It might not be that hard to choose the land of the rising sun as your next destination. But things would be much trickier deciding where Japan's most beautiful places are.
From vibrant city lights and cultural heritages to serene landscapes, this country does have it all. Japan is not a land for the hustling visitor. It is a place where one slows down to immerse oneself.
The Prettiest Destinations In Japan
For those well-acquainted with this enchanting country, we'll delve into some of its more distinct locales. This isn't to imply that other regions lack charm, but we boldly claim that these particular spots epitomise Nihon-poi.
*People use the term Nihon-poi to describe things that have characteristic Japanese qualities, or if you prefer, Japonesque.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Himeji Castle
- Itsukushima Shrine
- Nachi Falls
- Hitachi Seaside Park
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Located in Kyoto, this picturesque bamboo forest is like another world. One considers it as one of the most popular destinations in Kyoto, Japan. The forest has been around for over 100 years, with bamboo trees growing up as tall as 30 metres.
To stand amid these green giants is to detach from all the perplexities of daily life. It’s not something you can understand through pictures or videos. You have to experience it for real to truly “get it”.
The perfect time to visit the forest is early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight shines through the trees. You can consider trying the Rickshaw Ride around Arashiyama. They will also take you through Bamboo Grove. It is a trip to ritualistic Japan that is not common elsewhere.
2. Himeji Castle
One of the best examples of a Japanese castle is Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From afar, one can not fail to notice the beautiful white facade, composed of a unique plaster known as "Shikkui”.
This material consists of a combination of lime, crushed seashells, and other natural elements. It spreads in layers to produce a glossy, smooth surface that reflects light. In the past, people used plaster on castles, temples, and Samurai houses as a symbol of status.
The Japanese built Himeji Castle in the 1600s, and it showcased the feudal architectural style called "hirajiro." The style implicates the castle's imposing size, intricate design, and elaborate defensive systems.
The castle strategically placed maze-like passages, hidden rooms, and winding halls to confuse attackers. Paths and bridges connect around 80 structures, such as towers and gates, to create the castle's complex network.
However, as visitors, there is no need to worry. You can wander around several halls and chambers within the castle that have been meticulously restored to their former grandeur. The castle has pretty gates and walls with fancy carvings and art. It also has a tall tower with six floors that offers great views of the surrounding area.
3. Itsukushima Shrine
Also known as Miyajima Shrine, it is a Shinto shrine located on the island of Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. The shrine was built as a sacred place dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto – the god of seas and storms.
This probably explains the design of Itsukushima Shrine’s most prominent symbol, the floating Torri gate. This gate appears to float on the water during high tide, creating a stunning and scenic view. Even though the current gate is not the original one built in the 12th century, it has remained there for more than 100 years.
The shrine stands on stilts that will help it “float” on the water. The shrine's honden, or main hall, is a magnificent example of Shinden-zukuri architecture, which was common throughout the Heian period. Japan has recognised it as a National Treasure.
Leaving the shrine, you will encounter another aspect this island is famous for - deers. Perceived as the messengers of the gods in Shinto mythology, these beautiful animals can roam freely around the island. Everything effortlessly merges together, creating a tranquil atmosphere.
4. Nachi Falls
Nachi Falls can be found on the southeastern coast of the Kii Peninsula, specifically in Nachikatsuura Town, Wakayama Prefecture. This region, known as Nachi-Katsuura, boasts a breathtaking natural landscape and historic sites like the Nachi Taisha Great Shrine.
Nachi Falls is one of Japan's most beautiful waterfalls, along with Kegon Falls and Fukuroda Falls. It is 133 meters tall and 13 meters wide. When visitors see it, they feel the beauty of nature. People have regarded this waterfall, surrounded by dense forests, as a sacred place for centuries.
A small pond called "Dragon's Pond" is at the bottom of the falls. People say a dragon-headed god lives there. A 10-minute walk from this point will take you to the Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine. With a long history of 1400 years, it is an ancient and significant shrine in Japan.
