Meghna Misra
Last Updated 24 Jan 2024
Wanderlust Alert: 24 Jaw-Dropping Places You Must Add to Your Japan Travel Itinerary

こんにちは (Konnichiwa) Japan! Known for its rich culture and traditions, this beautiful country is also home to some of the world's most stunning landscapes. From the peaceful lavender fields of Furano to the clear beaches of Okinawa, Japan is a paradise of natural beauty, modern art, and historical gems waiting to be discovered. Join us as StampThePassport guides you through the 24 best places to visit in Japan that everyone should consider for their travel bucket list.

1. Kiyotsu Gorge and the Tunnel of Light, Niigata Prefecture

Nestled in Niigata Prefecture, Kiyotsu Gorge stands as a testament to nature's grandeur. This massive natural marvel features volcanic columns, known as columnar jointing, overseeing a dramatic river view. What makes this destination truly unique is the "Tunnel of Light," a 750m-long tunnel constructed by the MAD Architects team after the walking trails were closed in 1988. This tunnel provides a safe and mesmerizing passage for visitors to soak in the panoramic beauty of the gorge.

How to Reach:

By Train: Take the Joetsu Shinkansen to Nagaoka Station. From there, transfer to the JR Iiyama Line and reach Tokamachi Station. Finally, a bus from Tokamachi Station will take you to Kiyotsukyo.

By Car: If driving, it's approximately a 2.5-hour journey from Niigata City. The picturesque route offers scenic views, making the journey as delightful as the destination.

Whether by train or car, the journey to Kiyotsu Gorge promises glimpses of Niigata's beauty before you immerse yourself in the captivating Tunnel of Light.

2. Kamikochi, Nagano

Nestled in the heart of the Northern Japanese Alps in Nagano, Kamikochi is a lush green plateau that unfolds like a painting of natural splendor. Renowned for its spectacular mountain scenery, Kamikochi offers a serene retreat with minimal hiking effort required. Kappabashi, also known as Kappa Bridge, serves as a central point for visitors to take in the breathtaking views. The surrounding fortress of mountains, especially during autumn, transforms into a canvas of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds.

How to Reach:

By Train: Take the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo to Matsumoto Station. From Matsumoto, board the Alpico Kotsu Bus bound for Kamikochi, providing a scenic journey through the Japanese Alps.

By Bus: Direct buses from major cities like Nagoya and Takayama operate during the peak season, providing convenient access to Kamikochi.

By Car: If driving, it's recommended to park at Sawando Parking Lot and take a bus to Kamikochi, as private vehicles are restricted in the area.

Kamikochi, with its easy accessibility and mesmerizing landscapes, invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of Nagano's alpine realm.

3. Oirase Gorge, Aomori

Nestled in the mountains of Aomori, Oirase Gorge is a picturesque destination celebrated for its breathtaking autumn scenery. The 9 km-long trail from Ishigeo to Nenokuchi, tracing the Oirase Stream, offers a sensory feast of vibrant red and orange foliage, moss-covered boulders, and cascading waterfalls. The gorge is not just a hike; it's a journey through the quintessential beauty of Japanese autumn.

How to Reach:

By Train: The nearest station is Hachinohe Station. From Hachinohe, take a train to JR Towada-Minami Station. Then, hop on a bus to reach the starting point of the Oirase Gorge trail.

By Bus: Direct buses operate from Aomori Station and Hachinohe Station to the Yakeyama Bus Terminal, near the entrance of Oirase Gorge.

By Car: Driving is convenient, and rental cars are available. The scenic road alongside the Oirase Stream leads directly to the gorge, providing flexibility to explore at your own pace.

Oirase Gorge beckons nature enthusiasts and hikers to immerse themselves in the vivid autumn colours and the soothing sounds of nature, creating an unforgettable experience in the mountains of Aomori.

4. Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto:

In the heart of Kyoto, Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, stands as a testament to timeless beauty. Its a must-visit place to visit Kyoto.  A Zen Buddhist masterpiece, the temple is adorned with gold leaf, creating a dazzling reflection in the surrounding pond. The meticulously manicured gardens and the tranquil ambiance make Kinkakuji a cultural jewel, attracting visitors seeking spiritual serenity.

How to Reach:

By Bus: From Kyoto Station, take bus number 101 or 205 to Kinkakuji-michi bus stop. A short walk from the bus stop leads to the temple entrance.

