If you want to keep the kids happy but also see some of Japan’s traditional sights, this itinerary is perfect. It includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, each of which has some great kid-friendly attractions.
Japan is not one of those places you can understand virtually. It is a country you need to witness, breathe, experience and feel for yourself. People get hooked on Japan. On their rituals, quirkiness, history and innate welcoming nature. Japan has one of the most well preserved cultures in the world with traditions such as tea ceremonies, temple going and bathing still playing a central role today. All with a plethora of picture book backdrops: snow covered mountains, volcano lakes, coastal expanses as well as islands and forests scattered along its 3,000 kms. archipelago. And joy of Japanese joys, everything is so accessible by public transport too. In fact, you are considered slightly odd if you drive as a tourist. Why would you, when you have bullet trains to get you just about everywhere you want to travel in Japan?
Japan is a great country to visit with children as Japan is quite childlike as a culture, with cartoons and theme parks everywhere. The traditional ryokans are great value for families, and food is brilliant and good value, with bento boxes perfect snacks. And since the trains are superfast, so no more, 'are we nearly there yet?' It's a country that runs smoothly, with a culture that is ostensibly soothing too. No wonder people get hooked.
Official site : https://www.jnto.go.jp/
Japan’s land area stretches from the northernmost island of Hokkaido, close to Russia, to the subtropics of Okinawa. The weather varies greatly from region to region, so check the weather forecast for the areas you’ll be traveling to. Each season in Japan has its pros and cons. Spring is cherry blossom time when hotels get booked up early and prices are high but if you plan your trip well in advance it’s a fabulous time of year to visit with mild temperatures (March to May). Summer is typhoon season in Japan (June to October). It’s wet and hot but it’s fabulously quiet and has a unique beauty worth capturing with your camera. Autumn is again a photographers dream when the trees put on a spectacular display of rust and gold and as in Spring temperatures are mild. Winter in Japan can be cold, depending on where you travel but a snow covered Japan is like a scene from a fairytale, prices are low and there are fewer tourists around.
Language : Japanese
Currency : [JPY] Yen
Timezone : GMT +9
Airports : Narita International Airport [NRT], Haneda Airport [HND], Kansai International Airport [KIX], Chubu Centrair International Airport [NGO]
Annual Number of Visitors : 31.8 million (2018)
VISA : https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/
Japan Rail (JR) Pass for foreigners is only a great deal if you’re planning to travel outside of Tokyo, and not so much of one if you’re not. Passengers should stand in a straight line when waiting for the train. Speaking on mobile phones should be avoided when using public transportation. Tactile paving installed in stations and airport terminals are there to mark pathways for the blind. Be careful not to stand on top of these surfaces or cover them with bags. There is no custom of leaving tips in Japan. If you feel grateful for the service you receive from a bar, restaurant, or taxi, simply saying “arigato” (thank you) is fine. There are places where people are more likely to be good English speakers—train stations, airports, and major tourist attractions especially. Try to save your questions for those places. To avoid finding yourself without soap after using the bathroom, always carry hand sanitizer with you. Keep walking before you make any purchases – there might be more of the same later on, and for less. In general, the further away you go from the train station, the cheaper everything becomes. The best way to decode menus in Japanese and communicate when you’re having difficulties is to have Google Translate downloaded for offline use, with Japanese language installed. You can even take a photo of your menu and the app will instantly translate it into English. Always look for shoes in the entrances of buildings. If you see them, be sure to remove your shoes before entering. Don’t use tissues to blow your nose in public, it’s highly offensive to the Japanese, just sniff. Japan is a cash-based society, so make sure you have local currency on you at all times. Many ATMs in Japan do not accept foreign cards. ATMs that work with foreign cards can be found at post offices, 7-Eleven stores and a few other convenience stores.
Local Culture, Mountains, Beaches, Local Cuisine, Hiking, Camping, City, Off the Beaten Path, Landmarks/Sights, Walking Tours, All Water Activities, Scuba/Snorkelling, All Active/Outdoor, Mountain Biking, Family Friendly, At Sea, Peace and Quiet, Romantic, Heritage, Museums, Shopping, Fishing, Trekking, Golf, Adventure, Wine, Skiing, Adventure
See a Geisha
Geisha are found throughout Japan with their white-painted faces, traditional Japanese hairstyles and fabulous kimonos, but Kyoto is considered the birthplace of geisha culture. The city’s historic Gion district is probably the most popular place for seeing geisha. Contrary to unsavory myths, geisha are actually professional entertainers hired to perform and interact with guests during dinners and other occasions. Geisha are aware that they are a special and unique aspect of the Japanese culture and subject to interest so it is a part of their lives, but people need to respect them too. This means you shouldn’t block their way by standing in front of them when they’re walking. Take photos from the side or back, but leave their path open.
