Train transport is quite popular in Japan since it is so quick and cheap for commuters. The entire nation is connected by the power of rail, so exploring the country through it can be a great idea. Japan is famous for its amazing railway system but what really makes travel by train in Japan cost-effective is the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan RP is an effort by the Japan Railways Group to make it really convenient and economical for visitors to travel anywhere in the country by rail.
There are two passes that tourists can get: one for green cars and another for standard cars. You can get the pass for 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days. There are some conditions for the Japan RP that you should look into before you decide on buying the pass.
There are many must-see places in Japan that are easy to reach by train, so here are some that you should definitely never skip over.
The capital of Japan is called Tokyo, which has been dubbed by many as the best place to visit on the continent. Tokyo is the largest mail island, located in the Honshu region. While quite populated, it is definitely worth a visit and serves as a great vantage point to explore other places in Japan too.
When you consider its design and infrastructure, it is definitely the most modern city in the world. This can mainly be attributed to the devastation from the Second World War and the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. It is known as the most expensive city in the world to live in but it is also the easiest in terms of travel because of the subway and rain networks.
It is home to the Imperial Palace and the Higashi-Gyoen Garden that are fun spots to explore to learn about the history of Japan. The city is immersed in culture, with plenty of memorable attractions like museums, from the National Museum of Nature and Science to the Tokyo National Museum. You will definitely have a fun time exploring the extensive cuisine of the city; a gastronomical tour of the city is definitely an experience that leaves you feeling satisfied for days.
You can go shopping in the Ginza district of Tokyo or find inner peace in the beautiful Sensō-ji Temple. Tokyo’s Ueno Park and Ueno Zoo are filled with temples, museums, shrines, monorails, an aquarium, and the lovely cherry blossom trees that are a memorable sight. If you want to truly experience the urban expansion of Tokyo, you can check out the gorgeous skyline of Tokyo from the Tokyo Skytree as well.
Hakone is in the western region of the Kanagawa Prefecture, which is the perfect place to visit if you love hot springs, nature, and art. You will also find a huge variety of other attractions like natural landscapes and the outdoors. There are also fun transportations to explore like cable cars, ropeways, and mountain trains.
It is one of the must-see places in Japan that are easy to reach by train because there are plenty of trains that run to Hakone from Shinjuku. You can get there in 2 hours from Tokyo, making it the perfect place for a day visit too.
The Open Air Museum is one attraction where you can actually take in the fresh air outdoors while enjoying the art scene. It is known for exhibiting world-famous artwork that looks absolutely stunning against the natural surroundings of the Hakone scenery. There are also soothing hot springs in Hakone-Yumoto that can relax and refresh you on your journey. Make sure to try black hard-boiled eggs that are boiled in the hot springs as a snack.
Owakudani is one of the most unique landscapes in Hakone that you can visit; it was formed by volcanic eruptions and smoke can still be seen billowing among the valley. On clear days, you can also see Mt Fuji from there. Other amazing sites include Lake Ashi, Chisuji Falls, and the gorgeous Glass Forest Museum in Hakone.
Takayama is surrounded by Hida mountains in the Gifu Prefecture. Takayama is also commonly called the Hida-Takayama to differ it from other cities with the same name. It has managed to retain some of the original and traditional beauty, which you can definitely see through the preserved old buildings in the town; you can visit the Sanmachi Street in Takayama Old Town to see well-preserved wooden buildings. It is the perfect city for travelers that want to explore some of the rural areas of Japan.
The town is famous for its morning markets that you should definitely visit if you want to try some unique Japanese foods. There are a few museums in the town including the Takayama Museum of History and Arts, Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, and the Fujii Folk Museum. Shiroyama Park is fun to explore with different temples and the Takayama Castle Ruins on a hill. The view of the snowcapped Japanese Alps from the top of the hill is the perfect sight!
You will definitely enjoy the Takayama Festival that is held in autumn and spring. You should also try out the famous Higashiyama Temple Walk which has 12 gorgeous Buddhist shrines and temples.
Kanazawa is known as the main seat for the second most powerful feudal clan called the Maeda Clan during the Edo era. It grew as one of the great achievements in culture, rivaling Tokyo and Kyoto as well.
Kanazawa was also the second-largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was able to escape destruction and bombing by air raids in World War II. The castle town has many parts that survived and are in good condition like the Chaya entertainment regions or the Nagamachi samurai district. Exploring the Kanazawa Castle Park is a fun activity with gorgeous grounds and turrets.
Nowadays, it is an important city in the region, known as the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. It has plenty of historical attractions that you will enjoy exploring such as some of the restored districts, residences, and modern museums. You will find the most beautiful landscape garden in the area called Kenrokuen that you should definitely visit in the spring for the cherry blossom trees.
The Omicho fish market has over 200 shops with fresh seafood that you should definitely check out if you like seafood. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, DT Suzuki Museum and the Hakusan National Park are all wonderful places to check out as well.
Kyoto is the largest city in Japan and is surrounded by the beautiful Honshu hills that offer the perfect backdrop for the city. The city has managed to preserve its past and culture with plenty of amazing tourist attractions that you will love exploring. Kyoto is the best place to slurp up ramen, take part in tea ceremonies, walk through Zen gardens, and explore the bamboo forests of Kyoto.