In addition to its historical and religious significance, Nachi Taisha Great Shrine is renowned for its stunning surroundings. The tall trees and verdant landscape are second to none.
For a closer look at the waterfall, you can take a short stroll to a viewing platform or a boat trip. Climbing up the staircase to the top, you can take in the magnificent panoramic views of the whole region.
Takayama is a historical city in the Hida region of Gifu prefecture famous for its well-preserved Edo-era architecture. Coming to this city, you can not miss Sanmachi. It is a small district adorned by multiple merchant houses, traditional shops, and sake breweries.
People constructed most of these buildings with dark, solid wood and they had latticed windows and thick thatched roofs. It seems like small details, but these boutiques and dwellings generate a distinctive old-world ambience.
The Hida Folk Village is a popular outdoor museum in Takayama that showcases traditional homes and establishments from the region.. Here, you will find almost 30 painstakingly restored and relocated structures, such as farmhouses, stores, and workshops.
The Takayama Matsuri is a festival held twice a year in spring and fall. It is a highly anticipated event in Takayama. The celebration includes performances of traditional music and dance; and spectacular floats covered with ornate metalwork, textiles, and sculptures.
If you are looking for delicate cuisine, Takayama would be a great option. You can try different types of wagyu beef in this nice city. Wagyu beef is known for being tender and having a delicious taste.
6. Hitachi Seaside Park
Spanning 350 hectares (35 km^2), Hitachi Seaside Park is an expansive public space boasting diverse landscapes, from vast grasslands and woodlands to wetlands.
Home to over 4.5 million flowers planted throughout the year, the park promises a delightful visit regardless of the season. However, for a truly unforgettable experience, consider visiting in late April. This is when the hills are awash with the blue hues of the Nemophila Harmony flowers in full bloom.
Beyond its floral wonders, Hitachi Seaside Park offers visitors a range of recreational activities. Whether you're keen on cycling, picnicking, or simply strolling through its myriad gardens and paths, there's something for everyone. On the thrilling side, there are a number of rides, such as a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, you can try.
On the west coast of Honshu Island, near Kanazawa, is where you will find Kenroku-en. The garden made by the Maeda clan 200 years ago is still beautiful and hasn't lost any of its charm.
Kenroku-en, meaning "Garden of the Six Characteristics," embodies the principles believed to constitute the perfect garden. These six attributes are:: spaciousness, solitude, human artifice, antiquity, water features, and panoramas.
Correspondingly, the garden has different sections, each with special characteristics. The Kasumigaike pond, encircled by walkways, bridges, and teahouses, serves as the garden's focal point.
The Kotoji-toro lantern is the symbol of the garden. The image of the lantern reflected in the motionless waters of the pond creates a picturesque scenery. Here, you can participate in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies at the 18th-century Yugao-tei teahouse.
The Hisago-ike pond, which has a sizable waterfall and various islands, is another section of the garden. A well-liked location for taking pictures is the pine tree Neagari-no-Matsu, which has been coaxed to grow horizontally.
Of course, the symbolic flower of Japan - the cherry blossom - blooms here and transforms the garden into an iconic pink sea in the spring.
Most Beautiful Cities To Visit In Japan
There is no doubt that Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka will be on the list. But can you imagine other 13 cities that are equally attractive? Maybe you will find something even more appealing. From our experience, Japan is one of the best destinations to go off the initial itinerary.
There is no place like Tokyo, the most lively city in Japan. Seeing all the skyscrapers, bullet trains, neon signs, and bustling crowds, it’s hard to contain the excitement. You’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of the bright metropolis immediately.
Tokyo is more like a collection of sprawling cities than one massive urban area. There are many districts, and each has its own charm and stories to tell.