By Train: Use the Keifuku Randen Tram and disembark at Kitano-Hakubaicho Station. From there, take a bus to Kinkakuji or enjoy a pleasant walk.

By Car: Limited parking is available nearby, but public transportation is recommended due to space constraints.

5. Mt. Fuji, Yamanashi:

Mt. Fuji, Japan's crown jewel, stands majestically in Yamanashi, captivating all who lay eyes on its iconic silhouette. A symbol of beauty and resilience, Mt. Fuji offers breathtaking views from locations like Arakurayama Sengen Park and Lake Kawaguchi. Whether adorned with cherry blossoms in spring or covered in snow in winter, Mt. Fuji is a year-round spectacle.

How to Reach:

By Train: The JR Chuo Line from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station provides a scenic train journey. From there, buses or taxis offer transportation to various viewpoints.

By Bus: Direct buses operate from major cities, including Tokyo, to the Fuji Five Lakes region. Buses from Kawaguchiko Station can take you to popular viewing spots.

By Car: Accessible by car, the Chureito Pagoda at Arakurayama Sengen Park and Lake Kawaguchi are easily reached, providing unparalleled vistas of Mt. Fuji.

6. Shirakawa-go, Gifu Prefecture:

Deep in Gifu Prefecture lies Shirakawa-go, a perfectly preserved Japanese village and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renowned for its traditional gassho-zukuri style farmhouses with thatched, triangular roofs resembling praying hands, Shirakawa-go transports visitors to a bygone era. The village, picturesque year-round, turns into a winter wonderland when covered in snow.

How to Reach:

By Bus: Direct buses operate from cities like Kanazawa and Takayama to Shirakawa-go. The bus terminal is conveniently located near the village entrance.

By Car: Accessible by car, Shirakawa-go is approximately a 1.5-hour drive from Takayama and 1.5 to 2 hours from Kanazawa.

7. Motonosumi Shrine, Yamaguchi:

Nestled in Yamaguchi, Motonosumi Shrine is a picturesque Shinto sanctuary offering a unique spiritual experience. Built in 1955, the shrine features 123 vermilion torii gates leading down dramatic cliffs, with the expansive ocean providing a stunning backdrop. Visitors engage in a distinctive ritual of shooting donations into a box at the top of the final torii gate for a chance at fulfilling their wishes.

How to Reach:

By Train: Take a train to Nagato-Furuichi Station. From there, a short taxi ride or a scenic walk leads to Motonosumi Shrine.

By Car: Accessible by car, the shrine is approximately a 40-minute drive from Nagato-Furuichi Station.

8. Narai, Nagano:

Along the historic Nakasendo route, Narai in the Kiso Valley stands frozen in time. This post town, with well-preserved Edo-period architecture, invites visitors to stroll along a 1km block of wooden buildings. Former residences now serve as restaurants and minshuku (Japanese bed and breakfast), providing a glimpse into the town's prosperous past. In autumn, vibrant foliage transforms Narai into a photogenic wonderland.

How to Reach:

By Train: Accessible via the JR Chuo Line, Narai is a short walk from Narai Station.

By Car: If driving, Narai is easily reached and offers scenic routes through the Kiso Valley.

9. Kumano Kodo, Wakayama Prefecture:

Wakayama's Kumano Kodo is a UNESCO-designated network of pilgrimage trails leading through dense forests and ancient shrines. The 70km route includes notable destinations like Kumano Nachi Taisha, boasting a three-storey vermillion pagoda, and Nachi no Taki, Japan's tallest waterfall at 133m. The pilgrimage offers a spiritual journey amidst lush nature.

How to Reach:

By Train: The closest station is Kii-Tanabe Station. Buses are available to take you to the trailheads.

By Car: Accessible by car, parking is available at various trailheads. Consider guided tours for a comprehensive experience.

10. Takachiho Gorge, Miyazaki:

Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki enchants visitors with its natural wonders. Boasting a calm Gokase River, the gorge offers small rowing boat rentals for a serene cruise amid lush maple trees and the dramatic Minai-no-taki waterfall. Hikers can explore the Takachiho Promenade for a landscape view, especially captivating during summer illuminations and autumn foliage.

How to Reach:

By Train: The nearest station is Nobeoka Station. From there, a bus journey or rental car can take you to Takachiho.

By Car: Driving is convenient, providing flexibility to explore nearby attractions.

11. Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture:

Himeji Castle, known as the White Heron, graces Hyogo Prefecture with its immaculate white facade. Dating back to the 17th century, the castle survived wars and disasters, undergoing restoration in 2015. Visitors can explore the refurbished interior and marvel at the architectural grandeur that earned Himeji its title as Japan's most famous castle.

How to Reach:

By Train: Himeji Station is a major transport hub, easily accessible by Shinkansen or local trains.

By Car: Parking facilities are available for those driving, offering a convenient way to reach the castle.

12. The Beaches of Ishigaki, Okinawa:

Ishigaki, part of the Okinawa archipelago, boasts pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. Yonehara Beach, with its white sand and vibrant marine life visible without snorkeling gear, and Kabira Bay, known for its glass-bottom boat tours, are highlights. The islands offer a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

How to Reach:

By Plane: Ishigaki Airport serves as a gateway, with direct flights from major Japanese cities.

By Ferry: Ferries operate from nearby islands and cities, providing an alternative to air travel.

13. A Forest Where Gods Live at Mifuneyama Rakuen Park, Saga:

Mifuneyama Rakuen Park in Saga prefecture seamlessly blends nature and digital art. Originally created in 1845, the park now hosts immersive digital art installations by teamLab, transforming it into an enchanted forest after dark. Visitors witness holographic carp swimming, glowing trees, and illuminated landscapes, creating a magical experience unlike any other.

How to Reach:

By Train: The closest station is Takeo-Onsen Station. From there, a short taxi ride or a scenic walk leads to the park.

By Car: Accessible by car, parking is available at the park.

14. Hill of the Buddha at Makomanai Takino Cemetery, Hokkaido:

The Hill of the Buddha at Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Hokkaido is a unique blend of art and spirituality. Designed by architect Tadao Ando, the 13.5m-tall Buddha statue emerges from an artificial hill, creating a serene and contemplative atmosphere. Surrounded by lavender fields, this modern masterpiece offers a tranquil setting for reflection.

How to Reach:

By Train: Take the JR Hakodate Main Line to Makomanai Station. From there, it's a short taxi ride or walk to the cemetery.

By Car: Accessible by car, with parking available at Makomanai Takino Cemetery.

15. Yakushima, Kagoshima:

Yakushima, off the coast of Kagoshima, is a nature lover's paradise. This Ghibli film-inspired island boasts ancient cedar trees, including the Jomonsugi cedar estimated to be between 2,000 and 7,200 years old. Multi-day treks through moss-covered trails offer an immersive experience in this UNESCO World Heritage site, revealing the island's pristine beauty.

How to Reach:

By Plane: Fly to Yakushima Airport from major Japanese airports.

By Ferry: Ferries operate from Kagoshima to Miyanoura Port on Yakushima, providing an alternative mode of transportation.

16. Naoshima, Kagawa:

Nestled in the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima is an art lover's haven. Designed by Tadao Ando, museums like the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum showcase contemporary art against the island's natural backdrop. The iconic 'Pumpkin' by Yayoi Kusama and the Art House Project contribute to Naoshima's unique charm.

How to Reach:

By Train and Ferry: Take a train to Uno Station and then a ferry to Naoshima.

By Boat: Direct boats operate from Takamatsu to Miyanoura Port on Naoshima.

17. Zao Snow Monsters, Yamagata:

Zao Ski Resort in Yamagata transforms into a winter wonderland with the famous Zao Snow Monsters. These snow-covered trees, shaped by wind and snow, resemble gigantic, otherworldly creatures. The annual Snow Monster Festival in January celebrates these natural sculptures with illuminations and fireworks.

How to Reach:

By Train: The closest station is Yamagata Station. From there, buses or taxis are available to Zao Ski Resort.

By Car: Accessible by car, Zao Ski Resort offers parking facilities.

18. Ogasawara Islands, Tokyo:

The Ogasawara Islands, a Tokyo tourist attraction, lie south of Tokyo. Known for pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and unique wildlife, these islands provide a serene escape from the mainland. Chichijima, one of the main islands, is a popular spot for dolphin and whale watching, offering a rare opportunity to connect with nature. Ogasawara it definitely one of the best places to visit in Tokyo.

How to Reach:

By Ferry: A 24-hour ferry ride from Tokyo to Chichijima is the primary mode of transportation.

By Plane: Limited flights operate from Tokyo to Chichijima Airport.

19. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto:

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto is a serene sanctuary renowned for its enchanting bamboo groves. Open 24 hours, the grove provides a tranquil escape as bamboo stalks sway gently in the wind. Early mornings are ideal for a visit to avoid crowds. Within the grove, explore the cultural richness of Tenryuji Temple and Nonomiya Shrine.

How to Reach:

By Train: Accessible via the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station or the Hankyu Arashiyama Line to Arashiyama Station.

By Bus: Buses from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama offer convenient transportation.

20. Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto:

Kurokawa Onsen in Kumamoto offers a traditional onsen experience amidst natural beauty. Unlike bustling onsen towns, Kurokawa focuses on the pure enjoyment of baths surrounded by scenic landscapes. The Rotemburo Meguri pass grants access to multiple outdoor baths, allowing visitors to relax in therapeutic waters.

How to Reach:

By Bus: Shuttle buses operate from Kumamoto and Fukuoka to Kurokawa Onsen.

By Car: Accessible by car, Kurokawa Onsen provides parking facilities.

21. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, Hiroshima:

Situated off the coast of Hiroshima, Miyajima Island is home to the iconic Itsukushima Shrine and its torii gate standing in the ocean. At high tide, the shrine appears to float magically on the water. Spend a day exploring the island, interacting with friendly deer, and witnessing the torii gate in both high and low tides.

How to Reach:

By Train and Ferry: Take a train to Miyajimaguchi Station and then a ferry to Miyajima.

By Boat: Ferries directly connect Hiroshima to Miyajima, offering scenic views of the torii gate.

22. Yamadera Temple, Yamagata Prefecture:

Yamadera Temple, perched on a mountainside, provides a spiritual retreat with breathtaking views. A 30-minute uphill hike with 1,000 steps leads to this tranquil complex. Especially picturesque in summer and autumn, visitors can witness fog rolling through the hills, creating one of the best hiking views in Tohoku.

How to Reach:

By Train: Accessible by train, with Yamadera Station serving as the nearest station to the temple.

By Car: Those travelling by car can reach Yamadera Temple, with parking available.

23. Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki:

For flower enthusiasts, Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki is a floral paradise with approximately 5.3 million nemophila in spring and vibrant red kochia in autumn. Beyond flowers, the park features an amusement park, a children's adventure zone, and cycling paths, making it a diverse destination for nature lovers.

By Train: The nearest train station to Hitachi Seaside Park is Katsuta Station.

From Tokyo, you can take the JR Joban Line (Local) from Ueno Station to Katsuta Station. The train journey takes approximately 2 hours.

From Katsuta Station, you can then take a bus to Hitachi Seaside Park. The park is about a 20-minute bus ride from the station.

By Car: If you prefer to drive, you can access Hitachi Seaside Park by car.

From Tokyo, take the Joban Expressway and exit at the Hitachinaka IC (Interchange).

Follow the signs to Hitachi Seaside Park, and the journey takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic.

24. Korakuen, Okayama:

Korakuen in Okayama stands as one of Japan's Three Great Gardens, showcasing Edo-period beauty with large lawns, ponds, and plum and cherry trees. The garden's consistent restoration based on historical maps ensures a picturesque landscape throughout the year, with Okayama Castle providing a stunning backdrop.

How to Reach:

By Train: The nearest train station to Korakuen is Okayama Station, which is well-connected by Shinkansen (bullet train) and other JR train lines.

From Okayama Station, it's about a 15-20 minute walk to Korakuen. Follow signs within the station for directions.

By Bus: Buses also operate from Okayama Station to Korakuen. The journey takes around 10-15 minutes, and there are several bus stops near the garden.


In conclusion, the journey through Japan's enchanting landscapes presented by StampThePassport has unveiled a tapestry of natural wonders, cultural treasures, and serene retreats. From the iconic Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji in Kyoto to the snow-covered monsters of Zao, each destination beckons with its unique charm and allure. The diverse array of sights, from historic temples to art-infused islands, showcases the rich tapestry of Japan's heritage and contemporary creativity.

Whether wandering through the picturesque Kiyotsu Gorge or immersing in the tranquility of Kurokawa Onsen, the blog serves as a captivating guide for those seeking to explore the beauty and depth of Japan's landscapes. Each locale carries its own narrative, inviting visitors to connect with the soul-stirring beauty of the country.