Japan Tour: 11 Best Destinations and Things to do

by GoWithGuide travel specialist

You just step foot in Japan as someone who's either a complete stranger to this land or have traveled many times before. Just from searching "Japan tour" there will be hundreds if not thousands of Japan tour guide services telling you to go here and there and do this Japan tour itinerary, and honestly some can  just be too confusing.

However, as you most likely will not stay here forever, you would need to plan ahead and know where to go to make the best of your time. Luckily, we have prepared a specific list of the best Japan tours destinations for the following 11 locations to help you on your trip! Think of it as a mini Japan tour guide book!

 

1. Tokyo

As the central hub of Japan, Tokyo is a must see city. The bustling city's vibe and atmosphere is an excellent Japanese experience in it's own right.

 

Drive around Tokyo in a Go Kart

TOKYO Street Go Karting

What better way to explore Tokyo than to drive around it as your favorite video game or anime character? If you have a car license and looking for a fun way to hit the streets of Tokyo that isn't trains, then the Go Kart is for you. Alternatively, if you don't have a car license or are going with a family, then you can always rent an electric bike which is quite easy to do!

 

Visit historical landmarks

Tokyo Tower is most charming when illuminated

Check out Tokyo Tower that lays at the heart of Tokyo, or immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Imperial Palace. Feel the serenity of Sensoji Temple or let yourself be captivated by the bustle of Shinjuku. These places are a must for your Japan tour itinerary.

 

Go shopping in Tokyo

Tokyo has no shortage of places to go for trendy to weird and crazy clothing for you to go. Stop by Ginza to see what's trending amongst youth, check out Shinjuku and Shibuya for the latest craze, or perhaps you can visit Harajuku for a fantastic experience that can not be found anywhere else! But hold on, there are still many places for your Tokyo tour, make sure to not miss these either.

 

Honorable mentions: Tokyo Skytree, Robot Restaurant, Akihabara,  Ghibli museum, Shibuya Crossing/Hachiko, Donquijote...  

 

2. Kyoto

As the previous capital of Japan, Kyoto has survived countless wars while still retaining it's cultural heritage to this day. If you want to see a more traditional Japan tour rather then take a visit to Kyoto!

 

Pay your respects at one of Kyoto's stunning temples

Kyoto is renowned for having the oldest and the most beautiful temples and shrines in Japan. The 10,000 Torri gates are a unique sight to experience at Fushimi Inari Shrine, see the glittering golden Kinkakuji temple, and look across Kyoto at the Kiyomizu-dera temple for a breath-taking view.

 

Wander amongst Geishas

The downtown street of Gion will always have something to entertain you with. Here you can see the famous traditional dances of a Maiko and Geisha, a tradition that is rarely practiced nowadays.

 

Join in the festive parades

Many festivals in Kyoto have been passed on for many generations, and still to this day, it's always an exciting experience to see these parades. If you want to travel back in time to Edo Japan, then watching a traditional Gion festival may be for you, the sights of these massive floats pulled by the people of Kyoto is amazing!

 

One more thing, during festivals, a wide array of stalls ranging from street food to fans and souvenirs alike are sold so don't miss out! Save some time to enjoy the best out of Kyoto by going to these places as well!

 

Honorable mentions: Arashiyama, Sagano Railway, Philosopher Walk, Chikurin no Komichi (Bamboo forest lane)

 

3. Osaka

This port city is the 2nd economic powerhouse only after Tokyo. It is famous for the beautiful architecture of the Osaka castle as well as of temples and shrines. Osaka is even more well-known for its vibrant nightlife, various restaurants and stalls as far as the eyes can see.

 

Visit the grand Osaka Castle

Built-in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, it has been burned down and revived twice thanks to the effort of the Osaka citizens. The castle is now the gathering place for significant events such as concerts and visitors can learn about its history within the Osaka Castle's museum.

 

Bask in the neon signs of Dotonbori

This downtown area can be found on the South bank of the Dotonbori river. The first thing you notice will be the overwhelming amount of neon lights displayed along the street. Many restaurants serving the Osaka specialty, Okonomiyaki, udon and meat skewers can be found here. The Glico sign that was set up in 1935 has since become a famous icon that represents the uniqueness of Osaka.

