16 Unmissable Places to Visit in Japan in 2024

This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Japan is somewhere I think everyone should visit. From futuristic skyscrapers to tranquil bamboo forests and neon arcades to serene temples, it’s like nowhere else on the planet.

The food is incredible, the people are ultra polite, and it has one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. We love the combination of ease of travel and glorious bewilderment.

Japan has so much to offer but where should you start? These are our picks for the 10 best places to visit in Japan, perfect for your first or second trip to the country (plus extra suggestions for the repeat visits that are likely to happen!).

I’ve included our favourite things to do in each place, how long to spend there, and where we stayed. At the end of the post you’ll find a map of all these Japan destinations to start planning your route. 

I recommend mixing a few of the popular cities (most people won’t want to miss Tokyo and Kyoto) with some quieter, more rural places in Japan to see a different side of the country and take a break from the crowds.


Video of Japan Must Sees

Watch our short video for ideas on where to go in Japan for an amazing trip.

Back to Contents

Top Places to Visit in Japan

1) Kyoto

Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, one of the best places to visit in Japan
Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto is one of the must see places in Japan

If you only have time for one Japan destination, make it Kyoto.

This is traditional Japan as you imagined it—geisha in brightly coloured kimonos emerging from wooden teahouses, forests of bamboo, temples and shrines in gold and silver and scarlet, raked gravel Zen gardens, intricate feasts served on lacquered plates, graceful tea ceremonies, and markets full of intriguing but unidentifiable ingredients.

The concrete high-rises of downtown Kyoto can be disappointing, so head out towards the mountains to the surrounding neighbourhoods where you’ll find narrow stone streets, old wooden houses, monks in flowing robes, and the sounds of chanting and gongs from the many temples and shrines.

Gion is the place to spot geisha, Higashiyama has many beautiful temples to explore, and Arashiyama, up in the western hills, is one of the most traditional neighbourhoods and home to bamboo groves, quirky temples, and monkeys.

Kyoto is one of the top Japan tourist spots, so try to visit the popular temples early in the morning as they do get crowded.

In Kyoto don’t miss:

  • Wandering through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari shrine.
  • Drinking matcha in a traditional tea ceremony. We loved Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple.
  • Learning to cook traditional Japanese cuisine in a Kyoto cooking class.
  • Taking the train to the village of Kibune and walking across the valley to the beautiful Kurama-dera temple.
  • Retreating from the busy streets of Gion to the magical Yasaka-jinja at night.
  • Strolling the Philosopher’s Path.
  • Experiencing Zen Buddhist cuisine at the Tenryu-ji temple.
  • Getting off the beaten track at the quirky Otagi Nenbutsuji temple.
  • Exploring these magical Kyoto cherry blossom spots if you visit in late-March or early-April.
  • Enjoying the magnificent autumn colours if you visit in mid to late-November (Eikando and Enkoji are our favourite temples in autumn).

How Long to Spend: 3 nights minimum but 5 nights would be better. We’ve spent two months in Kyoto and still haven’t done everything! A longer stay also allows you to avoid the crowds more easily (you have more early mornings available) and take some of these wonderful day trips from Kyoto.

Read: Our post on the many amazing things to do in Kyoto (and how to avoid the crowds) and our guide to Kyoto’s temples and shrines and the best vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto

Where to stay in Kyoto: For a traditional ryokan, we loved our huge room with private bath overlooking the garden at Ryokan Yachiyo near Nanzenji temple (choose a suite not a standard room). At central Sora Niwa Terrace we enjoyed the amazing view from its onsen and rooftop bar. Or in a quiet part of Gion, Hotel The Celestine is stylish and close to temples. Find more accommodation in Kyoto here.

2) Tokyo

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo with SkyTree in the background, a top Japan destination
The modern and traditional juxtaposed at Sensoji temple in Tokyo

If Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japan, Tokyo is its ultramodern counterpart.

It’s here you’ll find the skyscrapers, noisy arcades, busy pedestrian crossings, quirky youth fashions, and many many incredibly delicious restaurants.

If all you do in Tokyo is eat, you’ll have an amazing time—even as vegetarians we ate so well.

Tokyo is also home to some of the weirdest activities we’ve ever done. From themed cafes (cats, owls, maids, robots, goats—you name it, Tokyo has it) to sensory-overload shows and arcades to cos-play go-karting.

On my first trip to Tokyo I was overwhelmed by the sprawling city and couldn’t help comparing it unfavourably to Kyoto.

On repeat visits I’ve grown to love the city (the food certainly helped) and while it isn’t as attractive as Kyoto, there is so much to do that you won’t want to skip it.

