Best of JapanBest of Japan
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Best of Japan

 

Best of Japan

 

Travel sites are constantly posting top 10 or 20 lists of the best things to see or do in “X” country. These are perfect for highlighting some amazing attractions to get people interested in traveling, but tend to do an injustice and limits people perspective on what a country has to offer. Recently a certain site released a “Top 20 Must See Attractions Awarded by In-bound Travelers.” The list had some good ones in there, but honestly the vast majority of attractions were found within two cities. Now both these cities are great, and are certainly must sees while in Japan, but the list limits perspective on what you can and should see while in Japan… and well that’s just not fair to good old Nihon. So we decided to combine our region guides and make one incredible “Best of Japan” list to cover the must see attractions in each prefecture. Not going to every prefecture? Well don’t worry, simply choose whatever prefecture you will visit in the blue “Jump Links” below!

 

 

Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Aichi

 

The name “Aichi” may not ring any bells, but if you are traveling through Japan, chances are you have heard of the prefecture’s capital, Nagoya. Nagoya, which is the largest city in Chubu and the 4th largest in Japan, has a lot to offer travelers of all ages including magnificent aquariums as well as beautiful castles that are sure to impress. Be sure to stop in both Nagoya and Inuyama while exploring Aichi.

 

 

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Nagoya Castle

 

Nagoya Castle is exactly what you imagine when you think of traditional Japanese castles. It is like something straight out of an anime, and you get to walk right through it. The walls, turrets, and gardens make for a fantastic experience that easily puts Nagoya Castle on our list of the Best of Japan. Here you can see the famed golden, tiger headed, dolphins that are fixed to the top of the castle as well as a historical museum dedicated to the events that took place in the area. The tiger headed dolphins are fixed up on top of the castle to protect from fires and are some of the most noteworthy fixtures found here at Nagoya Castle.

 

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Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium

 

Like Sea World? Well you are going to love the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. All though the name may suggest that it is just a simple aquarium, the Port of Nagoya offers an experience that far exceeds any aquarium we know. Of course you can roam the halls of the aquarium and take in all aquatic animals and fish on display, but what makes the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium so special is its dolphin and whale shows. These shows are in Japanese – Who knew dolphins spoke Japanese? – but that does not distract from the excitement that you feel when watching the dolphins shoot out of the water like rockets. This is an absolute must see while in Nagoya.

 

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Meiji Mura

 

Meiji Mura, found in Nagoya’s Inuyama, is one outstanding open air museum that allows you to explore over 60 different buildings built in, you guessed it, the Meiji Era. If you are unfamiliar with the Meiji Era, this was the period of time when Japan was casting away its feudal ways to be more western. This is easily seen in the beautiful mix of traditional and western architecture found in the buildings here at Meiji Mura. The vast majority of buildings built in the Meiji Era were destroyed in World War 2, which makes the Meiji Mura something truly special.

 

 

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Inuyama Castle

 

Meiji Mura isn’t the only draw to Inuyama, another must see attraction is the town’s castle which sits up on top of cliff. Whether you are enjoying the castle view from the top, or the view of the castle from afar, Inuyama Castle is sure to please. What makes Inuyama Castle worthy of being on our list of the Best of Japan is not its views, but rather its history. The castle is one of 12 remaining original keeps and claims to be the oldest surviving castle in Japan. This is truly impressive and worth exploring if you come to Nagoya.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Akita

 

Akita, one of the northern most prefectures, is well known for its onsen and sake, but there is a whole lot more that makes this little prefecture worth a visit. Something that makes Akita stand out to any of you history buffs, is that Akita has one of the best preserved samurai districts in all of Japan. The residences and surrounding cherry blossoms make for a stunning view and an unforgettable experience. On top of that the prefecture has an abundance of natural beauty which includes one of the regions most famous mountain ranges. There are so many interesting things to see and do in Akita, that we really had trouble limiting the prefectures contributions to the Best of Japan. If you are visiting Akita, be sure to check out these four attractions as an introduction into the prefecture’s best.

 

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Kakunodate

 

Kakunodate is not only known for being one of the best of Japan, but one of the best of Japan for hanami viewing. This scenic area is famous for its Sakura Matsuri and is best visited when the blossoms are in full bloom (usually in late April). Kakunodate also has a well preserved samurai district (mentioned below) and its surrounding mountains rivers make the city beautiful even outside of cherry blossom season.

 

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Kakunodate Samurai District

 

Kakunodate’s Samurai District is one of the country’s best examples of samurai architecture, and one incredible reason to come to Akita. The district once contained over 80 samurai households, but currently only 6 are open to the public. The biggest of these houses, the Aoyagi House, holds several buildings including the residences and museums. All 6 of these samurai residences are worth exploring and adds why Kakunodate’s Samurai District on one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Nyuto Onsen

 

Looking for hot springs with a historic, maybe rustic feel? Nyuto Onsen will be perfect. The area’s ryokans have over 300 years of history, and are some of the nation’s most historic onsen. Of these ryokans, Tsuunoyu (pictured above) is both the oldest and the most famous, and is perfect after a long day of hiking through Hachimantai.

 

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Hachimantai

 

This flat topped mountain, sometimes referred to as a plateau, is one of the area’s tallest mountains and offers some decent hiking and views. Although the view from the top of Hachimantai is nice, it may be best to take in the mountain from a far. There is a sightseeing road that connects Akita to Iwate and really allows you to see the whole mountain along with its surrounding natural beauty. The mountain also has some hiking trails that take you up to Hachiman Numa Lake on your way to the peak. Just good old fashioned outdoorsy fun.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Aomori

 

Aomori, the absolute most northern prefecture in Tohoku, has been picking up steam in the past few years and is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in all of Tohoku. The prefecture is quite famous for its Nebuta Matsuri as well as its ungodly cold winters, but what might not be such common knowledge is that the prefecture also contains one of the country’s most beautiful streams and lakes. The area is absolutely beautiful, and well worth a visit. While you are checking out Aomori’s contributions to the Best of Japan, remember to see some of these five attractions.

 

 

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Osorezan

 

Ever wanted to visit the afterlife? Well at Osorezan you can. Well, you can at least see an area that resembles an interpretation of the Buddhist views of the afterlife. Close enough right? Osorezan, or Fear Mountain, is one of the three most sacred areas in all of Japan and is one of the many Best of Japan. The area features many exquisite temple buildings, a very spiritually important river, and a ton of natural surrounding beauty. The area is also known for its volcanic activity, which feeds the nearby lake sulfur giving it a unique blue color. There are also onsen around Osorezan, which makes it all the more appealing.

 

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Oirase Stream

 

The Oirase Stream, the only outlet out of Lake Towada, is one of the country’s most popular locations to see the call colors, and one of our favorites on this list of the Best of Japan. The stream carves through a forest of lush colors that are especially vibrant and beautiful during the fall. The stream’s surroundings are great, but the Oirase Stream itself contains 12 waterfalls that make for some picturesque scenes.

 

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Lake Towada

 

One of the country’s largest caldera lakes, Lake Towada is one of Aomori’s many fantastic outdoor attractions. The lake is relatively undeveloped and perfect for hiking and taking in the scenic beauty. Lake Towada is particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves start to change colors. There are shrines, statues, hiking, as well as many observation decks to enjoy while exploring Lake Towada, but perhaps the best way to take in the lake’s beauty is to hop aboard a ferry and see the lake by ship. It will certainly prove itself to be one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Hirosaki Castle

 

One of the 12 original castles that have not been rebuilt in modern times, Hirosaki Castle is one of Aomori’s many historic attractions you won’t want to miss. The castle is great throughout the year, but you are going to want to be here during the cherry blossom season. The castle is a sea of pink sakura during the later part of April and makes Hirosaki an absolute must see. The combination of history and natural beauty makes Hirosaki one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Nebuta Matsuri

 

Held every year on August 2nd through the 7th, the Nebuta Matsuri has not only become one of Aomori’s most famous attraction, but arguably Japan’s most famous festival. The festival consists of 4 nights and one afternoon of marching enormous floats made of Japanese paper depicting ancient gods and Japanese folklore. The floats are truly impressive and make for one convincing reason to visit Aomori.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Chiba

 

Whether you realize it or not, if you are flying into Japan you are more than likely going to make a stop in Chiba Prefecture. Chiba is home to Japan’s biggest International Airport, Narita, as well as numerous attractions that you may want to check out while touring Japan. Giving the prefecture’s proximity to Tokyo, Chiba makes for one great little day trip out of the city and has a lot to offer anyone traveling with kids. Check out Chiba’s contributions to the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Chiba Port Tower

 

The Chiba Port Tower may not be anywhere near as famous as its nearby Tokyo brethren, but what the tower lacks in prestige it more than makes up for in pristine views. The Chiba Port Tower shoots up to an impressive 125 meters and offers an absolute stunning view of the city and the neighboring coast. You can even see many of the iconic attractions from Tokyo as well. You may have never heard of Chiba Port Tower, but not only is this tower one of the best things to see in Chiba, it is one of our picks for the Best of Japan.

 

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Mt. Nokogiri

 

Mt. Nokogiri, or “Saw Mountain” is one of Chiba’s most popular mountains and hiking spots. The mountain was given the name “Nokogiri” for the mountain top’s resemblance to a saw blade. At the top of the mountain you will find Nihonji Temple which is home to the famous Daibutsu, or “Great Buddha” pictured above. The hiking is absolutely amazing, and some is one of our favorite places to hike near Tokyo. If hiking is not your thing, you can feel free to take the rope-way to the top.

 

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Kamogawa Sea World

 

Kamogawa Sea World, as the name may suggest, is an aquatic themed park and aquarium based out of Kamogawa, Chiba. The aquarium aspect of this “Sea World” is on a grand scale and allows you to see beautiful and exotic fish from all over the world. The aquarium is great, but what makes the Kamogawa so great is its numerous shows put on by the many marine mammals. There are shows put on by the dolphins, sea lions, and of course whales. Kamogawa Sea World makes for an incredible adventure for travelers of all age.

 

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Tokyo Disney Resort

 

Tokyo Disney Resort, just a short train ride out of Tokyo, is technically in Chiba but may as well be an entirely different world. There will be little doubt that you are in Japan, but the characters, atmosphere, and fun make for one magical experience you won’t want to miss out on. The park is made up of two different theme parks; Tokyo Disney as well as Tokyo Disney Sea. Both are phenomenal and worthy of being considered one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Ichihara Elephant Kingdom

 

Like elephants? Ever wanted to ride one? Well Ichihara’s Elephant Kingdom might be the perfect stop for you on our tour of the Best of Japan. This elephant park showcases 8 different elephants and with the purchase of a 1,800 yen ticket you have access to elephant shows as well as rides. Ichihara’s Elephant Kingdom may just very well be the only place in Japan where you can ride an elephant, making the park one of our favorite attractions in Chiba.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

Best of Japan: Ehime

 

In terms of population, Ehime is the largest prefecture in Shikoku. With the prefecture’s historic Dogo Onsen and Matsuyama Castle, the prefecture tends to be one of the most visited prefectures on the island and has become fairly popular with tourists. The prefecture holds a lot of interesting events that you just can’t find anywhere else, one of our favorites is Bull Sumo. We also want to point out that Matsuyama Castle got our number 3 slot for Japan’s Must See Castles, so you know its good.

 

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Dogo Onsen

Found in Ehime’s Matsuyama, the famous Dogo Onsen is believed to be one of the oldest onsen in all of Japan. It’s interesting architecture is one of the onsen’s major attractions and was even used to model the bath house in “Spirited Away.” With the lengthy history, this onsen has accumulated several fascinating artifacts that are worth checking out as well including an enormous and ancient clock. Of course after enjoying the beauty and history of this building you can then relax in one of its onsen. We also include this fine onsen in our “Japan Bucket List” be sure and check out our full list.