 

The best part is that you can jump on a cruise to ride along the Dotonbori river. Although the guide may not speak that much English, it's still an excellent experience to have.

 

Travel to good olde Japan at Shinsekai

Not full yet? Then drop by to Shinseki for a wide array of food stores that sell Takoyaki to Okonomiyaki and various deep-fried skewers. It is also close to the Tennoji zoo, Spa World which is an onsen amusement park and the Tsutenkaku Tower. Going to these famous Osaka destinations is a must have for any travelers!

 

Honorable mentions: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Shinsaibashi Shopping area, Universal Studios

 

4. Hiroshima

Once the site of a tragic event that took thousands of lives, the city of Hiroshima is proving itself to be much more than that. What was once thought was an inhabitable site has become the symbol of peace of Japan.

 

Pay your respects at the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum

The huge park is hard-to-miss as the location of the park has initially been the landing point of the atomic bomb which wiped out most of the city's political and commercial activities. Now it has been redeveloped to promote peace and retell the history of a devastating war for young generations.

 

The museum allows visitors to witness the event through objects that have been affected by the bombing. From burnt clothes to deformed roof tiles caused by the heat, it's definitely a heartwrenching sight.

 

See the "floating" Itsukushima shrine 

The Itsukushima shrine was built with the intention of withstanding the high level of water, which creates the "floating" illusion every time the high tide rises. The shrine's coat of red perfectly blends into its surroundings, the greenery of the forests and the sea amplify its beauty magnificently.

 

Check out Hiroshima Castle

Once blown out by the atomic bomb, Hiroshima Castle has been restored

Terumoto Muri built this grand architecture splendor, a feudal lord. It was said that after his visit to the Osaka Castle, he felt that it was necessary to create one of his own.  Unfortunately, when the bomb dropped in 1945, most of the building was blown away. Luckily, thanks to restoration efforts by the city of Hiroshima, the castle was rebuilt. Now it is a museum for Samurai culture and has an observatory on top where you can have a fantastic panoramic view of the city. Don't hesitate to check out these bonus Hiroshima tour locations as well...

 

Honorable mentions: The Atomic Bomb Dome, Miyajima Omotesando Arcade, Kamiyacho and Hatchobari

 

5. Nara

This city was once the capital of Japan until it was changed to Kyoto. As such many of its historical heritage has been well preserved and kept in good condition until today. Nara is well-known for its coexistence with the local species of deers that has since become their mascots. 

 

Come and meet the friendly deer at Nara Park

Deer are like mascots for Nara Park

This huge park lies at the center of the city, and a particular species of deer that coexist with humans can be found here. Since they are accustomed to people, you can get very close to them and even feed them if you buy a special deer biscuit!

 

Check out the spiritual temples of Nara

The temples in Nara are one of the oldest in the world and are considered World Heritage Sites. Not only that, they contain priceless art and sculptures from thousands of years ago that spans across generations of Japan. Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha are some of the longest lasting temples genuinely worthy of being called national treasures that should be included in your Nara tour!

 

Honorable mentions: Toshodaiji Temple, Isuien Park, Naramachi

 

6. Kamakura

Kamakura city is a seaside town that has many beautiful beaches, surf spots and is most well known for the 13.35 meters statue of Buddha.

 

Visit the Great Buddha  

Located in Kotoku-in, this Great Buddha statue has survived through many eras and stood still even after a tsunami! Visitors can enter the statue and see the inner layout of the statue, check out the many iron casting that the statue has undergone! It is unknown when it was constructed, all we know is it represents the beauty and made-to-last quality of Japanese architecture.

 

Enjoy the bamboo grove at Hokoku-ji Temple

The tranquility of the bamboo forest

 Sit down for a bit of matcha tea and enjoy the spectacular scenery! Hokoku-ji was built in 1334 by the Genzai sect after the defeat of the Kamakura shogunate. This temple boasts not only a stunning architectural design but also more well-known for the 2000 bamboo grove that once entered, will make you feel as if the whole world around you has been replaced by the soothing and serenity of the grove. Truly a worthwhile Kamakura experience to make your trip more memorable.

