Where to stay in Japan first time: 10 Best Places to Visit

Where to go in Japan for the first time? Which city? The best places to stay in Japan for first-timers are Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka because they are the most popular cities in Japan. If you have a long holiday in Japan, you can make your trip to Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hakone, and Kamakura.

Where to stay in Japan for the first time depends on how many days you will spend on your trip. Tokyo is always on the top of the best places to visit in Japan if you have a short time in Japan from 3 to 5 days. If you have a week, you will be able to visit Kyoto and Osaka without rushing. 

Many travelers spend their first holiday in Japan within 10 days to 14 days, which is a good amount of time to see not only big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, but also able to see many smaller cities like Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hakone, Kamakura, and many more.

The train network in Japan is very efficient. Buy a Pasmo or Suica card to travel around Tokyo by trains and subways. If you are planning to travel around the country between cities, it’s best to buy the unlimited JR pass for 7, 14, or 21 days. JR Pass is a money saver, but it’s not worth buying if you’re only exploring Tokyo. JR Pass is for tourists and must be purchased outside of Japan.

There is free public WiFi at coffee shops and Tokyo stations but it is better to rent a pocket WiFi to better speed wifi.

Japan is a year-round destination for tourists but keep in mind the cherry blossom season is in late March, or early April; the fall foliage season is in November. The ski season is from mid-January to early April. If you travel into the peak season, be sure to book hotels well in advance!

Learn some useful words and phrases in Japanese such as Yes – hai, No – ie, Konnichiwa – hello, and Arigato – thank you. 

10 Best Places to Stay in Japan first time

1. Tokyo, where to stay in Japan for first-timers

Tokyo is the best area to stay in Japan for first-time travelers because it is the capital city of Japan and it is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Many first-time visitors spend 5 days to a week in Tokyo which is a good amount of time to see the city.

You will first arrive in Tokyo from one of its international airports: Haneda Airport and Narita Airport. From Narita airport, you can easily reach the city center by Narita Express or Narita Airport Limousine Bus. From Haneda Airport to Tokyo by Tokyo Monorail.

For first-timers, I recommend booking a hotel close to the train station in the areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo Station, or Asakusa. These are super central, located just off the Yamanote Line, making it easy to travel around the city. 

Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo for first-time travelers due to its prime location. This is a lively area of Tokyo, home to the busiest station in the world, Shinjuku train station. From here, you can make a day trip to Mount Fuji and Hakone with the Odakyu train.

Shinjuku offers a great nightlife scene. It is packed with thousands of restaurants and bars, hotels, lively streets, bright neon lights, and electronics shops.

The Shinjuku Gyoen Garden nearby is the most beautiful in Tokyo. It is a great place to take a stroll, have a picnic, and see cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn foliage season.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is also a popular spot for tourists with its observation decks on the 45th floor where you can visit for free and enjoy the panoramic views of Tokyo.

Other popular points of interest in the Shinjuku neighborhood are Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane), and the Robot Restaurant where you can watch robot shows while having some drinks. 

You can take a metro to Shibuya, Tokyo’s business center, where you can find the world’s busiest crossing, Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Shibuya Crossing is one of the iconic landmarks of Tokyo, and a popular spot to take photos. 

The Hachiko Statue outside Shibuya Station is also a must-see. Hachiko is a loyal dog, who waited for his master every day at Shibuya Station, even after his master passed away.

Shibuya is a great place for shopping. It is filled with brand shops of Zara, H&M, Adidas, and many Japanese shops.

You can check out the Harajuku neighborhood, which is located between Shibuya and Shinjuku. Harajuku is home to Meiji-jingu Shrine, Omotesando shopping street, Takeshita-dori Shopping Street, Yoyogi-koen Park, Togo-jinja Shrine, Kawaii Monster Cafe.

Meiji-jingu Shrine is the most visited Shinto shrine in Japan, attracting million of visitors during the first days of the New Year to come to pray. The highlight of the Meiji Shrine is its 12 meters tall giant wooden torii gate.

