Places

Japan’s mountainous archipelago stretches over nearly twenty four degrees of latitude, from the boreal zone of Hokkaido in the north to the subtropics of the Okinawan Islands in the south. From Tokyo’s bright lights to Kyoto’s temples, from mountain temples to winter sports, and from hot springs to scuba diving, there really is something for everyone in this unique country.

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21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

In contrast to Kanazawa’s traditional architecture, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a startlingly modern building housing an impressive collection of contemporary art by renowned Japanese and international artists. Although exhibitions change frequently, permanent installations by James Turrell, Leandro Elrich, and Florian Claar make the museum well worth visiting no matter what else…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  | 

Adachi Museum of Art

The Adachi Museum of Art in Matsue was founded by Adachi Zenko in 1980 in order to combine his passions for Japanese art and garden design. He hoped that viewing the gardens and artwork together would foster appreciation and interest in Japanese art. The museum is now best known for its award winning garden, which…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple

Adashino Nenbutsuji is a small temple near the end of the Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street at the northern end of the Arashiyama sightseeing district, near its sister temple, Otagi Nenbutsuji. There are 8000 buddhist statues placed in memory of those who died without family dating back to the Heian period. These lost souls are remembered…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Akihabara

Akihabara – known colloquially as Akiba – is the heart of Tokyo’s electronic district and is something of a Mecca for otaku of all stripes. Which shops to visit depend very much on what you’re looking for, as some specialize in one thing only, while others have nearly every electronic device imaginable. Coming out of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Akita

Akita is both a prefecture and city in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. Its attractions are the natural beauty of its mountains and coastline, hot springs and the town of Kakunodate, which preserves one of Japan’s most interesting samurai districts. Akita city is also famous for its Kanto Matsuri Festival, which takes place at…

Type: Places  |  Category: Northern Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Aomori

Aomori is both the northernmost prefecture and prefectural capital on Honshu, Japan’s main island. Formerly the main transport hub for accessing Hokkaido, the opening of the Seikan Undersea Railway Tunnel and the rise of cheap domestic flights means that most travellers now bypass the city altogether. Today the city of Aomori is best known for…

Type: Places  |  Category: Northern Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Arashiyama

At the base of Kyoto’s western hills, Arashiyama and Sagano are most famous for their bamboo groves, which are spectacular (the most impressive grove is outside Tenryū-ji’s northern gate), but the area is also full of temples and gardens. Although there are many temples to visit, we especially recommend Tenryu-ji, Jojakko-ji, Gio-ji and the Nenbutsuji…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Asakusa

Asakusa is as close to the old shitamachi downtown atmosphere as it’s possible to get in modern day Tokyo. Centring on Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa is vibrant, festive, and somewhat nostalgic: very little has changed from the 1950s when the area was re-constructed. Senso-ji Temple, red, and pleasantly crowded with pigeons and sight-seers, is the oldest…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Atami

Atami is a seaside resort at the northeastern end of the Izu Peninsula, about an hour west of Tokyo by bullet train. Although it was much developed during the bubble economy of the 1980s, with many hotels and ryokan built along the coastline, today many of these hotels lie empty and the area is trying…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Beppu

Although there’s not much to be said for the town of Beppu, the area is one of Japan’s oldest hot springs resorts, and has long been famous for its onsen baths as well as its steamier “hells.” Columns of steam rise up throughout the town – Beppu is one of the world’s most active geothermic…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu, Southern Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Bizen

A famous pottery town in Okayama Prefecture, Bizen was one of Japan’s six ancient kilns and today remains at the forefront of Japanese ceramics.

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Byodo-in

This stunning temple in the small town of Uji near Kyoto combines Heian Pure Land style Buddhist gardens with Chinese-influenced architecture. The Phoenix hall was built in 1053 and is famously featured on the 10 yen coin. Various Buddhist treasures are on display throughout the temple and garden complex and especially in the small though…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Chiba

Chiba is the prefecture to the east of Tokyo. It’s most visited by tourists to Japan as the location of Narita Airport.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Chishaku-in

Within this Shingon Buddhist temple is one of Kyoto’s best small examples of tsukiyama gardening, with elements evocative of a mountain landscape, complete with cascade, bridge, and azalea bushes pruned to represent rolling hills.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Daikaku-ji Temple

Located on the site of a 9th century palace, Daikakuji was converted to a Shingon Buddhist temple in 876. Although the original buildings are long gone, the architecture and courtyard gardens retain the Heian Period style described in the Tale of Genji, and a large lake creates sweeping views across to the nearby mountains. Originally…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Daisho-in Temple

Miyajima’s main temple, Daishō-in is tucked back into the well-treed lower slopes of Mount Misen, about ten minutes south of Itsukushima-jinja. Daisho-in is one of the most important temples in Shingon Buddhism and the sect’s founder, Kobo Daishi, first began the practice of Buddhism on Miyajima. The temple has interesting pavilions, lily-filled ponds, and stone…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Edo Tokyo Museum

Unlike Ueno Park’s National Museum, which holds treasures and artifacts from throughout Japan’s history, the Edo Tokyo Museum focuses on the history of the city. Designed by Kiyonori Kikutake, the massive concrete structure, inspired by traditional raised warehouses, is a fine example of the Japanese architectural movement of Metabolism. Inside, life-size and scale models of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  | 

Fuji Five Lakes

The Fuji Five Lakes area is found at the northern base of Mount Fuji around Lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko. It is one of the best places to see fabulous views of Mount Fuji from a close distance and also a good base for those wishing to climb the mountain. Hiking, camping, fishing…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Fukuoka

Located on the northern coast of Kyushu, Fukuoka has since long ago served as Japan’s gateway of Korea, China and the rest of Asia. Having links with these foreign lands, it attracted considerable attention of continental Asian nations and it is not surprising that it was Fukuoka which came under threat from Mongol invasions of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Fushimi Inari Shrine

The best known of Kyoto’s shrines, Fushimi Inari is visually stunning: Thousands of torii gates form an unbroken tunnel of red, leading up to the crest of Mount Inari. Oldest and most famous of all the Inari shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha is, like the others, dedicated to the Shinto deity thought to protect…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan is really a shrine in three parts, the main part of which is next to the Tōshō-gū Shrine. The beautiful red Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to Nikkō’s mountains, in particular the long-dormant volcano, Mount Nantai, and makes up the third part in Nikkō’s World Heritage trinity. Don’t miss the sacred red Shinkyo bridge, which…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Ghibli Museum

Opened in 2001, Tokyo’s Studio Ghibli Museum is more than a museum of animation- it’s a kind of haven for art – stained glass windows and fanciful architecture, fresco, painting, and film playfully meld together to make a delightful place to take children – whether or not they are familiar with Ghibli’s films. Ghibli fans,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Gifu

An historic city, Gifu is known as the ‘belly button of Japan’ due to its central location. Best known for the famous cormorant fishing which takes place on the Nagara river from May to October, other highlights include a reconstructed castle perched high atop Mt Kinka, one of Japan’s largest Great Buddhas and some very…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Ginkakuji

