Japan is a beautiful and culture-rich country that houses amazing landscapes, traditional culture, unique foods, and one-of-a-kind travel experiences. And regardless of age, gender, race and tastes, there is something in Japan that will appeal to everyone. Whether you are a nature lover, foodie, adventurer, shopper or anime geek, Japan has you covered. You can hike the mountains, lounge on the beaches, take in the nightlife in the big city or soak in a natural hot spring overlooking lush forests. The versatility and options that Japan has to offer are great for travelers who want to do a little bit of everything.
We asked some American travelers to Japan the best places they visited in Japan and what they would recommend other travelers to experience while in Japan. Here is what they said.
- Table of Contents
- 1. Sophie from Michigan recommends Nikko
- 2. Fern from Chicago recommends Arashiyama Forest in Kyoto
- 3. Karim from Orlando recommends Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture
- 4. Scott from California recommends Lake Kawaguchi with Mt. Fuji View
- 5. Brian from Ohio recommends Akihabara in Tokyo
- 6. Jennifer from Boston recommends Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Miyajima
- 7. Polly from Florida recommends Hida Mountains (Japanese Northern Alps)
- 8. Emily from New York recommends Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido
- 9. Patrick from Philadelphia recommends Lake Tazawa in Akita
- 10. Krystal from Seattle recommends Hakodate
- Plan Your Japan Trip Today!
1. Sophie from Michigan recommends Nikko
Sophie, a pharmacist near Detroit, visited Nikko with her daughter and was quite impressed with the town’s beauty and atmosphere. “The Nikko Shrine [Toshogu] set in the forests was so dark and mysterious. And since Nikko isn’t far from Tokyo, we were able to do a day trip but feel like we were transported to another world.”
Nikko, located in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, is about 2 hours away by train and houses many cultural landmarks like the World Heritage Site Toshugu Shrine. A richly decorated shrine, it houses some of the famous art and carvings like the “see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil” monkeys and the Sozonozo Elephants as well as the sleeping cat and crying dragon.
The backdrop of the temples and shrines in Nikko are amazing mountains and forests with wild monkeys roaming around, sometimes approaching tourists for food.
Nikko National Park is a great place to hike the forest trails and check out the beautiful woodlands, waterfalls, and hot springs. “We were only in Japan for a few days and weren’t able to see Kyoto, but Nikko has many traditional shrines and buildings I felt like we were able to get a taste of Japanese traditional culture,” added Sophie.
2. Fern from Chicago recommends Arashiyama Forest in Kyoto
Most people think of golden temples like Kinkakuji or a line of red torii gates at Fushimi-Inari Shrine when visiting Kyoto. Still, another beautiful and tranquil area of Kyoto is the bamboo forest and gardens located next to Tenryu-ji Temple.
“I watched a YouTube video of a girl dressed in a kimono walking through the bamboo forest, and I knew it was something I definitely had to do myself,” admits Fern. An interior decorator living in Chicago, she headed to Kyoto with her boyfriend in hopes to rent a kimono for the day and walk the streets of Kyoto as well as stroll through the pathway surrounded by sprawling bamboo trees that soar up to the sky creating an alluring green glow.
“We really enjoyed our experience walking around the entire Arashiyama area and especially the bamboo forest. It was a weekday in the offseason, so it wasn’t as busy,” advising people who want to visit to avoid the major rush periods when tourists overrun the area.
3. Karim from Orlando recommends Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture
As a designer and architecture student, Karim’s highlight when visiting Japan was walking through the corridors and admiring the fantastic wooden structure of Himeji Castle in Himeji City located in Hyogo Prefecture.
The largest and most visited castle in Japan, Himeji Castle has remained intact for over 400 years while most other castles around Japan were destroyed during war times or natural disasters. An enormous castle located on a hilltop and surrounded by beautiful gardens, Himeji houses over 80 buildings and has an area of more than 500 acres. Well-preserved and beautifully designed, Karim was quite impressed.
“I think I walked around the castle complex for half the day. The stone walls, the wooden structures, the stairways, and the cherry blossom trees make for an amazing sight. Definitely one of the most amazing places I have visited on my journeys across Asia.”
