Japan is one of the most popular destinations around the world. They are known for many things, among others are their traditional Japanese arts, religious history, anime fandom, and even a busy road crossing. It is easy to be overwhelmed since there are a lot of places a tourist can explore, which is why we at BookonBoard compiled these 15 most famous landmarks in Japan to make your trip worthwhile.
The fusion of eastern tradition with western culture creates a one-of-a-kind experience. Here, technology seems to develop at a fast pace but you can also observe that Shinto practices remain prevalent.
Most travelers have Japan on their bucket list. Why? Well, you do get to have a piece of everything. If you want something eccentric, the Harajuku station is the best place to see quirky fashion and colorfully dressed people. For a more serene experience, there are numerous temples and flower parks to recharge yourself.
Japan has one of the richest cultures in all of Asia. They boast 25 places marked as a UNESCO world heritage site. This is why we are here to help you get the best out of your experience. Check out our list of the famous landmarks in Japan you should not miss.
- Best Landmarks in Japan for Tourists
- 1 Mount Fuji
- 2 Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- 3 Fushimi Inari Taisha
- 4 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
- 5 Himeji Castle
- 6 Osaka Castle
- 7 Jigokudani Monkey Park
- 8 Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
- 9 Tokyo Imperial Palace
- 10 Shirakawa Village
- 11 Kinkaku Ji
- 12 Tokyo Tower
- 13 Tokyo Skytree
- 14 Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution
- 15 Naoshima Island
- FAQ’s about Japan landmarks every visitors should know
- Tips when visiting landmarks in Japan
- Budget friendly guide to explore Japanese landmarks
- COVID-19 Measures in Japan
- Do’s and Don’ts in Japan
- BookOnBoard’s Guide on Places to Visit When in Japan
- Explore Asia
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Best Landmarks in Japan for Tourists
1 Mount Fuji
At the top of our list is the tallest mountain in the country located 2.5 hours away from Central Tokyo – Mount Fuji. This snowcapped beauty has an almost perfectly coned shape. It is actually classified as an active volcano and stands at 3,777 meters.
Considered as the symbol of Japan, tourists flock to Mount Fuji mostly to enjoy the view. Taking a picture with Mount Fuji in the background seems to be a requirement when visiting Japanese landmarks. Professional photographers cannot seem to get enough of it and they camp from day to night to get the perfect scenic shot.
If you are more on the adventurous side, you can actually climb it. This activity is usually more popular with foreign hikers than the locals. The official climbing season in Mount Fuji is from July 1 to September 14.
Although there may be more crowds during the season, the weather is more favorable and there are tons of guides available. On the other hand, try to avoid hiking from October to mid-June as weather conditions are likely to be more extreme. If you want to take a shortcut, access the nearest peak point of Mount Fuji by car in the Fujinomiya Fifth Station.
However, if you are looking to get a good photo of Mount Fuji, make sure to head out to Lake Kagawuchiko. Not only is it a particularly large lake, but the reflection of Mount Fuji over the blue and calm lake makes for a great picture.
2 Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city?
Recharge by walking along the roads in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and surround yourself with nature. Thick and green bamboos as tall as two-story houses ply the road and a little wind makes them look like they are gently dancing, an image which can help ease the mind.
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan not only because of the sight of the swaying bamboos but they have a distinct sound as well. This bamboo grove creates a unique and relaxing tune of rustling leaves and gently crashing bamboos, which is why it was included in the “100 Soundscapes of Japan”.
In addition, you can even visit the Bamboo Grove place free of charge. So, why not spend a little time with nature in this solitary but calming scenery.
3 Fushimi Inari Taisha
A major aspect of Japanese culture is their religious tradition. There is actually no single dominant religion, but there are major components and these are Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Like other eastern countries, Christianity remains a minority.
