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15 Best Cities To Visit In Japan – A Comprehensive Guide

Japan, with a rich history and unique culture and wonderful places ranging from amazing skyscrapers or bustle streets to ancient shrines and temples or tranquil bamboo forests, is a destination that appears in millions of people’s dream. But it is hard to choose a place among dozens of wonderful cities for your holiday. Besides, it depends on many factors such as each person’s preference, the financial ability, the seasons, and so on. So discover these 15 best cities to visit in Japan below to make your own choice for an exhilarating holiday in 2019.

15 Best Cities To Visit In Japan For Unforgettable Experience

1. Tokyo

Tokyo, the capital and the largest city of Japan, definitely holds the top position in the list of best cities to visit in Japan. Tokyo is a fast-paced and sprawling city, a mixture of the modern and the traditional. It offers tourists not only impressive buildings and luxurious stores but also the oldest shrines and temples and beautiful natural places. In addition, Tokyo is famous for the latest technology with electronic gadgets and modern applications. You can visit Yodobashi Akiba – the largest electronics store in Japan and this is also the center of otaku culture.

There are dozens of famous attractions in Tokyo you can visit: get a nostalgic feeling for the Imperial Palace, the Sensō-Ji Temple, The Meiji Shrine, etc; visit Ueno Park and Zoo to immerse yourself in nature, or go to The Miraikan and Edo-Tokyo Museums or The National Art Center to be awed by the ultra-modern and superb exhibits. There are many places worth visiting such as Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea, Kabukichō, etc.

Cuisine – the indispensable part, is also a feature that attracts tourists to visit Tokyo. There are numerous Michelin – starred restaurants in Tokyo, namely Kanda in Minato-ku, Joël Robuchon in Ebisu, etc. Those serve the most delicate cuisine, definitely satisfying all culinary connoisseurs coming to Japan.

It is time to discover numerous intriguing facts about Tokyo. Tokyo has the world’s most sophisticated railway system with more than 100 surface routes, the busiest street crossing (near Shibuya Station). In Tokyo, there is a vending machine every 12 meters. And many other weird yet wonderful things in Tokyo waiting for you!

2. Hiroshima

Hiroshima is famous for the nuclear bombing in 1945, yet it is more than that. Hiroshima has now become a modern and peaceful city with many attractions. People will give you warmest welcome here.

best cities to visit in Japan

Hiroshima Castle is a treasure trove of Japanese traditions.

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Hiroshima Memorial Park appeals to thousands of people around the globe. Miyajima Island on which there is Itsukushima Shrine offers breathtaking natural scenes. Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival in summer on this island is an illumination event that you should never miss. The Itsukushima Shrine was recognized as world heritage by UNESCO. The “floating” torii gate of the Shrine is the very famous symbol of Hiroshima. In addition, Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden are other historical places people should visit.

Foods and drinks in Hiroshima are also delicious. Hiroshima is one of Japan’s three great sake-producing areas. There are many intriguing sake flavors depending on their ingredients. In regards to foods, oysters are a popular seafood which can be served in many ways such as raw oysters, grilled, deep-fried, etc.

3. Kyoto

Kyoto, the capital of Japan during the period from 794 to 1868, has a rich history and culture. You can find almost everything here: shrines, shops, restaurants, gardens, etc. Kyoto is one of the top cities in Japan and people should come here once in their lives.

Kyoto is reputed to be the “city of 1000 shrines”. Tourists will have an interesting experience on Japanese culture when visiting ancient shrines and temples in Kyoto, to name but a few Kinkakuji Temple, Kifune Shrine, Yasaka Pagoda, etc. In addition, there is Ine no Funaya – a charming village on the Tango Peninsula. It is known as “Venice of Japan” with more than 200 floating houses forming a picturesque and romantic scene.

best cities to visit in Japan

Ine no Funaya – “Venice of Japan”

Kyoto is home to Matcha (Japanese green tea). There is even a town called Wazuka specialized in producing green tea. So it is undoubted that tourists can enjoy a wide range of best matcha – flavored desserts in Kyoto.