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Matsuyama Castle

 

Matsuyama Castle, located in Matsuyama City in Ehime, is a five story flatland castle that was built in 1603. The castle is one of the few that survived the Meiji Restoration, but was unfortunately sections of the castle were destroyed by air raids during World War 2. These sections are still under renovation, but is mainly finished and is a beautiful attraction to go see. The castle is classified as a flatland castle, but don’t let that confuse you. This castle is located on top of a fairly steep hill. To reach the castle you can either climb the hill yourself or take the Ropeway or Chair Lift. The castle also offers a spectacular view of the city from atop its mountain perch. The castle is also included in our list of “Japan’s Must See Castles,” be sure to check out the full list.

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Uwajima

 

This little city has some of the most peculiar sites in all of Japan and is certainly worth a visit if you are in Ehime. The city is world famous for two very unique attractions: Sex Museums and Bull Sumo. Sex museums may not seem to out of place in Japan, but the Bull Sumo is strikes us as very random. Still though it is quite amazing and happens fairly regularly throughout the year (January 2nd, the 1st Sunday of March, the 3rd Sunday of May, July 24 (during the Warei Festival), August 14, and the 3rd Sunday of November. On top of all that fun and excitement, Uwajima even has a castle to check out.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Fukui

 

Fukui Prefecture is a small prefecture that often goes overlooked by people traveling through Japan. There is no one attraction that makes Fukui a must visit prefecture, but what it lacks in fame it makes up for in hidden gems. What makes Fukui so notable is its history. Its prehistory to be precise. The area is a hotspot for dinosaur bones, and contains one of the world’s best dinosaur museums. That’s not all though. Fukui has a beautiful coastline and contains some historically significant shrines that are all worth checking out.

 

 

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Dinosaur Museum

 

The Dinosaur Museum, found in Fukui Prefecture’s Katsuyama City, is not only the largest museum of its kind in Japan, but is also one of the world’s leading dinosaur museums. The museum is at the center of dinosaur research in Japan and is also conveniently located near the country’s most successful excavation site. There is so much education and fun to be had here, which makes the Dinosaur Museum perfect for any traveler with kids. If dinosaurs are not your thing, well then simply move along, but if you are even remotely interested, you are going to love this museum.

 

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Eiheiji Temple

 

Founded in 1244, Eiheiji Temple is the head of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism. This particular sect of Buddhism was introduced by Dogen Zenji in 1228. The temple is up on a wooded hill and is surrounded by gorgeous trees. The natural setting of the temple really makes the experience worthwhile. Eiheiji Temple even offers tourists the chance to stay overnight and get a real temple experience. For the price of 8,000 yen you get; a bath, dinner, an evening full of meditation, a nights sleep, a morning session of meditation (starting at 3:30), a morning service, and then some breakfast. Really quite the experience.

 

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Tojimbo

 

Tojimbo is a basaltic cliff formation is well known for not only being beautiful, but also haunted. Legend has it that a corrupt Buddhist Priest was thrown off the cliff by a mob of cheated citizens from a nearby town. The ghost of the priest is said to continue to haunt the cliff to this day. To make matters worse, as many as 25 people choose Tojimbo as the place where they will take their lives, making Tojimbo one of Japan’s most prominent suicide destinations. That being said, do not let the creepy keep you from seeing this gorgeous natural wonder.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

Best of Japan: Fukuoka

 

Fukuoka connects Kyushu with the rest of the world. Whether you are taking the train to Honshu, the ferry to Korea, or flying anywhere else in the world, you are most likely going to go through Fukuoka. I find that most people just end up passing through the prefecture without checking out what the area has to offer. Next time you are in the area, make sure to stop at some of these attractions and check out some of the Best of Japan in Fukuoka.

 

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Mitoma Beach

 

Fukuoka is well known for its big cities, restaurants, and modern attractions, but many forget that it has some incredibly nice beaches as well. Mitoma Beach is one of the nicer beaches in the prefecture and even offers some fairly nice sized waves. The beach is the perfect escape from the city and makes for a fantastic day trip.

 

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Soft Bank Hawks

 

We don’t care if you are into baseball or not, going to a Soft Bank Hawks game is an experience that should not be missed. It certainly isn’t a calm quiet evening out, but the cheers, excitement, and overall energy that you experience at a ball game in Japan is unforgettable.

 

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Hakata Ramen

 

Hakata Ramen, which is Tonkotsu Ramen, often is viewed as Kyushu Ramen throughout Japan and is a must eat while in the area. There isn’t a whole lot to say other than it is really, really good. If you haven’t had Hakata Ramen, you haven’t tasted real ramen.

 

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Kyushu Nation Museum

 

The Kyushu National Museum, located in Fukuoka City, is one of the most important national museums in all of Japan. The museum displays the development of the island though out the years. If you enjoy history and are interested in the origins of the area you are living in, the Kyushu National Museum is a must see.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Fukushima

 

If you are like me, the first time you ever heard about Fukushima was only after the recent tsunami and subsequent issues at the nuclear power plant. The prefecture may even seem to be a scary place to visit at the moment. That being said, Fukushima has several phenomenal attractions that deserve mentioning on any list of the Best of Japan. The prefecture is a bit out of the way, but if you do make it here you will not regret it.

 

 

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Urabandai

 

Urabandai, or “Behind Bandai,” is one of the Tohoku’s most scenic hiking spots famous for its ponds and fall colors. There are numerous hiking trails that let you see the most scenic areas of Urabandai, but perhaps the best trail is the Goshikiuma Walk which leads you through forests and to many of the area’s beautiful ponds. Try to make it here during the fall so that you can truly see why Urabandai belongs on our list of the Best of Japan.

 

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Ouchijuku

 

Once an old post town located on an important trade route, Ouchijuku is a window into traditional Japan and should not be missed. The town has been preserved as it was during the Edo period and has several restaurants, shops, and even guest houses set up to make a walk through the town like a walk through history. There are several temples and shrines spread out throughout the area so be sure to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny of Ouchijuku so that you don’t miss out.

 

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Hanamiyama

 

Although Hanamiyama is nothing special throughout the majority of the year, those few weeks in late April and early May, when the cherry blossoms bloom, make the area one of the Best of Japan. Hanamiyama is found just outside of Fukushima City and really can’t be missed. Just look for the massive pink mountain.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Gifu

 

Known as the crossroads of Japan, Gifu not only connects you with the county’s east and west but also its roots. Gifu is well known for its Folk Villages and their “Praying Hands” traditional houses. These Folk Villages stretch on over to Toyama as well, but are a very prominent attraction in Gifu. We also love Gifu City and its castle view. Although there are not many sites from Gifu listed here on the Best of Japan, the sites that are listed are our favorites in all of Chubu. You are definitely going to want to check out Gifu while traveling through the Best of Japan.

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Shirakawa and Takayama Folk Villages

 

The area’s famous “Praying Hands” Farmhouses make for an incredible open air museum that allows you to experience history. Very little in Japan is as it was centuries ago, and the Hida Folk Village really takes you into another era. The view of the houses surrounded by the fields is absolutely stunning. You can even get the full experience and stay the night at one of the guesthouses. The city of Takayama has a lot to see out side of the folk villages, but the view makes it a must for any Japan Bucket List.

 

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Gifu Castle

 

Gifu Castle is easily our favorite attractions in all of Gifu City. The castle stands tall on atop a mighty hill that offers a spectacular view of the city. If you are not too keen on the idea of hiking all the way up to Gifu Castle, there is a rope-way that will make getting there a breeze. The castle museum is great, but the view from the top is outstanding. The views, architecture, and park make Gifu Castle one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Hakusan National Park

 

Looking to get out into the wilderness, and maybe get some hiking in? Chubu’s Hakusan maybe the perfect place for you. Hakusan National Park is a rather large national park that touches Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, and even Toyama so you should be able to reach it from no matter what part of Chubu you are visiting. The park hosts a great deal of beautiful flowers and vegetation, but its main feature is the massive Mount Haku. A section of the park has even been designated as a UNESCO “Man and Biosphere Reserve.”

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Gunma

 

If you are looking to relax in one of Japan’s famous natural hot springs, then look no further than Gunma. The prefecture is home to one of the country’s major hot spring hot spots as well as numerous resorts which make for a welcomed change of pace from all the walking you are sure to do while traveling Japan. Gunma has a lot to offer in the relaxation department, but is also home to some of the nation’s most beautiful and unique national parks. The prefecture is not one of the most frequented in this region, but has a lot to add to our list of the Best of Japan.

 

 

 

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Kusatsu Onsen

 

Arguably the best onsen town in all of Japan, Kusatsu offers some topnotch hot springs that you will not want to miss. The water is said to be pure enough to cure any ailment as well as take the edge off. There are many famous hot springs in this resort that you can relax in, but the town has a lot more to offer than just a bath. Be sure to stop in this Onsen town on your tour through the Best of Japan.

 

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Oze National Park

 

Oze National Park is another of our favorites from Gunma, and is made up of marshland, mountains, and ponds. The park is well known for its fall colors and flatland hiking. There are relatively no inclines which makes the park less intimidating than many national parks that take you up and through mountains. On top of all that, the park offers a rare view into the marshlands of Japan. The views here are as beautiful as they are unique and make for one very memorable Gunma experience.

 

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Mt. Shirane

 

Mt. Shirane is an active volcano located right outside of Kusatsu Onsen Town. On top of just looking beautiful, Mt. Shirane offers some spectacular skiing, hiking, and is a fairly popular place to take in the fall colors. Whether it is summer and you enjoy the trek up the active volcano, fall and you take in the beauty of the autumn leaves, or it is winter and you race down some of Japan’s longest slopes, Mt. Shirane is one spectacular attraction that easily belongs on our list of the Best of Japan. After all of that you can just make your way to one of the spectacular onsens in Kusatsu to make for one killer finish.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

Best of Hiroshima

 

Hiroshima may very well be the most famous prefecture in the Chugoku region, and for good reason. The prefecture is absolutely packed with incredible attractions that are worth seeking out and exploring. Here we will list out some of our favorite that are worthy of being called the Best of Japan.

 

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Miyajima

 

The island of Miyajima is absolutely magical. Considered to be one of the Top Views in Japan, Miyajima should be at the top of any Japan Bucket List. The island is famous for its giant orange torii gate that, but has a multitude of amazing things to see and do while on the island. Be sure to explore the island’s Itsukushima Shrine, pagodas, mountain, temples, hiking, fantastic food, and of course the deer. This island is easily one of the most beautiful and scenic places in all of Japan, and would be a shame if you didn’t make it here before you left Japan.

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Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park

 

The Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park was established in 1954 as a memorial to those both directly and indirectly affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb. The park contains a rather large museum that teaches the history, displays artifacts, and gives personal accounts of the events surrounding the first nuclear attack the world had ever seen. The park also has a massive grounds that holds the “A-Bomb Dome” as well as several statues and fountains honoring the memories of the victims of that day. The Peace Park was also registered as a World Heritage Site in 1996 making it one of the three that can be found in the Chugoku region.

 

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Hiroshima Castle

 

Hiroshima Castle is a magnificent wooden castle found near the Peace Park in Hiroshima Castle. Sometimes referred to as the “Carp Castle,” Hiroshima Castle is known for its beautiful and rather large moat as well as the bridge that crosses it. The castle was completely destroyed in the atomic bomb dropping of August 6, 1945, but a replica was made in 1958 to serve as a replacement. The replica has been made into a museum that mainly covers the history of Hiroshima City prior to World War 2.

 

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Hiroshima, day 11

Shukkeien Garden

 

The Shukkeien Garden is one of the prefecture’s most famous attractions as well as oldest gardens. The garden was completed soon after Hiroshima Castle’s completion in 1620 and is terrific example of Japanese traditional gardening. The garden was set up to display miniature versions of natural settings including forests, valleys, and even mountains that you can see while walking through the path that circles the main pond. The garden is absolutely spectacular and should not be missed.

 

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Onomichi

 

Onomichi is a small coastal town that has some breath taking views. The town is famous for its sloping paths that lead in and out of the historical attractions spread out throughout Onomichi. There is even a famed Temple Walk that takes tourists to 25 of the town’s temples. On top of its ancient feel and historical significance, there is even a lookout point that offers an incredible view of the town and the beautiful Seto Inland Sea.