In Tokyo don’t miss:

  • Driving a go-kart on the real roads while dressed as your favourite character. Insanity but so much fun!
  • Eating in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Memory Lane in Shinjuku.
  • Gazing at the 360º skyline from the Shibuya Sky observatory (go at sunset for day and night views)
  • Walking across the famous Shibuya Crossing.
  • Gawping at the outrageous outfits on Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
  • Visiting the brilliant DisneySea (our favourite Disney park in the world!) or neighbouring Tokyo Disneyland (or both if you have two days spare).
  • Immersing yourself in the colourful digital art museum, TeamLab Planets (and don’t miss Uzu vegan ramen afterwards).
  • Watching sumo wrestlers train— we did this morning sumo stable visit and it felt such an honour to see these impressive athletes close up.
  • Drinking green tea at the relaxing Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience (the tea course is worth it).
  • Exploring the cool neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa for cafes, vintage clothes, and record stores.

How Long to Spend: 3 – 5 nights or longer if you want to take day trips (such as to Nikko, Kawaguchiko or Hakone (for Mt Fuji), and Kamakura). We’ve spent over 6 weeks here on various trips and still find new things to do. If time is limited, I would allocate more time to Kyoto than Tokyo. 

Where to stay in Tokyo: Read why I think Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo. My top pick is Hotel Century Southern Tower next to Shinjuku Station—our panoramic king room had an incredible view and was more spacious than most Tokyo hotel rooms. Or splurge on the luxurious Hotel Park Hyatt where the film Lost in Translation was filmed. Search for hotels in Tokyo here.

Top tip: Consider buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance as it’s so easy being able to hop on and off trains all over the country. Read our Japan Rail Pass guide for full details.

More Tokyo, Direct to your Inbox!

Enter your email address to gain access to our newsletter as well as our exclusive series Visiting Japan, which features everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip (including Tokyo)!
No spam! Unsubscribe any time!

Thank you for subscribing! You should receive an email from us very soon. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription.

3) Takayama

Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

Takayama is an utterly gorgeous small town on the edge of the Japan Alps and one of the best less-visited places to go in Japan.

I loved wandering the historic centre full of traditional wooden houses, colourful shrines, neatly shaped trees, and bright red bridges over the river.

In Takayama don’t miss:

  • Wandering the old town in the early morning before the crowds arrive.
  • Buying delicious fruit from the morning markets.
  • Snacking on mitarashi-dango (rice balls grilled in soy) from a street stall.
  • Seeing the extravagant floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
  • Visiting the Hida Folk Village to see traditional thatched houses.
  • Cycling through the countryside with Satoyama Experience.

How Long to Spend: 2-3 nights. We had 2 nights and wished we’d had longer because there’s lots to do in the surrounding countryside. With a longer stay you could take day trips to the traditional thatched roof houses of Shirakawa-go and go hiking in Kamikochi in the Japan Alps.

Where to stay in Takayama: We stayed at Super Hotel Hida Takayama, a good mid-range business hotel near the train station. Next time I want to stay at Oyado Koto No Yume, a ryokan with onsen which gets excellent reviews. Find more hotels in Takayama here.

Top tip: See our Japan 2 week itinerary for more details on combining these top places in Japan for an amazing trip.

4) Hakone

Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi in Hakone, one of the top places in Japan
Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi in Hakone

Mount Fuji is on most people’s lists of places to visit in Japan, but this must-see Japan landmark can be rather elusive and is often hidden by clouds.

There are a number of places you can see the mountain from (Kawaguchiko is another great option), but Hakone is easy to reach from Tokyo and there are lots of other things to do in the area in case you are out of luck with a sighting.

Despite visiting on a cloudy, drizzly day, we were lucky that Mount Fuji emerged from the clouds above Lake Ashi and it was magical!

Hakone is also fun to visit because you can do a loop of the sights on different modes of transport—train, bus, pirate boat (yes, really!), and cable car.

In Hakone don’t miss:

  • Buying a Hakone Free Pass so you can hop on and off all the transport options on the Hakone Loop.
  • Seeing Mount Fuji from the lake or cable car.
  • Eating a black egg cooked in the hot sulphur springs at volcanic Owakudani (not really, we skipped this, but the Japanese love them).
  • Soaking in an onsen.
  • Staying in a tatami room in a ryokan (traditional inn) and enjoying an elaborate dinner.
  • Wandering the outdoor sculpture gallery at Hakone Open Air Museum.

How Long to Spend: You could visit on a day trip from Tokyo but I recommend 1-2 nights to experience a ryokan and onsen. We had one night and did part of the loop in the afternoon we arrived and the rest in the morning. While it was just enough for the main sights, we wished we’d had longer to enjoy our ryokan.

Where to stay in Hakone: I recommend staying in Moto Hakone by Lake Ashi for Mt Fuji views. A ryokan with an onsen and meals included is the perfect way to experience the area. Our ryokan has closed but Yoshimatsu looks like a beautiful alternative. Find more hotels in Hakone here.

