Tokyo may be an impressive
city, but that’s not all Japan has to offer.
The country’s islands, shrines, world-renowned cuisine, and
beautiful scenery are just a
few reasons why it’s a great place to travel. So it should come
as no surprise that Travel + Leisure named Japan its 2018 destination of the year.
From the bustling streets of Shibuya, Tokyo, to the majestic
Mount Fuji, here are some things to see and do in Japan that will
make you want to visit immediately.
Ride a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and see Mount Fuji along the way.
Traveling across Japan isn’t a terribly difficult undertaking
thanks to its Shinkansen bullet train
network. With trains that travel at speeds of up
to almost 200 miles per hour, passengers riding south from
Tokyo to cities like Kyoto and Osaka can take the window seat and
enjoy a beautiful view of Mount Fuji,
a dormant volcano and Japan’s highest mountain.
Visit a cherry blossom festival in the spring.
The cherry blossom, or sakura in Japanese, is a revered flower in
Japan. Considered a symbol of life and its
vulnerability, many Japanese families congregate to practice hanami, or the
tradition of publicly watching and celebrating cherry blossoms
when they bloom in the spring.
While there are plenty of festivals devoted to the flower in
Japan, the southern city of Matsuyama is most famous for its
historic cherry blossom-themed spring
festival where the flowers bloom amid Matsuyama Castle each
Visit an island where cats outnumber people.
Tashirojima earned its nickname as “Cat Island” for good reason.
While the island is home to around 100 humans, they are heavily outnumbered by their feline
friends. Initially brought to the island for pest control,
the cats are now taken care of by the island’s residents, largely
due to the good luck cats are said to
symbolize in Japan.
Kyoto’s bamboo forest is a tranquil place to visit.
Kyoto is well known for carefully maintaining its many historical temples, shrines, and
gardens, and the Sagano Bamboo Forest is no exception.
Located on the outskirts of the city, the forest is often touted
for its second-to-none scenery and
beautiful soundscapes. The forest also contains manicured
gardens and is a short walk away from Kyoto’s Tenryu-ji Temple.
Pay your respects at Kamakura’s Great Buddha.
In the city of Kamakura there’s a centuries-old bronze statue
dedicated to the Amida Buddha. The monument weighs
around 121 tons, and was originally gold-plated; according to
Atlas Obscura, some traces of gold can still be seen
around its ears today.
Walk the path of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari-taisha.
Fushimi Inari-taisha is one of Japan’s most well-known and
photographed shrines. Dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, the shrine’s
path is a strenuous hike; visitors have to pass
over 5,000 of its signature orange gates along the way. But with
centuries-old monuments and statues, along with an unparalleled
view of Kyoto, it’s worth the walk.
Lose yourself in the forest that inspired “Princess Mononoke.”
The island of Yakushima is littered with forests and ravines,
some of which contain trees that are over 1,000 years old. One of the most notable is
the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, a nature park with
nearly-untouched creeks and cedar trees, along with accessible
footpaths for easy hiking. The park was iconic enough to serve as visual inspiration for
one of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s most famous films,
Look at modern art or shop your heart out at Roppongi Hills.
Developed in 2003, Roppongi Hills is a residential and cultural
project that was built to revitalize Tokyo’s Roppongi
neighborhood. Today, it features multiple contemporary art
museums and galleries, a vast shopping and restaurant
district, an observation deck of the Tokyo
skyline, and a small garden touted for its beautiful greenery
and cherry blossom trees.
Walk down the bustling Takeshita Street in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood.
Located in the heart of the Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku,
Takeshita Street is a busy shopping
district lined with eclectic boutiques, cafés,
and shops. Known to be a center for style and fashion, the area
is especially popular with young people on the weekends.
Nearby Takeshita Street, spend hours in awe of the Meiji Shrine.
Built in 1920, the 178-acre Meiji Shrine is a
dedication to the late Emperor Meiji.
The shrine’s walking paths, gardens, and monuments to the Shinto
faith (such as Torii and Noh Theater stages), in addition to the 100,000+
trees within its forest, make it a great place to spend a day.
Visit Tōdai-ji, or the Great Buddha Hall — once the largest wooden building in the world — in Nara.
A former capital of Japan, Nara became home to
many significant Buddhist and Shinto monuments. Among them,
Tōdai-ji (or the Great Buddha Hall) is one of the most notable.
Constructed in 752 AD, it was
once the largest wooden building
in the world and contains a 500-ton statue of the Buddha.
When you go, you might also spot some deer; a population of tame
deer from the neighboring Nara National Park regularly wander the temple grounds, making it
a peaceful destination to visit.
Get a concentrated taste of Japanese pop culture in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Once a market popular with Tokyo’s
seedy merchants, Akihabara has now become one of Tokyo’s most
You’ll find stores catering to the signature aspects of Japanese pop
culture – manga, video games, and toys – along with
multistory shopping complexes dedicated to electronics. The
neighborhood’s excessive neon signage and eccentric shops make it
a must-see when in Tokyo.
Fulfill your inner child at the Ghibli Museum.
Fans of Studio Ghibli – the film studio behind iconic
animated films such as “Spirited Away,””My Neighbor Totoro,” and “Princess Mononoke” – will find themselves at
home at its namesake museum.
Located in the suburbs of Tokyo, it’s both a museum that
showcases the studio’s vast body of work and an interactive playground built on the themes of its
films. Children and adults alike can immerse themselves in
the museum’s exhibits, large park,
and studio-themed cafe.
Take a dip in this 1,300-year-old hotel’s natural hot springs.
Onsen, or natural hot springs, are
scattered across Japan’s countryside, and are considered a
part of local culture.
Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan –
widely considered the world’s oldest inn –
located in the Yamanashi Prefecture has operated its hot
springs for over 1,300 years and has served esteemed patrons such
as Japanese samurai and members of the shogunate, Japan’s former military ruling
Beautiful scenery, notable museums, and spa days are all the norm in the mountain town of Hakone.
Hakone is approximately a two-hour train ride outside of Tokyo
and is known for its beautiful view of Mount Fuji, its hot springs, and a
myriad of historical and contemporary art. Home to the
Hakone Open-Air Museum, the
museum covers 750,000 square feet and is one of the city’s most
notable tourist attractions, featuring works from Picasso and
Renoir, in addition to outdoor grounds that host a variety of
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