10 of the Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Japan  

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Japan is that friend that truly appreciates you for who you are – not despite of your quirks but because of your quirks. It is a country where beauty reigns in every corner – from the personalities of the local people to the architecture and the flora and fauna. Within minutes of stepping off the plane at Tokyo’s Narita airport – greeted by warm smiles and quirky confectionary – I was ready to delve head first into this beautiful country and it’s fascinating culture. Within minutes of stepping back on the plane at Osaka’s Kansai airport two weeks later – wearing a bittersweet smile and a suitcase full of matcha items  – I was ready to return. What follows is 10 of the most beautiful places that I visited in Japan that redefined the meaning of beauty in the dictionary of my mind and continue to fill my most Wes Anderson-esque day dreams.

 

 

1. Arashiyama’s Path of Bamboo

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Despite boasting a mere length of 300 meters, the Path of Bamboo in Kyoto’s Arashiyama region appears as if the portal to a whole other world; a world straight out of the pages of a fairytale by the Brothers’ Grimm. Although during the day, the path can appear more crowded than a subway train in Tokyo during peak hour, if you arrive early (i.e. before 8am) or take advantage of a rainy day, you may just be lucky enough to get the place to yourself. For that however brief moment of quiet, the wisdom and zen of the towering green stalks of bamboo will permanently seep into your soul; as you listen to the bamboo sway in the wind, creaking softly as they collide and bend, and breathe in the cleansing scent of the damp forest.

 

2. Chidorigafuchi Moat

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At Chidorigafuchi, the beauty of Japan is brought alive by the image of couples and families rowing away their day together; smiling and laughing. During spring time, the beauty of this shared love is highlighted by the addition of weeping cherry blossom trees which completely line the banks of the moat. However, this site is more than just a pretty face, as it also holds significant historical importance as the moat for the Edo Castle during the age of the Tokugawa shoguns as well as the Imperial Palace that stands upon the site today.

 

3. Chureito Pagoda

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 I’m 99.9% certain that there is a rip in space/time at this exact spot, that causes time to freeze. I don’t quite know how long I stood behind the Chureito Pagoda gazing with love heart shaped eyes out to Mt Fuji and the sea of cherry blossoms surrounding it; but it could never be long enough. While the view is breathtaking enough, the site also holds historical and cultural importance as the pagoda is actually part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, built way back in the 8th century.

 

 

4. Nara Deer Park

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If you have ever wondered what life would be like if deer took over the Earth, then a visit to Nara Deer Park will put your thoughts to rest. Considered according to Japanese legend as messengers of the God’s, the deer of Nara have been encouraged to congregate within the area over the past several hundred years and today prance around town as the most iconic symbol of the city and a recognized natural treasure. Although the deers are wild, they have been semi-tamed by tourism, with some even learning to bow to ask visitors for food. That said, they can most definitely become aggressive if they think you will feed them – or they smell food in your bag as my friend and her soon-to-be-eaten-by-a-deer lunch found out. Just how many deer are there? The latest count puts it over 1200 deer!

 

5. Osaka Castle

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Complete with an extensive garden that changes colour with the season, a moat with a wooden bridge just waiting for Prince Charming to trod over on his horse and a pastel color-palette straight off a 16th-century ball gown, Osaka Castle must be where Disney princesses go to spend their ‘Happily ever after’. Between the stunning aesthetics and rich history of this site, it’s little wonder why the castle is constantly ranked as one of the most visited attractions in all of Japan.

 

6. Kinkakuji Temple

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A traditional Buddhist temple… With a gold lead façade… Set upon a reflecting zen pond – need I say more?

 

7. Miyajima Shrine

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Although the city of Hiroshima is most internationally famous as the site of the US atomic bomb attack back in 1945, there is so much beauty to be witnessed here. Through the juxtaposition of the devastation of the atomic bomb attack and the beauty and tranquility in the Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima will show you the beauty of peace. Through interactions with the kind-hearted second-generation atomic bomb survivors teaching visitors to make origami paper cranes, Hiroshima will show you the beauty of the human spirit. Through the sunsets at Miyajima Shrine, Hiroshima will show you the beauty of Japan’s nature. The city is a perfect template for demonstrating how with openness, hope and ingenuity, even one of history’s greatest crimes can be made into something truly beautiful.

 

8. Fushami Inari Shrine

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Comprised of a seemingly endless series of 12,000 tori gates leading up a forested mountain, the Fushami Inari Shrine is undeniably one of the 10 most beautiful places to visit in Japan for both its natural and manmade elements. With the gates dating all the way back to 711 A.D., experiencing each and every one of these well-preserved gates is like touching a piece of human history. It is, quite simply, one of the most impressive sights that I experienced in all of Japan.

 

9. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

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Forget Tokyo Disneyland, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is Disneyland for snow monkeys and I assure you that choosing to spend a day in Jigokudani instead will leave you 100% more satisfied and love-heart eyed. Word of advice though, do not touch, startle or stare into the eyes of the monkeys (no matter how cute they are) as this is not a zoo and these animals are WILD and will behave as such.

