15 Must-Visit Destinations in Japan

After touring Japan for almost a month, I came up with my personal list of the top destinations in Japan. I have to admit, it's hard to choose from the dozens of shrines, temples, and scenic places that I have visited because every place has its own uniqueness and charm.*

*Note: The places listed here are ONLY from the list of places that I have visited in my 26-Day Tour of Japan.

15 Must-Visit Destinations in Japan

Planning to visit Japan any time soon? Please check out my list of the 15 Must-Visit Destinations in Japan

(You can click on the names of the places to know more about it.)

Location: Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
Details: Kobe Port Tower is a hyperboloid structure that stands as the symbol of Kobe City. It is said that a visit to the city wouldn't be complete without visiting the tower.  
Plus Factor: The view from the observation deck is a must-see. Visit the tower at night to view it while being illuminated to see its beauty.
Location: Namba District, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Details: Dōtonbori is one of the most famous tourist spots (traps) in Osaka City. It is visited by thousands of tourists and shoppers every day because of the shops, restaurants and of course its popularity.
Plus Factor: Take a picture of the famous Glico man billboard. Visit the Hozen-ji Temple and pray for your luck in business. Look for sure win bargains or look for unique souvenirs to bring home.
Location: Near Shibuya Station, Tokyo Prefecture
Details: Hachiko Statue is a small bronze statue that's partially tucked in the corner of Shibuya Station. It is probably the most famous statue of an animal in Japan.
Plus Factor: Just having your picture taken with Hachiko's statue already gives bragging rights to your friends. Try crossing the famous Shibuya Crossing which is just a few meters away from the statue to show your friends the part where the films The Fast and The Furious and Resident Evil were shot.
Location: Minato Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Details: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is the best place to see and "interact" with marine life in Osaka Prefecture.
Plus Factor: Check out the whale shark in its biggest tank. Watch several marine animals perform on specific schedules. You can also touch a shark or a manta if you'd like. 

Tie 11. Tokyo Disneyland (東京ディズニーランド)

Location: Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture
Details: Tokyo Disneyland together with its partner park Tokyo DisneySea are two of the most famous theme parks in Japan. It is the best place to reconnect with your inner child and meet your favorite Disney characters.
Plus Factor: A sure hit for young kids and Disney fans, one view of Cinderella Castle would surely make your day. Don't forget to watch the parades and the castle illumination before closing time.
Location: Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture
Details: Tokyo DisneySea together with its partner park Tokyo Disneyland are two of the most famous theme parks in Japan. It is the best place to take pictures and meet your favorite Disney characters.
Plus Factor: A sure hit to teenagers, couples, and photographers, this theme park has the best views around. Check out the real ship(s) that are docked in the park and don't forget to take a picture of the park's centerpiece -Mt. Prometheus.

Tie 11. Universal Studios Japan (ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン)

Location: Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Details: Universal Studios Japan is the best place for teenagers to bond. It also has well-balanced theme park rides meant to cater to the different age levels of visitors. It is also one of the best theme parks in the country.
Plus Factor: Try Jurassic Park, Jaws, Spiderman rides. Potter fans should never miss visiting the newest attraction-Wizarding World of Harry Potter too. Lastly, don't forget to snap a picture of the USJ Christmas Tree. It is the most illuminated Christmas tree (as of 2011) according to Guinness World Records. 
Location: Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture
Details: Wakayama Castle would give you a glimpse of how the shoguns and samurais lived back then. There are also plenty of things to see inside and around the castle like a zoo, several old gates, and even a special bridge. 
Plus Factor: Aside from the castle, the Okaguchi gate is also an important cultural property.
Location: Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Prefecture
Details: Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto Prefecture. It is a place where businessmen offer prayers and wishes for the success of their business. 
Plus Factor: Check out the hundreds of torii gates in the vicinity. Don't forget to count and take a picture of all the fox statues around or offer prayers by drawing faces on fox shaped woodcuts that you'd hang near the shrines.
Location: Chuo-ku, Osaka Prefecture
Details: Osaka Castle is probably the most famous symbol of Osaka Prefecture. It played a major role in the unification of Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period.
Plus Factor: Staying until the night is the best way to see the hidden beauty of the castle. Its light makes its white facade golden in color. If you go around the castle complex you'd also see the 1970 EXPO time capsule that is set to be opened after 5000 years. 