More properly called Jishō-ji, the Silver Pavilion was, like the similarly named Golden Pavilion, built as a retirement villa and only later converted into a Zen temple. During its time as a residence in the late 15th century, Ginkaku-ji was, again like the Golden Pavilion a century earlier, the very heart of aesthetic Kyoto, playing…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Ginza

Ginza is the traditional heart of Tokyo shopping with department stores, art galleries, and breathtakingly expensive cups of coffee. The Mitsukoshi Department Store, the first to open in Japan, still operates here as do the Hankyu, Seibu, and Matsuya. With the fascinating food halls in the basements and their impressively priced melons, through clothing and…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Gio-ji Temple

Tiny Gio-ji Temple is often overlooked by the throngs of sightseers in Arashiyama but what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in charm and it’s one of our favourite temples in the area, not least for its fascinating history. The temple was named after Gio, a dancer from long ago…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Gion

Called geiko in the Kyoto dialect, geisha are disciplined artists under an elaborately-coiffed exterior, and Kyoto geisha’s famously rigorous apprenticeship as maiko ensures that the women who choose the lifestyle are talented and dedicated musicians and dancers. Geisha have, for many years, entertained at the most exclusive and important gatherings in Japan, and are proud…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Gunma

Gunma is a landlocked prefecture in the Kanto Region, famous for its many popular hot springs and scenic beauty. Among Gunma’s best known hot spring resorts are Kusatsu Onsen and Ikaho Onsen.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Hachiman-gu Shrine

Properly known as Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, this imposing shrine is Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine, and on holidays and festivals this is made apparent by the happy crowds of visitors. The shrine grounds are particularly lovely, including as they do a pond (the lotus blossom in mid-summer) and Japanese-style bridges, and the wide steps leading up…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Hakone

Perhaps the most famous of the fifty three stations on the old Tokaido Road from Kyoto to Edo, Hakone is most famous for its peaceful lake, steaming hot springs, and above all, for its views of Mount Fuji. Within easy reach of Tokyo, Hakone is a popular holiday spot, and a number of museums and…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Hakone Open Air Museum

Chōkoku-no-mori, (“the sculpture forest”), an intriguingly-named station on the Hakone Tozan railway line, is home to the Hakone Open Air Museum. The museum houses over 300 works by Picasso alone, as well as sculptures by many other famous artists, including Henry Moore, Rodin, and Miro. We highly recommend taking advantage of the hot spring foot…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Hamarikyu Gardens

Backed by skyscrapers and cloaked in green, Hama Rikyū Teien Garden is a peaceful oasis within Tokyo’s metropolis. Once a Shogun’s villa, where feudal lords hunted ducks in the tidal waterways, the garden was opened to the public in 1948 and features tidal ponds, plum groves, and a peony garden. We highly recommend stopping for…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Harajuku

Harajuku is a stunning example of how the traditional and the modern coexist in Tokyo. A short walk from Harajuku Station leads to a massive torii, welcoming visitors to the forested compound of Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is a popular site for Japanese Shinto weddings on weekends. Head only a few minutes’ walk in the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Hasedera Temple

Hase-dera Temple is marked by the steep stairs that wind up the slopes of one of Kamakura’s many hills, and by the thousands of Jizō statues which surround them. Despite the temple’s popularity, it remains a moving spot to visit, and we highly recommend leaving time to explore the grounds with their statues and ponds…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Heian Shrine

Though one of Kyoto’s newest shrines, the Heian Jingū is also one of the most impressive – the shrine gate is one of the largest in Japan, and the buildings are a replica of Kyoto’s Heian Period Imperial Palace. The gardens are best known for their weeping sakura (cherry blossom) trees, so are most popular…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Higashi Chaya-gai

One of only three chaya-gai (geisha districts) in Japan to be listed as a cultural assets, Kanazawa’s Higashi Chaya has changed little since its heyday in the early 19th Century. Not only are the buildings a beautifully preserved remnant of the old Japan, geisha still live and work here, and occasionally can be seen out…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Himeji Castle

The most impressive of Japan’s scant dozen original castles, Himeji-jo is also known as the “white egret castle” or the “white heron castle” for its stately white walls. The main tower is particularly interesting, but the grounds are worth exploring in their entirety. The castle buildings were renovated recently and were re-opened in March 2015…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Hiroshima

Rebuilt post-war, Hiroshima is a thoroughly modern city with glass buildings and wide boulevards. Hiroshima is, however, one of the few Japanese cities to have retained its tram system, giving the city a surprisingly quaint feel. The Atomic Dome and Peace Park are poignant reminders of Hiroshima’s tragic history, and millions of origami cranes are…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags:

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle, also called the Carp Castle, is a good example of a castle built on a plain in the center of a city as opposed to hilltop and mountaintop castles. Its main keep is five stories tall, and its grounds are surrounded by a moat. Also within the castle’s precincts are a shrine, some…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  | 

Hiroshima Peace Park

Visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum is likely to be most moving part of your trip to Japan. The spacious park is full of memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives on August the 6th 1945, as well as those who later succumbed to diseases, and is also home to the famous Atomic…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags:

Hokkaido

The northernmost of Japan’s main islands, Hokkaido is still thought of as frontier country. Much like the Wild West, Hokkaido conjures up images of cowboys, wilderness, and far horizons, but bills itself as the Far North, with deep winter snows and arctic references in Sapporo’s shopping districts. This unique culture is also defined by the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  Tags: , , , , , , ,

Honen-in Temple

A lovely and secluded temple just off the Philosopher’s Path, Honen-in was established in 1680 to honour Honen, the founder of the Jodo Buddhist sect. Set amongst a wooded hillside, the temple has a beautiful raked sand garden, moss gardens and a tranquil pond filed with koi carp. The main entrance to the temple is…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Honganji Temples

Nishi Honganji (西本願寺) and Higashi Honganji (東本願寺) are two large temples in the centre of Kyoto. As headquarters of the two factions of the Jodo-Shin Sect (True Pure Land Sect), one of Japan’s largest Buddhist sects, they are a good place to experience contemporary Japanese Buddhism. Nishi Honganji (West Honganji) was built in 1591 by…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Hyogo

Located in the Kansai Region, stretching from the Seto Inland Sea to the Sea of Japan and nestled between Osaka and Okayama, Hyogo’s largest city and prefectural capital is Kobe, its most famous tourist attraction is Himeji Castle, and its best known hot spring resorts are Arima and Kinosaki.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  | 

Ikaho

Ikaho Onsen is a hot spring resort nestled in the misty hills of Gunma Prefecture, about an hour by car from the Shinkansen Station at Takasaki and two from Tokyo. The forested hills behind Ikaho Onsen make up Ikaho Shinrin Koen, or Ikaho Forest Park, 224 forested hectares encompassing several small peaks, valleys, and beautifully…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Imperial Palace Gardens

