Are you wondering where is the best place to visit if going to Japan, your holiday is short and you wish to use all the time to see places that most valuable?
Honestly, from our experience, we know you won’t be disappointed in this country, often people plan their vacation there just to eat or drink only because “FOOD” is all we have in common.
But as you might want to make your trip more exciting and much more unforgettable, then add some iconic places would be a really good idea to make it even more wonderful.
Today at LandingInJapan, we picked 10 must see places in Japan with a brief introduction based on our experiences and opinions.
1. Mt. Fuji ( 富士山 Fujisann )
Even you haven’t been to Japan yet but you must hear about Mt. Fuji, this is the symbol of Japan.
Mt. Fuji has been granted World Heritage Status in 2013, it’s also known as the highest mountain in Japan, an altitude of 3,776m. Mt. Fuji has always been the subject matter of different types of painting, literature since the old day, one of the world-renowned painting series are the “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”.
Mount Fuji has formed 5 lakes such as Lake Motosu ( 本栖湖 Motosuko ), Lake Syouji ( 精進湖 Syoujiko ), Lake Saiko ( 西湖 Saiko ), Lake Kawaguji ( 河口湖 Kawagujiko ), Lake Yamanaka ( 山中湖 yamanakako ), they are so-called Fuji Five Lakes, are also part of Japanese cultural heritage. Among them, Lade Kawaguji is the most popular of its beauty.
2. Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture ( 姫路城 Himejijyou )
As a first granted UNESCO world heritage site in Japan, Himeji Castle is also known as Japanese national treasure. It is one of the three most famous castles in Japan, the other two are Kumamoto Castle ( 熊本城, kumamoto-jyou ), Matsumoto Castle ( 松本城 Matsumoto-jyou ).
Himeji is located between Osaka ( 大阪 ), Okayama ( 岡山 ) and Hiroshima ( 広島 ), even there are many visitors come from Kyoto, Nara ( 奈良 ), Osaka or other places to see this famous castle, it seems to be a peaceful city.
One of the features of this castle is the outer wall, painted white and shaped like an egret bird so it’s also called The Egret Castle.
Himeji castle is also the very rare one that wasn’t destroyed by war, earthquake or fire unlike many other castles and still keeps its original appearance, therefore it is also called “Japan’s first castle”.
3. Golden Pavilion, Kyoto ( 金閣寺 Kinkakuji )
As shown in the picture, the whole top two floors of the Golden Pavilion are literary covered in gold leaf. It is always selected the must visit place if you are coming to Kyoto.
This temple original was a retirement villa of a general whose name is Ashikaga Yoshimitsu ( 足利義満 ), after his death, it then becomes a Buddhist temple according to his will.
Not only the “covered in gold leaf” feature is impressive, so as the structure as it’s built overlooking a large, beautiful pond. You will also find the path to the pavilion itself leads you to the beautiful garden full of rare flowers and stones. As it is such an iconic attraction in Kyoto, just be aware the good chance is that it’s always packed.
4. Jigokudani Monkey Park ( 地獄谷野猿公苑 Jigokudani-yaenkoen )
Have you heard about the monkey bathe them in hot spring? Well, this is the place then!
Jigokudani Monkey Park is the only place in the world that monkeys bathe themselves! As the park is located in a valley with very steep cliffs and also the steam is always coming off hot spring everywhere so that in the old day the local people call this place as “Hell Valley” ( 地獄谷 Jigokudani ).
You might have seen some images of monkey in the hot spring surrounding by snow? And yes, it is almost four months of the year, the area is covered by the heavy snowfall. But even in such a harsh environment, it is truly a paradise for those monkeys and this is the beauty of it.
So if you tend to see this unique scene in the world, come here! It’s really entertaining!
5. Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima ( 厳島神社 Itsukushima jinja )
Another UNESCO heritage site “Itsukushima Shine” was built in 593 AD, Istukushima is also called Miyajima ( 宮島 ), it is a small island of Japan’s inland sea, ( 瀬戸内海 Seitonaikai ), since ancient time, Japanese people believe that Miyajima is an island that with gods living, the shine was also built to worship three goddesses of the sea, therefore, Miyajima also means the “Shrine Island”.
