10 Most Beautiful Spots for Seeing Architecture in Japan!

Places to visit in Japan

Japanese architecture has developed over centuries, all the while preserving its original heritage and the authentic beauty of its design. On the other hand, Western architecture has had a significant influence on it, which has resulted in the impressive masterpieces that can be found across Japan today.

Traveling around Japan will allow you to come across these incredible architectural masterpieces which are well worth a visit as a tourist. Reading through this article will get you equipped with useful knowledge which will help you get a better understanding of the background stories of each spot!    

1. Church on the Water (Hokkaido)

Church on the Water Hokkaido
準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chapel on the water is a small beautiful chapel located in Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU in Hokkaido. It was designed by Tadao Ando, a world-famous Japanese architect who has been involved in a number of other impressive architectural masterpieces. The basic concept of the chapel lies in integration between religion, architecture, and nature, which allows visitors to spend a peaceful moment while feeling the power of light, wind, water, and lush green surrounding the chapel. The simple design of the concrete structure might remind you of modern art museums which are totally different from traditional Western Chapels. The symbolic cross standing in the water creates a fascinating atmosphere at night!   

This chapel is open to the public for free during the night hours. You can check the details on their website

2. Seibien (Aomori)

Ghibli Location Arrietty
663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Seibien is a beautiful Japanese-style garden in Aomori which has a long history of 100 years. It is officially designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty and is also recognized as one of the three greatest gardens founded in the Meiji period (1868-1912). The construction of the garden originally started in 1902, and it took 9 years to complete the scenic garden. 

The design strongly reflects essential elements of a traditional Japanese-style garden, including a variety of rock formations, artificial small hills made of bushes, seasonal trees, and lush green plants, and a peaceful pond located in the center of the garden. 

Seibikan is a symbolic architectural design in the garden which was completed in 1909. The design of the building combines both Japanese and Western styles, which allows it to naturally match the landscape of the garden. It is also said to have inspired the creators of “Secret World of Arrietty”, A famous Ghibli movie released in 2010!

Opening hours

9am-5pm (mid-April – mid-September)

9am-4:30pm (October – mid-November)

10am-3pm (mid-November – mid-April)

Admission

¥500 (adult)

¥330 (junior high/ high school student)

¥220 (elementary school student)

3. Towada Art Center (Aomori)

Towada Art Center
Angaurits, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Towada Art Center is a modern art museum that opened in Towada city in Akita in 2008. They showcase 38 impressive works of art which mainly include contemporary installations and sculptures by both domestic and international artists. Each exhibit is displayed in individual rooms which are all connected by a glass hallway. 

Outside exhibits include attractive sculptures such as a giant horse made of colorful flowers. The white simple appearance of the art museum also perfectly matches the surrounding townscape and nature, which seamlessly unite the entire city through the unique artworks!         

Opening hours

9am-5pm

Admission

¥1,200 (adult)

※Free admission for high school students and under

4. D.T. Suzuki Museum (Ishikawa)

D. T. Suzuki Museum
金沢市, CC BY 2.1 JP , via Wikimedia Commons

If you have the chance to visit Kanazawa, the prefectural capital of Ishikawa, D.T Suzuki Museum is a great place worth visiting. D.T Suzuki is a Japanese Buddhist scholar and philosopher who dedicated his life to spreading the spirit of Zen (禅) to the world through his books and essays. Despite the small size and the limited number of exhibits, it attracts numerous visitors from all over the world with the stunning architecture which features beautiful gardens and with peaceful water pools. You can also sit and enjoy reading his English books, which allows you to get a better understanding of the world of Zen!      

Opening hours

9:30am-5pm (※last entry at 4:30pm)

Admission

¥310 (adult)

¥210 (aged 65+)

※Free admission for high school students and under

5. Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre (Shizuoka)

See how the image of Mt. Fuji is reflected in the pond?

Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center is a great spot not only to appreciate the amazing architecture but also to deepen your understanding of the symbolic Japanese mountain. This facility was opened in 2017 as a center of protection and conservation of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The building itself is worth visiting and boasts beautiful wooden latticework made from locally sourced timber. It also features a unique shape resembling an upside-down version of  Mt. Fuji, which looks like a real Mt. Fuji when reflected in the front pond. Inside the building is a variety of informative exhibits displayed along a spiraling slope connecting from the 1st through the 5th floor. The top floor is an Observation hall that offers spectacular views of Mt. Fuji out of the window with no obstacles!  

