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Top Attractions in Japan 2022/2023 - Best Things to Do in Japan

Top Attractions in Japan 2022/2023 - Best Things to Do in Japan

By CarolUpdated Jan. 5, 2022

Japan is an incredible destination for any traveler who wants not only to eat incredible food but also to experience a rich and ancient culture that has an increasingly modern side.

Today, Japan is often called the country of opposites, due to its commitment to ancient methods and love of new technology. Here you will be able to experience traditional ceremonies, culture, and art, while also taking in some of the world's most modern cities.

There is so much to see and explore in Japan, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we discuss some of what we regard as the top attractions in Japan.

Those below are all attractions we love and know our customers also love, from the chaotic Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, to the Five Lakes of Mount Fuji and the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto.

Highlights

  • In Tokyo, our top recommendations are the Shibuya Crossing, where travelers can experience the chaos of one of the busiest intersections in the world, and Tsukiji Market, where there's plenty of street food to sample.
  • For nature-lovers, we suggest seeing the incredible Mount Fuji and staying in the area of the five lakes, or heading to Jigokundani Monkey Park in the winter.
  • If you want to explore more of Japan's ancient history, you can check out Ogimachi Village, Himeji Castle, and Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji temples.
  • If you like picturesque sights, head to the Fushimi Inari shrine and the Arashiyama area of Kyoto.
  • If you want a great dining experience in an ancient district, spend an evening exploring Gion or Pontocho in Kyoto.

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Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

Said to be one of the busiest intersections in the world, seeing the Shibuya Crossing is a great way to sense the beating pulse of Tokyo. At first it seems to be a normal city intersection, with billboards, shops, and advertisements.

Every few minutes, however, when traffic lights turn red, the crosswalks open up for pedestrians who spill out into the streets in all directions, creating an incredible display of city life.

The best times to visit the crossing are Friday and Saturday nights, when crowds are at their largest and are illuminated by neon lights. Great places from which to observe the chaos of the intersection would be second-story restaurants or coffee shops in the surrounding area. Or you yourself could join everyone else as they cross.

Tsukiji Outer Market, Tokyo

Tsukiji Market is a large and famous wholesale market specializing in high-quality seafood. Although exploring the market would be very interesting, helping you see one main source of Tokyo's cuisine, we suggest exploring Tsukiji Outer Market, adjacent to the wholesale side, but selling goods catering more to the individual.

Tsukiji Outer Market is often called Tokyo's Food Town, due to the numerous stands and restaurants there selling all kinds of traditional Japanese cuisine, from sushi to egg rolls and other ready-to-eat meals. If you're a foodie then the Outer Market is a great place for spending a day.

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Mount Fuji and the Five Lakes

Mount Fuji is Japan's most famous mountain, renowned for its incredible beauty and symmetry. Even if you aren't a hiker or mountaineer, a trip to the mountain and the surrounding area would be an incredible experience.

Many people choose to stay in the foothills of the mountain (the Five Lakes Region) in order to relax in the volcanic hot springs, while enjoying a view of Mount Fuji in the distance.

The five lakes surrounding Mount Fuji include Lakes Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko. These impressive lakes were formed hundreds of years ago during Fuji's volcanic activity, from lava flowing from the mountain.

Visitors to the area can stay in ryokans; traditional Japanese hotels with unmatched customer service, traditional food, and natural hot springs available to guests.

Ogimachi village, Shirakawago

Visiting Ogimachi Village is like traveling back in time to ancient Japan. With several dozen well-preserved 250-year-old gassho-zukur farmhouses, it's a great place to explore for understanding more about Japanese history.

Many of these old-style farmhouses have now been transformed into restaurants, museums, or stores, but each of the incredible ancient homes has been converted without damaging it.

Visiting Ogimachi is a great way to take a break from Japan's bustling cities by exploring the narrow roads of the village, as well as the beautiful gardens and wildlife surrounding it. This has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, and is a great place to visit.

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Jigokundani Monkey Park, Yamanouchi

Jigokundani Monkey Park is located in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, also known as "hell's valley" due to the volcanic activity that causes boiling water and steam to seep up from the snow-covered ground. Jigokundani is especially famous for its large population of snow monkeys, which live in the park during the winter months.

When visiting this park in winter, visitors will have the incredible experience of seeing these snow monkeys warming up by bathing in the natural hot springs in the area.

The monkeys are wild, but are also accustomed to being near humans and will often ignore them. It is forbidden for guests to touch or feed the monkeys, but catching sight of these critters taking baths and playing is sure to entertain.

Kinkakuji and Nijo Castle, Kyoto

Tucked away at the foot of the mountains in Kyoto is Kinkakuji, Japan's best-known temple. Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen temple famous for the gold-leaf that covers its walls.