 

Honorable mentions: Kencho-ji Temple, Engaku-ji Temple, Hasedera Temple

 

7. Hakone

Hakone is perfect for a one-day-trip if you're looking to escape Tokyo just for a while. Located only an hour away, Hakone boasts one of the best hot springs of the country, there's a phenomenal view of Mt Fuji, and you can even take a cable car up Owakudani to see Hakone from above.

 

Take a dip in Hakone Hotsprings

With over 20 million tourists visiting the hot spring every year and it's easy to understand why. The water here is said to have various healing properties, and the local cuisine here is to die for! Try a steamed sweet bun after a hot bath in the onsen!

 

Best of all, most onsens have a great view of nature and Mt. Fuji which is perfect for relieving any fatigue during your journey.

 

Get aboard a cruise and explore lake Ashi

The Hakone Sightseeing Cruises will help you travel around the three ports (Togendai Port, Moto-Hakone Port,  of Hakone-machi Port) easily. As you cruise along the lake, you will be able to see the stunning torii gates of Hakone shrine, the vast Hakone park and if the weather is clear, you'd be able to see Mt Fuji as it reflects on the lake's surface! Once you reach the Togendai port, you can enjoy excellent local seafood as you look across the lake. Don't miss out on the locations below to experience Hakone to the fullest!

 

Honorable mentions: Hakone Shrine, Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Museum of Art, Hakone Glass Museum... 

 

8. Mount Fuji

Throughout the ages, this iconic mountain has been depicted in various arts and poems for its majestic figure. Many shrines and temples are erected here and are dedicated to the worship of Mount Fuji, and although it is an active volcano, many tourists flock here to get a glimpse of the near-perfect mountain.

 

Climbing Mount Fuji

If you want to climb Mount Fuji, then you must do so during July and September as the ice above the mountain evaporates and becomes safer to climb. Be wary of the weather though, despite climbing in the summer the temperature can get below freezing point! If there's any rain or storm then its best to cancel your plans for any climbing.

 

Visit Arakurayama Sengen Park

Located on Mt. Arakura, climbing up 400 steps from the base of the mountain is well worth it. Once you reach the park, you will notice a 5-story pagoda dedicated to the soldiers that died during World War 1. There is also a viewing point at a slope behind the temple that overlooks the city and Mount Fuji as well if the weather is good! There's not a single season when the view isn't beautiful, the red leaves of autumn are a personal favorite for us,  it blends with the sleek red color of the temple and creates a vibrant contrast of magnificent Mount Fuji.

 

Honorable mentions: Ochudo Trail, Fujisan World Heritage Center, Itchiku Kubota Art Museum...

 

9. Nikko

Nikko is famous for its extreme care in detail of temples, most notably the Toshogu shrine, and is the final resting place of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Nikko is definitely not a step behind in terms of beautiful scenery, hot springs, wildlife, and beautiful hiking trails.

 

Visit Nikko's famous temples with the most intricate designs

The Toshogu Shrine is the mausoleum of the Tokugawa shogunate, and Taiyuinbyo was his grandson's, both of these are luxuriously designed suiting for royalty. Even ordinary buildings like storehouses have elaborate wood carvings and here you can the "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil" monkeys as well as a depiction of an elephant from an artist that has never seen one before!

 

Travel back to Edo at Nikko Edomura

A total area of 495,000 sq. m.! Experience the Edo Era in its entirety

This magnificent reenaction of the Edo period is fantastic if you want to see a glimpse of what life was like. The staffs dress up in traditional clothing, and you can see actual samurai fights as you stroll down the street.

 

This is quite possibly the best place for a ninja experience. You can learn how to wall climb, be sneaky and crawl across the ceiling, avoid traps and throw shurikens! There's a specific training house for those who want to challenge themselves as well as a difficult maze!

 

Travel around the world at Tobu World Square

Ever want to see the most iconic places of the world in the eyes of a giant? The Tobu World Square was built just for that reason, the details on these recreations are so realistic that it might make you mistaken for real life if you see it on the picture! At night the place is lit up, providing a colorful illumination across the surrounding area. Don't leave any sights unseen at Nikko, check these places below as well!

