Japan is one of my favorites countries to travel! It is futuristic yet still retains strong ties to tradition. You’ll find serene temples surrounded by beautiful views of nature. People are very warm and the food is delicious.

Japan offers nearly all of the kinds of sights and experiences that get me excited when I travel. Best of all, getting around is very easy! You can see a lot even on a short trip. The hard part is choosing what places to fit in your Japan itinerary.

Ready to achieve your Japan travel goals? Let me show you the main places to visit near the major international airports in Tokyo and Osaka. As well as many interesting spots to see on the way between the big cities.

I’ve included the locations on Google Maps to make it easy for you to plan your trip. Simply use the “Save” feature on the Google Maps app for easy reference of all the places you want to visit. I also shared photos from my Instagram feed. Feel free to use IG’s save feature for quick access later.

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1. Kyoto

Location: Kansai. Save on Google Maps.

If there’s only one place you should visit in Japan, it has to be Kyoto. This historic city once served as the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. Kyoto is modern yet still deeply influenced by the traditional culture. It is famous for its sacred temples, shrines and serene zen gardens inlcuding the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion) and the Kiyomizu-dera. In Higashiyama district, you can walk along narrow lanes lined with wooden shophouses. Gion is the place to spot geisha. Venture to the western outskirts to see the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

2. Tokyo

Location: Kanto. Save on Google Maps.

Tokyo is Japan’s ultramodern and busy capital — the most populous metropolitan area in the world. One thing I wanted to do in Tokyo was joining the scramble of people at Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. If that’s something that excites you too, then Tokyo is an unmissable destination. There’s a ton of interesting activities in this city from exploring the quirky youth fashion at Harajuku district, getting immersed in the digital art displays at TeamLab Borderless, experiencing the themed cafes and go-karting at Akihabara to seeing the traditional side of Tokyo at Asakusa district.

3. Osaka

Location: Kansai. Save on Google Maps.

Osaka is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. During my first trip to Japan, visiting Osaka was a no-brainer because I was flying via Kansai airport and it’s a convenient gateway city to Kyoto. I was also very excited see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and have a taste of butterbeer at Universal Studios Japan. Dotonburi district is the place to find shopping arcades illuminated by neon lights. Osaka is also famous as “Japan’s Kitchen.” It is well-known for some of Japan’s delicious iconic dishes such as takoyaki (octopus tempura balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pancake).

4. Kawaguchi-ko

Location: Yamanashi, Chubu, Central Japan near Mount Fuji. Save on Google Maps.

The lakeside town of Kawaguchi-ko offers one of the most beautiful views of Mount Fuji. If you have limited time, it’s possible to go here on a day trip from Tokyo. Mount Fuji is not always visible because of clouds. So, I recommend spending a night or two because visibility tends to be best in the early mornings and in the late afternoons. These hours are also the best time to avoid the huge crowd at the popular sites like the Chureito Pagoda. Lake Kawaguchi is located in the Fuji Fives Lakes region. So, there’s plenty of things to do nearby as well.

5. Shirakawa-go

Location: Gifu, Chubu, Central Japan near Japan Alps. Save on Google Maps.

Where to go in Japan during winter? Shirakawa-go is Japan’s winter wonderland! This traditional village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site distinguished by traditional Gassho-style grass-roofed houses in a scenic setting. If you are traveling by land between Tokyo and Osaka-Kyoto, consider a side trip here. Shirakawa-go is located near the north coast of Central Japan. It is a bit out of the way but should be worth the detour if you are interested to see a traditional farming village, especially if you are traveling during wintertime.

6. Hakone

Location: Kanagawa, Kanto near Mount Fuji. Save on Google Maps.

Hakone is another quiet lakeside town blessed with a view of Mount Fuji. It is farther away compared to Kawaguchi-ko but closer to the Tokyo-Osaka Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train route. On a day trip, I enjoyed the Pirate ship boat ride across Lake Ashi, ropeway to the Owakudani sulfur mine, and got to see the iconic Torii at Hakone Shrine. If you decide to spend the night, Hakone is one Japan’s best places to experience a natural onsen, at a private ryokan or public bath house. From Hakone, you can also go on a half-day trip to Mishima Sky Walk, Japan’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge.

7. Nikko

Location: Tochigi, Kanto. Save on Google Maps.

If there’s one place I want to visit again, it’s Nikko! Located a few hours by train north of Tokyo, Nikko is a quiet temple town and UNESCO world heritage site surrounded by beautiful mountain landscapes. It’s a place I would love to visit time and again, and experience the changing colors of Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. In Nikko, you can find the Toshogu, Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrine, and Kegon Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the country. Nikko is a must-visit for nature lovers and well-preserved historic sites.

8. Kamakura

Location: Kanagawa, Kanto near Tokyo. Save on Google Maps.

Kamakura is often described as the Kyoto of East Japan. It’s easy to visit from Tokyo as the train ride only takes one hour. This seaside town is famous for its many beautiful temples, shines, and the iconic giant sitting Buddha statue. If you can’t make it to Kyoto during your trip, Kamakura is a decent alternative.