5) Kanazawa

Kazuemachi geisha area in Kanazawa, one of the best cities to visit in Japan
Kazuemachi geisha area in Kanazawa

Kanazawa is one of the best cities to visit in Japan, but few foreign tourists make it here.

Consider Kanazawa as a quieter alternative to Kyoto to experience geisha districts with preserved wooden buildings.

There is also one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, a stunning castle, and many art museums to explore.

In Kanazawa don’t miss:

  • Wandering Kenroku-en Garden, one of the top three gardens in Japan.
  • Exploring the wooden teahouses of the geisha districts Higashi Chaya and the quieter Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya.
  • Experiencing a traditional tea ceremony at the exquisite Gyokusen-en Gardens.

How Long to Spend: 2 nights. 

Where to stay in Kanazawa: We stayed in a standard business hotel in the centre—there are lots of budget options. Find hotels in Kanazawa here.

6) Nikko

Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, one of the most beautiful places in Japan
Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

Nikko is a temple town and UNESCO world heritage site in the mountains a few hours north of Tokyo and makes a cool retreat from the city. The area is famous for its vibrant autumn colours.

The temples and shrines with their vermillion gates and moss-covered stone lanterns are scattered on the wooded hillside.

The main attraction is Toshogu Shrine, a stunning complex with more than a dozen lavishly decorated red and gold buildings amongst huge, ancient cedar trees. The crowds can be overwhelming, so afterwards head to one of the quieter shrines.

In Nikko don’t miss:

  • Visiting Toshogu Shrine early to avoid the crowds
  • Playing games at atmospheric Futarasan-jinja
  • Exploring Taiyuinbyo
  • Hiking up the mountain to the peaceful Takino shrine
  • Photographing the bright red Shinkyo bridge
  • Munching on dango (grilled rice balls on a stick) from a street stall
  • Eating sushi at Komekichi Kozushi

How Long to Spend: You could visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo, but it’s worth spending a night or two to explore one of the most beautiful places in Japan including hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. 

We had one night and wished we’d had two so that we could have visited Toshogu Shrine early on the second day. 

Where to stay in Nikko: We stayed at Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station, a good budget option conveniently located close to the train stations. For more character, you could stay in a traditional ryokan with views and outdoor onsen baths such as Nikko Hoshino Yado. Find more hotels in Nikko here.

7) Koya-San

Okunoin cemetery in Koya-san, a top Japan destination
Okunoin cemetery in Koya-san

Koya-san (Mount Koya) is one of the most interesting places in Japan to experience the traditional side of the country.

This secluded and sacred temple town is located in the forest-covered mountains of Kansai and is one of the best places to get a taste of life as a monk by staying in a shukubo or temple lodging.

After wandering around the otherworldly Okunoin forest cemetery, we checked into our simple tatami room at the temple, soaked in the communal onsen bath, and enjoyed a delicious shojin ryori vegetarian Buddhist meal.

In the morning we were up early for the chanting and meditation ceremony with the monks.

A temple stay at Koya-san is a fascinating experience and well worth the detour from Osaka or Kyoto.

How Long to Spend: 1 night. 

Where to stay in Koya-san: We stayed in Haryo-in, the cheapest temple accommodation, but it’s quite basic and I’d recommend paying more to stay at one of the more traditional temples like 1000-year-old Eko-in which gets superb reviews. Find more temple lodgings here.

8) Tsumago

Tsumago village in the Kiso Valley, a must see in Japan

Tsumago is a picture-perfect traditional mountain village in the Kiso Valley.

It is one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time on the traffic-less streets of beautifully restored wooden inns.

During the Edo period 300 years ago, Tsumago was a stop on the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo).

You can hike part of this trail to the village of Magome in about two to three hours. Unfortunately, a typhoon prevented us doing this, but it’s supposed to be a scenic and easy walk.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights. If you can arrive early enough on the first day to hike the Nakasendo Way in the afternoon, then 1 night is enough as it’s a tiny village. 

Where to stay in Tsumago: In keeping with the Edo-era atmosphere, stay in a traditional ryokan or minshuku (a simpler family-run inn). We stayed at the basic Minshuku Shimosagaya. Neighbouring Magome has more choice including the budget Chaya Hotel or historic Tajimaya.

9) Nara

Todaiji temple in Nara, a must do in Japan
Todaiji is one of the top places to see in Japan

Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital and is full of historic treasures including many UNESCO world heritage sites.

It’s one of the top Japan attractions and makes a rewarding day trip from Kyoto to visit the temples and wild deer in Nara Park.

The Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha) at Todaiji is the main sight—it’s the largest wooden building in the world and nothing prepares you for the immense sight.

Inside is the 15-metre tall gold and bronze statue of Buddha that dates back to 751.

We also love the forest shrine complex Kasuga Taisha.

How Long to Spend: Most people visit as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. You can see the highlights in half a day but a full day is better.