Immaculately manicured, the Imperial Palace Gardens house Edo castle’s ruined keep, and are a wonderfully calm place within the hustle and bustle of the capital. The Japanese style gardens provide a wonderful taste of what the county has to offer. *Though the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public, special permission is required…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Inuyama Castle

The main attraction of the small town of Inuyama near Nagoya is its historic castle. Built in 1537 and surviving all natural disasters, wars and ownership changes, it is known as the oldest castle in Japan and was designated as a National Treasure in 1952. It is also the only privately-owned castle in the country…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Iriomote

An island in the Yaeyama district of south western Okinawa, Iriomote is Okinawa‘s second largest island. Largely undeveloped, nearly 90 percent of the island is covered by dense jungle and mangrove forests, much of which makes up the Iriomote National Park, the southernmost of Japan’s national parks. Iriomote’s attractions are based around tours to Iriomote’s…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Isamu Noguchi Memorial Garden

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a prominent Japanese American artist, sculptor and landscape designer. Although born, educated and based in the United States, Isamu Noguchi maintained a workshop in Japan and spent months at a time working there towards the end of his nearly 65 year long career. Noguchi’s major works include bridges at the Hiroshima…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , ,

Ise

Ise is known for its shrine, Ise-Jingu, one of Japan’s largest shrine complexes. The shrine dates back to the 3rd century, and comprises of the outer (Gekū) and inner shrine (Naikū). The Shinto tradition dictates that the shrine buildings are rebuilt every 20 years, as exact replicas of the original, using all the ancient construction…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Ishigaki

Ishigaki is the main island of the Yaeyama island group in south western Okinawa. The island offers several pleasant beaches and has good snorkeling and diving in the surrounding coral reefs. Snorkeling can be enjoyed at nearly every beach on the island, while diving is usually arranged through one of the many dive shops. For…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Ishikawa

Ishikawa is a prefecture in the Hokuriku area of central Japan, located on the Japan Sea coast. The prefecture’s capital and most famous city is Kanazawa, known for its stunning Kenrokuen Gardens. The northern part of the prefecture is the Noto Peninsula, a very scenic area of rugged coastlines and a lovely place to explore…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , ,

Isuien Gardens

Isuien is a very pretty Japanese garden close to Todaiji Temple. Isuien means “Garden founded on water”, and its name is came about because its ponds are fed by the Yoshikigawa River, which runs nearby. The garden is divided into two parts; Front & Rear, with several tea houses found in both parts. The front…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: ,

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine is built out over the water, as a spiritual threshold that separates the sacred island from the profane outer world. With its large torii gate standing nearby in the sea, it forms the iconic image of Miyajima. The shrine itself was first built in the 6th Century, and took its present form in…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Iya Valley

The Iya Valley is a remote, mountainous valley in western Tokushima Prefecture. Located deep in the heart of Shikoku Island, the secluded valley is characterized by steep mountain slopes and deep rocky gorges which were traditionally crossed by vine bridges. Three of the vine bridges, Iya Kazurabashi and the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges, are maintained to…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,

Izu

The Izu Peninsula is a resort area popular for its hot springs, beautiful coastlines, beaches, mild climate and scenic mountainous interior. Only an hour or so southwest of Tokyo, its proximity to the capital makes the area a popular weekend getaway and Mount Fuji is only about 50 kilometers to the north and can be…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , ,

Izumo Grand Shrine

Located in the city of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, about an hour west of Matsue, Izumo Taisha is one of Japan’s most important shrines. Although no records exist of exactly when Izumo Taisha was built, it is often considered the oldest shrine in Japan, already in existence in the early 700s as shown in the…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto is easy to miss: somewhat out of town and best reached by taxi or bus, but it is worth the trip. Now into its eight generation, the Sakai family has one of the largest best collections of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) in Japan, some of them very famous, and some…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Jojakko-ji Temple

Famous for its beautiful Autumn colours, Jojakko-ji is situated on the side of a mountain in Arashiyama and was established in 1596. The Taho-to pagoda, which is designated by the national government as an Important Cultural Property, was constructed in the 17th century. It is built in the gorgeous 16th-century Momoyama style and affords a…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Kaga Onsen

Kaga Onsen is a the name given to an area comprising four small hot spring towns about an hour south of Kanazawa. These hot springs have been popular onsen destinations since their discovery over 1300 years ago and are and remain popular onsen towns to this day. One notable aspect of Kaga Onsen’s hot spring…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kagoshima

Kagoshima, Kyushu’s southernmost, largest city, is sometimes called the “Naples of Japan”, due to its proximity to the smoking volcanic cone of Sakurajima. Historically, the city is the administrative, economic and cultural centre of the prefecture, and dates back to the 14th century. Originally a castle town, it has, throughout the ages, established itself as…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Kamakura

About 50km south west of Tokyo, the lovely seaside town of Kamakura is known for its large variety of shrines and temples, as well as a giant bronze Buddha. The Buddha, the second largest in Japan, was once housed in a grand temple, but a tsunami tore down the building in the 15th century, and…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Kamakura Great Buddha

Kamakura’s great Buddha, or Daibutsu, is undoubtedly the town’s most famous sight and dominates the grounds of Kōtoku-in temple. The 13.35m bronze statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple building, however after being destroyed many times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries, since 1495…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Kamikochi

Kamikochi is a highland basin more than 2,000 metres above sea level in the centre of the Japan Alps. At the heart of the Chubu-Sangakku National park, it is of truly outstanding natural beauty, with verdant slopes reaching up into jagged peaks and clear blue rivers flowing over white stones. The area is home to…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Kanagawa

Kanagawa Prefecture is found just south of Tokyo. Its prefectural capital is Yokohama and the prefecture is also home to Kamakura and Hakone, two very popular destinations near Tokyo.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Kanazawa

Kanazawa, best known for the stunning Kenroku-en Gardens, is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. Ruled first by Buddhist monks and then by the powerful and wealthy Maeda clan, Kanazawa was once one of Japan’s richest cities. It was also one of only a handful of cities to escape damage during the Second World War,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Kasuga Taisha (Grand) Shrine is Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine. Kasuga Taisha was also the shrine of the Fujiwara, Japan’s most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. It is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Katsura Villa

One of Japan’s most important cultural treasures, the Katsura Imperial Villa is considered to be one of the greatest examples of classical Japanese architecture, and its minimalist designs have inspired many Western architects. Completed in 1631, the Palace lies in Kyoto’s western suburbs, and the gardens are a masterpiece of traditional garden design. Today, the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kazurabashi

Historically, suspension bridges made of mountain vines (kazurabashi) were one of the only ways to transport people and goods across the rivers of the of the Iya Valley. Legend tells us that they were either first raised by Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism, or made by Heike refugees hiding out…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Kenrokuen Gardens

Listed as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kenroku-en is often said to be the best of the three. Founded in the Edo period, and opened to the public in 1871, the garden now features ponds, hills, and a number of buildings and tea houses. Kenroku-en famously combines all six principles traditionally…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  | 

Kerama Islands

Less than an hour by ferry from the main island of Okinawa Honto, the Kerama Islands boast unspoilt beaches, coral reefs, and stunning scenery. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular, and friendly sea turtles make unforgettable swimming companions. In the winter months, migrating whales pass near the Kerama Islands, making for spectacular whale watching.