4. Sapporo

Sapporo is the capital city of the second largest island of Japan – Hokkaido. Sapporo itself is Japan’s fifth largest city. No words can describe the beauty and charm of this city. It must be on many people’s checklist of best cities to visit in Japan.

There are countless fascinating things to discover in Sapporo, the colorful and fantasy Ishiya Chocolate Factory for people having sweet tooth, Maruyama Zoo for animal lovers, the reputable Snow Festival with ice sculptures,…. It cannot go without saying that like other top cities in Japan there are many green spaces, temples, and museums in Sapporo.

best cities to visit in Japan

Inside Sapporo beer museum where you can enjoy the Asian best – seller brew

The cuisine is another must-try in Sapporo. Besides the traditional foods of Japan (ramen, soup curry), a very famous drink here is beer. Sapporo beer has a long history that dates back to 143 years ago. The brand stands out as the Asian best – seller brew in the USA. There is even Sapporo Beer Museum where you can learn all about the history of beer making.

5. Yokohama

Yokohama is Japan’s second – largest city located on the southwestern coast of Tokyo Bay. Yokohama remains one of the best cities in Japan as it is the most famous port city open to foreign trade.

best cities in Japan

Harbor View Park in Yokohama (Source: Justgola.com)

Yokohama, originally a small fishing village, now become a modern and dynamic city. However, in Harbor View Park you can see the oldest houses in the old days or visit Yokohama Foreign Cemetery where many western traders were buried a long time ago. Sankeien Garden, a very beautiful green space, owns a number of inspiring historical architectures. Tourists should also experience Yokohama Chinatown, Zoorasia (one of the largest zoos in Japan), Yokohama boat cruise, Ramen Museum (for ramen lovers),…

There are some other interesting facts about Yokohama that certainly makes you surprised: Yokohama exports many commodities such as silk, steel, canned fish, etc; the climate here is diverse with humid, hot summer and chilly winter,…

6. Nara

Nara is the former ancient capital of Japan. As a result, it is the cradle of Japanese civilization, dipped in historical and cultural values. No wonder why it is also listed as one of the best cities to visit in Japan.

Get yourself a great day in historical attractions: Todai-Ji Temple, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Sangatsu-do Hall, Yakushi-Ji Temple … or go sightseeing to enjoy the breathtaking natural scenes in Yoshiki-en Garden, Kofuku-Ji Temple, Isui-en Garden, etc.
Nara’s cuisine is famous for foods that originated from Nara period: somen noodles, manju (a steamed bun), narazuke (a kind of pickle since the 8th century), kakinoha-zushi (a type of sushi with salty mackerel fish), kuzu mocha (a very refreshing and sweet dessert)…

top cities to visit in Japan

Todai-ji Temple is a famous landmark in Nara (Source of Image: klook.com)

Nara is really an interesting city. Did you know that there are about 150 accidents caused by deer? The city had to create “deer zones” on the road to help drivers notice and avoid. Another surprising fact is that many stores in Nara close very early, often after 6 p.m.

7. Osaka

Osaka is also one of the largest and best cities to visit in Japan. The city located on the Honshu island impresses tourists with glorious neon lights, diverse local foods, historical places, entertainment centers,…

Osaka Castle nestles among cherry blossoms at the heart of the city, offering a very charming view. Shitennoji temple, Hozen-ji temple, Kasuga Taisha shrine, Sumiyoshi shrine,… are not only the best ancient places but also tell many mysterious folks and tales. There are more museums in Osaka than any other cities in Japan. Osaka Aquarium, universal studios, the pokemon centers, and Round 1 stadium are all celebrated entertainment centers in Osaka.

top cities in Japan

Osaka Castle offers tourists a very charming view (Source: https://www.jnto.go.jp)

Tourists can enjoy fresh seafood in Kuromon Market and other traditional foods of Japan like takoyaki (grilled octopus meatballs), okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake), ramen,… in Dotonbori street.

