WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES TO SEE IN JAPAN FOR FIRST TIMERS?
Even if you’re not a fan of manga, sushi or anime, Japan is a destination to do at least once in a lifetime. Japan does not have spectacular monuments like other Asian countries, but it’s more a place where the thousand little things of everyday life make you feel like you’re on another planet, so much culture is there. unique.
Even if life is expensive it is possible to travel there with an ‘average’ budget and still enjoy Japanese culture provided you pay a minimum of attention. The country is easy to access, sure, the food is excellent, and the Japanese are very hospitable to foreigners if you make the effort to approach them.
When to go to Japan?
The best seasons to discover Japan are spring and autumn. The month of April offers reasonable temperatures, reduced humidity and especially the possibility of attending the cherry blossom, one of the country’s must-haves. Autumn is just as nice, tourist pressure less. Autumn brings mild temperatures and the colors of nature are beautiful: it is the ideal season to visit Japan. It’s preferable to spring, which, despite the undeniable charm of its cherry blossoms, sees the influx of Japanese tourists invading the most attractive places.
Here are the best places to see in Japan:
If you only have to choose one place to visit in Japan, go to Kyoto. You could spend a week there as there are many things to do and see (temples, palaces and gardens). Here are some places you should check: The bamboo forest of Arashiyama, The Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion, Kiyomizudera temple, Gion (try to see Geishas if you’re lucky), Nishiki market, and Fushimi Inari Taisha (picture below).
- Book now your hotel in Kyoto on Booking.com
Osaka is the perfect base if you want to explore Kansai: Kyoto is accessible in less than an hour, as well as Nara and Kobe. Osaka also offers many things to do and see: Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium, Dotombori nistrict’s busy nightlife, and Denden town, the electronics district where you will find Maid Cafés, video game shops and manga stores.
- Book your hotel in Osaka on Booking.com
This will probably be your first contact with Japan (first culture shock?). There are several interesting places to see in Tokyo: The Tsukiji fish market, Shibuya Crossroads, Shinjuku Gyoen garden, the Tokyo Sky Tree, Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu Shrine.
- Book your hotel in Tokyo on Booking.com
4. VISIT NIKKO
Located north of Tokyo, Nikko is home to the Tosho-Gu Shrine, one of the most beautiful in Japan.
5. MOUNT FUJI
A symbol of Japan. If you have the courage, you can accompany other hikers to access the summit and see the sunrise.
6. THE HIROSHIMA MUSEUM AND THE MEMORIAL PARK OF PEACE
If you only visit one museum in Japan, go to Hiroshima.
- Book your hotel in Hiroshima on Booking.com
7. MIYAJIMA ISLAND
Another reason to go to Hiroshima, because the island of Miyajima is right next door. It is one of the most photographed places in Japan, with its red Torii emerging from the sea.
8. NARA AND THE TEMPLE TODAI-JI
Even if there are no monuments in Japan as spectacular as the temples of Angkor Wat, the Todai-Ji of Nara should still stick to you by its size. It is the largest wooden building in the world and contains a gigantic bronze Buddha.
- Book your hotel in Nara on Booking.com
9. THE KAMIKOCHI VALLEY
Kamikochi is a 15-kilometer forest valley located along the Azusa River, in the heart of the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture. The site offers a delightful walk in a day, with beautiful landscapes in spring and autumn. Classified Natural Heritage of Japan, however, it is a victim of its success in tourism.
Takayama is an ancient feudal city known for its ancient wooden houses which, by their alignment and their uniform height, give the streets a linear beauty. The city is also known for its annual festival held in the spring and fall. It was created in the 16th century and is one of the three largest and most beautiful festivals in Japan. Large, flamboyant floats roam the city, offering a glimpse of the magnificent craftsmanship of the region.
11. THE CASTLES
Among the most beautiful:
- The castle of Himeji
- The castle of Nagoya
- The castle of Kumamoto
- The castle of Inuyama
- The castle of Matsumoto
- Takeda Castle
12. THE KISO VALLEY
This 70-kilometer valley between Nagoya and Narai borders the southern Japanese Alps and enjoys an excellent reputation among walkers. The classic hike (3h) follows the ancient Nakasendô between Tsumago and Magome.
13. MONT KOYA CEMETERY
Mount Koya (or Koyasan) is a sacred mountain of Japan. You can spend the night in one of the many monasteries and explore the mysterious cemetery Okuno-in and its 200,000 gravestones.
14. THE JIGOKUDANI PARK
Located near Nagano, you can observe the wild macaques swimming in the onsen. To visit in winter.
This medium-sized city, nestled between the sea of japan and the japanese alps, has a lot to offer travelers: exceptional historical sites, renowned art museums, traditional cuisine and fine craftsmanship … kanazawa is worth a visit.
16. KUMANO NACHI TAISHA SHRINE
Nachi Falls, at 133-meters high, is the biggest waterfall in Japan. It steals some of the attention from Kumano Nachi Taishai, a sacred shrine built close by. It’s usually the last stop of the scenic pilgrimage known as Kumano Kodo.
17. THE CHUREITO PAGODA
Chureito Pagoda, built in 1963 as a memorial of peace, is part of Arakura Sengen Shrine in Fujiyoshida (10 minutes by train from Kawaguchiko Station).
The island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan, was occupied from the 18th century and, today as in ancient times, it still abounds with natural splendors.
- The national park of Akan
- The national park of Shikotsu-Toya
- The Shiretoko peninsula
19. THE BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES OF SHIRAKAWA-GO AND GOKAYAMA
It’s in the mountains, in the center of Japan, in the north of Gifu Prefecture, that the famous and atypical village of Shirakawago is located. A unique place, that you should absolutely visit.
20. OKINAWA AND THE SOUTH ISLANDS
If you want some sun, head to South Japan:
- The beaches
- Yakushima Island, with its millennial cedars
- See Whale Sharks at the Okinawa Aquarium
- Go diving