Japan's culture extends back 30,000 years, and the nation is famed as the Land of the Rising Sun. Nowadays, the archipelago integrates its long heritage with its incredibly modern present in a harmonious way. While the capital, Tokyo, is a must-see for first-time visitors, Japan has so much more to inspire all types of travelers, even those who are visiting for the tenth time around. Some of the best places in Japan might be those which you have never even heard of.
Since knowledge in foreign languages is sparse, only a knowledgeable expert can advise you on all the unique places to visit in Japan. With that in mind,, we have compiled a list of must-see places in Japan for people who are traveling to the country more than once. Let's get started.
The capital city of Hokkaido Island is perhaps most recognized for its association with the 1972 Winter Olympics. So, there is no surprise that Sapporo's major attraction is skiing or snowboarding at one of its numerous nearby ski resorts. Most of them include rental shops so you can enjoy fun in the snow, even if you haven’t packed any ski gear.
Nature lovers will find Sapporo to be an excellent starting point for their explorations. Sapporo is also an excellent place to get away from the severe summer heat and humidity because of its location on Japan's northern islands. However, the town is most well-known for its yearly snow festival. Each year, artists create elaborate and massive snow sculptures, many of which are over 25 meters wide and 15 meters tall! It is absolutely worth the visit, and if you happen to be in Japan around February, it is definitely a unique place to visit in Japan.
Sapporo also serves a selection of delectable beers and snacks. The Sapporo Beer Museum is a great place to learn more about the city's beer. You can then head to the Susukino entertainment district for a bowl of ramen. For dessert lovers, the city features the Shiroi Koibito Park, which is a delectable chocolate-themed amusement park.
Furano is renowned for its vibrant flowers and adventurous slopes. The city's 24 ski routes, which are built for skiers of all abilities, are covered in up to 30 feet of snowfall in the wintertime. Furano's lavender fields, on the other hand, bloom in the summer. Farm Tomita, where visitors can explore lavender fields while seated in an open-air tractor carriage and try lavender-flavored snacks like ice cream and tea, is one of the greatest spots to admire the aromatic blossoms.
If you happen to visit in the summer, you can enjoy water sports along the Sorachi River. If you're feeling brave, venture out on the waters and attempt canoeing or rafting, or try fishing directly from the riverbank. You can also hire a kayak and paddle across the creek, which is one of the greatest ways to marvel at Furano's stunning surroundings. Furano is noted for its flowers throughout the summer, making Farm Tomita a must-visit place in Japan.
Another fun activity is to visit a variety of farms in the area and gather seasonal produce like fresh asparagus or search for jewel-like potatoes. Many of the farms specialize in berries, so you can even find strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries here.
There are a variety of hiking trails to enjoy in Furano, including Tokachi-dake, Furano-dake, and Ashibetsu-dake. You can collect your complimentary map of the best routes from the town's main tourism office.
Hiraizumi, a small town in the Iwate Prefecture, is one of the must-see places in Japan since it has retained charming traces of its rich history. The Sankozo Museum boasts over 3000 exhibits that highlight the town's heritage.
In 1105, Hiraizumi was established as the home of the northern branch of the Fujiwara family, one of Japan’s most prominent families at that time. The city's cultural refinement and political clout had expanded significantly, to the point that it could compete with Kyoto in magnificence.
However, much of the city was destroyed in 1189 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the person who would later emerge as Japan's first shogun. Although the city never regained its previous grandeur, it nevertheless has some of the Tohoku Region's most valuable cultural and historical sites.
In 2011, Hiraizumi was put on the list of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the Golden Hall and Chusonji Temple serving as the centerpieces. Chusonji Temple, with its outstanding Konjikido, Kanjizaio-in Temple's former garden, Motsuji Temple, Kinkeisan, and Muryoko-in Temple's ruins, is all on the UNESCO list.
Prominent festivals in the area include the Floating Poetry Festival (Gokusui no En), the Longevity Dances (Ennen no Mai), the Spring and Autumn Fujiwara Festivals, and the Hiraizumi Daimonji Festival.
Matsushima is a half-hour drive from Sendai and is known for its bay, which is lined with several pine-clad islands and has long been regarded as one of Japan's three most gorgeous sights. Zuiganji, amongst the most prominent Zen temples in the Tohoku Region, is also located in the little town. Its natural beauty and friendly environment make it one of the must-see places in Japan, whether you're coming to the country for the first time or the fourth.
Matsushima has a population of less than 20,000 people. It is also known for the excellent oysters grown in the bay, its historically significant temples, and the bright Obon lantern festival that takes place in August. Tourists can take sightseeing cruises and ferry rides along the bay and witness the area's natural beauty.
Apart from the Zuiganji Temple, the Entsuin Temple and the Godaido Temple are wonderful spots to explore. The Kanrantei pavilion is a tea house overlooking the harbor and is located a bit southwest of Entsuin. Here, you can enjoy a cup of matcha green tea before heading over to the Matsushima Hakubutsukan Museum on the premises.
