The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have finally started this month in Japan, after a year’s wait. If you saw the Torch Relay tour through the beautiful landscapes and historical landmarks, you’re sure to have been inspired to visit this amazing country. We’ve found the must-visit places to visit in Japan for when travel opens up again.
Perhaps the most obvious Japanese travel destination, Tokyo is the country’s capital and central hub of the Olympic games. This densely populated city, full of skyscrapers and busy pedestrian crossings, has many top attractions. The Ginza district is Tokyo’s busiest shopping area and has been the commercial center for the country for centuries. At the weekend, it becomes one of the world’s largest pedestrian zones and is a great place to shop ‘til you drop or sit in a café or restaurant and watch the world go by. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, Tokyo is also home to the Imperial Palace – although still in use by the Imperial family – visitors can walk round the beautiful 17th-century parks.
Tokyo has many diverse districts, with temples, parks, museums and restaurants. so is an ideal base to explore other areas of Japan.
Kyoto was Japan’s imperial city for thousands of years and has the traditional Japanese architecture that you’re probably already familiar with. The Fushimi Inari shrine has beautiful red gates for you to wonder through, and Kinkaku-ji, or the ‘Temple of the Golden Pavillion’, is a magnificent zen Buddhist temple covered in gold-leaf.
Aside from the numerous temples in Kyoto, you should definitely take a walk down Gion’s streets. Here you can experience authentic Japanese traditions, like the exquisitely dressed geishas and 17th-centruy teahouses.
You can also take in the breath-taking natural beauty of Japan, by visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. If you visit in spring, you could catch the magical Kyoto cherry blossom spots.
Osaka is a must for those wanting to try authentic Japanese street food – the unofficial slogan of the city is kuidaore (eat until you drop). The canal-side strip of Dōtombori is home to an abundance of neon lights and LED signs, so make sure to visit after dark for the full effect.
Another must-see in Osaka is Osaka Castle, built in 1586 and, at the time, the largest fortress in the country. Other historical landmarks in Osaka include Shitennō-ji, Japan’s first Buddhist temple.
When you need a break from all that history, you can visit Universal Studios Japan, easily accessible from the city.
With much of the city rebuilt after the tragedy of the atomic bombing in WWII, Hiroshima has a number of important memorials and museums where you can find out more about the world’s first nuclear attack and pay your respects to the victims. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is at the epicenter of the atomic blast and has been designed as a place of reflection. The Atom Bomb Dome, a building left ruined by the blast, serves as a stark reminder of the disaster.
You can also explore the modern, vibrant city and try the world-famous food. Hiroshima is great base to visit Miyajima, or ‘Shrine Island’, to see the floating gate at the Itsukushima shrine
We couldn’t talk about must-see places in Japan without mentioning the iconic Mount Fuji. Located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the mountain is Japan’s highest and has been celebrated in art and poetry for its beauty and symmetry. On a clear day, the mountain can be seen from Tokyo, 100 kilometers away. Around 300,000 people climb the mountain every year, but many are happy to just take in its magnificence from afar. There are many cultural attractions located near the mountain, so you can really make a day of visiting this stunning landmark.
When you plan your trip, make sure to get travel insurance to ensure you’re protected whilst exploring this beautiful country.