Enjoy Tea Ceremony
Experience the true art of tea drinking by taking part in a tea ceremony at a temple. Learn about the ancient ritual of tea drinking, it’s social significance to Japanese culture and sample various different teas. Get the chance to sample matcha tea at its best. The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony. You’ll be able to learn the history of tea and tea ceremonies in Japan as well as it’s cultural significance. You can also buy your own tea set.
Stay at a Ryokan
Staying at a ryokan — an authentic Japanese-style inn — is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture. But for non-Japanese travelers, there can be quite a few surprises when staying at a ryokan, because it’s very different from staying at a hotel. Ryokans in Japan come in all shapes and sizes, and every ryokan is different. Most are on the small side, but some are larger and from our perspective heading to rural Japan is the quintessential way to experience a ryokan stay. But Kyoto, Kanazawa, and other Japanese cities are also home to some beautiful, traditional ryokans, so if you’re eager to experience an “urban” ryokan, it is certainly possible.
Ride on the Shinkansen train
Japan has one of the most efficient and reliable transport systems in the world. One of the best ways to get between cities is to ride the Shinkansen bullet trains, which can reach a speed of up to 320 km/h and boast a range of luxury services onboard. The nine Shinkansen lines take you in different directions around Japan and are the fastest way to discover Japan. On each of the Shinkansen lines there are fast trains, semi-fast trains, and local trains. The fast trains only stop at the main stations, semi-fast trains make a few more stops, and local trains stop at every station.
Sample Japanese cuisine
When traveling abroad, sampling traditional cuisine is one of the best ways to experience the authentic culture. Food is incredibly important in Japanese culture, and while in the country, you’ll be able to sample a huge range of the many delicious dishes that make up Japanese cuisine. From worldwide favorites like sushi and ramen, to Sukiyaki (beef hot pot) and Yakiniku (Japanese barbeque), there are an endless number of dishes in Japan guaranteed to make your mouth water. Sake, a type of rice wine, is one of Japan’s most iconic beverages. Mochi is a classic Japanese dessert.
Duel with Sumo Wrestlers
The world of sumo attracts plenty of foreign visitors in Japan who want to experience the exciting emotion of seeing sumo wrestlers fight against each other. If you’re not able to see a real sumo wrestling match, or if you want to enhance the valuable memories from your trip to Japan with personal interaction with wrestlers, then attend a special show offered for international visitors in Tokyo who have a keen interest in Japan’s sacred sumo culture! Challenge real sumo wrestlers in a duel, watch their stage performance and eat a delicious chanko nabe hot pot meal!
Hidden from the outside world until the late 1800s, the Japanese culture has evolved independently over centuries. Japan is well known for its rich culture and preservation of history. The history of Japan is undeniably one of the major appeals of the destination. The history is deep and continues to captivate the interests of many new travellers. Japan has a kawaii (cute) culture, and it’s getting cuter all the time. One of the most inspiring thing about Japan is experiencing a culture that demands perfection – whatever they may be doing in life, whether it’s trying to solve big global issues or making delicious noodles on a street corner, they do it with dedication to mastery.
World-class powder snow
Japanese snow has been called the “lightest and fluffiest known to man”, so there is every reason to give Europe’s Alps a miss next season and visit Japan’s instead. Winter sports enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the chance to go snowboarding and skiing in Japan at one of the many resorts across the country, as Japanese powder snow is considered some of the best in the world. Many of the best ski resorts in Japan are located on the northernmost island of Hokkaido as well as in the Japanese Alps on Honshu. In its snowiest years, resorts in Hokkaido, such as Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano can receive up to 17 m of the white stuff, making it the holy grail of powder skiing.
Since at least the 1960s, Japan has been synonymous with technology. In the ensuing decades, the country’s international reputation for electronics, the automotive industry and robotics has grown exponentially. So if you’re a tech-lover saving for a holiday, there’s really nowhere like it as a destination. From futuristic capsule hotels with complimentary tablets, to high-tech taxis, advanced technology is in full display in every corner of Japan’s cities. They have toilets that talk to you, blow dry your bum, and even play music for you (both to relax and mask) while you do your business.
Stunning temples and shrines
All the beautiful ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are reason enough to visit Japan. There are number of stunning historic temples and shrines in almost every town and city in Japan, while larger cultural centers can have up to 1,000 temples within their municipality. One of the best-preserved cities in Japan, Kyoto offers something like 2,000 Buddhist temples and shrines within the limits of the Kansai Region city, while Nara is home to no less than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and to some of the best temples not only in Nara Prefecture, but in the country.
Cherry blossom season
Japan is one of the best places in the world to view the spring cherry blossom and attend a Cherry blossom festival. The Japanese cherry blossom, or sakura, has long been adored by people across the globe. It is regarded as a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty. During the spring season of each year, thousands travel to Japan to view the wondrous spectacle of these white or pink flowers blooming en masse. Many people indulge in picnics beneath the blooming cherry trees. Blooms usually open first in the southern region, and blooming progresses northward. There are many prime locations with a variety of features – some have the oldest trees, others the most trees, and some are close to historic areas or other sites of interest.
