Top 10 Things to See in Japan

With so many shrines, temples, zen gardens, and castles, strewn across the islands of Japan, where do you start?


Kiyomizudera Temple Photo © iStock/nicholashan

10. Hiroshima Peace Park 

Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (A-Bomb dome) and learn about the history in the peace park, where you’ll find exhibits of Hibakusha and monuments to pay your respects.

9. Sensoji Temple

Visit Tokyo’s oldest temple in the Asakusa district. On the way there, stop off at the street stalls and grab some handmade maneki neko – traditional good luck charms.

8. Kiyomizudera Temple 

Standing on the stage of Kiyomizudera Temple during fall at dusk. Photo credit: iStock/SeanPavonePhoto

Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the city of Kyoto, this temple is renowned for its cherry blossoms in the spring, and of course its impressive architecture.

7. Osaka Castle 

Visit the grounds of Osaka Castle, and walk among over 600 cherry blossom trees, a popular walking spot for travelers and locals alike. Discover the history of the building and head inside to explore an eight-storey museum. 

6. Kinkakuji 

A spectacular sight to see is the three-storey gold-leafed Zen Buddhist temple, overlooking a mirror pond in north-west Kyoto. While there, stop off at Hojo, the former residence of the head-priest’s, and Fudo Hall, a small temple housing a statue of a Buddhist wisdom king.

5. Meiji Shrine 

South Gate (Romon) of Meiji Jingu Shrine. Photo credit: iStock/magicflute002

In western Tokyo, adjacent to Harijuku Station, you will find Tokyo’s most famous shrine, Meiji Jungu. This Imperial shrine is dedicated to the enshrined spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

4. Tsutenkaku Tower

Tsutenkaku is a tower and well-known landmark of Osaka, in the Shinsekai district of Naniwa-ku. Photo credit: iStock/orpheus26

Visit Shinsekai district in Osaka at night to enjoy the view of Tsutenkaku Tower. The 320ft (100m) tall octagonal construction was modeled after the Eiffel Tower, and comes alive at night. If you get lost while walking around the district, keep looking to see the tower and maybe you can navigate your way back safely.

3. Ginkakuji 

Visit the Silver Temple of Ginkakuji in Kyoto’s eastern mountains, enjoy the serenity of the moss gardens and Zen of the grounds as you walk along the circular route.

2. Itsukushima Shrine 

Catch a ferry over to Miyajima island in Hiroshima to see Itsukushima shrine and its famous red torii gate. At high tide they appear to float on the sea. While there, you’ll see deer roaming the streets. These guys are known for stealing food when you aren’t looking – so watch your snacks closely.

1. Onsen Snow Monkeys 

A snow monkey in Japan. Photo credit: iStock/kojihirano

Head to Jigokudani Park, in Nagano, where you can see monkeys relax in the onsen. Useful tip: Keep your clothes on, this is for viewing only.

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