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Kinkakuji

Generally known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1398 by Shogun Ashikaga, and served as a flourishing centre of the arts before becoming a Rinzai Zen temple in 1419. Though the gardens are superb, featuring a large pond with islands representing the landscape of the Buddhist creation myth, it is the Golden Pavilion…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kiso Valley

The Nakasendo Road runs through the very centre of Japan, brushing the shoulders of the Japan Alps and winding along river valleys and over forested passes. The best preserved of the five Edo Period highways, the Nakasendo Road connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Long stretches, particularly in the more mountainous regions, remain very much as they…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Kiyomizu Temple

Overlooking Kyoto from the base of the eastern mountains, Kiyomizu Temple takes its name from the pure water of the cascade which runs down the hill behind the complex. Founded in 780, this temple of the Buddhist Hossō sect is older than Kyoto itself, though Kiyomizu-dera has been rebuilt many times over the years –…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Kobe

Despite its merits as an attractive and culturally rich port city, Kobe’s real claim to fame lies in its world-renowned beef. As is often found in Japanese cuisine, this flavourful meat is as much of a delight to the eyes as it is to the mouth; one look at Kobe beef’s distinctive marbling is enough…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Kochi

Kochi is the capital of Kochi Prefecture on the southern coast of Shikoku and boasts several attractions of interest to travelers. A well preserved, original hilltop castle from the feudal period marks Kochi’s downtown and nearby on another mountain, Godaisan, pilgrims visit Chikurenji Temple, one of the 88 temples along the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The city…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: ,

Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle is one of only twelve Japanese castles to have survived the fires, wars and other catastrophes of the post feudal age. It was first constructed between 1601 and 1611, but most of its main buildings date from 1748 when they were reconstructed after a fire. The castle used to be the seat of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji is an outstanding temple, established in 1606 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. Its main buildings were constructed in the lavish style of the era of Japan’s unification with the financial support of Hideyoshi’s successor Tokugawa Ieyasu. You can visit Kodaiji’s main hall (Hojo), which was rebuilt in a…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Koishikawa Korakuen

Built in the Edo Period, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo’s oldest and loveliest Japanese gardens. Like most traditional Japanese gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen reproduces famous landscapes in miniature, using ponds, stones, trees, and manmade hills to copy both Japanese and Chinese scenes. A network of walking trails lead around to prescribed viewpoints from which visitors…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Kompirasan Shrine

Kompirasan is the main shrine of multiple Kompira shrines found around Japan that are dedicated to sailors and seafaring. Located on the wooded slope of Mount Zozu in Kotohira, the approach to Kompirasan is an arduous series of 1,368 stone steps. Over many centuries, Kompirasan had been revered as a mixture between Shinto shrine and…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Korakuen Gardens

One of the three most famous gardens in Japan (the others being Kairaku-en in Mito and Kenroku-en in Kanazawa), Koraku-en looks very much now as it did on its completion in 1700. Open to the public since 1884, Koraku-en is full of gorgeous views, green lawns (a surprising and unusual feature in traditional Japanese gardens),…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Kotohira

A small town in northeastern Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, Kotohira is primarily famous for Kompirasan, Shikoku‘s most popular shrine. Kompirasan is dedicated to seafaring, and is said to have one of the most difficult shrine approaches in Japan. Nearby is the historical Kanamaruza kabuki theater, Japan’s oldest surviving, complete kabuki playhouse, which still stages kabuki performances…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , ,

Kumamoto

On the western edge of Kyushu, the city of Kumamoto is best known for its castle and for Suizenji-Jōjuen garden, both of which are among Japan’s best. The city itself is, like most Japanese cities, is modern with hints of history. Kumamoto is a good base for exploring Mt Aso National Park.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , , ,

Kumamoto Castle

A large and extremely well fortified castle, Kumamoto-jo’s history dates back to 1467, when the original fortifications on the site were first built. It is considered one of the three premier castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Thirteen structures in the castle complex are designated as Important Cultural Property. The castle…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Kurashiki

Just west of Okayama, Kurashiki’s quaintly cobbled streets are lined with distinctive black and white tiled warehouses – built to store grain surpluses. Warehouses in the old canal district now house art and craft galleries, museums, and restaurants, and the willow-lined canals make Kurashiki a delightful place to visit. Kurashiki’s most famous gallery is the…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  | 

Kuwana

Kuwana is a smallish city located in northern Mie Prefecture, facing the Pacific Ocean. It is located at the mouth of the Kiso Three Rivers dividing Mie and Aichi Prefectures. Although the city doesn’t offer a lot of interest for foreign visitors, the nearby Nagashima Spaland is well worth a visit and if in the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Kyoto

Kyoto is where Japanese people go to see Japan. The capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is home to Japan’s best known Buddhist temples as well as many famous Shinto shrines, and streets corners are dotted with jizo statues and paper garlands decorating sacred trees and stones. Kyoto is quite simply a must-see destination. Known…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  | 

Kyoto International Manga Museum

More archive than exhibition, the Kyoto International Manga Museum has a huge collection of of over 30,000 manga (mostly Japanese, with some foreign publications), many of which can be read either inside the building or taken out into the courtyard, where you’ll find others sprawled on the grass engrossed in the stories. There are displays…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kyoto National Museum

Opened in 1897, the Kyoto National Museum, is one of Japan’s oldest and most distinguished museums. The museum’s permanent collection is presented to the public in rotating exhibitions and consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings. Highlights of the Kyoto National Museum’s huge collection include…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden

Measuring over 240,000 square meters and filled with over 12,000 different varieties of plantlife, Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden is considered Japan’s premier botanical garden. Originally built as part of an exhibition for the coronation of Emperor Taisho in 1913 but not completed until 1923 due to lack of funding, Kyoto’s botanical gardens were the first…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Lake Chuzenji

A short drive behind the town of Nikko proper the Nikkō national park begins, at the heart of which is Lake Chūzenji. Formed when the now extinct Mount Nantai last erupted, the lake area is refreshingly cool in the summer, and once acted as a summer residence for foreign embassies to Tokyo. There are walking…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Magome

Over the pass from nearby Tsumago, the old post town of Magome is slightly larger, with a mix of new and old buildings away from the strictly traditional main street. There is little in the way of museums or sights, but it makes a wonderful place to wander and get your bearings before starting the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Mashiko

Mashiko is located in the southeastern part of Tochigi, and it falls in the Prefectural Nature Park which spreads across the northern reaches of the Kanto Plain. The town is known throughout Japan and the world as a production centre of pottery. The origin of Mashiko ceramics can be traced to the middle of the…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan, Kanto  |  Tags: , , ,

