdoors hangout in Nara Park, where you can meet all the wild deers in it. A National Museum is available too in Nara, consisting of Buddhist arts. Well, Nara is one of the best cities in Japan that has a strong Buddhist background.

Sapporo - Best Cities in Japan

Who likes visiting Japan during winter? Well, if you are one of them, then Sapporo is your next best city in Japan. Sapporo has so many attractions related to winter themes, such as skiing and visiting winter festivals. But surely, Sapporo is not only nice during winter. You can visit this best city in Japan anytime you want and enjoy all the fun things to do there!

The next thing you should do is check out Sapporo Beer, if you are a fan of beer. Expand your knowledge about Sapporo Beer by visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum. Other than that, you can choose other things to visit. More museums available: Hokkaido Museum that will explain to you the history of Hokkaido or Hokkaido Museum of Art for all the art lovers.

You can take a walk and enjoy Sapporo while enjoying the street or the parks. Check the Clock Tower, stroll around at Moerenuma Park, or visit the 100th Anniversary Memorial Park.

Beppu - Best Cities in Japan

Japan is strongly related to hot springs, or what they call “onsen” in Japanese. So, if you are looking for the best city in Japan with plenty of choices of hot springs or onsen, Beppu is your answer.

The location is very strategic for Beppu to own plenty of onsen. They even call the geothermal hot spots in Beppu as “eight hells of Beppu”. Pretty scary, but it is actually not. Beppu is what you are looking for when you need some relaxing time while soaking and enjoying the natural hot water.

It is very easy to find the hot springs in Beppu. Just search for Hells of Beppu, Umi Jigoku, and more. Other than being number one for onsen, you can hike on Mount Tsurumi, shop at Kitakoka Shotengai Shopping street, ride the Beppu Ropeway for the greatest view of Beppu, and the most unique one, visiting Beppu beach and try bathing in the sand!

The food in Beppu is spectacular too. Trying the Chicken Tempura and Chicken Karaage in Beppu is a must!

Kobe - Best Cities in Japan

In the island of Honshu, you will find another best city to visit in Japan that is Kobe. If you crave for a place with a beautiful view of the mountains or the harbour, you can come visit Kobe while you are in Japan.

The most known and famous in Kobe is its memorial of the earthquake tragedy back in 1995. There is a Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park to commemorate the incident. It was a big earthquake, one of the biggest earthquakes that happened in Japan. Related to the incident, there is also a statue of the robot that helps rebuild the city. The robot is called The Tetsujin 28.

Anyway, there is still more of Kobe that you can enjoy. This best city to visit in Japan has a variety of destinations, starting from the Oji Zoo that you can visit with your kids, the Ikuta Shrine for a more cultural destination, Mount Rokko for those of you that love to hike, and a tour to the sake brewery.

10. Kanazawa

Kanazawa - Best Cities in Japan

Last but not least, the best city to visit in Japan is Kanazawa. When you spend your holiday in Japan, don’t forget to take a day or two to stay in Kanazawa and enjoy all the things you get to see and try here.

You will be confused when you arrange your own Kanazawa itinerary because there are too many interesting places to visit! You can find almost everything in Kanazawa: modern museums, onsen, parks and gardens, temples, and plenty of food to try. Even the Kanazawa station itself is very aesthetic. You can take some mandatory pictures there.

During late March to April, Kanazawa is the best city in Japan to enjoy the cherry blossoms as well. But, if you are not going on the time where it blossoms, you don’t need to worry as there are more things to see and do.

The Hakusan National Park, for example, will refresh your sights and be your company when you want to hike. There are still more gems for your eyes: Matsumoto Castle, Kamikochi, or the Kiso-Ontake Mountain Range.

Also, when you plan to go anytime soon, you can pick December as you can enjoy checking out the ski resorts in Nagano.

So, now you already have 10 best cities to visit in Japan for the holiday. We are sure that you already miss the moment where you can go to Japan and spend a good time there. Well, the good news is that Japan will reopen its border to international travel again on October 11th 2022!

Read more best articles about japan:

With the good news coming to the realization in a very short time, go plan your Japan holiday itinerary and add your favorite best city to visit in Japan!

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21 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Japan

Written by Meagan Drillinger Updated Mar 20, 2024

Japan is an enigma. It's the perfect juxtaposition of centuries-old traditions overlapped with lightning speed, cutting-edge technology. Many first-time visitors to Japan are often surprised to learn that, as one of the world's most advanced industrialized nations, this relatively small Asian country also boasts a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years.

Indeed, long before many of Europe's most spectacular cathedrals were built, Japan's Shinto and Buddhist temples were already well-established and drawing pilgrims and patrons to their elaborate designs and décor. At the same time, the country was already perfecting the skills and trades that would set it on the path to riches, from fine porcelains and ceramics to textiles such as silk.

Much of this rich tradition has, despite wars and natural devastation, been preserved (or rebuilt), and a visit to Japan is a memorable adventure. Boasting an endless list of top attractions, fun things to do, and points of interest to explore, a vacation in Japan is certainly a great investment of time and money.

Discover the best places to visit in the country with our list of the top tourist attractions in Japan.

1. Mount Fuji

2. imperial tokyo, 3. hiroshima peace memorial park, 4. historic kyoto, 5. the island shrine of itsukushima, miyajima, 6. temple city: historic nara, 7. osaka castle, 8. chūbu-sangaku national park and the japanese alps, 9. the atsuta shrine, nagoya, 10. fukuoka castle ruins and the city's ancient festivals, 11. sapporo, hokkaido, 12. fushimi inari-taisha shrine, kyoto, 13. koyasan okunoin, 14. kiyomizu-dera, kyoto, 15. shinjuku gyoen national garden, tokyo, 16. hakone open-air museum, hakone, 17. naritasan shinsho-ji, narita, 18. okinawa churaumi aquarium, 19. matsumoto castle, nagano, 20. arashiyama monkey park, kyoto, 21. kenrokuen garden, kanazawa, tips for making the most of your visit to japan, best time to visit japan.