 

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Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima has a ton of great and unique food that is a must if you are in the city. First on the list is Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki literally means, “Just as you like it baked.” which means you get to choose a lot of the ingredients to put in your dish. Traditionally, Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki comes with a bed of noodles, your choice of meat and side ingredients, an Okonomiyaki pancake, Okonomiyaki sauce, a green spice, and topped with mayonnaise.

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Hokkaido

 

Hokkaido, known for being that place up north with the snow, will prove to be a whole lot more. Of course the prefecture’s most famous and important event is its snow festival, you will be pleasantly surprised by Hokkaido’s natural beauty no matter what season you visit in. That being said, you should come in the winter… the ski resorts, festivals, and just overall fun is just too much to pass up on. Be sure to visit Hokkaido and see what this massive island has to offer you.

 

 

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Furano Flower Fields

 

Furano, is a place full of fantastic food, drink, and even flowers which make up the prefectures most popular non-winter attraction. The flower fields of Furano are most known for their seemingly endless rows of lavender, but the farms do host an array of flowers that feature numerous vibrant colors for your eyes to feast on. The fields seem to be straight out of a Ghibli movie and easily belong on any list of the Best of Japan.

 

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Snow Festival

 

Easily Hokkaido’s most famous attraction, the Sapporo Snow Festival brings in crowds from all over the world to see its snow creations. This week long festival usually takes place in early February, and features some larger than life statues completely made of snow and ice. It may be absurdly cold, but this festival is worth it. Be sure to book your hostels or hotels early though, rooms are sure to book fast.

 

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Niseko Ski Resort

 

Niseko Ski Resort, Japan’s leading ski resort, is known for its abundance in light powder snow and being one of the most popular ski resorts for foreigners. There are three large large resorts in the area; Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. Of the three, Grand Hirafu if the biggest and has a foreign friendly town that contains lots of stores and restaurants designed with English speakers in mind. No matter which resort you go to though, you can pretty much plan on spending 9-10,000 Yen on the entrance fee plus ski rentals, but that is small price to pay to enjoy one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Otaru Canal and Festival

 

Otaru, a smaller city near Sapporo, is famous for a couple things. First the city has a giant canal running through one of its more historic sections which really adds to the beauty of Otaru. The buildings that line the edge of the canal make for some picturesque scenes that are simply unforgettable. Second, Otaru has become quite popular for its “Snow Light Path Festival.” The festival, held at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, combines the scenic paths of Otaru with snow and lights to create one magical scene you won’t want to miss. Otaru is a great addition to any Hokkaido Snow Festival trip.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Hyogo

 

Hyogo is not nearly as well known as its capital, Kobe, but has a great deal of attractions that you are sure to be familiar with. The prefecture holds the beloved Himeji Castle which is constantly placed either at the top or near the top of anyone’s list of Japan’s Must See Castles. The prefecture of course has the romantic city of Kobe as well as one of the greatest night views in all of Japan. Hyogo has a lot to offer our list of the best of Japan.

 

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Kobe

 

There are very few cities in Japan as famous as Kobe. The city of Kobe has gained international attention recently for its world famous beef, the devastating earthquake, and for it just being a very cool city. The harbor and the city’s architecture has made the city one of the most romantic areas in all of Japan, and thus should be high on your list of places to visit. Just don’t come here alone.

 

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Himeji Castle

 

The Himeji Castle was built in 1333, and is the largest and most visited castles in the entire country. The castle survived the Meiji Restoration, World War 2 bombings, earthquakes, and a host of other natural disasters that have hit the area. The castle has been placed on many lists, including ours, as the most spectacular castles in all of Japan, and is well deserving of this title. Unfortunately, the castle is under construction at the moment and will be until Spring of 2014. Even though the castle is under construction, you can still access majority of the grounds. In a little less than a year, the castle in all its polished splendor will be revealed and once again everyone will see what makes Himeji Castle at the top of our list of Japan’s Must See Castles.

 

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Mt. Rokko

Mt. Rokko, one of “Japan’s Top 3 Night Views,” offers a tremendous view of both Osaka and Kobe Bay. The mountain is found near has a very convenient ropeway that will take you to the top. To get here head to Sannomiya Station in Kobe City and then take the Hankyu Kobe Line to Rokko Station. From there it is a short bus ride (Bus #16) straight to Rokko Cable-car Station.

 

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Awaji Yumebutai

 

While in Hyogo, you should definitely stop at Awaji Island and check out the landscaping works of Tadao Anodo. One of his more famous works is the Awaji Yumebutai which consists of a stairway-shaped garden (pictured above) amongst other great pieces of art. The Yumebutai is made up of over 70 acres of land that contains conference halls, resorts, an outside theater, and most importantly the botanical gardens. The stairway-shaped gardens called the Hyakudan-en is a personal favorite and has some convenient walkways which will take you throughout the park. It is the perfect escape for both plants and art lovers.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Ibaraki

 

Ibaraki is for those who love the beach. It’s that simple. If you are looking to hit up the beach while in Japan, and not have to travel to Okinawa, then Ibaraki is where you want to go. Sure the prefecture is home to some beautiful and iconic sites, like Kairakuen listed below, but Ibaraki’s number one appeal is going to be the beach. So bring your swimsuit and hope for some sunny weather while visiting Ibaraki.

 

 

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Kairakuen, Mito, Ibaraki

 

Made famous for containing over 3,000 plum trees, the Kairakuen is one of the most famous of gardens in Japan. The garden was established relatively recently, mid 1800s, by a feudal lord of the time. What made the garden somewhat unique at the time, was that it was open to the public. In fact the name even means “A garden to be enjoyed together.” The garden is beautiful year round but is truly amazing come late February – early March when all of the plum trees are in bloom.

 

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Ibaraki Beaches

 

Ibaraki Prefecture hosts some of the country’s best beaches, which make for the perfect summer getaway. Some of the favorites are Hirai, Oritsu, Kashima Kaihin Park, Ootake, Hokota, and Oarai Sun Beach. If you are in the area, and want to get your surf on, we highly recommend trying out one of the many beaches found here in Ibaraki.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Ishikawa

 

Ishikawa, best known for its enormous peninsula that reaches out into the sea of Japan, is another fun prefecture to hit up on your tour of Chubu. The peninsula’s coast is full of spectacular views including one of the country’s most beautiful terraced rice fields that spans right out to the sea. Another of Ishikawa’s famous attractions would have to be Kenrokuen which is one of Japan’s top 3 best traditional gardens. The prefecture is full of spectacular views that should not be missed and are worthy of being amongst the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

 

Kenrokuen, the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, is widely seen as the favorite of Japan’s Top 3 gardens. For over two centuries, the Kenrokuen garden was the private garden of the Maeda family, but in 1871 the garden was opened up to the public. The garden is made up of ponds, waterfalls, bridges, stones, flowers, well kept and designed trees, and of course a tea house. The name, “Kenrokuen,” was given in reference to the garden’s six attributes: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views.

 

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Okunoto Coast (Noto Peninsula)

 

The Okunoto Coast makes up the tip of the Noto Peninsula and contains some of the most beautiful views in all of Ishikawa. Being on the coast, the majority of these views consist of the ocean and different rock formations, but our favorite view in all of Okunoto is of “Senmaida.” Senmaida, pictured above, is one of the country’s more famous terraced rice fields and is absolutely stunning no matter what season you view it in. The views found here are easily deserving of being considered among the Best of Japan, and a drive around Okunoto Coast will certainly be an unforgettable one.

 

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Chaya Districts of Kanazawa

 

Kanazawa has three incredibly well preserved Chaya, or Tea House, districts where geishas used to entertain guests. The largest of the three, Higashi Chaya District, contains two tea houses that are open to the public as well as other cafes and shops where you can get some fantastic souvenirs. The other two districts, Nichi and Kazuemachi Chaya Districts, are much smaller but do offer some unique museums. Keep in mind that there are several Chaya that are still operating today, so keep an eye out and a camera ready for roaming geisha.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Iwate

 

Iwate, one of the northernmost prefectures, is not one of Tohoku’s most famous prefectures, but it sure packs a punch. Iwate’s known for two things. Its rock formations, and its noodles. Morioka, the capital, is super popular for its many noodle dishes, including the all you can eat Wanko noodle restaurants. The area was hit by a terrible 8.9 magnitude earthquake back in 2011, and is still in a rebuilding phase. It is perfectly safe to travel through Iwate and see its contributions to the Best of Japan, but keep in mind that the prefecture’s coast line is under going relief efforts at the moment.

 

 

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Geibi Gorge

 

The Geibi Gorge, or Geibikei, is one of the country’s most impressive gorges and can be best seen by a flatboat river tour led by a local guide. The 90 minute tour will feel a lot like a gondola ride through some of Iwate’s most scenic areas. The Geibikei is beautiful year round, but is especially stunning in the fall when you can take in all of the colors. This is one impressive tour that you will not soon forget.

 

 

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Appi Kogen Ski Resort

 

Looking to get some skiing in while touring the Best of Japan? Well look no further than Appi Kogen Ski Resort. This resort contains some beautiful and long slopes and also remains open through Golden Week in May. What more could you ask for? The resort is about 50 kilometers north of Morioka can even be reached by bus from Morioka Station. It will cost you roughly 10,000 Yen for a full day pass and ski rental, but the price is well worth it for some of the best skiing that Japan has to offer.

 

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Kitayamazaki Coast

 

We are covering a few different coast lines on this Best of Japan list, but Kitayamazaki Coast might just be our favorite. This 8 kilometer stretch of cliffs, beautiful rock features, and stunning ocean views makes for one impressive scene. Whether you are driving nearby or taking in the sites from one of the many observatories, you are sure to enjoy your time along this Iwate coast.

 

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Ryusendo Cave

 

The Ryusendo Cave is a massive cave system found in Iwaizumi Town, and is not only one of the Best of Japan but also one of the country’s top 3 caves. This extensive limestone cave system features several lakes and is believed to go nearly 5,000 meters into the mountain. Although 3,500 of those 5,000 meters has been explored and charted, only about 700 meters is actually open to the public for tours. That being said, they are a rather impressive 700 meters. Don’t miss out on Ryusendo Cave while in Iwate.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kagawa

Kagawa is a prefecture rich in natural and artistic beauty. One of the prefecture’s most well known attractions is its Naoshima which is a small island that contains several of the country’s most spectacular modern art museums. The prefecture also contains one of the nation’s most beloved traditional gardens. Overall there is a lot to see and do in this small prefecture that makes it a must visit while in Shikoku.

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Naoshima

 

Naoshima is a small island off the coast of Kagawa and contains a several of the country’s best modern art museums. The museums are all quite unique and hold several pieces that are absolutely stunning. You can even find some of the artwork just scattered around the island. One of the more unique museums is the 007 Museum that is devoted to the James Bond novel, “The Man with the Red Tattoo.” All in all you won’t want to miss this artistic island.

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Kompirasan

 

Kompirasan is the most popular shrine in all of Kagawa, and is the head Kompira shrine in all of Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the safety of sailors across Japan and is located on the steep slopes of a mountain. The climb up to the shrine can be a tough one and includes 1,368 stone steps, so be ready for a long and difficult hike. You reach the main hall at around the 785th step, which will give you an incredible view (pictured above) of the town below. If you are feeling adventurous though you can continue up the stairs to the inner shrine. The paths are quite beautiful and the shrine, although tough, is a fun experience. Don’t miss it.

 

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Ritsurin Koen

 

Ritsurin Koen is a landscape garden that is often viewed to be one of the best in all of Japan. The park contains several great ponds, pavilions, paths, hills, trees, and even a tea house. The garden was established for the feudal lords of the day, but is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Kagawa.


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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kagoshima

 

Going from the very top of the island to the bottom, Kagoshima is another commonly overlooked destination. The prefecture is just too far out of the way a lot of times for people to make the trip. Hopefully the recently built Shinkansen line will help bring people to see not only some of the Best of Kyushu, but rather some of the Best of Japan.