Shinto ( which means “the way of the gods”) is Japan’s native religion. A Shinto Shrine is a view in itself but what people are usually most familiar with is the torii gates. The torii gates are found at the entrance of the shrines. It is a red gate-like structure that symbolizes the boundary between the earthly or ordinary space and the sacred space. In history, it is the structure that survived in the extraordinary photo of the Nagasaki bombing.
Another popular shrine is found in the Hiroshima Prefecture known as the Itsukushima Shrine, a seemingly floating shrine.
One of the most popular landmarks in Japan is Fushimi Inari Taisha located at the base of Kyoto’s Inari mountain. Hiking up the mountain might take 2 to 3 hours but the walk is mesmerizing. Tunnels of torii gates lead the way up the mountain where you can get a skyline view of Kyoto, Japan.
The Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head Shinto shrine of more than 30,000 Inari Shrines. You can also find fox statues around the place as they are believed to be the messengers of Inari, the god of rice and food.
4 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
One of Japan’s many UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Atomic Bomb Dome, also known as A-Bomb Dome, is a notable symbol of the tragedy brought upon by nuclear attacks. Despite being close to the center of the attack, the dome remains standing while all surrounding buildings were decimated.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park has millions of visitors each year. Tourists may pay respects to the victims while at the same time learning the defining event that not only changed the course of Japanese history but also influenced the international community.
There are festivals held each year to commemorate the event as well as lantern ceremonies. Here, you can also see several monuments and museums, the most notable of which is the Peace Memorial Museum.
If you want to have a richer background of Japanese history, then you should definitely visit Hiroshima Peace, Memorial Park.
5 Himeji Castle
The Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle, is also one of Japan’s landmarks that are declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered Japan’s largest and best-preserved castle.
It was said to be built as early as 1333 and still even though almost seven centuries have passed, it remains sturdy and intact. It even survived bombings and several natural disasters. It stands on top of a hill and towers over the surroundings which used to be a strategic way to check for enemy movements.
On the exterior, the Himeji castle is painted with an elegant white coating as if it was still new. You can actually roam around the Himeji castle grounds as it is considered a public park.
Here you can find large and towering cherry trees. Cherry blossom season is usually between March and May. During these months, a spectacular hue of pink flowers makes it a popular destination for tourists, especially couples, to take photos.
However, if you want to go inside, there will be an admission fee costing roughly 1,000 Japanese yen or 10$. Inside the Himeji Castle, you can find the designs that the elites of traditional Japanese royalty admire as well as an overlooking shrine.
From decorated roof ornaments, wooden floorings, and a complex and unique structure that war geeks would totally find the castle of interest.
6 Osaka Castle
Another notable castle that you must visit in Japan is Osaka Castle.
Just like the castle Himeji, it also holds a historic value to Japanese culture particularly because it was at the center of numerous wars. It also played a role in the unification of Japan. You can find more details of what happened in Osaka Castle if you get guided tours.
The Osaka castle walls stand up to 20 meters tall and 90 meters wide while the castle itself towers up to 5 stories. It is made up of larges stones piled together in a sloped shape. This technique of building stone walls, also known as Burdock Piling, is one of the traditional ways to lay a strong foundation for castles resistant to earthquakes.
Like most castles in Japan, Osaka Castle also has its share of beautiful parks. It is also open to the general public and the shift from the spring cherry blossoms to the autumn’s falling leaves is a sight to behold. You can freely roam around the park or have a ride on the boats from the moats.
The Osaka Castle is a must-visit for those who just want a calm and serene area in the midst of visiting places in Japan.
7 Jigokudani Monkey Park
Perhaps one of the most unique experiences that Japan offers to tourists is seeing monkeys bathe in hot springs.
In 1964, Jigokudani Monkey Park or Wild Monkey Park was established in the Valley of Yokuyo River. The hot springs are where the Japanese Macaques who are better known as Snow Monkeys stay during the winter.
Jigokudani actually means “Hell’s Valley”. It got its name from the seemingly never-ending boiling water from the hot springs even when the surroundings are freezing.