Tokyo has enjoyed a long history of prosperity as Japan’s capital since 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his shogunate and named the city Edo. Today, with a population of about 13 million, it has grown into the largest of the 47 prefectures of Japan and indeed one of the greatest metropolises in the world. Located geographically at roughly the center of the Japanese archipelago and in the southern part of the Kanto region, Tokyo is the center of various activities in Japan, including politics, economy, and culture. Fusing the futuristic with the traditional, Tokyo is a sprawling megacity bursting with a seemingly limitless number of things to do. As fast-paced as Tokyo’s innovation is, the metropolis is just as devoted to preserving tradition through its historical gardens, shrines and temples.
When you close your eyes and think of Japan, you’re probably picturing Kyoto: sublime Zen gardens, mysterious Buddhist temples, colorful Shinto shrines, graceful geisha. Kyoto, Japan’s most beautiful city, is not the largest centre in the country, but it has a lot to keep you occupied when you visit. Kyoto is Japan in a nutshell. It’s the cultural and historical heart of the country. Kyoto has a bunch of attractions that every visitor to the city should check out – Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Japanese gardens, a night in a ryokan, a meal in a Japanese restaurant, an evening stroll through the Gion entertainment district, a traditional festival, and some great old Kyoto shops.
On the surface, the nation’s third largest city may seem to lack the sophistication of Tokyo, or the cultural refinement and traditional townscapes of nearby Kyoto. But it more than makes up for these with its own enthusiastic embrace of modernity. The city bursts with eclectic street culture, vast underground shopping malls and futuristic architectural landmarks. Osaka has museums in abundance and the city’s aquarium is one of the best in Japan. However, to really know this city means mixing with the locals. Eat a regional snack or sip a beer with the good-humored Osakans and you’ll soon understand more about Japanese culture than by simply visiting a pristine temple.
The city of Kobe is located on the island of Honshu and is known for being one of the most vibrant cities in Japan. The city is located on a scenic harbor and also has its own mountain which offers sweeping views across the region. As well as monuments and memorials you can also check out scenic gardens, impressive waterfalls, and of course try the city’s most famous foodstuff – the toothsome Kobe beef. The port city of Kobe was one of the first Japanese cities to open up for trade with the west in the early 19th century, and Kobe has retained its cosmopolitan flavor ever since.
Hiroshima Prefecture is located in the southwestern part of the Japanese islands. It is rich in the natural beauty of the Inland Sea and the Chugoku Mountains, with mountains, sea, rivers, valleys, plains, basins that characterize Japan’s landscape. In August 1945, Hiroshima City was destroyed in an instant with the dropping of the atomic bomb. Neighboring cities also suffered damage as a result of the war. Through the efforts of Hiroshima’s citizens, the region made an impressive recovery and continues to develop as a center of government, economics, and culture in the Chugoku-Shikoku Region.
The largest city on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, Sapporo offers many great reasons to visit. Although travel to this largely hilly region only became fashionable after it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, the city is more than making up for it now with events such as the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Sapporo also plays a role as a major cultural destination and is home to some of Japan’s best-known culinary dishes, theatrical and musical events, as well as points of interest and attractions such as museums and lovely parks that are well worth including on your Japanese itinerary.
Yokohama offers plenty of opportunities to experience Japanese culture, including traditional culture and pop culture. Learn about Japan’s love for nature at one of the city’s gardens or delve into the spiritual side of Japan by participating in the tea ceremony or Zen meditation or taking in a traditional performing art. Yokohama offers more than just traditional culture. It calls home to a number of truly unique museums, including food themed ones and others where you can enjoy internationally acclaimed Japanese anime.
Nagoya City is Japan’s fourth largest incorporated city, and Japan’s third most populous urban area. Centrally located, it is one of the nation’s most important transportation hubs, historical centers and industrial powerhouses. Nagoya boasts a long and exciting history. Japan’s second most venerated shrine, the Great Shrine of Atsuta was established here 1,900 years ago. Sprawling and mostly flat, Nagoya at night provides an amazing sight. One of the world’s oldest remaining department stores is Nagoya based Matsuzakaya, established in 1611. Nagoya’s cuisine is without doubt the most unique food culture within mainland Japan. Although it is undoubtedly Japanese, it is among the most Western-friendly of Japanese cuisines.
Nara is a spectacularly picturesque city which is second only to Kyoto for the richness and beauty of its temples, shrines and gardens. It is home to some of the country’s best temples and shrines, along with several fine gardens, museums and traditional neighborhoods. Nara is a compact city packed with first-rate sights, including the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine and Nara-koen Park, with its famous semi-wild deer.
Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa is a chain of islands with its own history as an independent kingdom and a distinctly subtropical climate, as well as the birthplace of karate. Explore the ruins and restored castles of the Ryukyu kings, and visit magnificent beaches and coastlines with an amazing array of coral and undersea life. Come for whale watching and dragon boat races, rare flora and fauna, and an island mindset that makes you forget the clock and follow the sun.
Hakone is a de facto national park located inside the weathered walls of a dormant volcano. There are mountains to climb, lakes to kayak, rivers to explore, and trails to experience. Hakone is a great place to see the natural beauty of Japan. Visit Hakone anytime of year to see and experience something special and different. There are the changing colors of nature, seasonal festivals and events, outdoors activities, tours, and much more. The most popular thing to do in Hakone is enjoying the many hot springs located throughout the area and the thermal vents that are a natural wonder to visit and experience.
Nagano City is a temple town with venerable Zenkoji at its heart, and its passion inspired by the majestic peaks surrounding it. Having been attracting pilgrims for over 1400 years, Zenkoji is said to be a required visit at least once in everyone’s life. In 1998, it was the snow and mountains that beckoned the world to come, for the Winter Olympics. Not to mention Mystical Togakushi, tantalizing cuisine (eating soba noodles here is a must!), and its dramatic samurai history – a stay in Nagano City is sure to be the highlight of your trip to the Japanese countryside. And it is astonishingly convenient to reach, thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen connection to Tokyo.
Hachiko Statue, Tokyo
At first glance the small Hachiko Statue near Shibuya Scramble Crossing may not appear particularly impressive. It’s only upon hearing the story of the actual dog that you can really appreciate its significance. In the 1920s, this Akita dog would journey to Shibuya Station to wait for his owner to arrive back from his daily commute. One day his owner did not return from work, having suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. This did not deter Hachiko though, who returned to the same spot to wait for his owner every day for the next nine years. The dog has gone on to become a symbol of enduring loyalty nationwide, and the statue in his memory serves as a fitting meeting point for city residents.
Studio Ghibli Museum, Tokyo
Studio Ghibli hardly needs any introduction, having made some of the most highly-acclaimed animated movies ever. Tucked away in Tokyo’s happening Kichijoji suburb is a lush magical cottage filled with Ghibli lore! Stepping inside the Studio Ghibli Museum is the next best thing to stepping right into Spirited Away’s spirit bathhouse or the long-lost Castle in the Sky. The endearing Ghibli characters and designs — including a giant Cat Bus — will keep you absorbed for hours. You can even learn how the animated movies are made and browse a special collection of books recommended by Hayao Miyazaki himself.
Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
Located in the city’s northwest, this Zen Buddhist temple was originally a villa before converting into a monastery that burnt down in 1950. Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, was then rebuilt into the iconic golden building that you can see today. Beyond the beauty of the temple’s golden panelling, the temple is surrounded by a gorgeous Zen garden that transforms the area into a sea of tranquillity, even with all the crowds of tourists visiting the grounds. Also, the temple is said to contain ashes of the Buddha, meaning it’s also a sacred icon in addition to being a beautiful one.
Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kyoto
Kyoto has a mighty imperial palace that used to be the home of the Japanese Emperor and his court. Located in the city’s north Kyoto Imperial Palace is defined by its massive grounds that are open to the public as well as its manicured gardens and impressive gates. The central palace is only open to the public a few days a year, but the grounds more than make up for the inaccessibility of the palace itself. You’ll find several shrines and palace gates that are attractions in their own right.
Nijo Castle, Kyoto
Built as an ostentatious show of power for the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nijo Castle was built more to be a beautiful statement of power than a defensive fortification. The castle’s white walls make the buildings pop out from the sea of green surrounding it, while the elaborate decorations on the walls and sliding doors inside the castle make it absolutely worth entering. At the castle’s centre lies Ninomaru Palace, with its five wooden buildings and elaborate inner courts. Outside, you’ll find the palace garden as immaculately designed as the interior of the castle.
Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Shrine consists of thousands of red-orange torii gates leading up a hill in eastern Kyoto. The temple itself is dedicated to foxes, which is apparent from the many stone fox statues across the temple grounds. When you visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, you can spend most of your time admiring the main temple buildings and pass through a few dozen of the toriis to get a taste for the temple’s appeal. Once you reach the top of the hill, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Monkey Park, Kyoto
The old neighbourhood of Arashiyama lies on the western edge of the city and if you wander around Tenyru-ji and Hogon-in, you’ll find a path that takes you through an incredible bamboo grove where the bamboo stalks blot out the sky and go on as far as the eye can see. Walking through the bamboo grove and peering out into the seemingly-endless stretches of bamboo stalks has an incredible, almost mystical, feeling to it. You don’t have to wander far from the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove to experience the Iwatayama Monkey Park, one of the most fun and kid-friendly attractions in the city. Once you reach the top of the hill, you’ll find an open area filled with Japanese macaque monkeys who are free to roam alongside visitors.
