Last Updated on December 1, 2023
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
By Jim Ferri
The most popular places to visit in Japan provide some memorable experiences. Whether it’s the pop culture you encounter on the streets of Tokyo or the ancient one you experience in Kyoto, you quickly realize Japan is a country of astonishing disparities. So much, in fact, you can find it both weird and wonderful simultaneously.
From its neon-painted cities to its mountain-dappled countryside, Japan is a unique place. It’s also a country relatively easy to travel about since its famous bullet trains link major population areas. Best of all, Japan is easily accessible from just about anywhere in the world.
Less Costly Than Some Other Destinations
Surprisingly, Japan can be less expensive than many other major destinations, although you must pay a small tourist tax to enter. In addition, public transportation is often convenient, safe, and cost-effective. That’s important if you’re on a budget. On the other hand, the 100 or so railway lines in Tokyo alone can prove a bit daunting, but overall, train travel about the country is excellent, some even on luxury trains. It’s apparent Japan will likely remain at the top of travelers’ wish lists for a long time.
If you plan to visit Japan, you’ll find the country fascinating and the people well-mannered. However, to help you plan, consider these ten popular places to visit in Japan that have been intriguing travelers for centuries.
Table of Contents
Tokyo, Capital City of Japan
Japan’s capital, with its mixture of traditional and modern urban life, is the most popular tourist destination in the country. It’s also the top place to visit in Japan. Sensoji Temple is one of its iconic historical sites, and the Imperial Palace provides a traditional and royal air. Furthermore, the city’s Ginza, the equivalent of New York’s Madison Avenue, is world-famous. Also famous is the Harajuku Japanese-teen street fashion that influences the international fashion industry.
While you’ll find plenty of authentic Japanese dining in Tokyo, you’ll also find top-quality hotels and international restaurants. Tokyoites have a discriminating palate for top-quality international cuisines, including Italian, Chinese, French, etc. Moreover, you’ll find Sushi restaurants plentiful in the outer market of the famous Tsukiji Fishmarket.
Kyoto, a Popular Favorite with International Travelers
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, Kyoto is an exceptionally popular place in Japan for foreign visitors. The ancient capital is a city that embodies all that people think of regarding ancient Japanese traditions.
That means you’ll see centuries-old temples, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), tea houses, geisha, etc. As you might suspect, all are ancient and authentic traditions. In addition, Kyoto’s cityscape is well-maintained, and visitors can participate in many cultural workshops.
Be aware, however, that Kyoto has banned photography of geisha on certain streets due to the behavior of some tourists.
Understandably, the name Kanagawa may not be very familiar to American tourists. It is, however, the prefecture where Yokohama (Tokyo’s neighboring city) and Kamakura (a historic town along the coast) are located. A giant Buddha statue makes it an attractive and accessible destination for those who stay in Tokyo (just an hour or so away by train).
In addition, many travelers come to stroll between temples along the calm beaches. Hakone, also in the Kanagawa prefecture, is one of the most popular places in Japan. It’s where people go for hot springs, ryokan, and the magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.
Osaka, Japan’s Foodie City
As the second largest city and a significant business travel destination, Osaka is the home of several major international companies. But in addition to business, Osakan culture is heavily focused on food. In fact, some lovers of Japanese cuisine view Osaka as the capital of an affordable dining spree, which ensures its place on the list of the most popular places in Japan! Outside the urban centers, pockets of tranquility are tucked away in the countryside.
Chiba, Gateway to Japan
Just east of Tokyo, Chiba is where Japan’s gateway Narita International Airport is. The city of Narita, close to the airport, is sometimes visited as one of the popular places to get a “quick taste” of Japan during a layover.
Tokyo’s Disney Resort is also in Chiba, just across the border with Tokyo. In addition, the Tokyo Motor Show takes place in Makuhari Messe, one of the country’s largest and most popular convention centers.
Known for traditional manufacturing, Aichi thus attracts many business travelers. Moreover, it’s also the home of Toyota Motors. Midway between Tokyo and Osaka is Nagoya, an important location for business conferences.
One of the reasons it’s among the most popular places in Japan is because it also attracts visitors with its castle, museum, and gardens.
Nara, the First Capital of Japan
Nara, another of the popular places to visit in Japan for travelers, is the very first capital of the country, even before Kyoto. Although the Nara era was less than 80 years long, the city is the birthplace of the fundamentals of Japanese tradition.
Despite an apparent Chinese influence in architecture, UNESCO designated Nara’s landmarks as World Heritage Sites.
Known as the global peace center, Hiroshima is one of the most popular places in Japan, world-renowned because of the atomic bomb. The Peace Memorial Museum, located right next to the dome, was the only surviving structure. It’s at ground zero (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is a must-see for visitors.
The city also has another World Heritage Site. It’s the Itsukushima Shrine of Miyajima Island, one of the places in Japan with a postcard icon.
Okinawa – Japan Overseas
A group of islands stretching southward from Japan, Okinawa is the country’s equivalent of Hawaii. These islands have a unique indigenous culture and are popular places in Japan because of their sub-tropical climate and beautiful beaches.
It’s also renowned for the world’s best diving spots and the incredible Churaumi Aquarium.
Understandably, the greatest attraction for tourists to Hyogo prefecture is Himeji Castle. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Japan’s most impressive castles and popular places, if not all of Asia.
Close to Osaka, the prefecture is also home to the city of Kobe. As a result, it’s considered by some to be one of Japan’s most attractive cities, despite being leveled by a massive earthquake in 1995.
If You Go:
Japan National Tourism Organization
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