Thursday, 13 September 2012

Japan Travel Guide: Top Places in Japan!

Japan Travel Guide

Whether it’s fascinating ancient traditions, high-tech, ultra-modern youth culture, or the unique blend of the two that interests you about Japan travel, there are a few places you can’t afford to miss while you’re there; things you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Though some are in every guide book, others are still waiting to be discovered, in a country where mysterious Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines lurk in the cracks between car manufacturers and skyscrapers.

Japan is one of the world’s richest countries, and therefore not exactly the cheapest to travel. The Japan Rail Pass is a great deal for your money and allows you to go almost anywhere in Japan, saving hundreds of pounds, but it is still not cheap. So with the daily costs and the Japan Rail Pass, it’s a good idea to cover ground quickly in Japan.

This list means you can hit all the best destinations and sights on your Japan travel experience, without wasting time on red herrings and disappointments.

Tokyo – First point of call for most travellers to Japan, Tokyo is a metropolis like no other, where East really does meet West, in a head on collision! Check out Shinjuku (possibly Tokyo’s most famous district, with some of the coolest shops you’ll ever go in), Shibuya (famous for its nightlife and the giant, six-way pedestrian crossing as seen in Lost in translation), Roppongi (known for its unrivalled nightlife and unusually high population of Westerners) and Asakusa (complete with impressive temples and shrines that come alive during festival season).

Yokohama – Connected to Tokyo, this port city with its impressive Chinatown, is often called the “Liverpool of Japan”.
Ise – This rather uneventful coastal town contains one of the most spiritual sites in all of Japan. The Meoto Iwa, or wedded rocks, jut out from the waves and are connected by a rope made of rice-straw. For believers of Shinto, for whom natural forces such as rocks, trees and rivers contain spirits, this site is unbelievably sacred.

Himeji – Home to one of the two most impressive castles.
Matsumoto – Here you’ll find the other of the two castles, nicknamed “Crow Castle” for its dark black appearance. Matsumoto is also situated in Nagano, in the Japanese Alps, making it a great base for alpine activities from skiing in the winter to scenic hiking in the summer.

Norikura Kogen – Close to Matsumoto, this spectacular area boasts forested mountains, dazzling alpine lakes, a ski resort and one of Japan’s most famous onsen baths!

Tsumago & Magome – The Nakasendo is the ancient postal road that once led through the mountains from Matsumoto to the old capital, Kyoto. Today you can hike the route, with the most impressive stage being between Tsumago and Magome, which still retain the atmosphere of the Edo period.

Osaka – Definitely Japan’s coolest city, with 24 hour, all-you-can-drink nightclubs, and its own dialect, cuisine and culture.

Kyoto – Japan’s historical city, packed with more temples, shrines, museums and other historical and cultural sites than you can shake a bokken at. Highlights include the Golden Temple, the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Gion – the Geisha district.

Nara – Nearby Nara is another historical gem not to be missed, home to the giant Buddha housed in the magnificent Todai-ji. Also, don’t miss Nara Koen (Park), where deer roam free and will chase you for biscuits.

Okinawa – This spectacular group of islands lies far off the South coast of mainland Japan but is well worth the additional journey. Beautiful National Parks, picture-perfect beaches, and an entirely different culture await those who make it here!

Hiroshima – A must-see on any Japan itinerary. The Museum and Peace Park give a unique take on war, and you will not leave Hiroshima without a changed perspective on life.

Miyajima – Easily accessible from Hiroshima by boat, this tranquil island is home to the iconic Itsukushima Torii (floating gate) and even more deer!

Nagoya – Japan’s third largest city is predominantly industrial, meaning the nightlife and culture are authentically Japanese. Check out Osu for its quirky shopping lanes and beautiful shrine.

Utsumi – If spending time in Nagoya, the idyllic beach village of Utsumi offers a break from the city, only a short train ride away.
Kanazawa – This beautiful town, often left off the foreign tourist map, boasts lush Japanese gardens, Japanese sweet making classes and more.

Wajima – Just north of Kanazawa, this quaint, rural town offers peaceful beaches on the East China Sea and is one of the best places to try a stay in an authentic Japanese RyokanInn.

Hokkaido – The northern-most of the main four islands, Hokkaido is rarely reached by travellers or Japanese alike. The awe-inspiring landscape boasts many beautiful National Parks, perfect for scenic hiking and outdoor activities.

Sapporo – The fourth largest city in Japan and the capital of Hokkaido is home to the Sapporo brewery, a number of esteemed whisky distilleries and a perfect climate.

Hakodate – This smaller, more culturally and naturally inspiring city is the gateway to Hokkaido and shouldn’t be missed as you pass through.

Nibutani – For a real adventure, journey to the sparsely populated, far Eastern coasts of Hokkaido, where you will find villages such as Nibutani. These are the last places on earth to find the Ainu, Japan’s native people, and in Nibutani you will find museums and craft shops where you can interact with the locals and learn more about their remarkable culture.


  1. I just got back from Japan last month. I only budgeted an 8 day stay but you've listed some nice places I didn't know about.

    That rock w/ the shrine... where was that?

    1. Hi Christine, sorry for the delay. How are you? The wedded rocks are just off the coast at Futami, which is just a few train steps away from Ise, Mie prefecture.