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Although we love traveling off the beaten path, the most famous destinations are popular for a reason and usually worth checking out! We are excited to share this article from D Scott Carruthers, a seasoned traveler and son of an Air Force Veteran, who spent time in Japan throughout his entire life. He shares the most famous tourist destinations around Japan, and whether they are worth visiting.
Japan’s Most Famous Tourist Destinations
Japan is an amazing country full of historical, cultural and natural beauty. I, D Scott Carruthers, have put together a list of the most famous tourist destinations of Japan, but I advise you to let your travel-inspiration lead you when you see a place as magical and stunning as Japan. The amazing people, smells, foods, and all around atmosphere will make any site you take in into an amazing adventure!
1. Hozomon (Tokyo)
The Hozomon is an iconic gate that serves as an entry way into the Senso-Ji Temple. The ancient Japanese architecture is breath taking. The massive structure of the gate is intricately carved and decorated. A visit to this structure is just like a visit to an art museum. This destination is a must see for those who love artistic and architectural beauty, religious symbolism, and historical artifacts. Hozomon is translated to mean Treasure House Gate, and it does indeed store treasures. The gate is two stories high, and many of the treasures are stored on the second story. The structure was first erected in 942 AD, but then was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1636 and again in 1964 in the original style.
2. Hachiko (Tokyo)
Visiting the bronze statue of Hachiko the dog is a beautiful way to learn some Japanese history. Read all about Hachiko, the faithful dog, who was so loyal that he waited for his owner for nine years after the owners death. Hachiko was said to wait at the Shibuya Station’s exit, which his owner (who was a professor at Tokyo University) would take to work. The statue is placed near a Shibuya Station entrance and exit, and is a popular place for the Japanese to meet.
3. Sengaku-ji Temple (Tokyo)
Sengaku-ji temple is well known for being the burial site of the 47 Ronin. The “47 Ronin” refer to one of the most popular Samurai stories of Japan, in which 47 loyal samurai fighters avenged their master and were sentenced to death. Learning about the samurai warriors is fascinating in itself, and to visit a site where they were so active makes it all so much more exciting to learn about. Many people still visit the Sengaku-ji temple and burn incense as a way of honoring the deceased warriors.
4. Fushimi Inari-Taisha (Kyoto)
This shrine is one of the most distinctive shrines in Japan. It is located in Kyoto. Visitors walk to an inner shrine by traveling down a path that is lined with beautiful gates. There are thousands of bright red gates total, which makes simply walking through them a unique experience. The shrine was originally built in the 8th century to honor Inari, the God of rice, as well as the god of Sake. Inari is known for his fondness for foxes (he is said to communicate via fox messengers) and the shrine is decorated with fox sculptures. It is sometimes referred to as “Fox Shrine”.
5. Nijo Castle (Kyoto)
Those who visit Kyoto should not miss out on the experience of seeing Nijo Castle. This is a castle that was built during the Edo period which began in the 1600s and lasted until the mid 1800s. The castle originally served ass the residence of the honored shogun. It was later used as an imperial palace. There are different sections of the castle, each with unique attributes. The sections are divided up according to the military strategies of the Edo period. There is an outer area of defense as well as an inner circle of defense. The castle also has moats and walls, attesting to the warring climate of the time period.
6. Arashiyama (Kyoto)
The Arashiyama district is filled with interesting things to see and do. An entire day, at least, should be dedicated to this destination. The bamboo forest is one thing to put on your list of must-see places. In addition, check out the monkey park. This experience is fun and relaxing. The monkeys are full of antics and cute behavior, and everyone, from young children to adults, can smile and laugh at these playful creatures. For a quiet interlude to your visit to the Arishiyama district, you can peak in to Rakushisha Poet’s Hut, a small cabin in which the famous Haiku master spent his time.
7. Osaka Castle (Osaka)
This impressive castle is a landmark of Osaka. It was built in the late 1500s under the direction of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. This ruler was fascinated with gold, and had the main tower of the castle plaited with gold. He liked gold so much that he had whole rooms coated with it, including a tea ceremony room in which even the utensils were covered in gold. The room has been restored and now shows visitors what it must have been like to visit the palace thousands of years ago.
