12 Top Tourist Attractions in Japan

Japan is a country that’s got it all – the culture, the views, the food, and, oh, the UNESCO World Heritage sites! This dynamic country is packed with tourist spots that are sure to wow you. It’s no wonder travellers worldwide can’t get enough.

But with so much to see, where should you start? No worries. We at Crown Currency Exchange have done the heavy lifting for you and handpicked 12 jaw-dropping spots in Japan that are a must! Ready? Let’s hit it!

Fukuoka Castle Ruins, Fukouka

Fukuoka Castle Ruins, Fukouka

First on our top list is the Fukuoka Castle Ruins. This former stronghold of the Kuroda clan, nestled in Maizuru Park, was once Kyushu’s largest castle. Today, it’s a silent storyteller of the Edo period. Time your visit for late March or early April, and you’ll be rewarded with a sea of cherry blossoms.

Entry is free, so wander at your own pace (but don’t forget sunscreen!). And make sure to catch the breathtaking city view from the top. It’s your personal time machine to history, right in the heart of Fukuoka.

Things to do:

1. Strolling Through History

Roam around Fukuoka Castle’s remnants. As you navigate the surviving walls, gates, and watchtowers, you’ll trace the steps of Kuroda Nagamasa, a key figure in the Battle of Sekigahara. It’s like a breath of fresh air while learning history – no textbooks required.

2. Cherry Blossom Delight at Maizuru Park

As we mentioned, we highly suggest planning your visit between late March and early April to see the park burst into a sea of pink cherry blossoms. Whether you’re picnicking under a floral canopy or capturing the beauty for social media, it’s an unforgettable experience.

3. Reflecting on the Moat

Venture into the well-preserved moat sections around the castle’s terrain, especially close to Ohori Park’s tranquil pond. Pause here, soak in the calm and let your imagination wander back to times of samurais. This spot offers an unparalleled chance for quiet introspection or perhaps even some casual koi watching!

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), Kyoto

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), Kyoto

After relishing the beauty of Fukuoka, head to Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. This Zen temple, covered in gold leaf, was once shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s retirement spot. It’s a trip through time, with each floor reflecting different architectural styles, from the Heian Period’s Shinden to the Chinese Zen Hall.

Despite a history marked by fires, it stands tall today – its grandeur mirrored in the serene pond below. Catch it in the late afternoon as the setting sun sets the pavilion ablaze. But heads up, you’ll need to climb some stairs.

Things to do:

1. Admiring the Golden Pavilion

When at Kinkakuji, take a moment to marvel at the Golden Pavilion. The Zen temple’s top two floors shimmer with gold leaf, each level displaying a unique architectural style. If you’re lucky, you might spot the Buddha and Yoshimitsu statues through the open doors.

2. Strolling Through the Gardens

After basking in the golden allure, meander through the unchanged gardens from Yoshimitsu’s era. Don’t forget to check out the ever-full Anmintaku Pond, and maybe toss a coin for good luck at a statue.

3. Relaxing with Matcha Tea

Post-exploration, unwind at the Sekkatei Teahouse with some matcha tea and sweets. Before leaving, stop by Fudo Hall to see a statue of Buddhism’s protector, a significant piece in Japanese religious history. Now, there’s a golden chance!

Himeji Castle, Hyogo

Himeji Castle, Hyogo

Similar to Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, Himeji Castle in Hyogo is a must-see. Known as the White Heron Castle for its sleek, white facade, it’s Japan’s most preserved castle – it survived wars, earthquakes, and fires.

With over eighty buildings scattered across several courtyards, you’ll feel like you’re in a maze of history. The six-story main keep offers killer views, but watch your head on those steep stairs! And if you’re there in April, the cherry blossom-filled lawn is a treat. It’s not just a castle – it’s a slice of history, a work of art, and a beauty spot all in one.

Things to do:

1. Venture into the Castle’s History

Upon entering Himeji Castle, you’re stepping into a historical timeline. Start at the Otemon Gate and navigate through the maze-like routes across various gates and baileys. It’s okay if you get lost – it’s part of the original design to confuse invaders.