Matsue

Matsue is the capital city of Shimane Prefecture, and is located on the eastern shores of Lake Shinji . Due to its location between two lakes, Shinji & Nakaumi, as well as the Sea of Japan, Matsue is also known as the “water city”. Matsue’s attractions include its original castle and the former residence of…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Matsue Castle

Completed in 1611, a few years after the final battle of feudal Japan, Matsue Castle is one the dozen original castles left in Japan, meaning that its main tower has survived to this day through fires, earthquakes and the anti-feudal demolitions of the Meiji Period. Sometimes called the “black castle” after its dark, austere exterior,…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Matsumoto

Matsumoto’s key attraction is undoubtedly its superb 16th century castle. The main keep is the oldest in Japan, and visitors are welcome to wander the ancient building and see the elaborate architecture designed to protect the occupants from attack. The area around the castle is a pleasant mix of ancient and modern: beautifully restored buildings…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s few original castles standing, and is, very justifiably, one of only four listed as national treasures. Of these, it is the second oldest. Known as the “Crow Castle” due to its unusual black colour, Matsumoto Castle was built during the late 16th century. The internal gun museum and an…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Matsuyama

Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku and the capital of Ehime Prefecture in the west of the island. Matsuyama Castle perches atop a hill in the centre of the city and from its lofty heights there are wonderful views of the city below and even – on a clear day – of the Inland…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , ,

Matsuyama Castle

Constructed between 1602 and 1628, Matsuyama Castle is one of Japan’s twelve “original castles” which have survived the post-feudal era since 1868 intact. It is also one of the most interesting castles in Japan. Perched atop Mount Katsuyama, a steep hill in the city centre, the castle’s main circle of defense (Honmaru) is accessible through…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: ,

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Tokyo’s largest shrine, Meiji-jingū, covers 175 acres and houses over 100,000 trees, making it a lush escape from the hard angles of the city. The shrine itself is austere and built using cypress and copper in the nagare-zukuri style. Though often busy with tourists and pilgrims, it is still extremely popular for weddings, which are…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Mie

Mie Prefecture is in the Tokai region in central Japan. It is the home of the most sacred shrines in Japan at Ise. Other places of interest in Mie include Nagashima Spaland, the Mikimoto Pearl Island, Toba Aquarium, the Meoto Iwa ‘married rocks’ (shown above) and Amanemu Resort.

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Miho Museum

Designed by the famed architect IM Pei, the Miho Museum was the dream of Mihoko Koyama (after whom it is named), the heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and one of the richest women in Japan. The museum houses her private collection of Asian and Western antiques, as well as other pieces with an estimated…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Miyajima

A short ride from Hiroshima across the Seto Inland Sea from Hiroshima, Miyajima quite literally means “Shrine Island” for its principal Itsukushima Shrine, the whole island has long been considered sacred by association. Miyajima is best recognised for its iconic red torii gate – an element of what is said to be one of the…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Miyako Islands

Just 45 minutes by air from Okinawa main island, the group of eight Miyako Islands are a paradise for divers and snorkellers. With 400km of water separating the Miyako Islands from Okinawa Honto, the islands boast unique wildlife, and are among the few islands of Okinawa not inhabited by the poisonous habu snake. This separation…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Mount Aso

Mount Aso, towering above the surrounding villages and paddy fields, is an active volcano and (closely monitored) rising fumes remind visitors of the very real danger. The conical active peak, Mount Naka, holds the dubious honour of Japan’s first recorded eruption, and is the real centre of hi no kuni: the land of fire. The…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Mount Koya

Not far from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s third largest city, the holy mountain known as Koya-san is one of the most peaceful spiritual centres in the country. Mount Koya is the heart of Shingon Buddhism and the resting place of the sect’s founder, perhaps Japan’s best known Buddhist, known as both Kukai and…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , , ,

Mount Yoshino

Located in the Yoshino-Kumano National Park at the center of Nara Prefecture along the Yoshino river, Mount Yoshino is considered to be the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Japan. The whole of Mount Yoshino is registered as a World Heritage site. There are around 30 thousand cherry trees in the area, which is divided…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Mt Fuji

Reaching its conical and often snow-capped volcanic peak 3,776 metres into the sky, Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san in Japanese, is Japan’s highest mountain – and in many ways its symbolic heart. Though dormant, Mount Fuji is respected, and revered, in a country very much tied to Shinto roots in which kami, or gods, inhabit natural…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Nagamachi Samurai Quarter

Kanazawa’s old samurai district, Nagamachi is characterized by earthen walls which surround the historical residences. Many of the houses can be visited, and we particularly recommend the Nomura residence, which is now a museum and well known for its verdant garden, the Ashigaru Shiryokan Museum, which features reconstructed houses of samurai foot soldiers, and the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Nagano

The host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano city is surrounded by world-class ski slopes and breathtaking summer hiking. Nagano city grew up around the Zenkoji temple. Founded in the seventh century, this ancient place of worship holds a statue of Buddha which is said to be the first such effigy brought to Japan. Every…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Nagasaki

The largest city in the prefecture, Nagasaki is sadly synonymous with the atomic bomb, being the second target of nuclear warfare by the United States in World War II. Visiting the tranquil Nagasaki Peace Park and imaginatively designed Atomic Bomb Museum, is a thought-provoking experience. Situated on the western coast of Kyushu, Nagasaki also played…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Nagoya

One of the largest cities in Japan, Nagoya is a hub of industry and shipping most famous for being home to Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi. Nagoya’s starkly modern cityscape belies its historic origins as the castle town of Owari, an important centre of power in feudal Japan, housing one of the three main houses of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Nanzenji

Even to the casual observer it is obvious that Nanzen-ji is one of the most powerful temples in Japan – indeed, since 1381 it has been named the principal Zen temple in Kyoto. The kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden of crushed rocks and shrubs with a backdrop of ‘borrowed’ scenery from the nearby hillside is said…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Naoshima

Japan’s Seto Inland Sea is dotted with ruggedly beautiful islands that rise sharply from the rough waters. Left behind by Japan’s urbanizing economy, these islands are redefining themselves as centres of art and architecture. Foremost among these is Naoshima, which is now well known in Japan and abroad for its modern museums, architecture, and sculpture….

