Fancy a trip to Japan? Here are 12 places to add to your bucket list

best places to visit in japan
The best places to visit in JapanKyoto. Masahiro Makino

It's one of the most beautiful countries in the world and whether you're a first-timer or a returning visitor, our round-up of the best places to visit in Japan will inspire you to plan a trip.


There's plenty to see and do in Japan - from staring at the bright lights of Tokyo to finding peace in the scenic Japanese Alps. Many will agree that one of the best times to explore Japan is during the cherry blossom season. Its spectacular spring-time displays can be enjoyed around the country and are celebrated with picnics in the parks and seasonal parties.

While Tokyo and Kyoto are two of the most popular places to visit Japan (and rightly so as they are also some of the most beautiful destinations), there are many places beyond these hotspots, whether it's Japan's cities, islands or mountains you want to explore.

A cruise to Japan is an excellent way to visit multiple regions on one trip and can take you to some undiscovered places. If you're planning ahead for Japan's sell-out cruises, you'll want to check out Good Housekeeping's incredible spring 2025 sailing during the cherry blossom season. It's perfect for getting to know the lesser-known, underrated places, such as Niigata and Toyama.

For any traveller who has always dreamed of visiting Japan, now is the time to get planning and to help inspire your next trip, we've rounded up the best places to visit in Japan in 2024 and beyond.

Check out our favourite Japanese destinations below and visit the Japan National Tourism Organization website for more ideas on places to go.


The first stop for many foreign tourists is Japan's vibrant capital and it's not hard to see why. The world’s most populous metropolis, Tokyo offers tradition and innovation, and unlimited opportunities to eat, shop and explore.

Located on Tokyo Bay in the Kanto region of Honshu, Tokyo is known for its fashion and shopping, from the trendy shopping districts of Harajuku and Shibuya, to the luxury flagships of Ginza. Want to know where to go? Shinjuku is a thriving business district; a mix of gleaming skyscrapers and atmospheric back streets with tiny bars. Asakusa is the heart of Tokyo’s downtown, with ancient temples and traditional stores.

Tokyo is a foodie's paradise too, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, along with hundreds of cheap and delicious ramen shops. You'll want to explore Tokyo's dizzying array of restaurant and dining options, from themed cafés to haute cuisine.



places to visit in japan
Yongyuan Dai


Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo, Osaka is renowned as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the country. It's only a short shinkansen ride from Tokyo, making it a great place to visit in Japan if the capital city is your base. Visitors can step off the bullet train and into a bright and enticing city. Osaka Castle is a must-visit and home to beautiful grounds you can wander through, especially during the cherry blossom season when the spectacular blooms appear.

You'll want to explore other areas in the city too, including the neon lights of Dotombori Bridge and Osaka’s Minami area. Foodies can indulge in the famous culinary delights found in neighbourhoods such as Tenma and Ura Namba. Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake made with shredded cabbage, flour, egg and dashi is either cooked at the table for diners or left for you to cook yourself.

Discover Osaka during a 17-day cruise holiday to Japan in spring 2025, when you might witness the spectacular cherry blossom displays in the city.



best places to visit in japan


The capital of Kanagawa prefecture, Yokohama grew from a small fishing village during the Edo Period into Japan’s second largest city. A popular city among expats, Yokohama is also home to one of the world’s largest Chinatowns, and preserves some former Western residences in the Yamate district. While here, you must visit one of the city’s traditional and serene Japanese landscape gardens, Sankeien Garden, where you'll find winding trails set among historic buildings.

Another highlight is the bustling new city centre, Minato Mirai, which sits along the water. There's something for everyone here, from shopping centres and an amusement park to museums and relaxing hot spring baths.

Visit Yokohama on the last day of Good Housekeeping's cruise around Japan during the cherry blossom season in 2025.



best places to visit in japan
SeanPavonePhoto - Getty Images

Japanese Alps

The Japanese Alps are a series of spectacular mountain ranges in central Honshu, which are perfect for those who wish to escape the buzz of the country's most popular cities. Think thick pine forests, snow-tipped peaks and teal rivers. Only two hours from Tokyo, this natural paradise offers an excellent place to explore rural Japan.