It was known as the culture center and the main residence for the Japanese Emperor for over a thousand years. Kyoto has plenty of things to do for tourists such as exploring their paintings, sculptures, and other art types in its tons of galleries and museums. You should make sure to add some sites that aren’t that touristy. You will be pleased to check out the architecture that is centuries old that has been influenced deeply by Buddhism. There are also splendid temples that are built in the less visited, quieter corners of the centuries-old city.
Kyoto continues to be an important center for Japanese culture and religion too. It has around 30 temples that are still the centers for different Buddhist sects as well as around 200 shrines for Shinto in city limits. The UNESCO World Heritage Site status has been given to around 17 beautiful and historic sites in Kyoto.
Nara is truly the cradle for Japanese culture and is built in the Honshu central area, south of Biwa Lake. The setting of the city is truly stunning, surrounded by thick forests, tall hills, and gorgeous farmlands. It has a huge set of historical buildings that you will find joyful to explore, with plenty of art treasures hidden throughout. It receives around one million visitors annually, meaning that it is one of the more popular cities in Japan.
When you visit Nara, you are sure to find it quite charming to wander among the old buildings and streets of the city. You can see the picture-perfect backdrop of the nearby Mountain Mikasayama from the streets too. It is able to retain the atmosphere of a small town, making it a cultural destination as well.
Nara is a leader in craft centers, famous for lacquerware, wooden dolls, fans, and ceramics. Hence, you are sure to find plenty of items to take back as souvenirs.
Osaka is one of the bigger cities in Japan, built on the western Honshu’s southern coast. It is near the River Yodo that flows into the Osaka Bay into the shimmering Pacific Ocean too. The location right on Yoda delta means that you will be able to explore the vast network of canals and watercourses too. There are thousands of bridges connecting the city, dubbing the city as the “Venice of the East”.
Osaka originates from the earlier period of the Japanese Empire. However, it has transferred into one of the more modern cities of Japan. There is a futuristic skyline with outstanding modern architecture that will amaze anyone. It does have plenty of cultural institutions that grant it a world-class status too. You will be able to explore the tens of art galleries and fun museums as well as modern venues for entertainment, music, and theater.
When you are planning for your travel itinerary in the city or where you will be staying, you should note that Osaka has two city centers of great significance. If you want to have top dining options, entertainment experiences, and shopping galore, you should stay in the South Minami district. The North Kita district is more of a traditional business center.
Make sure to visit both the centers because there are plenty of places to explore in both. Osaka is known for its excellent transport system that will help you in your sightseeing efforts. We recommend going to Osaka during quieter seasons like winter since you will be able to avoid crowds. Seeing the unique sights of Osaka, such as Osaka Castle, beautifully illuminated and dusted with snow, can be a great experience, too.
Himeji is known for the magnificent Himeji Castle, that is known to be the one of the most beautiful surviving feudal castles in Japan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national treasure. It is only an hour away from Kyoto and Osaka, and it makes for an excellent day trip.
The most amazing part is that there is a beautiful Japanese garden right next to the Himeji Castle. It has nine walled, separate gardens that are influenced by different gardening styles from the Edo period. The gardens opened in 1992 while commemorating Himeji City.
In June, there are also plenty of fun festivals around the Osakabe-jinja Shrine that completely transformed the city. The city receives thousands of visitors during the annual Himeji Yukata Festival that celebrates the traditional summer garment called Yukata. There is also the Nada Kenka Matsuri festival during October near the Matsubara Hachiman-jinja Shrine, known as the fighting festival. The participants of the festival are known to engage in an event where two portable shrines slam into each other for dominance.
There are mountain temples that are quite beautiful to explore. On the north side of Himeji City sits Mt Shosha that has the Engyoji temple, which is around 1,000 years old. It still has the old infrastructure that has made it the backdrop for many period films such as The Last Samurai. The temple sits around 25 minutes from the city.
Hiroshima is built in the western Honshu area right on the Inland Sea. Of course, we can’t talk about Hiroshima without talking about the first atomic bomb that dropped on the city in 1945. It speaks volumes about the resilience of the people of Hiroshima who bounced back.
Hiroshima is now known as the Peace Capital of the world with several notable attractions like the Hiroshima Peace Institute. There are also many structures that you can visit that managed to survive the bombing. These ruins are a reminder of the fateful day that marks Hiroshima’s history, which can be remarkable to learn about.
Despite the tragedy that befell the city, it is still a pretty vibrant and exciting destination. There are plenty of fun things you can do such as visiting beautiful gardens, museums, and galleries. There are also cultural events like the Hiroshima Flower Festival that brings in a million visitors held during May.
Nagasaki is a famous port city on the Kyushu Island, serving as the capital for Nagasaki Prefecture. It is also the second city to have been atomic bombed by the United States during World War II that destroyed much of the city.
There are plenty of impressive sights that offer a fun vacation. You will be able to see beautiful views from Inasa Mountain that you will remember forever. You will also love visiting the Nagasaki Peace Park that offers an eye-opening perspective on life before and after Nagasaki was hit by the atomic bomb. There is also a Battleship Island that has been dubbed as the best place to go to by tourists.
We hope that you will have fun with all the must-see places in Japan that are easy to reach by train. Since their transport system is so great, it can be very quick and cheap to explore the nation by rail.