7. Mt. Kongō (金剛山)

Location: Minami-Kausachi-gun, Osaka Prefecture
Details: Mt. Kongō is the highest peak of Osaka Prefecture where most of its parts are located. However, the mountain's real peak lies in the territory of Nara Prefecture. It stands at 1,125 meters tall.
Plus Factor: Visitors get the chance to either hike up the mountain or ride a ropeway to visit its peak. Try visiting the mountain during the winter season for some sledding adventure.
Location: Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Details: Nara Park is known for its free-roaming wild sika deer. It is probably one of the most famous public parks in Japan. It has an area of about 502 hectares but some say that it is probably as big as 660 hectares.
Plus Factor: Feed the sika deer with Shika-senbei crackers which you could buy at the stores around the park. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the park, like the temples of Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji and the Kasuga Shrine.
Location: Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture
Details: Himeji Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan. It is also known as the White Heron Castle because it looks like a heron taking flight.
Plus Factor: I forgot to mention that the castle is one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. You would be amazed by how beautiful the castle is when you go around its vicinity. Once there don't miss the opportunity to visit its interior.
Location: Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
Details: Kinkakuji is also known as the Golden Pavillion. It is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto Prefecture.
Plus Factor: This temple is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. A visit to Kyoto Prefecture would not be complete without visiting it. While in the temple vicinity, you can admire the beautiful scenery and its rich history.
Location: Nara Park, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Details: Todai-ji is the biggest wooden structure in all of Japan. It can be found in the famous Nara Park. (So visit it after feeding the deer!)
Plus Factor: The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It houses the largest bronze image of Buddha in all of Japan. When you're inside the temple, you'd also see a hole in one of the pillars of the temple. Try to go through it for eternal happiness in the afterlife.
Location: Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
Details: Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto Prefecture's most famous temples. It was built on the side of a hill without using any single nail.
Plus Factor: This temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto Prefecture. Hundreds, if not thousands, flock to see it every year. Aside from admiring the beautiful temple go check out the sacred Otowa Falls in its vicinity.
Location: Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture
Details: Mt. Koya/ Koyasan is one of the holiest sites in Japan. It is the location of numerous temples and shrines. 
Plus Factor: The mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are several popular and holy structures in the mountain- the Koyasan Daimon, Kongobu-ji, and the Dai Garan. Mt. Koya is also the location where the holy monk Kobo Daishi lies in eternal meditation.

So, what are you waiting for? Plan your trip already! See you in Japan!


  1. So many wonderfull pictues Neil. I would love to see them by myself ;)

  2. I have never been in Japan and have to tell, I don't know so much about it. You guide is a good one to look at for the first time visitor.

  3. While some of these destinations seem to have beautiful structures , others are great natural landscapes. Japan has many diverse kind of places that can interest any traveler. This list seems to have a balanced mix of them

    1. Thank you so much Neha. On my next trip, I'd try to focus more on the nature aspect.

  4. I'm soon be flying to Japan and this post just added to my excitement. Nice post Neil!

  5. I'm soon be flying to Japan and this post just added to my excitement. Nice post Neil!

  6. You summarize it all here! Beautiful photos there!

  7. I haven't visited Japan , so I find your post very fascinating. Will definitely use it when I visit. Just curious around Glico man billboard. What is it's claim to fame ? (don't mind the ignorance)

    1. Hi there Swati, the Glico man is one of the oldest advertisement in Japan. It's been there for 70 years already. Weird as it may sound Glico Man does not advertise sports stuff but actually a company that sells confectionery (candies).

  8. Interestingly, it was Osaka that interested me and after this list, I can so be sure that it is the right choice. I would also, love to do the castles where the Samurais live It looks amazingly interesting. Thanks for sharing these treasures.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog Ami. I agree with you Osaka is really an interesting place to visit.


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