32 Best Places to Visit in Japan + Awesome Japan Landmarks!

There are so many places to visit in Japan and attractions that it’s impossible to get bored. To check off all the amazing things to do in Japan would take a lifetime, as there are so many unique places to visit. Hopefully, this list will help you decide where to travel to in Japan. Or, at the very least, provide insight into areas in Japan you have never heard about. From Japanese cities to ski towns, here is our ultimate list of destinations in Japan.


Best Places to Visit in Japan – The Cities

A Pagoda At Sunset In Kyoto

Most trips to Japan start and end in a city. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Sapporo all have great international airports, so after you fly in, it’s best to stay a few days and introduce yourself to a Japanese city. These are often among some of the best destinations to visit in Japan.


Kyoto

Priest in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the top places to visit in Japan. It has a world-class reputation and was once the capital of Japan. There is a lot to do in Kyoto. From walking around the Geisha district to exploring the thousands of temples and shrines or eating around the city, you’ll be hard-pressed to get bored in Kyoto. The city blends the best of ancient and modern Japan, and any visitor here will fall in love with Kyoto’s points of interest. My favorite landmarks in Japan are Fushimi Inari Taisha, Gion at night, and Kinkaku-Ji.

Top Things To Do In Kyoto

  • Catch the sunset at Yasaka-no-Tou (Japan landmark)
  • Visit Kyoto Imperial Palace (Japan landmark)
  • Enjoy Higashiyama Jisho Ji (Japan landmark)

Nara

Cameron Surrounded By Deer In Nara Park

The city of Nara is only a 45-minute train ride from Kyoto and is where you can find Nara Park. Nara Park is home to hundreds of deer, which are considered the messengers of the Gods and have become a symbol of Nara. Once you arrive at Nara Park, you will undoubtedly start seeing the deer. They will approach you hoping for food, and you can get some deer crackers from the many vendors.

Nara Park is one of the more memorable things you can do in Japan, especially for families who love wildlife. It’s worth noting that if you bow to the deer, they will likely bow back. Although the most famous thing to do in Nara is to see the Nara deer, there are plenty of other temples to explore. Keep walking through the deer to see the famous Todai-ji temple, a Japanese landmark.

Top Things To Do In Nara

  • Enjoy the company of deer!
  • Gander inside Todai-Ji (Japan landmark)
  • Walk around Naramachi

Tokyo

Nikko Pass

You’ve probably heard of Japan’s most populous city, Tokyo. It is one of the best cities to visit and certainly a good introduction to Japan. There are a lot of places to explore and stay and more than enough sites to occupy visitors. In Tokyo, moving around is not an issue because the city has one of the planet’s most efficient and interconnected transport systems.

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is large and cannot be completely explored in a single visit. It has twenty district wards and expensive taxis, so if you are coming to Tokyo, be prepared for subsequent visits because there’s a lot in store for you.

Top Things To Do In Tokyo

  • Get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Tokyo City View
  • Have a taste of Japanese beer at The Beer Station
  • Take a short walk to the Tsukiji Fish Market and shop for fresh vegetables and fish. (Japan landmark)

Hiroshima

Castle In Hiroshima Japan In Fall

If you have spare time and are wondering what to do in Japan, consider heading to Hiroshima. The city is one of the country’s hotspots for cherry blossom viewing. It has a beautiful castle, cool trams, fantastic food, nature, and a tragic history. Hiroshima is a tremendous place to visit if you are interested in history and sightseeing.

It’s also a great jumping-off point for a few island day trips. However, most people know Hiroshimas as the place where the first atomic bomb was dropped, which brought an end to the war. It now serves as a monument to the world about the horrors of war. You can read our post about things to do in Hiroshima to learn more.

