10 Best Cities to Visit in Japan

The list of the best cities to visit in Japan can be long, but there are many ways to narrow this list down to something that is more manageable.  When you are choosing where to visit in Japan, you might want to consider what activities you want to do and which attractions you want to see the most, as those two things can cut your list in half right away.  

10 Best Cities to Visit in Japan

1) Tokyo

It might be quite obvious that Tokyo makes the list of best cities to visit in Japan, since it is one of the most popular cities in the country.  As you walk the busy streets, you will pass by multiple skyscrapers, as well as shops and arcades. Add in the numerous themed restaurants and you will have enough stuff to discover, that you could

Tokyo - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

stay here for a month and still not see it all!  You will love the extraordinary cuisine in this city but take time in between bites to walk across Shibuya Crossing and view the city from up high at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. I also recommend seeing the Robot Restaurant show, if you don’t mind something a little surreal during your time in this city.  

2) Kyoto

Many people prefer Kyoto over Tokyo, which is why it might be your top city to visit in Japan.  Those living within this city stick to the traditional cultures and traditions, so you will see many wooden teahouses, as well as temples and shrines.  I recommend purchasing a colorful kimono for your visit, so you can blend in with the locals a little easier.

Kyoto- Best Cities to Visit in Japan

When it comes to which of the ten thousand shrines and temples to visit, I recommend the Fushimi Inari shrine, the Otagi Nenbutsuji temple, and the Tenryu-ji temple.  You may also want to see the Kurama-dera temple, as long as you do not mind taking a stroll across a valley after traveling to the village of Kibune.  

3) Hiroshima

You may remember Hiroshima from your days of studying World War II history, but you may never have thought to consider this area as one of the top places to visit in Japan.  While this city was almost completely destroyed during the war, it has been rebuilt and now has a modern vibe that will allow you to still pay your respects to those who lost their lives so many years ago. 

Hiroshima - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

I recommend stopping at the Peace Memorial Museum and Park to learn more about the atomic bombing and those who lost their lives on that fateful day. Afterwards, you can choose to venture over to Miyajima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine or you can indulge in a local specialty, like okonomiyaki, instead.  Okonomiyaki is a thick pancake batter that is full of vegetables and noodles and cooked all the way through.  

4) Osaka

Osaka might be the major business hub of this country, but there are many more reasons why this city must be included in the best places to visit in Japan.  This city is considered quite unique and you will see that as you explore the Kaiyukan Aquarium, the Shinsaibashi shopping area, the Dontonbori entertainment area,

Osaka - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

and the Video Game Bar Space Station.  I recommend that you check out the local foods while in Osaka as well, because I can guarantee that you will find a new favorite dish or two.  

5) Tsumago

This mountain village can be found within the Kiso Valley and you will feel as if you have stepped back in time as soon as you arrive there.  One of the most popular things to do in this part of Japan is hike part of the Nakasendo Way trail.

Tsumago - Best Cities to Visit in Japan
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

You can only get from here to the village of Magome, but it will give you an idea of how the hike went for those who did it more than three hundred years ago.  Once you are back in the village, you might be amazed at how quiet it seems, but it is only because there is hardly any traffic at all on the streets.  

6) Takayama

This is another small town in Japan, and you will find it near the Japan Alps.  Takayama is a must see in Japan and you will love the history that you encounter around every corner.  When you are not passing by the traditional wooden houses, you might find yourself near colorful shrines or on a bridge by the river. 

Takayama - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

I recommend wandering through the old town area early in the morning, so that you can appreciate the architecture without too many people in your way.  Afterwards, you can stop to see the thatched houses over in the Hida Folk Village before going to see the floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.  

7) Kanazawa

Not too many tourists find themselves in Kanazawa, which is disappointing since this is one of the best cities to visit in Japan. You will find multiple wooden teahouses within the geisha districts in this city, but the most popular ones are Higashi Chaya, Kazuemachi, and Nishi Chaya. 

Kanazawa - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

While you might only want to wander around the Gyokusen-en Gardens, I recommend also making the time to experience a traditional tea ceremony too. There are numerous art museums to see as well, but make sure you don’t forget to visit the castle, or you will miss one of the best landmarks in Kanazawa.  

8) Sapporo

Sapporo is famous for the beer that seems to flow without stopping, but this city mostly became popular when the Winter Olympics arrived there during the 1970s.  When you are not drinking a pint or two, you may find yourself over at the ramen theme park, which serves up many different types of ramen soup.

Sapporo - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

The list of soups is long, but the ones that are often encouraged include tonkotsu, shio, miso, and shoyu.  While any time of year is perfect for visiting Sapporo, February will be the busiest, because that is when the Sapporo Snow Festival is held each year.  

9) Koya-san

This town is another of the ones that truly honors the traditions and cultures of the country.  Koya-san is considered sacred and secluded and it is the only destination in Japan that we know of where you can stay

Koyasan - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

in a shukubo and get an idea of how it is to live like a monk.  While you are here, you might also want to take a stroll through the Okunoin forest cemetery, which is the largest cemetery in the entire country.  

10) Nara

Nara is filled with Japanese famous landmarks, which is why this destination will need to make your list of places to visit in Japan.  There are so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites to see and they are all full of historic treasures. The largest wooden building in the entire world, Todaiji, can be found here, and while the building is impressive,

Nara - Best Cities to Visit in Japan

the fifteen-meter-high Buddha inside will truly take your breath away.  As important as the temples in this area are, you should also take a little time to explore Nara Park, so you can see the wild deer that live there.  

These are the ten best cities to visit in Japan and while they may seem similar, I guarantee that each one has something unique that you will not want to miss.  It is best if you can visit all these places to see in Japan during one trip, but you can split them up if you really need to and want to focus more of your time in each one.  

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