Ikebukuro is also easily reached by metro from Shinjuku. Known as Sunshine City, it is where you can find Sunshine City Shopping Centre and Pokemon Mega Store. If you are a fan of Pokemon, this is a must-visit.

You can make a trip to Asakusa, which is home to the famous Sensoji Buddhist temple, or Asakusa Kannon Temple. The temple is located within walking distance of Asakusa station. Right outside the temple, you can find Nakamise Street, which is a perfect place to grab souvenirs.

Make your way to Akihabara (Electric Town), a center of geek culture, and famous for its many electronics shops, maid cafes, manga, and anime goods.

Another must-visit in Tokyo is Ginza, which is an upscale shopping district, located next to the Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. You can shop on Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori shopping streets, and relax in Hamarikyu Gardens.

There are Teamlab Planets or Teamlab Borderless, which is a museum where you walk through water. Teamlab Planets along with Gundam Base, and Hello Kitty Store, is a great place to visit if you are with kids. 

Don’t miss out on the Tokyo Tower, which is an iconic red and white Tower. It is a 333-meter-high observation tower and was built in 1958, modeled on Paris’s Eiffel Tower. Tokyo Tower is the second tallest tower in Tokyo after the Tokyo Skytree.

Roppongi is a popular nightlife and entertainment neighborhood for foreigners in Tokyo. Here you can visit Roppongi Hills Mori Tower and Roppongi Art Triangle including the Mori Art Museum, The National Art Museum, and the Suntory Museum of Art.

Theme park goers can visit Tokyo Disney on Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Disneyland is part of the Disney Resort along with its sibling park Tokyo Disney Sea.

From Tokyo, you can also take a day trip to nearby attractions such as Mount Fuji, Japan’s most famous and iconic volcano; Nikko where you can find Rinnoji Temple, Toshogu Temple, and Shinkyo Bridge; as well as Hakone which is home to Hakone Shrine, onsens (Japanese hot springs), and Owakudani (Boiling Valley).

Best places to stay in Tokyo in Shinjuku:

See more: Where to Stay in Tokyo First Time

2. Kyoto, best place to stay in Japan for culture

Kyoto is one of the best areas to stay for first-time tourists because it is the ancient capital of Japan. It is famous for its shrines, temples, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, geisha (geiko), and maiko culture.

To travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, you can take Nozomi shinkansen, Hikari shinkansen, or Kodama shinkansen. Nozomi is the fastest train but it is not covered by a Japan Rail Pass, Hikari shinkansen is the second fattest and is covered by Japan Rail. The Kodama shinkansen is the slowest train and has a lot of stops.

The shinkansen departs from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station and stops at Kyoto Station.

The good amount of time to spend in Kyoto for the first time is 3 to 4 days to explore the city and surroundings.

Kyoto Downtown is the best area to stay in Kyoto for the first time due to its prime location. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of the action, within walking distance to top sights in Gion and Higashiyama. With its well-connected public transportation, you can easily travel around.

Downtown Kyoto is located on the west bank of the Kamo River. It is a great place for a foodie because it is home to The Nishiki Market, Daimaru Department Store, and Takashimaya Department Store, which offer a variety of Japanese cuisine from dried seafood, sushi, Japanese sweets, and pickles.

Downtown also provides plenty of shopping opportunities at Shijo Avenue, and the covered shopping arcades Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping Arcade, and Shinkyogoku Shopping streets.

If you are a fan of Manga, you can visit Kyoto International Manga Museum, the best manga museum in entire Japan, home to more than 300 000 Manga comic books.

If you want to spot a geisha (also known as geiko), you can head to Pontocho Alley, a famous traditional nightlife area of Kyoto. The area is on the west of Kamogawa River and is packed with a wide range of dining options.

