Top 30 Tourist Attractions in Japan Popular Among International Travelers
Japan is full of attractive places to visit, ranging from Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to castles and gardens. This article will introduce the 30 most popular sites. (Source: TripAdvisor "Top 30 Attractions in Japan by International Travelers 2018")
- No. 30 Sanzen-in Temple (Kyoto)
- No. 29 Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Nagano)
- No. 28 Nezu Museum (Tokyo)
- No. 27 Byodoin Temple (Kyoto)
- No. 26 Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama)
- No. 25 Kyoto Station Building (Kyoto)
- No. 24 Shirakawa-go Gassho-zukuri Village (Gifu)
- No. 23 Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (Aichi)
- No. 22 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings (Tokyo)
- No. 21 Hasedera (Kanagawa)
- No. 20 Eikando Zenrin-ji (Kyoto)
- No. 19 Ryogoku Kokugikan (Tokyo)
- No. 18 Ritsurin Garden (Kagawa)
- No. 17 Nikko Toshogu (Tochigi)
- No. 16 Senso-ji (Tokyo)
- No. 15 Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Kagoshima)
- No. 14 Samurai Museum (Tokyo)
- No. 13 Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba)
- No. 12 Nara Park (Nara)
- No. 11 Sanjusangendo (Kyoto Prefecture)
- No. 10 Himeji Castle (Hyogo)
- No. 9 The Hakone Open-Air Museum (Kanagawa)
- No. 8 Kinkaku-ji (Kyoto)
- No. 7 Koyasan (Okuno-in) (Wakayama)
- No. 6 Kenroku-en (Ishikawa)
- No. 5 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)
- No. 4 Todaiji (Nara)
- No. 3 Miyajima (Itukushima Shrine) (Hiroshima)
- No. 2 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park) (Hiroshima)
- No. 1 Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto)
No. 30 Sanzen-in Temple (Kyoto)
Sanzen-in, which is located in the Ohara area of Kyoto, is a famous temple with a history of over 1,000 years. There is much to see at the temple, including its structures, carvings and paintings, among which the Yusei-en Garden, is not to be missed. The moss-covered grounds and the Japanese cedar and hinoki cypress trees in the garden combine to create a landscape with great atmosphere. The statues of Jizo (bodhisattva who looks over children, travellers and the underworld) that can be found in various places around the grounds are also popular for their unique appearances that are great for posting on social media.
Admission Fees: 700 JPY/general, 400 JPY/junior high and high school age, 150 JPY/elementary school age
No. 29 Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Nagano)
Jigokudani Yaen-koen, which is in a remote location deep in the mountains, is a habitat for wild Japanese macaque. The monkeys here are famous for soaking in the onsen (hot springs) in the winter. The park is popular among tourists from around the world who come to see the somewhat humorous sight of the monkeys relaxing in the hot springs. It takes about 30 minutes by foot to get to the park from the entrance of the Kanbayashi Onsen walking path. If you're lucky, you may see Japanese kamoshika (wild goat) or squirrels on the way.
Park Admission Fees: 800 JPY/adult (18 and older), 400 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school age, free for children under 6.
No. 28 Nezu Museum (Tokyo)
Nezu Museum collects and exhibits antique art from Japan and other countries in East Asia, and has a collection of approximately 7,400 pieces, including seven National Treasures. The tastefully designed Japanese garden on the grounds is a popular urban oasis that is great to walk around in to enjoy the greenery, or to appreciate from the museum cafe. There are English captions to the exhibits as well as pamphlets in English, Chinese (simplified), Korean, and French.
Special Exhibition: 1,300 JPY/adult, 1,000 JPY/student (high school and above)
Museum Collection Exhibition: 1,100 JPY/adult, 800 JPY/student (high school and above)
*Free for junior high school students and younger
No. 27 Byodoin Temple (Kyoto)
The World Heritage Site, Byodoin, is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1052. Its Hou-ou-do (Phoenix Hall), which is a National Treasure, is so famous that it is even depicted on the Japanese 10-yen coin. The facade that appears like a Ho-ou (Japanese phoenix - a mythical bird similar to a peacock) with its wings open is stunning. There is much more to see, such as the seated statue of Amida Buddha, a National Treasure considered by some to be the ideal sculpture of Buddha. There are captions and pamphlets in English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), and Korean.
