10 Best Travel Destinations in Japan 2024
Where to Go in Japan 2024
Where to go in 2024? For those considering traveling to Japan, we have carefully selected places to visit in 2024. You might be surprised to find that the most famous spots are not included, but that’s because this is the most up-to-date list (For classic tourist attractions in Japan, check this 30 Best Things to Do in Japan).
Should you visit Tokyo, Kyoto, or Hiroshima in 2024? Indeed, these cities are justifiably famous for their diverse and satisfying attractions. However, they might be too crowded for some, or lack novelty for those who are experienced visitors to Japan. Therefore, we have chosen Japan’s destinations for 2024 based on our original research.
This list contains many hidden gems that are not widely known to foreigners but are truly wonderful. Of course, it also includes places that were already popular, but we have selected those that have a special reason to be visited in 2024. Reflecting the ever-changing situation in Japan, this travel guide also incorporates the latest trends.
Check out the coolest travel destinations in Japan for 2024 and make your next trip to Japan a fresh and fantastic experience!
10. Naoshima (Kagawa)
In the remote region of Shikoku, Naoshima (直島), or the regional name of Setouchi, has been relatively well-known for some time, especially among art-loving travelers. In 2024, it remains one of the best places to visit in Japan. Although Naoshima belongs to Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku, it is geographically closer to Okayama Prefecture in Chugoku Region.
Naoshima is famous for Yayoi Kusama’s objects located at the edge of the port. The spotted yellow and red pumpkins are must-see pieces for art enthusiasts. The island hosts various art spots worth visiting, including Chichu Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando, Lee Ufan Museum, and Benesse House Museum.
Every three years, the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, including Naoshima, host the Setouchi Triennale, an international contemporary art festival. The next event is scheduled for 2025, but Naoshima is always a place where you can enjoy the fusion of art and nature.
For those visiting Naoshima, a side trip to the neighboring island of Shodoshima is also recommended. Though less known, it offers fantastic tourist attractions such as Angel Road and Olive Park. Combining this with visits to places like Hiroshima can make for a wonderful itinerary.
9. Yutoku Inari Shrine (Saga)
Located at the westernmost part of the Japanese archipelago, Kyushu Region, far from central areas like Tokyo, is still an unexplored territory for many international tourists. Despite its rich nature, unique food culture, and impressive historical buildings, Kyushu is mostly known for its hot springs. In Saga, located in the north of Kyushu, you can find Yutoku Inari Shrine (祐徳稲荷神社), offering a unique and breathtaking view.
Shrines with Torii gates and main halls where people pray are among the most interesting tourist attractions for international travelers. Yutoku Inari Shrine is notable not only for its splendid Romon gate welcoming visitors but also for its bright red hanging structures that function as scaffolding for the buildings located on high ground. Moreover, Yutoku Inari Shrine is counted as one of Japan’s three major Inari shrines, along with Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto and Kasama Inari Shrine in Ibaraki.
In Saga, you can also witness mystical sights like Ouo Shrine, floating in the Ariake Sea in Tara Town. With its many hidden gems, Saga could be a great focal point for a trip to Kyushu in 2024.
For more information about Saga, check these lists!
8. Ikebukuro (Tokyo)
Tokyo remains the gateway and the most popular tourist area for trips to Japan, and its charms seem almost fully explored. However, tourism trends in Tokyo continue to evolve year by year. What should you do in Tokyo in 2024? Explore pop culture in Shibuya or Harajuku? Experience the nightlife in Shinjuku? Shop for anime and manga in Akihabara? Enjoy high-end sushi in Ginza?
What I’d like to introduce this time is Ikebukuro (池袋). It’s a well-known district domestically, famous for its large electronics stores and department stores near the station. However, the reason to focus on Ikebukuro now is that it’s becoming a new hub for pop culture. While Akihabara is often associated with otaku culture like anime and manga, Ikebukuro has been gaining renewed attention, especially with the major anime store Animate having its grand reopening in 2023. There are also stores themed around Studio Ghibli, Pokémon, One Piece, and Evangelion in Ikebukuro.
Moreover, Ikebukuro offers affordable hotels and hostels, and a wide variety of easy-to-enjoy Japanese foods like ramen and conveyor belt sushi. Geographically, Ikebukuro is centrally located in Tokyo and serves as a hub for many JR lines and subways. Experience a Tokyo closer to the daily life of the Japanese in Ikebukuro.
For more information about Ikebukuro and Tokyo, check these lists!