Top Things To Do In Hiroshima

  • Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Japan Landmark)
  • Go to the Atomic Bomb Dome (Japan Landmark)
  • Catch a Carps game

Sapporo

Natasha And Cameron In Front Of Sapporo Beer Museum

Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s northernmost prefecture – Hokkaido. The most recently settled of the Japanese archipelago, this region was once home exclusively to the distinct ethnic group, the Ainu people. Today, however, Sapporo is about as Japanese as you can get

There’s a lot to do in Sapporo, with oodles of ramen in store for hungry travelers, a good collection of centuries-old Western-style buildings, and plenty of mountains with nature and ski opportunities. The city sees minimal tourism compared to its other Japanese counterparts and is worth stopping for a few days.

Top Things To Do In Sapporo

  • Have a Beer at Sapporo Beer Museum
  • Go up the Sapporo TV Tower (Japan landmark)
  • Try Genghis Khan

Himeji

Himeji Castle With Early Falls Colors In Japan

Himeji is a city in the Kansai region of Japan. It’s most well known for the beautiful, centuries-old, white Himeji Castle, which draws frequent visitors. The castle in the Hyogo Prefecture is bright white, giving it the name ‘White Egret’ or ‘White Heron Castle.’

Considered the finest example of purely Japanese architecture, the castle complex includes 83 buildings, perpendicular stone walls, a moat, and defensive guard posts. These structures served well through the tumultuous centuries of Japan’s feudal period, characterized by constant warring between the various warlords who controlled areas of Japan’s countryside.

The castle’s prominence over the surrounding ground, gleaming white façade, and elegantly terraced roofs will leave you speechless. Peak season is March through May – largely for the cherry blossoms – so if you’re planning a trip, bring your camera and expect crowds.

Things To Do In Himeji

  • Photograph the Himeji Castle (Japan landmark)
  • Shop at Himeji’s Flea Markets
  • Check out Himeji Ceramics Market

Yokohama

Yokohama Skyline At Night

Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan by population, but it’s far less visited than nearby Tokyo. It’s a major port city with notable attractions like the Nippon Maru. Located in the Port of Yokohama, the Nippon Maru is a 1930s wooden sailing ship that purportedly got enough miles to circumnavigate the globe dozens of times.

Though she’s getting a little old, the ship has been lovingly restored to near-original condition. Over its lifespan, the boat has been a transport and training vessel and was still in use in the ’80s, when it was converted to a full-time museum.

At over 300 feet long, with 30 sails and an impressive array of masts, the ship exhibits its own history and that of the Japanese Navy, whose officers were trained on the ship for generations. The ship and Yokohama Port Museum are on the waterfront just across from the Landmark Tower and are an easy stroll from the Metro station.

Things To Do In Yokohama

  • Shop at Yokohama Chinatown
  • Enjoy the Landmark Tower Sky Garden
  • Visit the Cup Noodles Museum

Kobe

Kobe Sake Model

The city of Kobe is well known for one thing—the world-renowned Kobe Beef. Kobe Beef is the crème de la crème of the world of beef. It is from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, and the real stuff can get very expensive. Expect to pay at least ¥ 8,000 yen for Kobe Beef. Anything less, and it’s likely not the real deal.

Do your research if you want the real Kobe beef. Many imitators will claim to serve you Kobe beef around Japan. On my first time traveling to Japan, I walked into the first restaurant advertising in the city of Kobe. I paid ¥2000 for the entire meal set. Was it delicious? Sure was. Was it real? Not a chance. Kobe Beef is a special Japanese meal typically reserved for special occasions. If you’re a vegetarian or not a beef eater, don’t worry; there are many more things to do in Kobe than eat expensive beef.

Top Things To Do In Kobe

  • Enjoy World Class Kobe Beef
  • Climb Mount Rokko
  • Learn about sake at Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery Company

Osaka

Natasha On The Main Street Of Osaka In Summer

Japan’s third largest city, Osaka, is huge, has a population of over 2.5 million, and is bustling with plenty of things to see in Osaka. Osaka isn’t always on the traditional Japanese tourist trail like Kyoto and Tokyo, but it is full of life and things to do.