Mount Fuji

Without a doubt Japan's most recognizable landmark, majestic Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) is also the country's highest mountain peak. Towering 3,776 meters over an otherwise largely flat landscape to the south and east, this majestic and fabled mountain is tall enough to be seen from Tokyo, more than 100 kilometers away.

Mount Fuji has for centuries been celebrated in art and literature and is now considered so important an icon that UNESCO recognized its world cultural significance in 2013. Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park , Mount Fuji is climbed by more than a million people each summer as an act of pilgrimage, which culminates in watching the sunrise from its summit.

While some still choose to begin their climb from the base, the majority of climbers now start from above the halfway mark, at the 5th Station, resulting in a more manageable six-or-so-hour ascent. Those who do attempt the complete climb are advised to depart in the afternoon, breaking up the climb with an overnight stop at one of the "Mountain Huts" designed for this very purpose. An early start the next day gets you to the top for the sunrise.

Of course, for many, simply viewing the mountain from the distance, or from the comfort of a speeding train, is enough to say "been there, done that."

  • Read More: Exploring Mount Fuji: A Visitor's Guide

Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge

Tokyo's most famous landmark, the Imperial Palace with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats, is a must-see when visiting the nation's capital. Don't be put off by the fact that the majority of the palace is closed to the public (it's still in use by the Imperial family), as there is still enough to see simply by strolling the grounds.

In addition to the many fine views of the palace from numerous points in the surrounding parkland, visitors are permitted into the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden and other areas that are opened to the public as part of an organized tour. One of the most romantic views is of the famous Nijubashi Bridge , or "double bridge," so named for its watery reflection.

Another one of the must-sees for tourists visiting Tokyo is the famous Ginza shopping district. This always bustling area is home to the Kabuki-za Theatre with its Kabuki performances, as well as the Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre with its traditional Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku performances.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

While little needs to be said here of the horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, much can be said of the incredible efforts this vibrant city has made to commemorate the many victims of the world's first nuclear attack. Perhaps even more importantly, Hiroshima has become a symbol of lasting peace.

Visited by more than a million people each year, many from overseas, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kōen) lies at the epicenter of the atomic blast in what was once a bustling part of the city. Here you'll find a number of important monuments, memorials, and museums relating to the events of that fateful day.

In addition to the grounds and gardens with their colorful cherry blossoms, the park is where you'll find the Peace Memorial Museum, with its numerous exhibits dealing with the issue of world peace. It's also where you'll find the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace , as well as the Atom Bomb Dome , the ruins of an administrative building that lay at the center of the explosion.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hiroshima

Bamboo forest in Kyoto

One of Japan's most visited cities, lovely Kyoto – one of the few cities in the country to be spared the devastation of WWII – attracts more than 10 million visitors annually. Most of them are here to explore Kyoto's fine old streets and architecture, much of it unchanged since the Imperial family took up residence here more than 1,000 years ago.

Even then, the city was Japan's most important cultural center. This legacy, in fact, continues to this day with its many museums and art galleries, each bursting with important sculptures, paintings, and other art forms.

Highlights of Kyoto's Buddhist-influenced architecture include its many well-preserved temples, 30 of which are still in use, and important structures such as the 14th-century Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), famous for its exquisite gold-leaf-clad exterior.

Be sure to also visit Nijo Castle , a 17th-century fortress that has retained its original walls, towers, and moat. Also worth seeing are the castle's beautiful gates, along with its palace with fine interior décor.

Another landmark to visit is the original Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto-gosho ) . Built in AD 794, it's one of the city's most visited historic sites.

Finally, no visit to Kyoto is complete without spending time exploring the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove . This beautiful area of tall bamboo is just a few minutes' walk from the town center.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kyoto

The Island Shrine of Itsukushima

Just a short ferry ride from mainland Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima , famous the world over as Japan's Shrine Island. Covering an area of 30 square kilometers in Hiroshima Bay, Miyajima is best known as the home of the Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto temple dedicated to the Princess daughters of the wind god Susanoo.

Dating from the eighth century, the majority of the shrine's buildings rise out of the waters of a small bay supported only by piles. The effect at high tide is simply stunning, making these structures - including the famous Great Floating Gate (O-Torii) - appear as if they're floating on water.

Linked together by walkways and bridges, it's a fascinating place to explore, in particular its larger halls. These include the exquisite Honden (Main Hall), the Offerings Hall (Heiden), the Prayer Hall (Haiden), and the Hall of a Thousand Mats (Senjokaku).

Another notable feature is the shrine's stage, where visitors are entertained with traditional dances and musical performances. Also worth exploring are the island's exquisite grounds and gardens, home to wild deer and numerous bird colonies.

Please note: You can expect some interruptions and inconvenience from now until 2022 due to major renovations taking place at this historic site.

Temple City: Historic Nara

For centuries the hub of Japanese culture, the lovely unspoiled city of Nara is home to a large number of historic buildings, along with important national treasures and works of art.

In addition to its many historic streets, the city boasts numerous important old temples. These includ the magnificent seventh-century Kofuku-ji Temple , perhaps the best known of the Seven Great Temples of Nara; and the splendid eighth-century Todai-ji (Great East Temple), famous for its huge bronze statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), cast here in AD 749.

Also of interest in Todai-ji are its Great South Gate (Nandaimon). This spectacular two-story structure is borne on 18 columns, with two Nio statues standing eight meters tall, and it guards the temple entrance. Also of note here is the Hall of the Great Buddha, the world's largest timber building.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nara

Osaka Castle with autumn leaves

Built in 1586 by famous Japanese warrior and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi , Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō) was at the time the largest and most important fortress in the country. Although destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since, the present structure, built in 1931, remains true to the original.