The Matsushima Oyster Festival celebrated in February at the Matsushima Beach Central Plaza, and the Toro Nagashi Hanabi Taikai celebrated around the Obon season in mid-August are two of Matsushima's biggest festivals. Fireworks and illuminated lanterns are allowed to float in the ocean, creating a spectacular sight.
Fukuoka is a city located on Japan's southernmost island. It is regarded as one of the largest cities in Kyushu. For centuries, the metropolis has been a prominent port city because of its proximity to the Asian continent. There are many interesting places to see in Fukuoka, but perhaps one of the most distinctive aspects it has to offer is its riverbank yatai food kiosks. These stalls, which are normally only found at festivals and celebrations, are one of the best activities to do in Japan.
Compared to Tokyo, Fukuoka has a considerably slower pace and is a fantastic place for a wanderer to casually explore. There are a lot of sights to see in the city and outlying areas, such as a feudal castle and the world's oldest Zen temple. The Hakata Gion Yamakasa event is highly recommended for everyone coming to the city in July.
Fukuoka has distinct and delicious ramen, which is available at some of its countless food stalls. Fukuoka has a mix of rapid urbanization, sandy shores, and old shrines and temples for visitors to explore. Tochoji Temple, which houses Japan's largest seated wooden Buddha, as well as Nokonoshima Island, which has vibrant flower fields and stunning sights of the glistening water, are must-see places in Japan.
A visit to this city, which is one of Japan's oldest, should be a must. This destination's gastronomic culture and laid-back atmosphere will make your trip memorable.
Takachiho is a place rooted in Japanese folklore and is located in the northern Miyazaki Prefecture. It is said to be the location where Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess, retreated to a cave after being troubled by her brother's unkind pranks, forcing the other deities to try to entice her out.
It is also the controversial landing site of the deity Ninigi no Mikoto, grandchild of Amaterasu, who had been sent down from the heavens to initiate the dynasty of Japanese rulers, an honor it shares with Kirishima National Park's Mount Takachiho-no-mine.
With such spiritual connotations, Takachiho is honored by the locals as a "power spot," a spiritually charged location with deep religious significance and natural charm. On a tranquil day, Takachiho Gorge and Amano Iwato Shrine are two of the best places to visit for a divine experience.
The Gokase River has carved a tiny gorge in the rock called Takachiho Gorge. The gorge's vertical walls are built of slowly growing volcanic basalt pillars that mimic dragon scales, with the stone twisting and flowing as it developed. Paired with a cascading, 17-meter-high waterfall and lush green foliage, the sight is truly impressive. Make sure to visit this breathtaking place on your next trip to Japan!
Tourists can row down the river and get a close-up view of the cliffs, or they can walk along the paved path, which offers a breathtaking view of the gorge, as you exit to the Takachiho Shrine. There are a few more attractions nearby, such as a freshwater aquarium, a maintained fishing pond, as well as a couple of restaurants and gift shops.
Takachiho City hosts a dance and music performance termed "Yokagura" all through the nighttime at 20 various places each year from mid-November until the beginning of February the next year.
One of the must-see places in Japan is the sight of looking down at a sea of clouds from the top of Kunimigaoka. From 513 meters above sea level, you can catch a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime view. The area is famed for its gorgeous sea of clouds, along with the Takachiho basin and surrounding hills, which are blanketed in mist in the morning hours of fall and winter, presenting a fairytale-like scene.
Located in the east Oita Prefecture, Beppu is one of Japan's most well-known hot spring destinations, providing more hot spring water than in any other location. This is owing to its unique location at the base of a volcano.
Beppu has an unrivaled selection of facilities, including traditional mud baths, hot baths, steam baths, and sand baths. In addition, the Hells of Beppu contains a number of breathtaking hot springs. Choosing the perfect vacation spot can definitely present a challenge; however, the variation and natural beauty of Beppu’s hot springs put them on top of many people's bucket lists.
A sand bath or a soak in the famous Meiji-era Takegawara Onsen, and excursions to the neighboring Umitamago (Sea Egg) Aquarium complex on the seaside west of Beppu, as well as the adjoining Takasaki Monkey Park, are among the notable activities in the Oita-Beppu area.
The picturesque Lake Shidaka, located in the Aso Kuju National Park, is a 30-minute drive near Beppu, 600 meters up into the hills, with breathtaking views of Tsurumi-dake and Yufu-dake. A camping spot on the lake's banks would be a wonderful place to unwind.
The Yamanami Highway leads to the Aso caldera, the world's biggest volcanic crater. Hikers will find several paths up manageable peaks, as well as a few log homes and campgrounds in this area. As the seething crater of Mt. Aso clearly demonstrates, the volcano is still alive, and many tourists ride the cable car to the peak to stare into it.
Japan is a land where there is always something new to explore. You could invest a lifetime touring this nation and still only touch the surface of its vastness. In every city you visit, there is a unique touch of its cuisine, culture, tradition, nature, and much more. Many beautiful places to visit in the country are often overshadowed by some of the more popular places. But with a little research and an adventurous spirit, repeat travelers will always find more to discover in Japan!