The Alps are just the place for climbers, skiers, hikers and nature fans. Yamanaka Onsen is set in the mountainous area of Kaga Onsen, situated along a beautiful gorge. The hot spring resort is not only a top-spot for wellness but for traditional crafts – it's Yamanaka lacquerware has a 400-year history in the region. You can discover the contemplative heart of Zen Buddhism's Soto sect at Eiheiji (pictured), a massive temple complex just outside the city of Fukui. Built by the Buddhist monk Dogen (1200-1253), it has over 70 buildings set amid cedars in the mountains.

Meanwhile, the city of Kanazawa offers rich cultural heritage and a history of artistic innovation and excellence. One of the most important centres for culture and art during the Edo period, it remains a superb place for art lovers and culture enthusiasts.


See the stunning Japanese Alps on a Good Housekeeping tour from Tokyo to Osaka in 2024 or 2025.


places to visit in japan
MIXA - Getty Images


Ancient temples, traditional teahouses and peaceful gardens: Kyoto is all about exploring historic Japan. A city of nearly 2,000 temples and shrines, it's Japan's spiritual heart and a true embodiment of Old Japan. Beyond the futuristic Kyoto Station, modern shopping complexes and sleek luxury hotels lies a city with celebrated centuries-old wonders, breathtaking temples and serene Zen gardens.

Kyoto effortlessly blends the past and present and is a must-see destination for history buffs, art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

While here, you'll want to visit the grand temples, shrines, palaces and gardens in and around the city. Be sure to dine on delicious multi-course kaiseki cuisine and stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn), too.

Visit ancient Kyoto as part of our Good Housekeeping 13-day tour across the Japanese Alps.



places to visit in japan
Peter Adams - Getty Images


The vibrant city of Hiroshima has a complicated history, great food and friendly locals. While it's probably most famous for being devastated by a nuclear attack during World War II, Hiroshima as a city promotes peace and understanding.

Every year on 6 August, a memorial service is held to commemorate the victims of the 1945 attack. Thousands write messages of peace on paper lanterns that are lit at sunset to float down the river past the iconic remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome.

During a visit, be sure to check out the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome. You should also taste Hiroshima's version of okomiyaki, a local delicacy. Another highlight is going to nearby Miyajima to see its deer and picturesque floating shrine.

Explore Hiroshima during a 2025 spring-time cruise to Japan, where you'll have time to visit the war memorials, shrines and temples.



places to visit in japan
Thanan - Getty Images


Japan's Tohoku region is home to unspoiled rural landscapes and historical treasures. This northeastern wilderness is a huge region encompassing six rural prefectures that boast custom and heritage. The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011 brought out the resilient nature of Tohoku's people, and local passion and pride are putting the area back on its feet.

There's a lot to be proud of, too – dramatic landscapes, history-rich sites, craft sake and a host of outdoor activities like rafting, hiking and skiing.

During a trip to the region, you can enjoy the explosive sound, colour and drama of the Aomori Nebuta Festival in summer. Or wander the temples, gardens and archeological sites of World Heritage-listed Hiraizumi in Iwate.

Don't miss an adventure along Hachinohe's section of the Michinoku Coastal Trail and foodies will want to taste the sweet cherries of Yamagata and the juicy peaches of Fukushima.


places to visit in japan
DoctorEgg - Getty Images


Shikoku might be the smallest of Japan's four main islands, but there are plenty of natural and culture sites to explore. Traditionally remote, Shikoku is now easy to access from Honshu.

The island offers picturesque coastline on the glittering Seto Inland Sea, legendary udon noodles and picture-perfect onsen. Its stunning Iya Valley, Pacific coastline and free-flowing rivers are best explored on hiking, kayaking and surfboarding adventures.

While here, you can sample the famous udon noodles of Kagawa, take the first steps of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage at temple number one, Ryozenji, in Tokushima, and relax in the hot waters of Dogo Onsen.


places to visit in japan
Hào Si Xu Hè / EyeEm - Getty Images


The island of Hokkaido is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in winter, thanks to top resorts like Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano. Sapporo, its main city, is also famous for beer, ramen and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. It's not all about winter fun here, though.