The monkeys are definitely calming to look at while they sleep in the baths or interact with the others. You can actually see the monkeys all year round as some have already grown accustomed to the park even when there are numerous people.
However, just a word of caution, only park attendees are allowed to feed them. As a strict rule, tourists are prohibited from touching or feeding them.
This park is definitely quaint and unique. We recommend visiting from January to March. Kids love this park as they get a close-up look of the Snow Monkeys.
8 Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
Besides Shinto shrines and bathing monkeys, perhaps one of the most iconic Japanese landmarks overall is the Shibuya crossing located in Tokyo. Now, what could be so special about a road intersection rivaling that of the Beatles’ Abbey Road?
Being in Tokyo metropolitan, Shibuya is also a major commercial center where you can watch large digital billboards, popular chains, and young people donned in fashionable attires. But aside from those, the magic happens when the traffic light turns green and vehicles from all sides stop.
Another popular location in the area is the Starbucks cafe in Tokyo. The store overlooks the crossing so you can see how entertaining the scramble looks. As one of the most famous landmarks around the world, Shibuya Crossing is essentially a must on your Japan bucket list.
Hundreds of people cross the roads and being part of the Shibuya Crossing Scramble is definitely one for the books.
9 Tokyo Imperial Palace
In the center of Tokyo located 10 minutes away from Tokyo Station, you can find where Japan’s imperial family lives, the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
It is a grand area comprising acres of lush gardens and historic castle ruins, making it a great stop for those who want a break from the city. The Imperial Palace East Garden is the most visited place in Japan as it is freely open to the public. You can see locals jogging here and groups of people setting up a picnic on its wide lawns.
Remnants of the foundation of the original castle tower dating back to 1638can also be found on top of the hill.
On the northern part of the Imperial Palace is a garden haven called Kitanomaru Park. During spring, lines of pink cherry blossoms are at their full bloom here. During autumns, the golden-brown leaves also make for a scenic walk or photoshoot.
Since the imperial family actually resides in the palace, getting inside is not open allowed except only on two occasions – New Year’s Greetings event held on the 2nd of January and during the sitting Emperor’s birthday which now is held on February 23.
At the entrance to the main building of the Imperial Palace, you will see the Nijubashi bridge which is shaped like an eyeglass.
We suggest getting guided tours if you want to roam the Imperial Palace grounds in order to better appreciate the history of this famous Japanese landmark.
10 Shirakawa Village
The Shirakawa is a mountain village and is one of UNESCO’s declared world heritage sites. But in so far as foreigners are concerned, not many are actually familiar with it.
This quaint village is known for being the site of Shirakawa Go where houses are erected in a unique traditional Japanese building style called as Minka or gassho-zukuri.
Minka’s are distinct for their roof shape and structure, an upside down V, which was designed to easily shed off snow from the roof. This building style was more prominent during the Edo period which was from the 1600’s to the 1860’s. Before, Minka’s were a building style for farmers
Tourism is actually a seasonal business in the village. However, due to growing interest and possible damage grown from the attention it receives, the UNESCO declared it as a world heritage site and as such, additional protection was given to it.
Shirakawa Go is surrounded by nature particularly waterfalls and virgin forests. So, if you want to see it in person, make sure to respect the traditional Japanese culture herein and be mindful of waste.
11 Kinkaku Ji
The Kinkaku Ji is a Buddhist temple located in Kyoto, Japan. It is a landmark in Japan famous for its golden temple and as such is literally called as Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The Kinkaku Ji temple is covered in traditional “gold leaf” which is actually pure gold hammered into extremely thin sheets.
The view of the golden temple is magnified due to the large pond surrounding it. The reflection of the golden structure during sunny days is extraordinarily picturesque leaving tourists somewhat in a trance.
Visitors cannot enter inside the Kinkaku Ji Buddhist temple since it houses sacred relics of the Great Buddha. Nonetheless, the surrounding view is already enough to make it one of the most famous landmarks in Japan.