Osaka has plenty of great restaurants, shopping, bars, and culturally interesting activities to keep visitors busy for at least a few days. Some of the best things to do in Osaka are to visit Den Den Town, Dotonbori, and Amerika-Mura. We spent three full days in Osaka and had a blast.

Top Things To Do In Osaka

  • Try Jiggly Cheesecake
  • Evening Cruise on the Dotomborigawa River
  • Sumiyoshi Taisha Temple (Japan landmark)

Hakodate

Hakodate City From The Hill At Sunset

It’s arguable whether Hakodate, the southernmost city of Honshu island, is home to the best seafood in Japan. The most unique dish, Ika odori, or “dancing squid,” is available at the Hakodate Morning Market. It’s a colorful culinary creation: a donburi rice bowl that utilizes the salt in soy sauce to trigger muscle movement in the dead squid.

Other attractions in Hakodate, which is now connected to Tokyo via Shinkansen, include the night view from Mount Hakodate, the star-shaped Goryokaku Fort (which is best viewed from nearby Goryokaku Tower, especially during cherry blossom season), and Yunokawa Onsen, where many spas are open to day visitors from the city. Structures in historical Motomachi, including one of the only Russian Orthodox churches in Japan, pay homage to Hakodate’s colonial heritage.

Things To Do In Hakodate

  • Tsugaru Fort
  • Go up Goryokaku Tower (Japan landmark)
  • Explore Motomachi

Matsumoto

Castle In Matsumoto

On paper, Matsumoto might not jump out at you as one of the unique places in Japan, except for 17th-century Matsumoto Castle. However, this city in the heart of the Japanese Alps is compact and charming, making a great base for exploring the region. The most popular day trip from Matsumoto is to Jigokudani, a mountain onsen where you can find Japan’s famous “snow monkeys,” but this is only the beginning.

Another great natural adventure is the scenic Kamikochi area, where a crystalline river flows through towering mountains that offer a different experience every season. The Nakasendo Way, meanwhile, blends history and scenery. Take the train from Matsumoto to Nagiso and walk between charming towns like Tsumago and Magome, founded during the Edo period, when the Nakasendo was the main trading route between Kyoto and Tokyo.

Things To Do In Matsumoto

  • Check Out Matsumoto Castle (Japan landmark)
  • Pay a visit to Jorinji Shrine
  • Enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Nagasaki

I don’t think I need to explain why Hiroshima is one of Japan’s top places to visit. While Nagasaki on Kyushu island has a similarly sad history, I personally find it a more interesting city to visit. This is due to Nagasaki’s role in Japan in the decades and centuries before the bombings of World War II.

Before Japan opened up to the West, it was the only place where foreigners were permitted. Much of this is still on display in Nagasaki, from Dutch-colonial Dejima to the ornate 19th-century Oura Church to Shinichi Chugakai, one of Japan’s oldest Chinatowns. Other unique places in Japan in and around Nagasaki include Gunkanjima Battleship Island, the famous (among Japanese, anyway) “night view” from Mt. Inasa, and Yoshinogari, a historical park whose architecture replicates the style of the ancient Yayoi period.

Things To Do In Nagasaki

  • Pay a visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (Japan landmark)
  • Climb Mount Inasa
  • Visit Koshibyo Confucius Shrine

Naha

Temple in Naha

Whether you’re ultimately bound for Okinawa beaches or want to explore the culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom that used to occupy this archipelago, the city of Naha is a great place to hunker down for a few days. Take advantage of the only monorail in Okinawa to visit the city’s top attractions, from 14th-century Shuri Castle to the dramatic Naminoue Shrine to the stunning beaches of Ie and Tokashiki islands, which sit just offshore.

