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Top 10 Destinations to Explore in Japan in 2023

places to visit in japan

Japan, with its myriad hidden treasures and year-round appeal, beckons every traveler to embark on a journey of discovery. Whether you're drawn to the snow-covered ski resorts in winter or the stunning coastlines in summer, Japan's cities are always prepared to enchant you with their captivating attractions, delectable street cuisine, and rich cultural experiences.

The question, then, is which of Japan's cities should you prioritize for your visit in 2023? While ideally, one would explore them all, this guide narrows it down to the absolute must-visit cities.

1. Tokyo


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When envisioning Japanese cities, Tokyo undoubtedly springs to mind. As the capital and Japan's largest city, Tokyo magnetizes millions of tourists annually with its bustling streets, high-octane entertainment, and neon-lit dazzle. Tokyo thrives on its vibrant energy, offering an abundance of museums, shopping districts, and endless fun. The sheer scale of the city is an adventure in itself.

So, where should you commence your Tokyo exploration? After several visits, we recommend starting with Tokyo Tower, an iconic structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower, yet distinct at 333 meters in height and adorned in red and white. Ascending the tower, you'll delve into Tokyo's architectural history, culminating in a breathtaking view of the city below. Nearby, Tokyo Skytree stands at a dizzying 634 meters, claiming the title of the world's tallest tower, promising hours of cloud-kissing enchantment.

For a taste of Tokyo's street-level vibrancy, head to Golden Gai for a downtown atmosphere or Shibuya Crossing for an urban CBD experience. Make time for visits to remarkable museums like the Mori Art Museum, Japan Olympic Museum, and NHL Museum of Broadcasting.

2. Osaka


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Osaka, another of Japan's prominent cities, exudes a distinctive character, with its commercial heart pulsating day and night. Here, delectable street food, lively bars, and captivating attractions are always on the menu. Osaka harmoniously combines the pleasures of revelry, relaxation, and sightseeing, promising an experience without compromise.

To delve into Osaka's history, an excursion to Osaka Castle should top your itinerary. This 16th-century marvel is surrounded by cherry blossoms and a serene moat, making it one of the city's most enchanting landmarks. For a day of whimsical amusement, Universal Studios Japan offers Hollywood-themed rides conveniently located just outside central Osaka.

Notably, Osaka is home to Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of Japan's oldest Shinto shrines, which merits a visit, whether for spiritual or tourist reasons, to immerse in Japan's profound religious heritage.

3. Kyoto

Though Tokyo holds the current capital status, Kyoto was Japan's capital in the past, imbuing it with a deep sense of tradition and culture. This Kansai region gem showcases classic dark wood houses, numerous Buddhist temples, and Shinto shrines, rendering it a cultural oasis for those seeking a profound Japanese experience.

To immerse yourself in the ambiance of Kyoto's traditional streets, visit Gion. Stroll early in the morning to enjoy tranquil streets or venture out at night when cobbled paths are illuminated by paper lanterns. Exploring Kyoto's numerous temples is a must, with the Golden Pavilion being a highlight. Gaze upon this architectural masterpiece across its glistening pond, mesmerized by its golden allure.

For picturesque vistas, don't miss the bamboo forest of Arashiyama or the crimson corridors of Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. Kyoto boasts a plethora of scenic beauty and culturally enriching attractions.

4. Hiroshima

The name Hiroshima carries a poignant history, primarily stemming from the tragic atomic bombing in 1945. This event left an indelible mark on the city, with over 100,000 casualties. Today, visitors can pay their respects at significant landmarks like the Peace Park, honoring the victims and commemorating the devastation.

However, Hiroshima isn't solely defined by this tragic chapter. Food enthusiasts can savor the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake with a distinct local twist. Hiroshima Castle and the tranquil Shukkei-en scenic garden offer diverse experiences for history and nature lovers. Despite the shadows of the past, Hiroshima continues to thrive, welcoming visitors with its rich cultural tapestry and multifaceted attractions.

5. Nagoya

Nagoya, renowned for its manufacturing and shipping industries, serves as the capital of the Aichi Prefecture. It's the birthplace of major automotive giants like Honda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, imbuing the city with an innovative and industrial ambiance that beckons those eager to explore Japan's business side.

Visitors should make a point to tour the Toyota Exhibition Hall for insights into Japan's automotive production. Nagoya Castle provides a historical introduction to the city, while unique events like the Nagoya Sumo Tournament, Nagoya Matsuri festival, and the World Cosplay Summit add excitement to the city's calendar. Don't forget to savor the regional specialty, miso katsu, during your downtime.

6. Saitama

For an authentic glimpse of Japan beyond the tourist hubs, Saitama, primarily a residential city, offers a quieter and more serene experience. Stepping away from the beaten path and into the heart of the country is a unique travel style that Saitama caters to perfectly. Many residents use Saitama as a commuter town, making the short trip to Tokyo for work during the week.

What awaits you in Saitama? Hitsujiiyama Park captivates with its lush carpet of pink moss, while sake tours allow you to sample traditional Japanese alcohol. Saitama is a haven not far from major cities, providing respite from the constant hustle and bustle.

7. Fukuoka

Fukuoka, another major Japanese city, boasts beautiful islands and a scenic coastal setting, making it an ideal summer escape. Situated in Fukuoka Prefecture, the city is favored by young professionals, students, and businesses alike.

Key attractions include Fukuoka Castle, Kyushu National Museum, and Dazaifu Tenman-gu, a shrine dedicated to the god of education. Fukuoka offers a bustling metropolitan atmosphere replete with action, diverse cuisine, and entertainment. While it lacks Kyoto's historical allure or Tokyo's popularity, Fukuoka promises an exciting experience as Japan's dynamic "second city."

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8. Nara

Nara is famed for its enchanting deer population, a delightful spectacle frequently captured in online images. Temples nestled amid lush landscapes are a recurring motif, reflecting Nara's tranquil atmosphere and regal history. Like Kyoto, Nara was once the capital of Japan, but today, it is renowned for its serene ambiance.

Notable attractions in Nara include Nara Deer Park, Todai-Ji Temple, and Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine. One can easily spend a full day exploring these temples, immersing themselves in Japan's rich cultural heritage. Nara is conveniently reachable from Kyoto, just a quick 45-minute train ride away.

9. Nagasaki

Nagasaki, similar to Hiroshima, holds a complex history marked by the atomic bombing it endured in 1945. Despite this somber chapter, Nagasaki serves as an educational destination that harmonizes European and Japanese influences due to its historical trade ties with Europe.

The city boasts a unique blend of Christian sites, including the Oura Cathedral, alongside magnificent shrines and temples. To gain insights into Japan's international relations history, visitors can explore the Atomic Hypocenter Park and Peace Park. Nagasaki beckons travelers to delve into its multifaceted heritage and profound historical narratives.

10. Sapporo

Sapporo, a name closely associated with one of Japan's most famous beer brands, stands as the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture. Located on Japan's Northern Island, Sapporo complements a visit to Tokyo seamlessly.

Visitors can explore the Sapporo Beer Museum or ascend the Sapporo TV Tower for breathtaking panoramic views. The city offers a diverse range of attractions, providing a bustling urban atmosphere with entertainment options to suit various tastes. If your visit coincides with the Snow Festival, you'll have the opportunity to witness one of the world's premier winter festivals, featuring a 1.5-kilometer winter wonderland adorned with ice sculptures, an ice skating rink, and sledding areas.