 

Honorable mentions: Shinkyo Bridge, Chuzenji Temple, Kanmangafuchi Abyss, Krifuri Waterfall, Tamazawa Villa

 

10. Shizuoka

Located between Tokyo and Osaka, this is where Mt Fuji is located and is surrounded by many historical spots, scenic views and is Japan's biggest producer of green tea and wasabi.

 

Bathe in the famous Shuzen-ji Onsen

Tokko-no-Yu, which was established by Kobo Daishi, is the starting point for Shuzen-ji Onsen

The onsen's history dates back to over 1,200 years ago, it was said that a famous monk named Kobo Daishi, after seeing the people using the natural cold water to help alleviate pain, decided to make a hot spring with a tokko ( Buddhist ritual tool) by striking the ground until water spouts. The mild alkaline water of this hot spring keeps your skin smooth and even said to cure ailments related to digestion and nerves. 

 

Go to the Shimizu Sushi Museum

Shimizu Sushi Yokocho with 10 famous sushi shops

What better place to learn about the tradition and eat sushi while you're at it than the first sushi theme park in Japan? There are 10 sushi shops here, and each has its own distinctive charm so after you have eaten here, present the receipt to get inside the museum for half-price! Inside, you can learn about where sushi came from, what kind of tools are used for sushi and you can even learn Kanjis related to sushi! Shizuoka still has so much to offer, check out the following places as well!

 

Honorable mentions: Horai Bridge, Rainbow village theme park, Oigawa railway, Air Park

 

11. Yokohama

From just a small fishing village in Japan, after the nation opened to foreign trades in 1859, this city quickly became the second biggest city. It's seaports allow economic opportunities that helped the city prosper to the state it is today.

 

Be amazed by the cityscape on top of Minato Mirai 21

The new city center offers plenty of entertainment, shopping opportunities and hotels for tourists. You can get up the Sky Garden observation deck to have a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.

 

One more thing, the Minato Mirai city center features an essential part of its history which are the Yokohama Red Brick houses. The once used as warehouses are now transformed into a commercial spot with various exhibitions. Check out Orbi Yokohama which is a multi-sensory history museum that will keep you entertained.

 

Dine in at Yokohama Chinatown

The gate at the entrance to Chinatown

Looking for a break from Japanese Food? Then maybe you'd be able to find something for yourself in Yokohama's China Town, where over 500 shops are combining various cuisines from Shanghai to Szechuan and Beijing. Eat at a dim sum for a rich experience where you can eat and drink tea or grab a Nikuman and dumplings to eat while you go exploring. There are countless options here, that'd make you feel as if you traveled to a different country!

 

Make an instant noodle cup at the Cup Noodles Museum

An original Cup Noodles made from ingredients that you like

I'm quite sure that everyone has eaten instant noodles at one point in their lives, so why not make yourself nostalgic by visiting the Cup Noodles Museum? Here, not only can you make your own cup noodles but you can also have a taste of other countries' noodle dishes! There is also a gallery where you can observe the cup noodle designs in the past, as well as artistic pieces! But wait, your Yokohama Tour can be so much better if you visit these places as well!

 

Honorable mentions: Sankeien Garden, Osanbashi Pier, Hakkejima Amusement Park, Kirin beer factory

 

There are countless places to visit in Japan to have a great experience. A complete Japan tour itinerary will need to span over weeks if not months to complete. So don't stop at only one trip to Japan, because there's always something unique for you to see!

 

Looking for more tours or simply want to make your trip more interesting?

Our Japan Tour guide service can get you started. At TripleLights we offer the best customizable tours and Local Guides to help you on your journey across Japan.

 

You have the freedom to personally create your own tour and decide where you want to go. Or maybe you want someone to create a tour for you? Then why not Request a Tour. Just type what you would like to see, and our guides will send you quotes and recommendations depending on what you're interested in as well as budget. Here at TripleLights, we offer the best professional Local Guides across Japan that will help you plan your trip.

 

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