Where to stay in Nara: The advantages of staying overnight in Nara are avoiding the crowds with an early start and experiencing our favourite ryokan in Japan. Tsukihitei is a small traditional inn with a magical forest setting and delicious meals. It’s only a 15-minute walk to the Nara temples.

Sign Up for more free Japan Content!

Enter your email address to gain access to our newsletter as well as our exclusive series Visiting Japan, which features everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip!
No spam! Unsubscribe any time!

Thank you for subscribing! You should receive an email from us very soon. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription.

10) Hiroshima and Miyajima

Atomic Bomb Dome at Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan
Atomic Bomb Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Come to pay your respects to the victims of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima’s moving Peace Memorial Museum and Park and stay to explore the modern city that was almost entirely rebuilt after World War II.

Hiroshima is usually combined with a visit to the famous floating torii gate at Itsukushima shrine on nearby Miyajima Island.

You’ll also want to try the delicious local speciality okonomiyaki, a thick pancake of batter, vegetables and noodles.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights is enough to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima Island or you could visit as a long day trip from Kyoto, Osaka or Okayama. We spent 1 night in Hiroshima then 1 night on Miyajima.

Where to stay in Hiroshima: The Sheraton Grand Hiroshima was the most spacious Western-style hotel we stayed in in Japan. We really appreciated the king size bed after a few weeks of small Japanese hotels. It’s right next to the station too. Find more hotels in Hiroshima here.

Where to stay in Miyajima: While you could visit the island on a day trip, we loved seeing the top sights without the crowds at night and early in the morning. Iwaso Ryokan has the perfect location (secluded but central), beautiful meals, and our room had a view of the torii gate.

Back to Contents

More Amazing Japan Destinations

There are so many incredible places to explore in Japan. Here are some more destinations that we absolutely loved (and it was hard to leave them off the top 10 list!).

If any of these appeal to you more than the ones above (or fit into your itinerary better), then they will be just as enjoyable. 

11) Osaka

Busy streets and giant crab of Dotonburi in Osaka at night, a popular day trip from Kyoto

Osaka is a Japan must-see for many visitors. We love the neon craziness of Dotonburi, the amazing food (for vegetarians too), friendly people, affordable prices, and the scary rides and brilliant Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Japan

But, if you have limited time on your first trip to Japan, I would probably say choose Osaka or Tokyo as they are both sprawling modern cities. 

If you are flying into or out of Kansai airport then it makes sense to spend a night or two in Osaka. You could also visit as a day trip from Kyoto. 

In Osaka, we loved staying in Shinsaibashi. The location is ideal—quiet but close to lots of cool shops and restaurants and within walking distance of Dotonburi. Hotel options include the stylish Hotel The Flag.

12) Kinosaki Onsen

Visitor to Kinosaki Onsen in kimono at night by the cherry blossom lined canal
Simon clip-clopping by the canal in Kinosaki Onsen at night

On our first Japan trip we were terrified of getting naked in onsens, but on our latest visit we were brave enough to spend a few nights in an onsen town. 

Onsen hopping dressed in a kimono in a traditional hot spring resort is a classic Japanese experience. Kinosaki Onsen is a great place to experience it.

It’s only a few hours from Kyoto or Osaka and the canal-side town is very pretty, especially in cherry blossom season.

We stayed in a traditional tatami mat room at Morizuya Ryokan. It’s ideal for first-timers as they speak English and are very friendly, walking you through everything you need to know. The epic meals served in your room are delicious too.

Read our Kinosaki Onsen guide for all the details including onsen etiquette and how to get over your fears. 

13) Naoshima Island

The yellow pumpkin sculpture on Naoshima Art Island in Japan

Contemporary art fans will love Naoshima, a sleepy island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its art galleries and outdoor sculptures. 

We visited on a day trip from Okayama and had a wonderful day cycling around and combining art with beautiful sea views and tiny fishing villages.

Read our Naoshima Island guide for a recommended one day itinerary.

14) Okayama

Cherry blossoms at Handayama Botanical Garden, one of the best things to do in Okayama Japan

If you are interested in getting off-the-beaten-track, Okayama is a great place to visit in Japan. 

This modern city is home to one of the best gardens in the country and is especially beautiful in sakura season when you can enjoy the cherry blossoms without the crowds of Kyoto or Tokyo. 

As it’s on a bullet train line, it’s a convenient and affordable base for exploring the area including the historic Kurashiki, Naoshima Island, Himeji Castle, and Hiroshima.

We also did a fantastic bike trip on the Kibiji Bike Trail through rice fields to untouristy temples. 

Our post on the best things to do in Okayama has all our tips.

15) Himeji Castle

Hineji Castle in cherry blossom season

Himeji Castle is one of the few original castles in Japan (most were destroyed at some point and rebuilt). It’s well worth a visit, especially in cherry blossom season. 

You can easily visit in half a day from Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama (as we did) or on the way to Hiroshima. 

