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Top 5 Must-See Places in Japan

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Aerial view of Tokyo with ancient temples set against the modern skyline

Aerial view of Tokyo with ancient temples set against the modern skyline

Japan is a remarkable destination and overflows with must-see destinations.

The spirit of Japan rises from the contrasting visions of futuristic architecture and the pristine countryside. Experience the architecture, cuisine, artwork, and culture in a way that celebrates it all.

Embrace the spirit of Tokyo, stroll through the iconic orange pillars of Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, or sit under the cherry blossoms circling the waters around Kanazawa during your Japanese adventure.

1. Tokyo

Senso-Ji Temple with cherry blossoms in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

Senso-Ji Temple with cherry blossoms in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is an immersive city that pulls from the past and looks forward to the future for a remarkable mixture of things to see. The dazzling combination offers contemporary culture alongside traditional heritage.  Captivating culture brings to light the perspective of the past and the pleasures of the present day. Tokyo represents the center of a modernist aesthetic with exceptional cuisine featuring an extraordinary number of Michelin-starred restaurants.

Highlights: Imperial Palace | Senso-ji Temple | Tokyo National Museum | Meiji Shrine | Ginza District

Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: March | April | September | November

2. Kyoto

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto intrigues and delights as a display of antique Japan. Peaceful gardens display intricate detail, and atmospheric temples ring with hanging bells. Traditional teahouses carry the scent of steeping matcha, and glimpses of dazzling geishas shuffling embody the customs and radiant cultural central to Japanese life. Kyoto is the embodiment of charm with highlights that capture the peaceful ambiance and connection to tradition.

Highlights: Nijo Castle | Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine | Golden Pavilion | Kiyomizu-dera Temple | Gion District

Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: March | April | May | September | October | November

3. Hiroshima

Isukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima in Hiroshima, Japan

Isukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima in Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima is much more than the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack as it captures a broader message of peace amidst the leafy lanes, wide boulevards, and relaxed ambiance. The thriving cosmopolitan community is an exciting mixture of museums and galleries, grand gardens, and sobering ruins. While forever connected to its tragic history, Hiroshima showcases resilience, beauty, charm, and serenity with plenty of highlights that embody the city’s enduring spirit.

Highlights: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park | Itsukushima Island Shrine | Hiroshima Castle | Shukkei-en Garden

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: April | May | October | November

4. Kanazawa

Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa, Japan

Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa, Japan

The serene ambiance and captivating preserved culture of Kanazawa represent a historical jewel on mainland Japan. As a living embodiment of the Edo Period and once Japan’s second-largest city, Kanazawa celebrates its rich heritage around the preserved neighborhoods and inside the manicured gardens. The combination of modern museums and active historic districts brings the past to life dating back to the 17th century with a wealth of aromas from the vibrant market and treasures rivaling the reputation of better-known Kyoto.

Highlights: Kenrokuen Garden | Ninjadera Temple | Higashi Chaya District | Omicho Market | Kanazawa Castle

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: April | May | September | October | November

5. Takayama

Traditional village Shirakawa-gō, Gifu, Japan

The traditional Japanese village, Shirakawa-gō, showcasing a building style known as gasshō-zukuri

Takayama is a fantastic place to visit in Japan, known for its atmospheric townscapes accentuated by the charming riverside and captivating hillside shrines. The historic city design dates back to the 17th century and now features modern museums and temple galleries steeped in rural tranquility at the foot of Japan’s northern Alps. Artisan carpenters remain prevalent in the historic town and the Takayama Festival revisits the Edo period with tremendous floats set against the backdrop of the antique architecture.

Highlights: Tanmachi Suji District | Yoshijima Heritage House | Hida Folk Village | Masturi no Mori Museum | Higashiyama Walk

Recommended Length of Stay: 2 days

Best Time to Visit:  May | June | October | November

How many days is enough to see Japan?

Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto, Japan

Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto, Japan

Between 10 and 12 days is the right amount of time for the perfect introductory Japan trip. A trip of this length allows you to divide your time nicely between cities like Tokyo and Kyoto while also giving you access to other popular, famous, or lesser-known destinations.

During your 10- to 12-day Japan trip, you can custom-tailor your itinerary and excursions with a mixture of guided tours, unguided discoveries, and recommended culinary experiences. With fascinating artifacts, immersive cultural heritage activities, and contemporary delights--from shopping to a surprising coffee culture--you can bask in the ambiance of Japan’s must-see destinations and those areas more off the beaten path.

More Travel Information & Tips

The ancient history, modern cities, and amazing culture all make the must-see destinations of Japan an inspiring destination to visit. With a travel specialist, you will be able to access these gems while getting seamless transportation and recommendations for the top things to see. As you begin planning your trip by submitting a Trip Request or contacting our Traveler Care Team at 1-888-265-9707, you will get the best advice on the best time to visit for what you want to see and so much more. Explore our Japan Travel Guide to get started with inspiration and tips.

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