Top 10 destinations in Japan – Best places to visit in Japan
From the hot south to the cold north and everything in between, Japan has so many places you should definitely put on your travel bucket list. If you are wondering what to see in Japan or things to do in Japan, then my recommendation is you visit the below 10 cities which are some of the best places to visit in Japan and they are the ones I have been to and loved a lot. There are actually much more and they all have their own culture, foods and amazing places to visit.
The city in the south of Japan that is known by most people for the atomic bomb that was dropped on it is a very important city for Japans history. For over 220 years (1633-1853) Japan was isolated from the world and the only point where foreigners were allowed on Japanese soil was a small island off the coast of Nagasaki called Dejima. You can visit this island today, although by now it is no longer an island. Because of land winning activities, you can now find it several hundred meters away from the coastline. The buildings on the former island have been rebuilt and offer a unique glimpse into Japans history and its relationship with foreigners during this unique period.
In the north of Kyushu lies Fukuoka prefecture with Fukuoka city as its capital. This destination is famous for Hakata Ramen (Hakata is a district of Fukuoka) and the food stalls, called Yatai that spring up every day along the banks of the river on Nakasu Island. Since it is a port city I also recommend you visit the coast and enjoy a romantic walk along the beach at night.
Famous for the drop of the first atomic bomb in World War II, it is a surprisingly vibrant and in many ways normal city. The only things that still reminds of this tragedy are the memorial and museum, which I highly recommend you visit.
But you don’t want to spend all your time brooding about how people can do such gruesome things to each other.
One of my favorite places in Hiroshima is the Miyajima island – one of the best places to visit in Japan. With its famous red gate standing in the water off the coast of Miyajima and its many beautiful shrines and temples, it is a perfect day trip to get away from the city. The deer on the island are super friendly and you will be able to take some nice picture with them.
Hiroshima has one food that no one should miss. Okonomiyaki Hiroshima style. There is also Osaka style Okonomiyaki, but in my mind, the Hiroshima version is much better.
My absolute favorite city in all of Japan is Kyoto which is the cultural heart of Japan. Kyoto is one of the best cities to visit in Japan. You could spend weeks and even months here without being able to see all the temples and shrines that can be found here.
My favorite place is Arashiyama, in the north-west of Kyoto. This little jewel surrounded by mountains is a great destination any time of the year, but definitely a highlight in November and December when the leaves change color. The gardens and parks are then turned from green to bright reds and yellows and you can be astounded by the beauty of nature.
You should definitely try matcha green tea and dished made of matcha because Kyoto is famous for having delicious matcha. Other sweets you should try are Yatsuhashi. These triangle-shaped sweets made from rice flour and some sweet bean paste are the perfect gifts from Kyoto. But be careful they are only good for about one week.
The modern city is the second largest in Japan and the eternal rival of Tokyo. If something is done in a certain way in Tokyo, Osaka will make sure to do it the opposite way. For example, while you stand on the left when riding the escalator in Tokyo, make sure to stand on the right in Osaka or you will be in the way of other people.
In Osaka, you can visit Osaka castle or enjoy some extensive shopping around Shinsaibashi and Namba. Make sure to take a picture in front of the Gulico Running Man while you are there. Osaka is one of the best cities to visit in Japan and can also be considered as one of the must-see places in Japan.
There is a lot of delicious food in Osaka that you should definitely try. My favorites are Okonomiyaki (literally all you want grilled dish) and Kushiage (fried meat and vegetable on a stick served with a dark sauce). While it is not one of my favorite dishes, other people love Takoyaki, little balls filled with Octopus.
Another city close to Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is especially famous for its friendly deer and big Buddha statue in a wooden hall. It is a favorite day-trip destination if you are visiting Kyoto or Osaka and you should really make the time to visit Nara, one of the best places to visit in Japan.
Nara used to be Japans capital in the 8th century and still has some significant art-work and building from that time.
In the mountains, a 2-hour train ride from Nagoya is the little village Takayama. It is famous for its old wooden houses and scenic landscapes. You will also find many sake distilleries so if you are into that or want to learn more about different kinds of sake this is the place to go.
If you are not into sake, no problem, I recommend a visit to the Hida Folk Village open-air museum where you will be able to learn about life in the snowy mountains of Hida region over the last few hundred years by visiting beautifully reconstructed buildings from different eras of Japans past.
Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes (Honshu)
Mount Fuji is the landmark associated with Japan and is considered one of the best places to visit in Japan. The best place to see it is around Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes areas.
They are both a favorite day trip destination from Tokyo and have their own charm.
In Hakone, you should take a boat tour on Lake Ashi, and if the weather is nice from there you will have a scenic view of Mount Fuji.
The Fuji Five Lakes area consists of five lakes which all have real charm. From Lake Kawaguchi, you will be able to see Mount Fuji. If you are in the area you should make a stop to try Hoto, a hot pot dish made from vegetables and thick white noodles that will warm you right up in the colder season.
Another place with many beautiful temples and rich history, Nikko has much more to offer than just that. It is a favorite hot spring area and also offers beautiful nature. It is possible as a day-trip from Tokyo, but I recommend to stay the night at a nice ryokan if you can to fully enjoy your time and soak in the hot waters of the Onsen.
Most people visit Sapporo in the beginning of February for the Snow Festival, an event where gigantic sculptures made of snow and ice can be viewed while eating delicious Hokkaido seafood. There are other events like ski and snowboarding competitions for the many visitors.
But Sapporo is also a great destination in summer and is definitely one of the best places to visit in Japan. It is not as hot and humid as the rest of Japan which makes it a popular destination for Japanese travelers, but especially the westerners seem to have not caught up on this trend.
The Japanese crab is especially delicious in Hokkaido, but also all other seafood is so fresh and delicious you will want to come back for more.
Bonus: Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Snow monkeys are shy and if you are wondering how to find a snow monkey in Japan, then head to Snow Monkey Park Jigokudani.
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If you are planning a week’s trip to Tokyo then check out this 5 days in Tokyo itinerary. The attractions in Japan are varied. Are there any other best places to visit in Japan that you totally loved? Let us know in the comments below!
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