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Nara

The capital of Japan from 710 to 784, Nara was built on a grid pattern, influenced by T’ang Chinese cities of the time. The first written records date from this period, and Nara is generally regarded as the birthplace of Japanese civilisation. The town’s greatest legacy for the visitor, however, is the collection of ancient…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Nara Park

Nara’s main sights are arranged around the grassy Nara Park, through which friendly deer freely wander – you can buy special deer-food sembei crackers which will make you popular! Here you’ll find Tōdai-ji, Nara’s most important and impressive temple, and home to Japan’s largest Buddha statue. Though the current temple structure is only two thirds…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , , ,

Narita

Though Narita is most famous as the site of Tokyo’s international airport, this city has a fair amount of sightseeing to offer its visitors. Narita town itself is composed of winding old streets and small shops reminiscent of its heyday as a popular destination for pilgrims in the Edo period. In stark comparison to Tokyo,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba lets visitors enjoy hands-on exhibits that are all about the cutting edge of science and technology. Visitors can interact with various scientific fields such as robotics, life science, space science, and environmental science. They also have a state-of-the-art planetarium which projects images of nearly 5…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

Nezu Museum

Originally founded in 1941 to showcase the extensive collection of industrialist Nezu Kaichiro, the museum was redesigned in 2009 by the well known architect Kengo Kuma. Located along a quiet bamboo passage off the busy Omotesando district, the museum showcases one of the world’s finest collections of Japanese and East Asian art, including seven works…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Niigata

Niigata Prefecture is a region of contrasts. From the towering mountains of the Japan Alps, to the depths of the Japan Sea, Niigata’s natural beauty shines through. The seasons are also starkly divided as the winter months’ deep snow earned it the nickname of Snow Country, but the summer brings sweltering heat. Niigata is particularly…

Type: Places  |  Category: Northern Japan  | 

Nijo Castle

Construction of Nijo Castle was begun in 1601 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and it is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The architecture was ostentatious for its day – designed to illuminate the Shogun’s growing strength in contrast to the emperor’s dwindling power. Don’t miss the ‘nightingale floors’,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Nikko

Nikkō is best known for its spectacular shrines and temples built during the Tokugawa Shogunate, particularly the Tosho-gu Shrine, which is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. Unlike the more austere shrines in other regions, the Nikko shrines are heavily carved and brightly decorated, and bear a particularly famous painting of a sleeping cat, as well…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Ninnaji Temple

One of Kyoto’s most interesting temples, Ninnaji was founded in the year 888 as an Imperial Residence but, like many historic buildings in Japan, has suffered repeated destruction in wars and fires over the centuries. Today, Ninnaji is the headquarters of the Omuro school of the Buddhist Shingon sect and features a large variety of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Niseko

Japan’s most famous ski resort is known for its incredible powder snow, spectacular back country skiing and the large number of foreign skiers who come to the resort town each winter, especially Australians. This influx of foreign skiers has made Niseko very accessible to English speakers and – compared with other ski resorts in Japan…

Type: Places  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  Tags: , , ,

Nishijin Textile Centre

Long considered to be symbolic of Kyoto, the beautiful fabrics of the Nishijin district have a history dating back over a thousand years. The Nishijin Textile Center, centrally located in Imadegawa, is a modern building where demonstrations and exhibits are held on the theme of the traditional Nishijin textile industry. In addition to regular kimono…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Noto Peninsula

The Noto Peninsula is a very scenic area in the northern part of Ishikawa Prefecture, best known for its coastal scenery. Because public transport in the area is limited, renting a car is the best way to explore.

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Oboke & Koboke

Oboke (大歩危, Ōboke) and nearby Koboke (小歩危) are narrow, high sided gorges near the entrance to the Iya Valley and popular places to visit. Formed by the gushing white water of the Yoshino River, their names mean “big dangerous steps” and “small dangerous steps” as their jagged rock walls are not easy to traverse. The…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Odaiba

Built on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba is ultra-modern, boasting wonderful shopping and entertainment. High on the list of activities here is the Ferris wheel. One of the world’s largest at an impressive one hundred and fifteen metres, it is an excellent way to look out over Tokyo. Odaiba is best known for its…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Ohara Museum of Art

Opened in 1930, the Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki was the first collection of Western art to be permanently exhibited in Japan. The museum originally consisted mostly of French paintings and sculptures of the 19th and 20th centuries but has since expanded to include paintings of the Italian Renaissance and of the Dutch and…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Oita

A prefecture in eastern Kyushu, Oita is home to Beppu and Yufuin, two of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts. Usuki is a former castle town located on the east coast of Oita. It is famous for its numerous stone Buddhas which are sculpted into the walls of cliffs and designated as national treasures.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , ,

Okayama

Okayama’s main attraction is Korakuen, one of Japan’s three most famous landscape gardens. This superb strolling garden, set against the backdrop of Okayama Castle, remains much as it did on completion over three hundred years ago. Okayama is a busy transport hub, and Korakuen makes a wonderful break for visitors changing bullet trains here. Nearby,…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Okinawa

Strung out to the south of Japan, the island chain of Okinawa reaches nearly as far as the Tropic of Cancer: pristinely white-sanded in the blue waters of the East China Sea. Originally an autonomous kingdom, the islands were once known as the Ryukyu Islands, and have a culture, climate and cuisine that are simultaneously…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , , , ,

Okinawa Main Island

The largest of the sub-tropical islands that make up Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa Island is also the most populous, with Okinawa city near the centre and the prefectural capital of Naha on the south west coast. Naha was also the capital of the Ryukyu kingdom, and Shuri Castle remains a justifiably popular attraction. Famous for markets,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Okunoin

Mt Koya’s Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered people in the religious history of Japan. Okunoin is one of the most sacred places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage spot. Since Kukai’s death in the 9th…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,
Omotesando

Omotesando

A broad, straight street lined with an avenue of zelkova trees, Omotesando Dōri is where sub culture meets high fashion; should you need to pick up any high-end brand goods, this is the place to do it. Omotesando also offers wonderful people-watching, any number of excellent cafes and restaurants, and there are a few architectural…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  | 

Osaka

Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, is famous for its bustling city life, thriving music and cultural scene, sense of humour and laidback approach. Osaka has always been a vibrant centre of commerce, and therefore also entertainment, as the two often go hand-in-hand in Japan. The area around Dotombori & Ebisu-bashi is a blaze of bright…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Osaka Castle

One of Japan’s most famous castles, Osaka castle played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The imposing castle structure towers five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and is built on a tall stone foundation. Equally attractive are the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: ,

Ota Memorial Museum of Art

A small but excellent museum near Harajuku, the Ota Memorial Museum of Art was founded in 1980 to showcase the vast collection of the late Ota Seizo, the former chairman of a large insurance company. The museum houses about 12,000 ukiyo-e works, including famous works by Hiroshige and Hokusai. Every month, a regularly changing exhibition…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

Otagi Nenbutsuji, like its sister temple Adashino Nenbutsuji, is a small but charming temple, hidden away at the far end of the Arashiyama neighbourhood and featuring 1200 stone sculptures of rakan, the Buddha’s disciples, all with different facial expressions and poses. The statues are scattered amongst a few small temples and pagodas. The statues themselves…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Rikugien

Built around 1700, Rikugien is often considered Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden alongside Koishikawa Korakuen. The garden is a good example of an Edo Period strolling garden and features a large central pond surrounded by man-made hills and forested areas, all connected by a network of trails. Rikugien is quite spacious, and it takes…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Rinno-ji Temple

Not far from the famous Tōshō-gū Shrine and the Futarasan Shrine is Rinnō-ji Temple, Nikkō’s most important Buddhist Temple. The temple dates back to the eight century, and is famed for its three statues, which are said to be Buddhist Incarnations of the native Shinto mountain deities enshrined at Futarasan Shrine, and are the largest…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Ritsurin

Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu is one of the largest in Japan, covering an impressive 75 acres. Built in the early Edo period and originally named for its chestnut trees, Ritsurin is now dominated by beautifully sculpted pines, which cover the tsukiyama, or artificial hills, and the banks of the many ponds, both large and small,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,

Ryoanji Temple

Nestled at the base of Kyoto’s Mount Kinugasa, Ryoan-ji Temple dates back to 983, though the temple was officially founded in 1467, and a number of the present buildings are reconstructions dating to 1800. More importantly, Ryoan-ji is home to Japan’s first, and arguably best, kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden. The garden is a masterpiece of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Sado

Popular for its stunning natural scenery, green hills and cliffs dotted with strange shaped rocks and small islands, Sado Island also has an interesting, though dark history. Because of its relatively secluded location, the island was used as a place of political exile for elements showing a tendency to oppose the system in power. Some…

Type: Places  |  Category: Northern Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Saihou-ji Temple

Commonly known as the Moss Temple, or Koke-dera in Japanese, the fee of 3000 yen and the complicated booking procedure keep this cultural jewel blissfully free of tourist crowds. Saihō-ji is possibly the earliest Zen garden, and, as in many Zen gardens, elements of the landscape are reflective of Buddhist philosophy. One example, a large…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Sakai Knife Museum

The area of Sakai in the outskirts of Osaka has a long tradition and history of knife making. During the Edo Period, following the end of the Samurai wars, blade makers began producing knives for cooking and, following its first import, knives used for cutting tobacco. The tobacco knives produced by the craftsmen of Sakai…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,

Sanjusangendo Temple

Sanjusangen-do is officially known as Rengeō-in. A Tendai Buddhist temple, it was built in 1164 to house 1001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. A fire in 1249 destroyed the hall and most of the statues, and reconstruction was completed in 1266. Though the golden statues are said to have one thousand arms…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Sanmachi Suji

San-machi Suji is the heart of Takayama’s old town, and the traditional houses lining the streets – many of which are open as museums – are well worth visiting. We particularly recommend the Takayama Yatai Kaikan (festival float museum) which houses the superb yatai between festivals. The old merchant houses of Yoshijima-ke and Kusakabe Mingeikan…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Sanzen-in Temple

Sanzen-in Temple is located in the Ohara district, about an hour north of central Kyoto. There are a number of smaller temples in the vicinity and Sanzen-in Temple itself has large temple grounds and a variety of buildings, gardens and walking paths. Sanzen-in is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism and was…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Sapporo

Sapporo’s historical claim to fame not only lies in the fact that it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, but in its status as one of the nation’s youngest major cities. Though it is now the capital of Hokkaido, famous across Japan for its ramen, beer and snow festival, it is hard to imagine Sapporo as…

Type: Places  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple, red, and pleasantly crowded with pigeons and sight-seers, is the oldest and most important Buddhist site in Tokyo, home to a small golden statue of the goddess Kannon which is so sacred that it cannot be viewed. Senso-ji’s main entrance is marked by an impressively large lantern that hangs suspended below the kaminari-mon…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Shibuya

Shibuya is known for fashion, shopping and entertainment, and it’s easy to see why when you arrive at the busy station area. The Hachiko exit, with its statue of a famously faithful dog, is a popular meeting spot, and if you follow the crowds across the famous intersection you’ll find no shortage of shops of…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Shiga

Part of the Kansai Region, Shiga Prefecture is located to the east of Kyoto. The prefecture contains Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake. Another attraction is Hikone with its feudal castle.

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Shikoku

Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. It consists of 4 prefectures; Kagawa, Kochi, Tokushima and Ehime and is known for its beautiful nature and for its food, especially the much loved sanuki udon!

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Shimane

Shimane is a prefecture in western Japan, found along the Sea of Japan coast in the Chugoku Region. The prefectural capital is Matsue. Highlights for visitors include Matsue and its castle; Izumo Taisha, Japan’s oldest shrine; Iwami Ginzan, a historic silver mine; and the Adachi Art Museum with its wonderful garden.

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is a large ward in Tokyo, Japan. It is a major commercial and administrative centre, housing the busiest railway station in the world and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the administration centre for the government of Tokyo. Shinjuku Station handles more than two million passengers every day. It is served by about a dozen…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

Shinjuku Gyoen

Melding traditional Japanese, French, and English landscaping, Shinjuku Gyoen’s 2000 trees make for a peaceful green space within Tokyo, particularly as they are backed by bustling Shinjuku’s skyscrapers. The garden – once designated as an Imperial Garden and only opened to the public after the Second World War – is wonderful place to stroll amidst…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Shirakawago

Although modern roads now make the traditional area of Shirakawa-go accessible in under an hour from the nearby city of Takayama, for many centuries the surrounding mountains and heavy winter snowfalls made the district nearly unreachable. Cut off from the rest of the country, the villagers at Shirakawa-go continued their traditional lifestyle until very recently,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Japan Alps  |  Tags: ,

Shizutani School

Built in 1670, Shizutani School is Japan’s oldest school for educating common people. It was built under the orders of Ikeda Mitsumasa, the head of the former Okayama feudal domain, who believed that samurai children and common children should obtain the same education. The most unique feature of Shizutani School is that the roof is…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Shukkei-en Gardens

Shukkei-en’s name roughly translates into English as “shrunken-scenery garden”, which succinctly describes the garden itself; natural features such as mountains, forests and valleys are shown in miniature in the garden’s landscapes. Through careful cultivation, the garden mimics a variety of natural scenic views. The garden’s history dates back to 1620, soon after the completion of…

Type: Places  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags:

Shuri Castle

Originally built in the late 1300s, Shuri Castle was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom and played an integral role in the political unification of Okinawa Hontou. Although it was destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the reconstructions are beautifully done and convey a sense of the glory of days gone by. The…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , ,

Suginami Animation Museum

Located in the heart of Tokyo’s anime town, the Suginami Animation Museum opened in 2005 and houses an informative introduction to the Japanese animation industry, as well as seminal cells, pictures and storyboards. A number of the exhibits are interactive: “How Anime is Made” provides a unique opportunity to try voice-overs, dubbing, and other aspects…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Takamatsu

The capital of Kagawa Prefecture, Takamatsu has been the political and economic centre in the region since the Edo period. Situated on the northern border of Shikoku and facing the Inland sea, A must-see location is Ritsurin Park, which features pavilions and ponds against a background view of Mt Shiun. Built by local feudal lords…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags:

Takayama

A quiet mountain town, Takayama descends into raucous revelry twice a year when tens of thousands of visitors flock from all over Japan for its legendary spring and autumn festivals. Each April and October, large, elaborate yatai floats are paraded through the streets by locals in traditional dress, and the Takayama festival is generally thought…

Type: Places  |  Category: Japan Alps  |  Tags: ,

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

The huge, majestic and ornate floats used in the Takayama Festival are stored away for the rest of the year and at any one time, four of the 11 floats can be seen at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan. The actual floats on display change throughout the year so that visitors can see the entire collection….

