The Land of the Rising Sun is a beautiful, unique place with its own culture and traditions. Japan is known for many things - its weird and wonderful videos games, its strict and slightly stilted etiquette, its love of all things cute. And if you’re planning your first trip there, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re into manga, ninja, or weird Japanese game shows that involve eating live worms in front of an audience (just Google it), Japan has something for everyone. From snow-capped mountains and subtropical islands to neon-lit cities and romantic shrines, this island nation offers countless sights worth seeing. If you’re thinking of travelling there soon, here are the best places to visit in Japan for the first time...
Kyoto - The Cultural Capital of Japan
Perhaps the most obvious place to start is the cultural capital of Japan: Kyoto. Home to some of the most beautiful temples, shrines, and gardens in the world, this city will more than live up to your expectations. Kyoto’s Golden Temple is a sight to behold, a gleaming gold structure rising up from the temple grounds. The city also has its fair share of palaces, including the Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial Family. Kyoto is also famous for its tea houses, where you can drink tea and eat Japanese sweets. If you’re looking for something a little different, head to the Philosopher’s Path, an east-west path lined with cherry blossoms and Japanese shrubs, leading to a few temples and the famous Gio-ji Temple. There’s also the famous Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto. It’s a path that runs through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, as well as alongside the calm, flowing waters of the Katsura River.
Travel to Tokyo: Where East Meets West
Tokyo is a city that has something for everyone. It’s a place where ancient and modern worlds collide, a place where you can visit futuristic skyscrapers and Shinto shrines. It’s a city where you can eat the freshest sushi, slurp on the steamiest ramen, and drink the strongest coffee. It’s one of the most exciting places in the world, and a visit to Tokyo will convince you of this. Tokyo is a city that’s always changing. From the Tokyo Tower to the Skytree (the world’s second tallest structure), Tokyo’s skyline is constantly growing, changing from year to year, as new buildings are erected and others demolished. Head to the Skytree to take in the city’s ever-changing landscape from a bird’s eye view. Tokyo is a city of culture, history, and tradition. It’s a city where old-fashioned Japanese tea ceremonies are still practiced, where you can visit temples, shrines, and palaces. Spend some time in Asakusa, where you’ll find Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji.
Hokkaido: Japan's Wonderland
If you’re a winter sports lover, make sure you visit Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, during winter. This is where you can go skiing in the world’s largest alpine ski resort, try your hand at snowboarding in Hakodate, or take a break from the cold in Sapporo, the island’s capital. While in Hokkaido, make sure you visit the famous Shiroro-ko, a beautiful natural spring, as well as the Sounkyo Gorge, a famous hiking spot. If you’re visiting Japan in the summer, the island of Hokkaido is the perfect place for you. The island is famous for its lush green forests, numerous lakes, and beautiful gardens. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the famous Koroko Gorge, as well as Lake Shikotsu, the largest freshwater lake in Japan.
Osaka: A Culture Vulture’s Paradise
Osaka is a city that’s great for culture vultures. Visit the Museum of Housing and Human Life, a unique museum that showcases the history of housing and the lives of Japanese people through the years. Visit the Tsure-I-Sho-Nen-Te, a world-famous tetsubon (tea ceremony) house, to get a taste of traditional Japanese culture. Make sure you also visit one of Osaka’s many shrines and temples, such as the gorgeous Tennoji Temple. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are a few places outside of the city that are worth visiting. Visit the Dotonbori River, a famous river that runs through the heart of Osaka. Don’t miss out on the chance to try takoyaki, a delicious fried snack made with octopus.
Japan is a country with so much to offer. It’s a cultural melting pot with a rich history and beautiful traditions. It’s a place where you can go skiing in the mountains, stroll along cherry blossom-lined walkways, or sip tea in a traditional Japanese tea house. It’s a place where you can see futuristic cities sitting alongside traditional shrines and temples. There are so many places to visit in Japan, it’s impossible to see them all in one trip. So, make sure you pick a few destinations that are right for you, and make sure you pack your suitcase. And don’t forget to bring your camera - there are countless sights worth capturing.