Amid some of the most advanced technology, soaring mountain peaks, a widely exported culture from animations to martial arts, and an esteemed mix of tradition and the cutting-edge, there is so much to see here in one of the most captivating nations of the world. Whether exploring a rich history spanning millennia, a celebrated and diverse gastronomy, or varied geography, there's something for every visitor to Japan. Read on for our quick guide to some of the best sights throughout this storied and beautiful country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Japan allowing tourists?
Unfortunately, tourism at the time of this article is quite difficult in Japan. Currently, Japan is only allowing foreign nationals who are on a short-term stay related to work, for tourism (but with a travel agency that acts as the receiving organization), and foreign nationals coming for long-term stay. So, unless you have Japanese citizenship or have secured a spot with one of these select travel agencies, it is best to plan for a later trip to Japan. In addition, there is a short list of countries where anyone arriving from those countries to Japan within a 14-day period is not allowed to enter at all.
Can I travel during the coronavirus disease pandemic?
This is an important decision that can only be answered by each individual, considering their health history, status and situations regarding citizenship, employment, health, finance, etc. Regarding Japan, it seems that only Japanese citizens and those that apply to the aforementioned categories of foreign nationals are able to travel at this time.
Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 when traveling?
All travelers to Japan must provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure of the international leg of their trip.
Can I travel to Japan from the Philippines?
Again, similar to the previous information, those wanting to travel Japan from the Philippines will need to apply for a visa and qualify in one of those three categories listed earlier, unless they are already a Japanese citizen.
Japan's northern jewel is a favored destination for pristine wilderness, rolling fields of wildflowers, vibrant marine life and a combination of lively cities and expansive landscapes. Some of the nation's most celebrated winter events, agricultural centers, and romantic getaways can all be found here. Consider Hokkaido for the captivating beauty of wintertime in Japan and where visitors can wander without getting too far from nature.
One of the highlights of Hokkaido, Sapporo, boasts charming streets, a wealth of parks, hearty and fresh local cuisine and a gorgeous appearance come winter. The Sapporo TV Tower makes for a bold photo backdrop and has great views over the city, areas such as Nijo Market are a proud and immersive showcase of Hokkaido produce, with fresh catches and vegetables every day.
The city also has its nightlife, with the lively Susukino district, with seemingly endless bars, izakayas, restaurants, eateries, stalls and entertainment to keep your party out until sunrise.
Outside of Sapporo, Hokkaido's other cities and small towns are definitely worth the visit, with lively Hakodate and all of its happenings, or quaint escapes such as Otaru and Furano, with solemn and surreal landscapes, icy and peaceful in winter to the striking colors of summer.
Northern Honshu boasts dramatic scenery amid stoic peaks, precious lakes, and emerald forests, as well as breathtaking relics from Japan's lengthy past. In Tohoku's countryside visitors will find an endearing balance of nature, innovation, and tradition, with plenty to discover just off the beaten path.
Hirosaki Castle is just one of many historical sights that visitors can explore here in Tohoku, an exceptionally resilient and well-survived relic of the Edo Period. Aside from the impressive tower, Hirosaki is also a note of interest during the winter, with the snow lantern festival and striking snow cave tradition of the region, or the otherworldly atmosphere of Tsuruga-Joo, a battle-tested fortress that today sits proudly over a celebrated array of cherry blossoms.
Lake Tazawa in rural Akita is the nation's deepest lake, and has inspired fictional settings from some of the most famous works of Japanese art, animation and film of the past century, while the Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera is a stunning sight to behold, a Buddhist temple on a clifftop.
Cities such as Sendai, Aomori and Morioka have a proud mix of local arts, preserved history and entertainment to fill any itinerary, with the local lantern art forms being of special note. The Shirakami is a lush, verdant escape that is great for those visitors who want to be surrounded by Japan's natural beauty.
This megacity and core of Japan is quite the massive task in itself, with so much to offer visitors of various interests, Otaku, partygoers, foodies, historians, and J-Pop fans alike. Travelers of every conceivable interest, or those who just want to do it all, will be delighted to find there is so much more than meets the eye in one of the world's largest cities!
Tokyo Skytree soars into the sky to give great views over the massive skyline, while the iconic Tokyo Tower is quite the experience in itself, from its unmistakable exterior to the endearing lore and community that has risen around it.
Harajuku is a great place for fashion enthusiasts to shop and watch some of the most daring outfits to walk Tokyo's streets, while Roppongi and Kabuki-cho never sleep with their endless arsenal of bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants, entertainment—you name it, it's all here. Of special note for solo travelers, here are the 24/7 and incredibly affordable options such as karaoke boxes, gaming cafes, host cafes, maid cafes, manga boxes, capsules, all a unique and different approach to nightlife that are accessible and interesting turns for any night out.
Ameyoko Shopping Street is a great place to experience the bustle and festive atmosphere of the markets and malls here, while Senso-ji is quite the sight to behold, one of the Tokyo region's most esteemed temples.
The Imperial Palace remains as the Emperor's residence, complete in all its historical glory and with tours, while fans of Totoro and Porco Rosso will delight in the enchanting and memorable set of the Ghibli Museum.
Yokohama is another vibrant hub of the sprawling empire that is the Tokyo region, boasting sights such as Sankeien, spiriting visitors away into the lavish and ornate world of traditional Japanese gardens, or the animated Yokohama Chinatown, one of the largest bastions of the Chinese community in the nation.
