One of the most exciting parts when planning an international trip is to decide where to visit in the country. We can help you complete your itinerary smoothly with a comprehensive list of most popular tourist attractions that will never disappoint you. It might be difficult to travel internationally at the moment, but it’s always good to have something you can look forward to. Here are the most popular tourist attractions that we recommend in Japan!
- 1. Sapporo
- 2. Shibuya Crossing
- 3. Yokohama Minatomirai
- 4. Nikko
- 5. Mt. Fuji
- 6. Shirakawago
- 7. Snow Monkey Park
- 8. Osaka Dotonbori
- 9. Kyoto (Fushimi Inari)
- 10. Nara Park
- 11. Miyajima
- 12. Okinawa
- 13. Animal islands
- 14. Naoshima, the art island
- 15. Yakushima
- 16. Ghibli locations
- 17. Gaming spots
- 18. Seto Inland Sea
- 19. Sanriku coast
- 20. Hida Takayama
- 21. Nakasendo
- 22. Original castles
- 23. Big buddha statues
- 24. Unique theme parks
- 25. Onsen spots near Tokyo
- Japan Wonder Travel Tours
- Other articles you might like
Sapporo is known as the largest city in Hokkaido with a population of about 2 million people. While it plays a role as a political and economic center, it also boasts a range of tourist attractions and popular spots which attract people from around the world. Sapporo Clock Tower is an iconic landmark with 130 years of history which is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. Goryokaku refers to a historical spot featuring a star-shaped fort located in a peaceful park known as a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. Susukino is a lively drinking district which offers a range of entertaining experiences as well as a number of Izakaya bars. Sapporo Snow Festival is a symbolic annual festival held in February which fascinates visitors with incredible exhibitions of ice sculptures! Don’t forget to try fresh seafood and local specialties, including high-quality crabs and Sapporo Miso ramen! Read Best 2-Days Itinerary in Sapporo, Hokkaido for more fun ideas in Sapporo!
2. Shibuya Crossing
Located in the Shibuya area in Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing is widely known as the busiest crossing in the world. It consists of 5 cross roads which allow pedestrians to come and go in every direction of the crossing. At the busiest time of the day, more than 3,000 people are estimated to cross it at the same time without bumping into each other, which creates an incredible view! Shibuya Scramble Square is a giant shopping complex which features Shibuya Sky, a popular observation deck offering 360-degree views of the iconic crossing as well as Shibuya district full of skyscrapers!
3. Yokohama Minatomirai
Yokohama Minatomirai refers to a popular sightseeing district in Kanagawa prefecture with a range of commercial complexes and entertaining spots. It plays a role as the economic and shopping center of Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan by population which is accessible in less than 30 minutes by train from Tokyo. Visit Yokohama Landmark Tower which offers a spectacular night view of Yokohama city from the observation deck at the elevation of 273 meters. Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse is home to numerous shops and restaurants selling a large variety of products and items perfect for a gift. Head to Cup Noodles Museum to learn the history of instant noodles which originated in Japan through interactive exhibitions. You can also attend noodle making classes as well as pay extra to design your own noodle cups!
Nikko is a peaceful city nestled in the northwestern part of Tochigi prefecture. From Tokyo, it can be reached in approximately 2 hours by train, making it a perfect weekend trip destination. It is home to Nikko Toshogu, a world-famous Shinto shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the first Shogun of Tokugawa Shogunate which once ruled the entire country for 260 years from the beginning of the 17th century. The original establishment of the shrine dates back to 1617, and it has been visited by numerous tourists as a symbolic structure listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical sites in the Nikko area. You can explore the sacred shrine grounds full of magnificent buildings, including 8 National Treasure and 34 Important Cultural Properties. Kegon Falls is another popular spot which offers a refreshing experience in nature with an impressive scenery created by the beautiful waterfall and surroundings!
