Japan is a diverse and historic island country in East Asia that consists of 6,852 islands. It is divided into 47 prefectures, each of which has many historically significant landmarks and amazing attractions. With so many things to see and do, it is tricky to choose which you should include in your vacation itinerary. Which you choose will impact on your experience of this stunning country and it is essential that you choose wisely to make sure you get the best out of your vacation. Here are 20 of the best attractions that you must see during a visit to Japan.
Also known as the Golden Pavilion, this is the most visited tourist attraction in the whole of Japan, says Touropia. Built in the late 14th century, this was originally a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Unfortunately, the original building burnt to the ground in 1950 after an obsessed monk set fire to the landmark. The building that stands there now is an exact replica of the original. It is covered in gold leaf, and the pavilion and pond reflect on each other.
2. Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is the most famous natural landmark in Japan, and the symmetrical cone of this landmark has become one of the symbols of Japan. This volcanic mound is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,388 feet. Experienced climbing enthusiasts travel to Japan specifically to see and climb Mount Fuji. For regular members of the public, attempting to climb this beast is far too dangerous. However, it is a magnificent sight to see and you can enjoy exploring the foot of the mountain or take photographs from a distance.
3. Itsukushima Shrine – Miyajima
The island of Miyajima is often called Japan’s Shrine Island as it is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, which dates back to the eighth century. Many of the shrine’s building rise out of the water and are linked by bridges and walkways. The many halls of the shrine are fascinating to explore. The shrine also has a stage, and performances are held for visitors. While on this island, you should also explore the gardens and the grounds. The island is home to many creatures, including wild deer and large bird colonies. You can reach Miyajima by taking a short ferry ride from Hiroshima.
4. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima is one of the most horrific and tragic events in the modern history of Japan. This was the world’s first nuclear attack, and it took place in 1945. The derelict site of the bombing has been transformed into a commemorative space in honor of the victims of the attack. More than one million people a year now visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to see the exhibits in Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Cenotaph, the Flame of Peace, and the Atom Bomb Dome.
5. Temple City in Nara
The historic city of Nara is also known as Temple City. This city is home to many historic buildings, works of art, and national treasures. As its nickname suggests, there are many old temples in this city, including the Seven Great Temples of Nara, the best known of which is the seventh-century Kofuku-Ji Temple. You could spend several days exploring all the history, architecture, and culture in this magnificent city.
6. Tokyo Skytree
In the center of Tokyo is the Tokyo Skytree. This is the world’s tallest tower at 2,080 feet, and it is a rather impressive sight. It is a television and broadcast site that doubles as a tourist attraction. It has an observation deck for you to enjoy views across the city, and the observation deck features a glass skywalk. The tower was completed in 2011 and has attracted huge numbers of tourists since. The tower is illuminated at night and it can be seen across the city.
7. Fushimi Inari-Taisha
The Fushimi Inari-Taisha is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and it was built in the eighth century. The most distinctive feature of this shrine is the 5000 vibrant orange torii gates. These wind through the hills behind the shrine and many people complete this walk as a day hike. At night-time, the gravestones and miniature sculptures take on a mysterious air, so it is an interesting place to visit in the evening.
8. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous politician and warrior, in 1586. At that time, it was the most important and largest fortress in Japan. Since then, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt on many occasions. The present structure has been in place since 1931. The main tower, which is five storys high, is the main attraction of a visit to the castle, says Planetware. This tower is home to many displays that outline the castle’s history. The castle is also home to the Hokoku Shrine. Osaka Castle looks particularly spectacular at sunset, and this is the perfect time to take a photograph.
9. Tokyo Imperial Palace
This landmark is referred to by many names, including Tokyo Imperial Palace, Imperial Palace, and Tokyo Imperial. This palace was built in the 17th-century and it is one of the top attractions in Japan’s capital. The beautiful building is still inhabited by the Imperial family, so many parts are closed off to the public. However, there is still plenty to see when you stroll around the grounds, which are surrounded by walls and a moat. Visitors can walk over the Nijubashi Bridge and around the East Higashi-Gyoen. If you take an organized tour, you will be permitted into small areas of the palace that are open to the public.