The symbol of Itsukushima Shine is the big Torii ( 大鳥居 ootorii ). When the tide is high, it looks like the bit Torii just standing on the sea. You should come here if you are a fan of history.
Note update: The big Torii will be under construction from Jun 2019 – Aug 2020.
6. Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi Prefecture ( 河口湖 Kawagujiko )
As one of the Fuji Five Lakes, Lake Kawaguchi is certainly the most popular for seeing Mt. Fuji.
When the weather is right, it is a good chance to see the full reflection of Mt. Fuji. Many visitors come here to catch the breathtaking pictures. You are also able to take the cable all the way to the peak park to enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.
Not only it is one of the best places to see enjoy Mt. Fuji’s view, but the lake itself is also surrounding by many artistic attractions such as art gallery, museum…etc.
This is also an excellent place to be if you plan to see different changes in Mt. Fuji. There are more than enough hot spring inns around the north shore, they are considered the best spot to see the color changes of Mt. Fuji.
I find it is quite enjoyable to immerse yourself in such an area, nature view with artistic atmosphere.
7. Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima ( 原爆ドーム Gennbaku Doumu )
When you want to understand how the cruelty of war and also see the rise and fall of history then you should come to Hiroshima, especially come to Atomic Bomb Dome, also known as Hiroshima peace memorial.
As we all know the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima on 6th of August 1945, the bomb was detonated about 600 meters above the Hiroshima Hospital, but unlike other buildings, the structure was stronger so that most parts of the Atomic Bomb Dome building still remains and standstill today.
Since after the war, people have a dispute about whether the building should be kept as it would make the life of all the victims even harder to go on, but to remind everyone how brutal the war is, it then decided to be shown as it is now. And of course, it is designated World Heritage Site as well.
We have better and more convenient life nowadays and sometimes we forget what is the value of real peace. This is the place that reminds us how lucky we all are now.
8. Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama ( 合掌造り Kassyoudukuri )
To be a mountain village, Shinakawago is surrounded by mountains, this area has Japan’s heaviest snowfall, it can deposit 2-3 meters as the snow falls normally from December to March.
The most special point is all the houses in this village shape like gassho which in Japanese means hands join together to pray. When they covered by snow, the whole village looks just like the one we see in fairy tales.
The gassho style village is also registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and because its special geographical location, the scenery is beautiful all year round, sightseeing period is busier during May and August to October. Make sure you dress up warm and bring your grippy soles if you are going for the unique winter view,
9. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto ( 伏見稲荷大社 Fushimiinari taisya )
As the headquarter of more than 30,000 inari shines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Shrine is definitely the most popular one. Local people come here to worship for good business, rich harvest, families, health, well-being, and also to pray for their wishes to come true since the ancient day.
The best known of this place is its vermillion tunnel of the thousand gates which called “Senbon Rorii ( 千本鳥居 )”, when you walk through the tunnel you must walk on the side instead of walking in the middle and also nob briefly to show your devotional heart.
Torii is a unique feature in Japan, when you visit different shrines, temples, and toriis, it will get you more closer to the local culture.
10. Tokyo Disneyland
Here comes the last one, and yes Tokyo Disneyland would be my recommendation!
No matter kids or adults, we all have dreams, upon our upbringing, we have been imaging that we are the leading role of some fairy tales, or you might wish to encounter one of your favorite character. When you go to Tokyo Disneyland, you will see many of local students dress up like they just walking out some “manga” or animation, you can see people put a lot of effort to make sure themselves fit in this dreamland, and it is just fun only by watching them.
This place would be even better if you have kids, you can be child again with your kids!
Also, I personally think the highlight of Tokyo Disneyland is their toilet! I was impressed by how clean they can be with so many visitors in the area. You will understand what I mean when you visit in person!
Treat yourself and enjoy!
The list above is what we think the top 10 must see places in Japan, we also find it hard to pick only 10 places to see! Hopefully, it gives you some ideas of where to go in Japan.
There are many more beautiful, meaningful and fun spots that worth to visit, but these are also recommended if you have never been to Japan before, you can start from any one of the lists.
We aim to give more information so as a suggestion to those people who interest in a different area of Japan, so if you have any questions please feel free to leave your message below or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here to share and help!