5. Mt. Fuji
There is no doubt that Mt. Fuji is a must-visit place since it’s a symbolic mountain in Japan. Known as the highest mountain in Japan, it fascinates numerous visitors with its extraordinary beauty and presence. You can enjoy the symbolic peak from a distance, or tackle the exciting hiking trails which allow you to explore the surrounding nature. It also offers a variety of outdoor adventures such as kayaking or boat cruise at scenic lakes called Fuji Five Lakes (”Fujigoko” in Japanese). BBQ and camping can be other options around there. Winter is the best season to catch the glimpse of the snow capped mountain and also it is said January and February is the best time to see Mt.Fuji with a clear view (Read 12 Recommended Places to See the Best View of Mt.Fuji for the reason and the best viewing spots)
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago attracts people around the globe despite age or nationality. The beautiful village is nestled in a peaceful mountainous area in Gifu prefecture. What makes it a world-famous place is the stunning scenery created by traditional Japanese houses are called Gassho-zukuri. It features a unique architectural style such as a steep thatched roof which protects the house from heavy snowfall in winter. Exploring the beautiful village also allows you to take a glimpse of the local community that have preserved the impressive scenery and traditional lifestyle for over centuries! Winter changes the peaceful village into a white world completely covered with snow!
7. Snow Monkey Park
Have you ever imagined wild monkeys bathing in a hot spring? It may sound unreal, but actually does exist as a world-famous tourist attraction in Japan! Snow Monkey Park is a unique nature park which has suddenly become famous when it was featured in Life, the American magazine. Visitors can watch wild monkeys move around freely in a great natural environment. Nestled at the elevation of 850 meters, the park is covered with snow when the temperature drops during a long winter season. The severe weather encourages monkeys to soak in a natural hot spring bath to warm up their body, which attracts numerous international tourists every year.
8. Osaka Dotonbori
Known as the second largest city in Japan, Osaka awaits you with a lively atmosphere unique to the Kansai region which is completely different from what you can experience in Tokyo! Dotonbori refers to a vibrant downtown district with numerous shops, restaurants, Izakaya bars, entertaining spots and much more! Walking around the area will easily deprive you a couple of hours with too many things to do and see. Ebisubashi is a symbolic bridge over Dotonbori canal which is a perfect spot to take memorable photos with a giant signboard known as Guriko Sign. Try local specialties such as Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. Enjoy a memorable night life at Izakaya bars offering high-quality Japanese sake and a variety of dishes!
9. Kyoto (Fushimi Inari)
Kyoto never stops fascinating visitors with the extraordinary townscape with beautiful shrines and temples. It used to be an ancient capital of Japan until Tokyo took over its place and became the largest center of economy and politics. Walking around the scenic town will take you to world-famous historic sites such as Arashiyama, a peaceful area known for the stunning bamboo grove. Kiyomizudera is a sacred Buddhist temple designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Another highlight you should not miss is Fushimi Inari a Shinto shrine situated at the base of Mt. Inari. The scenic shrine is visited by numerous tourists from around the world as the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. It welcomes visitors with Senbon-torii (千本鳥居), which literally refers to a thousand of red Torii gates creating a stunning scenery. Visiting there in the early morning will enable you to take stunning pictures of beautiful Tori gates without crowds. It is also a perfect hiking spot which allows you to explore the mysterious and sacred shrine grounds while feeling the refreshing air.
10. Nara Park
It is about a 50 minutes train ride from Kyoto to reach Nara, which is known as another historic city. It is home to numerous historical spots such as Todaiji, a symbolic Buddhist temple established by the emperor Shomu in the early 8th century.
Nara offers not only traditional temples and historical sites but more! Nara Park is a vast park which opened in 1880. It covers approximately 502ha with a number of popular historic sites such as Todaiji, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum around. Nara Park is also known as Deer Park since over 1,000 deer actually live in the park! You can buy some deer crackers to feed them and some deer even bow to you to get a cracker! But be careful, these deer are usually tame and friendly but can be aggressive sometimes. Nara Park is also known as a popular cherry blossom viewing spot which is filled with stunningly beautiful pink flowers in spring!
