My bucket list for places to visit in Japan is huge. Still, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Japan – living in the country and traveling around often.
This list will change, but for now, here is my favourite 8 places in Japan…
Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture is easy to get to – 2 trains at the very minimum, a cable car and bus – but this mountain town is dotted with spectacular sites. Visitors typically stay in an actual temple and can participate in Buddhist prayer.
Daigo Temple is 1 of 17 on the list of world heritage sites in Kyoto. I visited on a very hot summer day, during the Japanese school holiday, and the place was mostly empty. The temple is actually just outside of Kyoto city, a little further out compared to the more well known sites of Kyoto.
The shrine complex has 3 distinct areas. My favourite building here is the gojū-no-to 「five storied pagoda, 五重塔」 which has stood since 951.
Travel Guide: Daigo-ji, Kyoto: Travel Guide + Photos
Fushimi Inari Taishi
Fushimi Inari Shrine is a must-visit site in Kyoto. It’s another one on the list UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto. This mountain shrine is stunning. Walking along the 4km of mountain paths, lined with thousands of vermilion torii gates, you forget what era you’re in… you could be strolling through Muromachi period Japan.
One summer in Japan I stayed with a friend in the Kiso Valley of Japan. We hiked Mt Ontake in Nagano Prefecture. We also visited a couple of small post towns along the Nakasen-do, an ancient route leading from Tokyo to Kyoto. These two towns (Narai-juku and Tsumago-juku) have retained their Edo period appearance, for an authentic traditional Japan experience…
I was inspired to visit Hakone Shrine by one of my favourite HDR photographers Trey Ratcliff, who produced an amazing HDR photo of the lantern lined path leading toward the main shrine. Hakone Shrine is a popular day trip for residents of Tokyo. The shrine itself is nestled on the foot of a mountain. On a clear day you can even see Mt Fuji from the foot of Lake Ashi.
Travel Guide: Hakone Shrine Travel Guide (Info + 14 HDR Photos)
From traditional and ancient Japan, to a thriving city hot spot… Dotonbori in Osaka is the first place I ever visited in Japan. Full of neon signs, restaurants, bars and long malls of shops, this place is a huge tourist area. You’ll always see something unique and perhaps a little bit crazy in Dotonbori…
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum is a very powerful place to visit. We’ve all heard the history of what happened there in 1945, but visiting the park you get a sense of perspective about how much of a huge impact the atomic bomb really had here.
Japan Photo: Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome during Spring
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. It’s not a tourist destination, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. I lived here for a year, working as an Assistant Language Teacher. It’s an industrial city, the headquarters of the Toyota Motor Corporation. But among the automotive city are some amazing people – with cool job titles like electric hybrid engine engineer – and special little sites hidden among the highway overpasses and huge Toyota employee apartment complexes…
Japan Photo: Toyota Stadium: Home of J-League team Nagoya Grampus
That’s my top 8, for now, what’s in yours?
My top 8 places in Japan will change as I continue to travel the country.
What special places would be on your list?