Places to visit in Japan
There is no shortage of stunning cities and regions to visit in Japan with the likes of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, and Mt Fuji all leading the way when it comes to must-see destinations. Deciding which places to visit on your tour of Japan may be entirely up to personal preference, however, there are a few cities that simply need to feature a spot on your itinerary from the neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the historic town of Takayama.
While we know it's not always possible to tick off every destination on your list (to do Japan properly you'd need weeks and who has that much annual leave time?), we've put together a guide on the places that simply have to be visited if you want to learn more about what the country is famous for, and about its rich culture and fascinating past.
There's plenty to do in Hiroshima including visiting art museums and wandering the city's lush, greenery-filled parks but it's Hiroshima's peace memorials that captivate travellers the most. From looking over the Cenotaph in the Peace Memorial Park and learning about the aftermath of the destruction during WWII at the Peace Memorial Museum to taking in the eerie Atomic Bomb Dome (pictured), this city remains a symbol of peace and aims to educate visitors on a challenging part of our universal history.
If you're looking to soak up as much Japanese culture as you can and visit as many traditional sites as possible, you can't go past Kyoto with its colourful shrines, Buddhist temples, and impeccable gardens. Boasting temples steeped in thousands of years of history and the largest collection of World Heritage Listed sites in the world, including Nijo-jo Castle and Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, this breathtaking city is full of astonishing places to visit. And if you're lucky, you might just spot a geisha or two.
Tokyo is perhaps Japan's most famous city (also the country's capital city) and is often at the top of travellers' must-visit lists. Once you get there and start exploring, it's not very hard to see why. From towering skyscrapers and streets glowing with neon to packed pedestrian crossings and stores filled with anime and manga merchandise, Tokyo is an exciting city that offers a little something for everyone 24/7. Whether you want to buy a hamburger from a vending machine or jump on a bullet train squished alongside hundreds of other passengers, Tokyo is an explosion for the senses in the best way possible.
Known as the food capital of Japan, you simply can't visit the 'Land of the Rising Sun' without tasting your way through Osaka. Often overlooked in favour of more popular cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka promises plenty of Japanese culture and cuisine without the large crowds (unless you're planning a trip to Universal Studios Japan). With a vibrant street food scene that prides itself on offering cheap eats to travellers hungry for traditional dishes (takoyaki or fried octopus balls and Okonomiyaki or Japanese pizza are definitely on the menu), it won't take long for your tastebuds to start singing this city's praises.
5. Mt Fuji
If you're visiting Kyoto and Osaka then you can't avoid the commanding sight of Mt Fuji, standing tall at over 12,000 feet. Boasting the title of Japan's highest peak and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, this stunning volcano is an impressive sight against the Shizuoka skyline and is at its most iconic when there's a dusting of snow across its summit. But this mountain isn't just stunning to look at or challenging to climb up. It's also one-third of Japan's Holy Mountains - a sacred collection of peaks that are all believed to have different powers.
6. Japanese Alps
It's easy to get carried away with the bright lights of Japan's vibrant cities but this diverse country is also home to an alpine region that looks as if it's straight out of your favourite fairytale. Escape the urban hustle and bustle and venture to the peaceful Japanese Alps, a collection of peaks that rival the height of nearby Mt Fuji. With seven peaks in total, the Japanese Alps offer travellers the chance to embark on snow-sporting adventures such as skiing and snowboarding, as well as soak their tired bodies in traditional onsens or natural hot spring baths. For a little extra excitement, stop in at the Jigokudani Monkey Park in the Nagano Prefecture to see some Japanese Macaques in the wild.
Takayama may not be the biggest or brightest city in Japan, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a visit. In fact, Takayama comes out on top in terms of history as it's recognised as a beautifully preserved castle town from the Edo period (1603-1868). Nestled in the Hida Mountains as part of the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama exudes a mystical and traditional atmosphere thanks to its location among the clouds and features an Old Town that's bursting with craft shops selling traditional wares, restaurants serving local cuisines, and historic buildings in the classic Edo period architecture.
It's entirely possible you'll have seen pictures of Miyajima's most famous attraction long before you set your sights on it in real life but the Itsukushima Shrine is 10x more impressive when it's right in front of you. Don't just take our word for it though. Travel to Miyajima for yourself and marvel at the island's famous giant torii gate which appears to float on the water's surface during high tide. But Miyahima's natural attractions rival that of its manmade ones with the island providing the perfect, untouchable sanctuary for Japan's native flora and fauna.