From historical sites to cultural temples to futuristic skyscrapers, Japan is a magical place where old meets new. The country is made up of fascinating cities with endless exploring opportunities, brimming with tradition, history and culture. From Tokyo to Kyoto, here are seven must-visit cities in Japan.
Japan, an archipelagic country in the Pacific Ocean, consists of more than 6,000 islands. A popular travel destination, people frequently flock to the region to get a dose of Japanese restaurants, heritage and culture. After implementing strict restrictions due to the pandemic, Japan recently reopened, welcoming tourists to pack their bags and go on an adventure of a lifetime. So if you’ve been looking for a sign to book flights to Tokyo, this is your sign!
Neon lights, fast-paced life, unlimited shopping, entertainment, culture and dining are just some of Tokyo’s attractions. Located just off Tokyo Bay in the Kantō region, it is the largest metropolis in the world. Get lost in Tokyo at the famous Shibuya crossing – an iconic intersection and the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. Afterwards, get your techy fix at the buzzing Electric Town (Akihabara) – where you’ll find densely packed buildings crammed with electronic shops. Pay a visit to the Sensoji shrine, the city’s oldest temple (Shinto Shrine), completed in 645. The bright red Buddhist temple is the oldest in Tokyo, attracting nearly 30 million worshippers yearly.
As you wander during the day, remember Tokyo at night is full of magic and is worth exploring. But if you have limited time, we recommend staying for at least five days to make the most of your trip. If possible, head over there between March – April when the traditional Sakura (cherry blossom watching) takes place.
The largest city of Hokkaido is located just north of Tokyo. Less than two hours away from the capital, Sapporo – mostly known for its ski resorts – hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. Tap into the Japanese beer scene in Sapporo, home to the country’s oldest beer brand – Sapporo Beer, founded in 1876. To see the city from soaring heights, climb up the observation deck in the Sapporo TV tower for the best views in town. At 90.38 metres, the attraction is open to tourists wanting panoramic views of the region. Visiting in winter? Head to the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, featuring gigantic ice sculptures, ice rinks and sledding areas.
History lovers will love Kyoto. Just a quick 50-minute car ride from Osaka, the city hosts many UNESCO World heritage sites, including Byodo-in Temple, the Nijo castle and the Kinkaku-Ji temple. The best way to explore Kyoto is to wander through its winding cobbled streets and traditional wooden houses early in the morning when it’s quiet. As you immerse yourself in your surroundings, peacefully admiring the history and culture of Kyoto, you’ll soon understand why it’s the spiritual and cultural capital of Japan. Once the actual capital, the city is a major travel destination home to sublime gardens and traditional teahouses. Allow for at least four nights here before moving on to your next destination.
Osaka, located in the Kansai region, is arguably Japan’s street food capital. Come here to grub on some mouth-watering takoyaki – a ball-shaped snack often filled with octopus – and okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake packed with protein. The dishes are Osaka’s pride and joy, being a rich food area renowned for its diverse restaurants. Those looking to unwind will particularly enjoy Osaka, as the city is home to numerous thermal baths, better known as onsens.
One of the best times to visit is between March – April to witness the Sakura – 5000 cherry blossom trees dotted along the Okawa river. Otherwise, opt to visit between October – November when the autumn foliage shows its dazzling colours. To learn about Japanese agriculture, stop by the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses. The recreated folk village gives insight into the lives of Japanese farmers from the 17th-19th century.
Despite being a small city that you can visit on a quick day trip from Kyoto, you should stay at least one night to thoroughly explore Nara. Famous for its deer population and the Nara Deer Park – one of the oldest parks in Japan – the city is home to numerous ancient temples and artefacts. To visit this historical site, we recommend exploring by foot to learn about the place many consider the birthplace of Japanese civilization. Make sure to stroll through the steep and sacred Kasuga-Yama Hill Primeval forest – with its 175 trees, rare birds, and animals – and stop by the remarkable Buddha statue in the Tōdai-Ji temple
Fukuoka is one of Kyushu Island’s biggest cities, perfect for a beach getaway. The city is a great starting point when visiting the island, especially in the summer during the Obon “Mitama Matsuri“. More than 6,000 paper lanterns are placed in the Gokoku shrine at this festival, illuminating the dark sky and creating a magical sight. Fukuoka is also the home of Japan’s largest shopping centre Canal City Hakata, housing 250 shops, fountains and an artificial water canal that runs through the complex.
Perfect for outdoors lovers, Kobe is located between the sea and the Rokko Mountains and is perhaps most famous for its food scene, especially the world-renowned Kobe beef. A historic port, you can spend your days walking through the city, uncovering the holy sites, quirky cafes and restaurants. If you want to escape the city centre, try one of the many hikes to Mount Rokko or check out the Nunobiki Falls – a set of waterfalls reaching 43 metres tall. If you crave tranquillity, head to the famous Arima Onsen, Kobe’s treasure and one of the oldest hot springs in Japan.
From unique pop culture and Michelin-star restaurants to delicious street food and zen rock gardens, there has never been a better time to visit Japan. You will need a vaccine certificate or a negative PCR test to enter the country. For more information, visit GOV for updates.