Admission Fees: 600 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/junior high or high school student, 300 JPY/elementary school student
No. 26 Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama)
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an alpine tourist route in an area with mountains with heights in the 3,000m range. It is so popular, it has three stars on the online version of Michelin Green Guide Toyama. The route connects Tateyama Station in Toyama Prefecture and Ogizawa Station in Nagano Prefecture with numerous modes of transportation including bus, cable car, ropeway gondola, and boat. There is a variety of fantastic views to see on this route, including majestic mountains, clear blue lakes, and 19m-high snow walls.
One-way Fare (between Tateyama Station and Ogizawa Station): 8,290 JPY/adult, 4,150 JPY/child
No. 25 Kyoto Station Building (Kyoto)
Kyoto Station Building is a large commercial complex connected to Kyoto Station, the gateway to Kyoto. There is a variety of facilities in it, including the department store, Isetan, as well as a hotel, restaurants, and theater. It is also a great place to purchase Kyoto souvenirs, such as the famous wagashi (Japanese sweet), Yatsuhashi. The building itself, which has a modern design like a work of contemporary art, is also well worth seeing. The Kyoto Tourist Information Center on the second floor offers tourist information in English, Chinese, and Korean.
No. 24 Shirakawa-go Gassho-zukuri Village (Gifu)
Shirakawa-go is an area with a beautiful, archetypically Japanese landscape. It is a famous spot that is registered as a World Heritage Site. Its highlight is the approximately 100 gassho-zukuri buildings of various sizes, distinguished by triangular roofs that look like open books that are designed to withstand heavy snow. There are many spots around the village that are perfect for photographs, such as the Mitugo-no Gassho-zukuri, three gassho-zukuri buildings standing side by side amidst the peaceful rural landscape, and the Tenshukaku Observation Deck up on a hill with panoramic views of the village. Stroll around and enjoy the scenery from various perspectives.
No. 23 Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (Aichi)
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is the corporate museum of the famous automaker, Toyota. It introduces the evolution of industrial technology, primarily in the fields of textile machinery and automobiles, through exhibits of actual machinery in operation. It is also popular among children, as there is playground equipment incorporating the principles and mechanisms of automobiles. There is a free guided tour in English, as well as downloadable apps (free) that give audio guides in English, Chinese, and Korean.
General Admission: 500 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/junior and senior high school student, 200 JPY/elementary school student, free for seniors aged 65 and over
No. 22 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings (Tokyo)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) Buildings were designed by the famous Japanese architect, Kenzo Tange. They include the 243m-high TMG No. 1 Building, the 163.3m-high TMG No. 2 Building, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building, and Tomin Hiroba (Citizen's Plaza). Large parts of the buildings, where more than 10,000 city employees work, are open to the public to visit. The observatory on the 45th floor of TMG No. 1 Building has fantastic views not only of Tokyo, but all the way to Mt. Fuji on a clear day. There are tours in English, Chinese, and Korean by volunteer guides.
No. 21 Hasedera (Kanagawa)
Official Name: Kaikozan Jishoin Hasedera
Hasedera, which is located in the popular tourist area of Kamakura, is an ancient Buddhist temple that was established in 736. It has much to recommend itself, such as the 9.18m-tall Kannon statue, which is its principle object of worship and one of the largest wooden statues of Buddha in Japan, and the observation deck with a panoramic view of the city of Kamakura and the sea. It is also known for the variety of beautiful flowers that bloom each season. Between late May and late June, approximately 2,500 hydrangea shrubs of 40 varieties bloom, creating a wonderful scene to photograph.
Admission Fees: 300 JPY/adult, 100 JPY/child
No. 20 Eikando Zenrin-ji (Kyoto)
Official Name: Shojyu-raigosan Muryojuin Zenrin-ji
Eikando Zenrin-ji, an ancient temple that was founded in 853, is so famous for its fall foliage that it is sometimes referred to as "Eikando of Fall Colors". Approximately 3,000 Japanese maple trees paint the temple grounds in beautiful colors between mid and late November every year. The temple also has cultural properties that are not to be missed, such as the wooden Garyu-ro corridor that creates a beautiful curve on the mountainside, and the Mikaeri Amida Nyorai (Amitabha looking back), an unusual statue of Buddha with the face turned sideways to the left.
