Things to see in Japan
It's already a given that you won't be able to see absolutely everything Japan has to offer but visiting the Himeji Castle, marveling at the towering figure of Mt Fuji, and wandering around the Hiroshima Peace Park (among other things) is a must-do when contemplating the best things to see in Japan. In fact, you can't really say you've been to Japan if you haven't seen the flowering cherry blossom trees in Spring or laid your eyes on the golden architecture of Kinkakuji temple.
To ensure you don't miss out on experiencing some of the things Japan is famous for, we've put together a list of the best things to see and do so you don't have to scour the internet for hours - you can thank us later. Perfect for first-timers to Japan or seasoned travelers looking to explore the country even further, these top things to see in Japan are bound to add a little extra excitement to your Japanese itinerary.
1. Mt Fuji
Mt Fuji is one of those things you simply have to see when you travel to Japan because not only is it the seventh-highest peak on Earth but it's also a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and a volcano. Towering over the Shizuoka skyline at over 12,000 feet, this famous natural landmark is best seen with snow lightly dusting its peak (which occurs 5 months out of the year) and can be climbed up or marveled at from afar - both Kyoto and Osaka offer unparalleled views. But Mt Fuji isn't just a mountain. It's actually a part of Japan's Three Holy Mountains, a collection of peaks that are all believed to have different, unique powers, making it not just iconic but spiritual too.
2. Cherry blossoms
Many travelers plan their entire Japanese trips around catching sight of the flowering cherry blossom trees - and with good reason. Known as one of the most sacred trees in Japan, these natural beauties play an important part in Japanese culture and usually mark the beginning of Spring at festivals and celebrations. While it can be hard to see these trees in full bloom if you're not travelling to Japan during their flowering season, it's still worth going for a wander around cherry blossom hot spots such as Mount Yoshino in the Nara prefecture and Kyoto's Botanical Garden if only to learn more about these fascinating trees and what they represent in Japanese society.
3. Kinkakuji temple
There are few structures in Japan that look as opulent as Kyoto's Kinkakuji temple thanks to the material its top two floors are covered in - gold leaf. Yes, you read that right. Originally constructed as a place of retirement for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the Kinkakuji temple is an architectural masterpiece with each floor depicting a different style - the first in Shinden style, the second in Bukke style, and so on. While it has been destroyed repeatedly over the years (the structure that's standing today was rebuilt in 1955), this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site remains a favorite for travelers who flock to the incredible pond and gardens that surround it.
4. Himeji Castle
Affectionately known as the 'White Heron Castle' (one glimpse of its elegant, white structure is enough to see why), the Himeji Castle doubles as a spectacular treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site that's loved by both travelers and Japanese locals alike. Sitting on a landscape of well-preserved grounds featuring sacred cherry blossom trees and Japanese maples, spend your time wandering the castle's six floors and take in the interesting view of the city of Himeji from the top. Unlike so many others, this castle has never been destroyed and rebuilt, remaining one of Japan's twelve original wooden castles, so visiting this landmark will feel as if you're visiting the past itself.
5. Hiroshima Peace Park
The world will never forget the events that unfolded during WWII and the Hiroshima Peace Park is one of many memorials in the district dedicated to remembering the devastation. Once the site of unimaginable tragedy, the Hiroshima Peace Park is now a serene landscape full of lush greenery and native plant life spanning an impressive 1.3 million square feet. Specifically designed to allow for both tranquil contemplation and historical reflection, the park features several monuments and shrines dedicated to the victims of the bombing including the Peace Memorial Museum, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Flame of Peace, and the Memorial Tower.
6. Osaka Castle
Boasting the title as one of Japan's most dramatic historical monuments, Osaka Castle is downright beautiful to behold with its huge stone walls, moat surroundings, and perfectly detailed, nature-inspired designs. Guaranteed to draw your eye (and your camera's lens), this famous structure poses an interesting juxtaposition to the glass skyscrapers around it and offers travelers the chance to walk its impressive 260-acre gardens and wander its very own Osaka Castle Museum, which is located inside the castle's main tower. Come springtime, the castle's lush gardens burst into full bloom with flowering cherry blossom trees everywhere you look, making it one of the more special places to spend a couple of memorable hours with friends and family.