Naha is also home to interesting culinary traditions. When you’re not slurping down a bowl of rich Okinawa soba noodle soup made with melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, head down to Kokusai Street, where you can sample quirky taco rice. It’s a simple meal that is a satisfying combination of Tex-Mex flavors brought over by American military members and Japan’s staple food.

Things To Do In Naha

  • Shuri Castle (Japan landmark)
  • Ride the Yui Monorail
  • Check out Naha Beach

Shingu

Kumano Kodo

Shingu is one of the jumping-off points for the Kumano Kodo trail and Yunomine Onsen. It’s a smaller city in Japan with a ton to do. It’s one of the closest cities to Kumano, with thousands of temples and shrines to explore. Also near Shingu is the Kamikura Shrine, a Shinto shrine high above the city that is easily accessible and has few tourists!

Things To Do In Shingu

  • Visit Kamikura Shrine (Japan landmark)
  • See Shingu Castle
  • Enjoy Kuwanoki Falls

Sendai

Cameron In Sendai During Festival

Sendai is the largest city in Japan’s northern Tohoku region and the capital of Miyagi Prefecture. While the area was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Sendai remains a vibrant, bustling hub for culture, history, and modern sights.

Home to around a million people, Sendai owes much of its history to the powerful samurai clan of Date, who founded the city in 1600. Nicknamed the city of trees, Sendai’s trees are a feature that helps this otherwise urban jungle endear itself to visitors, with plenty of parks and nature on the doorstep.

From famous cherry blossom spots and historic castle ruins to local markets and iconic burger joints, some amazing things to do in Sendai make a visit to this northern Japanese city very much worth your time.

Things To Do In Sendai

  • Head up to Sendai Castle (Japan landmark)
  • See Zuihōden Temple
  • Yuriage Harbor Morning Market

Unique Places to Visit in Japan

Otaru Canal in Snow

Traveling to unique places in Japan can be difficult for several reasons. If you haven’t explored much of the country, for example, you might feel obligated to visit mainstream destinations like Tokyo and Kyoto before proceeding to more authentic places or even researching them. Language can also be a factor, as can your general familiarity with Japanese cultural norms.

However, don’t let anything or anyone convince you not to explore Japan off the beaten path. Whether you’re a frequent traveler and want to dig deeper into lesser-known reaches of the country or a first-time visitor who wants to add a surprising diversion (or two!) into an otherwise pedestrian itinerary, Japan is nothing if not a treasure trove of endless discovery.


Hokuriku

Hokuriku Fishing Cabins

One of Japan’s most easily accessible unique places is the Hokuriku region, which occupies the northern coast of Honshu island and the Fukui, Ishikawa, Niigata, and Toyama prefectures. Hokuriku offers various interesting destinations and experiences, from cities like Kanazawa (known as “Little Kyoto” because of its charming geisha districts) to the skiing on offer in Myoko Kogen in the mountains of Niigata.

Whether you’re more attracted to the decidedly urban things to do in Kanazawa, the enchanting farmhouses of Shirakawa-go, or want to marvel at autumn colors along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, you can reach most Hokuriku destinations directly from Tokyo onboard the aptly-named Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train. Trains on this route depart frequently and are all covered by the Japan Rail Pass!

Things To Do In Hokuriki

  • Kutaniyaki Art Museum
  • Higashichaya Old Town
  • See the Symbol Road Monument

San’in

Sand Dune San'in

When it comes to truly unique places in Japan, San’in truly takes the cake. Occupying the northern half of the Chugoku region (the Westernmost part of Honshu island, where you’ll find Hiroshima), San’in boasts out-of-this-world attractions like the bizarre Tottori Sand Dunes, ancient Izumo Shrine, the expertly manicured gardens of the Adachi Museum of Art and Motonosumi Inari, a coastal temple that features mysterious red gates descending down toward the Sea of Japan.