Admission Fees (except during the fall Autumnal Exhibition period): 600 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/child (ages 6 to 18)
No. 19 Ryogoku Kokugikan (Tokyo)
Ryogoku Kokugikan is the sports arena where the Ozumo sumo wrestling tournaments are held. In January, May and September every year, it hosts powerful wrestling matches in which sumo wrestlers valiantly tackle each other. It also houses popular facilities, such as the Sumo Museum that collects and exhibits a variety of sumo-related material, and a shop that sells sumo goods, so it is crowded with tourists even when sumo is not in season. There are famous tourist spots nearby, such as Edo-Tokyo Museum, where visitors can see and experience the history, culture and lifestyles of people during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
No. 18 Ritsurin Garden (Kagawa)
Ritsurin Garden, which has a history spanning almost 400 years, can be said to be one of Kagawa Prefecture's most iconic spots. It is a scenic place that has been given three stars in Michelin Green Guide Japan. The garden has six ponds and 13 artificial hills that have been deftly positioned with the verdant Mt. Shiun in the background. The beauty of this elegant garden is enhanced by flowers that bloom each season. It is a kaiyushiki (circuit-type( garden designed to walk around in and enjoy the variegated scenery that changes by vantage point.
Admission Fees: 410 JPY/adult, 170 JPY elementary or junior high school student, free for children under school age
No. 17 Nikko Toshogu (Tochigi)
Nikko Toshogu, which is registered as a World Heritage Site, is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 - 1616), a warrior lord who unified the country. There are 55 buildings on the grounds, including eight that are National Treasures, most of which were rebuilt in 1636. Each building is dazzlingly beautiful and gives one a sense of the power that the Tokugawa family wielded. Not to be missed among them is the Yomeimon Gate, which is a National Treasure. Renovation of this gate was just completed in 2017, and its pure white pillars, decorative metal fittings with gold leaf laid on top, and the numerous other gorgeous decorations capture the hearts of those who see it.
Nikko Toshogu Entrance Fees: 1,300 JPY/adult, high school student, 450 JPY/elementary and junior high school student
No. 16 Senso-ji (Tokyo)
Recommended for those visiting Tokyo is Senso-ji, a Buddhist Temple that attracts approximately 30 million visitors annually. It is said to have been built in 628, making it the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. There is much to see there, including Kaminarimon (gate for the deity of wind and thunder), which is a popular spot to take photographs. It is also famous as a place to wish for worldly benefits such as improvements in financial prospects. After visiting the temple, it is common for visitors to enjoy shopping and eating on the bustling Nakamise Street, which is the main path to the temple. There are many events held in and around the temple throughout the year, such as the Hozuki Market that is held on July 9 and 10 every year. There are pamphlets in English, Chinese (traditional), and Korean.
No. 15 Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Kagoshima)
Shiratani Unsuikyo, which is located within the Yakushima World Heritage Area, is a Natural Recreational Forest popular as a place to experience nature unchanged from ancient times. The forest has a mysterious atmosphere with a dense growth of trees surrounding a beautiful mountain stream and ground covered with moss. It is said that this forest was the model for the setting of the animation feature film, Princess Mononoke, by Studio Ghibli. There are maintained walking paths in the gorge so that visitors can stroll around safely, and there are also guided tours, including ones for first-time hikers.
Entrance Fee : 500 JPY for high school students and older
No. 14 Samurai Museum (Tokyo)
Samurai Museum, in Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, is recommended for anyone interested in samurai. It is a museum that exhibits a variety of samurai-related items, such as real armor and helmets worn by samurai as well weapons they used. A workshop (5,000 JPY (includes entrance fee)) to learn how to use Japanese swords and a free area to take photographs wearing samurai costumes are popular. There are free guided tours in English and captions in English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Korean.