16) Kawaguchiko

Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchiko at sunrise from the north shore

For the best views of Mount Fuji, head to Lake Kawaguchiko. It’s especially lovely in cherry blossom or autumn leaf seasons. 

You can enjoy the views by walking or cycling around the lake or taking a trip on a cable car or boat (we hired a panda pedal boat!).

The lake is also home to one of my favourite museums and tea houses in Japan.

Kawaguchiko Lakeside Hotel is an excellent affordable option here. Unusually for Japan, our room was huge, and it’s close to the lake with Mt Fuji views from some rooms.

See my Lake Kawaguchiko guide for more tips. 

Back to Contents

And a Few More Places to Go in Japan

These Japan tourist attractions and off-the-beaten-path gems are on our list for our next trip:

  • Kamakura – Beaches, Buddhas, hikes and vegetarian-friendly food. You could visit as a day trip from Tokyo.
  • The Izu Peninsula – Rugged coastline, mountains, and hot springs not far from Tokyo.
  • Shirakawa-go – A village of traditional grass-roofed houses in a scenic setting. You could fit in a visit between Takayama and Kanazawa.
  • Takaragawa Onsen – A scenic onsen resort a few hours from Tokyo. It has a large mixed-gender onsen, so unusually you don’t have to be naked.
  • Hokkaido – The northernmost island of Japan known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities.
  • Okinawa – A chain of tropical islands in the far south of Japan.

Back to Contents

Best Places to Visit in Japan Map

Back to Contents

Japan Travel Tips

Read our detailed Japan guides for everything you need to know to plan a brilliant trip.

More Japan, Direct to your Inbox!

Enter your email address to gain access to our newsletter as well as our exclusive series Visiting Japan, which features everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip!
No spam! Unsubscribe any time!

Thank you for subscribing! You should receive an email from us very soon. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription.

I hope this post has given you some ideas of where to go in Japan. Wherever you decide to visit you are sure to have an amazing trip. 

What are your favourite places in Japan? Leave a comment and let us know so we can add them to our Japan bucket list. 

If you enjoyed this post, pin it!

Unmissable Places in Japan Guide pinterest pin


  1. Thanks for sharing some info , however are you seriously recommending a room at an outageous 2000 EUR / night ?

    Reply ↓

    • We didn’t pay that much anywhere so I don’t know which place you are referring to. Prices vary so you might be looking at an especially expensive time. Ryokans are expensive but they do include a gourmet dinner and breakfast and are a unique experience that most visitors only do for a night or two.

      Reply ↓

  2. First of all – your posts are fantastic and so full of great detail. We are planning our first trip to Japan in November. First draft is 5 days Tokyo – 2 days Hakone – 5 days Kyoto – 3 days Hiroshima – 4 days Tokyo.

    I was trying to see how to fit Lake Kawaguchi or Takayama or Kanazawa into the trip but they all seem to require quite the journey time given the other places we have picked. Wondering if it would be better to add some days to the end of the trip and just visit from Tokyo. So maybe do Tokyo to Kanazawa for a couple of days. Not particular keen on 5-6 hour trip from Takayama back to Tokyo so may have to skip that.

    Reply ↓

    • Hi Kevin
      I would do Tokyo – Hakone – Takayama – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Tokyo.

      We did Tokyo – Hakone – Takayama – Kanazawa on our 2 week itinerary: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/

      I prefer Takayama to Kanazawa, especially as you already have lots of big cities on your itinerary. If you really want to fit it in, do so between Takayama and Kyoto.

      Lake Kawaguchi is harder to fit in. You could do it as a day trip from Tokyo at the end if you didn’t see Mt Fuji at Hakone (due to clouds) and if you have the energy.

      One thing you might also consider is reducing Hiroshima to 2 nights and adding a night on Miyajima Island. We did that last October (one night in each) and really preferred the island after the day trippers had left and early in the morning. You might catch the autumn colour on the island if you are visiting later in November. Again, it changes up the pace from the cities.

      If you have big suitcases, you could use a luggage delivery service from Hiroshima to Tokyo and just take a day bag for the overnight (we decided against that but only had a carry on suitcase and laptop bag each).

      Good luck with the planning and enjoy Japan!

      Reply ↓

      • Erin – Thanks for the advice – good to hear input from someone who has actually experienced it

        Apologies for posting the reply so many times – i kept picking the wrong reply option

        Reply ↓

  3. Awesome guide. Thank you. A lot of the accommodation is around $500aud a night! Extremely expensive. Is that normal around Japan? Me and my partner were wanting to travel around Japan in July this year but if the cost of accommodation us that expensive we might not be able to do the trip. I assume we will be able to find cheap accommodation at most places?

    Reply ↓

    • You can definitely find much cheaper accommodation. We did our first few Japan trips on much tighter budgets, but now have the ability to choose more special places to stay.