Highlights of a visit include the huge five-story, 42-meter-tall main tower. Built on an imposing 14-meter-tall stone base, the tower is home to a number of displays detailing the history of the castle and the city. Be sure to visit the top floor for its superb views over Osaka, an especially attractive sight as the sun sets.

Also of interest in Osaka Castle Park is the Hokoku Shrine , while Osaka's best-known temple, Shitennō-ji , is also worth visiting and dates back to AD 59. Notable as Japan's first Buddhist temple, this lovely shrine features a five-story pagoda along with a number of other exquisitely decorated buildings. Among them are the Golden Pavilion (Kondō), with its fine statues and paintings; the Lecture Hall (Kōdō); and a lovely covered corridor linking three of the site's gates.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Osaka

Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps

Japan boasts a number of outstanding areas of natural beauty, many of them designated as national parks or, in some cases, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the country's most spectacular of these is Chūbu-Sangaku National Park in the center of Honshu. Located in the park's northern and central regions is the group of mountains collectively referred to as the Hida Mountains , or Japanese Alps.

This region contains some of the highest peaks in the country, including Hotaka at 3,190 meters, and Yari at 3,180 meters. Similar in many ways to the Alps of Central Europe - both in the character of the landscape and in its abundance of snow in winter - the Japanese Alps attract large numbers of walkers and climbers in summer and skiers in winter.

Of particular interest is the park's abundance of flora and fauna, including the rare ptarmigan and mountain antelopes found at higher altitudes. The park's many hot springs also draw visitors and led to the development of various spas and holiday resorts, the best known being Kamikōchi .

The Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, Japan

The Atsuta Shrine, in the heart of the city of Nagoya, is the most important Shinto shrine in Japan, and attracts more than five million visitors each year. Established in the first century, this religious site is famous for its preserved Imperial insignia, the "grass-mowing sword" (kusanagi-no-tsurugi), one of only three in the country.

Also of interest are its principal shrine, Hongu, surrounded by an enclosing wall, and the treasury with its numerous works of art, including old and modern paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and traditional masks. While in Nagoya, be sure to also visit Nagoya Castle . This splendid moated complex was built in 1612 and boasts a 48-meter-high main tower that is famous for its two gilded dolphins (shachi). It's also a popular place to visit for its museum, containing art treasures from the former palace, and its spectacular views over the city and the Nobi Plain.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nagoya

The ruins of Fukuoka Castle in Maizuru Park

The ruins of the once-grand Fukuoka Castle (Fukuoka-jō), built in the early 1600s, punctuate the middle of Maizuru Park. The castle was once a fine example of the prolific and majestic hilltop homes preferred by Shoguns and city rulers. But it was destroyed after the Meiji Restoration as a backlash against the feudal system.

Today, only the ruins of the castle remain, including the main gate and one of the turrets. Visitors mainly come here for the leafy walking trails and scenic lookouts, with beautiful views over the Naka River. If you climb to the top of the ruins, you can see views of the city beyond. The park is especially lovely in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Fukuoka is also well known for its many events and festivals. The best-known of these is Hakata Gion Yamakasa , a famous two-week long, 700-year-old celebration held each July that draws millions of visitors from across the country to its colorful parades, as well as its traditional races and costumes.

The city is not without its modern attractions, too. Most notable among them is Canal City Hakata , a-city-within-the-city complete with a canal running through the complex, along with great shops, hotels, restaurants, and a theater.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fukuoka

Sapporo, Hokkaido

Located on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, the city of Sapporo offers many things to do for tourists . As the island's largest city, it's a hub of cultural activity, hosting many excellent events and festivals. It also has a distinctive culinary style; a rich theatrical history; and plenty of museums, galleries, and parks.

The focal point here is very much the city's attractive downtown area, the center of which is Odori Park, a large swath of green that's very pleasant to explore. From here, you can also access points of interest such as the Sapporo TV Tower , as well as the city's famous aerial tramway, an easy walk away. The Mount Moiwa Ropeway will eventually get you to the summit's Upper Station, from where you can enjoy incredible views over the city, a real treat at night.

The mountain is also the location of the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort, a popular winter destination, especially since the 1972 Winter Olympics were held in the city. And if you're arriving in winter, be sure to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival , held here each February and drawing in excess of two million revelers.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

When you visit Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, you'll be seeing red – but in a beautiful way. One of the most important shrines in Japan, the Fushimi Inari shrine is found in southern Kyoto, made famous for the thousands (yes, thousands) of scarlet-colored gates that arch over a web of trails. These arch-covered trails command silence, so expect a very peaceful walk towards the forest around Mt. Inari.

Inari is the Shinto god of rice – one of the most important gods in Shintoism. Of the thousands of shrines dedicated to him, Fushimi Inari is decidedly the most important. Most travelers come to see the vermilion gates, but the shrine itself is also open for exploration, and the buildings are quite spectacular.

Visitors can also hike to the top of Mt. Inari, which takes roughly two to three hours round-trip. The route up the mountain is dotted with shrines and smaller gates, as well as spots to grab something to eat.

Koyasan Okunoin

While a cemetery may not seem like an obvious top attraction, Japan's Koyasan Okunoin is a great exception. One of the most sacred places in the country, this popular pilgrimage spot holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism.

Daishi, also called Kukai, is one of the most important figures in Japan's Buddhist history. It is said that he sits in eternal meditation while waiting for the Buddha of the Future. Those who make the pilgrimage to his mausoleum do so to ask for salvation in this life.

