Most Beautiful Towns in Japan
Most Beautiful Towns and Cities to Visit in Japan
When it comes to a trip to Japan, most of tourists choose to visit Tokyo and Kyoto, which are two most famous tourist destinations. Yes, these two cities are undeniably beautiful and they do offer a great number of tourist attractions.
However, Japan has numbers of attractive cities and towns across the country which have their very own cultures, histories, landscape and attractions. From seasonal attractions and scenery such as cherry blossoms and autumn foliage to historic monuments and streetscape, depending on your preferences and interests, there are plenty destinations in Japan that tourists can choose!
Either If you have already visited Tokyo and Kyoto or want to explore hidden beauties of Japan, I think this article might help you to decide your next tourist destinations in Japan.
Here, I’m going to introduce some of the most beautiful cities and towns in Japan. So let’s check them out!
1. Kawagoe, Saitama
Kawagoe (川越) is a city in Saitama Prefecture, which served as a castle town during Edo Period. It’s often called Koedo which means “the Little Edo” in Japanese.
The former castle town boasts the history-rich townscape with old clay warehouses and merchant homes, called Kurazukuri. The warehouse district called Kurazukuri no Machinami offers a nostalgic townscape as if you have travelled back in Edo period. There is a famous landmark of Kawagoe, the Bell Tower (Toki no Kane) which chimes four times a day. The Candy Alley (Kashiya Yokocho), a small stone-paved shopping street adjacent to the warehouse district is lined by numbers of sweets shops selling traditional Japanese sweets and snacks.
Kawagoe is one of the most popular side trip destinations in Kanto region as it can be accessed in about 30 mins by train from the central area of Tokyo.
2. Kamakura, Kanagawa
A seaside city of Kanagawa Prefecture, Kamakura (鎌倉) used to be a central city for political in Japan under Yoritomo Minamoto who became the first shogun of Kamakura shogunate in 1192. Historic sites in Kamakura have been well retained till today and the city often called “the Kyoto of the East”. With over 150 temples and shrines, Kamakura is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan.
Some of notable landmarks of Kamakura are Hasedera, a hilltop temple with one of the largest wooden Kannon statues in Japan, the Great Buddha statue of Kotoku-in Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, an important shinto shrine serving as one of the Important Cultural Properties of Japan. On the way to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine from Kamakura Station, there is a street called Komachi-dori which is filled with a larger number of shops, restaurants and cafes where visitors can enjoy strolling around, shopping souvenirs and munching street snacks.
More info ▶ Kamakura Best Things to Do
3. Kanazawa, Ishikawa
Kanazawa (金沢) is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture. The city prospered during Edo period, as the headquarter of Maeda Clan who is the second greatest daimyo (powerful feudal ruler) after Tokugawa Shogun. The city is rich in history and culture, and is home to a large number of well-preserved historical sites that are related to samurai, merchants, geisha and lords from Edo period.
The city is packed with historical attractions including traditional districts of Higashi Chaya District and Nagamachi samurai district, the Japanese landscape garden Kenrokuen, Kanazawa Castle and Myouryuji a.k.a. the Ninja Temple. There is also modern museums such as 21st Century Museum and D.T. Suzuki Museum. If you wish to explore the food culture of Kanazawa, head to Omicho Market, Kanazawa’s biggest indoor food market selling a wide variety of products, especially famous for fresh seafood.
Related article ▶ Ishikawa: Best Things to Do
4. Kurashiki, Okayama
Kurashiki (倉敷) is a charming city in southern Okayama Prefecture. The city used to serve as an important trade center back in Edo period, and now it attracts travellers by the well-preserved historic district called “The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter”. The district is often described as “Japan’s Little Venice” with the scenic canal lined by traditional storehouses and weeping willow trees. Visitors can enjoy cruising down the canal by a little boat watching the picturesque scenery. Japan’s first museum of Western art, Ohara Museum of Art is also a top attraction in Kurashiki City.
If you are into fashion, you should definitely extend your trip to Kojima area, which is approx 16km away from The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter area. Kojima is known as the birthplace of Japanese jeans and there are many local jeans manufacturers line along the Kojima Jean Street for about 400m. There is also Jeans Museum where you can learn the history of Japanese jeans.
