We can all agree that Japan is a country everyone should visit at least once. The number of things to see is simply overwhelming. From modern skyscrapers in large cities to forests of bamboo and ages-old temples, there’s nothing quite like it in the world.
However, it’s not just about architecture and sightseeing. Japanese cuisine is fantastic too, the people are more than polite, and the public transport system is as efficient as you can imagine it to be. In other words, Japan is a perfect combo of easy travel and mind-blowing culture.
Therefore, let’s check out some of the best places over there, and we’ll explain why you should visit them.
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
The best place to start your trip is Kyoto. It’s one of Japan’s most recommended places to visit, and for a good reason. Unlike Tokyo or other big cities and urban areas, Kyoto is a rural and traditional place in Japan. Geishas in colorful kimonos, zen gardens, bamboo forests, and temples will pop up on every other corner. And just like most rural places around the world, you’ll be able to experience the common people of Japan at markets, selling exotic spices, tea, and food.
Nevertheless, one place stands out from the rest in Kyoto — the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. It’s located in the southeast part of the city, and you can go there by taking a short train ride. The shrine has thousands of warm orange torii gates, which seem to go on forever. And the contrast between the gates and the natural beauty surrounding them is stunning, making it easily one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Sensoji Temple in Tokyo
Since we’ve pointed out how Kyoto is the heart and soul of traditional Japan, Tokyo is its opposite. It’s the center of urban, more modern Japan that seems far removed from what this Far-Eastern nation was centuries ago. Moreover, it’s the largest city over there, and it’s one of the most visited places in Japan.
Tokyo allows for a great experience, as you can mingle through busy city streets, the famous Shibuya Crossing, and enjoy quirky fashion and tasty food. But the best part is when you come across remnants of the old city, such as the Sensoji Temple.
Once you visit the Sensoji Temple, you’ll immediately feel weird, but in a good way. The reason is simple — after hours of enjoying the modern architecture, busy streets, and noisy arcades, you’ll find yourself in a place of peace and tradition. The temple looks towards the downtown area, which is a great juxtaposition between old and new.
Takayama: The Gorgeous Small Town
If you find yourself in Japan as a tourist, don’t miss out on Takayama. It’s completely gorgeous, and it’s located in the Japanese Alps, making it a bit less known tourist destination. The place is full of history and tradition, sprawling with old wooden buildings, shrines, weird trees, and lovely bridges.
Here are some places to look for while in Takayama:
- Get up early and walk around the old town before others arrive;
- Enjoy the morning markets and fruits they sell;
- Try mitarashi-dango sold on the streets;
- Visit the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall;
- Visit the Hida Folk Village for even more traditional architecture;
- Enjoy a bike ride across the nearby countryside.
Mount Fuji From Lake Ashi in Hakone
Another popular tourist attraction in Japan is Mount Fuji. However, this landmark is often covered in clouds, so it might be hard to witness it in all its beauty and glory. But certain places allow you to have a better view of this magnificent giant. Namely, Lake Ashi in Hakone is one of the best travel spots in Japan, and it allows for a stunning view of Mount Fuji while in a small boat alone or with your partner.
The best part about Hakone is that it’s easy to reach from Tokyo. Moreover, it has lots more to offer besides viewing the mountain. The place is well-equipped with lots of transport options, including trains, busses, cable cars, and even pirate boats.
Kazuemachi Geisha Area in Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a must-see place in Japan. Yet, not many tourists from the West make it there because they don’t know about it. And since Kyoto seems to be gaining in popularity, you can consider Kanazawa its alternative, hipster cousin. It has a popular area full of cherry blossoms and beautiful geishas, combined with traditional wooden structures called Kazuemachi.
But besides that, you can see many beautiful gardens, a castle, and many art museums as well. You should also stroll around Kenroku-en Garden, one of the best in the whole of Japan. Furthermore, we recommend that you explore the Higashi Chaya district and try out tea at traditional ceremonies at the Gyokusen-en Gardens.
Toshogu Shrine in Nikko
One of many Japanese UNESCO world heritage sites, Nikko is a town full of temples and is a popular tourist spot. It’s near Tokyo, a couple of hours away in the north. If you could call one place in the world the epitome of the fall season, well, we’d have to say it’s Nikko with all its lovely, warm colors. As such, most people from Tokyo love to go there to retreat from the noisy and crowded city.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that you should skip seeing it even if you don’t like big tourist crowds. Nikko has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to its beautiful temples, specifically Toshogu. This is a big complex, full of red and gold buildings under cedar trees. And if you get bored with the crowd of tourists over there, you can head somewhere quiet for a cup of traditional tea or see some other temples.
Okunoin Cemetery in Koya-San
The last place on our must-see list in Japan is Koya-San — the last but not the least interesting one! Koya-San is a traditional temple town located in the mountains of Kansai, giving tourists a chance to understand what it’s like to live like a monk in Japan. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can even stay in a shukubo or a temple lodging, where you’ll experience pure peace of mind.
However, our favorite place in Koya-San is the Okunoin forest cemetery. For lack of a better word, we’ll have to describe it as otherworldly. Combined with the monk lifestyle — early mornings and meditation — it’s a side of life you never knew existed. It’s hard to think of another place across the globe that offers the same kind of relaxation.