Upon reaching the cemetery, visitors will cross the Ichinohashi Bridge, which is the first bridge into the cemetery. On the way to the mausoleum, visitors will pass more than 200,000 tombstones. The path leads to Gokusho Offering Hall, where visitors can make offerings, as well as pray for family members they have lost.

A second bridge, the Gobyobashi Bridge, is what separates the most sacred center of the site from the rest of the cemetery. Here is where you'll find the Miroku Stone, as well as Torodo Hall, which is a main worship hall just in front of the mausoleum. The hall is aglow with thousands of lanterns. Behind the hall is the mausoleum itself, and it is a most awesome experience to visit.

You'll feel the power of something – whether you believe or not – as pilgrims from all over the country have come to chant and pray in the presence of Kobo Daishi.

Kiyomizu-Dera temple during cherry blossom season

Kyoto is practically overflowing with gorgeous sites and landmarks. The city is a top attraction itself. But one can't come to Kyoto without visiting Kiyomizu-Dera, or the Pure Water Temple.

One of the most important temples in Japan, Kiyomizu-Dera was built in 780 CE on the grounds of the Otowa Waterfall. It was originally built to be part of the Hosso sect of Buddhism, but later formed its own sect in the mid 20th century.

Today the UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its wooden stage, which overlooks the beautiful rooftops of Kyoto, and the marvelous trees that always put on fantastic color displays in both the fall and cherry blossom season.

On the grounds, visitors will find other important sites, like the Jishu Shrine, as well as the Otowa Waterfall itself, which still gushes at the base of the monument's main hall.

Shinjuku Gyoen park

One of Tokyo's most famous districts is the Shinjuku district, known for its electric nightlife, trendy restaurants, and upscale hotels. But the heart of the district is also home to one of Tokyo's most naturally beautiful attractions – the Shinjuku Gyoen park.

Within the park are sprawling green spaces and trails of walking paths that wind around stunning floral displays, ponds, and manicured shrubbery. Come cherry blossom season, the park is one of the best spots to catch the brilliant waves of powder pink.

The park was built during Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867) as the residence of a feudal lord. After that it became a botanical garden and then was an entertaining grounds for Japan's Imperial Family in the early 20th century. It opened in 1949 as a public park.

Within the park are three different styles of garden, including a Japanese landscape, English landscape, and French landscape.

Hakone Open-Air Museum

The town of Hakone, located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to the west of Tokyo, is known for its stunning mountains and tranquil hot spring resorts. That is reason enough to visit this stunning small town. But another top draw to this peaceful bit of paradise is the impressive Open-Air Museum.

True to its name, the outdoor museum is a sculpture park that spreads over 17 acres. Opened in 1969, it is one of the first open-air museums in Japan, featuring more than 100 sculptures all over the grounds.

One of the most impressive sculptures here is the Symphonic Sculpture, which allows visitors to climb a stained-glass tower to reach a viewing platform that overlooks the surrounding mountains, as well as the other works of art on the grounds.

In addition to the outdoor exhibits, the museum has an indoor exhibit, including one of the world's most impressive collections of Picasso . You'll find more than 300 of the great Spanish painter's works here, including his oil paintings, prints, ceramics, and sculptures.

Naritasan Shinsho-ji temple

Dating back more than 1,000 years, the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Japan. The purpose for the temple was to protect and pay homage to a statue of the Buddhist god, Fudo Myoo, which is said to have been carved by Kobo Daishi. Within the temple grounds are several buildings, including several different style pagodas, a park, and the main halls.

Approaching the temple complex is like stepping back in time. The half-mile journey from the rail station to the temple complex is a road lined with restaurants and handicraft stores. The same has been true of this street for hundreds of years. While the stores themselves may have a 21st-century appeal, the arrival experience to the temple complex has remained unchanged for centuries.

Whale shark in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Japan's Okinawa archipelago consists of more than 150 islands that speckle the area between Taiwan and Japan's mainland. This tropical environment is completely unique to other areas of Japan, home to beautiful beaches and swaying palm trees. The main island is also called Okinawa, and is home to several museums, as well as the Churaumi Aquarium.

The aquarium is widely considered to be the best in Japan, known for its Kuroshio Tank. Within this massive tank are about 60 different species of animals, but most visitors come to see the gigantic whale sharks and gliding manta rays.

Other attractions within the aquarium include a deep water exhibit, which shows off bioluminescent fish, as well as an area dedicated to tiger and bull sharks. Outside are a variety of pools that are home to dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.

Matsumoto Castle

Japan has hundreds of beautiful, historic castles. But none is as complete or mesmerizing as Matsumoto Castle. Built from 1592 to 1614, Matsumoto is located in the city of Nagano. Tip: One of the best times to visit the castle is in the spring , when the grounds of the castle are powdered a soft pink with the bloom of thousands of cherry blossoms.

Inside the castle, visitors have one of the best glimpses back into time. Matsumoto Castle has maintained its wooden interiors, giving a true historic feel to the experience. Matsumoto is considered to be one of five castles that are designated as "National Treasures of Japan." It is the oldest six-story castle tower that remains in the country.

Arashiayama Monkey Park

Located in the Arishayama section of Kyoto, the famous Arashiayama Monkey Park is one of the best things to do both in Kyoto, as well as Japan overall. A short hike up a forest-covered mountain opens up to sweeping views over the city, as well as a troop of more than 120 Japanese macaque monkeys.

The macaques roam freely in the monkey park, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with these energetic creatures. You can even feed them with food you purchase at the park. You'll find a small, wooden enclosure where you can feed the monkeys. Outside the enclosure the macaques roam freely, bouncing from branch to branch and scattering across the dirt trails.

The top of the peak also provides a great view of Kyoto and the beautiful mountain peaks in the distance. Visiting the monkey park is wonderful in both spring and fall because you'll have a bird's eye view of the cherry blossoms and the brilliant changing of the leaves.

