Japan is a country that has always fascinated travelers from around the world, with its rich history, fascinating culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking natural landscapes. While Tokyo is the most popular destination for tourists visiting Japan, there are many other cities in the country that are worth exploring. In this article, we will take you on a journey to discover the 10 best cities to visit in Japan outside of Tokyo, where you can experience the diverse attractions and unique culture of the country.
When it comes to exploring Japan, the possibilities are endless. Each city has its own unique attractions that are waiting to be discovered. Whether you are interested in history, culture, food, nature, or simply want to immerse yourself in the local way of life, there is something for everyone in Japan’s different regions.
From the ancient capital of Kyoto to the cosmopolitan city of Osaka, each of the 10 cities we’ve chosen has its own distinct charm. In Kyoto, you can explore the historic temples and shrines, stroll through the traditional neighborhoods, and immerse yourself in the country’s ancient culture. In Osaka, you can sample some of the best street food in Japan, visit the famous Osaka Castle, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
If you’re interested in exploring Japan’s natural beauty, you’ll love the city of Sapporo in Hokkaido, known for its stunning winter landscapes and delicious seafood. Meanwhile, in Hiroshima, you can learn about the city’s tragic history and visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Japan or a seasoned traveler, exploring the country’s regions and cities beyond Tokyo is an unforgettable experience. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Japan is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime as we take you through the 10 best cities to visit in Japan outside of Tokyo. Let’s travel and explore together!
Kyoto is one of the most popular cities to visit in Japan, known for its rich cultural heritage, ancient temples, and traditional neighborhoods. The city was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and as a result, it has a wealth of historic landmarks and attractions. Travelers to Kyoto can immerse themselves in Japanese culture by visiting famous temples like Kinkaku-ji, the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine, and the Kiyomizu-dera temple. Other popular activities include strolling through the narrow streets of the Gion district, taking a traditional tea ceremony, and exploring the traditional machiya (wooden townhouses) in neighborhoods like Nishijin and Gion. Kyoto also offers a chance to experience seasonal festivals, such as the Gion Matsuri in July, or the stunning fall foliage in November. No matter when you visit, Kyoto is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Japan.
Osaka is a vibrant city in western Japan that offers travelers a unique blend of traditional culture and modern entertainment. Known as the “Kitchen of Japan,” Osaka is famous for its delicious street food, including takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake). The city also boasts several popular tourist attractions, such as the Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and the bustling Dotonbori entertainment district. Travelers can also visit the Shitennoji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, or stroll through the peaceful gardens of the Osaka Mint Bureau, which features cherry blossoms in spring and autumn foliage in fall. For those who enjoy shopping, the trendy district of Shinsaibashi offers a wide range of retail options, from high-end fashion to quirky souvenirs. Whether you’re interested in food, culture, or entertainment, Osaka has something to offer every type of traveler.
Hiroshima is a city located on the western side of Japan’s Honshu island, and while it has a tragic past as the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, it is now a vibrant and beautiful city filled with historical and cultural attractions. Visitors to Hiroshima can pay their respects at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which serves as a somber reminder of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. But the city is also a place of hope, where visitors can learn about the importance of peace and the resilience of the human spirit. Other attractions in Hiroshima include the Hiroshima Castle, which offers beautiful views of the city from its observation deck, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which houses exhibits related to the atomic bombing. Additionally, Hiroshima is a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside, including the beautiful island of Miyajima, which is known for its famous “floating” torii gate. With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Hiroshima is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Japan.
Sapporo is the largest city on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and is known for its beautiful natural scenery, winter sports, and delicious food. The city is famous for hosting the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracts visitors from around the world to see the stunning snow sculptures and enjoy winter activities like skiing and snowboarding. In summer, Sapporo transforms into a lush green oasis, with scenic parks and gardens like Odori Park and the Hokkaido Shrine. Travelers can also explore the city’s unique culture, such as the Susukino entertainment district, which is known for its vibrant nightlife and delicious ramen restaurants. Other popular attractions include the Sapporo Beer Museum, where visitors can learn about the history of beer in Japan and sample local brews, and the Clock Tower, a historic landmark that dates back to the city’s early days as a frontier town. Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast, a foodie, or just looking to experience a different side of Japan, Sapporo is definitely worth a visit.
Nara is a city located in the Kansai region of Japan, just south of Kyoto, and is known for its ancient temples, historic landmarks, and friendly deer that roam the city’s streets. Visitors to Nara can explore some of Japan’s most iconic Buddhist temples and shrines, including the Todai-ji temple, which houses a giant bronze Buddha statue, and the Kasuga-taisha shrine, known for its lanterns and beautiful wooded paths. Nara Park, home to over 1,000 deer, is a must-see attraction where visitors can feed and interact with the friendly animals. Travelers can also stroll through the quaint streets of the traditional Naramachi neighborhood, which features beautifully preserved Edo-period houses and shops. In spring, visitors can witness the breathtaking sight of cherry blossoms in bloom throughout the city. Nara is a great destination for anyone looking to experience Japan’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty in a peaceful and tranquil setting.
