Japan, a cosmopolitan stays true to its origin and heritage but at the same time harbours a modern way of life. As an uber vibrant country, it not only thrive on sustainable solutions, futuristic technology and efficiency; it refuses to lose its cultural identity and continues to dwell as close to nature, spirituality and Zen as possible. As you set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun, brace yourself for a cultural blow!
We know about the tragic wars and its survivors, the vigour of the samurais, the feminine mystery of geishas, and for possessing a peculiar and whacky bone. The eccentric game shows, vending machines instead of supermarkets, developing an elaborate experience out of going to the loo and a country where a train running late makes the headlines the next day – the Japanese sure know how to live a full, efficient, fancy and purposeful life!
Home to 18 Nobel prize winners, 99% literacy rate, longest living humans, world’s lowest crime rates and the fascinating anime shows – let us present to you 17 more reasons why you should visit Japan this year!
List of top 17 most beautiful places to visit in Japan!
- Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
- Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island
- Matsumoto Castle in Hokkaido
- Kiso Valley, Nagano
- Sagano Bamboo Grove, Arashiyama
- Hitachi Seaside Park
- Iwatayama Monkey Park, Arashiyama
- Blue Pond
- Kimono Forest, Arishayama
- Mount Yoshino
- Gion Geisha District
- Miyakojima, Okinawa
- Bioluminescent Rocks, Okayama
- Tottori Sand Dunes
- Koka Ninja Village, Koka City
- Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
1. Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Hidden away in one of Japan’s central Islands, Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture immensely popular among tourists for its untold stories of the Edo era and an exciting day trip. Are you wondering why this is one of the most beautiful places in Japan?
Kanazawa castle is one of the premier attractions in the region. Built in the 1580s, it has a profoundly significant backstory. It was constructed after the decline of the Peasant’s kingdom at the time and was the only Buddhist feudal period in Japan. Next to the castle is the Kenrokuen Garden – gorgeous, full of life, trees and flowers if you go down the several walking trails.
2. Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island
Miyajima is also known locally as Itsukushima. It is a small island located in Western Japan and is known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan one can find! The highlight here is the Itsukushima Shrine, which is a World Heritage Site. The monumental Torii gate, the entrance to the shrine is one of the most photographed places in the world as it appears to be floating on the sea at high tide. The Torii gate is believed to represent the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds.
Also See: Top 14 Most Beautiful Temples of Japan
Travel tip: Miyajima Island is famous for authentic local traditional handicrafts and unique food dishes you must try!
3. Matsumoto Castle in Hokkaido
Matsumoto Castle is called Crow Castle due to its black appearance on the outside. It is considered a national treasure, as it goes way back to the Sengoku period. Preservation and restoration have been difficult, but it has been holding steady for all these years! This is one of the only few remaining original castles in Japan.
Hokkaido is the second largest islands of the north in Japan. The chief attractions here include skiing, hot springs, and volcanoes as it the least developed of the islands because of its harsh weather conditions, winter and snow, one might find chiefly nature lovers making the most of the part of earth least tampered with!
4. Kiso Valley, Nagano
Ranked number 4 on our list of beautiful places in Japan is the Kiso Valley, which is located in Nagano Prefecture and runs along the Central Alps. A trade route was developed here back in the days called Kisoji, which is around 70km long. This was the most important trade route, especially since the beginning of the Edo period. It was later connected to other routes which ultimately came to be called The Nakasendo. Travellers during the Edo period usually journeyed on foot and typically rested, ate and slept along the way in parts of Kiso Valley referred to as “post towns.”
Travel Tip: A few other things to see in the Kiso valley include one of Japan’s most renowned soba shops called Kurumaya Honten
5. Sagano Bamboo Grove, Arashiyama
If you find yourself in Kyoto in Japan and tired of all the hustle and bustle – we are here to save you! Pack up and get ready to see the most beautiful place in Japan, hands down – the Sagano Bamboo Grove just outside of Kyoto. If you go early in the day and at sunrise, you can attain utmost peace and quiet as you walk or cycle down these paths bordered by tall bamboo trees that will surely create a fairy tale vibe!
Pick a light and windy morning to head here, as the groves are attractive when the tall bamboo stalks sway back and forth. This easily tops the list as the best places to visit in Kyoto.
Travel Tip: If you have a bit more zeal, take a look at Gio-Ji Temple and the moss gardens which are just about 3 kilometres away from the grove.
6. Hitachi seaside park
We have all dreamt of that perfect picture in a field of bright yellow sunflowers! How would you feel about an idyllic picture in a field of bright blue nemophilas instead? That is right, Japan is home to myriad blossoms and one of the most scenic spots is Hitachi Seaside Park located on the coast of Honshu, where during spring you can witness a beautiful blossom of nemophilas and during autumn the shrubs turn crimson in colour developing an equally scenic spot!
7. Iwatayama Monkey Park, Arashiyama
If you are seeking more places to explore near Kyoto, in the same region as the Sagano Bamboo Grove is a Monkey Park. Heed us, animal lovers! Heard about the Togetsukyo Bridge – a famous landmark in Arishayama? Hike up to a point for around 20 minutes on Mount Arishayama to meet hundreds of wild snow monkeys roaming freely at the Iwatayama Monkey Park. Here, you are also allowed to buy treats for these mischievous fellows and even feed them at the feeding shed!
