Japan's Best Travel Spots in 2019
Article created by: Japan National Tourism Organisation – https://us.jnto.go.jp/japan101/
Tokyo is Japan’s economic and cultural center. Vibrant neighborhoods and fantastic cuisine are around every corner. This mecca of Japanese pop culture fused with traditional ideals is one of the world’s most entertaining cities.
There’s no livelier introduction to Tokyo’s neighborhoods than Asakusa, with its old shitamachi (downtown) atmosphere and the city’s oldest temple. After wending your way along Nakamise Dori, a pedestrian lane lined with stalls selling rice crackers, fans, umbrellas, T-shirts, cotton kimono and other souvenirs, you’ll reach Sensoji Temple, founded in the 7th century and home to the Goddess of Mercy.
Shibuya is an immensely popular commuter hub, packed with department stores, specialty shops, bars and restaurants. Its most well-known celebrity is Hachiko, a dog memorialized with a bronze statue for its faithfulness almost a century ago. Shibuya Crossing is Japan’s most photographed intersection, made famous in Lost in Translation for its video screens and converging pedestrians when the lights change.
Colorful Akihabara is quirky Tokyo at its best, a shopping paradise where anime (Japanese animation) and manga (comics) fans mingle with those searching for the latest in cameras and electrical appliances. Long known as Japan’s largest electronics district, Akihabara is also packed with shops selling character figurines, games and more, as well as maid cafes where women dressed as French maids serve tea.
- Gourmet Capital of the World
Japanese traditional cuisine is so unique, it has the honor of being on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Add to that the fact that Tokyo has more Michelin 3-star restaurants than any other city including Paris, and it’s easy to see why foodies flock to this gourmet capital for everything from kaiseki and ramen to Italian, French, American and other international fare, available in all price ranges.
2. Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji, a 12,355-foot cone of almost perfect symmetry, is Japan’s tallest and most sacred mountain. It’s officially open for climbing in July and August, but the best views are from scenic Hakone.
What to do?
- Hakone and Hot Springs
Easily accessible from Tokyo, Hakone is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery and hot-spring spas with indoor and outdoor baths. Because it was on the old Tokaido trading route between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo) during the days of the shogun, Hakone has many historic sights, including a 1.5-mile remnant of the Tokaido footpath and centuries-old Japanese inns with hot-spring baths.
- Lake Ashi and Mt. Fuji Tour
One of the most delightful ways to see Hakone is on a circular route traveling by mountain railway, cable car, a suspended ropeway and a boat that cruises across Lake Ashi. There are many things to do en route, including hiking, relaxing in hot springs, and exploring museums like the Hakone Open-Air Museum with its gardens, 400-some sculptures and one of the world’s largest Picasso collections.
Home to Japan’s Imperial court for over 1,000 years Kyoto is the country’s most historically significant city. It boasts 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, hundreds of shrines and temples, is home to traditional kaiseki cuisine, has many skilled artisans, and craft stores.
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kyoto’s most famous temple is an engineering wonder built to withstand earthquakes. It extends over a cliff supported by 18 massive pillars. Founded in 778 to honor Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy & Compassion, the World Heritage Site spreads along a wooded slope of Mount Otowa. Its’ famously offers stunning view of spring cherry blossoms, autumn foliage, and the city of Kyoto. The site also hosts Jishu Shrine, dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking.
- Ryoanji Temple
This is Japan’s most famous Zen rock garden. Although the temple dates from 1450 and the rock garden probably from 1499, no one knows who designed it, leaving its interpretation up to the viewer. Enclosed by an earthen wall and a verandah where you can sit and contemplate, it consists of 15 rocks rising up from carefully raked white pebbles, suggesting mountains above the clouds or islands in the sea.
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
This is one of Kyoto’s most visually spectacular shrines, with thousands of vermillion-colored torii gates straddling trails that lead up sacred Mt. Inari. Founded in the 8th century to honor Inari, the god of rice, it has long been a popular location for merchants to pray for success in their businesses. There are also statues of foxes, thought to be messengers of the god, and smaller subsidiary shrines. The top of Mt. Inari has beautiful views of Kyoto.
- Maiko and Geiko experience in Gion
Gion is a famous geisha district. In Kyoto, a geisha is called geiko, which translates as “art professional” in reference to their training in traditional dance and music; apprentices are called maiko. While it’s possible to catch a glimpse of both in Gion, you can learn more on an inexpensive walking Gion Night Tour or at Gion Corner with its performances of dance, music, flower arranging and other cultural arts.
This former merchant’s town is one of Japan’s largest cities famous for Osaka Castle, street cuisine, shopping arcades, comedy and a recent modern architectural renaissance that including Japan’s tallest building.
- Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle was the largest in Japan when completed in the 16th century, though it was destroyed twice during fierce battles between shogun loyalists and dissenters. It was rebuilt and expanded in the 10th century. The faithful reproduction stands as the symbol of Osaka, with an eight-story tower that contains a modern museum describing the history of the castle and its occupants. The surrounding park is also famous for cherry blossoms in the spring.
Osaka is a gastronomists’ town, and nowhere is this more evident than the exuberant nightlife district of Dotonbori. Flanking Dotonbori Canal in the heart of the city, this pedestrian promenade has been Osaka’s premier entertainment destination for 400 years, with throngs of people soaking in the neon-colored atmosphere as they visit restaurants, bars, food stalls, movie theaters and nearby bunraku puppet theater.
Hiroshima is a modern city with a long history, evident at landmarks like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei-en Garden. It’s also famous for its oysters and as a gateway to nearby Miyajima.
This gem of an island is considered one of Japan’s top scenic places. It’s been held sacred since ancient times prompting worshipers to build Itsukushima Shrine, now a World Heritage Site. The shrine is a strikingly beautiful icon with its vermillion-colored buildings and torii gate rising from the sea. Mount Misen, reached via trails or ropeway, offers splendid views of the Seto Inland Sea, while the island’s beaches attract sun worshippers.
- Okonomiyaki and Oysters
Hiroshima is famous for its own style of okonomiyaki, a savory pancake layered with cabbage, meat, and other ingredients like noodles or fried egg. Hiroshima Bay cultivates more oysters than anywhere else in Japan, producing some of the largest oysters you’ll see anywhere and served in a variety of ways. Miyajima is also famous for its oysters and even celebrates an oyster festival in early February.
How To Get There? Bullet Train!
It’s never been easier to explore Japan’s most famous sights.
If you ever thought that visiting Japan was just something for your bucket list, think again. Jump aboard Japan’s famous, and always improving, bullet trains and travel the Golden Route. Start in modern Tokyo, pass through Hakone with its majestic views of Mt. Fuji, and then end in the ancient capital of Kyoto a land of temples and traditions. But don’t stop there. Hop the train to nearby Osaka, and old merchant’s town that is now a bustling city famous for food and its nightlife. Or go further with a trip to Hiroshima, the city of peace and the jewel of Hiroshima Bay World Heritage Site Miyajima Island.