2. Climb the Main Keep

Prepare for a mini workout as you ascend the narrow staircases leading to the six-story main keep. Each floor gets smaller as you go up, but don’t be discouraged. The top offers a stunning Himeji city view, fish-shaped roof ornaments, and a quaint shrine.

3. Cherry Blossoms and Royal Residences

Visit in early April to witness the mesmerising cherry blossoms adorning the Sannomaru, the third bailey. Also, explore the Nishinomaru, a former princess residence, for a unique perspective of the main keep. Remember to bow to give your respects to the past.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima

Who won’t remember the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park? Located in the middle of Hiroshima, it’s a serene spot that once felt the heat of a nuclear attack. Now, it’s a beacon of hope and peace. Take a leisurely walk, and you’ll find the A-Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stark reminder of days gone by.

Make sure to stop by the Peace Memorial Museum, too – it’s a powerful place that’ll make you appreciate peace like never before. Amidst the city’s hustle and bustle, it’s a tranquil retreat that’ll stick with you long after you’ve left.

Things to do:

1. Appreciate the Atomic Bomb Dome

Begin at the poignant Atomic Bomb Dome, a skeletal building from 1915 located just 160 metres from the bomb’s epicentre. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the few structures that survived the bombing, serves as a stark reminder of war’s devastation. Its damaged brick walls and steel frame dome invite solemn reflection.

2. Visit the Children’s Peace Monument

Cross the Motoyasu-bashi Bridge to the Children’s Peace Monument. A statue of Sadako Sasaki, who suffered from radiation-induced leukemia, holds a metal crane symbolising hope and courage. Today, colourful origami cranes from children worldwide surround the monument, a touching tribute to young lives lost.

3. Spend Time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Lastly, make your way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The exhibits are sobering, and the firsthand accounts of the bombing are deeply moving. However, it’s crucial to understand the unbiased portrayal of events leading to and following the bombing. Take your time, absorb the narratives, and leave with a profound understanding of Hiroshima’s resilience.

Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima

Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima

If Hiroshima is on your itinerary, Miyajima Island’s Itsukushima Shrine is a sight you can’t miss. Famous for its “floating” torii gate, this shrine seems to hover over the water when the tide is high. You’ll wander boardwalks linking different buildings, each with its own appeal.

After sunset, the shrine and gate light up – it’s a dreamy setting for an evening walk. And do stick around for both high and low tides; they give you two totally different, equally breathtaking views. So what are you waiting for? ‘Shrine Island’ is ready for you!

Things to do:

1. Explore Itsukushima Shrine

Wander around its vivid wooden structures, and you’ll discover two main halls plus an extra 17 structures worth a look at. The showstopper here? That would be the Torii gate appearing to float on water – it’s reachable at low tide, too. Did we mention this shrine honours three goddesses? So go ahead and tap into your inner divine power while you’re there.

2. Check out the Five-Storey Pagoda

Next, head over to the Five-Storey Pagoda in the Daisho-in Temple complex. This 27-metre-tall wonder combines Japanese and Chinese design elements and is dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine. Despite surviving several earthquakes, it stands strong. Enjoy the views from its hilltop location and try finding the Hall of One Thousand Tatami Mats below.

3. Find Peace at Daisho-In Temple

Wrap up your trip with a visit to the serene Daisho-In Temple at Mount Misen’s base. This photogenic temple features moss-covered staircases, maple and cherry blossom trees framing sea views, and 500 statues of Buddha (in knitted hats!). Try “nokotsudo,” a unique meditation practice involving a dark room and a skull. It might be a bit eerie, but it’s all part of the experience!

Matsumoto Castle, Nagano

Matsumoto Castle, Nagano

Excited to see a bunch of cherry blossoms falling into the history-rich Matsumoto Castle in Nagano? This black-walled ‘hirajiro’, or flatland castle, is a standout among Japan’s original castles. Its wooden insides, steep stairs, and archer slots make for an authentic trip down memory lane.

When you reach the castle’s peak, a breathtaking cityscape awaits. And if your visit aligns with mid-April, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable display of cherry blossoms. But keep in mind – those stairs are no joke! Rock some comfortable footwear for this trek. The combination of historic allure and natural beauty at Matsumoto Castle is truly unmatched.