Daikaku-ji Temple is a temple of treasures. Steeped in history, this former imperial palace of the Emperor Saga has been a center of cultural, religious and political developments of great significance. The palatial buildings are arranged beside a large lake, the oldest artificial pond in Japan, which was the site of long-ago Imperial moon-viewing parties. The grounds are also known for their cherry and apricot trees as well as their many flowers. In fact there is a school of ikebana (flower arranging) associated with the temple, and a flower festival is held here every year in the spring.
Tenryu-ji Temple, Kyoto
Tenyru-ji is a major temple of the Rinzai School. It was built in 1339 on the former site of Emperor Go-Daigo’s villa. The main attraction of Tenryu-ji Temple is the Zen garden dating back to the 14th century. A triumph of design, the garden features a large pond which catches the reflection of the maple trees and large rough-cut rocks on the periphery. The temple with its garden was built to placate his spirit. It is now the headquarter of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.
Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple, Kyoto
Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple is undoubtedly most well known for the 8,000 Buddhist statues that stand solemnly in rows in a spectacularly unusual scene. In summer, these stone statues are lit with candles during the Buddhist Memorial Service with a Thousand Lanterns. In autumn, visitors can enjoy the look of these statues together with the autumn leaves.
Hakusasonso Hashimoto Kansetsu Garden & Museum, Kyoto
Located near the bus stop for world heritage site and national treasure Ginkaku-ji Temple. Hakusasonso was built to be the Taisho-Showa era Japanese painter Hashimoto Kansetsu’s home for creating his artwork, and this expansive Japanese garden designed in the chisen kayu style around a central pond with Mt. Daimonji-yama in the background has been designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty. It also serves as an art museum displaying the artworks and collections of Hashimoto Kansetsu.
Gion District, Kyoto
The old samurai district of Kyoto is the historical heart of the city and one of the best spots to experience medieval Japan. In Gion, you’ll walk along old pedestrian boulevards lined by rustic wooden buildings. You can visit old tea houses or simply admire the folks dressed in traditional garb who’ll walk through the streets. You can even visit an old geisha house or theatre to experience a bit of Japan’s past.
Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto
Ginkaku-ji temple, the famed “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificent halls and gardens. Its about as beautiful as any temple in the city. be sure to climb the trail at the back of the garden that leads to a fantastic viewpoint over the entire temple compound and the rest of the city. Ginkaku-ji Temple is located in Kyoto’s Northern Higashiyama district.
Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto
Japan’s most famous Zen garden consists of 15 carefully placed rocks that float mesmerizingly on sea of gravel – an example of carefully calculated randomness. Even after centuries in existence no one has cracked the riddle of these seemingly random rock clusters that seem to float on the sea of gravel at the famous karesansui (dry gravel garden) Ryoan-ji Temple. Ryoan-ji Temple is located in Northwest Kyoto.
Todai-ji Temple, Nara
The focal point of Todai-ji Temple is the Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha), which contains the vast grandeur of the Daibutsu, a 16-meter-high Buddha that really does seems to exude some form of spiritual energy. Be sure to check out the Nandai-mon Gate, that lies a few hundred meters east of the Daibutsu-den, and once inside the Daibutsu-den, be sure to circle around the back and check out the pillar with the hole in the middle. Children who can squeeze through it are said to be assured of enlightenment.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Kobe
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is located in west of Kobe and has the claim to fame of being the tallest bridge in Japan of its kind. The Bridge spans across the Akashi Strait, which is a busy shipping lane, linking Kobe with Awaji-Shima Island. The engineers used a system of counterweights, pendulums, and trusses to handle up to 180 mile per hour winds and an earthquake up to 8.5 on the Richter scale. You can cross a walkway here which is 47 meters above the ground and spans some 320 meters. The floors are made of glass to give you panoramic views over the strait.
Himeiji Castle, Kobe
Himeiji Castle near Kobe is one of Japan’s 12 original castles and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Shogun-era complex is also known as the “White Heron Castle” due to its elegant, white appearance. First built in 1333 and expanded in 1609, Himeiji has withstood war, fire, earthquakes, and financial distress. The castle complex has served as a backdrop for many movies, including Sean Connery as James Bond in “You Only Live Twice”.
Arima Onsen, Kobe
As one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, geothermal hot springs (called “onsen” in Japanese) are popular attractions across much of Japan. Arima Onsen outside Kobe tucked behind Mount Rokko is one of the oldest and most culturally significant spa towns in Japan.
Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
At 8:15am on 6th August 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima. Although, the Atomic Bomb Dome was located almost directly underneath the explosion, it somehow avoided complete destruction and the remains of the building still stand today. The residents of Hiroshima decided to keep this tragic reminder of war intact. The site was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996. The dome acts as a reminder of the force and untold suffering caused by the bomb, while continuing to symbolize the fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons and bring about world peace.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The museum was opened in 1955 with the aim of conveying to the world the realities of the atomic bomb and advocate world peace and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. Divided into the East Building and the Main Building, the museum displays possessions from the victims of the bomb, photographs and other documentation. It also explains the circumstances in Hiroshima and elsewhere that led to the bombing along with a detailed explanation of the bombing itself.