Like Japan, San’in is larger than it appears on the map; you’ll need at least two weeks to see everywhere in this region. San’in is also one of the regions of Japan where people speak English the least, so you’ll want to have a translation app on hand if you cannot communicate. Access San’in from the east by riding the Super Hakuto limited express train from Osaka or the west by riding the Sanyo Shinkansen from Fukuoka or Hiroshima to Shimonoseki.

Things To Do In San’in

  • Climb the Tottori Sand Dunes
  • Check out the Sand Museum
  • See the Izumo Shrine

Shikoku

Performance in Shikoku

It’s difficult to name the single best island in Japan, as there are hundreds of smaller landmasses within the country’s territory besides the four main ones. However, when it comes to Honshu and her three little sisters, one stands out to me: Shikoku, which is the smallest and, unfortunately, the most overlooked, at least historically. You can get to Shikoku by riding a JR Highway Bus from Osaka to Tokushima or by taking a local train from Okayama to Takamatsu.

There are a few reasons why I feel this way. In addition to Tokushima and Takamatsu, famous for the Awa Odori dance tradition and regal Ritsurin garden, Shikoku boasts the cities of Kochi and Matsuyama, home to two of Japan’s 12 remaining additional castles. You’ll also find Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest public bath house in Matsuyama. Nature lovers also have plenty to enjoy, from trekking in the Iya Valley to pleasure boating along the Shimanto River to sea kayaking near the southern port of Susaki.

Things To Do In Shikoku

  • See the Naruto Whirlpool
  • Enjoy Tokushima Ramen
  • Amble about Ritsurin Garden

Otaru

A Photo of The Otaru Canal With Floating Candles In The Winter

Just outside Sapporo itself but close enough to make a super convenient day trip, Otaru is a cool place to visit. With its romantic, Western-style buildings, old warehouses, and canal, it’s steeped in history. Otaru was the original terminus for Hokkaido’s first railway system, so it was big news —back in the day, at least.

That was also thanks to the herring industry here, which is no more. Today, the Victorian-style gas lamps and the grand Western buildings of Nichigin-dori provide remnants of its glory days. For photographers, there’s the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival; every year in mid-February, tiny snow lanterns hide candles along the canal and other areas to beautiful effect.

Things To Do In Otaru

  • Walk along the Otaru Canal
  • Check out the Otaru Museum
  • Nichigin-dori

Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine Onsen - Hot Spring River In Town

Yunomine Onsen is a small ancient Japanese town known for its hot springs and historical ryokans. It’s an interesting place to visit in Japan as it is a jumping-off point for Kumano Kodo. It’s located in the sacred mountains of Kumano and is a stop on the wonderful Kumano Kodo trail. It’s a very spiritual, quiet town where one can easily enjoy the nature around them.

I loved Yunomine Onsen and thought it was one of Japan’s best places to visit. It feels so “Japanese,” and the waters are said to change color up to seven times a day! Make sure to buy some eggs and cook them in the public hot spring cooking basin (Yuzutsu).

Things To Do In Yunomine Onsen

  • Soak in a hot spring
  • Boil eggs in the hot springs
  • Try Onsen Coffee

Nachi Falls

Kumano Kodo Nachi Falls

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Japan is Nachi Falls. To see Japan’s largest waterfall, you must head to Nachikatsuura in Wakayama Prefecture. The grand waterfall drops over 133 meters here! That’s not the best part, though. Directly in front of the waterfall is Sanjudo Pagoda, a three-story Japanese pagoda situated ever so perfectly in front of the fall.

Things To Do Near Nachi Falls

  • Get a view from Sanjudo Pagoda
  • Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine (Japan landmark)
  • Walk through the evergreen primeval forest

Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen Japan

Kinosaki is an onsen town only 2.5 hours away from Kyoto. It’s dubbed “the best onsen town in Japan” and has seven hot springs. This town is over 1300 years old, and much of the ancient vibe has been kept here. Given its close location to Kyoto, it can get busy, but that still doesn’t take away from the feeling of it all!