      Your best bet is to look for business hotels in the cities – rooms are usually small but clean and well equipped. Have a browse on Booking.com and you should find plenty of options.

      Reply ↓

  4. Planning trip(first time ever in Japan) arriving afternoon of December 18th and leaving evening of December 30th. I will be traveling with my 18 and 20 year old boys (privacy should be interesting in the tiny hotel rooms). Planning to stay in Tokyo either 5 nights with day trips to Hakone and either Kamakura or Yokohama OR 4 nights with day trip to either Kamakura or Yokohama and 1 night in Hakone. Is it worth staying the night in Hakone, or just day trip from Tokyo? Then we will spend 3 nights in Kyoto and 3 nights in Osaka (does it matter which order?) with a day trip from each city. One to Nara and one to Hiroshima and Miyajima. My 18 year old wants to have Kobe beef in Kobe, but don’t think it will happen as it’s likely not worth the time away from the other places. I’d love to be able to visit both Kamakura and Yokohama, but don’t think it will work. Likely choosing to go to Kamakura. We will return to Tokyo for the last night and spend the last day (really 1/2 day) in Tokyo before heading to the airport to fly home. Thoughts on the plan? Any specific recommendations?

    Reply ↓

    • I think it’s worth spending the night in Hakone if you stay in a ryokan as it will be a unique experience that you won’t get in the cities.

      I would probably go to Kyoto before Osaka but it doesn’t make a huge difference. Your day trip choices sound good.

      Enjoy Japan!

      Reply ↓

  5. Hello,
    Have you been to Tamba-Sasayama in Hyogo? We have a lot of nature, local food, and cultures!
    Tamba black beans are famous local food and also you can experience a pottery making.
    I hope you will visit here one day;)

    Reply ↓

    • We haven’t but we’ll put it on our list for our next trip this autumn! Thank you for the recommendation!

      Reply ↓

    • Odd how all of the “best places in Japan to visit” are all in central Japan near Tokyo and Kyoto. How disappointing the travels of the writers to these other parts of the country must have been.

      Reply ↓

  6. Hello!

    Have you been to the Autumn Takayama Festival? 😊

    We did not buy plane tickets yet, but we were going to land on Oct 22 to experience the Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto. We heard about Takayama festival on Oct 9th and wanted to know if it’s worth changing our plans to fly in earlier for it, and if the weather will be horrible or not during that time? Thank you so mochi for your help! I’m so torn!

    Reply ↓

    • We haven’t been but it does look cool! I’m not sure it’s worth changing your plans for. Later in October you’ll have more of a chance of seeing fall colours in Kyoto. If you do decide to go, book your accommodation asap as it gets extremely busy during the festival.

      Reply ↓

  7. I’ve been to all the tourist sites and a few others. Where would you recommend for an overnight not far from Tokyo?

    Reply ↓

    • Have you been to the Izu Peninsula? We haven’t yet but our friend who lives in Tokyo recommends it. The onsens would be nice in the winter.

      Reply ↓

  8. Hello I am relooking at your Japan highlights. I had the most amazing trip in Spring 2020 many thanks to your post which seems now to have gone and been replaced by more posts. The one thing I would like to say is that you put before Miyajama on the one i read and i have to say that this was one of my favourite spots. I totally recommend it. We also did the two walks one of which was the edo trail and the other outside of Kyoto. We stayed in Koyasan too thanks to you. Thank you again.

    Reply ↓

  9. Hi, I’m thinking of planning a trip for me and my daughter to visit Japan but haven’t any ideas of where to start. I was thinking a two week trip but maybe more time would be needed for the things we would like to do. If staying for longer than two weeks is there visas needed ect. I haven’t a clue where to start I’ve looked at your guide which is very helpful. Would I be better of speaking to a travel agent for help and advice ??? Many thanks Paul Miller.

    Reply ↓

  10. This page has been very helpful! I am planning a two week trip to Japan next year and this has helped break down each city and what to not miss. Thanks again!

    Reply ↓

  11. I hope someday, I can visit Japan for some other reasons. As pictures shown, fantastic and very interesting places and educational as well.

    Reply ↓

  12. Japan has always been a remarkable place for me. I think I missed those places you described about. I hope I can give a shot on my future trip if possible. Btw thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Reply ↓

  13. Japanese pachislot, mechanical games,are different from foreign slot machine and popular recently. From 2020 smorking will be prohibited in the pachinko parlors or pachislot parlors. Terefore more and more people will have a good time during playing games.
    If you come to Japan, you might want to play

    Reply ↓

  14. Hi Great website thanks. We are looking to travel to Japan (arrive Tokyo) in late January for about 14 days. This is our first visit and we don’t mind driving. I would be interested to know what places you could recommend to get a real feel of Japan. Thanks

    Reply ↓

  15. Thanks for the guidance. If you were going in November for 6 weeks what would you do with your time Cheers Walter

    Reply ↓

    • That’s a great amount of time and you should so some great autumn foliage. You could visit everywhere on this list so it really depends on your interests and what pace of travel you prefer.