Flame of Peace, Hiroshima
Lit on 1st August 1964 in hope of a world without nuclear weapons, the flame will continue to burn until nuclear weapons are abolished worldwide. The pedestal was designed in the image of two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.
Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims, Hiroshima
Officially named the ‘Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace’, it is more commonly known as the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims. The names of all those who lost their lives are inscribed inside the central stone vault regardless of nationality. Every year, new names are discovered and added to the list.
Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima
The name Itsukushima literally means ‘island of worship’ and from ancient times the island itself was worshipped as a god. The mystical Itsukushima Shrine built on the water was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1996. A place where people have long carried out ancient rites, Itsukushima Shrine has become world renowned, attracting visitors from all over Japan and the rest of the world. The O-Torii (Grand Torii Gate), which stands in the sea about 16.8 meters in height, is among the most well known structures of Itsukushima Shrine.
Hokkaido Shrine, Sapporo
Built in 1871, the Hokkaido Shrine is one of the country’s most important Shinto religious sites. Adjacent to Maruyama Park, the shrine became even more popular after it was dedicated to the soul of much revered Emperor Meiji in 1964. The site is massive, and in addition to the huge temple building, it consists of a large garden replete with cherry blossoms, a big draw when they are in bloom each spring.
Noritake Garden, Nagoya
Opened in commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of the pottery and ceramics maker Noritake. In this premises filled with lush greenery, you can tour a pottery and ceramics factory and museum displaying the Noritake of the good ol’ days, as well as paint on patterns for yourself. You can also enjoy shopping for dishes and other tableware in the Noritake-operated store. There is also a restaurant, cafe, and more using Noritake dishes.
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Nagoya
Established by the Toyota group, this museum preserves and uses a factory building used during the Taisho era (1912–1926) which still remains in the birthplace of the Toyota group as an industrial heritage. Within its walls are the Textile Machinery Pavilion and Automobile Pavilion, where you are introduced to and can easily learn about shifts in technologies of the industry, mainly with textile machinery and automobiles the Toyota group has been involved in, through dynamic displays as well as machine demonstrations by operators.
Nagoya City Science Museum
A science museum equipped with Brother Earth, the world’s largest planetarium dome, with an inside diameter of 35 meters. Along with an exterior design that features the dome’s spherical shape, the museum has four large-scale exhibits, including an aurora film viewed in a -30° room and a nine-meter tall man-made tornado. In addition, the building itself acts as an exhibit through its use of solar power and green walls, visible earthquake-resistant structures and elevator mechanisms, and more.
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, Nagoya
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a museum filled with dreams and memories of each generation. Opened March 14, 2011, this establishment introduces the evolution of high-speed railway technology through train car exhibits from local trains to the Superconducting Maglev train with a focus on the Tokaido Line bullet trains. You can learn about the workings of railroads and the progress of their histories through things like detailed railroad dioramas and bullet train driving simulators.
LEGOLAND Japan, Nagoya
Opened in April 2017, LEGOLAND Japan is an outdoor theme park for kids ages two to twelve to enjoy a whole day with their families. In this park with around 17 million LEGO blocks and 10,000 LEGO models, there are lots of adventure-type interactive attractions based around the LEGO world. LEGO NINJAGO World, one of the most popular areas among all the LEGOLAND parks around the world, opened in July 2019. The park has over 40 rides, attractions, and shows in eight different areas, and many of the rides can be enjoyed by small children. It’s a place where families can have a truly wonderful day out together. The park is also home to SEA LIFE Nagoya, an aquarium where you can see, touch, and learn about the many surprises of the ocean world.
Shuri Castle, Okinawa
When you wander among the majestic buildings that make up Shuri Castle in Okinawa, you might feel as if you have been transported deep into the past. However, these lovingly restored buildings are only decades old. Nonetheless, they are steeped in history, and many features of the castle are older than the recent renovations. There is much to see in and around the castle complex, from grand architecture to the exhibits inside the museums.
The majesty of Osaka Castle, arguably Osaka’s most prominent landmark, belies bloody power struggles leading up to the 1603 foundation of the Edo era. While its history dates back to 1583, the landmark main tower that is the castle’s icon was only re-constructed in 1931. Today, the museum inside the castle documents its rich history, while the surrounding park and green space are a hub for Osakans to jog, cycle and relax. Famed general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who has been described as the “Napoleon of Japan,” began the construction of Osaka Castle in 1583. The castle, which was the largest in Japan at the time, was to be the center of a unified Japan under the rule of the Toyotomi clan.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan offers you a chance to marvel at the spectacular marine life of the Pacific Rim, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Arctic. Home to 30,000 sea creatures and 620 species in all, each of the aquarium’s 15 colossal viewing tanks re-creates one of the Pacific Ocean’s astonishingly diverse habitats and ecosystems. Begin your tour with an escalator ride up to the eighth-floor. From here, the visitor trail spirals downward around the aquarium’s spectacular main tank (nine meters deep), taking you on an enthralling interactive journey to the ocean’s depths.
