Japan is the perfect blend of centuries-old traditions and lightning-fast technology. As a result, it offers a rich cultural experience that’s difficult to find anywhere else.
The country’s awe-inspiring natural beauty makes it a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. But there are a few places that make it stand out above the rest.
1. Mt Fuji
Mount Fuji is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan and is a must-see destination for visitors from around the world. Located in Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, it is the highest peak in Japan at 3,776 meters.
Its summit is home to the largest shrine in Japan and has been a source of inspiration for many artists over the years. The most famous is the series of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai.
The area surrounding the mountain is also a popular spot for travelers to explore. A volcanic zone called Owakudani is particularly dramatic with boiling hot springs and steaming volcanic vents.
Located in southern Kyushu, Yakushima is an island of incredible natural beauty and moss-covered forests. It’s home to a unique moderate temperate rainforest and attracts visitors from all over Japan.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
This island is a dream destination for nature lovers and hikers alike. There are numerous hiking trails and mountain huts where you can spend the night in this stunning landscape.
The most popular attractions on the island are the ancient cedar trees and waterfalls. One of the most beautiful parks on the island is Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine which boasts a network of trails that lead to these incredible relics.
3. Kumano Kodo
One of the world’s premier spiritual trails, Kumano Kodo winds across the mountains of Honshu’s Kii Peninsula. It has been walked by pilgrims on their quest for enlightenment for over a millennium.
The trail is a maze of paths that travel up and down ridges, along the coast and through old Japanese forests. It’s a quiet place to commune with nature and to learn about the spiritual origins of Japan.
The traditional starting point of Kumano Kodo is Takijiri, a mountainside village nicknamed kiri-no-sato (village in the mist) for its atmospheric views and buckets of spirtiual significance. Here you can also visit the ancient Kumano shrine Takijiri-oji, a key stop on the Nakahechi route.
One of Japan’s top art destinations, Naoshima is renowned for its modern galleries and playful public works. It’s also home to a number of quirky hotels and art museums, designed by legendary architect Tadao Ando.
Start your Naoshima adventure at Miyanoura port, where Yayoi Kusama’s two iconic Red Pumpkin sculptures sit on a grassy lawn. The modern ferry terminal is well equipped with tourist information, a cafe and souvenir shops.
Kobe is a stylish port town that offers a mix of Western and Japanese culture. Its cosmopolitan vibe and incredible natural attractions make it an ideal place to visit.
This year, Kobe is also home to a major rugby tournament, so you can expect lots of exciting activities happening here during your stay!
For those interested in history, the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum is a great place to learn more about relics from Japan’s ancient past. You can see axes made from stone that would have been used in the Jomon period and a range of other artifacts.
Kamikochi is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets, a haven for nature lovers who can enjoy its crystal-clear rivers and mountains in peace. It’s also a great place to try your hand at some hiking and mountain climbing.
There are a number of good day hikes around the area that can suit all levels. However, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there are plenty of long and challenging mountain treks to choose from.
The first thing to catch your eye is the Taisho Pond, which was formed after an eruption of Mt. Yake a few hundred years ago.
7. Okinawa & the Southwest Islands
Located in the south of Japan, Okinawa is part of the Nansei-shoto (Southwestern Islands). The islands are home to spectacular coral reefs and tropical marine life.
The main island of Naha is the prefectural capital. The city has many tourist spots including Shurijo Castle, one of the most famous ruins in Japan.
A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Okinawa. The castle is built on a plush hill of Ryukyu limestone.
Nagasaki is a thriving city with a fascinating centuries-old history, a beautiful European colonial area, churches, lovely canals with atmospheric bridges, colorful shrines, temples, and a vibrant China Town.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, memorial monuments, and peace park stand as powerful reminders of the tragic events of World War II. But this city also has a fascinating history of international trading and a very welcoming character.
During the 1500s, Nagasaki was a major trading post with foreigners, bringing in Chinese and Dutch culture. In addition to a lively China Town, this city also has some of the best European colonial buildings in Japan.