Japan has become one of the most popular travel destinations around the world as more and more people are travelling to the island nation every year. Indeed, according to the National Tourism Organisation, Japan welcomed a record 31 million overseas visitors in 2018, three times the number six years earlier. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics coming up, the government’s goal of reaching 40 million overseas visitors in 2020 is gaining momentum.
On any trip to Japan, Tokyo is undoubtedly part of the itinerary. The metropolitan area of the ultramodern capital is home to about 10% of the population of all of Japan, with a total population of some 38 million. And while Tokyo is a fascinating city and a must on any visit to Japan, the country offers many other interesting cities, towns and landscapes. What’s more, it’s surprisingly easy to get from one place to another, by hopping on and off (bullet) trains which take you all over. So, if you’re planning a trip to Japan, read on below for our top unmissable places to visit besides Tokyo.
Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and actually served as the nation’s capital from 794 until 1868. Historically, the city has faced rough times and was even destroyed over the course of many wars and fires. Nowadays, there are countless temples, shrines and other historically treasured structures well worth visiting. Filled with classic architecture, these sites include Buddhist temples, Japanese gardens, bamboo forests as well as typical wooden houses, all of which give you a true sense of traditional Japan. The Imperial Palace, Fushimi Inari shrine, Sanjusangendo Temple and Kiyomizu-dera temple situated on Mt. Otowa are just a few of the must-see sites in Kyoto.
As part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is most famous for its spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. It is ideal for those looking for a quick break from Tokyo, as Hakone is located less than 100 kilometers from the capital. Besides the views of Mt- Fuji across Lake Ashi (which you can marvel at onboard a pirate ship!), the scenic city is also known for its natural beauty with mountainous terrain, waterways and popular hot springs. The Open Air Museum is well worth your time, too.
Also near Tokyo is the coastal town of Kamakura. During summer months, plenty of visitors are lured to the surrounding sandy beaches. However, the main draw are the numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments. In fact, Kamakura is sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of Eastern Japan. Once the political center of Japan, the Kamakura government ruled Japan for over a century.
The Great Buddha, a massive bronze statue standing on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple is an absolute must on any visit to Kamakura.
Hiroshima’s legacy will forever be linked to the catastrophic events of World War II. An atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on August 6 1945, followed by a second bomb just three days later over Nagasaki. The immense destruction of the nuclear bomb of Hiroshima annihilated almost everything within a two kilometer radius. The expectations of a completely uninhabitable city after the War proved untrue and, through tremendous work since, Hiroshima has been rebuilt. Several monuments such as the Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden were fully reconstructed.
Located in the centre of the city, Peace Memorial Park, as well its museum, were built so visitors can pay their respects to the victims of WWII. Once a busy downtown commercial and residential district, the Park now serves not only in memory of the nuclear horrors but also intends to advocate for world peace.
Osaka is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan, behind only Tokyo. Traditionally considered Japan’s economic hub as well as an important regional port, the city offers urban Japanese culture on a somewhat smaller scale than Tokyo. There’s plenty of incredible street food as well as museums and important landmarks such as the Osaka Castle and Shitennoji Temple.
One of the Osaka’s most prominent and lively areas is Dotonbori, a prominent entertainment and nightlife zone, with an electric atmosphere and notable illuminated neon signs. Other highlights in Osaka include the Aquarium and the National Museum of Ethnology.
Ready to discover everything Japan has to offer? Check out or Japanese adventure travel experiences yourself now.