12 Tokyo Tower
An iconic landmark in Japan, most referenced in pop culture is Tokyo Tower. While it is mainly used as a communications and observation tower, the Eiffel Tower-like tower holds a significant symbol of post-war recovery.
It is painted in white and orange for air safety purposes. Towering at 1,092 feet, the tower was built in response to the need for more transmission towers for broadcasting purposes.
Japan was already starting to thrive post world war II. Media companies and communication towers were starting to be in demand.
Instead of building multiple small towers, the gigantic Tokyo Tower was built to transmit over the entire region. Since then, the Tokyo Tower has become an icon for the start of Japan as an economic powerhouse.
On the base of the tower, also known as Foot Town, you can find lines of cafes and shops. You can also go inside a theme park dedicated to an internationally acclaimed manga and anime, One Piece.
If you want to have an overlook view of the city, there are two observation decks. However, the top deck tour can only be booked through a reservation system.
So if you want to get a more intimate view of the city, book in advance to be able to access the top observation deck.
13 Tokyo Skytree
Not to be confused with Tokyo Tower, is another tall structure known as the Tokyo Skytree.
However, the two are intimately related. The Tokyo Skytree was built since Tokyo Tower cannot cater to a wider coverage since it is being surrounded by an equally tall building.
Tokyo Skytree is now the tallest tower in the world reaching up to 2,080 feet, twice as tall as the Tokyo Tower. It is also one of the world’s tallest structures falling short only with Burj Khalifa.
During the day, the Tokyo Skytree is a white towering structure over the region. At night, it turns into a pretty shade of sky blue or purple LED lights, that alternate every day.
Inside the Tokyo, Skytree are different areas open for tourists’ entertainment. There are shopping areas at its base, two observation decks, as well as cafes and restaurants.
However, what is unique is that it also has a planetarium and aquarium that kids will definitely enjoy. So, if you are having cold feet going to an observation deck, then these attractions at the base will definitely keep you occupied.
14 Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution
Speaking of Japan’s growth post-world war, one key player in cementing its status in the economic arena is Meiji.
To some, it might just be their favorite brand of chocolate but in history, it has actually helped Japan to become the industrialized and developed country we know now.
Most of the sites can be found in the Yamaguchi Prefecture and Nagasaki. These locations mainly comprise of production in materials of heavy industries specifically iron, steel, shipbuilding, and coal mining. This was due to the increase in demands for these products in order to strengthen national defense against foreign threats.
There are 23 locations spread throughout the regions.
If you want to get an overview of these sites, the Industrial Heritage Information Centre in Tokyo is an educational facility open to the public. Inside are theaters, archive centers, and libraries showing an expansive detail into the history of the facility and how it laid the foundation to the industrialization of Japan.
15 Naoshima Island
To cap off the list is one of the famous landmarks in Japan that shows off how modernized and developed they have become – Naoshima Island. Naoshima Island is an island town in Japan famous for its modern art museums, unique architectural designs, and intricate sculptures.
Most of the art installed in the island town is from Benesse Corporation, which is one of Japan’s leading educational and publishing companies.
A popular art that you can find here is a sculpture created by Yayoi Kusama in 1998 of a massive spotted squash but named The Yellow Pumpkin. It sits on a pier and is a popular spot for tourists to take a picture.
As an island, you can also spend a day at the beach here. It is mostly quaint throughout the season and as an art hub, tourists are generally quieter as they appreciate the art. We really suggest going here if you want downtime from the city noise.
FAQ’s about Japan landmarks every visitors should know
What is a famous Japanese landmark?
Aside from acclaimed World Heritage Sites, there are other landmarks in Japan that while not internationally accredited, are interesting for tourists.
Check out the following Japan landmarks to make your travels more interesting.
Fashion, youth, and neon pink-filled, Harajuku Street has made its name as one of the liveliest landmarks in Japan Tokyo. Here lies the melting pot for whatever is trendy, bright, and as they call it in Japan “Kawaii”. Filled with cafes and merchandise stores, teens usually swarm this area donning bright colors and unique fashion.
