What to See in Japan

What to See in Japan & Do in Japan

Are you wondering what to see in Japan? The offer is really wide and one could get lost among so many temples, castles and charming towns.

But the country also offers endless possibilities for very Japanese and fun experiences, so we will also see what to do in Japan. We will take into account museums, amusement parks or other more traditional ones such as sumo training, tea ceremonies, or live the fun experience of dressing in a kimono to walk through Tokyo or Kyoto.

We show you what to see and do in Japan and everything you need to organize the perfect trip and leave nothing behind.

Also, you can read our latest post about Best Things to Do in Japan here.

What to See and Do Sightseeing in Japan

Japan is an extremely peculiar country that will not leave you indifferent. It will be one of those trips that you will always remember with satisfaction and unforgettable memories.

First, we will see a compilation of temples, sanctuaries and magical places that you should think about including on the route. You will not be able to see all of them, but it is important that you think about the possibility of visiting them.

What to See Japan

Temples, sanctuaries, traditions, nature reserves … Japan offers a world of possibilities that it is important that you know beforehand. Obviously, you will have to leave hundreds of interesting places behind due to the impossibility of seeing them all, but it is worth knowing what they are.

Do you want to know what to see in Japan? Attention ladies and gentlemen, we present the essentials of Japan! We started!

1. The Todaiji Temple in Nara

The Todaiji Temple is a place that does not disappoint anyone. A must-see where you will find the largest wooden Buddhist temple in the world. Inside there is a large Buddha (Vairochana) commensurate with the size of the temple. He has the title of being the largest seated Buddha in Japan.

The surroundings of the temple are usually full of deer that roam the streets of the city. Enjoy feeding them. Quite an experience!

2. Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple

The Kyoto Kiyomizudera Temple is located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto on a mountainside surrounded by nature. It is a group of temples of great beauty and one of the most visited in all of Japan.

Without hesitation, traveling to Japan and passing through Kyoto means a must-see the Kiyomizudera temple. It is a world heritage site since 1994.

3. Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine

The impressive Toshogu Shrine, without hesitation, is worth being included among the most important monuments in Japan. Thousands of people visit it every year with the intention of seeing the famous mausoleum of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu or the well-known scene represented in the wood of the three monkeys. Not seeing, not hearing, not speaking.

The Toshogu de Nikko sanctuary (world heritage site) is undoubtedly a must-see for those looking for spectacular monuments full of art and history.

4. The Kinkakuji Temple or Golden Temple of Kioto

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, or kinkakuji, is part of the advertising image that agencies use to promote travel to Japan. And the fact is that the spectacular nature of its beauty, almost idyllic, has made it worthy of such world fame.

The Golden Temple is a representative icon of both the city of Kyoto and all of Japan. Wondering what to see in Japan? Kinkakuji is definitely a must-see.

5. The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The great Buddha of Kamakura, built-in 1252, is another of the great symbols of Japan. It is a statue of a Buddha sitting in the lotus position, built-in bronze, with a height of 13.35 meters and 93 tons of weight.

It is curious to know that originally, the statue was inside a large wooden temple. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed by a Tsunami on September 20, 1498, exposing the great Buddha. It belongs to the Kōtoku-in Buddhist temple.

Kamakura is one of the most touristic cities in Japan due to the number of temples it has and its famous great Buddha, it is the star visit of the city.

6. The Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa Neighborhood in Tokyo

A must for all who decide to travel to Japan is the Sensoji temple in the Asakusa district. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo (year 645). Crossing the access door to the temple (Kaminarimon) and strolling through the Nakamise street full of shops is quite an experience. We tell you all about the famous Sensoji temple.

But its neighborhood (one of the oldest in Tokyo) is also a must. Of course, get ready to share a visit with thousands of tourists since it is always full.

7. The Itsukushima Shrine of Miyajima

The famous and imposing Torii over the sea, belonging to the Itsukushima Shrine, is part of one of the most characteristic landscapes of Japan. This Tori was built in 1168, it is located 200 meters away from the coast.

As in Nara, in Miyajima, you can walk among servants and feed them. An entire experience. 

8. Shirakawago Village

Strolling through the village of Shirakawago, belonging to the city of Takayama and contemplating its gassho-zukuri- style houses is a pleasure for the senses and the life. Its rural and old atmosphere with wooden houses of more than 260 years, in a relaxed and calm atmosphere, will make you feel like in a Japanese tale.

You must try the famous Hida beef, similar to that of Kobe. Very advisable visit to get to know rural Japan.

9. The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

If on your trip to Japan you pass through Kyoto, a few kilometers away, you have the Arashiyama bamboo forest, nature in its purest form. Enjoy this incredible bamboo forest, possibly the best known in all of Japan.