7. Awaji Island (Hyogo)
Are you satisfied with just visiting Osaka and Kyoto when you travel to the Kansai area? I want to avoid such typical answers in this latest Japan travel guide. The place to visit in 2024 is Awaji Island (淡路島), known domestically as Awajishima, in Hyogo. While Hyogo is famous for the port city Kobe, Awaji Island is an island in the Seto Inland Sea, roughly the same size as Guam or Singapore.
So, what to see in Awaji Island? Awaji Island is a land of significant importance in Japanese mythology, featured in Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. There are many sacred spots, such as Izanagi Jingu Shrine, Onokoro Island Shrine, and Eshima Island. Hyogo Prefectural Park: Awaji Hanasajiki, with its colorful seasonal flowers, is also a must-see.
Opened in 2022, Zenbo Seinei offers a Zen experience while enjoying the great nature of Awaji Island. Naruto Strait is famous for its whirlpools, and a whirlpool cruise could be a special experience for you. Additionally, Awaji Island, aiming for local production for local consumption, offers fresh food utilizing local ingredients.
Awaji Island is a nearby island to the previously mentioned Naoshima and Shodoshima, connected to Kobe City by the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and to Naruto City in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, by the Naruto Kaikyo Bridge. Therefore, access from the main island and Shikoku is good.
For more information about Ikebukuro and Tokyo, check these lists!
6. Hiraizumi (Iwate)
Hiraizumi (平泉), located in Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan, is a historically rich and beautiful area not very well known to foreigners but holds great potential to gain global recognition in the future. The Tohoku region, being the true northern end of the Japanese archipelago, sees fewer tourists compared to urban areas, despite its convenient transportation options like the Shinkansen, making it a treasure trove of hidden gems.
This town of Hiraizumi, situated in the southernmost part of Iwate Prefecture, is known as the base of the Oshu Fujiwara clan during the late Heian period. It flourished as a major city next to the then-capital, Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto). The most important historical sites in this town brimming with history are Chusonji Temple and Motsuji Temple, both founded around 850 AD. Chusonji Temple is known for its Golden Hall, which encapsulates the essence of Heian period art, crafts, and architecture, along with many other cultural properties. It’s arguably the most famous temple in Tohoku Region.
Furthermore, Motsuji Temple hosts a Jodo garden centered around a large pond and almost perfectly preserved Heian period temple remains. An event called Gokusui no En, which recreates the elegant traditional Japanese Waka poetry games of the Heian period, is held in the beautiful gardens of the temple every fourth Sunday of May, offering a unique experience. Each season offers its own charm, making it a great destination any time of the year.
For more information about Iwate, check these lists!
5. Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route (Toyama)
The Tateyama-Kurobe area in Toyama Prefecture has long been a favorite among both domestic and international tourists, particularly known for its towering snow walls and breathtaking mountainous landscapes. Why is Tateyama-Kurobe a must-visit destination in 2024? It’s because the new Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route (黒部宇奈月キャニオンルート) will finally be opened to the public that year.
The Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route is a new 18-kilometer path connecting Keyakidaira Station in the Kurobe Gorge to the upstream Kurobe Dam. It intersects vertically with the classic Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Initially developed as a construction route for utility projects like the construction of the Kurobe River Fourth Power Station, this route will be open to the public from 2024. Many yet-to-be-seen attractions of Kurobe await discovery. First, you’ll have the opportunity to ride on vehicles uncommon in daily life, such as construction trolleys and vertical shaft elevators. Additionally, stunning natural scenery awaits, including panoramic views of Mount Okugane and Mount Hakuba Yarigatake.
Kurobe-Unazuki Canyon Route and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route are also close to prime tourist destinations such as the mountainous regions of Nagano, Hida Takayama in Gifu, and Kanazawa in Ishikawa. Thus, including these new spots in your itinerary can make for a fulfilling journey.
For more information about Toyama, check these lists!
4. Chichibu (Saitama)
Saitama, a vast prefecture adjacent to Tokyo, is still not widely recognized internationally as a tourist destination. Moreover, the abundance of natural beauty in Saitama is not very well known. Among its regions, Chichibu (秩父), located at the westernmost end of Saitama, offers encounters with historical buildings and somewhat unusual natural landscapes.
Mitsumine Shrine, Chichibu Shrine, and Hodosan Shrine are collectively known as the Chichibu Sanja (Three Shrines of Chichibu). Particularly noteworthy is Chichibu Night Festival held by Chichibu Shrine in early December, a tradition boasting 350 years. The festival reaches its peak on December 3rd, featuring numerous festival floats parading all day and a fireworks display.
In Hitsujiyama Park, during spring, you can enjoy a landscape of about 1,000 cherry trees and ground-covering Shibazakura (moss phlox), creating a pink scenery that fills both the ground and the sky. In winter, a visit to the Icicles of Misotsuchi is recommended, where you can admire the art of ice created by the harsh winter conditions in Chichibu.