10. Ueno Park
If you are in Tokyo but want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, then go to Ueno Park. This large public park is next to the Ueno Station, and the grounds were once part of the Kaneiji Temple. The park is a beautiful place to relax and it contains many interesting commemorative statues. This park is home to many other attractions, so you can spend a full day at this location. It has Japan’s first zoological garden and several museums to enjoy. There are events taking place at the park throughout the year.
11. Jigokudani Monkey Park
While many of the attractions to enjoy in Japan are historical landmarks, this is not your only option. Another option is to enjoy the monkeys and scenery at this amazing park. A hot spring near Nagano is home to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. The location is surrounded by steep cliffs and cold forests. This is home to a large population of wild snow monkeys. When the peaks are covered in snow in the winter, the monkeys go down to the valley to sit by the hot springs during the day and then go back to the forests at night.
12. Himeji Castle
Many people consider the Himeji Castle one of the finest existing examples of Japanese castle architecture. It was originally built during the feudal period to defend against enemies. Since then, it has been rebuilt many times and the various additions are a reflection of the time of rebuilding. The castle has the nickname ‘white egret castle’ because its white exterior makes it look like a bird about to take flight. This is one of the few castles that was not damaged during World War II.
Located in Eastern Kyoto, Kiyomizu-Dera is a famous Buddhist temple. This historic landmark dates back to 798, and it is famous for its indoor waterfall. This waterfall is said to keep the temple in harmony with nature, and it is fed by the river outside. People once believed that jumping off the edge of the waterfall would grant you a wish. This is now banned, so you will not be able to dive in during a visit. Instead, visitors enjoy the artwork on display, along with the shrines and talismans.
14. Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a rather impressive sight. It is an outdoor representation of one of Japan’s most celebrated Buddhist figures, Amida Buddha. Originally, this colossal statue was housed in a wooden building. However, it now stands in the open air. It dates to 1252 and stands at 40-feet. It weighs a whopping 93 tons.
15. The Todaiji Temple
This temple’s claim to fame is that it is the world’s largest wooden structure, so it is considered a feat of engineering. Todaiji Temple is also home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. The building is used as a center for the Keogan School of Buddhism and it is set in beautiful grounds with deer freely roaming. The temple houses many interesting artifacts that relate to both Japanese and Buddhist history.
16. Tokyo Tower
Not all the attractions in Japan are ancient, as there are some modern structures that you should visit, too. According to Tourtopia, one of the best of these to visit is the Tokyo Tower. This is the second tallest man-made structure in Japan, and it was inspired by the Eiffel Tower. Its practical function is as a communications tower. However, it is also an observation tower that visitors can climb to enjoy panoramic views across Tokyo.
17. Historic Kyoto
Many tourists visiting Japan head straight for Tokyo, the country’s capital. However, you should take the time to visit the historic city of Kyoto. With more than 10 million visitors annually, this is one of the most visited cities in Japan. It was almost entirely untouched by World War II, and it is filled with historic landmarks. 30 of the temples are still in use, and there are several castles and palaces to visit. You should also see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove during your visit to this city.
18. Chubu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps
Although there are many areas of outstanding natural beauty in Japan, one of the best to see is the Chubu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps says Planetware. Also known as the Hida Mountains, the two highest peaks are Hotaka and Yari, both of which are over 3,000 meters high. People come to this area throughout the year to enjoy the abundance of flora and fauna at the park. In the summer months, it is an attraction for hikers and climbers, while people enjoy skiing on the mountains during the winter months.
19. The Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya
The Atsuta Shrine is the most important shrine in Japan, and it is located in the city of Nagoya. More than five million people flock to this shrine annually to admire the building, which was established in the first century. One of the main reasons this site is so famous is that it is the home of a preserved Imperial insignia, which is only one of three in Japan. Visitors also enjoy the enclosed principle shrine and the treasury, which contains old and modern paintings, traditional masks, jewelry, and ceramics.
20. Fukuoka Castle and the City’s Ancient Festivals
Hilltop homes were once prolific, and they were the preferred residences of city rulers and Shoguns. One of the few surviving examples of these majestic homes is Fukuoka Castle in Fukuoka. This impressive building is positioned on top of a hill that overlooks Naka River. Fukuoka is also known for its many festivals and events that take place throughout the year. One of the most famous of these is the Hakata Gion Yamakasa which is held in July each year. The two-week event includes parades, races, and costumes. For something more modern in the city, head to Canal City Hakata, where you will find most of the shops, hotels, restaurants, and a theatre.