Apart from strolling through this wonderful bamboo forest, you can also visit Arashiyama village with its famous Seiryo-Ji and Tenryuji temples. The Ninomiya Shrine . also very close, it is worth visiting.

10. The Torii of the Fushimi Inari Shrine

There are more than 10,000 tori,  or gates, belonging to the Fushimi Inari shrine. It is another classic image of Japan abroad and it is well deserved for its spectacularity. Each of these doors or Toris is donated by companies or individuals that have been added over the years to reach 4 kilometers of travel today.

In all Shinto temples, there is a Torii at the entrance of it, so whenever you see one, you should know that you have a Shinto monument very close.

11. The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

The Hiroshima Peace Park is above all, a park full of excitement and a rather hard visit because of what happened there. Of course, a very necessary meeting to learn from the past.

In the park, you will find what was left of a building called the Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dome. There we can see the famous Flame of Peace, which they say, there is a commitment not to extinguish the candle until all the atomic bombs on earth disappear.

12. Odaiba, the Artificial Island in Tokyo Bay

Odaiba is an artificial island located in Tokyo Bay that was built in 1850 for defensive reasons. Today, it is a futuristic center for entertainment and major technology companies.

In recent years it has undergone a great transformation thanks to the celebration of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

If you decide to visit Odaiba, you will have at your disposal the following places:

  • DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.
  • Aqua City Odaiba.
  • Gundam, the giant robot.
  • The man-made beach (Odaiba Kaihin Koen).
  • The Replica of the Statue of Liberty.
  • See the beautiful views of Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge.
  • Fuji TV Studios.
  • Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari . Spa-museum on Japanese culture around public baths.
  • National Museum of Emerging Sciences and Innovation.
  • The Museum of Maritime Sciences
  • Tokyo International Exhibition Center.
  • The Palette Town Leisure Center.

Of course, there are many more things to see. But these are some of the most visited places.

What to Do in Japan

Now it’s time to think about what to do in Japan, or rather to decide what activities to do. Visiting Japan will give you the opportunity to live wonderful experiences.

You have at your disposal countless theme parks, museums and super Japanese activities. Aim!

1. Enjoy Japanese Hanami

In our entry Making hanami in Japan, we explain how to experience this ephemeral spectacle of nature that in Japan becomes art. Being under a sakura blanket is like being in heaven. The typical image of the Japanese spring.

If you are lucky enough to travel to Japan in spring, find a place where it is traditional to have hamami  (picnic under cherry blossoms) and enjoy it. Traveling to Japan and living this experience will be memorable for you. Cherry trees in bloom at our entrance. Forecasts to see sakura in Japan and in the Best places to enjoy cherry blossoms, we explain how to get the flowering date right and be able to live it.

2. Visit One of the Spectacular Japanese Theme Parks and Museums

In Japan, theme parks are in fashion, being one of the most visited in the world. The Japanese way of offering customer services has always been by providing the highest possible quality since it is part of its culture of understanding the customer-service relationship. If we assess the level of services offered by amusement parks, we could say that they are by far the best in the world.

Parks such as Fuji-Q Highland, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Legoland Japan, Universal Studios Japan or Nagashima Spa Land among many more. Complete your trip with experiences in Japan that will add positive feelings to your great trip.

3. Taste the Extensive, Incredible and Surprising Japanese Cuisine

Traveling to Japan means having experiences in every way. The senses of taste and smell are pleasantly rewarded thanks to its incredible and extensive offer of foods and dishes that you can enjoy, apart from being very healthy.

Every day Japanese gastronomy gains more followers and many are those who decide to travel to Japan with the main reason to experience Japanese gastronomy.

If you ask what to do in Japan, of course, eat sushi, ramen, udon, soba, onigiri, or konomiyaki, tempura, yakisoba, takoyaki … internationally renowned dishes. But on your trip, you will also find others less known such as chanko-nabe, shabu-shabu, kakigori among thousands more. 

On the other hand, the world of restoration in Japan is highly developed. In the list of the cities with the most Michelin stars in the world, Japanese cities always appear in the first positions. But on the other hand, you can also eat cheaply and well in hundreds of Japanese fast-food chains and other types of Japanese establishments.

4. Climb Mount Fuji

Climbing Mount Fuji is a very Japanese experience and why not say it? Also spiritual and transformative.

If you have time and strength, you should try to live the climb to the sacred volcano. Of course, you should keep in mind a popular saying that all Japanese know. Says so;

Well that. If you have the opportunity when traveling to Japan, don’t think twice. The specularity of its landscapes compensates for the effort to reach the top. At the entrance to climb Mount Fuji, we tell you first-hand our experience as well as important tips.