Hokkaido’s mild summers also provide relief from Japan’s humidity, and offer ideal conditions for hiking and exploring the many national parks. Much of Hokkaido is wild and unspoiled, with hot springs and volcanic lakes, so you're never too far from nature.

While here, explore the culture and traditions of the indigenous Ainu people at Lake Akan, and journey to the Shiretoko Peninsula to see free-roaming brown bears, foxes and deer. Visiting in the summer? Everyone will be dazzled by the rolling hills of Furano's lavender farms, while foodies will love dining on fresh seafood including succulent crab, salmon and fresh sushi in Hokkaido, too.

Get to know Hokkaido on Good Housekeeping's 2025 cruise, which stops in the city of Hakodate, which is overlooked by the 334-metre Mount Hakodate.



places to visit in japan
kenny hung photography - Getty Images


We love the distinct seasons in the Toyama region. It lies around two hours north of Tokyo, blanketed by snow in winter and blooming with cherry blossoms in spring. While Toyoma City is renowned for its fresh seafood, the wider region is particularly lovely. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it's surrounded by rushing rivers and lush mountains.

This beautiful pocket of Japanese countryside is home to the UNESCO-listed area of Gokayama, which comprises the two villages of Ainokura and Suganuma, known for their carefully preserved thatched buildings called gassho-zukuri. The roofs are designed to resemble the hands of Buddhist monks’ pressed together in prayer. In winter, the snow-covered gassho-zukurie take on the look of a magical, fairy tale scene.

Join a Japanese cruise departing in spring 2025, and you’ll call at Toyama as the cherry blossom emerges. On an excursion, you can make the scenic hour-long journey from the cruise terminal to Gokayama, passing through the Nanto area of Toyama, where the Shogawa River and Oyabegawa rapids flow.


a couple of houses in a grassy field with trees and mountains in the background
Courtesy JNTO


A 2024 extension to Japan's bullet train network makes access to a beautiful region deep in the mountains of the Fukui Prefecture much more accessible for visitors. It offers the chance to visit locations where you can join in with traditional rituals and learn more about Japanese culture in more remote pockets of the country.

The new train journey whisks visitors to locations like Eiheiji, where you’ll find one of the main temples of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1244. It’s a spiritual place amid mountainous scenery and ancient woodland, and guests are invited to join the practice. On departure, guests are presented with a goshuin, a traditional document written in exquisite Japanese calligraphy to certify their visit.

Next to the temple is the Zen Village, where you'll find the beautiful Hakujukan hotel, a sustainably built ryokan. As part of their stay, guests can partake in Zen meditation, known as zazen, before soaking in an open-air bath.


a room with a tree and a rug and a rug
Hakujukan, courtesy of JNTO


Koyasan, also known as Mount Koya, is thought by many as the most sacred place in all of Japan. Home to the centre of Shingon Buddhism, a sect that was brought to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, one of the country's most prominent Buddhist monks, this mountain settlement comprises over 100 monasteries and temples.

The Shingon headquarters sit within the Kongobuji temple, which is open to visitors. Here you can learn about how Daishi founded the settlement and visit peaceful Banryutei Rock Garden, Japan’s largest rock garden.

Thanks to its verdant peaks and winding valleys, Koyasan is a popular place for hiking and is the starting point for the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a holy route that stretches roughly 750 miles and takes in 88 temples.

Koyasan is easy to access from Osaka via train for a day trip, but stay the night in shukubo (traditional temple lodgings) and you can enjoy a more immersive experience, interacting with monks and sampling their vegetarian cooking.

Visit serene Kōyasan part of Good Housekeeping's 13-day Japan tour.



koyasan, wakayama ken, japan 20091028 kongobuji is the head temple of the shingon sect of buddhism, located on mount koya its name means temple of the diamond mountain and is a unesco world heritage site photo by john s landerlightrocket via getty images
John S Lander - Getty Images

You Might Also Like