 

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Ibusuki Sand Baths

 

Ibusuki, found in the southern part of Kagoshima, is well known throughout Japan for its Sand Baths. The city is on the coast and has some spectacular views. Visitors to the baths, dressed in robes, will be covered in hot sand up to their necks. The combination of the weight and heat of the sand will make anyone perspire within minutes. We don’t recommend staying under the sand for longer than 15-20 minutes.

 

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Sakurajima

 

Sakura Jima, an active volcano, is one of the cities most visited attractions and can be seen from all over the city. The volcano towers over the city, and is well known for its constant eruptions. On any given day, the people of Kagoshima will wake up to a layer of ash on the grounds. There are ferries that take people to the volcano’s island where you can hike the volcano and relax in Sakura Jima’s onsen.

 

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Yakushima

 

Kagoshima’s Yakushima contains some of the oldest forests in the world, and with them comes some of the best hiking in all of Japan. If you like waterfalls, beautiful nature, and just being outdoors, Yakushima will be paradise. Two of the more famous hikes include the hike to Jomon Sugi (the world’s oldest tree) and Shiratani (also known as Mononoke Forest). Be warned some of the hikes are long. The hike to Jomon Sugi and back will take roughly 8-10 hours, and it is exhausting. That and it rains… a lot. That being said the island is absolutely incredible and we can guarantee your only regret will be that you didn’t come earlier. Definitely make to the island before you leave Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kanagawa

 

To be honest, Kanagawa has got to be our favorite in all of Kanto. Here you can find Yokohama, access to Hakone National Park, and our favorite Kamakura. The iconic sites mixed with the prefecture’s natural beauty make for one incredible day trip out of Tokyo, as well make up several contributions to our Best of Japan. The prefecture is packed with phenomenal attractions that you are not going to want to miss on your tour of Kanto.

 

 

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Hakone National Park

 

Hakone National Park is one of the nation’s most beautiful parks and offers some of the most memorable views. Of course you can take in some pretty spectacular views of Fuji, but it is the lakes, flowers and hiking that makes Hakone National Park truly something special. The park also contains several interesting museums, including an open air museum that allows to take in some art while surrounded by the natural beauty of the park. All of that mixed in with a quick dip in an onsen will make for one amazing visit to one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Kamakura Great Buddha

 

This bronze statue of the Amida Buddha can be found right outside Kamakura’s Kotokuin Temple and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This statue sits at an impressive 13.35 meters tall and is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in all of Japan. The statue has been around since 1252 and is one of the country’s most beloved landmarks. It doesn’t hurt that this statue is very photogenic and is sure to provide you with one impressive photo keepsake of your time in Kamakura.

 

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Hasedera

 

Kamakura is known as the Kyoto of eastern Japan, and for good reason. There are heaps of gorgeous and historical temples and shrines scattered amongst the hills of this ancient city, and make Kamakura so worthwhile. One of the more famous temples is Hasedera which contains one of the country’s largest wooden statues as well as offers a pretty spectacular view of the city. The temple also has a pretty decent traditional garden that is worth a visit. All in all, Hasedera is another wonderful addition to our list of the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Sankeien Gardens

 

Sankeien Gardens is a literal walk into the past where visitors can enjoy the beauty of the landscape gardens as well as the historic buildings that are scattered throughout the area. The gardens themselves contain a rather large pond, numerous small rivers, flowers, and of course some pretty fantastic walking trails. The historic buildings include tea houses, a three story pagoda, as well as one impressive feudal lord residence. A walk through the Sankeien Gardens is an experience akin to that of something you would expect in Kyoto or even Nara, but is conveniently located in Kanagawa’s Yokohama.

 

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Yokohama’s Chinatown

 

Japan has three Chinatowns spread out throughout the country, but Yokohama’s is by far the largest. The streets are colorful and ornately decorated, but what really makes Yokohama’s Chinatown one of our picks for the Best of Japan is its food. The are is well known for its exotic cuisine and offers some pretty fantastic street food that you will not want to miss. If you’ve got a hankering for some good Chinese food, then look no further than this Chinatown.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kochi

 

Kochi has something for everyone which makes for a fantastic family get away. The prefecture is famous for its unique natural beauty which includes one of the Top 3 Caves in Japan as well as a mountain temple that includes a expansive botanical garden. On top of that the prefecture is home to the Anpanman Museum which is always popular with the kids. It won’t be hard to find something to do or enjoy while exploring Kochi.

 

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Kochi Castle

 

One of the 12 remaining original castles, Kochi Castle is certainly a site to behold. The castle dates back to the early 1600’s, but due to a massive fire, the structure had to be rebuilt in 1748. Kochi Castle’s historical significance and beautiful design is what makes it worthy of not only being one of the best in all of Kochi, but also one of the Best of Japan

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Ryugado Cave

 

Considered to be one of Japan’s Top 3 Caves, Kochi’s Ryugado Cave is an absolute must see for anyone visiting the prefecture. This massive limestone cave stretches on for 4 kilometers and contains a great deal of both natural beauty and history. At the entrance of the cave you can see ancient pottery stuck in the walls that date back to the Yayoi Period.

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Godaisan

 

Godaisan is one of the more famous mountains in Shikoku and lies to the east of Kochi City. The mountain is not famous for its hiking or for any natural reason, but rather the temples and schools that developed on it. Years ago Chinese priests came to the mountain and established the Chikurinji Temple. The temple has become quite popular and is even one of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Near the temple lies a spacious botanical garden that contains some lengthy walking paths and beautiful plant life.

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Anpanman Museum

 

If you do not know Anpanman, then you have not been in Japan very long. This bread-headed super hero is one of the most beloved characters in all of Japan, and that is saying a lot. The creator of the series was born in Kochi making it the ideal area to build a children’s museum dedicated to Anpanman. Its fun for all, but probably best if you go with children.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kumamoto

 

Found to the northwest of Kagoshima, Kumamoto has a wealth of history and natural beauty that is worth the visit. The prefecture contains one of the Top 3 Castles, some of the best onsen, and a heaps of other attractions that are worthy of being on our Best of Japan list.

 

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Kumamoto Castle

 

Often viewed as one of the Top 3 Castle in Japan, Kumamoto Castle is a must see while in Kumamoto. The castle is located in Kumamoto City and is one of the easiest to reach castles in Kyushu. The castle has massive moats and towering walls that given a curved shape to make it difficult to scale. All in all the castle was incredibly well designed and beautifully laid out. The castle is also famous for being one of the best places for cherry blossom viewing in all of Japan. The castle grounds are quite beautiful year round, but if you can definitely try to come in early spring.

 

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Mt. Aso

 

Mt. Aso one of the world`s largest active volcanoes, is located in eastern Kumamoto. The volcano is a part of Aso Kuju Mountain park and is one of Kumamoto’s biggest tourist attractions. The Aso area is known for its rolling hills and massive grassy plains, that are quite unusual for Japan. On these grassy plains you can usually find live stock including cattle and horses. Late May early June, the area is painted purple with flowers and is indescribably beautiful.

 

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Kurokawa Onsen

Kurokawa Onsen

 

Kurokawa Onsen Town is known throughout Japan as one of the best onsen towns in the country, even rivaling the nearby Beppu. The town has a great atmosphere to it, and one of the most romantic town in all of Japan. There are dozens of different onsen to choose from including onsen inside of a cave. There is a pass available for 1,200 yen that will give you access to any 3 onsen. The town can be difficult to get to if you don’t have a car, but their are buses that go from Kumamoto City to Beppu that will make a stop at Kurokawa.

 

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Amakusa

 

Amakusa is a beautiful area off the western coast of Kumamoto that is comprised of 120 different islands. The scenic beauty of the coast and its islands are definitely worth the trip, but what makes Amakusa really special are the bottle-nose dolphins that frequent the area.

 

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Cuddly Dominion

 

Think cute animals meet the circus and you’ve got Cuddly Dominion. The show can be found in Aso, and contains over 1,000 animals that include over 90 species. The show consists of some of these animals (bears, chimpanzees, and penguins) doing tricks that are quite entertaining. You can even hold and pet a large portion of these cuddly animals. Certainly a great addition to any trip to Aso.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Kyoto

 

Kyoto, one of Japan’s most historic and traveled to cities, is a must see on anyone’s trip to Japan let alone Kansai. A list of the best of Japan could simply be made up of different attractions in Kyoto if we didn’t space things out by prefecture. We are only going to mention a few, but rest assured these are some of the best Kyoto has to offer.

 

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Kinkaku Ji

 

Kinkaku Ji, or the “Golden Pavilion,” was a Zen Buddhist created in 1397. The temple is a three story pavilion that is best known for its gold paint that covers the building. There is a solid gold rooster on top of the pavilion that has become the symbol of Kinkaku Ji. The pavilion sits in the middle of a pond that is surrounded by a beautifully kept garden that is perfect in any season. Kinkaku Ji has become one of the most iconic attractions in all of Japan and is a must see while in Kyoto.

 

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Kiyomizu Dera

 

Kiyomizu Dera is one of the largest and oldest temples in Kyoto. The temple was founded in 778 on top of a hill overlooking the city. The buildings that are currently standing were created in the early 1630s and were made without using a single nail. The temple is famous for clean, wish granting water as well as the trees surrounding the temple. Depending on the season, the trees give the temple a completely different look, which makes the temple worth coming back to.

 

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Nijo Castle

 

Nijo Castle, a flatland castle located in central Kyoto, is one of the most visited castles in all of Japan. The castle is made up of massive surrounding walls, beautiful blue moats, some phenomenal gardens, and of course the historic castle buildings. The castle has many features that makes it special including two fortifying walls as well “Nightingale Floors” that mimic the chirps of a mockingbird when stepped on. Overall the Nijo Castle is a phenomenal attraction that should not be missed.

 

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Arashiyama

 

Arashiyama, a district found in western Kyoto, is an area abundant in history as well as natural beauty. The Arashiyama area contains numerous attractions including a monkey park a top of a mountain, several unique and ancient temples, and a stunning bamboo grove that is sure to please any who make it this scenic district. Arashiyama may not be covered by the bus pass, but the natural beauty makes it well worth the couple hundred yen.

 

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Ginkaku Ji

 

Ginkaku Ji also known as the “Silver Pavilion” is one of the better known sights in Kyoto. The temple’s impressive and pristine gardens surround the pavilion, and offer a path that gives a tremendous view of the temple grounds. Despite the name, the “Silver Pavilion” is not actually silver, but a wooden temple. The grounds also contain a fantastic tea house, some beautiful rock gardens, as well as a few ponds. Although not nearly as flashy as its brother the “Golden Pavilion,” the “Silver Pavilion” tends to be the favorite between the two and one of the better sites in Japan.

 

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Stone Gardens

 

Kyoto has several spectacular stone gardens spread out throughout the city that are absolutely worth seeing. Out of the numerous stone gardens there are two that stand out as must sees. First, the ancient stone garden found at Ryoan Ji. No one actually knows when this ancient garden was constructed, but it has been around for a rather long time and has been the inspiration for of the country’s most famous pieces of poetry. The second can be found at Tofuku Ji which has a far more interesting temple complex and a much larger rock garden, however it was created in the past century and does not have the history that Ryoan Ji has. So if you are looking for history check out Ryoan Ji, but if you are looking for something a little bigger then you should take a look at Tofuku Ji.

 

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Amanohashidate

 

Although not in Kyoto City, Amanohashidate is a pine tree covered sandbar that spans across Miyazu Bay and is one of Japan’s Top 3 Views. The name Amanohashidate can be translated as “the Bridge in the Heavens” and is often viewed by turning your back to the bridge then bending at the waste to look at the sandbar between your legs. It might be weird, but its just how the locals have been viewing the sight for over a thousand years. It is best viewed from a hill on either side of the land bridge.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Mie

 

One of the lesser known prefectures in Kansai, Mie has been one of the most important prefectures in the country’s long history. The prefecture is well known for its ninja town, Iga, as well as its expansive shrine, Ise Grand Shrine, which are both two of the most traveled to attractions in all of Japan by native Japanese. Mie may not have the abundance of well known temples and castles, but it has a great deal of attractions that make the prefecture worth exploring.