You may want to start your journey at Tokyo Skytree, which soars above the capital’s skyline at 634 metres (2,080 feet) height. The tallest tower in Tokyo is a famous place in Japan to take in the incredible city panoramic views from its observation decks.
If Kyoto is considered the future city of Japan, then Kyoto is known as the cultural capital. Their names are similar, but the two cities can’t be more different in atmosphere and vibe.
If you are interested in temples, you will be in for a treat here. For instance, Kiyomizu-dera Temple is among the most famous places in Japan and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Gojozaka bus stop.
Do you know that image of a thousand red temple gates running endlessly? That’s actually from Fushimi Inari Shrine. This Shinto shrine in Southern Kyoto is one of some thirty thousand Inari shrines in the country.
Besides the mountain trails, people love coming here for the Yotsutsuji intersection, where you can snap some picturesque shots of the whole city. The place is also full of foxes as they are believed to be the messengers of the god deity worshipped here.
Osaka is undoubtedly the ideal place to go in Japan in the autumn season. When it’s October, the colourful fall foliage begins to take place. You can see the spectacular scenery of red leaves until December, so you know the best time to visit Osaka.
Another great time to visit Japan in general and Osaka, in particular, is from late March to mid-April, the sakura (cherry blossoms) season. That’s when the whole country is endowed with a soft pink splendour.
The most popular tourist spot in Osaka is none other than Osaka Castle. With a history that dates back 450 years, the castle tower has many stories to tell. The parks that envelop the towering structure are also a major attraction, offering stunning landscapes.
If you want to explore another side of Osaka, the Dotonbori area is the place to do so. Filled with flashy neon signs, clubs, bars and restaurants, this principal tourist destination is best explored at nighttime.
Known for its tragic past of nuclear attack, Hiroshima has now become one of the top attractions in Japan. If you rewind the time a little more, you will learn that this place used to be a castle town that played an important role in multiple wars. The place is easily accessible from Tokyo or Osaka via JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen.
Within Downtown Hiroshima, you can find the most visited places in Japan: the Peace Memorial Museum, Peace Memorial Park, and the Atomic Bomb Dome - all dedicated to the memories of the bomb's victims.
Just a 30-minute train trip away from Hiroshima is Miyajima Island. This quaint little island is dubbed “the island of the gods” due to its historical and religious significance. There are many attractions like the Itsukushima Shrine, Mount Misen, Virgin Forest, etc.
Anyone travelling to Tokyo may have heard of Sapporo, the largest city in the Northernmost part of the country. Furthermore, it is known as one of the snowiest destinations in Japan and even in the world.
The heavy snowfall also helped forge the city’s identity; Sapporo is the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympics. Plus, some two million visitors from around the globe come to join its annual Sapporo Snow Festival, which features professionally crafted snow and ice sculptures.
For those who want an obstructed view of Odori Park and Sapporo, the best place to do that is on the observation deck at 90.38 metres (296 feet) on the Sapporo TV Tower.
Sapporo is also the birthplace of miso ramen, so be sure to try this nationally beloved dish. If you want to hunt for this hearty Japanese noodle soup, we recommend going to Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho, the “ramen alley”.
Among the most popular Japanese tourist attractions, Yokohama is a famous destination for families. As many families live in this city, you can find many kid-oriented attractions to visit with your little ones. It’s a great place to spend one or two days away from Tokyo.
Zoological Gardens Zoorasia is a popular destination with locals and tourists alike. This massive zoo features eight sections replicating natural animal habitats in a spacious area. Thus, it’s a must-see for animal and nature lovers.
Fukuoka, perched in northern Kyushu, serves as a pivotal portal to the enchanting corners of Asia. Fukuoka Airport, a major transportation epicentre in Japan, ensures the city is effortlessly connected to a myriad of Asian destinations.
In its vicinity lies the stunning Fukutsu Sea Mirror, a natural phenomenon that, at the right tide, creates a magical sea "reflection" on the Fukutsu coast.