Entrance Fees: 1,900 JPY/adult, 800 JPY/child younger than 12, free for children age 3 or younger
No. 13 Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba)
Official Name: Naritasan Kongooin Jingo Shinshoji
Shinshoji, which is located about eight minutes by train from Narita Airport, is an old Buddhist temple that was established in 940. It has many impressive temple buildings, including the Great Peace Pagoda, which symbolizes the teachings of the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism. It is believed that each hall has different benefits, such as success in life, a thriving business, and romantic success. Another highlight is the huge, 165,000 sq.m. park with a beautiful landscape that represents Buddhist thought. The main path to the temple is lined with approximately 150 restaurants and souvenir shops, so be sure to walk around and enjoy the food and shopping after visiting the temple.
No. 12 Nara Park (Nara)
Nara Park is a huge 6.6 million sq.m. park in the city of Nara. The verdant, nature-rich park grounds contain a variety of structures, including the World Heritage Sites, Todaiji Temple, Kohfukuji Temple and Kasugataisha Shrine, as well as cultural properties such as Nara National Museum. The park has been a favorite of many people of culture for its picturesque scenery. It is also known for the wild deer that live there. To see these adorable creatures up close, feed them with the Shika Senbei (rice crackers meant for deer) that are sold by vendors in the park.
*The deer are wild animals. Be sure to approach them with care.
No. 11 Sanjusangendo (Kyoto Prefecture)
Official Name: Renge Oin
Sanjusangendo is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1164. It is famous for the Hondo main hall, a wooden structure that is 120m wide, which is rare around the world. The hall is a masterpiece of Japanese temple architecture from the Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333) and is designated as a National Treasure. It should be admired not only from the outside, but also inside - a dignified space with 1,000 standing statues of Kannon (Bodhisattva) surrounding a statue of a seated thousand-armed Kannon that is a National Treasure.
Admission Fees: 600 JPY/general, 400 JPY/junior high or high school student, 300 JPY/child
No. 10 Himeji Castle (Hyogo)
Himeji Castle, which is a World Heritage Site, is a famous castle that was built during Japan's golden age of castle construction. It is a valuable historic structure with watchtowers, gates, stone walls, and moats that have been preserved in good condition. In particular, the pure white Tenshu (castle tower) that is often compared to a heron in flight is one of Japan's most aesthetically remarkable wooden buildings. There are free guided tours in foreign languages by volunteers (require reservations) as well as audio guide services in English, Chinese (simplified), Korean, and French.
Admission Fees: 1,000/adult (18 and older), 300 JPY/elementary, junior high or high school student, free for children under school age
No. 9 The Hakone Open-Air Museum (Kanagawa)
The Hakone Open-Air Museum is an open-air museum in the popular tourist area of Hakone. There is a permanent exhibit of approximately 120 masterpieces by modern and contemporary sculptors in its 70,000 sq.m. garden. This is a place where visitors can take a stroll and casually enjoy the numerous sculptures that seem to blend into the great nature of Hakone. There are also five indoor galleries to see, such as the Pablo Picasso Pavilion with works by Picasso.
Admission Fees: 1,600 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/high school or university student, 800 JPY/elementary school or junior high school student
No. 8 Kinkaku-ji (Kyoto)
Official Name: Rokuon-ji
Kinkaku-ji, which is a World Heritage Site, is one of Kyoto's most famous tourist destinations. There is a multi-storied Kinkaku (reliquary hall) with walls covered in gold leaf at the center of a charming Japanese garden, creating a dazzlingly beautiful sight. The scenery is enhanced by the surrounding nature each season, such as the fresh verdure of the early summer, colorful fall foliage, and winter snow. There is a road called Kinukakenomichi nearby, giving tourists easy access to Ryoan-ji and Ninna-ji, which are also World Heritage Sites.
Admission Fees: 400 JPY/adult (high school student and older), 300 JPY/elementary or junior high school student
No. 7 Koyasan (Okuno-in) (Wakayama)
The World Heritage Site, Koyasan, is a religious city for the Shingon sect of Buddhism high up in a mountain valley at an altitude of 800m. It is a very popular tourist destination with a concentration of 117 temples, including Kongobu-ji Head Temple that was established in 816. Not to be missed is Okuno-in, where the founder of the Shingon sect, Kukai (884 - 835), is interned. This is a sacred place surrounded by a grove of Japanese cedars that are approximately 700 years old. Both sides of the path to the mausoleum are filled with gravestones of people ranging from aristocrats to commoners, as well as numerous stone monuments with inscriptions and cenotaphs, creating a serene, mystic atmosphere.