9. Yokohama

Location: Kanagawa, Kanto near Tokyo. Save on Google Maps.

Yokohama is one of the best daytrip adventures near Tokyo. Train travel only takes 25 minutes! This huge port city offers tons of fun things to do. One of my favorite attractions here is the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Here, you can have a taste of ramen from different parts of Japan and soak up the 1950s Tokyo vibe. The biggest attraction here, of course is the Yokohama Chinatown, one of the World’s largest Chinatowns. Yohokama is also famous for the Cup Noodle Museum by Nissin, the Red Brick Warehouses, Yamashita Park (seaside park) and the Cosmoworld amusement park.

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10. Narita

Location: Chiba, Kanto near Narita Airport. Save on Google Maps.

Looking for a beautiful place to see near Narita-Tokyo International Airport? Narita-san Temple is a beautiful & popular Buddhist temple not far away. This sacred site is known for its fire ritual, performed several times a day for free! The ritual calls upon the temple’s main deity of Ofudo-sama, the God of Fire, to grant worshipper’s wishes and protect them from bad luck.

11. Sawara, Katori

Location: Chiba, Kanto near Narita Airport. Save on Google Maps.

Do you love old towns? You can feel like you’ve stepped through a portal to the past at Sawara in Katori, Chiba prefecture . Here, you can find traditional houses lined along the charming canal. If you have a long layover at Tokyo-Narita Airport, this is one place you should definitely check out! Katori can also be reached on a day trip from Tokyo.

12. Fruit Picking in Chiba

Location: Chiba, Kanto near Narita Airport

One of my most memorable activities in Japan was the fruit picking experience in Chiba. Fruit picking is popular in Japan among locals and tourists alike. For a flat rate, you can pick and all the fruits you can eat, on the spot! Popular fruits include strawberries, apples, grapes, plums, peaches and cherries. The kind of fruits available depends on the locale and the season.

13. Shiraito Falls

Location: Fujinomiya, Shizuoka near Mount Fuji. Save on Google Maps.

I love visiting waterfalls. It’s usually one of the first things I research about when visiting a country for the first time. Shiraito Falls isn’t remarkably large but it’s one of the prettiest in Japan. It’s located in the foothills of Mount Fuji and can be reached as a day trip from Kawaguchi-ko. Shiraito no Taki literally means “the waterfall of white threads”, which aptly describes its appearance, as multiple streaks of water drape over the surface forming what seems like a white curtain. I went here during summer & enjoyed the lush greens. If you want a more colorful view, I recommend going during autumn season.

14. Gotemba Premium Outlets

Location: Shizuoka near Mount Fuji

With over 200 stores, the Gotemba Premium Outlets is one of Japan’s largest outlet malls. On a clear day, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Mount Fuji. Gotemba Premium Outlets is a popular stopover of organized Fuji day tours from Tokyo. You can also visit while you’re on your way between Kawaguchi-ko and Hakone.

15. Odawara Castle

Location: Kanagawa, Kanto. Save on Google Maps.

Odawara is a popular train hub for people traveling between Tokyo and Hakone and Gotemba. If you are looking for an interesting place to go nearby, Odawara Castle is worth a peek.

16. Matsumoto

Location: Nagano. Save on Google Maps.

I found myself in the peaceful town of Matsumoto after looking for interesting places to visit in Central Japan. The most famous attraction here is the Matsumoto Castle. It’s small compared to other castles in Japan but it’s also one of the prettiest thanks to its peaceful sprawling garden and distinctive black walls beautifully reflected by the surrounding moat. Matsumoto is also a popular base for trips into the Japanese Alps. Train travel from Tokyo is around 3 to 4 hours.

17. Nagano City

Location: Nagano. Save on Google Maps.

When in Nagano prefecture, drop by Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Japan. Founded in the 7th century, the temple stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan. Train travel from Matsumoto to Nagano is 1 hour.

18. Karuizawa

Location: Nagano. Save on Google Maps.

While searching for interesting waterfalls in Japan, I discovered Shiraito Falls in Karuizawa. This curtain falls shares the same name as the beautiful waterfall near Kawaguchi-ko. Although this one in Karuizawa is a lot smaller in scale, I wanted to go since I was already in Nagano prefecture and it was a chance to explore the upscale mountain resort town of Karuizawa. Here, you can also find the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, a huge outlet shopping center with a beautiful landscaped setting.

19. Takayama

Location: Gifu, Chubu, Central Japan near Japan Alps. Save on Google Maps.

Takayama was my base when I went to Shirakawa-go village in Gifu prefecture. This town is famed for its well-preserved wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period and a place to taste delicious Hida Beef. Takayama is also the gateway to the hiking paradise of the Japan Alps.

What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Japan that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Japan

Japan tourist spots, things to do in Japan, where to go in Japan & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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