Those visitors who have flown in on their stomachs will delight in the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, a flagship institution to the globally-loved Japanese dish, and Yokohama Cosmoworld is a lighthearted photo opportunity and great date night destination with its retro appearance, a colorful mix of exciting rides, booths, games, and promenades. The Cosmo Clock 21 is also a rare note, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world. Day and night, the Cosmo Clock 21 is a great stop in itself for unrivaled views and photos over Yokohama and the waterfront.
Saitama's Omiya Park is a special sight to behold, doubly so during the brief Cherry Blossom period, where the landscape is sprinkled in delicate pinks, while Kamakura is renowned for the number of surviving shrines, temples and gardens around the city, such as the towering Buddhas of Kotoku-in, ornate grounds of the Engakuji temple, gardens and walkways of the Kencho-ji, immersive and soaring bamboo forest of the Hokokuji temple, the tranquil resting place for the fallen warriors of the Genkoo War, or the ancient grounds of the Hasedera, featuring one of the largest wooden statues of the nation, carved some 1300 years ago by a monk and then delivered by the tides to a nearby beach (or so goes the legend).
The Chubu region contains some of the most enthralling and recognizable peaks of Japan, overlooking a number of lavish mountain resorts, sporting areas, and a mix of exciting metropolises. This is a great location to add to any country-wide excursions, a launching point for numerous outdoors activities and sports, and with its many strong connections to the Kansai and Kanto regions, is a strong contender to consider for your stay in Japan.
Shizuoka's verdant and emotive scenes are a great choice for those wanting to explore Japan's scenery, such as the contrasting beaches and forests of Miho no Matsubara, towering Mount Akaishi, and the many curiosities of its mountaintop findings, or the Yume No Tsuribashi Bridge, providing views as spectacular as the bridge itself!
Nagoya Castle is one of the country's most famous faces, with the iconic turrets continuing to serve their shogun in defending the halls, gates and courtyards some 400 years later.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is another celebrated representative of the nation, with the famous gates of this shrine displayed across the world.
Nishiki Market is a great stop for tourists who want to pick up something truly unique to take home, or enjoy the robust spirit of the market, while Arashiyama is one of the country's best sights, with an unreal and imaginative bamboo forest, only slightly dissected by a series of serene footpaths (not to mention, the adorable local population of monkeys).
The Kansai region is globally renowned for the close concentration of landmark castles, temples, courts from myriad chapters of Japanese history, eclectic mix of entertainment, thrills and arts, and bold local cuisine. Whether hopping between the diverse hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, the peaks of the Ibuki mountains, or the shores of Lake Biwa, visitors will find no shortage of adventures here.
Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji are great stops for those travelers interested in touring Kyoto's important and fabled past, while nearby Nara has their own number of temples, including the incredibly ancient Kasuga-Taisha, over 1200 years old! The number of bronze and stone lanterns are of special interest, as well as the adorable population of deer, who are revered and roam freely around the temple, or the similarly aged and majestic sites of the Yakushi-ji and Kofuku-ji.
Osaka Castle is another top sight to behold here in the widely popular Kansai region, while adrenaline junkies and pop-culture enthusiasts will delight in the endless sights and rides at Universal Studios Japan, with a star-studded cast including Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Mario, Yoshi, and Harry Potter. This is a great location for photo opportunities, festive fun and an escape into your favorite films and shows.
Dotonbori is a great district to enjoy some of the best in Japanese cuisine, such as freshly made Takoyaki, hearty Okonomiyaki, or the revered Fugu. Meanwhile Shitennoji is a sight to behold, with portions of the temple dating over 1400 years old!
The Chuugoku and Kyushu regions hide some of the best kept secrets of Japan for those wanting to enjoy city-hopping, road trips, sailing, and the Japanese wilderness. Here visitors can enter a realm of numerous rolling hills, indulgent hot springs, and a collection of rural communities and sleepy towns. This is a great canvas for those who want a lot of room to dream up their travel plans, and visitors who would prefer to keep moving during their visit to Japan.
Okayama, further to the west, boasts a number of painting-like scenes, such as the Okayama Korakuen and its castle, a beautiful antique from 1700, or Inujima, the perfect vacation spot from your vacation, famed for its strong arts presence (but also not far from the other cities and attractions of the coasts of the Seto).
Oita is a charming and quieter vacation spot with a local population of monkeys, well equipped aquarium, and bustling array of Buddhist ruins, as well as the striking Oita Prefecture Art Museum.
Fukuoka is one of Japan's many seaside cities to fall in love with, especially with scenes such as the flowerbeds at the Uminonakamichi Park, or the peaks of Mount Abura, Hooman and Tachibanayama, great hotspots for cycling, hiking, and photography.
Sakurajima sits imposingly over Kagoshima,with the fertile forest growth around this tempered volcano as a rare sight, and the Kagoshima City Aquarium boasts a number of entertaining exhibits and shows just as striking as its exterior.
There is also the balmy shores of Okinawa, home of the proud Ryukyuan peoples, and a great option for those who want to roam somewhere warmer and next to the water, with sandy, delightful beaches such as Yonaha, or the regal grounds of Shurijo Castle.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is another point of interest, showcasing many of the unique aquatic life of Japan and Okinawa, from whale sharks to manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, bull sharks, sea turtles, and the majestic giant oceanic manta ray.