8. Okinawa

Okinawa is an island chain consisting of dozens of small islands spreading from Kyushu to Taiwan. Thanks to its terrain, Okinawa is known as a perfect paradise with sandy beaches in glorious sunshine.

 best cities to visit in Japan

Okinawa is known as a perfect paradise (travel.gaijinpot.com)

Miyako Islands and Yaeyama islands are beautiful natural places include beaches, greenery jungles,… perfect for swimming, diving and relaxing. You can enjoy the colorful hydrangea garden, explore the caves at Okinawa World or join a whale – watching tour.

Okinawa is home to very diverse cuisine from both sea and mountains: goya champuru (a popular vegetable), umibudo (a green pretty dish), awamori (a sugar – free alcohol drink),…

9. Kanazawa

Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is one of the top cities to visit in Japan because of historical temples and museums, beautiful gardens and sophisticated crafts and arts.

Enjoy your holiday in Kenrokuen garden, Kanazawa castle park, Utatsuyama temple area (include more than 50 temples and shrines), Higashi Chaya area (with many geisha houses), Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art (the display of Japanese art), 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (collection of art produced in 1980s),…

15 best cities to visit in Japan

Kanazawa is celebrated to be City of Crafts and Folk Art (Source: http://creativekanazawa.jp/)

Kanazawa is celebrated to be City of Crafts and Folk Art. It is the city of gold leaf and there is even ice cream cone served in real gold. The images of this sweet dessert are so eye-catching and widely shared on social media. In addition, you should experience the art of traditional handicraft: gold lacquer decoration, Kaga-Nui embroidery, Kutani porcelain and so on.

10. Nagasaki

Nagasaki is the port city located on Kyushu island. It is also an important city for foreign relations. Although the city was destroyed in the atomic bomb in 1945, it has been reconstructed and become a modern and vibrant city with amazing museums, delicious street foods,…

15 best cities to visit in Japan

Walk around the Peace Park in Nagasaki (Source: thecrazytourist.com)

Visit Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum to relax in the peaceful atmosphere and pay tribute to victims in the bomb attack. For Christians, Ōura Cathedral is an ideal place that tells you every tale related to the history of Christianity in Japan. And if you are animal lovers, come to Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium to watch this cute fat animal swimming, eating and playing. There are many other places like Spectacles Bridge, Glover Garden, Suwa Shrine, etc.

Nagasaki is home to unique cuisine from both land and sea. Nagasaki Champon is a kind of noodles with the topping of vegetables and seafood. You can also try Guzouni – a dish made from mochi, over 10 ingredients (from meat, fish, vegetables,…) and soup, sea bream dishes (salty grilled fish mixed with rice), Nagasaki beef,… and a sweet drink called Milk Seki.

11. Kamakura

Kamakura is a small city located in the south of Kanagawa prefecture. Kyoto is famous for numerous shrines and temples, so it is also known as a historical city embedded with cultural values. In addition, tourists can go hiking, lie on the sandy beaches and enjoy a variety of seafood.

 best cities to visit in Japan

The famous symbol of Kamakura – the Great Buddha in Kotoku-in Temple (Source: gogonihon.com)

You definitely visit the famous symbol of this city – the Great Buddha in Kotoku-in Temple. There are many other shrines and temples like Megetsuin temple (with charming hydrangea blossoms), Hokokuji temple (to take a stroll in a green bamboo forest), Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, Yuigahama beach,…

Kamakura has so much street food like croquettes (a fried bread-crumbed roll), Dango (mochi sticks), fishcakes, matcha – flavored sweet desserts, and so on.

12. Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the largest city of Kyushu island. It is actually the combination of 2 towns: Hakata – the port city and Fukuoka – the castle town. Therefore, it is not only a modern and fast-paced city with open foreign relations but also a historical one with ancient castles and temples. Fukuoka is really one of the best cities to visit in Japan and you will know why.