Although it takes about two hours from Tokyo, the Chichibu area is accessible by train, making it a suitable destination for day trips for travelers starting from Tokyo.
For more information about Chichibu and Saitama, check these lists!
3. Niseko (Hokkaido)
Niseko (ニセコ) in Hokkaido is now one of the most famous tourist areas in Japan, attracting not only short-term travelers but also many long-term visitors from all over the world. And still in 2024, it remains one of the top destinations to travel to in Japan. Niseko is located slightly west of Sapporo, the central city of Hokkaido, and New Chitose Airport.
The main attraction of Niseko is undoubtedly its high-quality snow, which is called powder snow, perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Niseko United, comprising Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort, Niseko Village Ski Resort, Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, and Niseko Hanazono Ski Resort, is well-known. The nearby Rusutsu Resort Ski Area is also popular.
Even outside of winter, visitors can enjoy the natural blessings of Mount Yotei, towering over the Niseko area. Fukidashi Park in Kyogoku Town is famous for its delicious water, a natural creation of the park and Mount Yotei. The cleanest Shiribetsu River, flowing at the base of the Niseko mountain range, offers enjoyable river activities. Of course, Niseko also offers the abundant fresh seafood commonly known in Hokkaido and high-quality natural onsen (hot springs).
For more information about Niseko and Hokkaido, check these lists!
2. Beppu (Oita)
Throughout this article, we’ve introduced several hot spots in Kyushu Region, but if you haven’t been there yet, Beppu (別府) is currently one of the best places to visit in Japan. Beppu offers an authentic Japanese cultural experience and remains largely untouched by globalization, allowing visitors to see an untouched Japan.
Located in the central eastern part of Kyushu, in Oita Prefecture, Beppu is nationally recognized as one of the most famous onsen destinations among the Japanese. While hot springs are found throughout Japan, for a genuine onsen experience, Beppu is the place to go. The area, stretching from Beppu Bay through Aso Kuju, and to the Shimabara Peninsula, is blessed with hot spring waters heated by underground magma from past volcanic activities. The history of Beppu’s hot springs is profound, as they are even mentioned in ancient Japanese texts dating back to the 8th century.
Beppu is home to eight hot spring towns, known as Beppu Hatto. These towns boast over a hundered hot spring facilities, offering a variety of onsen experiences. At Beppu’s Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour), visitors can see the natural hot springs up close.
Although many tourists from East Asia start their journey in Fukuoka, a major city in Kyushu, for those entering Japan through airports in Tokyo (Narita or Haneda) or Osaka, Kyushu can seem a bit distant. However, Kyushu has been gaining recognition recently, especially among younger generations, partly as it was featured as the setting for the famous anime director Makoto Shinkai’s 2022 anime movie Suzume and has statues of characters from the popular series One Piece.
For more information about Beppu and Oita, check these lists!
1. Ishigaki Island (Okinawa)
The island that shone as Japan’s best travel destination in 2024 is Ishigaki Island (石垣島), an island prefecture at the southernmost tip of Japan in Okinawa. Okinawa itself is the most popular beach resort in Japan, attracting tourists year-round for its beautiful seas, unique culture, and tropical cuisine. Following the main island, the allure of Okinawa’s numerous remote islands stands out. Okinawa has over 100 remote islands, with more than 30 inhabited.
Among these, Ishigaki Island is one of the largest, along with Iriomote Island and Miyako Island, and is already well-known domestically. Located significantly southwest of the main island, Ishigaki is accessible not only via Naha on the main island but also by direct flights from Tokyo.
First and foremost, Ishigaki Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer tourists than the main island. It’s known for sights like Kabira Bay with its emerald green waters and the Kabira Ishizaki Manta Scramble, a diving spot famous for manta rays. Exploring hidden beautiful beaches or enjoying local foods like Ishigaki Beef are also great options.
A trip to the neighboring Taketomi Island by ferry is highly recommended for a different natural experience. A visit to Ishigaki Island and its neighboring islands allows for an encounter with different nature and culture, arguably offering a more unique experience than the main island of Okinawa. It’s best to visit before it becomes the most famous beach resort.
For more information about Ishigaki Island and Okinawa, check these lists!
Here is the list of the best places to visit in Japan for 2024, based on current trends. You may have encountered many names that are not widely known. However, these places hold the true charm of Japan. Please do find your own wonderful experience there.
If you’re looking to delve deeper into Japanese travel information and tips, the following articles should also be of help to you. Be sure to check them out.