No. 6 Kenroku-en (Ishikawa)
Kenroku-en is a Japanese garden that was created around 1673 - 1681. It is a place of scenic beauty that is considered to be one of Japan's three most beautiful gardens, and has been given three stars in Michelin Green Guide Japan. The highlight of this garden is its natural beauty that changes with the season. The garden is adorned by cherry blossoms in the spring, different types of azalea in the summer, colorful foliage in the fall, and snow in the winter. It is a kaiyushiki garden that is designed to stroll in. All around the 100,000 sq.m. garden are spots that show varying expressions of beauty.
Admission Fees: 310 JPY/adult (18 and older), 100 JPY/child (ages 6 to 17)
No. 5 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)
Shinjuku Gyoen is a garden that is beloved as an urban oasis. There is a traditional Japanese garden, a formal French-style garden, and an English landscape garden within the approximately 583,000 sq.m. grounds, each with a beautiful scenery of its own. It is famous for its cherry blossoms from mid-February to late April every year, and for the fall foliage from early November to early December. There is a wonderful contrast between the rich seasonal nature of the garden and the skyscrapers of Shinjuku in the background. There are pamphlets in English, Chinese (simplified) and Korean.
Admission Fees: 200 JPY/adult, 50 JPY/elementary or junior high school student, free for children under school age
No. 4 Todaiji (Nara)
Official Name: Konkomyo Shitenno Gokokunotera
The World Heritage Site, Todaiji, is an old temple that was built during the 8th century. It is a temple with a great history that flourished as the chief temple of kokubun-ji (temple managed by the country) temples around the country. A particularly stunning structure is the Great Buddha Hall, which is a National Treasure. It is one of the world's largest wooden buildings that, when seen up close, overwhelms the viewer with its magnificence. The hall houses a 14.85m-high statue of Vairocana Buddha, affectionately known as the Great Buddha of Nara, and is a popular spot for photographs.
Admission Fees: 600 JPY/junior high school student and older, 300 JPY/elementary school student
No. 3 Miyajima (Itukushima Shrine) (Hiroshima)
The small island of Miyajima on the Seto Inland Sea is a place with many charms, such as numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, rich seasonal nature, and traditional events that have been handed down over generations. Itsukushima Shrine, a shrine with a group of splendid structures said to have been built around the 12th century, is especially famous. In particular, the Great Torii gate that seems to float on the ocean is an iconic sight not just for Hiroshima, but for Japan as a whole. It is also registered as a World Heritage Site.
Itsukushima Shrine Admission Fees: 300 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/high school student, 100 JPY/elementary school or junior high school student
No. 2 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park) (Hiroshima)
In 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. The area around the hypocenter has been made into Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, with various facilities related to the atomic bomb in the vicinity. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the park was built to contribute to to the elimination of nuclear weapons and a future of lasting peace. The museum has exhibits of photographs of atomic bomb victims and related material to help visitors contemplate the tragedy caused by atomic bombs and wars. The Atomic Bomb Dome, which miraculously avoided destruction by blasts from the atomic bomb, should also be visited. It is registered as a World Heritage site as a structure that tells the story of the horror of nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Admission Fees: 200 JPY/adult (college student and older), 100 JPY/high school student, free for children junior high school age and younger
No. 1 Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto)
The No. 1 spot goes to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. It is a hugely popular place that has topped the TripAdvisor ranking for five consecutive years. The foremost attraction at this shrine is the Senbon Torii, a path with countless torii gates creating a bright vermillion tunnel that contrasts beautifully with the green of the surrounding trees. It is crowded during the day, so the best time to see it at leisure is early in the morning when you can thoroughly enjoy the fresh morning air and sacred atmosphere and take photographs without the crowds.
If you are thinking about visiting Japan, be sure to refer to this article when drafting your plans!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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