Kanazawa is a historic city located in central Japan, known for its well-preserved Edo-period streets, beautiful gardens, and traditional crafts. Visitors to Kanazawa can explore the Kenroku-en garden, one of the most famous Japanese gardens in the country, which features winding paths, waterfalls, and colorful flowers that change with the seasons. The city is also home to the Kanazawa Castle, a historic fortress that offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Travelers can also visit the Higashi Chaya district, a well-preserved area that showcases the city’s traditional tea houses and geisha culture. Another popular attraction is the Omicho Market, which is famous for its fresh seafood and other local delicacies. Kanazawa is also known for its traditional crafts, such as gold leaf and lacquerware, which can be seen and purchased at various shops throughout the city. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply admiring natural beauty, Kanazawa is a great destination for any traveler to Japan.
Nagoya is a bustling city located in central Japan, known for its modern architecture, delicious food, and rich history. Visitors to Nagoya can explore the city’s unique culture, which blends traditional and modern elements, by visiting landmarks such as the Nagoya Castle, a historic fortress that was once the residence of the ruling samurai family. Another must-see attraction is the Atsuta Shrine, one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines, which houses a sacred sword that is said to be one of Japan’s national treasures. For those interested in science and technology, the Nagoya City Science Museum offers fascinating exhibits on topics such as robotics, space exploration, and the human body. Foodies will also love Nagoya, which is known for its unique cuisine, such as miso-katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet served with a miso-based sauce) and hitsumabushi (grilled eel served over rice). With its blend of history, culture, and modern innovation, Nagoya is a great destination for travelers looking to experience a different side of Japan.
Fukuoka is a vibrant and lively city located on the southern island of Kyushu in Japan, known for its delicious food, beautiful beaches, and unique culture. Visitors to Fukuoka can explore historic landmarks such as the Fukuoka Castle, a 17th-century fortress that offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Another must-see attraction is the Kushida Shrine, a beautiful Shinto shrine that hosts several traditional festivals throughout the year, including the famous Yamakasa festival in July. For those interested in modern architecture, the ACROS Fukuoka building is a must-see, with its unique “green curtain” facade covered in lush vegetation. Foodies will also love Fukuoka, which is known for its famous tonkotsu ramen, a rich and savory noodle soup made with pork bone broth. Visitors can also explore the city’s many shopping districts, such as the Tenjin area, which offers a wide variety of department stores, boutiques, and restaurants. With its unique blend of history, culture, and modernity, Fukuoka is a great destination for travelers looking to experience the best of Japan’s southern island.
Takayama is a charming mountain town located in the Japanese Alps, known for its beautifully preserved old town, stunning natural scenery, and traditional festivals. Visitors to Takayama can explore the Sanmachi Suji district, a well-preserved area of traditional wooden houses and shops that date back to the Edo period. The Takayama Jinya, a historic government building that served as the local governor’s residence, is also a must-see attraction for history buffs. The town is also famous for its traditional festivals, including the Takayama Matsuri, one of Japan’s most famous festivals, which features colorful floats, lively music, and traditional costumes. For those who love nature, the nearby Hida Mountains offer breathtaking scenery, with opportunities for hiking, skiing, and hot spring bathing. Foodies will also love Takayama, which is known for its local specialty, Hida beef, a delicious and tender beef that is a must-try for any meat lover. With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Takayama is a great destination for travelers looking to experience a different side of Japan.
Okinawa is a tropical paradise located in the southernmost part of Japan, known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and unique culture. Visitors to Okinawa can enjoy the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, with activities such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing available at the many beautiful beaches that dot the coastline. The island is also home to several cultural sites, such as the Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as the seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom for several centuries. Another must-see attraction is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the largest and most impressive aquariums in the world, which features a wide variety of marine life, including whale sharks and manta rays. Foodies will also love Okinawa, which has a unique cuisine that blends Japanese, Chinese, and Southeast Asian flavors, with dishes such as goya champuru (stir-fried bitter melon with tofu and pork) and Okinawa soba (a hearty noodle soup made with pork broth). With its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and delicious cuisine, Okinawa is a great destination for travelers looking to experience a different side of Japan.
In conclusion, Japan is a fascinating and diverse country that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers beyond Tokyo. From the ancient temples of Kyoto to the tropical beaches of Okinawa, each city has its own unique charm and attractions that make it worth exploring. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or food, there’s something for everyone in Japan’s diverse regions. So if you’re looking to travel to a destination that offers a perfect blend of tradition and modernity, consider exploring Japan’s lesser-known cities and regions. You won’t be disappointed with the beauty and richness that awaits you.