Japan is one of the most beautiful and captivating countries in the world — and a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
This fascinating island’s modern outlook and its ancient culture draw tourists in their droves.
Japan’s historic roots have resulted in thousands of beautiful shrines across the country’s beautiful forests and large mountain ranges. But some of the most impressive sights are also from more recent times.
With so many wonderful places to visit, it can be a little daunting to plan your trip.
While some of these beautiful locations on our list have been around for centuries, and others for mere decades, one thing remains the same — you need to see them.
10 Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing makes our list due to its fame and beauty. While Shibuya is merely a ward of Tokyo, it is well known for its entertainment and shopping districts close to Shibuya station — think of it as Japan’s Times Square.
It is also an important center for new fashion trends, and youth culture. The most well known landmark is the large intersection in front of the station — it features large video screens, and bright advertisements and has become a popular spot for photos and movies.
This location is also known for the Hachiko statue, in honor of a dog that waited for his owner every day at the station, even after his owner passed away.
9 Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower was built as a symbol of Japan’s rebirth as a major economic power after World War II, and was the country’s tallest structure from 1958 until 2012 — when it was overtaken by the Tokyo Skytree.
Standing at 333 meters tall, the Tokyo Tower is the world’s largest self-supported steel structure, and is 13 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.
There are two available observation decks at 150 meters and 250 meters, both allowing for beautiful views of Japan’s capital city.
On a clear day, you can see the Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji from the highest observation deck.
8 Zao Kitsune Mura (Zao Fox Village)
The Zao Kitsune Mura — or Zao Fox Village — is a thirty-minute drive from the city of Shiroishi.
This attraction is a preserve where over a hundred foxes are able to roam free and interact with human visitors.
The first part of the village is like a small petting zoo, with a few other animals besides foxes.
Once you enter the main part, the foxes are allowed to roam wherever they like in the preserve, and visitors are encouraged to buy treats to feed them for 100 yen.
This beautiful sanctuary is without doubt one of the best places to visit in Japan — especially for animal lovers.
7 Mt. Koya
The next stop on our list will have all the nature lovers booking their flights immediately.
Mount Koya is located in the Wakayama Prefecture and is south of Osaka. It is the center of Shingon Buddhism; a Buddhist sect introduced thousands of years ago.
As a result, this mountainside is covered in over one hundred temples. The beautiful, eerie trees are perfect for those who love trails, with dozens of interesting temples to explore.
Travel Tip: If you are someone who likes to experience the culture of the places they visit, many temples offer the choice to spend the night and experience a monk’s lifestyle.
6 Mt. Fuji
Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain, standing at 3,776 meters, and is well known for its almost perfect cone shape.
Mount Fuji is an active volcano, but hasn’t erupted since 1708. Though clouds and other factors often result in poor visibility, it is open to hikers from July to August.
For people who are looking to enjoy Mt. Fuji in a more relaxed way, visit Fuji Five Lakes — an area at the base of the volcano comprizing five different lakes.
Fun Fact: Fuji is famous for walking sticks that you can purchase along the trail before having stamps branded along it at various different altitudes. It makes for a very awesome souvenir.
5 Tōdaiji Temple
Tōdaiji — literally meaning “Great Eastern Temple” — is one of the most well-known temples and is located in the city of Nara.
First constructed in 752 AD to be the head temple for all provincial Buddhist temples in the region, this important site has a rich history.
The main hall of Tōdaiji, called the Daibutsuden, is the world’s largest wooden building, though it is now only two-thirds the size of the original temple.
Because it is close to Nara Park, you will find many deer walking around the temple begging for treats. Yes, they’re friendly!
Our next stop takes place in Nagoya, and is perfect for anyone visiting in the fall.
Korankei is the name of a valley located along Mount Iimori and is known as one of the best spots to watch the beautiful maple trees change color for autumn.
The bright vermilion Taigetsukyo Bridge is known as one of the symbols of Korankei, though the best viewing is done along the Tomoe River.
From sunset to nine o’clock, the trees are illuminated by different light displays and create something truly magical.
Helpful Tip: The trees are at their most beautiful from mid to late November!
3 Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is considered among Japan’s twelve original castles and, unlike many castles in Japan, was never destroyed by war, fire, or earthquakes.
As a result, it is considered one of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles in Japan.
While its construction was originally started in the 1400s, the castle as we know it today was completed in 1609 and is over 400 years old.
There is an option to visit a free section of the castle, or a paid section that includes the main keep.
This location is especially beautiful during April, when the large expanses of cherry trees around the castle are in bloom.
Definitely one of the best places to visit in Japan for lovers of ancient culture.
2 Fushimi Inari-taisha
The next stop on our list is thousands of years old — literally — with evidence of its existence dating back to 794 AD.
The Fushimi Inari-taisha is an ancient Shinto shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of rice and foxes — thought to be his messengers.
It is famous for the thousands — yes, thousands — of bright red torii gates that straddle a labyrinth of trails behind the main shrine, leading to Mount Inari.
The walk to the summit takes about 2-3 hours, but there are a couple of delicious restaurants on the way up with fox-themed meals.
1 Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a beautiful Zen temple located in northern Kyoto.
Why is it at the top of our list? The top two floors of this temple are covered entirely in gold leaf. Yes, you read that correctly.
Originally built to be a retirement villa for the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, it was turned into a Zen temple after his death.
The building has a large pond around the front, which allows for an impressive reflection on a clear day.
Each level of the building was designed after a different style of Japanese architecture.
Fun Fact: This building has been rebuilt multiple times — twice during the Onin War, and once again in 1955.