8. Osaka Aquarium (Osaka)
Japan is surrounded by the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Both bodies of water are the homes to interesting sea creatures. The Osaka Aquarium gives a visitor a peak into a fascinating underwater world. This is a great tourist destination for people who are not interesting in history but instead value the natural world. Watch exquisite sharks, jellyfish, and squid move and dance past the glass. The aquarium is eight floors tall, which means there is a lot to see! Don’t miss out on the touching pool.
9. Hakone Hot Springs (Hakone)
The region of Hakone is known for the natural hot springs that bubble up from the earth. One of the most popular hot springs is the Hakon Yumoto-Onsen. The natural waters are good for your health, a fact that the Japanese have known for centuries. Public bath houses, called Ryoken, have been a part of Japanese society for ages. Visitors can participate in the Ryoken experience and enjoy the relaxing benefits.
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About the Author
D Scott Carruthers grew up traveling, with a father who was in the Air Force for 25 years. Carruthers found that he enjoyed moving to new places often. He picked up languages with ease, and loved the adventure of exploring new cities or countries. He grew up knowing how important travel is, and this guided him to become a travel guide and expert. You can find more of his content at www.carrutherstravel.com
Anna Johnston says
Japan was one of my most memorable travel stops, especially Fushimi Inari-Taisha. I attended a university festival the evening before a walking tour of Kyoto, why I thought a 1000 sake shots was ever going to end well, but seeing the thousands of bright red gates was incredible. I liked that it was originally built to honor the god of rice, and Anna pre hangover had much respect for Sake god. 🙂
Sandy N Vyjay says
Japan is a unique country with so much to see and experience. It is a country where history, culture and technology seem to rub shoulders. I would love to visit the ethereal temples that have such a mystical aura about them. Tokyo is one more place that we would love to head out to.
Japan is really amazing and on our bucket list to Everything, you mentioned in the post looks amazing. And my favourite picks will be the shrine with several red doors, both the castles and the bamboo forest. loved your pictures too. Thanks for sharing.
Guy Crotty says
We so badly want to visit Japan. My wife went when she was a teenager but I have never been. There are so many iconic and beautiful looking spots. Fushimi Inari-Taisha and Arashiyama look absolutely epic. So serene. The other thing I would want to go for is the FOOD. I think I could do 2-3 weeks just eating my way around. Thanks for sharing.
Megan Jerrard says
Japan is one of my favorite countries too! I’m also an off the beaten path type of traveler usually, but I do agree that big tourist attractions are popular for a reason, so we should at least give them a chance. This is a great list – Fushimi Inari-Taisha is my favorite – such incredible color and can get some great photos there! Arashiyama too – I LOVE the bamboo!
Osaka Castle was also a highlight – I do give Japan credit that they have a wide variety of natural and man made attractions which are so interesting and with a fascinating history too 🙂
J Harvey says
Ahhhhh! I can’t wait to visit Japan some day! Fushimi Inari-Taisha seems absolutely incredible. I love how much history is behind just about everything you mention. And omg…the bamboo forest! It’s so beautiful!
This is a great post because as you said, famous places are famous for a reason. I’m likely to only get to Japan once in my life and something like this is a great resource for people who can’t spend a lot of time seeking the out of the way places. I’ve pinned this for when I actually make the trip. Thanks.
I’m going to Kyoto and Osaka in 2 days so that’s nice to have a preview of its famous landmarks!! Will definitely go to the Bamboo Forest, it looks so awesome.
Christina Pfeiffer says
Japan has so many wonderful places to visit. I’m long overdue for a trip there. My last trip was to Kyoto and I was amazed at Nijo Castle. I would love to see Kyoto in winter.
Anne Slater-Brooks says
I have only visited Tokyo, Nagona and Hakuba in Japan but it was enough to fall in love. There are so many other places I want to visit so will have to head back at some point soon
Christina Pfeiffer says
Hakone is really amazing. Soaking in the hot springs is such a wonderful way to wind down and enjoy a bit of Japanese culture. The view of Mount Fuji from Hakone is amazing.
Japan is so colourful! I love the shapes of the buildings and the vibrant colours – I look forward to going back one day! Hachiko the dog is so cute, but what a sad story about his master! Thanks for the tips, will visit these one day!
Natasha Haley says
These are really interesting places and some were new to me. I liked the story about the dog. Actually there is a similar one here in Edinburgh called Grey Friers Bobby!
Love this kind of lists. They are really difficult to make too. I know you could have added more like Shibuya, Meiji and the whole city of Kyoto. Japan has too many to see to fit in a list I guess:)