The sightseeing spots in Fukuoka will never disappoint you: Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine (worship the god of learning), Canal City Hakata, Kyushu National Museum, Ohori Park, Nokonoshima island (with colorful blossoms), Marine World Uminonakamichi (more than 450 marine species),… and many other famous festivals.

 best cities to visit in Japan

Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine worships the God of learning (Source: travel.gaijinpot.com)

Experience the famous specialty of Fukuoka: ramen in 2 styles – Hakata and traditional Kyushu. The broth of Kyushu ramen has a stronger taste than that of Hakata one. Another delicacy of Fukuoka is Hakata Torimon – a toothsome pastry whose ingredients are butter, milk, and sweet beans. Hakata no Hito is another renowned pastry made from eggs and red bean jelly. Seafood in Fukuoka is also fresh and diverse: Karachi mentaiko (pollack roe seasoned in red peppers and sauce), gomasaba (mackerel soaked in sesame and soy sauce),…

13. Nagoya

Nagoya, located in Aichi Prefecture, is Japan’s fourth largest city. It is now a key city of Japan with world – class buildings, historical museums and temples, and many other things to see.

You can explore Nagoya Castle (the city’s gem), Atsuta Shrine, The Museum Meiji-mura (displays architecture duplicates from the Meiji period), Toyota Museums (as Nagoya is the birthplace of Toyota – the reputable car maker), Legoland Japan (a major theme park displaying miniature towns, Lego reconstructions of famous places…), the Temples of Ōsu, Tokugawa Art Museum, Shirotori Garden, Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens,…

Food is also a feature that attracts millions of people to Nagoya every year. You should try Miso Katsu (a Nagoya version of Tonkatsu), Hitsumabushi (grilled eel mixed with rice), Kishimen (udon noodles), Tenmusu (rice balls mixed with shrimps then wrapped with seaweed), Tebasaki (fried chicken wings), Ankake spaghetti, Ogura toast,… and many other mouth-watering dishes.

14. Beppu

Beppu, the city located on the island of Kyushu, is renowned for hot springs resorts. However, it is more than that. Surrounded by mountains and long coastal lines, tourists coming to Beppu city can relax on the beautiful beaches or go hiking. They can also visit many famous attractions in this city.

The first place in Beppu that people must visit is definitely onsens (hot springs): take a tour in Hell Circuit consisting of 8 stunning hot springs. You can experience the sand bath in Takegawara Bathhouse, walk around Beppu Park, visit Takasakiyama Monkey Park (monkeys are on the loose), etc.

 best cities to visit in Japan

Beppu is renowned for hot springs resorts (Source: Fredrik Rubensson)

One thing that distinguishes foods in Beppu from other cities is that foods are cooked with hot spring steam. Thus, come and try unique and healthy cuisine of Beppu.

15. Aomori

Aomori is a small city on the Honshu island. The city is truly a hidden gem in Japan as it is full of natural landscapes and tranquil places.

You can relax in Fujita Memorial Garden, enjoy colorful Nebuta Festival, go skiing or snowboarding in winter, visit Nebuta Warasse (a cultural center of Aomori), Asamushi aquarium, Aomori Museum of Art, etc.

best cities in Japan

Nebuta Warasse is a cultural center of Aomori (Source: www.nebuta.jp)

In Aomori, you can eat apples everywhere and experience apple-picking. Other famous foods you can find in Aomori are Kenoshiru (Miso soup), Ginger-Miso Oden (best served in winter), Barayak (beef cooked with onions and a sauce called “tare”), Kaiyaki-Miso (a simple Miso soup with ingredients of scallops),…

Summary

To be honest, Japan has countless beautiful towns and cities for you to discover. Have you chosen your favorite city after reading through 15 best cities to visit in Japan? If you have any question about location guides or things to do in Japan, feel free to leave a comment below and we will discuss further.

About Hayami Mori

Hayami Mori is an awesome travel blogger & photographer. She was born and raised in Tokyo and have been here for nearly 25 years. She loves traveling and always wants to introduce her beautiful Japan to travelers from all over the world. Therefore, her blog is a great source of information for people looking for what to do in Japan as well as provides some tips to make their trips unforgettable.