Miyajima is a scenic island which belongs to Hatsukaichi city in Hiroshima prefecture. It can be reached by regular ferry service from Miyajima-guchi pier which takes passengers to the scenic spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As you take the first step into the island, you will be welcomed by friendly deer living there. But unlike deer in Nara Park, it is strictly prohibited to feed them. Itsukushima Shrine is an iconic Shinto shrine which was originally established in 1168. It is also widely famous for the floating Torii gate, which refers to the symbolic giant Torii gate standing in the water. The breathtaking scenery created by the contrast of blue ocean and blight red Tori gate attracts tourists from around the world! Don’t forget to try local specialties such as Okonomiyaki and fresh oysters at restaurants!
If you are planning a long trip in Japan, head to Okinawa to make the most of your time! You can take direct flights from domestic airports such as Narita, Kansai International Airport and Chubu Centrair to reach the southernmost prefecture consisting of numerous remote islands. The emerald-green ocean and sandy white beaches allow you to discover the beauty of untouched nature through a range of guided tours for marine activities such as sea kayaking and snorkeling. Naha is a prefectural capital which boasts popular tourist attractions such as a remain of Shurijo Castle and Kokusaidori street which is a perfect shopping hub.
Miyakojima is one of the remote islands that belong to Okinawa. Take a relaxing stroll at Maehama beach while feeling the comfortable sea breeze. You can also rent a car and drive across Irabu Ohashi Bridge which boasts a length of 3,540 meters, making it the largest free bridge in Japan!
13. Animal islands
Japan features some animal islands where visitors can see wild animals inhabited among people or on uninhabited islands. Cat islands, rabbit islands, sheep islands and monkey island etc., there are a variety of animal islands in Japan.
Tashiro Island in Miyagi prefecture is known as a cat island where over 100 cats live while only about 60 people live there. There is even a shrine dedicated to cats on the island! Okuno Island in the Seto Inland Sea is a so-called rabbit island where over 900 wild rabbits inhabit having its dark history. The island itself was used to develop gas weapons during the war and hid from the map. The combination of interesting history and adorable rabbits attract many tourists in and outside of Japan.
To find which animal islands you can visit, read our article; 10 must-visit animal islands that will surprise you in Japan
14. Naoshima, the art island
Naoshima, located in the Seto Inland Sea which is also known as the art island, is getting popular among the tourists. With beautiful ocean views and colorful artworks displayed open-air around the island, Naoshima became the center of Japan’s showcase of contemporary arts. There are many galleries and museums that you can visit, the old and new architectures will satisfy all the art lovers. Most iconic artworks are red and yellow pumpkins by a famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Red Pumpkin is located near the Miyanoura Port, so most likely the first thing you will see on the island is this. Yellow pumpkin is only 10 minutes away by bus. Rent a bicycle or car if you want to travel around Naoshima in a day!
Yakushima is an island in Kyushu, about 90% of the island is covered by mountainous areas and forests, which makes it a very popular spot for hiking. It’s also known as the difficult hikes which takes 9 hours to complete in a round trip, but you can choose hiking courses depending on your level. The easiest one is only 30 minutes long which is suitable for children and beginners. Yakushima offers breathtaking beauty in nature which takes you away from the hustle and bustle in the city.
16. Ghibli locations
There are some places that are said to be the models of famous Ghibli spots in Japan. Yakushima is one of them, it is said to serve as an inspiration for Princess Mononoke. Other Ghibli locations in Japan are Dogo Onsen in Ehime prefecture where you can see the hot spring bathhouse which looks like a bathhouse from the film! In this article with 10 Ghibli movie locations you can visit in Japan, you can find actual locations of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo and so on comparing the actual places and movie scenes.
17. Gaming spots
Gaming culture is something that Japan is proud of. With unique Otaku (geek or nerd) culture, you can enjoy some gaming related spots especially in Tokyo. Akihabara is known as the Otaku town featuring a variety of game shops and arcade game centers, as well as Nakano. If you have been enjoying Japanese games, visit real-life video game locations. You will be surprised how accurate they draw in the game!
