Top 10 Places to Visit in Japan for the First Time

When it comes to Japan, what pictures will you skim over in your mind? This is an enchanting country that most people around the world desire to visit. Located in the east of Asia and neighboring the Pacific Ocean, Japan consists of over 6800 islands and is covered with splendid mountains and a vast expanse of forest. Japan has an oceanic monsoon climate and thus features four distinct seasons. With a long history of about 2000 years, on the one hand, Japan is rich in profound traditions like sacred shrines and the oldest temples. On the other hand, a dazzling vision of neon and next-gen tech reveals the futuristic face of the country. It is a balanced coexistence of two opposites. The island boasts a great number of beautiful places. As a new foreigner traveling to Japan, it will be challenging for you to choose which places to visit. If you're looking for a different culture, cuisine, or a unique landscape, here are the top ten places to visit in Japan for the first time.

As the capital of Japan, it's no exaggeration to say Tokyo epitomizes Japan with a combination of modern and traditional styles. Tokyo is an international metropolis in the center of Kanto Province, facing Tokyo Bay. It is the center of Japan in politics, economy, and culture, making your first trip to Japan a unique experience.

If you want to walk through the busy and commercialized streets of Tokyo, it's a good choice to visit Ginza and Shinjuku. Ginza is lined with high-end shopping stores with a variety of name-brand goods where to buy almost everything you want. Here you can pick up a domestic restaurant to enjoy delicious sushi and kabobs, or take a sip of aromatic coffee in a café. If you're interested about the Japan culture, you'll be able to see Kabuki performances, a unique traditional Japanese drama, in Ginza's Kabuki theater.

Another place you should see in Tokyo is Senso-ji. Senso-ji Temple is an important symbol of this area. The temple was built in 645, and dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. You can step into the sacred temple, and bless yourself and your family as the locals do. Afterward, you can ramble around a small garden, touching the oldest bridge in Tokyo. Outside the Sensoji Temple, the soaring Tokyo Skytree will come into sight. Many stores along the street are selling a wide range of traditional handicrafts, kimonos, and desserts. If there is plenty of time, don't miss the sophisticated nightlife here.

Besides, you can catch sight of the Japanese landmark building, Tokyo Tower, and see its white and orange lights changing with the seasons. Standing at the top of the tower, you can see the entire city as well as the magnificent Fuji Mount.

The Imperial Palace is the best place to visit if you want to visit a less commercialized and more traditional place full of history. In the palace, you can enter the secret garden and museum and see gorgeous cherry blossoms, rowing a boat to feel the magnificence of the castle.

 Senso-ji Temple Senso-ji Temple

Kyoto is rich in historical sites, notable pagodas, and cherry blossoms, and was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994. Kyoto is certainly worth putting on your top 10 list of places to visit.  As a destination for the first time visit, Kyoto will offer you a feeling of oldness and history that is completely different from other cities in Japan.

There are numerous castles and temples that tell the story of Kyoto's long and difficult history. Old buildings are still in use, which creates the unique landscape of the city. You can see the clear and constant flow of water at Kiyomizu Temple. And it will be recommended that you try to visit there in spring to view the splendid cherry blossom around the temple. Or you can put yourself in a bamboo forest near the temple, relaxing with a pleasant rustle in the bamboo.

Kyoto also features beautiful landscapes in the countryside. You must leave your footprints in the town of Miyama, where, tucked in the mountains, cottages with thatched roofs are well preserved. Even some of the cottages are habitable. Moreover, you can enjoy some yummy local vegetables and well-known green tea here.

Miyazu Amano Bridge is one particularly natural bridge you may desire to see. This is a 3.2-kilometer-long bridge with approximately 7,000 pine trees growing on it. In the summer, the natural bridge will be decorated with bonfires. You will be amazed at the glare from the fire reflecting on the sea. Even if you are just visiting for the first time, Kyoto gives you a lot of choices to unlock its true face. Don't forget to visit the Kitano Tenman-Gu flea market and buy some special products such as oil paper umbrellas, china, and candy.

Kinkaku-ji TempleKinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Putting Hakone on your first-time list would be a great decision, giving you an excellent chance to fully enjoy the hot springs. It is known that Hakone is home to celebrated hot springs and crisscrossed waterways. Due to frequent volcanic activity about 400 thousand years ago, Hakone is dotted with splendid mountainous terrain, lakes, and hot springs.

With luxuriant vegetation surrounding blue Lake Ashi, the place looks like such a perfect picture that visitors can't restrain from taking photos. From the southeast bank of Lake Ashi, you will enjoy the most remarkable view of Fuji Mount. You will also take a boat trip to explore the lake. After a day of exploration and tours, you can take a relaxing bath in the hot springs theme park. Here you can experience many peculiar hot springs of coffee, red wine, or green tea. In addition to this, the black egg sold in Owakudani Valley will catch your eye. Just be eased into eating it. And it is said that it will prolong your life to eat such black eggs.

Apart from the natural scenery, the Open-Air Museum is also another great reason to visit Hakone, as it has a large collection of lifelike sculptures. Hakone, undoubtedly, is a captivating resort most travelers desire to stay in for their first-time visit due to its exquisite natural scenery and special bathing experience in hot springs, in addition to a mass of great artwork.

Lake AshiLake Ashi

Osaka has a pleasant climate with an annual average temperature of about 16 degrees. It is seen as one of the more attractive places to visit. Osaka is a charming leisure city full of local delicacies, a variety of activities, and time-honored history and culture. As many foreign travelers say, "No tour of the best places to visit in Japan would be complete without a trip to Osaka." If you are visiting Japan for the first time, remember to plan a trip to Osaka.

You can choose Osaka Bay as your first stop, where you can experience the bustle of the city. It will attract you to explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and observe different kinds of life in the Pacific, like whale sharks and penguins. When you're tired, you can enjoy the local delicacies such as takoyaki (small octopus balls), Osaka pancakes, and kebabs.

And what you can't miss is cherry blossom. In spring, every park in the city will be covered with an ocean of pink flowers. Walking along the street, you will feel as if you were going through a tunnel of cherry blossoms. Apart from the hustle, Osaka really seems to have Osaka Castle and many classic temples, as well as an interesting variety of traditional festivals. Osaka Castle is a cultural landmark and a symbol of Osaka. The solemn and impressive gate and the tower will come into view. In summer, a range of shining fireworks shows will brighten the night sky to celebrate Tenjin Matsuri. Osaka is so fascinating that you can't let it slip.

Osaka CastleOsaka Castle

If you're looking forward to leading a peaceful and graceful life on your first-time journey, Nara is the ideal place to linger. This is a sacred city in which the most solemn and oldest Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines can be seen surrounded by well-preserved canals and ponds.

You can ramble along the oldest path to experience a Japanese pilgrimage, especially the springtime famous for cherry blossom. April will bring an extremely wonderful view of cherry blossom, in Yoshinoyama, bursting into bloom from the mountain foot to the top.

In addition to cherry blossoms, Nara Park also offers many beautiful sights and interesting experiences to travelers within the city. UNESCO has designated a number of famous temples and shrines in the park as World Heritage Sites. Every temple has a long history. If you're interested in Japanese Buddhism, this is a good chance to explore and learn about it. Walking in the park, you will notice deer roaming around the temple or pond. The animal is seen as the envoy of the Japanese spirit, and they are so meek and adorable that it is very accessible to feed them. The vast park boasts many wonderful landscapes. The classic temples and lively deer form an impressive and distinct picture of Nara.

This is an appealing peaceful retreat where you and your family members go camping on the grassland and see your children playing with deer, simply erasing a wave of tiredness during the first-time journey.

Nara ParkNara Park

The fourth place you must visit for the first time in Japan is Yokohama. This is Japan's second-largest city, with a population of over 3.8 million. It is situated at Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, and is the major commercial, economic, and cultural hub after Tokyo.

Falling into this city's embrace for the first time, it is suitable for you to choose Yokohama Landmark Tower as your first stop. Standing 296.3 meters high, the tower is the second tallest building in Japan. Because the building has the world's second-fastest elevator, it takes a little time to get to the roof, where you will enjoy the spectacular night view of colorful lights and the beautiful sky wheel with the gentle blow of the night wind.

The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, has a food court with displays on the history and origins on the ground floor. It is near the Shin-Yokohama Station. You can have a taste of different types of ramen amid an atmosphere of quaintness.

Yokohama Chinatown is what distinguishes the city from others. Over 200 Chinese restaurants are open here. If you love street food, it's the best for you. You can enjoy a variety of Chinese delicacies and a traditional oriental performance, the lion dance. If you're tired of the hustle and bustle of the streets, the Sankeien Garden is a good stop to take a quiet seat. There are different types of ancient Japanese buildings in the garden, encircled by lush trees and shrubs and dotted with many fine ponds.

As the capital of Hokkaido in northern Japan, Sapporo is the fantasy paradise of snow. The winter in Sapporo will captivate you as you celebrate the Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan's largest winter events, which attracts a growing number of visitors around the world every year. On your first-time visit, you will see hundreds of beautiful and magnificent snow statues and ice sculptures during the festival. You will have a good time in this world of ice.