 

 

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Ise Grand Shrine

 

Ise Grand Shrine, one of the most sacred shrines in all of Japan, is a vast complex that consists of 125 different shrines and is visited by over 7,500,000 people every year. The shrine is one of the prefecture’s biggest attractions and one very good reason to visit Mie. Ise Grand Shrine’s complex reaches out to the ocean, leads you through a forest, and gives you so much natural diversity that you will lose yourself in a spiritual wonderland. The natural beauty surrounding the shrine is a fitting place for one of the country’s holiest places. To top it all off, Amaterasu herself chose the area to be the location of her enshrinement. All of this makes Ise Grand Shrine an easy pick for the Best of Japan.

 

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Iga Ninja Village

 

Who doesn’t love ninjas. Through movies, anime, and even books people have been fantasizing about the secret arts of ninjutsu for decades, but how many of us really know what the ninjas actually did? Iga, a former ninja village, has put together a fantastic Ninja Museum that educates on the history and the lives of the ninja. On top of that the city puts on a festival every year in April and May that celebrates the ninja. The city also contains some old castle remains as well as a beautiful waterfall. All in all a perfect way to spend a day… just watch your back for any of those sneaky ninja.

 

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Kumano Kodo

 

Kumano Kodo is a road used on a pilgrimage to several of the holy sites found in Mie. The pilgrimage has a great deal of historical significance and is even included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are several paths you can take on the Kumano Koto, including ones that lead to Ise Grand Shine, that offer hours of incredible and spiritual hiking.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Miyagi

 

When you hear “Miyagi,” what comes to mind? Scenic coastlines? Beautiful gorges? Wax on, wax off? Whatever comes to mind, whatever expectations you may have, forget about them. Miyagi is a prefecture that is packed with natural beauty, and no picture is going to do the landscapes justice. Just come and experience Miyagi and all of its wonderful contributions that make up part of our list on the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Matsushima Bay

 

One of Japan’s Top 3 Scenic Views, Matsushima Bay offers a coastal view like none other. The bay features 200 small white islands that are covered with green pine trees. The view is really quite stunning. Although you can enjoy the view from the shore, it may be advisable to look into taking a cruise around Matsushima Bay. The choice is yours, but no matter how you take in the view of Matsushima Bay, you are sure to enjoy one of the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Zuiganji Temple

 

Although Zuiganji Temple will be closed to the public through March of 2016, the temple is one of the region’s most important and beautiful historical buildings that should be remembered as one of the Best of Japan. The temple was constructed to reflect the natural beauty of the Matsushima Bay area and uses its natural surroundings to amplify its own beauty. As you approach the temple you will pass through a dense wooded area as well as a couple caves that really add to the Zuiganji experience. Although the temple is closed off at the moment, there are numerous buildings (including an art museum and mausoleum) that are still open to see.

 

 

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Naruko Gorge

 

After a few minutes in Naruko, it won’t be hard to see why we include this gorge on our list of the Best of Japan. The Naruko Gorge is one of the most scenic attractions Miyagi has to offer. The gorge has some pretty spectacular hiking as well as numerous onsen spread out throughout its grounds. Although Naruko is beautiful year round, it is one of the most beautiful places to take in the fall colors in all of Miyagi, so be sure to come in the fall.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Miyazaki

 

Miyazaki is one of Kyushu’s hidden gems that deserves a bit more recognition. The prefecture holds a great deal of natural beauty that ranges from stunning coast lines and beaches to one of the country’s most beautiful gorges. Here are some of the Miyazaki’s attractions that are worthy of being recognized with the Best of Japan.

 

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Takachiho Gorge

 

Found in the northernmost section of Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge is known for its natural beauty and folklore. The gorge contains an incredible waterfall, insanely blue water, shrines, and some beautifully yet naturally cut stones. The big shrine found in the area puts on some incredible Kagura everyday that should not be missed. If the water isn’t too high, you can even boat through the gorge a ways.

 

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Udo Jingu Shrine

 

Located in a cliff-side cave in Nichinan City just south of Miyazaki city, the Udo Jingu Shrine is a famous tourist attraction in Miyazaki prefecture. It is dedicated to the father of Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan. Emperor Jinmu was said to have been nourished by the rocks in the area. For 100 yen, you can buy small clay undama and try to throw them into a small target on the rocks, getting good luck if you can.

 

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Hyuga Cape

 

Miyazaki has some of the most beautiful coastal views in all of Kyushu, but one of the most impressive can be found at the Hyuga Cape. The pristine water mixed with the area’s unique rock formations make for some stunning views that should not be missed. The cape can be hard to reach if you do not have a car, but if you are up for a drive along the coast Hyuga Cape is a must see.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Nagano

 

When it comes to tourism in Chubu, Nagano got some of the most popular of attractions. The prefecture has a wide range of sites that range from the cute (monkeys relaxing in onsen) to the historic (one of twelve original castles) that are sure to bring in travelers of all ages. The prefecture was even the location of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games which means you know there is a lot of winter fun to be had here. Be sure to check out Nagano’s additions to the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Jigokudani Monkey Park

 

I love monkeys. I see one playing with its monkey friends, and I can’t help but smile. This, I feel, is a fairly normal reaction. Now, I see a monkey chilling in an onsen, and I turn into a twelve year old Japanese girl who can’t control the “KAWAII” that spews from her mouth. This, I also feel, is the reaction that everyone will have when visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park. The park has become an icon for Nagano, and for good reason. These monkeys are adorable, and the unique setting makes the Jigokudani Monkey Park one of the Best of Japan. Be sure to see monkeys while in Japan.

 

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Zenko Ji Temple

 

Nagano’s Zenkoji Temple, founded sometime in the 7th century, is one of Nagano (maybe even Japan’s) most important temple. The temple contains the country’s first Buddhist statues brought to Japan and played a prominent role in developing the city of Nagano. The statues are currently hidden but a copy is shown every 6 years for a short period. The next viewing is scheduled to be in 2015, but you should wait for the revealing of the statues to go to one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Matsumoto Castle

 

Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto City, Nagano), also known as Crow Castle due to its black paint job, was built in 1504 and is thought to be the most beautiful and complete of all the remaining original castles. Other than the outer castle land, which was reclaimed by the Meiji government, Matsumoto Castle somehow survived the Meiji Restoration and has become a favorite for many tourists visiting Japan. It has been through some renovations, but compared to the other castles found in Japan, this one is legitimately a valued piece of history and another attraction that belongs on our list of Best of Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Nagasaki

 

Nagasaki is one of Kyushu’s most famous prefectures, and contains the popular Nagasaki City. Having been the location of the infamous bombing that took place on August 9th, 1945. Historically the area had been one of the country’s most important ports and has therefore had a major international influence. This includes a large Chinese population, some European styled architecture, and other pieces of culture and food from all over the world. The diversity really makes Nagasaki an interesting travel destination where you can see much of the Best of Japan.

 

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Peace Park

 

Nagasaki City itself is a beautiful coastal city that has a great deal of history worth exploring. One of the most meaningful and worthwhile attractions in the city is the Nagasaki Peace Park that honors the victims of the August 9, 1945 atomic bombing. The park has a great deal of statues throughout the park that were created in memory of the victims, and the museum on the park grounds was created to educate the world on the horrors of the use of atomic weapons.

 

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Mt. Inasa

 

The best view of the city can be found on top of Mt. Inasa. The mountain rises 333 meters over Nagasaki City, and offers a great view of the city both day and night.Mt. Inasa is a favorite amongst tourists in Nagasaki, and is considered to be one of Japan’s top 3 best night views. Mt. Inasa is accessible by Rope-way as well as buses.

 

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Huis Ten Bosch

 

Huis Ten Bosch is a theme park that was created to resemble a Dutch town and contains some beautiful canals, windmills, gardens and fantastic Dutch architecture. All of this combines to create an amazing resort that has a genuine European atmosphere, which is a unique feeling in Japan. The theme park is well known for its seasonal flowers and festivals that bring in tourists from all over the country.

 

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Nagasaki Lantern Festival

 

The Nagasaki Lantern Festival has become one of the largest and most popular festivals in all of Kyushu. The two week long festival celebrates the Chinese New Year and consists of numerous worth while events. One of the most iconic features of the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is of course its lanterns. There are over 15,000 spread out throughout the entire city. There are even lanterns shaped to resemble famous Chinese heroes, dragons, and other Chinese icons. You should not miss this festival.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Nara

 

Nara, one of Japan’s old capitals, has some of the country’s largest and oldest shrines and temples that make the prefecture one of the most visited areas in the entire country. Some of the prefectures temples are even world record holders including the world’s largest wooden structure which was awarded to Todai Ji. The capital of the prefecture, Nara City, has become quite popular for its quaint town like feel, superb temples, and tame deer that wander the streets. This is one area you do not want to miss and has a lot to offer any list of the best of Japan.

 

 

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Tour though Nara City

 

Having a brief stint as that nation’s capital, Nara City has a great deal of history and interesting sites to see, most of which can be seen on a one day walking tour. The city is beautiful, and is famous for its free roaming deer. There are several parks set up throughout the city that allow you to take in and just be with the deer. Nara also holds numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and world record holding attractions that are simply stunning and cannot be missed. While here be sure to check out Todai Ji, Kofuku Ji, and Kasuga Grand Shrine (all of which deserve to be on this list of the “Best of Japan”).

 

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Todai Ji

 

As mentioned earlier, you simply must stop at Todai Ji. Todai famous for being the world’s largest wooden structure, but the temple also holds the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. The temple and its statue are just unbelievably massive and is one of the country’s most incredible temples. Todai Ji can be found at the heart of the city and is a sort walk from any of the other beautiful attractions found in Nara.

 

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Yoshino Yama

 

If you are a fan of Sakura, or Cherry Blossoms, then you need to add Yoshino Yama to your Japan Bucket List. The mountain contains so many sakura trees that the cherry blossoms run down the mountain like a pink river. The trees are gorgeous from any vantage point, but there are observation areas at the top of the mountain for one of the country’s most spectacular views. Too bad it only occurs for a few weeks each year.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Niigata

 

Niigata, literally meaning “New Lagoon,” is an often forgotten prefecture that is definitely worthy of a visit. The prefecture is packed with spectacular views, art, mountains, and attractions that will make for the perfect weekend getaway. One of Niigata’s biggest claims to fame is its skiing. The prefecture has some of the country’s best slopes and is easily accessible from any of the surrounding big cities. Niigata may not have many famous attractions, but the prefecture certainly has a lot of little attractions that are sure to impress.

 

 

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Yuzawa Ski Resort

 

Yuzawa is one of the country’s best and most popular ski resorts. The ski resort is easily accessible from Tokyo (less than 2 hours), has ridiculously long seaons, and has some incredible slopes. If you are not a fan of skiing, well then Yuzawa won’t be for you, but if you are itching to hit the slopes you may want to check out this fantastic ski resort in Niigata.

 

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Toki Messe Observation Deck

 

Toki Messe is a multipurpose convention center that hosts a hotel, restaurants, art museum, and of course an observation deck on the 34th floor. The building is the tallest building on the Sea of Japan and offers a tremendous view of Niigata City. The building may not look like much on the outside, but the inside museum and observation deck can offer hours of entertainment.

 

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Echigo Tsumari Region

 

Niigata’s Echigo Tsumari Region is known for its stunning beauty and inaka charm, but is also the location for a rather popular modern art museum. The terraced rice fields are some of the best we’ve seen, and scattered throughout these fields lie statues and other works of art. There are tons of interesting attractions in this region which makes Echigo Tsumari Region one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Oita

 

Best known for Beppu and its onsen, Oita has been a popular travel destination for many years. Although tourists rarely explore past Beppu, the prefecture has a lot to see that’s worthy of being called the Best of Japan. Oita contains several fantastic castle ruins, historic shrines, stone Buddhas, and a monkey park that just should not be missed.

