Home #WHERETONEXT Asia & Pacific Top 6 Must-See Places in Japan (Besides Tokyo)

Top 6 Must-See Places in Japan (Besides Tokyo)

Photo by Sean Pavone

Not many places in the world capture hearts quite like Japan does. The contrast between the natural serenity and the ultra-modernity is something to behold, and this beautiful and innovative country has something for absolutely anyone. However there’s one mistake many tourists make when visiting Japan – not leaving Tokyo.

We understand that not everyone has the time to venture too far out from the capital city, but if you have the opportunity, Japan has so much more to offer than just Tokyo. In this guide, we hope to broaden your horizons and inspire you to really discover Japan. 

Before you jetset off to Japan, ensure you’re getting the best value for your money when buying Japanese yen. Places like Crown Currency will help you get the best exchange rates, so check them out before you go. Now that we have that out of the way let’s look at some of the most beautiful places in Japan that you can visit to make the most of your time there.

1.   Kyoto

For those wanting the authentic and traditional Japanese experience, you have to visit Kyoto. Think kimonos, ancient temples, Zen gardens, and lush bamboo forests, it’s all right there in Kyoto. Many visitors enjoy wandering through the streets of Gion, visiting the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of red torii gates, or participating in a traditional tea ceremony.

If you’re seeking a time of relaxation and reflection, take a stroll on the Philosopher’s Path or visit the magical Yasaka-jinja at night. Of course the most magical time to visit is during cherry blossom season from the end of March to May.

Must-See Spots:

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  • Tenryu-ji Temple

The ideal stay in Kyoto will be 3-5 nights. This will give you enough time to explore it at a relaxed pace. You don’t want to rush something this beautiful!

2.   Takayama

Takayama, nestled on the edge of the Japanese Alps, is a picturesque town known for its well-preserved, wooden houses and scenic beauty. Stroll through the historic centre, enjoy the morning markets, and taste local delicacies like mitarashi-dango (grilled rice balls). The town is also home to the Hida Folk Village, where you can see traditional thatched-roof houses.

Must-See Spots:

  • Historic old town
  • Festival Floats Exhibition Hall
  • Hida Folk Village

To get the best experience at Takayamna, we’d suggest spending 2-3 nights there.

3.   Hakone

Known for its breath-taking views of Mount Fuji and relaxing hot springs, Hakone is another place that should be on your bucketlist for exploring Japan. This town has a lot to offer. From boat rides on Lake Ashi to visiting the Hakone Open Air Museum, it’s like Hakone was built for relaxing. Simply hop into a hot spring, get some of the local food and chill as you enjoy the splendid view of Mount Fuji!

Must-See Spots:

  • Hakone Loop
  • Lake Ashi
  • Hakone Open Air Museum

Spend 1-2 nights to fully experience Hakone’s natural beauty and hot springs.

4.   Kanazawa

Next, we have Kanazawa, another cultural spot that attracts many tourists. Kanazawa is similar to Kyoto but not as popular, so it might be a good alternative if you want to go to a place with fewer tourists. Some ideal things to do are stroll through the Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan’s top three gardens, or explore the historic treehouses in Higashi Chaya. After something more stationary, check out some art in the city’s museum or participate in a traditional tea ceremony.

Must-See Spots:

  • Kenroku-en Garden
  • Higashi Chaya district
  • Gyokusen-en Gardens

For the best experience in Kanazawa, try to spend at least two nights there.

5.   Nikko

Visit Nikko, a small town in the mountains to the north of Tokyo. Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its historical temples. One highlight of visiting Nikko is seeing the iconic Toshogu Shrine, an ornate red and gold building. There are also some amazing hiking trails in Nikko. If you’re an avid nature enthusiast who loves hiking, Nikko offers hikers some splendid views of mountains and forests.

Must-See Spots:

  • Toshogu Shrine
  • Futarasan-jinja
  • Shinkyo Bridge

Nikko’s beauty can’t be experienced in one night. We suggest staying for at least three days, especially if you are hiking.

6.   Nagasaki

Calling all photographers, the “10 Million Dollar Night View” city awaits – Nagasaki! Most who are familiar with this city would associate it with the horrors of WWII, but it should be known for its astounding natural beauty. Of course, visiting the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park (where the atomic bomb was detonated) is a must, and the Sanno Shinto Shrine giant Camphor trees, but then there’s the panoramic views from Mt. Inasa Observatory which is perfect for couples looking to up the romance of their trip.

Must-See Spots:

  • Glover Garden
  • Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park
  • Minami-Yamate District

You also cannot leave Nagasaki without trying deliciously fruity, custard-like pudding – Nagasaki Minami-Yamate Pudding.

Final Thoughts

Japan is full of beauty and offers something for everyone to do. These are six out of plenty of beautiful places you can visit in Japan. We’d start doing more research to find a place you’d like to visit. We hope this list has made planning for your Japan visit easy. Enjoy!