Things to do:

1. Step Back in Time at Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle, also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, takes you on a 400-year-old journey. This national treasure stands out as it’s still in its original form, unlike many other Japanese castles. It might look like a five-story structure, but there’s an extra floor hidden inside, making it a six-story castle. Unleash your inner samurai and dive into the secrets of this undefeated fortress.

2. Embrace Nature in Kamikochi

After soaking up history, head to Kamikochi, a scenic valley in the Japanese Alps, just two hours from downtown Matsumoto. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast or a nature lover, the breathtaking views of the Kappa Bridge and the Japanese Alps will captivate you. This is a sight you definitely won’t want to skip.

3. Relax in a Hot Spring Town

Cap off your day by unwinding in one of Matsumoto’s hot spring towns. Utsukushigahara Onsen, Asama Onsen, or Shirahone Onsen – pick your spot and let tranquillity wash over you. Each town has its own charm, but they all promise to soothe your mind, body, and soul. Sit back, relax, and let the hot springs do their magic while you marvel at the Japan Alps. Talk about a day well spent!

Mount Fuji, Shizuoka

Mount Fuji, Shizuoka

Now, after you relax, how about a thrilling climb? Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest peak at 3,776 metres, is waiting for you. This active volcano’s perfect cone has been a muse for artists and nature enthusiasts alike. Catch a glimpse of Tokyo or challenge yourself with a hike up its slopes. Just a heads up – it’s often shy, hiding behind clouds. Your best bet is to see it in the colder seasons, early morning or late evening.

Want more? Check out the Fuji Five Lake region or Hakone’s hot springs. And if you’re up for it, the Yoshida trail offers a sunrise that’ll leave you awestruck. Remember, climbing Mount Fuji isn’t just about reaching the top -it’s a journey into the heart of Japan.

Things to do:

1. Climb the Grand Mount Fuji

Standing atop Japan’s highest peak, you’ll realise you’ve just scaled an active volcano – quite the accomplishment! The climbing season is from early July to mid-September, with trails like the popular Yoshida offering unique hikes. Remember, though, as you ascend, the air thins and temperatures can drop drastically, so come prepared!

2. Snap the Perfect Mount Fuji Photo

Mount Fuji is a photographer’s dream, visible from miles away with no bad angles. For that iconic Fuji reflection shot, Kawaguchiko, one of the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’, is your spot. For a dramatic backdrop, ascend the 400 steps to Chureito Pagoda and frame the mountain with cherry blossoms or autumn leaves. Or, visit Oshino Hakkai for a unique perspective through eight natural ponds.

3. Dive into the Magic of ‘Fuji Five Lakes’

At Mount Fuji’s base, the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ are a must-visit. Each lake offers a unique charm and breathtaking mountain views. Kawaguchiko is the most developed, but don’t ignore Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko – they all offer equally stunning, less crowded views. Whether you prefer a tranquil retreat or a lively lakeside town, these lakes won’t disappoint. Just remember to check for clear weather for the best views.

Nara Park, Nara

Nara Park, Nara

Your Japan trip won’t be complete without a visit to Nara Park. This green haven is home to over 1,000 friendly deer, revered as divine messengers. As you wander, you’ll spot historic gems like Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha nestled in the foliage.

Want to feed the locals? Grab some deer crackers, but be warned – they know their food! Alongside peace and quiet, you’ll find cute deer-themed goodies and tasty local eats – don’t skip the ice cream! With no entry fee and loads of space, Nara Park offers a unique mix of culture, nature, and wildlife all year round.

Things to do:

1. Meet the Deer of Nara Park

Known for its 1,200+ free-roaming sacred deer, Nara Park is a sight to behold. These magnificent creatures are considered national treasures, and visitors can interact with them using special crackers available within the park boundaries. But remember, they’re wild animals – no selfies or petting allowed. After your close encounter with the deer, unwind at traditional tea houses or grab a bite from one of the many snack kiosks scattered around.