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Taketomi

Part of the Yaeyama islands in south western Okinawa, Taketomi is a small island just off the coast of Ishigaki.The small main village consists mostly of traditional style, single storied houses, surrounded by stone walls, and covered with red tiled roofs and traditional lion-like shisa statues to ward of evil spirits. The island has both…

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , ,

Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji is the most important temple in Arashiyama. It was ranked first among the city’s five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. It is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism. Built in 1339 by the ruling shogun, the temple”s buildings…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

The Garan

Legend has it that Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, threw a Buddhist ceremonial tool from China, where he had been studying, to Japan. Later, having returned to Japan, and in search of a place to base his new religion, he came across this tool in the branches of a pine tree on Mount Koya…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

The Japan Folk Crafts Museum

The “Nihon mingei kan” or the Folk Crafts Museum was founded by the leading Folk Crafts’ activist Muneyoshi Yanagi in 1936. “Mingei” literally means Folk Arts in Japanese. The museum was established by Yanagi in order to collect and preserve beautifully crafted objects by unknown artists or talented folk craft from all over Japan. The…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

The Japan Sword Museum

The workmanship of Japanese swords has long fascinated westerners, and the Japan Sword Museum is an essential stop for katana enthusiasts. The weapons are beautifully displayed in a single room and many are famous in their own right. They were made by some of Japan’s most skilled master craftsmen and some are as much as…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

The Philosopher’s Path

Roughly 3km in length, the Philosopher’s Path is one of Kyoto’s classic strolling routes and is named after a Kyoto University Professor of Philosophy who would meditate as he strolled along the path on his way to work each day. The route follows a cherry tree lined canal and passes a number of interesting temples…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

A must visit for fans of noodles, The “Shinyokohama Ramen Museum” is a unique museum about ramen, a very popular Japanese noodle dish originally introduced from China. The Ramen Museum presents the history of ramen noodles in Japan, including the big success of instant ramen. It displays the variety of noodles, soups, toppings and bowls…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

The Taya Caves

From roughly between the years 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks excavated an underground maze of tunnels behind Josenji Temple near Kamakura as a site for spiritual training. Dark, silent corridors lead to small, domed meditation chambers with walls and ceilings carved with fantastic creatures and Buddhist images, and on down to the spring room…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Toba Aquarium

Toba Aquarium is located on the waterfront of Toba Bay, close to the Mikimoto Pearl Island. The aquarium holds one of the largest collections of aquatic life in the country, spread out over twelve separate zones. There is no specific route to follow in the aquarium, and visitors can navigate the twelve zones freely. Animal…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Todaiji

Todaiji (“Great Eastern Temple”) is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,

Toei Animation Gallery

Founded in 1956, Toei Animation Company is one of the oldest and most respected animation studios in Japan. Most famous in the west for the serialized Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, as well as the movies Galaxy Express 999 and One Piece, Toei has, over the years, created hundreds of Japan’s best-loved anime. The…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Tokashiki

Tokashiki is a small island in the Kerama island group of Okinawa, located a short ferry ride from Okinawa Main island. Popular with young Japanese holidaymakers, Tokashiki has some stunning beaches although not much in the way of high level accommodation.

Type: Places  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Tokugawa Art Museum

A private museum housing the hereditary collection of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan, a family whose members ruled Japan as Shoguns from 1603 to 1867. The collection contains more than 12,000 items, including swords, armour, Noh costumes and masks, lacquerware, furniture, Chinese and Japanese ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings. The most important and valuable…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Tokushima

Tokushima Prefecture is situated on the eastern side of Shikoku and the prefectural capital is Tokushima City. Its is connected to mainland Japan by the Akashi-Kaikyo and Naruto Bridges, and can be reached from Osaka in two and a half hours. The prefecture is best known for the Awa Odori, a dance festival held in…

Type: Places  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , ,

Tokyo

Japan’s capital city is a truly mesmerising place. A myriad of stimuli competing for your attention and a constant buzz of jingles, neon, giant TV screens, and pop music help to make Tokyo one of the most thrilling and futuristic places on earth. A vast and complicated sprawl when you look at the rail map,…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum was established in 1872 and is the oldest Japanese national museum as well as the largest art museum in Japan. The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, including 87 Japanese National Treasures…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Tōshō-gū Shrine

The Tōshō-gū Shrine is Nikko’s main attraction, and is dedicated to the first of the Tokugawa Shoguns, Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. Unlike more austere shrines elsewhere in Japan, the Tōshō-gū Shrine is elaborately carved, decorated, and gilt. Most famous of the painted carvings are those of a sleeping cat, as well as the three wise monkeys…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Toyota Factory & Museum Tour

Based in Toyota City near Nagoya, the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall features exhibits and audio-visual presentations that illustrate Toyota’s vision of enriching society through car manufacturing, and of the auto maker’s history, as well as its most advanced car manufacturing technologies. The Factory Tour includes visits to the Assembly Shop & Engine Plant, which allows…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Tsumago

Tsumago, once just another post town on the Nakasendo road, is now the most famous of a handful of well preserved villages along the Kiso Valley stretch of the ancient highway. The town itself is most pleasant early in the morning or after the tourist buses (which park outside the pedestrian-only town) have left for…

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Ueno Park

Ueno Park, best known for its popularity as a cherry viewing spot, is in a way the cultural heart of Tokyo – nowhere else can rival the sheer number of museums. Ueno’s gems are the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the…

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Yakushima

Yakushima is a small subtropical island located off the southern coast of Kyushu and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is extensively covered by a cedar forest containing some of Japan’s oldest living trees, many of which are more than 1000 years old and are known as yakusugi. The most ancient of these trees are said…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , , , ,

Yamanashi

Yamanashi is a landlocked prefecture west of Tokyo in the Chubu Region. The northern half of Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes region are located in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Type: Places  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Yokohama

With a population of over three million people, Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city. Yokohama’s port was one of the first to be opened up to foreign trade in 1859, and consequently it has grown from a small fishing village to one of Japan’s major ports. Yokohama has one of the world’s largest Chinatowns, with…

Type: Places  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: ,

Yoyogi Park

Opened in 1967, Yoyogi Park is one of the largest of Tokyo‘s parks. Forming a buffer between Harajuku and the Meji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi Park is an exciting place to see modern Japanese youth culture on the weekends.

Type: Places  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Yudanaka

Of the nine hot springs that make up the Yamanouchi district, Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen are the best known. Bathing in the nine traditional wooden baths in Shibu Onsen is said to ward away evil and bring good health and longevity. The area owes its geothermic activity (and much of its tourism) to the nearby…

Type: Places  |  Category: Japan Alps  |  Tags: , ,

Yufuin

The small hot spring resort of Yufuin is not far from Beppu, a much larger resort town. Yufuin has many galleries, boutiques and charming cafes and is popular both as a day trip destination and as a place to stay. The town’s skyline is dominated by views of twin-peaked Mt Yufu and the area is…

Type: Places  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , ,