10 best places to visit in Japan

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Japan provides up an actual feast for vacationers, with mountainside onsen (scorching spring) villages, sleepy beach-lined islands and buzzing megacities all on the menu.

You could possibly arguably spend a lifetime sampling the nation’s delights, however some cities and sights are staples; core elements to any nice Japan journey. Able to tuck in? Right here’s our choose of the ten finest locations to go to in Japan.

Tokyo

Tokyo is a metropolis perpetually reaching into the longer term, pushing the boundaries of what is potential on densely populated, earthquake-prone land, including ever taller, sleeker constructions. It is Japan’s high spot for up to date artwork and structure, popular culture, buying, ingesting and leisure (and a tie with Kyoto for eating). However greater than anyone sight, it is the town itself that enchants guests. It is a sprawling, natural factor, stretching so far as the attention can see. All the time altering, and with a various assortment of neighborhoods, no two experiences of it are ever the identical.

Temples, teahouses and a wealthy meals tradition await in atmospheric Kyoto © Jon Hicks / Getty Photographs

Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan’s imperial capital for a thousand years, is dwelling to greater than a thousand temples. Amongst them are the monumental, like Kinkaku-ji (an beautiful pavilion sheathed fully in gold leaf), and the meditative, like Ryōan-ji, with its stark Zen rock backyard. And temples are solely the beginning of it: there’s the tradition of tea, which you’ll be able to recognize at one of many metropolis’s many elegant teahouses; the artwork of the geisha, these iconic performers of conventional music and dance; and in addition a wealthy meals tradition, together with kaiseki (Japanese haute delicacies).

An artistic sculpture resembling a large, colourful cat stands in a field on the island of Naoshima, Japan.
Quirky Naoshima is a must-visit for artwork lovers © hedgehog111 / Shutterstock

Naoshima

Naoshima is one in all Japan’s nice success tales: a rural island on the verge of turning into a ghost city, now a world-class centre for up to date artwork. A lot of Japan’s most lauded architects have contributed constructions, together with museums, a boutique resort and even a bathhouse – all designed to boost the island’s pure magnificence and complement its current settlements. The ensuing mix of avant-garde and rural Japan is fascinating. It has additionally impressed some Japanese to pursue a slower life exterior the large cities, relocating to Naoshima to open cafes and inns.

Two bench stand empty beneath trees with autumnal leaves and next to a large lake, Lake Kawaguchiko, with the giant Mt Fuji in the distance. The mountain is topped by snow.
Gazing upon the mighty Mt Fuji is a vital Japan expertise © nicholashan / Getty Photographs

Mt Fuji

Even from a distance Mt Fuji will take your breath away. Shut up, the superbly symmetrical cone of Japan’s highest peak is nothing in need of superior. Daybreak from the summit? Pure magic. Fuji-san is amongst Japan’s most revered and timeless sights. Tons of of hundreds of individuals climb it yearly, persevering with a centuries-old custom of pilgrimages up the sacred volcano. Those that’d moderately seek for picture-perfect views from the less-daunting peaks close by can comply with within the steps of Japan’s most well-known painters and poets.

The Memorial Cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The cenotaph is a white, smooth monument in a half oval shape.
The Memorial Cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park © WorldStock / Shutterstock

Hiroshima

Hiroshima in the present day is a forward-thinking metropolis with enticing, leafy boulevards. It isn’t till you go to the Peace Memorial Museum that the true extent of human tragedy wreaked by the atomic bomb turns into vividly clear. A go to here’s a heartbreaking, vital historical past lesson and the park across the museum, a lot of which was designed by Japan’s nice modernist Tange Kenzō, provides many alternatives for reflection. However the metropolis’s spirit of willpower – in addition to its meals – will guarantee that you will have good reminiscences to take with you whenever you depart.

A forest walkway on the island of Yakushima that goes through the trunk of a giant cedar tree.
Yakushima’s wild forests have been the reported inspiration for Studio Ghibli basic Princess Mononoke © Gary Saisangkagomon / Shutterstock

Yakushima

Yakushima, a small island off the coast of southern Kyūshū, is commonly described as magical, enchanting – other-worldly even. It is a spot the place phrases fail and clichés step in. Residence to a few of Japan’s final primeval forest, right here you will discover the yakusugi, an historical cedar native to the island, whose large roots kind alien tentacles. Climbing trails beneath them cowl craggy terrain usually fuzzy with moss. The panorama right here is believed to have been an inspiration for the enduring Studio Ghibli animated movie Princess Mononoke.

Okunoin Cemetery in Koyasan, Japan. A number of small stone statues are wrapped in fabric, amidst a forest setting.
Oku-no-in is likely one of the most sacred locations in Japan and a preferred pilgrimage spot © Pal Teravagimov / Shutterstock

Koya-san

Using the funicular as much as the sacred Buddhist monastic advanced of Kōya-san feels, appropriately, like ascending to a different world. There are over 100 temples right here, the spotlight of which is Oku-no-in, the place paths weave their approach amongst towering cryptomeria timber and time-worn stone stupas lined in moss and lichen. Different temples provide a unique expertise: the prospect to spend the night time, dine on conventional vegetarian Buddhist delicacies and get up early for morning meditation with the resident monks.

An aerial view of Kabira Bay Beach, Ishigaki Island, Japan, showing an incredibly light blue ocean and powdered white sand.
Okinawa is blessed with numerous stunning seashores, together with Sundown Seashore on Ishigaki-jima © Ippei Naoi / Getty Photographs

Okinawa and the Southern Islands

Okinawa and the Southwest Islands provide a very totally different expertise from the remainder of Japan. This semi-tropical archipelago kinds an arch between Kyūshū and Taiwan. Till annexed by Japan within the nineteenth century, they fashioned their very own kingdom – the Ryūkyū Empire – and the cultural variations are obvious in every part right down to the structure and meals. That is the place you will discover Japan’s finest seashores, like these in Ishigaki and Kerama, with sugar-white sand fringed with palms and turquoise waters. Bask within the solar, or snorkel and scuba dive.

Locals eat at tables set up on the road outside a late night restaurant in Osaka, Japan. The restaurant is lit up in lights and appears bright against the dark night sky.
Osaka takes the crown in terms of Japanese avenue meals © Vincent St. Thomas / Shutterstock

Osaka

Tokyo would not nab all of the superlatives in terms of city experiences. Osaka, Japan’s third-largest metropolis, is tops for avenue meals: do not miss its signature dish, tako-yaki (grilled octopus dumplings). It additionally has probably the most dramatic of nightscapes: a stunning show of LED lights, animated signage and flashing video screens alongside the canalside strip Dōtombori. Town, Japan’s oldest service provider centre, has a tempo, spirit and zest for all times all of its personal: it is unofficial slogan is kuidaore (eat till you drop).

Two hikers with large backpacks walk along a trail through thick forest in Kamikochi, Japan.
Stunning Kamikōchi attracts hikers from far and large © Suchart Boonyavech / Shutterstock

Kamikōchi

One of the crucial gorgeous pure vistas in Japan, Kamikōchi is a highland river valley enveloped by the hovering peaks of the Northern Japan Alps. Straightforward day hikes are potential alongside the pristine Azusa-gawa by way of tranquil forests of willow, larch and elm timber. The birthplace of Japanese alpinism, Kamikōchi can be the gateway for tougher treks up a few of the nation’s tallest mountains, akin to Yariga-take (3180m). Non-public vehicles are banned from Kamikōchi, which lessens the affect of the crowds.

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