2. Experience the Magic of Todaiji Temple and Kasugataisha Shrine

Don’t leave Nara Park without visiting the famous Todaiji Temple, which houses a colossal 15-metre-high Buddha. Enter through the Nandaimon Gate and admire the two towering guardian figures. Next, head to Kasugataisha Shrine, with its stunning brass lanterns hanging from vermilion and white buildings. Visit in winter or summer for an enchanting lantern-lit spectacle. And don’t miss the blooming wisteria flowers in May.

3. Immerse Yourself in Isuien Garden and Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest

Escape the crowds in the peaceful Isuien Garden, a traditional Japanese garden complete with stepping stones and villas converted into dining spaces. Let the garden’s beauty wash over you as you enjoy your meal. For more nature, explore Mt. Kasuga Primeval Forest, a World Heritage site offering pristine city views. Hike up one of the trails to the peak of Mt. Wakakusa – just make sure you wear comfy shoes.

Ohori Park, Fukuoka

Ohori Park, Fukuoka

Need a break from Fukuoka’s busy streets? Head over to Ohori Park. Take a leisurely walk on a 2-km path that circles a peaceful pond, once part of Fukuoka Castle’s moat. Check out the stone bridges connecting three scenic islands and enjoy the Japanese Garden’s enchanting beauty (the small entrance fee is totally worth it).

If you’re into art, the nearby Fukuoka Art Museum has an impressive collection. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a jogger or a dog walker, Ohori Park is a slice of tranquillity in the city’s heart.

Things to do:

1. Get Artsy at the Fukuoka Art Museum

After nature’s beauty at Ohori Park, check out man-made wonders at the nearby Fukuoka Art Museum. From ancient Buddhist statues to modern art by Miro and Dali, it’s a visual feast. And don’t forget about the special temporary exhibits. You might find your new favourite artist.

2. Experience Japan at the Ohori Park Japanese Garden

For an authentic Japanese vibe, visit Ohori Park’s Japanese Garden. With a small fee, you can explore traditional dry gardens and tea houses. For a spiritual touch, head to Gokoku Shrine across the street. Walk under the massive torii gate and see the golden shrine. Sip some green tea and soak up the Zen atmosphere. It’s a must-do!

3. Discover Fukuoka City

Once you’ve relaxed in Ohori Park, dive into Fukuoka city life. Stroll along Canal City Hakata’s waterside, shop in Tenjin Underground Mall, or explore Yanagibashi Rengo Market’s culture. And definitely try Fukuoka’s famous ramen – it’s the best fuel for a day of exploring.

Osaka Castle (Osakajo), Osaka

Osaka Castle (Osakajo), Osaka

Eager to journey into Japan’s rich history? Your passport is from Osaka Castle. Once the crown jewel of Japanese castles, it’s seen its fair share of drama since being built in 1583. Today, after a revamp in 1997, it stands tall and proud. Step inside to discover an intriguing museum dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Wander around the grounds, have a picnic under 600 cherry trees, or snap photos by the lake. Don’t forget to cool off with ice cream from a vending machine on a hot day. A visit to Osaka Castle is more than just sightseeing – it’s an experience that will linger in you for a long time.

Things to do:

1. Discover the Charms of Shinsekai District

After you’ve explored the castle, it’s time for some natural beauty at Nishinomaru Garden. With 600 cherry trees and a quaint tea house, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook. The views of the castle tower are stunning, especially if you’re there during cherry blossom season in early April. It’s a small fee to enter, but totally worth it.

2. Unwind at Osaka Castle Park

Need a breather? Osaka Castle Park is your spot. This two-square-kilometre oasis has green spaces, sports facilities, and even a multi-purpose arena. You can kick a ball around, catch a concert at Osakajo Hall, or pay respects at the Toyotomi Hideyoshi shrine. And if you’re there during hanami (cherry blossom viewing), it’s an absolute must-see.

3. See the Osaka Castle Illuminations

Once the sun sets, Osaka Castle lights up. The castle’s stone walls, turrets, and citadels glow beautifully, creating a magical atmosphere. Take an evening stroll along the moats under the soft lights. Don’t forget to take some pictures – this is one sight you’ll want to remember! It’s the perfect way to end a day at Osaka Castle.

