If you are thinking about traveling to Japan, you probably know about some of the most famous places in the country, like Tokyo and Kyoto. (Or perhaps you want to know more about Japan’s famous cherry blossom season? See the Blessing Bucket’s Everything You Need to Know bout Cherry Blossom Season.) You might still be wondering about the specifics of what to do in Japan or just looking for more travel inspiration. Either way, we’ve gathered a list of six travel bloggers’ favorite spots in Japan. From urban delights, to spectacular cultural locations and beautiful nature, these highlights are sure to inspire you and enhance any itinerary that you might be planning for this exceptional country. If you’d like more tips for traveling to Japan, be sure to check out our guide!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
by G. Isabelle of Dominican Abroad
For two weeks, I traveled throughout Japan from Nikko to Osaka. I enjoyed and came across gorgeous architecture, traditional Japanese rituals, delicious food, cozy streets, lush mountains, and bucolic countryside views. But what captivated me the most was my experience at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. One quiet night, on my e-bike, I peddled through zigzag streets of Kyoto until finally reaching this shrine. I was immediately awestruck by its quaint ambiance and beauty at first sight. I was one of only three people there. Unlike most other shrines, Fushimi Inari is open 24 hours, which many travelers are unaware of. It was the first shrine I was able to fully take in and enjoy peacefully and without the pressure of crowds and camera flashes. The deep orange-red hues of the torii gates temple contrasted beautifully against the night’s darkness. It was one of my most memorable experiences of Japanese spirituality, beauty, and culture and I strongly recommend it.
Kamikochi National Park
by Sarah Carter of ASocialNomad
Kamikochi National Park is a free to access National Park in the Japanese Alps. It is quite simply a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains. The day hiking here is easy, with short walks and a combination circular trail that crisscrosses the river running through the park. There are stunning views throughout the park and trails are a combination of boardwalks, paving and reinforced track. Kamikochi NP has toilet facilities, café’s, a souvenir shop and a very helpful information centre. You won’t find any trash facilities in the park, so pack it in and pack it out!
The park is most easily accessed from Matsumoto via a combo train and bus ticket, which you can buy from Matsumoto train station. A combined return transport ticket will cost around USD$38, the views are spectacular on the bus.
by Noel Cabacungan of Ten Thousand Strangers
Little Edo is a small district of Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture. It is one of the many areas in Japan that has preserved most of its architecture which dates back from the old Edo Period (1603-1868). Kawagoe is just a 30-minute train ride from Central Tokyo and if you happen to be in the capital, a short day trip to this district should definitely be on your itinerary.
Some of the must-see attractions in Little Edo includes the old clay-walled warehouses popularly known as the Kurazukuri no Machinami (Warehouse District), the centuries-old Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower) which still functions to tell the time at several intervals throughout the day, the numerous temples around, and the popular candy street where you can buy traditional Japanese candies and snacks.
If you’re really in for the experience, wear your traditional Japanese costumes and ride one of the jinrikishas (pulled rickshaws) which will tour you around Little Edo for only ¥6,000 for an hour.
by Patrick Muntzinger of German Backpacker
Competing with famous tourist destinations such as Tokyo and neighboring Kyoto, Osaka is often overlooked by travelers. However, I had a wonderful time exploring this city and there’s much to do and to see. Make sure to visit the famous castle, which offers you some culture, history and a great view on the city. Plan a stop at the world-famous Aquarium if you’re interested in marine wildlife. Make sure to visit the popular and hip neighborhood of Dotonbori – the touristic center of the city. This place is especially great in the evening, with millions of lights, LED screens and people – the Time Square of Japan! For the best view on the skyline, get on top of the Umeda Sky Building. This place with its unique architecture and its breathtaking panorama is another highlight of Osaka. Enjoy your visit!
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
by Matilda of the Travel Sisters
One of my favorite places in Japan is the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen actually consists of three different types of gardens: Japanese traditional, French formal and English landscape garden. Tokyo can be hectic so this large and peaceful park is a great place to spend a few hours exploring the garden or enjoying a picnic. Home to a large number of cherry trees, it is also one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) during in the spring. Even during the busy cherry blossom season, the park is not as crowded as most places in Tokyo making it a relaxing oasis in the middle of the city.
By Ingrid Truemper of Second-Half Travels
Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Takayama preserves Japan’s traditional culture in its photogenic historic architecture, legendary handicrafts, and intricately decorated temples and shrines. Wander the narrow streets of Takayama’s picturesque merchants’ quarter, lined with wooden houses dating from the Edo Period. Don’t miss the colorful morning markets, which sell local snacks and crafts in addition to fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn, is ranked one of Japan’s best. If you can’t make the festival, be sure to check out the gorgeous floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
Takayama also makes a great base for exploring the Japanese Alps. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, famous for its unique thatched-roof houses, is a popular day trip from Takayama. Better yet, spend the night at a traditional inn to experience the tranquility after the crowds of day-trippers depart. Hida-Furukawa is a charming village 20 minutes by train from Takayama. It’s strikingly similar in layout and architecture to Takayama, but much less touristy. Stroll the peaceful streets of its lovely canal district, where beautifully preserved white-walled storehouses overlook waterways teeming with colorful carp.
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