      On our latest 7 week trip we chose to base ourselves in Kyoto for a month then travel around for a couple of weeks and finish with a week in Tokyo. If you prefer to move at a faster pace you could cover a lot of ground.


      Reply ↓

  16. Hi Guys, great site. I was wondering why you seem to spend so much time in the large cities? I’m planning my first trip and my initial thoughts were to spend just a few days in Tokyo and Kyoto? Arent the more remote sights more rewarding?

    I was also wondering about a cherry blossom visit – when if the best time to see them but to avoid the worst of the crowds??


    Reply ↓

    • We love the smaller places in Japan and think the ideal trip includes a mix of them with the big cities. I wouldn’t say they are more rewarding, just different. There’s just so much to see (and eat) in Tokyo and especially Kyoto that we keep returning to them.

      If you’re not a big city person a few days in Tokyo would be fine. Kyoto has a lot of history, temples, and traditional architecture (and more tourists), so you’ll only cover some of the highlights in a few days.

      The cherry blossom are only in full bloom for about a week so there’s no way of avoiding the crowds in popular spots then. It’ll be slightly less crowded at the beginning or end of the blooming period, but it’s hard to predict exactly when that will be (and it varies by location).

      I would focus on visiting places that have cherry blossoms but fewer crowds. We were in Kyoto at the beginning of April when the blooms just started (and it was already quite busy) then moved on to Kinosaki Onsen and Okayama where we enjoyed the blossoms without many people around.

      I’ve written more about it here (and will be doing an Okayama post at some point): https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/kyoto-cherry-blossoms/

      Reply ↓

  17. hi guys
    really nice blog, could you itemize it, how many days you spent in each city, village?
    and if you would change something, where to stay maybe longer, where shorter?


    Reply ↓

    • That’s a good idea! We’re currently travelling in Japan and will update this post soon so I’ll add that info then. If you’d like to know about a specific place now just let me know. Usually we spend a week or more in Kyoto and Tokyo and only 1-3 nights in the smaller places.

      Reply ↓

  18. My husband and I are interested in making a second trip to Japan in March with our 5 month old baby. This will be our second trip…we’ve done Tokyo, Takayama, and Kyoto previously (along with one night in Osaka). We LOVED Takayama for its food and quaintness. We liked Tokyo but got bored after a few days. Kyoto was probably our least favorite – too touristy, What should we do for our second trip??

    Reply ↓

    • Rosie

      It’s very difficult to make recommendations without having any idea of what you like to do, how long you plan to visit, or if your baby goes everywhere with you. Given that you liked Takayama, you might consider Kanazawa, Kurashiki, and Nikko. The first two are small cities of about 400,000 that have delightful walking areas and interesting sights in general. Nikko is very small but houses the shrines of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu, who were the first and third shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate. These are UNESCO World Heritage and incredible.

      You didn’t indicate when you visited Japan on your first trip. If you went to Kyoto during fall foliage you would have encountered a lot of tourists, most of whom are Japanese. Kyoto draws tourists because it is a world class city with a very large number of World Heritage sites in addition to spectacular fall color. I don’t want to sound rude regarding your Tokyo comment. I can understand not liking Tokyo because it is a bit overwhelming in size, although that is part of what makes it so enjoyable for us. However, I cannot comprehend getting bored there.

      I wish you luck.

      Reply ↓

    • It sounds like you enjoy the smaller, more traditional places so I’d recommend Tsumago, Koya-san and Kanazawa (a bigger city but with some lovely traditional neighbourhoods). Nikko is also beautiful but we found it very crowded (it would have been quieter if we’d stayed overnight and arrived early though).

      Reply ↓

  19. Your website is terrific. I was provided a link to a couple of regions in Italy for a major summer trip. Your comments, photos and recommendations were of such interest that my wife and I decided to completely change the first 10 days of our trip. Then I got so immersed in the various places you have gone, I decided to look at Japan. We spent a month there five years ago, and then we spent another month this December including Christmas. We have been to all but two of your 10 unmissable places in Japan and have used the trains and metros as our primary modes of transport. We would agree that Japan is a great place to visit and the people are terrific.

    Since you asked for additions to your bucket list, I would like to suggest the following. Near Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima. This is the site of the great in the water torii gate, which is quite magical. The museum at the Hiroshima Peace Park provides an incredibly moving experience. Himeji Castle (White Heron Castle) is one of the original late 16th century castles and I believe the largest. It is on the route between Hiroshima and Osaka. It has been recently renovated. Osaka Station is beautifully done with some terrific surrounding buildings. The Dotonburi area is neon heaven with street food in abundance. Kyoto, as you stated, is amazing with probably more UNESCO World Heritage locations than anywhere else in the world. South of Kyoto in Uji is Byodo-in, a world heritage temple with a beautiful new museum.

