There are some really cool places in Japan I have yet to see for myself. So I reached out to some fellow travel bloggers that have been there, to ask them what the think is some of the best places in Japan that they loved.
Having spent several months travelling around Japan myself, it’s easily one of my favourite places to travel. I have since wrote many articles to help guide other travellers on what to see and do in Japan.
I wanted to show you more areas of Japan to discover from the perspective of others. This is what the bloggers cool places in Japan are –
Cool Places In Japan
Not many people know of Yoshino, even though it’s one of the most mesmerising places in Japan. During Spring, the valley looks like a floating pink sea, with hills and endless forests. This really is one of the best places to visit in Japan in Spring.
When we first visited, we stayed in Yoshino until late in the evening to see the mist coming down from the hills. It was a true spectacle.
Yoshino is such a great place, not just because of its landscape, but because of its settlement as well, with a quaint long narrow alley, lined with wooden houses all open for business. There is something dreamy about eating a matcha ice cream, admiring secluded shrines, and meandering through the forested paths.
Getting to Yoshino, however, it’s not quite as easy. Perhaps that’s why it only gets busy during the sakura season. However, its stunning beauty is worth the journey as Yoshino sure is one of the most interesting and beautiful places in Japan.
Find accommodation in Yoshino here.
Koyasan is a little town in the South of Osaka. It’s known to be the most sacred place in Japan, and it absolutely became one of our highlights of the country, due to its tranquility and peacefulness. More than 600 monks live and work in the 115 temples in this area.
Besides the amazing temples, in which you can eat and even stay overnight, the main landmark of Koyasan is its graveyard. It’s the biggest graveyard in Japan and simply beautiful. The big surrounding trees provide a mystical atmosphere all over the graveyard. Especially when you take a walk early in the morning (around 6am) when the monks have their morning ceremony.
When getting near the Onkunoin temple you can hear the praying of the monks already from far away. If you feel like, you can even join the ceremony and keep listening to the peaceful praying of the monks. Even if you can’t understand what they are saying, it is definitely a unique and amazing experience.
Getting to Koyasan is fun and unique as well. Since it’s located around 800 meters above sea level, you have to take the cable car in order to get there. It’s really great in Japan in autumn.
Find accommodation in Koyasan here.
3. Furano, Hokkaido
After traveling Japan for a month, I can honestly say one of the cool places to visit in Japan is Hokkaido (the northernmost island). Hokkaido is a destination you visit because of the stunning nature. There are volcanoes, dense green forests, snowcapped mountains and beautiful lakes. But there are some great little villages too. My favourite one was Furano.
Furano is a year-round destination but most famous for its lavender fields. When in town you have got to visit Farm Tomita, the most famous lavender farm in Japan. Make sure to try their Japanese lavender ice-cream, which tastes strangely good while reminding you of toilet freshener at the same time.
In Furano you can also find a wine factory and a cheese factory. I recommend visiting both (after all, wine and cheese are an excellent combination).
If you visit Furano in winter, you can go skiing on the snow-covered slopes of the nearby ski area. It’s one of the best places to visit in Japan in winter.
In the evening warm up at the the luxurious spa at the New Furano Prince Hotel. Nothing beats gazing at snowy trees while soaking your tired body in a hot Onsen.
In conclusion: when in Japan, visit Hokkaido and visit Furano, you won’t regret it.
Find accommodation in Furano here.
4. Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
The historic town of Takayama is nestled close to the foothills of the Japanese Alps in the Gifu prefecture of Japan. Visitors to Japan seeking an authentic, old-world experience should place Takayama high on their itinerary. We loved the time we spent there, and staying in a traditional ryokan in Takayama was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan.
It’s often referred to as “Little Kyoto” and the well preserved old town, with its wooden inns and merchant houses, is like stepping back in time. The ancient temples on the hillside overlooking Takayama only add to the allure.
We tasted some of the best steaks of our lives during a meal in one of the many traditional restaurants dotted around the old town. The local speciality, Hida beef, which is bred in the Gifu prefecture, is considered by some to be better than the world-renowned Japanese Kobe beef.
It’s also relatively easy to visit the stunning Japanese Alps as a day trip from Takayama, and the town is a gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go. Spending an afternoon in the mountains and riding the Shinhotaka Ropeway which offered amazing views of the Japanese Alps, before exploring the mountain village of Shirakawa-go after leaving Takayama for Tokyo, is one of the best things we did. ShowThemTheGlobe.
Find accommodation in Takayama here.
5. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
One of my favourite cool places in Japan is Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which is located near Nagano. The main attraction of the park are the Japanese snow monkeys. These are are a group of Japanese macaques famous for soaking and relaxing in warm hot springs.
Watching the snow monkeys is an amazing experience. Not only do they soak in warm water but they also cuddle, groom themselves, and play. They also jump in and out of the hot springs, walk around the park, and hang out in the snow just inches away from human visitors.