The Atsuta Shrine (Jingū), Nagoya

The Atsuta Shrine (Jingū), Nagoya

Feel the solemnity and mystery at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. Nestled in a tranquil park, this important Shinto shrine safeguards the legendary sword Kusanagi. Although you can’t see it (sorry, no dramatic reveals here), you can admire other historical swords at the recently opened Kusanagi-kan Museum.

Don’t leave without trying kishimen noodles at a local eatery – they’re a regional specialty that’s a journey in itself. With its serene environment and rich heritage, Atsuta Shrine is your personal adventure – minus the danger but with way better food.

Things to do:

1. Channel Your Inner Warrior at the Nobunaga-Bei Wall

The Nobunaga-Bei Wall in Atsuta Shrine isn’t just any wall. This oldest stone wall in Nagoya was where Shogun Oda Nobunaga prayed before his epic Battle of Okehazama in 1560. Despite being outnumbered, he won and donated this wall to the shrine. So why not touch this symbol of victory? You might even feel some of that warrior spirit!

2. Take a Stroll Through History at the Bunkaden Treasure Hall

If you’re a history buff or just love cool stuff, check out Bunkaden Treasure Hall. This place has got it all – from everyday items to artifacts that belonged to the Imperial Family. With about 4,000 things to see, including a collection of swords and daggers that could give Game of Thrones a run for its money! Plus, they switch up their exhibits every month, so there’s always something fresh.

3. Hug a Thousand-Year-Old Tree (Yes, Really) at Goshinboku

At Atsuta Shrine, you’ll find the Goshinboku, a sacred camphor tree over a thousand years old. Planted by Buddhist priest Kukai Kobo Daishi, it’s believed to emit power. So why not give it a gentle hug and see if you can feel the energy? Remember, be kind – it’s been around for quite some time.

Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Now, once you’re in Tokyo, why not visit a royal residence? Tokyo Imperial Palace offers this unique opportunity – sort of. This grand home, surrounded by large, well-kept gardens, provides a peaceful retreat from Tokyo’s constant hustle and bustle.

Built on the ruins of Edo Castle, its history is palpable. While the inner chambers are usually closed (except New Year or the Emperor’s Birthday), you’re free to roam the Nijubashi Bridge and serene East Gardens. Just remember to plan your visit ahead of time – it’s not every day you swing by an Emperor’s place!

Things to do:

1. Explore the East Gardens

If plants and flowers are your thing, you’ll love the East Gardens at Tokyo Imperial Palace. Once part of Edo Castle, these gardens are now home to a variety of seasonal flora. Relax on the Honmaru lawn or wander through the Ninomaru garden. Plus, there are remnants of Edo Castle to discover. Just remember, they’re closed on Mondays, Fridays, and Dec 28th – Jan 3rd.

2. Capture Memories at Kokyo Gaien National Garden

Calling all photographers! Kokyo Gaien National Garden, once part of the palace grounds, is a dream for snapping pictures. Capture the iconic Nijubashi Bridge, pose with the bronze statue of samurai Masashige Kusunoki, and don’t miss the Sakuradamon Gate. Best part? It’s free to enter, so take your time getting those perfect shots.

3. Chill Out in Kitanomaru Park

Need a break from the city buzz? Head to Kitanomaru Park. Once a medicinal garden, it’s now a tranquil oasis surrounded by a moat and two original Edo gates. Stroll along the cherry blossom-lined Chidorigafuchi path, or rent a paddle boat to explore the moat. Plus, there’s the Science Museum, Nippon Budokan, and the National Museum of Modern Art to check out.

Final Thoughts

So, there you go! We’ve just served up a dozen solid reasons why Japan should be high on your travel goals. Just remember, each yen spent is not an expense but rather an investment in unforgettable experiences.

Before you leave, swing by any Crown Currency Exchange branch Australia-wide for top-notch rates – no hassle, just value. We’ve got competitive AUD to JPY rates and a variety of currencies to choose from. Our friendly team will help with any currency queries so you can focus on the fun stuff.

So go on, book that flight and start planning your epic Japan trip. And don’t forget to pop into Crown Currency Exchange before you leave – we’ll make sure your wallet is ready for all the amazing experiences waiting for you in Japan.

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