    I agree that Kanazawa is a really nice smaller city. Like Kyoto it was not bombed. The D.T. Suzuki Museum is an outstanding piece of architecture, although of primary interest to people steeped in Buddhism, philosophy. The Seisonkaku Villa is a 10,000 foot samurai home located at the edge of Kenrokuen Gardens and is very interesting. There are two places in Takayama you didn’t mention, each of which is very worthwhile. First, next door to the Float Museum and on the same admission ticket is the Sakurayama Nikkokan. This museum contains scale models of the shrines in Nikko. It took 33 master carpenters and 17 years to complete during the first part of the 20th century. It is incredible. Second, the Takayama Museum of Art houses an outstanding (Michelin 3 star) collection of art nouveau and art deco objects. We visited Matsumoto to see the Matsumoto Castle (Black Crow Castle). It is also one of the oldest castles in Japan.

    I would also like to suggest Nagoya, which is one of Japan’s largest and most industrial cities. It is home to Toyota. Three recommendations. First, tour the Toyota Factory to get real insight into a truly sophisticated approach to assembly line manufacture. Second, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Science and Technology is phenomenal. Many demonstrations of working textile machines and auto robotics. Third, the Nagoya Palace has been rebuilt (just opened in 2018) to exact specifications of the original palace (early 1600s) including all the screens. Even though it is a replica, it’s incredible.

    You covered the shrines in Nikko. I would only add that if one did nothing else but see the Nikko shrines, a trip to Japan is warranted. Finally, Tokyo is to us the most exciting city around. Never ending pleasure of wandering around. There are just too many places to enumerate. One little side note: the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku has a roof garden. You can buy incredible take away food in the basement food halls and take to the roof to eat, if the weather is good. Better than either Harrod’s or Selfridge’s.

    Reply ↓

    • Thanks so much for the tips David! We are returning to Japan in a few weeks for two months so we’ll try to visit some of these places.

      Reply ↓

  20. Hi! Thanks, I am definitely gonna copy your ideas! One question – is it worth to go to Hiroshima instead of Takayama? My husband and I are gonna visit Japan in March 2019 for 9 days. I think it is not enough to fulfil your itinerary and we have to shorten it a bit.
    Thank you for your blog ;)

    Reply ↓

    • Honestly, we preferred Takayama. It’s just so pretty with the traditional Japanese architecture and we like small towns. Hiroshima is more of a big modern city BUT of course, the peace memorial is very moving, so if you really want to see that then choose Hiroshima instead (which is actually what we did on our first trip to Japan).

      Reply ↓

  21. My husband is wanting to visit , the place that his father served in Japen . He is not sure exactly where that is ?

    Reply ↓

    • Hi..!! the blog is very informative.Me and my wife would be visiting Japan in Mar’19 for 8 days.We have opted for a package tour.Based on your recommendations Kyoto & Tokyo seem the 2 top places.Can you please recommend us the third place to visit..??

      Reply ↓

  22. We are going there on a tour to Himazi with 3 homestays & I want to visit a friend in Miyago. Can we still see Mt Fuji & Kyoto after the tour?
    Thank you for your wonderful blog.

    Reply ↓

  23. Interesting blog, thank you for sharing your experiences! We will have 9 full days in Japan and hoping to see Tokyo, Mount Fuji ( want to stay two nights there ) Takayama, Kyoto and Hiroshima ( as a one day trip from Kyoto ). We are flying back home from Osaka ( our arrival is at Haneda ).. do you think it is do-able or are we overdoing it? Maybe we should leave out Takayama? but since we are going middle of October we are hoping to see some of autumn there..any recommendations? Thank you!

    Reply ↓

    • Hi Nath
      I think it will be a busy trip but it’s definitely possible to do all that in 9 days. I love Takayama so it’s hard to recommend skipping it. It all depends on your energy levels! If you are up for busy days then go for it!

      Reply ↓

  24. Wooooow love this post!! I have always dreamed of visiting Japan and seeing real Cherry blossoms.. Though I was able to make one dream a reality – see real cherry blossoms in Atok, Benguet, Philippines (but just a few because we were told that it will took two years for the trees to bloom). They look lovely!! :) I’m still not giving up on the bigger dream which is to go to Japan :D And once I get there, I’d definitely visit Kyoto coz I find their culture very rich.. from geishas to kimonos, to sushi and temples! :) See you soon Japaaaaaaaaan!

    Reply ↓

    • Who knew there were cherry blossoms in the Philippines?!

      We’re planning to go back to Japan next year for the cherry blossom season, although I’m a little worried the crowds will be crazy. Kyoto is a definite highlight of Japan – I hope you make it there!

      Reply ↓

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published. By clicking the Submit button, you give consent for us to store your information for the purposes of displaying your comment and you accept the terms of our Privacy Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.