 

10. Hiroshima Castle

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Constructed in 1590, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb, much like everything else in Hiroshima. In the years since however, the castle has been restored and today stands tall and proud as a physical embodiment of resilience (as well as our wildest tree house fantasies).

 

Do you have a beautiful place to add to the list of place to visit in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and at thisisyugen.com.

20 Comments

  • Reply
    Jen
    June 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I definitely agree ! Japan is soo beautiful ! Arashiyama Bamboo forest was definitely my most favourite ???? Can’t wait to see more of your pictures as you go through the individual locations !

  • Reply
    Sophie
    June 4, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Such an awesome article and the photos are just beautiful! Elle is such an amazing writer! :)

    http://www.travelmatters.co/

  • Reply
    Shelby
    June 5, 2016 at 10:32 am

    I want to go to snow monkey park so bad!!
    The Fernweh Wolf / Travel & Lifestyle Blog
    xx

  • Reply
    Rachel
    June 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    This was lovely Elle :) I’m having such Japan nostalgia! Let’s go back one day!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    June 8, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Your photos are so gorgeous! I can’t wait to visit Japan.

  • Reply
    Tricia
    June 9, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Oh beautiful! I’ve seen so many recent posts on people visiting the Fushami Inari Shrine. Definitely want to visit Japan soon.

  • Reply
    weird & wonderful (@weirdwanderlust)
    June 11, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Japan is such a beautiful place! It’s already on my bucketlist, but this article makes me want to visit even sooner.

    weirdwonderfulwanderlust.blogspot.com

    • Reply
      Elle Kirsten
      June 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      That’s such a sweet comment guys! I definitely recommend everyone pushing Japan right to the very top of their bucket list. :)

      – Elle

  • Reply
    Monica Lent @ Not A Nomad Blog
    June 13, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I’ve always wondered where exactly that view of Mt. Fuji is! I saw it from a valley of “pink moss” flowers — also beautiful, but not quite as iconic :)

    http://notanomadblog.com

    • Reply
      thisisyugen
      July 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      The pink moss flower festival looked absolutely, positively amazing! Unfortunately we missed it by 2 tiny weeny days.. As for the Chureito Pagoda it’s actually ridiculously easy to reach – I’ve posted a detailed guide to getting there in my previous post over on my blog if you’re interested in finding out more – http://www.thisisyugen.com/2016/05/the-5-best-places-to-view-mt-fuji-in-japan/

      Thanks for your comment
      x Elle

  • Reply
    Lucy Bladen
    June 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    This looks so beautiful, I am going to Japan next year so I will definitely have to take note of this post!

  • Reply
    Samantha | There She Goes Again
    June 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Love Japan! I was only able to visit Kyoto before, and I hope to be back to see the whole country. Haha the Deer Park reminds me of my friend who went. She said there are a bunch of kids around her when she was there, and all she wanted to do was yell at them to be quiet so she could enjoy the deer park serenity. HA.

    • Reply
      thisisyugen
      July 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      As beautiful as Kyoto is be sure to take the bullet train into Tokyo next time. There’s something to fulfill the dreams of every person there. :)

      x Elle

  • Reply
    whysherilyn
    July 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    The. Deers. Omg.

  • Reply
    Robert
    July 28, 2016 at 2:17 am

    I always love visiting Japan. Beautiful photographs!!!!

    • Reply
      thisisyugen
      August 4, 2016 at 12:44 am

      Thanks Robert :)

  • Reply
    Rachel
    July 28, 2016 at 7:23 am

    What time of year were you in Japan touring these places? My husband and I are trying to determine the best time to go, preferably not during a peak tourist season.

    • Reply
      thisisyugen
      August 4, 2016 at 12:41 am

      Hi there Rachel!
      I visited April 8-18th last year (i.e. peak tourist season unfortunately). Having said that I found that most places I visited were not too crowded and if there were other tourists there it was mostly just lovely Japanese tourists. I would easily go back the same dates again, otherwise Autumn looks pretty spectacular yet low-key :)
      Thanks for your comment, Elle

  • Reply
    Kayleigh
    August 26, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Did you get a JR pass to travel up to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park? I really want to see the snow monkeys but I’ll be in Tokyo and Kyoto so not sure if it’s easy / worth it to get up there and back down when I only have 10 days in Japan.

    • Reply
      thisisyugen
      September 5, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Hey Kayleigh, I did indeed get a JR pass to cover most of the trip (and I VERY much recommend you do the same as it will cost you around 200AUD otherwise). I myself actually visited on a half day trip from Tokyo. It’s super easy and you can get back by 3pm no problem. I have put together a post on the ins and outs of getting to the monkey park from Tokyo over on my personal blog – http://www.thisisyugen.com/2016/04/how-to-visit-jigokudani-snow-monkey/ – feel free to check it out.

      Let me know if you have any further questions :)

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