Yet, the marvels of Kyushu don't end there; a short 2-hour journey on the Kyushu Expressway train leads you to the majestic Takachiho Gorge, graced by a breathtaking waterfall, drawing countless travellers to its awe-inspiring beauty.
Those interested in famous places in Japan with the best hot springs consider visiting Hakone. The mountain town is just a few hours away from Tokyo. Many people love coming here to enjoy bathing in an Onsen (Japanese hot springs).
Belonging to the Hakone round course, Owakudani is a popular stop. A volcanic eruption created the volcanic valley some 3,000 years ago. As a result, the place is full of active sulphur vents and hot springs. A must-try local speciality is Kuro-tamago, black eggs boiled from hot spring water once you set foot here.
If you want to witness the beautiful view of Mt Fuji from afar, many great options exist: from the Moto Hakone area, on the Hakone Detached Palace, or the boats on the lake, etc. Regardless of your choice, you will be blessed with a wider view thanks to the clear air in these parts.
Have you ever heard about shinrin-yoku (forest bathing)? The name says it all, this therapy method involves taking a stroll through a forest atmosphere and appreciating everything with your senses. One of the best places to practise it is Hakone Kuzuryu Forest, near Lake Ashi.
Nara should be on your Japan travel bucket list as it’s just under one hour away from big cities like Kyoto or Osaka. Once the imperial capital of the nation (between 710-784), it’s safe to say that the city is one of the best places to visit in Japan to learn about its rich history and cultural values.
The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. The site is a collection of eight individual cultural assets, which are temples, a forest, and a palace site. There are also various ancient Japanese Buddhist buildings and artefacts awaiting to be discovered in and around Nara.
Did you know that deer are the symbol of the city? The legend goes that Takemikazuchi, a deity, arrived at the old capital of Nara on a divine white deer. And thus, this animal is seen as sacred. Nara Park is an especially popular spot for interacting with and feeding about one thousand adorable deer.
Located right in the middle of the country, Nagoya is a great starting point for exploring nearby Japanese tourist attractions like Kyoto, Takayama, or Kiso Valley. It is Central Japan’s largest city and the nation’s financial hub.
Whether you are a car person or not, a trip to the Toyota Commemorative Museum Of Industry & Technology is necessary. The attendees range from schoolchildren to seniors with white. All come to this destination to marvel at the models in their glory forms and the story behind one of Japan’s great companies.
As modern and youthful as it is, Nagoya also has a historical side to it. Various sites like Nagoya Castle or Atsuta Jingu offer a glimpse of the thousands-year-old cultures of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Aside from the beautiful places, don’t forget to explore the decadent regional cuisines, a quality you see in every region of Japan. If there’s one dish you must try in Nagoya, it would be miso katsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet served with rich dark-brown sauce.
Many people may have heard about Kobe beef, one of the most expensive beef in the world. But the coastal city of Osaka Bay is more than that. From taking in the magical view from the longest suspension bridge in the world to exploring the Kitano old district, Kobe has much to offer.
Once a thriving port town, the city is a Japanese place to visit if you want to experience the interesting mix of Western and Japanese culture. Come to Kitano-cho Ijinkan (Old Quarter), and you will be treated to about 20 old Western-style cultural properties, all open to the public.
When you want something different, try getting lost in the colourful streets of Kobe Chinatown Nankin-machi. Lining the streets are various stalls selling mouth-watering street foods. Walking while munching on snacks is the best thing ever, especially when sightseeing marvellous Chinese-inspired architecture.
Even though they are far apart, the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture can be easily reached from Tokyo. Through a two-and-a-half-hour bullet train ride, anyone can take a day trip to Kanazawa to witness its dazzling array of rich heritage.
Geisha are one of Japan's tourist travel most captivating and iconic symbols. You can meet these female performance artists in real life by coming to the teahouses in the Higashi Chaya District. If you are fascinated by Samurai, Nagamachi - the Samurai district - is the place for you.