Tip: Buddhist Temples in Arishayama are worth a visit!
Gokayama is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Toyama Prefecture which makes it one of the Beautiful places in Japan. It was accorded its famed status because of the traditional gasshō-zukuri houses located in the region. This site also encompasses the adjacent village Shirakawa-gō. These ancient houses that are nearly 250 years old or more are preserved for its distinct architecture which developed over several generations. What is most distinct is the thatched roofs. For instance, that were used to withstand massive snowfall.
Fun fact: Gassho-zukuri essentially means “constructed like hands in prayer.” The houses’ thatched roof is believed to resemble Buddhist monks and their hands pressed together in prayer.
9. Blue pond
While Japan seems to be all about ancient towns, mountains, rivers and nature in specific, it also has many human-made places to visit. The Blue Pond is a human-made pond in Hokkaido, Japan. It was established in the post-1980s after the volcanic eruption of Mount Tokachi to guard the town of Biei against being eroded. What is fascinating is the blue colour that is a result of natural minerals found to be dissolved in the pond. It is one of the lesser recognized places in Japan, which means you will get some space all to yourself because of rare tourist visits. Let us know if you think it is one of the top 10 beautiful places in Japan too!
10. Kimono Forest, Arishayama
Right outside Arashiyama station, is a breathtaking and eccentric site that is a showcase of some of the most impeccable kimono textiles dyed using the traditional Kyo-yuzen technique. It is called a “forest” because of the pillars clustered like trees and the kimono is displayed on the pillars. It was created by artist Yasumichi Morita who sought to give the renovation a twist, attempting to retain tradition but in a modern and more appealing way.
11. Mount Yoshino
Mount Yoshino, located in Nara Prefecture in Japan, was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site classified as Pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range.
Are you wondering what’s so great about the mountain? For one, it is yet again one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Second, Mount Yoshino has been Japan’s most famous viewing points of cherry blossoms (nearly 30,000 trees) for centuries! When you plan a visit, know the best time to visit is during the blooming season (around April)!
Mount Yoshino is sometimes packed with tourists during the blooming season. In the summer, you will also find many Shugendo practitioners (practising mountain asceticism) visiting the region.
Also See: The 10 Most Beautiful Japanese Villages
12. Gion Geisha District
Geisha, Geiko or Geigi are Japanese women who entertain the audience by performing the ancient traditions of art, dance and singing. They are seen wearing the traditional Japanese outfit, the kimono. The entertainment part of the town in Kyoto is Gion – locally popular for Geisha and their performances. You will notice many police officers standing guard in certain places. They are usually around to protect the Geishas from misbehaving tourists.
13. Miyakojima, Okinawa
Miyakojima is one of the largest and most populated islands in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. The beaches on this island are pristine and untouched with white sands and clear turquoise water makes it worth a visit when in Japan! Even better, Snorkelling is a popular water sport in this region. Spend a few days chilling at the beach, go for a swim, and marvel at the longest toll-free bridge in Japan which connects Miyakojima and Irabujima across the sea.
14. Bioluminescent Rocks, Okayama
For an ethereal experience, fly to Okayama and head to the beach near Ushimado of Seto Inland Sea. The whole beach comes to life at night, as bioluminescent streaks and swirls take shape on boulders, sand and water. All thanks to the Vargula hilgendorfii or “sea fireflies” that come to life at night to feed along the coast. The unique bioluminescent creatures originally live in the sand between high and low tide.
15. Tottori Sand Dunes
When it comes to Japan, the list of beautiful places to visit is endless. The Tottori Sand Dunes is located in Tottori Prefecture and are the largest sand dune in Japan. A part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park, these dunes were created over thousands of years. Due to erosion from the nearby Sendaigawa River, the sand was washed out from there and redeposited by the ocean currents along the coast.
Even today, the landscape is prone to eternal change, as the water and winds continue to act as factors of change. You can also travel the vast expanse using camel or horse-drawn carts. Paragliding and sandboarding are also offered here for the more adventurous ones!
16. Koka Ninja Village, Koka City
If you haven’t played the classic Ninja game as a child, mastering the art of espionage, assassination and go in for the fake kill with your make-do throwing star…have you even lived life?! The Koka Ninja Village is remote and rural and harbours a collection of old school Ninja Houses in the dense forest.
When you visit, you can learn about the hidden compartments and trapdoors of the house and some Ninja tricks. A tad bit more fascinating is the throwing range and a nine-stage obstacle course.
17. Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
On this list of 17 best places to visit in Japan, the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is an ode to the voice of the cliche tourist in each of us.
Further Read: Guide to Best Indian Restaurants in Tokyo
Not as extravagant as the other places on this list. It is exhilarating to stand there and watch thousands of people go about their day and walking in all directions. It will undoubtedly escort you down the memory lane of all the bustling cities you have been to. Photographers, this is the place to be!
These are some of the most beautiful places in Japan! All these places are not only the most typical things to do, but we have also mentioned some unique, novel and beautiful places in Japan that you must visit. These are surely great to start with, but Japan has a bit of everything to match everyone’s interests!