Japan is made up of 6,852 islands in the Pacific Ocean, with 43 distinct prefectures. There is so much to see and do in Japan, you probably can’t get it all done in one visit. If you’re planning a trip to the “land of the rising sun,” be sure to consider visiting these top ten tourist attractions while you’re there.
10. Hot Spring Hotels
If you’re looking to have a relaxing vacation, you should consider booking a stay at an “Onsen Ryokan,” which is a hot spring hotel. The Japanese islands lay on a volcanic belt, so there are over 27,000 hot springs all over the country, with 3,085 hot springs lodges. Japanese hot springs are famous for their healing properties. Some even claim that the waters clear skin and reverse aging. There are both modern and traditional style onsen hotels for you to choose from, and no matter where you go in Japan, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find an onsen ryokan nearby.
Just keep in mind before you go that it’s tradition to get completely naked when you go into a hot spring, so only go if you’re truly confident standing in front of strangers in your birthday suit… Or just pay extra to reserve a private area.
9. Mt. Fuji
If you love the outdoors, consider taking a climb up the 12,388-foot tall Mt. Fuji. The trails are only open from July to September, due to the fact that it gets very cold at the top of the mountain. If you’re only there for a day, you can climb to the 5th station, which is a 12-hour roundtrip hike.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can book accommodations near the summit of the mountain, so you can watch the sunrise together with other mountain climbers. Just keep in mind that this takes a full 24 hours to climb to the top of Mt. Fuji. If you’re not prepared to trek your way up the summit, you can still take pictures from far away. One of the most popular spots for photos of Mt. Fuji is Gotemba Peace Park in Gotemba City, which is open all year.
8. Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo is one of the many cities around the world that has its own Disneyland theme park. In 2001, an entirely new theme park opened in Tokyo, called Tokyo DisneySea. As the name suggests, the park has an aquatic theme, and there are plenty of water rides, which makes it a perfect place to visit during the summer. It features many of Disney’s water-themed movies like The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as well as some remastered favorites, like The Tower of Terror.
There is also an entire area devoted to Aladdin called “The Arabian Coast,” which will make you feel as if you’re really walking around the city of Agrabah. Aside from the rides, the park’s accommodations are incredibly detailed, like The Hotel Miracosta, which is a recreation of a Mediterranean harbor. Many people have called Tokyo DisneySea “the world’s best theme park,” but you’ll just have to visit to judge for yourself.
7. Akihabara and Harajuku
If you are spending a lot of time in Tokyo, Akihabara and Harajuku are the two top shopping districts in the city. Akihabara is an anime fan’s dream come true. Streets are lined with massive stores filled with cosplay, anime, manga, and electronics. It’s totally normal to see fans walking the streets dressed in full cosplay. For those of you who aren’t interested in anime, Harajuku is the fashion district, and it’s the perfect place to buy clothes you can’t find back home.
It’s filled with high-end brands as well as thrift stores selling second-hand clothing and accessories. In both of these sections of Tokyo, there are loads of entertainment options like live concert performances and themed cafes. To top it off, many of the stores let you shop tax-free.
6. Tokyo Tower and the SkyTree
One of the most well-known tourist attractions in Japan is Tokyo Tower, which was built in the 1950s as an antenna for TV broadcasts. Its design was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in France, and it even lights up at night, just like the original. Tourists climb the tower to its top observation deck every single day. However, Tokyo Tower is far from being the highest point in the city.
The tallest tower is called The SkyTree. Both towers give an incredible birds-eye view of Tokyo, and the SkyTree even has its own shopping center and aquarium. Keep in mind that tickets to both of these buildings can be expensive, and the lines are incredibly long. If you want a great view of Tokyo Tower without waiting in line, try visiting Shiba Park instead.
5. Matsumoto Castle
Shopping and amusement parks can be fun, but maybe some of you history buffs are craving something a little more traditional. Matsumoto Castle is one of the last remaining castles in Japan. It was built in the 1500s, and housed 23 different feudal lords during its lifetime.
The spring is one of the most popular times to visit, because the cherry blossoms surrounding the estate are in full bloom. The inside of the castle has been converted into a museum, showcasing weapons used in battles that were fought on the castle grounds.
4. Cat Island
If you’re a cat person, you should seriously consider catching a ferry to the small Japanese island called Tashirojima. The island is only 1.2 miles long, and over the past few decade, the population has gone from roughly 1,000 people all the way down to only 85. The dominant species living on the island are over 100 stray cats. Obviously, this is why it has earned the nickname “Cat Island.”
The locals believe that cats bring good luck, to the extent that there is even a cat shrine. Everyone on the island takes a collective responsibility to take care of the cats, so it’s not surprising that Tashirojima has a very strict no-dogs-allowed policy.
3. Seasonal Festivals
If you visit Tokyo in the spring or summer, be sure to take a walk through Ueno Park. In April, over 1,000 cherry blossom trees are in full bloom for only about a week. Enjoying the flowers is a thousand-year-old tradition called “Hanami,” where Japanese people to get outside to smell the cherry blossoms.
If you get hungry after a long walk, there are plenty of vendors selling food and drinks, or you can bring a picnic lunch. In the summer, you can find festivals where people dress up in a casual Japanese kimono called “yukata.” There are games, live performances, souvenirs, and tons of food.
2. The Studio Ghibli Museum
If you grew up watching the animated films directed by Hayao Miyazaki like Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro, you may want to take a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum. The museum is located inside of Tokyo’s beautiful Inokashira Park. Miyazaki purposely designed the museum to encourage visitors to interact with nature.
Both in and outside of the museum, there are places for children to play, and adult fans will appreciate a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the films they grew up with. Keep in mind that this museum is so popular you need to buy your tickets at least a month ahead of time.
1. Fushimi Inari
One of the most iconic places to visit in Japan is the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Southern Kyoto. In the Shinto religion, Inari is the god of rice, and it was said that he used foxes as his messengers. The most stunning and iconic part of Fushimi Inari are the thousands of red torii gates, which lead visitors to the summit of Mount Inari.
It takes 2-to-3 hours to hike through all of the gates, but there are plenty of places to stop and admire the various fox statues, or grab a bite to eat along the way. If you make it all the way to the top of the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Kyoto that you can’t find anywhere else.