Things To Do In Kinosaki Onsen

  • Soak in an onsen, of course!
  • Visit Gokurakuji Temple (Japan landmark)
  • Ride the Kinosaki Ropeway

Okunoshima

One of the most interesting places in Japan is Rabbit Island. Yes, you read that right.  On the small Japanese island of Okunoshima lies a land filled with enough Peter Cottontails to fulfill all your childhood dreams. During WWII, the isolated island served as a top-secret location for a poison gas factory. Rabbits were used as test subjects for chemical weapons such as tear and mustard gas. Now, there are more than 1000 bunnies on this island living wild and free, and you can go there and cover yourself with them all (as long as you have some food).

The only way to Rabbit Island is via the Okunoshima ferry. From the mainland to Okunoshima, it takes less than 20 minutes and about 12 minutes, and it costs 620 ¥. Make sure to bring some change with you so you can purchase rabbit food. Don’t bring your own food and feed it to the rabbits; human food is not good for their digestion.

Things To Do In Okunoshima

  • See what’s left of the Poison Gas Museum
  • Surround yourself with animal love!
  • Go for a short hike!

Naoshima

Naoshima is an island town in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. I like to call it “art installation island” because it’s well known for its numerous art museums and projects. The Benesse Corporation installed many of the museums, installations, and sculptures on the Island.

The Benesse House is an interesting art museum/art hotel to visit. Besides that I recommend walking around and seeing the interesting sculptures, there’s also a bus to take you around the island. Apart from the art, the island has all the features you could want on a sunny day: Sandy beaches and beautiful water.

Things To Do On Naoshima

  • Tour the Benesse House
  • Soak in the Naoshima Public Bath (I Love Yu)
  • Photograph the pumpkins!

Best Places to Visit in Japan for Skiing/Snowboarding

Japan is world-famous for its white, light, and fluffy powder. It’s one of the best places in the world to travel for ski bums!


Tohoku

Tohoku In Snow

Do you want to experience the charm of northern Japan without the crowds of Hokkaido and ever-so-slightly warmer winter temperatures? Head to Tohoku, which occupies the north of Honshu Island. Tohoku includes cities like Aomori, famous for apple production, and Sendai, the gateway to quirky Tashirojima, “cat island.” It also includes interesting nature like volcanic Lake Towada, the mysterious Oirase Stream, and Zao Onsen, whose trees become caked in snow during the winter months and turn into “snow monsters.”

Moreover, Tohoku is home to some of the best places for skiing in Japan, albeit relatively unknown ones, at least for foreigners. But if you don’t want to hit the slopes of Akita or Yamagata prefectures, you can base yourself in Morioka, which, like Sendai and Aomori, is connected to Tokyo via Shinkansen, and visit the ancient Samurai town of Kakunodate. Or re-discover Fukushima prefecture, which, apart from the relatively small exclusion zone around the doomed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, is safe and beautiful.

Things To Do In Tohoku

  • Enjoy the Shirakami Sanchi mountain range
  • Check out the Nebuta Matsuri fest
  • Get a dose of culture in Hiraizumi

Hakuba

Natasha On Her First To Japan

One of the best things to do in Japan in the winter is ski or snowboard. If you can’t go skiing in Hokkaido, the island of Honshu has some great ski resorts. Happo One is located on Mount Karamatsu in Hakuba, Japan, and is very easily accessible if you have the JR Pass. Happo One is a good, family-friendly resort with many skiable intermediate terrain.

Things To Do In Hakuba

  • Snowboard at Happo One
  • Soak in an Onsen
  • Enjoy the apres ski scene

Furano

Natasha Riding Through The Trees On A Powder Day At Furano Ski Resort

Furano is one of the best places to go in Japan. What sets Furano apart from other well-known ski resorts in Japan, like Niseko, is that it remains a Japanese town. There aren’t many hotels, gift shops, board shops, tour providers, or English-speaking residents. This can be seen as a negative for foreigners, but for powder fiends and travelers, it is the stuff dreams are made of. While it does not offer all the offerings of a larger resort, Furano can still cater to those seeking a winter holiday with more culture.