4. Scott from California recommends Lake Kawaguchi with Mt. Fuji View
Scott, a university student from California, had a chance to visit Japan during his summer vacation and highly recommends spending a day or two in the Lake Kawaguchi area of Yamanashi Prefecture both for the beauty of lake but also the impressive view of Mt. Fuji.
“I was thinking about climbing Mt. Fuji, but it didn’t fit with my travel schedule, so instead, I stayed a night at a Japanese style ryokan near Lake Kawaguchi. It was the best decision I made because not only was the view of Mt. Fuji amazing while I soaked in the public bath, but the lake area was so relaxing. I rented a bicycle and could ride around the lake area.”
Surrounding Mt. Fuji are the Fuji Five Lakes, with Kawaguchi being the second largest. Besides being located in the optimal place to get beautiful views of the mountain, the lake area has many hotels, resorts, hot springs, museums, restaurants, and even a ropeway, making it an excellent place for tourists to eat, shop and enjoy beautiful views of the iconic mountain.
5. Brian from Ohio recommends Akihabara in Tokyo
Known worldwide as the Mecca of Anime and Manga, Akihabara, also known as Electric Town, is a part of Tokyo that houses a variety of shops and cafes that cater to anime, manga, video games, electronics, and other Japanese subculture.
Whether you are looking for computer parts, anime figurines, maid cafe, or the latest music from an Idol band, Akihabara is the place to go to satisfy all your Otaku needs.
Brian, a video editor and huge fan of Japanese animation and comics, spends most of his days off browsing the variety of small and big shops selling every type of Japanese comics and animation possible. “I moved to Japan because I really loved anime and manga and wanted to see where it all began. After living here for almost five years, I still love spending time in Akihabara and checking out all the stores to see the latest releases. And since my Japanese is improving, I know I can understand the language and culture a lot more, which increases my appreciation for the artwork and stories depicted in the manga.” Brian also likes the atmosphere of Akihabara with its giant building-sized billboards and neon-lit signs advertising the newest movies, anime, manga, games, and Idols.
“Reading about Japan or watching it in movies is good but actually walking the streets with all the shops, maids advertising their cafes and the crowds add to the atmosphere,” added Brian, who highly recommends visiting in person.
Kitabayashi Building 3F, 4F, 5F, 1-11-2, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0021
Akihabara Station （JR Keihin-Tohoku Line / JR Yamanote Line / Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line / Tsukuba Express / JR Sobu Line）
4 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 03-5289-9933
- Address Kitabayashi Building 3F, 4F, 5F, 1-11-2, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0021
6. Jennifer from Boston recommends Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Miyajima
Jennifer, a high school teacher from Boston, took a trip to Hiroshima and felt it was one of the most interesting places she visited in Japan. “I wanted to see the best Japan has to offer, including Japanese food, temples, shrines, and picturesque landscapes, but I also wanted to have an educational and touching experience as well. I think Hiroshima gave me the best of both worlds. I was able to see the famous Miyajima Island with the red gate in the water as well as see the remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Memorial Museum and Peace Park. It was a sad but necessary experience for me to see the effects of World War 2 from the perspective of the Japanese.”
Miyajima Island, also known as Itsukushima Island, houses the World Heritage Site shrine and famous gate that can only be reached when the tide is low. Popular during cherry blossom and when the fall foliage colors are at their peak, a ferry brings tourists over to the island where you can walk around and see the shrine, temple, pagoda and many deer that roam around the island peacefully.
The Hiroshima Memorial Park and Museum are also one of the biggest attractions in Hiroshima and provide tourists the opportunity to see what Hiroshima looked like before and after the bombing as well as photographs, objects damaged by the bomb that still remain as well as many belongings of the victims of the bomb. The park also houses the Atomic Bomb Dome, which is the only building that was left standing near the bomb’s hypocenter.
7. Polly from Florida recommends Hida Mountains (Japanese Northern Alps)
Polly, a chef from Florida, is a hiking and mountain climbing enthusiast who suggests people who like climbing and hiking head over to the Northern Japanese Alps or the Hida Mountains that stretch along Nagano, Toyama, and Gifu.
“It’s a little bit out of the way from other tourist spots, but you will be rewarded with the amazing views and vast landscapes you will encounter. I recommend starting in Takayama, which is a traditional and beautiful Japanese city that looks like Kyoto without all the tourists. And also try Hida beef, which is one of the best kinds of beef in Japan.”