18. Seto Inland Sea
Surprisingly, there are 727 islands in the Seto Inland Sea. These islands lie between the Japanese main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Its mild climate and relaxing atmosphere often compare with Mediterranean islands. One of the best ways to enjoy the stunning islands in Seto Inland Sea is cycling on Shimanami Kaido which is a cycling trail that connects Ehime prefecture and Hiroshima prefecture.
19. Sanriku coast
Sanriku Coast stretches from southern Aomori prefecture through Iwate prefecture in the Tohoku region. The beautiful coastline creates scenic ocean views with cliffs and rock formations. In 2011, the tragic disaster hit the area with a huge earthquake and tsunami and you can visit the memorial museums to learn about the disaster. Still many efforts will be needed to reconstruct the area but beautiful sceneries remind us of the power of nature at the same time while appreciating its beauty. Just enjoying the area is also fine, but it’ll be more meaningful if you can take some time to think of the lesson learned from the past which local people try to pass down to the next generations.
20. Hida Takayama
Hida Takayama is located in the mountainous area in Gifu prefecture. If you are interested in history and nature, you will love it there! Traditional merchant houses, restaurants and shops which date back to the Edo period are lined at the old Sanmachi Suji district which is one of the iconic places in the Hida Takayama area. If you have seen a Japanese animated film called Your Name, the film took place around this area. Also Hida Beef is a very known wagyu from Hida Takayama, you can easily find grilled beef skewers and beef sushi on the street. Don’t forget to try some!
Nakasendo is an old trail which connects between Edo (old Tokyo) and Kyoto which was prosper during the Edo period. Today, it’s a popular hiking trail to enjoy traditional buildings and mountains. Magome and Tsumago are especially popular for both sightseeing and hiking spots in the Nakasendo trail. They are the old post towns situated in the mountains where still many historical houses are preserved. You can enjoy 3 to 4 hours hiking between these two towns. The route is combined with gentle slopes and sudden uphill, special hiking gears are not necessary but if you are worried, you can also take a bus or drive a car between the towns!
22. Original castles
Japan used to have over 25,000 castles but as time passes with wars, natural disasters and the movement of modernization, there are only 12 original castles left. Original castles mean having a castle tower (main keep) which was built during the Edo period or earlier. Probably the most popular castle for tourists is Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture. This beautiful white castle is often referred to as Shirasagi-jo, meaning White Heron. It is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of course other castles have their own unique appearance and beauty, the towns around the castles are also attractive with some historical sites and traditional shops.
23. Big buddha statues
Kamakura Daibutsu and Nara Daibutsu are the most famous big buddha statues in Japan, but actually there are more stunning buddha statues that you can visit. Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki prefecture is the tallest Buddha statue which is twice as big as the Statue of Liberty in New York. Hill of the Buddha in Hokkaido is a photogenic spot which was designed by a popular Japanese architect Tadao Ando. But you think the Buddha statues are all the same? Actually when you look carefully, each Buddha statue has completely different faces!
24. Unique theme parks
Not only beautiful nature and historical sites, but Japan is popular for its unique theme parks as well. Tokyo Disney Resorts and Universal Studio Japan are the top theme parks, but there are theme parks which recreated the townscape of foreign countries such as Huis Ten Bosch which is modeled after Netherland and Tokyo German Village.
25. Onsen spots near Tokyo
Seemingly Japanese people have quite a passion toward onsen, you can enjoy onsen all year round, days and nights, with some great benefits for your body. You can’t complete your Japan trip without experiencing unique bathing culture here. Onsen spots near Tokyo are also popular tourist attractions especially Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma prefecture. Read our article about how to take a Japanese onsen since there are things to know including manners before you go!
Japan Wonder Travel Tours
Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency offering guided tours in Japan.
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we will organize the best tours for you! If you want to explore around Japan to learn more histories and backstories of the area, our knowledgeable and friendly guide will happily take you to the best spots!
Also, we can provide you with any assistance for your upcoming trip in Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions/need some help!
- Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
- Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
- Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
Japan awaits you with a range of memorable experiences that can be found at great tourist spots across the country. Immerse yourself in the scenic nature spots as well as historical sites surviving for centuries. It will make your once in a life time experience in Japan!
Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Every week we will introduce you to our latest content.