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Cities and towns

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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: Cities  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Kyushu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Kyushu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Shikoku  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Western Honshu  | 

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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Kyoto  | 

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: Cities  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Shikoku  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Northern Honshu  | 

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: Cities  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: ,

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: Cities  |  Category: Kansai  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  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: Cities  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Tokyo  |  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: Cities  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: ,