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Perfectly manicured with the highest attention to detail, the gardens in Japan are truly works of art. To visit a Japanese garden is to step into a painting. Arguably the most beautiful garden in Japan is the Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa. The grounds used to be a part of Kanazawa Castle and were opened to the public in the 19th century.

What makes the garden so special is that it was designed around what are known as the six essentials to make a perfect garden. These include spaciousness, seclusion, antiquity, abundant water, views, and artificiality.

While exploring the grounds, visitors will pass by beautiful pools, babbling brooks, bridges, teahouses, artfully placed stones and flowerbeds, as well as sweeping views and secluded pockets.

The park is a beautiful spot to witness the cherry blossoms in the spring, as well as the sweeping autumn colors that take over in the fall.

  • Shoulder Season Travel : Due to its being blessed with so many amazing points of interest, Japan's top attractions can, during the peak summer months, get rather busy. If you can be flexible with your trip planning, create a sightseeing itinerary that will allow you to explore this beautiful country during the quieter shoulder seasons. You'll not only be rewarded by fewer lineups, but will be able to enjoy things other visitors will miss out on: spring cherry blossoms in places like Nara Park; amazing fall colors in the hillside spa destination of Jozankei Onsen; and historic structures such as Fukuoka Castle blanketed in snow.
  • Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (Train) : Thanks to its superb modern and efficient public railway system, Japan is an easy country to get around. Japan Railways is responsible for more than 21,000 kilometers of rail lines, connecting all points to larger cities such as Tokyo. The best of these is the Shinkansen Bullet Train , capable of traveling 320 kilometers per hour, making a trip such as Tokyo to Fukuoka - some 1,170 kilometers away - doable in just over six hours. Be sure to pick up your Japan Rail Pass or book your rail tours before departure to ensure savings.

Traditionally dressed woman along the river in Kyoto with fall colors

Despite its small size, Japan experiences almost every kind of weather you could imagine – from rainy typhoon seasons to snowy winters to hot humid summers. Whether you want to ski, hike, or explore the city, Japan has much to offer – and a perfect season for each of these activities.

For most tourists interested in sightseeing, the best time to visit Japan is during the months of March and April , as the weather is milder, the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in bloom, and the big summer crowds haven't arrived yet.

A land of contrasts and surprises, Japan has stunning springs, snowcapped mountains in winter, and plenty to do outdoors in the warmer months. The best time to visit Japan can be any time, depending on your interests.

Spring: Sakura (cherry blossoms) completely transform Japan during the months of March and April, making spring one of the most beautiful seasons in the country . Spring temperatures can vary widely depending on where you're heading, with the northern destinations seeing around 4 degrees Celsius in April, and the southern cities experiencing temperatures in the mid to high teens-in many places like Tokyo, temperatures are usually in the single digits in the early mornings and at night, but a comfortable 13 to 15 degrees during the day.

Summer: Japan's summers are hot, humid, and often wet . Temperatures in the cities often reach into the high 20s and sometimes 30s, but with high humidity present, it feels much hotter. Summer is a great time to head to the mountains and the countryside to escape the urban heat . Between July and October, the coast of Japan is under the threat of typhoons and heavy rains, although the wettest months are usually August and September .

Fall: Fall is a great time to travel around Japan , as you'll get cooler weather, great Autumn colors, and discounted prices. Although spring has similar temperatures, fall is drier , so you won't have to constantly carry an umbrella with you everywhere you go. Rikugien Garden in Tokyo and Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Mt. Fuji are great places to catch the autumn colors.

Winter: Depending on your destination, Japanese winters can be very cold (as low as -10 degrees Celsius in Sapporo) or mild (Naha regularly sees January temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius). In most places, however, winters are dry-no humidity and very little rain, with snow mostly falling on the countryside but sometimes also blanketing the bigger cities. The alpine regions, including the ski resorts around Hokkaido, are among the best places to visit in Japan in winter. Slopes are great in January and February, with plenty of powdery snow for outdoor sports.

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Endless Day Trip Options : Wherever you choose to visit in Japan, the country's fast rail services open up endless possibilities for day trippers. Even if you are only visiting one city, you may be able to see several important tourist attractions in the surroundings. For more detail in planning your trip, see our articles on day trips from Tokyo , as well as historic Kyoto , and Osaka .

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In Kyoto, Five Hotels to Add to Your Travel Wish List

The city’s newest crop of hotels — from a luxury retreat on a historic estate to a 10-room inn surrounded by forested mountains — were worth the wait.

A bedroom with two low beds with white sheets and a joined inverse trapezoidal wooden headboard with two built-in side tables with small lamps.

By John Wogan

The pandemic lockdown in Japan coincided with a flurry of new hotels, especially in Kyoto, where the Park Hyatt, Aman and Four Seasons were joined by a group of independent properties and the first Ace hotel in the archipelago. When the country finally reopened to foreign visitors in October 2022, tourists came flooding back to the city of 800-year-old temples and bamboo forests spoiled for choice of accommodations, at a range of prices. The number continues to grow: Next month, the wellness-focused Six Senses brand will open its first Japanese outpost in the city’s Higashiyama district, home to many of the main tourist sites. Here, a look at five of Kyoto’s newer hotels that are redefining the city’s hospitality scene.

Hotel the Mitsui Kyoto

Andre Fu, the interior designer behind hotels like the Upper House in Hong Kong and Villa La Coste in Aix-en-Provence, France, has infused his signature aesthetic (extravagantly refined, with warm woods and luxurious textures) within the confines of a particularly historic area of Kyoto. The 161-room Mitsui, opened in late 2020, sits across from Nijo Castle, an enormous 17th-century compound and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s in stark contrast to the hotel, whose only timeworn element is an imposing entrance gate — a traditional wood structure over 300 years old and a remnant of the days when the Mitsui family lived on the grounds. Once past the gate, you’ll find a glass-and-steel building, designed by the Japanese architect Akira Kuryu, and landscaping that’s meant to echo the original garden pathways of the Mitsui residence, planted with cherry trees and steppingstones that meander above a glassy pond. The four food and drink venues include the French-Japanese Toki, overseen by the chef Tetsuya Asano (previously of the Ritz Paris), and the Garden Bar, strategically positioned to capture seasonal views, like the spring cherry blossoms and blazing autumnal foliage, out of massive double windows. Rooms from about $1,360 a night.

Ace Hotel Kyoto

The youthful Ace hotel brand might seem like an odd fit in staid Kyoto. But this 213-room property, which opened in 2020, fits seamlessly into the city center thanks to a collaboration between the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and the California-based design firm Commune. Kuma, who designed the Japan National Stadium (the centerpiece of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics), renovated the imposing 1920s-era, red brick Kyoto Central Telephone Office, while adding an industrial-looking building — sheathed in copper sulfide plating, cedar, glass and concrete — next door. Commune infused the guest rooms with Ace’s signature mix of bright colors and patterns: original dyed prints from the Japanese folk artist Samuro Yunoki sit alongside Tivoli radios, turntables and vintage records. The most popular part of the hotel, though, might be the street-level branch of Stumptown Coffee Roasters — the first in Japan. From about $300 a night.

Arashiyama House Mama

Like Kyoto’s dozens of temple gardens, this 10-room property offers an immediate sense of calm. Its entrance is so discreet, you could easily miss it. (Look for the flowing white cloth curtain with simple black signage, behind which is a garden path leading to a minimalist building made of wood, concrete and glass.) The hotel’s location informs the interior design: Thirty minutes west of central Kyoto, the Arashiyama district is defined by nature, with the Katsura River at its center, and filled with bamboo groves and surrounded by forested mountains. Guest rooms are simply furnished with beds, chairs and tables handmade by both Kyoto artisans and the Danish furniture maker Carl Hansen & Son, and each one has a soaking tub. Rooms from about $540 a night.

The Shinmonzen

The Gion district epitomizes Kyoto for many visitors, with its maze of narrow alleys and ryokans, traditional Japanese inns. It’s here, on a quiet side street among artists’ studios, antique shops and galleries, that the Shinmonzen opened in December 2021. Although it’s a new build, the aim was for the hotel to blend in with the surrounding structures. To accomplish this, the famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando created a wooden facade that replicates a machiya , one of the venerable townhouses found throughout Kyoto. There are only nine guest rooms, but they’re unusually spacious, and all have balconies with views of the Shirakawa River. Each one is an ode to Japanese interior elements, furnished with tatami mats, shoji (panels lined with rice paper) and cypress soaking tubs. And for dining, the chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose restaurant empire spans the world, devised a menu blending French, American and Asian influences, sourcing much of the produce from local farms. Rooms from about $1,500 a night.

Maana Kiyomizu

A three-suite hotel near the 16th-century Toyokuni Shrine, Maana Kiyomizu is the latest offering from Maana Homes, the small local hospitality group, which operates two other properties in the city. This one, opened in the winter of 2022, is located in Higashiyama, and is a complex of four machiya that also houses POJ Studio — a boutique that sells artisanal Japanese crafts and home goods. There’s also Kissa Kishin, the second branch of a popular Gion cafe, which serves coffee, matcha and pastries and acts as the unofficial social center for the property. The Japanese architects Uoya Shigenori and Takeshi Ikei renovated the suites to create a minimalist wabi-sabi ideal of city living, where handmade pottery from Shigaraki (a town famous for its ceramics) are the only decorative flourishes to be found. Rooms from about $560 a night.

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Japan tackles overtourism with restrictions for some iconic sites

John Walton

Mar 27, 2024 • 5 min read

tourist cities of japan

From restricted capacity to increased tourist taxes, options are being considered to counter overtourism in Japan © Jon Hicks / Getty Images

Japan is set to limit visitors at some popular attractions so that sites don't suffer from overtourism. Here's what you need to know.

Japan’s enduring popularity for overseas visitors is bringing consequences as the country seeks to balance the benefits of tourism and the impact on the areas visited, particularly at iconic destinations . 

Recently, tourists have been banned from certain private streets in Kyoto ’s famous historic Gion district , traditionally home to the teahouses where geisha  (geiko) and maiko (apprentice geiko ) performers work, largely due to antisocial behaviour. Unruly tourists have even been blamed for harassing geisha, with the Japan Times  reporting that one had her kimono torn and another had a cigarette butt put in her collar.

A group of four women with white-painted faces and colorful kimono

What new policies are being considered?

New fees and restrictions have already been introduced on climbing specific trails up Mt Fuji , in order to combat overcrowding, reduce the environmental impact — including cleaning up all the trash that results from so many people on the mountain — and improve safety for everyone doing the climb. 

Kyoto is considering special tourist express bus routes, that will whisk visitors to the city’s most iconic sites in order to reduce overcrowding and improve efficiency on regular local buses, as well as to make what can be a complicated system easier for travelers. 

Higher pricing for tourists is also being considered, having largely been absent in Japan, where many of the most famous cultural attractions are surprisingly inexpensive to enter. For example, Kyoto's famous golden temple Kinkaku-ji costs ¥400 for adults, which is about US$2.50. Changing this would be controversial, and it seems more likely that there would be increases in tourist taxes in order to fund services for visitors.

What are tourist taxes used for?

Local tourist taxes, usually collected as an extra on top of payment for your hotel, are common across many parts of the world, although these are relatively low in Japan compared with, say, destinations in the US like Honolulu and San Francisco.