Takayama is a town with traditional architecture, most notably the old-fashioned Japanese thatched houses and is famous for hot springs, traditional crafts, and Hida beef. The city is also a great place to start a climbing adventure or use the Shinhotaku ropeway, which brings you up over 2000 meters into the mountains. There are a variety of trails through the mountains as well as outdoor hot springs for those looking to soak in natural spring water with an open-air view of the surrounding mountains.
8. Emily from New York recommends Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido
The snow festival that has been happening for over 70 years is the biggest winter attraction in Japan and brings in over 2 million visitors each February in Sapporo Hokkaido where it’s held.
Along with giant snow and ice sculptures that are professionally sculpted and displayed during the festival, there are a variety of winter events, concerts, food stands, and shopping markets. Emily, a security guard, first visited the Snow Festival five years ago and returned every February to relive the experience. “I have made it an annual trip with my girlfriend to see the Yuki Matsuri in Odori Park. I love seeing the ice sculptures each year and am always impressed with the precision, creativity, and awesomeness in the size of the sculptures. My best memories are walking along the snow paths drinking hot wine, and eating the delicious hot food from the food stands along the park.”
The festival is held for a week, and admission is free. The area is open from the morning, and the illuminations stay lit until 11 pm for those who want to witness the beautiful winter wonderland into the night.
9. Patrick from Philadelphia recommends Lake Tazawa in Akita
Patrick, a law student from Philadelphia, will always remember his experience in Northern Japan and, in particular, the pleasure boat ride along Lake Tazawa in Akita prefecture. “I have honestly never seen a bluer and prettier lake in my life than when I was at Lake Tazawa.”
Lake Tazawa is Japan’s deepest lake at 423 m and stands relatively untouched. Far from Akita city, the entire lake area seems isolated and remote. However, there are buses and boat tours that help you get a better view of the lake, access to the shrine near the lake and the famous golden girl statue Tatsuko, which legend has it is based on a woman who prayed to have eternal beauty but was instead turned into a dragon and is now believed to be the guardian of the lake.
“Although there weren’t many tourists, I could still find restaurants, gift shops, and friendly locals who were happy to help me. I spent the entire day walking around the lake and just enjoying the fresh air, beautiful lake views, and peace and quiet.”
10. Krystal from Seattle recommends Hakodate
“Hands down, the most romantic city I have ever been to in Japan is Hakodate. I love the night view from Mount Hakodate, and walking the streets of Motomachi with my husband are some of my favorite memories of my life,” recalls Krystal, a homemaker from Seattle. “If I ever move to Japan, Hakodate would be my first choice as it is beautiful and small enough to be charming but still a big city with all the convenience and livability,” says Krystal.
Hakodate is a port city in Hokkaido located at the southern tip of the island and is the third-largest city in Hokkaido. Located next to Mount Hakodate, hiking, or using a cable car to the mountain, the night view is considered one of the best views in Japan - and according to some, possibly the world. Besides the amazing views from the mountain, the surrounding area around Hakodate is also filled with nature and beautiful scenery.
The town itself also has a unique feel to the city as it was originally an Ainu (indeginious people of Japan) settlement, then was controlled by the Tokugawa Shogunate and finally after becoming one of the first ports to open up to foreigners had many European and American settlers visit and inhabit the area. For this reason many temples, churches, forts and other western style architecture remain.
Hakodate is also known for its delicious seafood, particularly crabs and squid. Hakodate has famous food dishes such as Hakodate shio ramen, which uses squid rather than pork base for the soup. Krystal also loves the food of Hakodate and recommends, “if you are in Hakodate, definitely check out the morning market, the street food area and try the seafood donburi. You won’t be disappointed.”
Plan Your Japan Trip Today!
These are just 10 of the recommended places from the Americans we talked to, but all of them had more than one place on their list. Japan, which is filled with a variety of different food, culture, and environmental influences, is so diverse and unique.
Depending on the season, the climate, the part of Japan, and your travel style, you can customize your Japan experience and take advantage of all the amazing things this country has to offer. Hopefully, some of these suggestions give you an idea of what to expect when visiting Japan and starting point to plan your own special Japanese journey!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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