 

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Beppu Onsen (The Hells)

 

Of course Beppu is known for being the premier city for onsen and spas, but Beppu has taken its onsen and made them into works of Art. The Hells are a string of 8 completely unique, beautiful, and interesting artistic onsen. They each depict a type of hell and range from a blood red onsen to boiling mud onsen. Certainly some are more interesting than others, but if you purchase the 2,000 Yen pass you can see them all for a reasonable price. Oh and after seeing these onsen, we insist that you head to any other onsen to relax and enjoy the natural hot spring water.

 

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Usa Shrine

 

Usa Shrine is one of the most important and is the oldest shrines dedicated to the god of warriors named Hachiman-jin, originally Emperor Ojin. The shrine was built in the 8th century and is one of the most beautiful shrines in the country. Usa Shrine’s massive grounds contain large ponds full of carp and giant orange gates as well as the shrines themselves. The outside has several souvenir shops that are worth a look. Besides being one of the most beautiful shrines in all of Japan, the name itself should make it worth your time. Who doesn’t want to go to USA while in Japan?

 

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Usuki Stone Buddhas

 

The Stone Buddhas in Usuki are statues of Buddha that have been carved out of the stone wall. The sheer number and size of the Buddhas are quite impressive and they are even considered national treasures. There are more than 60 Buddhas here that were carved out in the 12th and 14th century. The statues can be found roughly 5k out of the city, but there are bike rentals at the train station to help you get there.

 

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Oka Castle Ruins

 

Oka Castle is found in Taketa City near the border of Oita and Kumamoto Prefectures. The castle was torn down during the Meiji Restoration, but has a great deal of history that is worth celebrating. Oka Castle was the site of several battles, but never once invaded. Its natural defenses of being placed on a tall hill surrounded by forest and rivers made it a very difficult castle to attack. On top of that, Oka Castle walls were rounded at the top so that invading armies were not able to use grappling hooks to climb the walls. The walls were also slanted to keep invaders from being able to climb up the stone. Now the castle remains as ruins. It was decided that the actual castle would not be rebuilt but rather remain as ruins. This gives the ruins a sense of wonder and adventure that you do not get at other rebuilt castles.

 

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Takasaki Yama Monkey Park

 

Takasaki Yama is a mountain in between Beppu and Oita City where you can go to play with monkeys. These monkeys are more or less friendly and allow you to walk right up near them. They still do not like eye contact and touching them may be off limits, but the chance to get close to monkeys makes this a must see. There are hundreds of them, and if you come during a feeding time you will get to see a stampede chasing the food. Of course monkeys are monkeys and will provide lots of entertainment. Takasaki Mountain is not the easiest place to get to if you do not have a car. There are buses that run every hour for about 400 yen one way.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Okayama

 

Okayama Prefecture is home to the largest city in Chugoku and a wealth of fantastic attractions that go overlooked far too often. Okayama’s varied landscapes, historical gardens, and original castles make it a must see prefecture for anyone interested in awesome. The prefecture has a great deal of sites that belong within the Best of Japan.

 

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Korakuen, Okayama

 

Located right outside the beautiful Okayama Castle, Korakuen is an incredible landscape garden that should not be missed. The garden features a rather large pond that contains a beautifully maintained island with trees, rock formations, and all sorts of landscaped beauty. One rather unique feature is a hill that over looks the garden giving visitors a terrific bird’s eye view of the area. The garden also contains groves of cherry, plum, and even maple trees that give the garden a different look with each season.

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Okayama Castle

 

If we are going to talk about Korakuen we have to mention the nearby Okayama Castle. Often referred to as the “Crow Castle,” this six story, black castle, towers above its surroundings and makes for an outstanding backdrop while enjoying gardens and moat. The castle itself was destroyed in WW2 but was reconstructed in the 1960s. Only the castle’s moon viewing turret, built in the early 1600s, escaped the bombings and has become one of the more popular attractions at the castle.

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Bitchu-Takahashi City

 

The city holds a lot of fascinating attractions including the famed Matsuyama Castle (not to be confused with the Matsuyama Castle in Ehime). Being the only surviving mountain top castle in all of Japan, as well as being the country’s oldest surviving castle, makes the city well worth your time, but the castle isn’t the only attraction in this historic city. Takahashi City has done a terrific job preserving its history and has a wealth of sites to come and see. These include old samurai residences as well as temples and gardens that are worth a visit.

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Kurashiki City

 

Kurashiki City, known for its canal and store houses, could be referred to as the the Venice of Japan. Well maybe the canal system isn’t quite as developed as Venice, but it sure is beautiful. There are traditional styled boats that cruise up and down the length of the canal that give fantastic tours of the city. The store houses that line the canal have been preserved all these years and have been renovated into museums, cafes, and little boutiques. This quaint little city is easily deserving of your time and to be included amongst the Best of Japan.

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Kibi Plains (Cycle Path)

 

The Kibi Plains is a flatland right outside of Okayama City and contains a great deal of significant temples scattered throughout its land. One of the best way to enjoy the Kibi Plains is to rent a bike at Bizen Ichinomiya Station and ride through the 15km course that takes you through some of the best temples in the area. These include Kibitsuhiko Shrine, Kibitsu Shrine, Koikui Shrine, and more. The ride may seem long at first, but you will be surprised by how quick it goes.

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Naked Man Festival

 

The Naked Man Festival is one of Japan’s most popular festival types and is held in dozens of cities across the country every year. Rest assured, the men are not quite naked, but are actually wearing a Japanese loin cloth called a fundoshi. Although the festival is held throughout the country, the most famous of them all is the Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri which can be found in Okayama.

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Okinawa

 

Looking for paradise? Well look no further than Okinawa. Perfect beaches with tropical weather, coral reefs, and a host of aquatic themed attractions that makes Okinawa one fantastic vacation destination. It may not be anywhere near the mainland, but don’t let that stop you from making the trip.

 

 

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Churaumi Aquarium

 

Widely regarded as the nation’s best aquarium, Churaumi offers some unique perspective into underwater and in our opinion is the closest thing to scuba you can get without actually getting in the water. The aquarium’s massive tanks have been one of Okinawa’s largest attractions and includes the famed Kuroshio Tank, which happens to be the largest in the world. If you miss this, you are not only missing one of the best of Okinawa, but also one of the best of Japan. Be sure to make a stop at the Ocean Expo Park to see the Churaumi Aquarium.

 

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Shuri Castle

 

Being so far from the mainland, Okinawa has a unique culture and sense of style that comes out in almost everything the people produce. One attraction that where this difference in culture and style comes into play is the ever-popular Shuri Castle. The castle, originally built in the 1300s, was unfortunately destroyed in the war but recently rebuilt to resemble its former glory. Everything here is truly incredible and creates a castle experience like none other. The walls, shrines, castle buildings, views, and everything else that makes up Shuri Castle is every bit deserving of a visit and mentioning on this list of the Best of Japan.

 

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Sunayama Beach

 

How can you go to Okinawa without hitting up the beach? Although there are many excellent beaches to choose from, we highly recommend checking out Sunayama Beach on Miyako Island. The beach is well known for its blue waters, white sand, and gorgeous rock formations that add to the romantic setting. There are even small sand dunes that just add to the experience. Easily one of the best beaches in all of Okinawa and a must see while here.

 

 

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Yoshino Beach

 

If you are wanting to get a bit of snorkeling done while in Okinawa, we highly recommend Yoshino Beach. The beach itself is nice enough, but the addition of some of the nation’s best coral reefs as well as a high concentration of beautiful fish make for one unforgettable adventure.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Osaka

 

Osaka holds the second largest city in all of Japan as well as some of the better attractions in Kansai. The city, Osaka, has always been a popular place to visit with its convenient Osaka Castle and night life, but within the past decade or so, Universal Studios Japan has also brought in a great deal of family tourism. The area is perfect for anyone’s vacation and has a lot to offer people of all ages. Be sure to stop by Osaka and see what it has to offer.

 

 

 

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Osaka Castle

 

One of our “Must See Castles of Japan,” Osaka Castle is truly a masterpiece of Japanese castle architecture and a landmark worth seeing while in the city. The castle may have been torn down after the Meiji Restoration, but it has since been rebuilt and renovated into one of the area’s most important museums. The castle grounds are expansive to say the least, and offer spectacular views of moats, castle walls, and one of the best city parks in all of Osaka.

 

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Umeda Sky Building

 

Umeda Sky Building offers one of the finest city views in all of Japan. The building is beautifully designed and includes a water fountain, some escalators that connect the towers, as well as an outside observation deck. The view is stunning both day and night, but we prefer the night view of Osaka. Umeda Sky Building is a bit pricy and out of the way, but the views are absolutely worth it.

 

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Namba

 

Namba is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Osaka and is a district commonly seen in movies as well as TV shows. The districts bright lights and lively night life make Namba a place you will not want to miss. One of its most famous features is the Dotonburi Glico Man which draws in tourists from all over the world.

 

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Instant Ramen Museum

 

When you think of great inventions throughout human existence, what comes to mind? The wheel? The light bulb? The internet? What about instant ramen? Very few of us would have made it through those late nights with out an instant meal like ramen in our cupboards, and to top it all off, you just can’t beat the price. Sure you have appreciated its taste and price, but have you ever wondered about its origins? Well at Osaka’s Instant Ramen Museum, you can learn all about ramen and even make your own. It is a pretty good deal and surly something worth checking out.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

Best of Japan: Saga

 

Despite sitting between two of Kyushu’s most popular prefectures, Saga often goes over looked. There is not a ton to see in the prefecture, but there is still plenty of attractions that are worth seeing and being called the Best of Japan.

 

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Yoshinogari Park

 

The Yoshinogari Park is a massive archaeological site that is incredibly important in understanding prehistorical events and people. The site has been developed so that tourists can come see the historic attractions and also gain a better understanding of how the Yayoi people lived. The dig is easily one of the most important archaeological discoveries and while in Saga you get the privilege of experiencing it.

 

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International Balloon Festival

 

Saga offers one incredibly unique festival that brings in hot air balloon enthusiasts from all over the world. The sky will be completely full of brightly colored balloons that are there to race, give tours, or even just participate in the fun. This year’s festival will go from October October 31st – November 4th and should not be missed.

 

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Hamanoura Terraced Rice Fields

 

The Hamanoura Terraced Rice Fields are located next Saga’s coast, making for an absolutely stunning view. The combination of bright green of the rice, the blue of the ocean, and (if you are lucky) the sunset make for one of the best views in all of Kyushu. The view is quite different depending on the time of year you come, but no matter when you come it will be beautiful.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Saitama

 

Saitama Prefecture may not have a big name destination like Kanagawa or Tokyo, but what it lacks in fame it makes up for in awesome. A trip to Saitama will be unlike any other and will allow you to see some of the country’s most beautiful and rarely visited sites. One of our favorites includes Saitama’s Omiya Bonsai Village which will give new understanding and meaning to this ancient art of the Bonsai as well as let you see one of the regions best gardens. All in all Saitama has a lot to offer as the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Railway Museum

 

Japan is well known for its trains. The whole country is connected by railway making it one incredibly convenient place to travel. Having a long history of rail, Saitama has put together one incredible railway museum that will prove to be entertaining whether or not you are a fan of rail. The museum displays 36 different engines as well as numerous model trains that are sure to be very educational for visitors of all ages.

 

 

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Omiya Bonsai Village

 

Omiya Bonsai Village is a combination of six bonsai nurseries located in Saitama City. The nurseries are gorgeous and allow for visitors to walk through their bonsai gardens and enjoy the unique art of the bonsai. Visitors are asked to not take pictures, but the beauty of the garden is sure to leave a lasting impression. While here, you should definitely hit up the Bonsai Art Museum which will make your trip to one of the Best of Japan all the better.

 

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Nagatoro

 

At first glance, Nagatoro may just seem like another small town, but this little village has a whole lot to offer anyone who loves the outdoors. Nagatoro makes our list of the Best of Japan for its rivers, and the adventures you can have on them. The town is well known for their exquisite boats that float down on river cruises, but Nagatoro is also a terrific place for whitewater rafting and other water sports.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Shiga

 

Shiga certainly has several fantastic mountains and temples spread out throughout the prefecture, but what makes Shiga special is its massive freshwater lake, Lake Biwa. The lake is the largest in all of Japan and offers some fantastic boating experiences. Hikone Castle can also be found in the area and really makes for a wonderful and relaxing weekend getaway.