Universal Studios Theme Park, Osaka
Travel to Jurassic Park or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, enjoy thrilling rides, eye-popping special effects and high-octane blockbuster entertainment at Universal Studios Japan. International crowd-pleasers from Spider-Man to Sesame Street plus popular Japanese manga-themed attractions in eight fantasy worlds covering 140 acres will captivate visitors of all ages in the Japanese incarnation of the top U.S. theme park.
Zenkoji Temple, Nagano
The foundation of Zenkoji temple is believed to be around 1,400 years ago. The present main hall is a majestic wooden architecture rebuilt in the Mid-Edo period (1707 A.D.), spans 24 meters wide and 54 meters long. It has a unique structure called “Shumoku Zukuri (literally, ‘wooden bell-hammer structure’)”, which illustrates the old custom of “okomori”, during which many pilgrims seclude themselves overnight to offer prayers. It was designated as a National Treasure in 1953.
Matsumoto Castle, Nagano
Matsumoto Castle is an amazingly preserved former fortress built on a plain still presenting its original fortifications and defenses, as well as much of its original wooden structures. Visitors can stroll inside and outside the castle enjoying a unique experience in a structure that still maintains its original wooden frame and décor. Matsumoto castle is also one of the favorite destinations in the region for hanami (cherry blossoms viewing).
Owakudani is one of the most popular places to visit in Hakone. Owakudani is the steaming thermal volcanic vents located in the center of the mountains. You can easily visit the area by ropeway, also giving you wonderful views of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding mountains. There is also an interesting museum that displays the geological history of the area and gives insight into this interesting area. Owakudani is the center point of the famed Hakone “Golden Route” which takes you around Hakone in a circular route.
Hakone Open Air Museum
The impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century Japanese and Western sculptures is a must-see. The incredible display of artworks includes pieces by Picasso, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto, Yasuo Mizui, and many others. There are 120 permanent sculptures on display through the entire collection features over 1,000. It is a fun, family-friendly exhibition which is made even more special by the surrounding mountains. Kids love the giant crochet playground.
Himeji Castle, Hyogo
Himeji Castle is both a World Heritage Site and a national treasure. It’s one of the 12 original Japanese castles. In fact, unlike many other castles in Japan, it was never destroyed during war or by natural disasters. Its main fortifications were built in the 15th century as protection for the, at that time, capital city of Kyoto, but it was finished building as we see it today, in 1609. Himeji Castle is also one of the most popular spots in Japan to admire cherry blossoms.
Mount Fuji is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, located less than 100 kms. away from Tokyo. The iconic peak, which has inspired Japanese art and literature for centuries, is both Japan’s highest and most famous mountain. Climbing Mt. Fuji is on many travelers’ bucket lists. The height of Mount Fuji is 12,390 feet and there are different ways to climb it. There are 4 main routes which differ in difficulty and the time needed to make the journey. The views from the top combined with the sense of achievement make the trip incredibly rewarding. It is not surprising that the nearly perfectly shaped volcano has been worshiped as a sacred mountain and experienced big popularity among artists.
Tokyo Station and its beautiful, nostalgic red brick building is on the must-see list of every tourist to Japan. Besides its impressive value as a sightseeing spot, Tokyo Station is also an important hub that isn’t only served by major JR Lines such as Yamanote and Chuo but also is a major station for several shinkansen bullet trains. About 3,000 trains arrive and depart at Tokyo Station on a single day and when traveling around Tokyo, it’s going to be an important station for you as well. The station premises boast a large variety of shops and restaurants, offering both respite to rest tired legs and great opportunities for unique souvenir shopping. Marunouchi Exit is the main exit of the west side and the magnificence of the red brick building that is Tokyo Station can be best appreciated here.
The Tokyo Skytree is a television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo. It is the centerpiece of the Tokyo Skytree Town in the Sumida City Ward, not far away from Asakusa. With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as “Musashi”, a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion. A large shopping complex with aquarium is located at its base. The highlight of the Tokyo Skytree is its two observation decks which offer spectacular views out over Tokyo. The two enclosed decks are located at heights of 350 and 450 meters respectively, making them the highest observation decks in Japan and some of the highest in the world.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace and its beautiful gardens are a world away from the hustle bustle of the city. Built on the site of the former Edo Castle, the palace became the permanent home of the Imperial Family in 1869. Some part of the inner palace grounds can only be viewed on a tour, which is held in English and Japanese, twice daily. Although it won’t take you inside the palace, you will get the chance to see historical and beautiful sites such as the Mt. Fuji-view Keep and the Lotus Moat, and, of course, you will cross over the famous Nijyu Bridge, considered a symbol of the palace and even Tokyo itself. Its perimeter is a popular jogging route and the East Gardens are open to the public year-round.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also referred to as Tochō for short, houses the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which governs the special wards, cities, towns and villages that constitutes the whole Tokyo Metropolis. As well as serving as a giant city hall, the building offers amazing views of the capital from its 45th-floor observation decks. On a clear day you can see as far as Yokohama in one direction, Chiba in another and, way out west, Mount Fuji. The full extent of Tokyo’s urban sprawl can only be appreciated from up high. Tokyo’s other famous viewpoint, Skytree, may be considerably taller, but its expensive entrance fee is incomparable to Tocho’s: absolutely free.
Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower in the Shiba-koen district of Minato, Tokyo. At 332.9 meters, it is the second-tallest structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower that is painted white and international orange to comply with air safety regulations. Only the visitors who participate in the “Top Deck Tour” are admitted to the Top Deck. There, a special world where the various lights and scenery reflect each other awaits. Enjoy the best views, along with the hospitality services offered during the tour.
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
The famous crossing outside Shibuya Station is the center of the district. It has appeared repeatedly in popular culture and in countless movies. As the busiest scramble in the world, this all-way pedestrian crossing is a must-see on the list of every Tokyo tourist. Approximately 2,500 people are thought to cross it at a time. It’s an icon of the vibrancy and energy that Tokyo is known for and one of the city’s most iconic attractions.
With the two Disney theme parks – Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea – plus hotels, shops, theaters and more, Tokyo Disney Resort is a themed resort offering more than can be enjoyed in just a few days. It was opened in 1983 as the first Disney theme park outside of the United States. Modelled after Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland is made up of seven themed lands and features seasonal decorations and parades.
Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo
The Rainbow Bridge arches over Tokyo Bay, linking Odaiba with the rest of Tokyo. At night, the multicolored lights of the bridge set against the glowing Tokyo skyline look like something from the movie Blade Runner. View the bridge over a cocktail from a trendy bar or take a mini-cruise and dine on the water. You can also walk the bridge, but expect it to take a good 30 minutes. For a less strenuous perspective of the bridge, hop on the Yurikamome sky train.
Journey to Japan’s premier science museum, The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, nicknamed “Miraikan,” to learn about humanity’s relationship to the universe and the cutting-edge technologies taking us into the future. “Geo-Cosmos,” the Miraikan Museum’s most iconic exhibition, is a stunning three-dimensional rendition of Earth as it shines in outer space.
Hama Rikyu gardens, Tokyo
This garden remains one of the finest in Tokyo, and has been protected since 1952 by the title of “special historic site.” It also houses a bird sanctuary. Despite the bombing that destroyed it in 1944, the main tea houses still remain, and it has retained its three lakes, including the vast Shioiri with its two islands. A miniaturized and stylized plant world that illustrates very well the definition of Japanese gardens: borrowing from a natural landscape. Property of the Emperor in the Meiji period, and then bequeathed to the City of Tokyo in 1945 by Hirohito, Hama Rikyu traces its way through Japanese history and the succession of eras and imperial policies.
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is located in Koganei – just 40 minutes from Shinjuku, Tokyo. The museum, which opened in 1993, is a collection of relocated original buildings that date as far back as the mid Edo Period (1603-1868), with several having undergone restoration in more recent years. The 30 buildings, which are spread out over an area of around 7 hectares, are organized into three zones: West Zone, Center Zone, and East Zone. As the name of the museum suggests, the structures sit in a very large site, making almost for a nice and quiet village. Here you’ll see a number of notable homes, as well as a mausoleum, shops, a sake bar, and more.
Akihabara, also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. In addition to shops, various other animation-related establishments have become popular in the area, particularly maid cafes where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters, and manga cafes.
The busy shopping and entertainment district of Ginza is relatively small in size, but offers plenty to see and do – from luxury boutiques and ritzy cocktail and sushi bars to the famous Chuo-dori shopping promenade and traditional Japanese dance and drama at the landmark Kabuki-za theatre. The site of a former coin mint (ginza means ‘silver mint’ in Japanese), Tokyo’s central Ginza district has been an upmarket shopping destination since its reconstruction following the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. Today, visitors can enjoy the best of Japanese culture, fashion and style on its charming streets.
An ultramodern area on Tokyo Bay, the Odaiba district is your go-to place for pleasure cruising, shopping and general seaside fun. The island built in Tokyo Bay was originally created by the Edo shogunate (1603-1867) to protect Tokyo from the threat of marine attacks. Today it serves a very different purpose—as a breezy entertainment hub with attractions for the entire family. For shopping, choose from AQUA CiTY, DiverCity, VenusFort or Decks. The indoor amusement parks Tokyo Joypolis and Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo, are great options if you get caught in the rain—or even if the sun is shining—and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known as Miraikan, is a big lens on the future.