5. Visit Japanese Castles

Traveling to Japan and getting closer to contemplate the spectacular nature of a Japanese castle is a very good option. Among the most famous for its spectacularity, the Himeji, Kumamoto, Matsumoto, Osaka and Odawara castle stand out. They date from the Japanese feudal era and many of them are today considered world heritage sites. Japan’s top seven are as follows:

  • Osaka Castle
  • Himeji Castle
  • Nijō Castle
  • Matsumoto Castle
  • Nagoya Castle
  • Kanazawa Castle
  • Edo Castle (Tokyo Imperial Palace)

The one in the next photo is Himeji Castle, built-in 1333, although it has been renovated several times. Among all of them the most visited.

Essential Cities and Towns

Knowing Japan means visiting one of the following cities that offer the most attractiveness for tourists:

  • Tokyo and its 23 stunning futuristic neighborhoods. You will never finish touring it.
  • Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan with its iconic temples, shrines and traditional neighborhoods.
  • Nara, a must to see its temples, shrines and famous deer.
  • Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city with its famous neighborhoods and its bay.
  • Hakone with its views of Mount Fuji and its famous onsen.
  • Nikko with its famous temple, waterfall, monkeys and nature reserve.
  • Kamakura, very touristy for its emblematic temples and its great Buddha.
  • Hiroshima with its Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Dome and Museum.
  • Sapporo and its famous ramen, beer and natural landscapes.
  • Yokohama, second largest city with its impressive Chinatown and bay.

The list is endless. Sendai, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Kobe, Takayama, Nagasaki, Itsukushima, Otaru … Organizing a route to travel through Japan is difficult with so much offer. What a problem!

How Many Days Do I Need?

I would consider a minimum of between 15 and 21 days in Japan. Japan is a very remote destination to go only a week or less than 10 days. Spending money on planes does not compensate if you are going to be little time.

Japan has a lot to offer. On the other hand, you also have to weigh in giving your body time to adapt to the jet lag.

1. Buy the Flight

The price of the flight is one of the points that hurts the most. It is possibly the largest outlay you have then on your trip to Japan. It is an international flight, it is not a small thing …

Finding a good price on the plane ticket is what influences the most to be able to save the price of the trip. This will directly affect the number of days we can afford to be on vacation. The economy is usually the boss.

Of course, flight prices have dropped a lot since I started traveling to Japan in 2008. Before, it could cost you 1,000 or 1,200 euros from Spain. Now you can find them for 500 euros with ease. Come on, what better not to complain a lot …

Among the search engines that we have used, we are definitely left with Skyscanner. The main reason is that being a global search engine, it is not conditioned by any airline. It only shows prices. Also because it does not record the cookies of your browser. This is important because, unfortunately, other search engines use them to increase the price in the results taking into account the previous searches carried out as a reference.

2. Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Of course not, but it is highly recommended. We personally have traveled insured on more than one occasion and had to use insurance for several different reasons. Lost luggage, a broken laptop and on another occasion, we had to take our daughter to the emergency room. Nothing has to happen, but …

After purchasing from multiple agencies, we decided to recommend IATI for the following reasons:

  • They have very competitive prices for international travel and excellent quality service.
  • Because you never know what can happen to suitcases, health incidents canceled flights …
  • It is a company specialized in travel insurance, both for adventure and conventional trips abroad.
  • They serve in Spanish (Spanish company).
  • Because traveling with the feeling of tranquility is priceless.

3. Change Currency to Yen

This is another of the aspects where we can cut something. Not much, but something yes.

To buy yen, we have several options:

  • Japan airport.
  • In Japanese money exchange establishments.
  • Online currency exchange platforms.
  • In currency exchange establishments in your country.
  • Paying with a card in Japan in stores or restaurants.

They all have their advantages or disadvantages. We explain them in more detail in our post “Buy Yen to travel to Japan . 

Where to Stay in Japan?

The accommodation offer in Japan is very extensive. There are many different accommodation options adapted to all tastes and budgets; Passing through traditional hotels such as ryokan, western style, or if you want to have a fun and different experience, there are capsule hotels, love hotels …

1. Transport

Public transport is really expensive. So sharp and clear. Getting around by subway, taxi, boat or train will not be exactly economical.

Of course, we can always use discount cards or vouchers to try to save a little on travel. Also calculating and thinking a bit, how to move to sightsee without having to spend more than necessary.

2. Internet in Japan

A good internet connection is essential so as not to get lost. Practically all the services that you have contracted will be processed online. Having a good internet connection will help you not to run out of information, be able to justify your reservations and services, process your tickets, new services, etc.

On the other hand, everyone likes to be in touch with family and friends and share the journey.

The best option to be connected to the internet during the trip is through pocket Wi-Fi or a SIM card. There is also the alternative of using free Wi-Fi, although from personal experience we do not recommend it.

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