 

Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle, one of the 12 remaining original castles, is Shiga’s most important historical structures. The castle was used between the years 1622-1874, and somehow survived the Meiji Restoration. The castle park is phenomenal, and offers a tremendous view of the surrounding city. Hikone Castle is now also a museum and can teach you all about the history of the area. This is one of the few original castles, and definitely worth the visit.

 

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Lake Biwa

 

Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, is home to some of the country’s most scenic areas. The lake offers some spectacular beaches, cruises, canals, and all kinds of lake fun that you just cannot get anywhere else in Japan. The lakes canals are especially famous during sakura season in the spring. If you enjoy lakes, boating, and just fun on the water Lake Biwa is an absolute must.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Shimane

 

Whether you’ve heard of it or not, the prefecture of Shimane has played a significant historical role in the development of Japan and therefore has plenty to offer in terms of tourism. From the meeting place of the gods to the largest silver mine in all of Japan, Shimane will have something for you to enjoy. Come check out Shimane’s contributions to the Best of Japan.

 

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Izumo Taisha

 

Izumo Taisha, one of the country’s oldest and most sacred shrines, is certainly a must see while in Shimane. Although no one knows when the shrine was built we do know that it predates Japanese history and was once run by the greatest clan of that time. The shrine is the designated meeting place for all of the 8 million Shinto deities during the 10-17th of every tenth month in the lunar calendar. The grounds have all been built up to support this meeting including lodging and special paths for the deities who come for the week long meeting. All is all this massive shrine is quite beautiful and has a rather unique history that makes it worthy of your visit!

 

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Matsue Castle

 

Located in the capital of Shimane, Matsue Castle is one of the 12 remaining original castles and another attraction worthy of inclusion in the Best of Japan. The castle was built in 1611 and has survived a series of natural disasters fires, and even the Meiji Restoration which wiped out the vast majority of castes throughout Japan.

 

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Adachi Museum of Art

 

Even with it being a relatively young Japanese garden, the Adachi Museum of Art’s garden has been voted to be the best garden in Japan for the past 10 consecutive years. The artist developed the museum and garden to bring a greater appreciation to the Japanese arts. The garden is superb and easily the main attraction, but the museum itself has a great deal of 20th century artwork that can be very interesting to see.

 

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Iwami Ginzan

 

Once the most prominent silver mine in all of Japan, Iwami Ginzan now offers a tour into the mining history of Japan. The old silver mine is located inside the mountains of Oda City but your tour does not have to be limited to to the mountains. The nearby town has some terrific museums, temples, and shrines that make for a fantastic day trip. It one of the many World Heritage Sites found here in Chugoku.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Shizuoka

 

Nagano may be the most famous city in Chubu, Gifu may have our favorite attractions, but Shizuoka has something that trumps both of those. Shizuoka has Fuji. This behemoth of an attraction should be on anyone list of things to do while in Japan. That is if you are going to be here for an extended period of time. Shizuoka is best known for Fuji and its surrounding national parks, but the prefecture also holds a great deal of history and contains some of the nation’s most beautiful shrines. Be sure to check out Shizuoka’s contributions to the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Fuji San

 

Ah Fuji San… Japan’s most well known and iconic site, is a must on any Best of Japan list. That being said, labeling the site as Fuji San is a bit on the vague side. There is of course the hulking beast of a mountain which is Fuji San, but Fuji can also be in reference to the Fuji Hakone National park (pictured above). We highly recommend doing both to the full Fuji experience. Keep in mind if you are hoping to climb Fuji San you have a fairly small window to make your climb. The mountain is only open July – August, and is incredibly crowded. Still though, the view from atop of Japan is absolutely worth it.

 

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Hakone National Park

 

As mentioned earlier the Hakone National Park is Fuji connected site that is absolutely worth your time. Of course you can take in some pretty spectacular views of Fuji, but it is the lakes, flowers and hiking that makes Hakone National Park truly something special. The park also contains several interesting museums, including an open air museum that allows to take in some art while surrounded by the natural beauty of the park. All of that mixed in with a quick dip in an onsen will make for one amazing visit to one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Kunozan Toshogu Shrine

 

When I first saw the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine, I was immediately reminded of the Nikko National Park’s Tosho Gu. It wasn’t until later that I found out there is a good reason for the resemblance. Both of these shrines were dedicated to members of the famed Tokugawa family and in all honesty are a bit gaudy (as far as Japanese shrines go anyways). The approach to the shrine includes a fairly difficult climb, but there is a rope-way available. Overall this shrine is a beautiful tribute to the family and is surrounded by an even more beautiful natural setting. A visit to Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is a way different experience than a visit to a city shrine and it is the experience that makes it one of the Best of Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Tochigi

 

You may not know much about Tochigi, but chances are you’ve heard of some of the attractions that make the prefecture so worthwhile. Most notable of all of Tochigi’s attraction is its Nikko National Park, which is one of the most common side trips out of Tokyo as well as one of the country’s most beautiful national parks. The prefecture has a lot to offer any lover of history, nature, or even Japanese culture and makes several of our favorite contributions to the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Nikko National Park

 

The Nikko National Park is known as one of the most beautiful national parks in Japan, and is a beautiful mix of man made and natural beauty. The park contains numerous shrines and temples that have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. The natural beauty consists of several spectacular waterfalls, numerous mountains, as well as the nationally famous Lake Chuzenji. The park is beautiful year round but is particularly famous for its fall colors.

 

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Toshogu Shrine

 

The Toshogu Shrine is the final resting place of the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and is one of the country’s most ornate, if not flashy, shrines. The shrine is one of the many attractions to see at Nikko, and it is a doozy. The Toshogu Shrine grounds contain several ornate gates, shrine buildings, and even a mausoleum for the founder of the shogunate. On top of all that, the shrine is decorated with seemingly countless wooden carvings including the famous three monkeys covering up either their ears, eyes, or mouth. This is one incredible shrine, but unfortunately it will be under construction for the next few years. Still though, the shrine is well worth your time and is one of the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Tobu World Square

 

Tobu World Square is an amusement park that has built 1/25 scale models of famous sites and buildings from around the world. In one shot, in one short trip, you can not only see one of the Best of Japan, but you can see all of the world’s best attractions… just on a smaller scale. The models are absolutely brilliant. Not quite as good as the real thing, but you know these are pretty darn impressive.

 

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Nikko Edomura

 

If you are coming to Japan, chances are at some point in your life, you have wanted to experience ancient Japan. You’ve probably dreamed of being a ninja, wanted to walk down old streets in a kimono, or even simply been curious about the lifestyles lived back then. Well Nikko Edomura doesn’t just tell you about these things, the park lets you experience them. Edomura has designed a town to resemble the Edo period and allows visitors to walk the streets dressed like a ninja, samurai, geisha, etc. There are even several workshops set up to give you the full experience of what it was like in Edo era Japan. On top of all that there are some pretty exciting shows to take in as well. All of this adds up to be another Best of Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Tokushima

 

Tokushima is one of the most visited prefectures on the island due to its bridge that connects Shikoku to Honshu. What makes Tokushima so loved though is its wealth of both interesting and beautiful natural attractions. That and the ever popular Awa Odori Festival make for some of the top sites in all of Shikoku. Do not miss Tokushima on your travels!

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Naruto

Naruto is not just anime series, but also a city in Tokushima that contains some fantastic whirlpools. These whirlpools can get up to 20 meters in diameter if the conditions are right, but when conditions are poor you risk not having any to see at all. There are tour boats that go out everyday to give the best views of the whirlpools, so be sure to look into one of their tours before going.

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Iya Valley

The Iya Valley, located in western Tokushima, is a scenic valley that contains some excellent hiking, beautiful bridges, and some pretty spectacular onsen. Some of the more interesting attractions in the valley are some bridges that are made from vines found in the valley. The bridges are quite stunning and make for excellent additions to the surrounding natural beauty.


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Awa Odori Dance Festival

The Awa Odori Dance Festival takes place in Tokushima City during Obon season, and is one of the most popular festivals in all of Japan. The festival contains a lot of music, parades, and of course dancing. One of the most popular dances of the festival is the Fool’s Dance which has been a tradition for the past several centuries. If you are interested in coming to the festival, you will you want to book your hotel in advance. During the festival the city is quite crowded and the hotels will surely be booked. Keep that in mind as you are planning your trip.

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Tokyo

 

Tokyo, the largest city in not only Kanto but in all of Japan, has a great deal to offer any traveler and has more contributions to the Best of Japan than we’d actually care to cover. The city has several of the nation’s most important and most visited attractions that include shrines, towers, and loads of museums. There are even numerous iconic districts like Harajuku and Akihabara that are often a favorite to visitors of this massive city. If you want more detail on what to see while in Tokyo, check out our Tokyo City Guide.

 

 

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Senso Ji

 

Senso Ji, one of the city’s most iconic attractions, is one of the most traveled to temples in all of Tokyo. Senso Ji is located in Asakusa and is the city’s oldest temple. One of the most recognizable attractions at the temple is its main gate. The main gate holds a giant red lantern with the character for “Lightning” or 雷 (Kaminari) written on it. Past the “Kaminari Gate,” visitors can enjoy the souvenir shops of Nakamise-dori. Both traditional Japanese snacks and modern souvenirs are sold here. Nakamise-dori is one of the few places in Tokyo where you can find interesting souvenirs for your friends and family members back home. After the souvenir stands, you will make your way to the main hall where you can see many visitors worshiping. We ask that you be respectful to those visiting this shrine while you enjoy the beauty of one of the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Meiji Shrine

 

Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, is located in the heart of Tokyo, right outside the popular Harujuku Station. The shrine’s grounds can be compared to a dense forest, and is a breath of literal fresh air in one of the world’s largest and most compact cities. A walk through the grounds will make you forget that you are in a city at all. The walkway to the shrine has several side paths that are worth exploring, including several paid exhibits such as the “Inner Garden” and the “Treasury House” which will cost 500 Yen each. These side trips are interesting and well worth the money, but the main shrine far exceeds the value of these side attractions. Meiji Shrine is massive and is one of the most visited shrines in all of Japan. The shrine is considered to be one of the most beautiful attractions in all of Tokyo and is a common place for wedding photos as well as numerous other ceremonies. Meiji Shrine is also one of the biggest places of worship in all of Tokyo, especially during New Years when the shrine can have upwards of 3 million visitors who come to worship. Meiji Shrine is easily one of the best in Tokyo, and more importantly one of the Best of Japan.

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Koishikawa Korakuen

 

Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園) is considered to be one of Japan’s oldest and best examples of Japanese Gardening. Located near Tokyo Dome, the park is quite popular amongst both tourist and Tokyo residents. The park contains several distinct areas that feature different trees. These areas all have a different season in which they are most beautiful which makes Koishikawa Korakuen a very different park throughout the year. If you are into Japanese traditional gardens, or even just need a break from the big city, be sure to check out Koishikawa Korakuen.

 

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Tokyo Skytree

 

The newly constructed Tokyo Sky Tree Tower stands 634 meters tall, and was open to the public as of May, 2012. The tower is not only the tallest structure in Japan, but ranks as the second tallest structure, as well as the tallest tower, in the world. Skytree is used for all kinds of commercial purposes, but also offers two rather fantastic observatory decks that you won’t want to miss. The first gives visitors a view of the city from 350 meters in the air, and the second takes visitors an additional 100 meters, placing you at a staggering 450 meters off the ground. Both decks offer amazing views, but they come with a price. Visitors can access the first observatory deck for 2,000 Yen, and with an additional 1,000 Yen will be granted access to the second. The Tokyo Sky Tree is a modern marvel and should not be missed.