However, it also contains historical sites such as the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Miyashita Park, and the Ota Memorial Museum of Art. You’ll definitely have a blast in this side of Tokyo.
In pop culture, Japan is internationally known as the origin of manga and anime. One animation studio that stole the hearts of millions around the world across all ages is filmed by Studio Ghibli. Headed by acclaimed animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli films have created characters that resonated with viewers, hence they have a museum of their own.
Tourists can check out the Ghibli Museum in the western part of Japan Tokyo. Life-sized figures of beloved characters such as Totoro, No Face, and The Robot can be found there. If you are a huge fan of Miyazaki’s works, then this place is a must-visit.
However, due to high demands, only a limited number of visitors can enter through the advanced purchase of tickets. In any case, there are virtual tours that you can find online. But nothing beats personally seeing childhood heroes and learning the process of how they were created.
Nikko National Park
It is an otherworldly site where you can feel enveloped by nature. There are shrines, marshes, mountains, hot springs, and of course a majestic waterfall.
It is said that visiting here will definitely give you a fresh breath of air. Upon leaving, you will feel grounded and more connected with nature.
What is Japan famously known for?
Aside from the aforementioned Japan landmarks, religious tradition, and anime fan culture, the country is famous for a lot more.
This year, Japan was in the headlines as the host of the 2020 Olympics. Although there was a major setback and they had to move it to 2021. Nonetheless, despite restrictions and lengthy protocols, the Tokyo 2021 Olympics was deemed a great success.
Japanese cuisine is also one of the most intricate and acclaimed dishes around the world. It is most notable for the delicate handling of fish particularly with sushi.
They even have a pufferfish dish called Fugu. As pufferfish is poisonous if handled unprofessionally, chefs who want to serve this dish must earn a license with an accompanying 2 to 3-year apprenticeship.
In addition, Japanese people are by themselves also popular in their disciplined culture. They are particularly known for their punctuality and cleanliness.
In the global economy, Japan is renowned for manufacturing of electronics, machinery, and chemicals. The rise of anime in mainstream media has also helped in placing Japan as a top provider in the entertainment industry.
What are 5 major landmarks?
When visiting the country, the following are the major landmarks that are usually in every tourists’ itinerary:
- Mount Fuji
- Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
- Atomic Bomb Dome
- Tokyo Tower
- Tokyo Skytree
How many landmarks are there in Japan?
Each one of the famous landmarks are usually part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They hold a cultural value to the country and has a distinct physical feature that makes it stand out.
Japan has over twenty five cultural sites, some are already mentioned above. Aside from those mentioned above, these are the following landmarks in Japan:
- Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area
- Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu
- Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region
- Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land
- Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto
- Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
- Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape
- Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan
- Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan
- Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region
- Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier
- Tomioka Silk Mill
- Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island
- Ogasawara Islands
Tips when visiting landmarks in Japan
Secure a Japan Rail Pass
Commuting in Japan is not as hectic as it might be compared to other countries. In fact, we highly recommend using public transport not only to save money but also to get a closer experience of daily life in Japan.
The Japan Rail Pass is a card that you use to ride trains. If you are wary of crowds, we suggest getting the Green Pass, a seven-day pass costing $374 where there are likely fewer people. Otherwise, you can get an ordinary pass for $280.
Take note that this pass must be procured online before traveling to Japan.
Map out all the ATM or Currency Exchange Services near your hotel
Running out of cash in the middle of a vacation is a nightmare. So, make sure you have an idea where you can get cash if you fall short.
Budget friendly guide to explore Japanese landmarks
Traveling to Japan can be pretty expensive if you don’t know where to look. So, before you book that trip, make sure to check out our recommendations to get a bang for your buck.
Low-cost flights to Japan
If you are traveling from Los Angeles, the following airlines’ averages at $500 to $800:
- Air Canada
- United Airlines
- All Nippon Airways
If you are traveling from New York, the following airlines’ averages at $800 to $1200:
- Air Canada
- American Airlines
Cheapest hotels to stay near landmarks in Japan
- Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyo
- Agora Tokyo Ginza
- Akari Ueno Iriya
For a unique experience, you can also sleep in capsule hotels which are far cheaper.