Opening hours

9am-5pm 

(※9am-6pm in July and August)

Admission

¥300 (adult)

6. Tokyo Station (Tokyo)

Tokyo Station looks festive year-round

Tokyo Station is an iconic transport hub located in the heart of Tokyo. It is widely known as Japan’s busiest railway station which welcomes tourists from all over the world all year long. The construction was completed in 1914 with a western-style design brought by Kinno Tatsugo, a world-renowned Japanese architect. The red brick exterior is recognizable among the surrounding modern skyscrapers although it is relatively small in height. It provides not only expansive access to public transport but also great shopping and dining experiences, accommodation options (The Tokyo Station Hotel), and an impressive art experience at Tokyo Station Gallery!    

7. La Collina Omihachiman (Shiga)

La Collina Shiga

Apart from famous historic spots such as Hikone Castle, Shiga prefecture now offers brand-new sweets experiences with La Collina Omihachiman which opened in 2015. It is a flagship of Taneya, a traditional Japanese confectionery store. It is about a 10min bus ride from JR Omihachiman station to reach the beautiful grass-roofed store serving a variety of fresh cakes and other sweets options. Try their best-selling Baumkuchen (German tree cake) which perfectly goes with coffee at a lovely café space. A food court and a gift shop offer a light meal menu, fruit drinks, handmade jam, western sweets, and much more. Located on the hillside of Mt. Hachiman, it is also home to a stunning natural landscape where you can get close to nature!

Opening hours

9am-6pm 

8. Kyoto National Museum (Kyoto)

If you didn’t know any better, one might think that this museum was in Europe

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, fascinates visitors not only with beautiful temples and shrines but also with impressive cultural experiences. Kyoto National Museum is one of Kyoto’s most famous museums which opened in 1897. The original main building, which is currently used for special exhibitions, is officially designated as an Important Cultural Property. The red-brick western-style exterior is designed by Tokuma Katayama, a Japanese architect who is widely known for his involvement in great masterpieces such as Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. Despite the western-influenced appearance, the building naturally matches the beautiful townscape of Kyoto. Not only the building itself but also the exhibition is definitely worth visiting! 

Opening hours

9am-5:30pm (※last entry at 5pm)

Closed on Monday

Admission

¥1,600 (adult)

¥1,200 (university student)

¥700 (high school student)

※Free admission for junior high school students and under 

9. Benesse House (Kagawa)

benesse house naoshima
663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Naoshima is a lovely little island in the Seto Island Sea which is widely recognized as a must-visit for art lovers. This island is home to a number of impressive art museums as well as great artworks including outdoor sculptures and installations that can be found everywhere. Benesse House is a modern art museum designed by Tadao Ando, a world-famous Japanese architect. It showcases great works of art by both domestic and international artists alike.

Some of the exhibits are scattered even outdoors, creating a unique sense of harmony with the surrounding nature and the breathtaking ocean view. They also feature a comfortable hotel facility which will allow you to enjoy a memorable stay while surrounded by stunning artwork and beautiful nature!

Opening hours

10am – 6pm (※temporary shortened due to Covid-19)

Admission

¥1,050 (adult)

※Free admission for children aged 15 and under

10. Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (Kagawa)

Isamu Noguchi
osami, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Isamu Noguchi is a world-famous sculptor who had a Japanese father and an American mother. Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum showcases approximately 150 of his great works, including impressive stone sculptures scattered across the museum along with a small studio, beautiful garden, and even his house where he spent about 20 years from the late 1960s. Everything just perfectly matches the peaceful surrounding landscape and mountains. A small gift shop is also available where you can get original merchandise with his design on it! Note that reservation is required prior to your visit. 

Opening hours

Check their website for the dates and times of available tours

Admission

¥2,200 (adult/ university student)

¥1,100 (high school student)

※Free admission for junior high school students and under

If you don’t pay much attention to the exterior design of each building, it will be hard to recognize the hidden beauty of the details. The appearance of architecture strongly reflects passion, desire, inspiration, and the effort of the designer who spends years to complete each work. Visiting the spots introduced above will enable you to appreciate the incredible architecture while enjoying a range of experiences!

It’s always better to take a guided tour if you want to explore the spots to see beautiful architecture in Japan. We organize private tours throughout Japan, and we’d be happy to arrange the tour upon your request. The knowledgeable guide will take you to the architecture spots in the area and explain the background and interesting facts along the way! Feel free to contact us for our tours!

Tokyo 1- Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
Kanazawa 1–Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)

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Happy traveling!

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Writer’s profile

Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with travelling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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