Even in other seasons, the beauty of different kinds of blossoming flowers will catch your eye. If you're interested in appreciating different beers around the world, the Beer Garden in Sapporo will hit the spot. You can try local, famously crafted beers with barbecued mutton.

Furthermore, Sapporo Odor Park is an ideal place to unwind away from the city. The park offers beautiful scenery and a massive space where your family can sit back and relax. If art is always your preference, then the Sapporo Art Park is not to be missed, where you can enjoy breathtaking pictures formed by natural scenery and fantastic modern sculptures outdoors. You even have the chance to design your own artwork in the park.

You will never forget the captivating white in Sapporo makes on you for the first time. It is a better transfer stop during your trip. Whenever you visit this fascinating city, you will find different reasons to fall in love with it. Sapporo has a plethora of attractions to keep you entertained.

SapporoSapporo

Nagoya is the fourth-most populous city and has one of the five major international trade ports in Japan. There are many attractions in Nagoya that you can visit. Nagoya is famous for its serene and scenic temples and shrines. On your first-time visit, you can choose one of the most typical ones, Atsuta Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, and its roof is covered with copper. You will feel an ancient atmosphere in Treasure Hall in the shrine, which has a large collection of antiques and artwork as well as precious literature and scriptures. So it is a good chance to experience traditional Japanese culture.

Another attraction is Nagoya Castle, built by the Owari Domain in 1612 during the Edo period. It is hailed as the heart of one of the most important castle towns in Japan. It will give you an unforgettable impression when you first see its glazed green tiles on the roofs and elegant structure. There are also many old attractions in Nagoya, like Osu Kannon and Iwasaki Castle.

Taking your gaze away from ancient structures, you should visit the Nagoya TV tower. You will see a wonderful sight during the night, whether you choose to look out at the tower or enjoy a beautiful view of the city from the sky deck at the top of the tower. You will also immerse yourself in the entertainment halls and theaters.

When it comes to Hiroshima, the first impression that comes to mind for most people is a city that was tragically struck by a nuclear bomb during World War II. If you've heard about this tragic event and want to remember the victims, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park could be one of the top tourist attractions for your first-time visit to Japan. Despite the terrible destruction 77 years ago, you will see a born-again Hiroshima. Together with your children or parents, come to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. An unprecedented sense of sacredness and repression will grow in your heart. However, it will give you a special experience during the journey. Whether walking in Hiroshima Castle or Shukkeien Garden, people standing in the area tend to reflect the war. Although Hiroshima lacks the beautiful natural scenery that other parts of Japan are known for, it plays an important role in reminding people all over the world to reflect on the war, remember history, and respect the lives of all human beings.

HiroshimaHiroshima

The last place is Okinawa, known as Hawaii in Japan. The place has a mild and pleasant climate and a reputation for its raw natural beauty, including beaches, colorful coral reefs, subtropical jungles, and rich cultural heritage, which could be a must-see place for a first visit.

The island was once an independent kingdom in Japan's southernmost part, so you can explore the grand palace and reconstructed castle dedicated to the Ryukyu kingdom while admiring the beautiful beaches and coastline. Alternatively, the entire family can do nothing but lie on the white sand beach or swim in the shallow, crystal-clear seawater.

In addition to this, you can visit the aquarium in Okinawa, where you will come into close contact with fantastic and lovely marine life. Okinawa is also a perfect place for marine sports for travelers with children. Dolphin programs and touching many cute marine animals can teach the family a lot. Playing with marine animals will give your children a lot of fun.

Apart from the natural scenery, many restaurants are scattered throughout the city. Choose Koza Music Town and have dinner to see superbly interesting shows and entertainment. At night, when you look up at the sky, you will find it scattered with bright stars, dreamy and fascinating. The beautiful starry sky will put a perfect full stop to your Okinawa trip.

OkinawaOkinawa

In conclusion, Japan is a wonderful country deserving a trip with family and friends. With places of unique cultures and views, there is always enough charm to entice you on your first visit. Here you can experience the country's two opposite faces, feeling the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying the peace and tranquility of pilgrimage. Every travel is a journey of learning and is an exciting and surprising experience to reveal its history and original charm. And it also provides good opportunities for your children to have a taste of Japan's beauty of nature and profundity of culture. If you have any queries about organizing a first-time vacation to Japan, whether it's with your significant other, family, or friends, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at any time! Our experienced travel expert will make you a customized itinerary for Japan based on your interests and needs.

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