There are hundreds of them located in Japan especially in crowded areas such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Tokyo. The Global Hotel Tokyo, Nine Hours, and Moon Station Hotel are popular options.
Best places to Eat in Japan
Want to taste the best of Japanese cuisine without breaking the bank?
Check out these iconic fast food places:
- Takoyaki in Kukuru
- Menchi Katsu from Niku no Suzuki
- Mochi in Nakatinadou
If you can splurge a bit more, spoil your palate when you visit in Japan in these Michelin starred restaurants:
- Seafood and Sushi in Sukiyabashi Jiro
- Fugu (a Pufferfish dish) in Suki Fugu Yamadaya
- Soba in Sumibi Kappo Ifuki
Common expenses when touring through Japanese landmarks
- Japan Rail Pass – $280 for seven days
- Museum entrance fees for adults – averages at $6 to $10.
- Pocket wi-fi plans – $6 to $10 per day
COVID-19 Measures in Japan
Currently, Japan accepts only a limited number of tourists from the United States.
If you qualify for exemption and be allowed to travel you must show a negative result of a COVID test within three days before departure.
Do’s and Don’ts in Japan
Do mind your etiquette
Japan is definitely strict when it comes to arriving on time as they are well known for their punctuality. So, if you are booked to visit one of the Japanese landmarks, make sure to arrive as early as possible.
In addition, when visiting a house, don’t forget to take off your outside shoes. This is a tradition not only in Japan but in most Asian countries.
Do observe eating practices
Before breaking your chopstick and slurping that hot noodles or other food for that matter, make sure to put your palms together and say ‘Itadakimasu’. It is a manner of expressing your gratitude for being able to eat the prepared dish.
When eating sushi, make sure to dip it in the soy sauce instead of pouring the liquid over it. Most food must be dipped in liquid seasonings rather than poured over the dish.
When drinking soup, don’t hesitate to slurp (don’t overdo it, though). In Japan, slurping means that you actually enjoy the food and chefs will take it as a compliment.
Do smoke in designated sections
Smoking is actually very normal in Japan. They even allow it on restaurants and bars. However, there are designated areas.
Make sure to smoke only in these places as you cannot smoke when you are walking or staying in any public area.
Don’t talk loudly when in public transportation
The culture in Japan is very considerate of others. So, when in public transport, people try to keep to themselves and avoid being nuisance. Respect this practice and avoid talking loudly with friends, making phone calls, or playing music on speaker.
Japanese people are also very chivalrous. So, make sure to prioritize giving seats to elders and pregnant women.
Don’t initiate physical contact immediately
Japan is quite a conservative country. So hugs, handshakes, and high-fives are not as normal as it is in the United States. Instead, when greeting another, do bow.
Nonetheless, it is also more cautious to avoid physical contact altogether in light of the Coronavirus threat.
Don’t give tips
What might be one of the biggest cultural differences between Japan and the United States is the tipping culture. Here in Japan, tipping is far from customary, it might even be taken as an insult.
So, if you are visiting the country for the first time, don’t make the rookie mistake of giving tips to service personnel.
BookOnBoard’s Guide on Places to Visit When in Japan
The Land of the Rising Sun is definitely a global powerhouse. Its rich history showcases a very intimate detail on how Japan was able to become an economic giant while still retaining its traditional practices.
It is, however, also a very safe place for tourists having one of the world’s lowest crime rates. They have cheerful and respectful locals that willingly help foreigners get from one place to another.
Not to mention, their arrays of food are to die for.
Japanese culture is one of the most celebrated cultures in the world. From the youth to the elderly, every person definitely has something of interest in the country.
We hope this guide has helped you plan out your vacation in Japan. Book your trip now and experience Japanese culture at its finest!
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