 

 

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Ghibli Museum

 

Most everyone familiar with anime will know Studio Ghibli and their popular movies, but what you may not know is that there is a museum dedicated to the studio in Tokyo. The atmosphere of the museum is something straight out of any of the Ghibli universe and makes for a magical experience. That combined with the movie memorabilia strung out throughout the museum, makes it a must see for any fan. The museum also shows exclusive short films that you can only see at the Ghibli Museum. There are even enormous statues devoted to some of the popular Ghibli characters that are great for photo ops. Ghibli Museum is an absolute must for any fan or anyone seeking the Best of Japan.

 

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Tokyo Tower

 

Modeled after the famous Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower stands 333 meters high in the center of the city. The tower has been an iconic piece in the Tokyo skyline since 1958 and is a favorite amongst tourists in the city. The tower holds two observatory decks; the main one at 150 meters and a special observatory at 250 meters. The main observatory has an admission price of 820 Yen, where as the special observatory is a bit more expensive at 1,420 Yen. Both observatories are worth their admission and give a tremendous view of the city both day and night. The tower offers a spectacular view of the city, but regardless of if you visit the tower or not, you are sure to enjoy the beauty that Tokyo Tower adds to the Tokyo skyline. Its stunning design and views make this tower another Best of Japan.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Tottori

 

Tottori is known for having the smallest population out of all of Japan’s prefectures, and unfortunately is often forgotten when it comes to travel. We here at Travel Panda even had issues finding enough worth while attractions to make a list, and are hoping to get some recommendations in the comments! What did find though were two incredibly interesting sites that do not just belong on the Best of Japan list, but may even be added to our Japan Bucket List.

 

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Mt. Daisen

 

Being the highest mountain range in the region, it’s not difficult to understand why Mt. Daisen needs to be included in this list of the Best of Japan. The tallest peak of this volcanic mountain range reaches a height of 1729 meters. There is even a fantastic temple at the base where you can rest and enjoy the scenery.

 

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Sand Dunes

 

By far the most famous of all of Tottori’s attractions, the sand dunes are massive hills of sand located near the coast. The dunes offer a great deal of fun for all ages. Although the climb up can be tough, the run, or fall, down is unforgettable. There are even camel and horse riding opportunities for those who are interested. On top of all that you have the ocean right there. What better way to spend a hot summer day than a day at the dunes?

 

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Hanakairo Flower Park

 

Tottori’s Hanakairo Flower Park is the country’s largest flower park and is over 50 hectares of flowers. The view is absolutely stunning and constantly changing with different seasonal flowers. The park even illuminates the flowers for a night time viewing that is incredibly popular. Do not miss this!

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Toyama

 

Toyama is another tiny prefecture tucked away in Chubu, that goes ignored by many tourists as they travel through Japan. This is unfortunate due to the sheer amount of unique attractions the prefecture has to offer. The Alpine Route for example is something that you are only going to see here in Toyama. The prefecture has a ton of natural beauty to offer any visitor. Be sure to visit Toyama in eater the early spring or the fall to see the prefecture at its best.

 

 

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Alpine Route

 

Toyama’s Alpine Route, that connects Toyama City with Nagano Prefecture’s Omachi Town, is one unforgettable experience that takes you through some unbelievable sites. One aspect of the route that is sure to stand out, is the walls of snow that reach roughly 15 to 20 meters high and can be seen through the spring. The route takes you through the Japanese Alps and offers some pretty stunning views, and is especially pretty during the fall. The route is open for pedestrians to walk from mid April to mid July, but is open through November if you are interested in taking a bus, train, or rope-way through the Alps. Either way you are going to want to check out this website to book your tickets before going.

 

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Kurobe Gorge

 

The Kurobe Gorge, also found in the Japan Alps, is one of the nations deepest and most beautiful gorges. The Kurobe Gorge is packed with virgin forests, onsens, and some spectacular cliffs that are sure to amaze. If that wasn’t enough, the gorge offers sightseeing trains that allow you to see the prettiest spots while relaxing in some comfy seats. The bridges, tunnels, and scenery involved in the train ride through Kurobe is top notch and easily deserving of being on this Best of Japan list.

 

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Castle Reflections

Toyama Castle

 

When compared to castles like Matsumoto or Himeji, Toyama Castle may not seem like all that much. However, when you just enjoy the castle for what it is is, Toyama Castle turns into quite the impressive little site. This quaint castle is found nearby Toyama Station, making it a convenient addition to any trip to Toyama. The castle’s moat, walls, keep, and trees are beautiful year round, but Toyama Castle really shines in sakura season. The cherry blossoms reflected in the moat with the castle in the background make for one gorgeous scene.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Wakayama

 

Wakayama has quite the mix of superb attractions that go overlooked far to often. The prefecture contains some great hiking, temples, shrines, and a great deal of history that everyone can appreciate. What the prefecture lacks in attention from foreigners it makes up in hidden gems and opportunities. Be sure to hit up Wakayama on your tour through Kansai.

 

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Mt. Koyasan

 

Mt. Koyasan is a small temple town which contains over a hundred unique and ancient temples. The town is the center of Shingon Buddhism which is one of the country’s oldest and most historically significant religions. Koyasan is most famous for its ancient temples and its temple stays which allows you to experience the lifestyle of a monk. The town is also the starting and finishing point of the Shikoku Pilgrimage which makes one of the most important temple areas in all of Japan.

 

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Nachi Waterfall

 

Through a series of interesting qualifications, Nachi Waterfall claims to be the “highest waterfall” in all of Japan. It is an impressive 133 meters tall and is surrounded by a serene natural setting. Near the waterfall you can find massive religious structures including temples and pagodas. The area is quite impressive and certainly not something you want to miss while exploring Wakayama.

 

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Wakayama Castle

 

Wakayama Castle, one of the prefecture’s greatest and most impressive castles, not only contains castle buildings, but some 600 cherry blossom trees and a rather fantastic traditional Japanese garden. The castle was established in 1585 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and served as an important base for the Tokugawa Clan during the Edo period. Although it’s history is interesting enough, the real attractions here can be found in the surrounding natural beauty. The castle is known as one of the best areas for cherry blossom viewing in all of Kansai and the nearby Momijidani Garden is a fantastic place to enjoy the fall colors. Wakayama Castle is just one of those sites that you have to visit several times throughout the year to get the full extent of its beauty.


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Niutsuhime Shrine

 

The Niutsuhime Shrine, said to have been founded more than 1,700 years ago, is one of the most significant shrines in all of Japan. The shrine is considered to be the origin of the Japanese religion of Shinto as well as Buddhism. The temple has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most treasured shrines in all of Japan. There are numerous important cultural properties that make the Niutsuhime Shrine worth your visit.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Yamagata

 

If you understand the characters that make up the name “Yamagata,” it may come to no surprise that the vast majority of the attractions found in this prefecture are based out of mountains. These mountain attractions are absolutely spectacular. Sure some of the hikes may include a decent bit of hiking, but they will be well worth the effort. Come explore Yamagata’s contributions to the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Yamadera

 

One of the country’s most scenic temples, Yamadera is easily deserving of being put on our list of the Best of Japan. The temple was founded in 860 on a mountain just north east of Yamagata City. It is a decent hike from the nearest train station, but the view from the top is absolutely worth the effort.

 

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Dewa San

 

Dewa San is a series of three sacred mountains that all feature a prominent shrine on or near their peaks. The mountains and shrines are some of the Best of Japan and really make for an incredible day of hiking. The three sacred mountains consist of Yudono San (the most sacred), Gas San (the tallest), and Haguro San (the most accessible). We highly recommend climbing all three… just maybe not all in one day. Keep in mind that both Gas San and Yudono San have relatively short climbing seasons (July-October).

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Zao San

 

Zao San, one of the most prominent mountains in all of Tohoku, is a staggering 1841 meters high and offers some spectacular hiking. Zao San is certainly a beautiful mountain, but what makes Zao San one of the Best of Japan is its “Okama Crater.” Unfortunately you cannot get near the crater, but you can get a pretty decent view of it from a distance. There are also several nearby onsen that are just the perfect way to end a day of hiking.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Best of Japan: Yamaguchi

 

Yamaguchi may not be small, but tourists often overlook the prefecture and miss out on some of the country’s most interesting architecture and shrines. The prefecture is home to two incredibly cool towns that contain a wealth of spectacular attractions in a small area. You will not want to miss out on Yamaguchi’s contributions to the Best of Chugoku.

 

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Iwakuni

 

Iwakuni is a smaller city in Yamaguchi, but there is a great deal to see here. Iwakuni’s Kikko Park contains some spectacular museums and some former samurai residences that are worth checking out. Before you get to the park though you will get to cross the famous Kintai-kyo Bridge. This bridge has a very unique design to it and makes for some of the most picturesque scenes in all of Chugoku. This bridge is more than enough reason to make a trip to Iwakuni, but if you are still not convinced the town even holds a reconstructed castle to seal the deal. Iwakuni is certainly deserving of being listed amongst the Best of Japan and you should make a visit.

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Hagi Castle Town

 

Along the same lines as Iwakuni, Hagi isn’t so much a site but rather a town so full of sights we decided to combine them. The town of Hagi, as our title suggests, is an old castle town and has a great deal of ancient buildings, temples, shrines, and of course castle ruins to explore. Perhaps the most interesting area is the old samurai district which includes some Edo fashioned buildings, narrow walkways, and a fantastic and ancient atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else. The Tokoji Temple is also interesting and contains the remains of over have the Mori daimyo family. The family tombs mixed with the surrounding woods and temple buildings make for one fantastic temple experience.

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Rurikoji Temple

 

Yamaguchi City’s Rurikoji Temple contains a five story pagoda from the 1400s that is a must see while in the city. The surrounding garden combined with this beautifully constructed pagoda makes for an incredibly peaceful and surreal scene. The temple is always open and is free of charge so there are no excuses to miss out on this one.

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

Yamanashi

 

Shizuoka is not the only prefecture that claims Fuji San as its own. Yamanashi has some spectacular attractions that include Fuji San as an incredible back drop. If you are looking for a fun time, or just looking to get some pictures that seem to ooze out the essence of Japan, you are going to want to check out Yamanashi as you tour the Best of Japan.

 

 

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Fuji Q Highland

 

The Fuji Q Highland, located in Fuji San’s backyard, is an amusement park that offers some pretty intense roller coasters and other great amusement rides. The park has numerous anime based kid attractions as well as some fairly decent roller coasters that will offer hours of entertainment. Tired of rides and anime themes? Well just look up and take in the view of Fuji, towering overhead. Fuji Q Highland is a great mix of natural beauty and modern fun, and should not be missed while in Yamanashi.

 

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Mitake Shosenkyo

 

Mitake Shosenkyo is another terrific place to take in the natural beauty of Chubu and get in some terrific hiking. Some say it may even be the most beautiful ravine in all of Japan. The Mitake Shosenkyo is one of Yamanashi’s most visited parks in Autumn, due to its phenomenal fall colors. Other highlights include waterfalls, rivers, and some pretty unique cliff sides for you to enjoy. After a few minutes here, it won’t be hard to see why we included Mitake Shosenkyo in our list of the Best of Japan.

 

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Chureito Pagoda

 

Ever seen this photo of Fuji and wondered where it was taken? The pagoda featured here is called Chureito and is located in Fujiyoshida City. This five story pagoda is fairly impressive in and of itself, but Fuji San in the background is a nice touch. The Pagoda is nice year round but is absolutely spectacular during either the cherry blossom season or when the leaves start to change colors.

 

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Best of Japan

 

Aichi / Akita / Aomori / Chiba / Ehime / Fukui / Fukuoka / Fukushima
Gifu / Gunma / Hiroshima / Hokkaido / Hyogo / Ibaraki / Ishikawa
Iwate / Kagawa / Kagoshima / Kanagawa / Kochi / Kumamoto / Kyoto
Mie / Miyagi / Miyazaki Nagano / Nagasaki / Nara / Niigata / Oita
Okayama / Okinawa / Saga / Saitama / Shiga / Shimane / Shizuoka
Tochigi / Tokushima / Tokyo / Tottori / Toyama / Wakayama
Yamagata / Yamaguchi / Yamanashi

 

 

 

 

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