Many would tell you to visit the awe-inspiring Kanazawa Castle, but don’t forget to check out the adjacent Kenroku-en. This exquisite, beautiful landscaped garden is the perfect place to practise shinrin-yoku.
Over a hundred temples and shrines, sandy beaches and numerous other historical monuments make Kamakura such an attractive Japanese tourist place. For good reasons, the small city is called “Kyoto in Eastern Japan”.
If you visit Kamakura, It would be a shame to miss Kōtoku-in, a beautiful Buddhist temple. The second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. The Great Buddha statue stands 11.4m (37.4 ft) tall, sitting upright in the open space surrounded by lush scenery. The monumental bronze statue was built in 1252 and has long been a tourist attraction.
Those who want to immerse themselves in the deep ocean blue, come to Kamakura Yuigahama Beach, and your dream will come true. It is one of the five beaches of the 4-mile-long coast on Southern Kamakura. The water temperature is just perfect. We are sure you will have a great time at this wonderful beach.
When you want to take shelter from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, there’s no better place than Nikko. With natural beauty destinations and UNESCO heritage sites, it’s easy to see why Nikko is among the finest places to go in Japan.
The town is a gateway to Nikko National Park, undoubtedly the region's main attraction. It is home to shrines and temples with spectacular mountainous backdrops.
The top choice for visiting must be Tosho-gu Shrine, dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three unifiers in Japan. This lavish mausoleum is a complex of 103 structures with wood carvings and gold leaf decorations.
You can find one of Japan’s three most beautiful cascades in Nikko, the Kegon Falls. To fully admire the splendid natural beauty of such a natural phenomenon, you can view it from a free upper deck or a paid lower viewing deck.
Here’s another star on your Japan tourist places bucket list: Shirakawago. It is renowned for being the cultural heritage site of Shirakawa-go (Shirakawa Village), a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Japanese mountain settlement is known for its thatched-roofed Gassho farmhouses; some are over 250 years old. These Gassho-style houses are not your typical Japanese farmhouses. They are colossal with 3 feet-thick, thatched steep roofs.
Due to heavy snowfall, the houses are designed this way. It is also said that they resemble the hands of monks joined together in prayer. In the Edo and early Showa eras, Japanese people used the attic space on the roofspace as a workplace, specifically for silk rearing.
But let’s not forget about the stunning surroundings that envelop these architectural beauties. The Sho River, rice paddies and lush greenery are worth discovering, too.
Southwest of Japan's main island, Honshu, is Shikoku, an island surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Given its location, one can expect the best when travelling to this attraction in Japan: good food, beautiful places, and a long, fascinating history.
Most people would first visit Ritsurin Garden, a “special place of scenic beauty”. This 16th-century cultural asset is considered to be the largest Cultural Property Garden in Japan. Covering an area of about 75 hectares (185 acres), there’s much to explore in one of Japan's greatest places to visit.
Japan has many Instagrammable and memorable destinations, and Vine Bridges of the Iya Valley is one of them. Lies in one of Japan’s least explored regions is the magical vines bridge slithering across the water.
They are captivating and safe to cross, as the vines are replaced every three years and even reinforced with hidden steel and cable.
The Most Beautiful Places In Japan Are A Real Gem To Discover
Japan is famous for being one of the safest and cleanest countries in the world. Therefore, every traveller can have a relatively hassle-free trip to this beautiful nation. If you want another destination recommendation, we advise exploring the best places to visit in Switzerland - another safe place.
The most beautiful places in Japan are not just limited to towering skyscrapers and mountain ranges. At every corner, you will find architectural beauties and things to do for a unique experience. It’s worth a visit at least once in your life.
Have you ever, or plan to, come to the land of the rising sun? What destination in Japan captured your heart? Tell us all about it in the comment section below. And don’t forget to press the share button so more people can know about the beauty of this wonderful land.