While the highlight of the park is the snow monkeys, the surroundings themselves are beautiful as well. This you can enjoy on the fairly easy walk on the 1.6 km trail through the forest to reach the Japanese hot springs.
If you stay near the park rather than doing a day trip from Tokyo or Narita, then you can stay at one of the many ryokans (Japanese traditional inns) in the area, and soak in an onsen yourself. While the park is open all year winter is the best time to see these cute monkeys and makes it one of the best places to visit in Japan in winter. Everything is covered in snow and it is cold enough for monkeys to stay in the hot springs.
If you want to do a day trip you can book a tour here.
Find accommodation in Nagano here.
6. The Shimanami Kaido Cycle Way
7. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is the most beautiful castle in Japan and a must include on any Japan itinerary. It’s easily reached in 60-90 minutes from Osaka or Kyoto as a day trip. It was first constructed in the 14th century but extended over the centuries. Surprisingly it survived WWII without much damage, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site two decades ago. The castle is my personal favorite in Japan.
When you arrive at Himeji train station it’s a short 20-minute walk towards the castle. You can’t miss it as it towers high above the city. Himeji Castle is surrounded by a moat and large gardens. The main keep itself is relatively small but with the huge number of visitors does take 2-3 hours to go through. There are several other secondary buildings with exhibitions worth exploring too. I highly recommend doing that as you’ll find the best photo spots this way.
A visit takes up to 6 hours and might take up the full day. If you have time left, especially in summer it’s recommended visiting the Kokoen Gardens next to the Himeji Castle too. This is one of the best places to visit in Japan in summer.
During peak season make sure to buy tickets in advance as they do sell out for the day. Himeji Castle is the most beautiful castle in Japan, so do include a Himeji Castle day trip on your Japan itinerary.
Find accommodation in Himeji here.
8. Shirakawa-go Unesco Village
Shirakawa-go Unesco Village is a popular UNESCO site known for its triangular houses with thick thatched cottage roofs designed to withstand the weight of heavy snowfalls in the region in the winter. And it is just a ridiculously picturesque mountain village. That will never be served justice through photos alone.
Personally, I fell in love with the village on my first visit in Spring, when I arrived by crossing the rope-bridge over gushing rapids. This lead to finding ourselves in a sanctuary of calm. As the village feels like a Shangri-La of sorts in Spring (April), it makes it one of the best places to visit in Japan in spring. At that time of year it has just woken from a harsh winter covered in snow, with sakura blooms, the smell of pine, and carp in passing streams. Yet there are still snow-capped mountains in the backdrop.
That being said, the winter months (February) are also exciting in Shirakawa-go, given the waist height snows, and just lots of winter fun and shenanigans. And while it does a feel bit touristy these days, it also feels local as well. Family businesses catering to tourists in cafes, local crafts, and matcha ice-creams in the Spring.
To reach the village there are various routes with tourist buses. These leave regularly from various JR stations. Although Takayama station would be the popular/quicker route to reach the Shirakawa-go.
Find accommodation in Shirakawa-go here.
9. Mount Inasayama
Mount Inasayama, usually referred to as Mount Inasa, has a height of 333m and offers spectacular views on the city of Nagasaki. The view is already fantastic during the day but it’s best to plan your visit to Mt. Inasa for the sunset. The view was even voted 3rd best world nocturnal view in 2012.
From the top of the mountain you are able to see Nagasaki nestled in the lush mountain slopes. Next to Nagasaki you will see major areas of the port and ship wharf. A light and music show is played every hour after sunset. If you want to spend some more time up the mountain you could consider having dinner in the stations restaurant. Prices are reasonable and the quality is good.
You can take the cable car to get up the mountain. The cable ride itself is quite expensive (currently 1230 yen both ways). And you will most probably spend the 5 minutes cramped in the car with 32 other people. As an alternative you can also hike up the mountain. It will take you approximately 50 minutes and you can use google maps as your guide.
This was by far one of the best views we had in Japan.
Find accommodation in Nagasaki here.
Osaka is my choice for cool places in Japan. I chose the whole city of Osaka rather than just a specific place, as it’s the city altogether that makes it such a cool place to visit.
I love the vibe of the city, and it’s also close to so many of the cool places in Japan so you can easily day trip many of them from Osaka, including some of the ones in this post.
I’ve written before how I feel people should stay in Osaka rather than Kyoto, and for good reason. It’s actually my most popular post on Japan. So rather than go into full detail about why I believe Osaka to be a must stay city, go over and read that article instead.
You can also read about some of the best day trips from Osaka in case you do go there.
Find accommodation in Osaka here.
Cool Places in Japan!
Naturally there are so many cool places in Japan that this list could go on forever. Tokyo and Kyoto could have taken all ten, but most people know that Tokyo and Kyoto have loads of cool places. This post gives you an idea of some cool places in Japan to visit that you may not have heard of before.
This is a really good book to check out if you’re looking for more cool places in Japan: Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen
Useful Japan links:
Happy travels in Japan!
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