As the country is absolutely packed full of stunning natural landscapes and historic architecture, it can be incredibly hard to narrow down the most beautiful places in Japan to include on a list of must-visit destinations.
However, before you start making travel arrangements and checking which Japan visa types you may need for a trip to the country, we recommend you take a look at the suggestions below to help you organize your Itinerary.
The best places to visit in Japan
Japan is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Asia because it has such a huge range of unique cities each with their own variety of historical and natural attractions:
Some of the most beautiful cities in Japan include:
- Hiroshima – Best known for the Peace Memorial that pays homage to the victims of the 1945 atomic bomb attack, Hiroshima is also home to another impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan: the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island. This stunning shrine appears to be floating on the water during high tide and is one of the best photo opportunities in the country.
- Kyoto – Considered one of the most spiritual places in Japan because of the huge number of historic temples and shrines, including the Fushimi Inari shrine with its distinctive red tori It’s also home to the Sagano Bamboo Forest, an enormous grove of bamboo trees perfect for a relaxing walk through nature.
- Nara – The very first capital of Japan, Nara is full of UNESCO-endorsed architectural wonders, but perhaps the best reason to visit is the Nara Deer Park. This extensive natural reserve is not only one of the oldest public parks in Japan, but it is also full of over 1,200 deer which are extremely friendly and eager to be fed snacks by guests.
Of course, while they are busy metropolitan centers, the two largest cities in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka, are also filled with beautiful attractions in their own right and also well worth a visit.
Which is better for a visit – Osaka or Tokyo?
If you’re only planning a short trip to Japan, you might have to whittle down the major attractions you wish to visit. If you need to decide between a trip to Osaka or visiting Tokyo, there are several factors to consider.
Osaka is full of appealing tourist attractions, including the historic Osaka castle in the center of the city, an oasis of calm amongst the bustling downtown area,.
One of the most beautiful places in Osaka to visit as a tourist is the Shinsekai, or “New World” district. Flanked by the impressive Tsutenkaku Tower, the district truly comes alive at night when it is illuminated by a huge number of neon lights and advertisements.
Nevertheless, Tokyo is often considered one of the best cities in the world to visit for tourism, and if you are pressed for time you should prioritize the Japanese capital as a destination.
The most beautiful places in Tokyo include the Senso-Ji Temple, one of the oldest temples in Japan, as well as the historic Imperial Palace, and the vibrant Shibuya Crossing, made internationally famous by the film Lost in Translation.
Most Beautiful Parts of Rural Japan
While some of the most beautiful places to visit in Japan can be found in the major cities and their surrounding areas, to fully appreciate the beauty of Japan’s scenery you need to get out into the smaller towns and expansive countryside.
An absolute must-visit while in Japan is Hakone in Kanagawa prefecture, a mountain town famous for its wealth of onsen hot springs that offer the chance to enjoy stunning views over the iconic Mount Fuji as you soak.
The northernmost island of Hokkaido is also a must-visit for all nature lovers, as it provides the chance to see some of Japan’s most beautiful landscapes, including the snowy mountains of Sapporo and the lavender fields surrounding Furano.
If you’re planning to visit Okinawa Prefecture, then a visit to Ishigaki, often considered the most beautiful island in Japan, is highly recommended. Ishigaki boasts colorful coral reefs and crystal clear water bordered by a variety of appealingly sandy beaches, and, along with the other islands in Okinawa, is often described as Japan’s answer to Hawaii.
Another of the most unique places to visit in Japan is the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, located in Nagano Prefecture, particularly the Jigokudani Monkey Park. This hot spring-filled nature reserve offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with Japanese wildlife, especially the snow monkeys who like to take a dip in the onsens during the winter.
Finally, if you’re looking for romantic lesser-known, or secret places in Japan to visit during your trip, then head to Futami in Mie Prefecture, the location of Futamiokitama Shrine, and some incredible ocean views. Nearby, you’ll also find the Meoto Iwa “Wedded Rocks”, a sacred site said to symbolize the unbreakable union of a loving marriage.