Nicknamed the Land of the Rising Sun, the island country of Japan is both captivating and dynamic. Unlike anywhere else in the world, Japan is famous for its astonishing natural beauty, welcoming culture, ancient landmarks and advancements in tech. We’ve explored some of Japan’s most popular cities to inspire your travels in 2019, and what they can offer as a holiday destination.
Japan’s vibrant capital is said to be one of the largest in the world with over 13 million people living there. Originally called Edo under the Emperor’s residence until the 19th century, the city is now a metropolis of sky scrapers, cutting edge fashion and high-tech gadgets. Age-old traditions and landmarks are still present though, which makes Tokyo a fascinating blend of old and new.
Tokyo has an eye popping skyline and one of busiest public intersections in the world, Shibuya Crossing. Some of the iconic buildings include the world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower Skytree at a whopping 2, 000 ft. tall, and Tokyo Tower which is the second tallest in Japan and inspired by the Eiffel Tower.
Japan’s culture is captivating, and in Tokyo you can experience it in full effect. Away from the city’s amazing modern architecture, Tokyo boasts ancient temples, museums, castles, gardens and palaces that are steeped in history. You can even visit Tokyo Disneyland for those who are seeking some real themepark adventures!
By night, Tokyo is ablaze with neon lights, karaoke bars and street food vendors selling traditional and unusual delicacies. The city is fast paced but full of adventure on every corner, meaning no two days need to be the same.
While Tokyo is thriving 24/7, just outside the city is the snowcapped Mount Fuji which is a must-visit when in Japan. You can get here via public transport from Tokyo, so it’s perfect for a day trip. Early July to mid September is the official climbing season when the trails and mountain facilities are open.
This symbolic holy mountain has inspired writers and artists, and is visible for many miles in every direction. It’s surrounded by five lakes: Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Sai, Lake Motosu and Lake Shōji, and forms part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
Kyoto was the capital before Tokyo and is still one of the largest cities in Japan. It has survived many wars and fires, but remains an important city with a large community. As the cultural capital, there is still a big arts and crafts presence, traditional teahouses, religious temples and breathtaking gardens to explore on your visit here.
Some important landmarks include Nijo Castle in central Kyoto, the former residence of the shogun during the Edo Period. Kyoto Imperial Park encompasses Sento Palace and Imperial Palace right in the city centre and is worth a visit. In the east, you can visit Kyoto National Museum and explore Higashiyama – one of the city’s best preserved historic districts.
Head north and you can visit Shugakuin Villa and the intricately designed Kinkakuji Temple which is covered in gold leaf. The iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine in the south featured in the film Memoirs of a Geisha, and is the most visited shrine in Kyoto. To the west in the Arashiyama area, Bamboo Grove is probably one of the most iconic tourist spots in Kyoto. The stretch runs between Tenryuji Temple and Okouchi Sanso Garden.
Japan’s second largest city is an economic powerhouse, but offers a more relaxed feel to Tokyo. It’s the perfect base to explore nearby Kyoto too, meaning you can see more of Japan in one trip. Much like its neighbour, Osaka has an abundance of temples and gardens with some incredible architecture too.
Osaka Castle stands tall on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which has been reconstructed over the years. It’s surrounded by Osaka Castle Park which is a popular hanami spot during the cherry blossom season during April. Some of the city’s best attractions include the Museum of History, Universal Studios and Osaka Aquarium.
Downtown, Minami is a major entertainment district full of shopping and dining outlets, and a couple of theatres. It’s centered around Namba Station and Osaka City Air Terminal. If you prefer to escape the city’s bustle and bustle for a while, Minoo Park is a forested park with waterfalls and hiking trails just 30 minutes outside Osaka.
This largely underdeveloped island and covers over 80, 000 square meters. The area is vast, with a mix of lush green forestation, ski resorts and volcanic backdrops. The climate here is cold during winter with snowfall, so it’s a popular destination for outdoor lovers, skiers, cyclists and hikers. During the summer months between July and August, it’s milder and best for sightseeing.
Hokkaido’s capital city, Sapporo, bears similarity to New York with a wide grid-like road system. Sapporo became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held there, but today its well known for the local beer, fresh seafood markets and the Sapporo Snow Festival. Popular ski resorts include Tiene and Kokusai just outside the city.
Elsewhere, you can visit Susukino which is Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo. Typical of the culture, you’ll find all manner of restaurants, karaoke bars and ramen shacks to indulge in. Why not see Hokkaido from a vantage point at Mount Hakodate? You can take a cable car ride and the views are particularly impressive at sunset.
Fukuoka has been an important harbour city for centuries, and is Kyūshū’s largest city. It’s made up of two former towns – Fukuoka and Hakata – which were once split by the Nakagawa River. This friendly city has a host of exciting attractions, shopping and dining options, as well as quiet public spaces like Ohori Park and Uminonakamichi Seaside Park.
The first ever Zen temple in Japan, Shofukuji Temple, still remains here and is a popular attraction for visitors. In Hakata, Canal City is a large entertainment complex that has around 250 shops, cafes and restaurants, cinemas and more. Ramen is a big deal here, so it’s the best place to sample this local specialty.
From Fukuoka it’s easy to plan day trips to nearby towns and places of interest. Dazaifu is recommened to see the famous Tenmangu Shrine, dedicated to Tenjin the guardian deity of students. In Yanagawa, you can wander the pretty canal ways famed for delicious river eel.