These aim to fund some of the local costs associated with visitors: Kyoto’s is on a sliding scale based on the price of your hotel room, from ¥200–1000 a night (about US$1–7). The city of Hatsukaichi, home to the UNESCO-listed Itsukushima-jinja , often known as Miyajima and famous for its torii gate standing in the water off the island, recently implemented a ¥100 (about US$0.60) fee to fund the preservation and management of the site.

Japan already has a ¥1000 (about US$7) tourist departure tax that you may have never noticed as part of your plane fare.

A group of hikers head up a steep series of steps with a torii gate ahead of them

How is Japan likely to manage the problems of overtourism?

It seems unlikely that Japan will curtail its overall number of visitors because of overtourism. More likely, we’ll see more examples of capacity restrictions in specific places, like on Mt Fuji, where a certain number of people per day are allowed in.

This already happens in some cases in Japan: the famous Ghibli Museum in Tokyo and the new Ghibli Park in Nagoya both have a ticket maximum to maintain the quality of experience and to avoid overcrowding — the price for the former is just ¥1000 or about US$6.50, so it really is about capacity.

Some trains — specifically the fastest Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen between points west of Tokyo — are  not included as part of the Japan Rail Pass , even though the slightly slower trains like the Hikari are. There’s only a few minutes' difference in terms of travel time, but at peak times there can be a half-dozen of the faster trains for every one of the slower ones. This is done for a variety of reasons, including that the clockwork-like efficiency of the shinkansen’s busiest section leaves only the briefest times for passengers to get on and off the train, and confused tourists (often carting large luggage with them) have been known to disrupt operations. Overseas visitors are therefore concentrated into the slightly slower Hikari and much slower Kodama services instead.

A more recent change is the 2020 introduction of  the “Baggage 160” system , where travelers must reserve a space for larger pieces of luggage (over 160cm/63in in combined height, width and depth) on more popular bullet train lines or pay a carry-on fee. The change largely stemmed from the complications of visitors bringing large pieces of luggage onto trains that were not designed with large luggage storage. Japanese travelers tend not to bring large suitcases with them on trains, instead shipping them ahead to their destination via the excellent and inexpensive set of luggage delivery services like Yamato Transport , known as kuroneko  (black cat) after its ubiquitous logo of a black cat carrying a kitten in its mouth.

Groups of tourists gather on the balconies of a large wooden temple surrounded by autumn foliage

How will this impact on group tours?

Keep an eye out for capacity management caps or even outright bans to potentially affect group tours first. These can be very unpopular with local people, and indeed with other visitors.

A tour bus full of visitors descending all at once can change the character of a place instantly, and that’s certainly the case in a lot of the most famous Kyoto temples and shrines like Kinkaju-ji, Ryōan-ji or Kiyomizu-dera . These groups often have a reputation for behaving disrespectfully, like talking loudly in places where quiet is expected, not following rules, and getting in the way of local people and more respectful travelers.

You’re unlikely to be affected as an independent traveler, and a smart tactic is to visit at times when these groups are either still making their way from their hotels, have been packed off for lunch, or are heading back at the end of the day — and to plan to explore the less-traveled corners of this fascinating country.

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A woman wearing traditional Japanese clothing at Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist Temple.

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Japanese Prime Minister's N.C. visit will feature bluegrass, barbecue and factory tours

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit North Carolina following his state visit with President Joe Biden at the White House this week. 

Japanese companies have made big investments in North Carolina recently, including the new Toyota battery factory in Randolph County and the HondaJet factory at that company's headquarters in Greensboro. Kishida plans to tour both factories during his visit to North Carolina, according to the governor's office. 

What You Need To Know

The japanese prime minister will visit north carolina this week prime minister fumio kishida will tour the new toyota battery plant under construction and hondajet thursday gov. roy cooper will host the japanese delegation for a state lunch japan is north carolina's largest source of foreign direct investment, according to the governor's office.

“Kristin and I are looking forward to showing Prime Minister and Mrs. Kishida what North Carolina has to offer,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news release.

“Japanese investments in our state create thousands of jobs and these companies contribute so much to our communities. This historic visit provides a unique opportunity to showcase the best of North Carolina and continue to build this mutually beneficial relationship,” he said. 

Japan is North Carolina's largest source of foreign direct investment, according to the governor's office. 

The centerpiece of Kishida's visit will be a State Lunch at the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh Friday. 

Kishida's trip to North Carolina will mark the first time a head of state has visited the state's Executive Mansion, according to the State Archives. 

"Award-winning Raleigh Chef Ashley Christensen will prepare a menu that highlights North Carolina’s culinary tradition with contributions from Japanese fare," the governor's office said. 

“I am excited for the opportunity to cook for this group of outstanding leaders and to share some of North Carolina’s incredible bounty of ingredients, from land and sea, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida,” Christensen said in the release from the governor's office.

Sam Jones BBQ, which does eastern North Carolin-style whole hog barbecue, is preparing the Thursday lunch for other members of the Japanese delegation and Japanese media accompanying the prime minister on his trip.

“We are honored to be a part of this visit and most excited to share a tradition and foodway that is rooted in eastern North Carolina,” said Sam Jones BBQ's Mitchell Letchworth. “Whole hog BBQ is a North Carolina standard and Sam Jones BBQ is proud to have our food served at such a momentous event.” 

Bluegrass band Unspoken Tradition will play a set in the garden outside the Executive Mansion during the lunch. 

While the prime minister tours the factories in Randolph and Guilford counties Friday morning, his wife Yuko Kishida will meet with Japanese exchange students and Japanese language students at a high school in Chapel Hill and visit Duke Gardens in Durham. 

The prime minister and his wife will also meet with students at North Carolina State University in Raleigh Friday afternoon. 