5. Kobe, Hyogo
The capital city of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe (神戸) is arguably one of the most attractive cities in Japan as it’s packed with countless attractions and entertainments for visitors. First of all, the city is best known for its signature luxurious marbled beef Kobe Beef and there are numbers of great restaurants to taste the finest quality wagyu bee cuisine in the city. The scenic setting of mountains and the harbour is also a top attraction of the city and and the night view of Kobe is considered as one of three most spectacular night views in Japan along with Hakodate and Nagasaki.
Kobe is one of the first ports in Japan to open for international trades and has a lot of influences by oversea visitors. There are several spots to explore the unique history and culture of Kobe such as Kitano district, a residential area of foreign merchants lined by Western style buildings and a Chinatown called Nankinmachi.
More info ▶ Kobe: Best Things to Do
6. Otaru, Hokkaido
Otaru (小樽) is a small harbor city in northwest of Sapporo, Hokkaido. The city has been serving as the main port of Ishikari Bay and its culture and history have a lot of influence from foreign countries. Otaru’s charming townscape with the canal and the preserved warehouses from 19th century attract a large number of tourists through the year. Visitors can enjoy strolling down the cobblestone path along the canal during the day and night.
A famous winter festival, Otaru Snow Light Path is held for a week in mid February every year, featuring lights and snow lanterns around the canal area which creates a romantic winter scenery at night.
7. Nagasaki, Nagasaki
The capital city of Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City (長崎市) is one of the most attractive places in Western Japan. As the city has a history of serving as international trading port, it has a unique and fascinating culture influenced by several countries.
To know the city’s background, there are several must-visit historical landmarks including Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park, Glover Garden, Spectacles Bridge and Chinatown. You can also enjoy the dramatic landscape as more than 40% of the city is on hillside and the city is surrounded by hills with steep and narrow roads. As the city has a lot of international influences, Nagasaki’s food culture is also very unique and there are various local specialties such as champon noodles and castella sponge cake.More info ▶ Nagasaki: Best Things to Do
8. Magome, Gifu
Magome (馬籠宿) is a small, picturesque town located in the southeast of Gifu Prefecture, which offers a nostalgic townscape with old wooden houses, water mills, cobblestone streets and peaceful atmosphere. The traditional Japanese townscape makes you feel as if you have travelled back in time and relaxes your mind with the sound of water from the waterways. There are many shops, restaurants and cafes in Magome that are restored from traditional buildings.
Magome is connected to another attractive town Tsumago by a scenic Nakasendo, which is an old trail built during Edo period to connect the former capital Kyoto and the new capital Edo (an old name for Tokyo). The trails is a mountain road with trees, rivers and waterfalls and has several rest spots in the middle. Magome and the Nakasendo trail are highly recommended travel destination if you wish to enjoy both hiking and charming old town!
More info ▶ Nakasendo Trail: from Magome to Tsumago
9. Inuyama, Aichi
If you wish to explore more off the beaten path destinations, Inuyama (犬山) could be great choice. It’s located in north of Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture and best known for Inuyama Castle, one of the oldest wooden castles having survived as its original state in Japan.
Inuyama City has developed as a castle town during the Edo Period, and the Old Town of Inuyama comprises of preserved old buildings that now serve as shops, restaurants and cafes. Inuyama attracts eager photographers and influencers nowadays as there are many photo spots in town including traditional streetscape, historical sites, photo-worthy street food. Dressing up in colourful kimono is highly popular activity among tourists in Inuyama.
10. Onomichi, Hiroshima
Another hidden gem in Japan, Onomichi (尾道) is a small city in Hiroshima situated along the Seto Inland Sea. The city is best known as the starting/ending point of the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route which leads to Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Region.
Onomichi has numbers of small and narrow lanes, stairs and slopes offering charming streetscapes and amazing views overlooking the city along the sea. Senkoji Park is one of the best view spots in the city which consists of the magnificent temple complex, Senkoji Temple.
In the city center, there is a retro shopping arcade coexisting long-established restaurants and shops, and stylish and arty cafes and boutiques which are renovated from old buildings. The simple and rustic town of Onomichi is full of unique and charming photo spots that you won’t find anywhere else in Japan!
Related article: Best Things to Do in Hiroshima
Thank you for reading! If you want to discover more attractive towns and spots in Japan, I’d recommend you to check out these articles, too!