Although small, there's no denying this temple's spectacular picturesque beauty, which is not only due to the brilliant gold-leaf, but also to its natural surroundings and its reflection on the adjacent still pond.

While you're checking out beautiful ancient buildings in Kyoto, we also recommend visiting Nijo Castle which is one of Kyoto's most popular and impressive attractions.

Built by a shogun in the Edo period (1603-1868), Nijo has large stone walls surrounded by a deep moat, reminiscent of European castles. Characterized by grand and imposing structures, the castle is a testament to the power of shoguns at that time in Japanese history.

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Ginkakuji and the Philosopher's Path, Kyoto

Ginkakuji, better known as the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, is a beautiful Buddhist temple at the base of Kyoto's eastern mountains. Modeled after Kinkakuji, this temple is also breathtakingly beautiful but in a very different way.

Originally, the temple was meant to be plaid in silver-leaf, but as it never was, the outside remains a wood-brown, embodying the Japanese belief that plain is beautiful.

While visiting Ginkakuji, you can explore the famous Philosopher's Path, a 2-kilometer-long pathway that runs from Ginkakuji to Nansenji Temple.

The Philosophers Path is a beautiful and peaceful walkway lined with cherry and maple trees. The path is named after the philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who spent his time thinking of complex problems while walking through this area.

Kiyomizudera Temple and Higashiyama, Kyoto

The Higashiyama District of Kyoto is one of the city's best preserved historical districts. Here you can get a feel for ancient Japan with narrow lanes, wooden buildings, and traditional shops. Although many of the buildings in the area have kept their traditional appearance, today they contain modern businesses such as cafes and restaurants.

The Higashiyama District is also home to the Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple), founded in 780 AD and deriving its name from the nearby waterfall.

Kiyomizudera is especially known for its large wooden stage, offering a beautiful view of Kyoto in the distance, as well as of many cherry and maple trees which bloom in vibrant colors in the spring and fall.

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Gion and Pontocho, Kyoto

If you are looking for an evening with incredible food in Kyoto, then you can head to either Gion or Pontocho.

Gion is in the heart of Kyoto and is known for being the city's most famous entertainment and geisha (Japanese hostess) district. Full of bars, restaurants, and teahouses, it has a great atmosphere. It's well-worth spending an afternoon there.

One of the most picturesque times to visit Gion is at night, when the lanterns which line the streets are lit, and when you can see geisha making their way to teahouses and shows.

Pontocho is another great place for spending an evening in Kyoto. It is packed with restaurants on all sides, ranging from inexpensive to rather fancy. In the more expensive restaurants, modern Kyoto cuisine is served in fine surroundings and styles.

Many of the restaurants in the area overlook the river, making for a night not only of incredible food but also with a romantic and relaxing atmosphere. Pontocho, like Gion, has geisha, who are most likely to be first spotted around 5 or 6 pm.

Fushimi Inari and the Sake district, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari is a beautiful Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto famous for its thousands of bright red torii gates, which cover the trails leading towards the mountains. You might recognize the Fushimi Inari shrine, with its striking colors and contrasts, for it made an appearance in the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha".

The Fushimi area of Kyoto also has a sake brewing district, located along the Horikawa River. There are nearly 40 different sake breweries there, all of which use the cool and fresh river water in the brewing process. Some breweries are open to the public and offer tastings, restaurants, and museums.

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Arashiyama, Kyoto

The Arashiyama District is outside Kyoto and is renowned for its beautiful bamboo groves. This area of Japan is a great place for escaping the large cities and discovering some of the country's renowned natural beauty. Arashiyama is a charming place to explore, full of beautiful gardens, tea houses, and temples; also with a Zen meditation hall.

The main parts of Arashiyama are often crowded with tourists trying to get the best views. However, Arashiyama covers a very large area and you can escape the crowds by renting a bicycle and exploring the less crowded but equally beautiful parts of the district.

Himeji Castle, Himeji

Himeji Castle is often considered Japan's most impressive and spectacular castle, due to its elegant white appearance and imposing size. One of the country's 12 original castles, Himeji is quite unique, especially since it has been well-preserved and never destroyed by war, earthquake, or fire.

The castle complex is made up of over 80 buildings in the large 400-year-old complex, full of beautiful gardens and pathways. The main castle building sits at the highest point of the hill and towers over everything else in the area.

Himeji Castle is a popular place for experiencing sakura or the blooming of the cherry blossom trees in springtime, as its gardens are full of cherry trees.

You might like to read

Top Things to Do in Japan

Top 15 Landmarks of Japan

Eating and Drinking in Japan

Traveling Round Japan by Bullet Train

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