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Biden says U.S. and Japan have 'indestructible partnership' as he welcomes PM Kishida for visit

President Joe Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the White House on Wednesday for an official visit that marked Biden’s latest bid to bolster ties with a key ally in the Indo-Pacific amid shared unease over China. 

What You Need To Know

President joe biden on wednesday welcomed japanese prime minister fumio kishida to the white house for an official visit biden sought to make clear his commitment to a secure indo-pacific region and the value the u.s. has placed on japan as an essential partner in that endeavor the two leaders sat down in the oval office and participated in a joint press conference; a formal state dinner will take place wednesday night administration officials said the u.s. and japan will announce more than 70 items on the official visit, which includes steps to upgrade the countries' defense cooperation .

“The alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” Biden said at Wednesday morning’s arrival ceremony, making clear the value the U.S. places in its partnership with Japan in ensuring security in the complicated region. 

And the two world leaders used the prime minister’s White House visit to announce what Biden called “significant steps” to further that effort, including modernizing command and control structures to facilitate better planning between U.S. and Japanese forces and joining with Australia to create an air missile defense system. 

“This is the most significant upgrade in our alliance since it was first established,” Biden declared during a joint press conference with Kisihda Wednesday afternoon. 

Biden also noted that the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia were “exploring” how Japan could join the AUKUS partnership, which aims to equip Australia with nuclear-powered and conventionally-armed submarines and is a move Beijing has opposed. Senior administration officials on a call with reporters Tuesday cautioned, however, that discussions on the possibility wil take “a period of months.” 

The president on Wednesday said the announcements set a “new benchmark” in military cooperation between the two allies. Senior administration officials said the U.S. is looking to “flip the script” on China’s efforts to isolate American allies in the region. The U.S. has expressed concern about Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea in particular. 

At Wednesday’s press conference, however, Biden made sure to emphasize the U.S. alliance with Japan is “purely defensive in nature.”

“It's not aimed at any one nation or a threat to the region,” Biden said. “This is about restoring stability in the region and I think we have a chance of doing that.” 

He also noted he spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping earlier this month and both leaders committed to continuing communication to ensure “nothing slips, as they say, between the cup and the lip.” 

tourist cities of japan

The defense commitments were part of more than 70 new items the pair is announcing during Kishida’s visit to the U.S. spanning different topics, administration officials said.  

Biden on Wednesday also noted, for instance, that two Japanese astronauts will join future U.S. missions in space. One of them will become the first non-American on the moon’s surface, he added. 

The two countries, also announced and promoted research initiatives, including a a joint AI project between Carnegie Mellon and Keio University in Tokyo, a venerable private research university; a second AI project between the University of Tsukuba, a national university; and a monetary scholarship to fund cultural exchange programs between American and Japanese high school students.

The festivities on Wednesday kicked off with the arrival ceremony full of pageantry on the White House South Lawn Wednesday morning. There, the president declared the U.S.-Japan relationship “Closer, stronger and more effective than ever before in history.” 

tourist cities of japan

The U.S. leader praised his Japanese counterpart as a “visionary and courageous leader” lauding Kishida for isolating and condemning Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, presiding over “profound changes in defense” and his leadership of the G-7 last year. 

Senior administration officials told reporters Tuesday that under Kishida, Japan has committed to raising its defense spending and acquired Tomahawk counterstrike capability, which they say will aid in our collective deterrence.

“Today our economic relationship is one of the strongest and the deepest in the world,” Biden said. “Our democracies are beacons of freedom shining across the globe and the ties of friendship, family, connect the Japanese and American people.” 

Kishida noted Japan would “join hands with American friends” to take on the challenges and difficulties facing the world. The Japanese leader announced he is sending an additional 250 cherry trees to the U.S. to mark the country’s upcoming anniversary. 

The pair sat down in the Oval Office for a meeting following the official arrival ceremony. The announcements on new commitments on military, space and more came when the leaders shared a stage in the White House Rose Garden for a joint press conference in the afternoon. 

But Wednesday’s celebratory events also come at a moment of public tension between the leaders after Biden announced last month that he does not support a planned sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel of Japan. In December, Nippon Steel said it planned to buy the Pittsburgh-headquartered U.S. Steel for $14.1 billion. 

“I stand by my commitment to American workers,” Biden said during Wednesday’s press conference when asked about the topic. He added, however, that he also stands by his commitments to Japan as a partner. 

Earlier in the press conference, Biden touted the economic relationship between the two nations, noting Japan is the top foreign investor in the U.S. and vice versa.   

The U.S. president commended Kishida as “brave” for his participation in the “historic” summit he hosted at the Camp David presidential retreat last year between the U.S., Japan and South Korea – another move coordinated, in part, to shore up alliances in the region with the goal of countering China. 

Japan and South Korea put aside years of frosty relations to join the meeting, as the nations come together over concerns about China’s actions in the Pacific and North Korea’s nuclear threats. 

tourist cities of japan

Festivities will continue Wednesday night with a formal state dinner in the White House’s East Room. First lady Jill Biden and White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo told reporters on Tuesday that the dinner’s decor was partly inspired by Japanese gardens and will seek to celebrate springtime. 

Wednesday will mark the fifth state dinner of Biden’s presidency, with four of the five honoring fellow Indo-Pacific nations: South Korea, India and Australia. Biden’s first state dinner went to France.  

The Bidens took Kishida and his wife, Mrs. Yuko Kishida, to a local Washington restaurant for dinner Tuesday night, when they also exchanged gifts. Earlier on Tuesday, Kishida laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, which Biden noted during Wednesday morning’s ceremony he “truly” appreciated.

The Japanese prime minister is set to address a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Spectrum News' David Mendez contributed to this report. 


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