12 Must Do Destinations in Japan

Japan is definitely an amazing country to visit. This island nation is dense with cities, national parks, imperial palaces and tons more. If you’re planning a future trip, below are an overview of the best places to visit in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”


Tokyo, Japan’s capital is the busiest, mixing in traditional landscapes with neon-lit skyscrapers. So, if you want to see historical temples and a big city all in one setting, Tokyo is the place for you.

This metropolitan area is the most populous in the world. Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of entertainment, culture, shopping and dining to its visitors. Make sure to check out Odaiba, a waterfront sushi bar and Ferris wheel, Sensō-ji, a historic temple and Tokyo Disneyland! Those are just a few of the many must-dos.


Believe or not, Kyoto was once the capital of Japan. This city is famous for its numerous Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, gardens and shrines. And you should definitely see and experience authentic Japanese culture in Kyoto. The formal dining traditions of kaiseki is a must when in Kyoto. It consists of numerous courses of very precise dishes and geishas. Head to the Gion district to take in this unique cultural experience.


Nara. Boy, oh boy! It’s such an interesting place to visit. And if you’ve ever seen pictures of people feeding deer up close and personal while in Japan, well this is exactly where it’s done. The deer are used to people, but they can get a little greedy when it comes to food, so be cautious. Besides the cute wildlife, this city has significant temples and artwork that date back to the 8th century. And, yes Nara was once Japan’s capital. (Seems like there’s a trend here.)


It’s Japan’s second largest city and worth more than a day trip. Yokohama sits just south of Tokyo and was one of the first Japanese ports opened to foreign trade in 1859. This city is known for it’s large Chinatown, containing many restaurants and shops, Sankei-en Garden, a botanical park and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, a large aquarium perfect for all ages.


If you’re looking for a beach holiday in Japan, then Ishigaki is the place to be. Expect some stunning views, exuberant nightlife and it is also the perfect base to explore the rest of the Yaeyama archipelago. It’s the jumping-off point for beaches and coral reefs. You really have to go there and see it for yourself.


Hiroshima is a modern city located on Honshu Island. It was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II, but today it’s a historic, yet modern city that commemorates the event.  While here, make sure to check out the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Castle. It’s worth the historic trip.


This coastal town was the political center of Eastern Japan. It was at one time, the political center of medieval Japan, but today, Kamakura is a prominent resort town and quite quiet. Here you’ll find dozens of Buddhist temples and Sinto shrines. The most recognized landmark is Kōtoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha. It’s just over 13 meters in height and weighs 267,000 pounds. HOLY Guacamole!


Kobe (not the basketball player) sits on Osaka Bay in central Japan. The city is most famous for it’s Kobe beef (yes, you’ve heard of it) and Arima Onsen (hot springs). Make sure to get a view of the city at night, it’s truly unbelievable. Check it out from Mount Rokkō or Mount Maya. The traditional port city has transformed over the years becoming the site for Japan’s first golf course and Japan’s first mosque.


This Japan’s fourth most populated city is the birthplace of Toyota and pachinko. It has developed into the country’s busiest port and has long been an important manufacturing site of such traditional industries as ceramics and textiles. The city’s Naka ward is home to numerous museums and pachinko parlors (gambling machines). Here, you’ll also find the Sakae entertainment district that has the famous Sky-Boat Ferris wheel. And if you had just a little bit north, you’ll find yourself at Nagoya Castle. It’s a royal home with Edo-era artifacts throughout.


The town of Hakone is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists. It is famous for natural beauty, hot springs and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji. While here, make sure to check out Lake Ashi, ride the Hakone Ropeway and visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum. These sites are nothing but beautiful and something you just have to see in person.


The city of Takayama is famous for having one of the best-preserved old towns in Japan. It’s also the gateway to the hiking paradise of the Japan Alps and Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO Heritage site. The narrow streets of this city are lined with wooden merchants’ houses that date back to the Edo Period. If you’re needing an exact time to visit, make sure you attend the biannual Takayama Festival. It celebrates spring and fall with parades, floats and puppet shows.

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