The real draw for visitors to Furano is the legendary Hokkaido powder. The town and resort area is located in central Hokkaido and thus receives drier snow, albeit less than the resorts along the coast like Niseko, Kiroro, or Rusutsu. In an average year, Furano gets a whopping 9m of snow. While it’s a big resort by Japanese standards, Furano isn’t massive by international standards. It has nine lifts, 24 courses, and 974 meters of vertical, and it has been on the FIS World Cup Skiing Circuit 10 times. Make sure to see the Shirogane blue pond there – a huge Japanese point of interest.

Things To Do In Furano

  • Check out the Lavender Fields in the summer
  • See the Shirogane Blue Pond
  • Snowboard at Furano Ski Resort

Nozawa Onsen

Natasha Riding Powder In Japan With Snowy Landscape

Nozawaonsen is a small village in Nagano Prefecture. It is famous for its hot springs, all dating back to at least the 8th century. In the winter, steam rises everywhere from the traditional ryokans and shops. Nozawa Onsen is also considered one of the birthplaces of skiing in Japan, and the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort looks over the town. It’s one of the best places to go skiing or snowboarding in Japan, and it has the great JAPOW that Hokkaido has.

Things To Do In Nozawa Onsen

  • Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
  • See the Dosojin Fire Festival
  • Stay in a Ryokan

Niseko

Natasha Looks Out To Mount Yotei From Niseko United Ski Resort At Sunset

Niseko often refers to Niseko United, a collection of four ski resorts connected on the same mountain. They are Grand Hirafu, Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Hanazono, and Niseko Village. Each resort is individually owned, but they have all created Niseko United on one mountain, Niseko Annupuri. To make it even more confusing, two more resorts are not a part of the collective on the same mountain, Niseko Weiss and Moiwa.

Most visitors pick up the Niseko United All Mountain lift pass, which provides access to all four Niseko United resort lifts and services. A one-day All Mountain lift pass is ¥7400 per day. If you only want to ride one area of the mountain for the day, you can purchase an individual lift pass at each resort for about ¥2000 cheaper.

Things To Do In Niseko

  • Climb up Mount Yotei
  • Get a face full of powder at Niseko United
  • Soak in an Onsen at the Niseko Greenleaf
  • Have Dinner at Sushi Kato

Rusutsu

Cameron And Natasha Ringing The Bell In Rusutsu

Rusutsu is another great Hokkaido ski resort that gets increasingly well-known each year. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the Niseko base area and is a good place to head when you feel like you’ve skied most of Niseko. Rusutsu gets snowfall similar to Niseko, but it’s not as internationally known and has fewer visitors. This doesn’t mean that it’s an unheard-of Japanese pow town. It’s got quite a few visitors kicking around. But it’s a fun place to head for a few days if you’re seeking fresh lines.

Things To Do In Rusutsu

  • Snowboard all the pow!

Best Places to Visit in Japan for Nature


Traveling to Japan means being at peace with all the nature around you. Here are some of my favorite spots among the trees!


Miyajima

The Floating Torii Shrine At Miyajima

Another of the most famous Japanese landmarks of Hiroshima has to be this icon – the floating torii at Itsukushima (or Miyajima). An aspect of Japanese Shinto shrines is their tori – or gates – often painted vivid vermillion, signifying a sacred place.

What’s special about the one on the island of Itsukushima (or Miyajima, as it’s more commonly known), is that it is embedded just offshore, so it appears to be floating. The shrine is on a site first said to have been graced by a shrine back in 593 AD, but the current design is 16th-century. Also, on stilts, at high tide, this has the pretty awesome effect of looking like a sea palace. 

At low tide (the least Instagrammed side of the torii), you can see all the five-yen coins that people have wedged into every crack they can find. Locals pick through shellfish in the wet sand, too. It’s a pretty cool time of day to be there.

Things To Do In Miyajima

  • Photograph the Itsukushima Shrine
  • Enjoy the many deer
  • Go shopping on Omotosando Shopping Street

Kumano Kodo

Kumano Kodo

If you’re still wondering where to visit Japan, Kumano should be high on your list. The Kumano Kodo trail network is in the Kii Mountain range. Kumano is an isolated, sacred site of healing and salvation. It is the Spiritual Heart of Japan, and you can feel at peace with nature.

This spiritual origin of Japan has been a pilgrimage destination for over 1000 years. People from all levels of society would make the pilgrimage using a network of routes across the Kii Peninsula. Emperors, artisans, aristocrats, and even peasants would travel for over 30 days to hubs like Osaka and Kyoto.

The Kumano Koodo is a maze of trails that travel up and down ridges, along the coast, and through old Japanese forests full of cypress and cedar trees. Around 3000 shrines and many amazing sites are scattered across the ancient network.

Most of the trail network lies in Wakayama Prefecture but extends into parts of the Mie and Nara Prefectures. You can get here by rail, about four hours from the Japanese cities of Osaka and Kyoto. To check the train schedule, look on Hyperdia and ensure you grab a JR Pass before arriving in Japan. JR West offers a regional pass for tourists that should cover most necessary public transport around the route.

Things To Do On The Kumano Kodo

  • Stay in a Ryokan
  • Walk under the O’Torii (Japan landmark)
  • Walk through the neverending forest trails

Nikko National Park

Natasha At A Bridge In Nikko

Located more than 100 kilometers north of Tokyo, Nikko National Park is the perfect destination for a one or two-day trip from Japan’s capital. Chockful of natural wonders like lakes, rivers, mountains, and waterfalls, the park is famous for the Toshogu Shrine, considered one of the country’s most ornately adorned shrines.

Though stunning at all times of the year, the park is exquisite in autumn, when the tree’s leaves turn stunning shades of orange, red, and yellow. There is an ancient Shogun’s mausoleum, the famous statue of Three Wise Monkeys, and more picturesque bridges and shrines than you’ll know what to do with. If you’d like to get in a little exercise, there are plenty of hiking trails too.

Things To Do In Nikko

  • Walk across the Sacred Bridge
  • Check out Sanbutsudo (Three Buddha Hall)
  • Photograph the Fire-Story Pagoda

Best Places to Visit in Japan for the Beaches

Japan has world-class beaches that should not be ignored!


Okinawa

Out The Window Of A Plane Flying Over Okinawa

The southernmost islands in the Japanese archipelago, the Yaeyama Islands – of which Okinawa is part – are home to white sand beaches, impossibly blue skies, and palm trees swaying in the stiff Pacific breeze like few other places on Earth.

If you’d been blindfolded, teleported, and plopped down here and weren’t sure where you were, you might think Hawaii, especially due to the American influence of the large US Navy and Air Force bases nearby. Peppered with hotels in every price range and lots of scenic views and places to relax, eat, and drink, this may be the most satisfying time you’ll spend in Japan.

Things To Do On Okinawa

  • Dive to the underwater ruins of Yonaguni
  • Try Okinawan cuisine
  • Head out to Kume Island

How to Build Your Japan Itinerary

Cameron And Natasha Together In Kyoto

The most common pitfall of planning a trip to Japan, regardless of where you plan to go, is not giving yourself enough time. Japan looks much smaller than it is on the map, especially if you’re from a large country like the US, Canada, or Australia.

The optimal amount of time for a comprehensive trip to Japan is 3-4 weeks, though shorter trips can be taken if you only want to focus on one region or city. Regarding how to structure your trip, I like to move in a circle, starting in Tokyo (or sometimes Osaka) and riding the Shinkansen bullet train whenever possible.


Japan Travel Planning Resources

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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