Gion and Higashiyama with Sannenzaka, Ninenzaka, Kiyomizu-dera Temple:

Gion is a famous Geisha district (geiko district) located in the heart of the historical district Southern Higashiyama. 

Gion spreads from Kamo-gawa River to Yasaka-jinja Shrine. It is filled with old wooden shops, restaurants, bars, and traditional teahouses. Gion is particularly atmospheric in the evening when Japanese lanterns are lit up and apprentice geisha (maiko) prepare to start their work.

You can start your day with Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka pedestrian streets. It’s packed with traditional tea houses, shops, restaurants, and ryokan inns. 

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka are also surrounded by numerous famous landmarks such as Ishibe-kōji, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, and Kodaiji Zen Temple.

Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine) is home to Gion Festival (Gion Matsuri) celebrations in July. It’s a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing and picnic in spring.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s more beautiful in March and April with cherry blossoms and November autumn leaves. 

Some highlights of Kiyomizu-dera Temple are the impressive two-story main entrance gate Nio-mon, the west gate of Kiyomizu-dera Temple Sai-mon, Zuigodo Hall, the main hall Hondo with its Kiyomizu Stage, Jishu Shrine, Otowa Waterfall, Okuno-in hall, and the Koyasu Pagoda At Taisanji Temple.

Shirakawa-dori is the heart of Gion. The Shirakawa area lies along the Shirakawa canal and is surrounded by willow trees, sakura cherry trees, high-class restaurants, inns, teahouses, and Tatsumi Daimyōjin that offer attractive riverside dining and Kyoto cuisine. Gion Tatsumi Bridge is also nearby.

Other sights to see include the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater (Gion Corner), and Kyoto National Museum.

Kyoto with Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Jojako-ji Temple, Monkey Park Iwatayama:

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the most incredible sights in Japan. The Bamboo Alley is one of the most photographed attractions in Kyoto.

Located just outside the bamboo forest is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tenryu-Ji temple. This sprawling Zen temple is one of the five major temples of Kyoto with a beautiful garden and fantastic mountain views.

The Jojako-ji Temple is a small temple built in the 16th century, famous for its autumn leaves. It has a small pagoda and is surrounded by greenery. 

The iconic 155-meter Togetsukyo Bridge across the Katsura River. Togetsukyo bridge the main street of the Arashiyama area is always busy with tourists from morning to evening.

Hozugawa River Boat Ride is a 16km long, two hours sightseeing by boat to explore the fabulous scenery of the Tanba-Kameoka, Arashiyama area. You can combine it with the Sagano Romantic Train Trip on the way back. 

Monkey Park Iwatayama, Okochi Sanso Villa, Okochi Sanso Garden, Nisonin Temple, Kameyama-koen Park, Tenzan-no-yu Onsen are some of the attractions that you can visit while in Arashiyama.

Kyoto with Fushimi Inari Taisha, Daigo-ji, Tofuku-ji, Nanzen-ji, Philosopher’s Path, Ginkaku-ji:

I suggest starting early before 9 am to visit the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha to avoid crowds. Fushimi Inari Taisha (Thousand Torii Gate) is a famous Shinto shrine and a World Heritage Site. It’s free entrance and you can visit anytime!

Fushimi Inari Taisha is well-known for its tunnels of more than thousands of orange torii gates that are set in a pathway to the top of Mt. Inari. The trip to the summit takes about 2-3 hours with plenty of photo opportunities. 

The next stop is Daigo-ji, a World Heritage Site. Daigo-ji is a Shingon Buddhist temple in southeastern Kyoto. 

Tofuku-ji is a large Zen temple and at its most beautiful in the fall colors season. Highlight attractions here are the Hojo Garden, Sanmon Gate, and Tsutenkyo Bridge.

Other activities for the day are Nanzen-ji temple and garden and following the Path of Philosophy to reach from here Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion).

The Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi) is a pedestrian stone path along the Lake Biwa Canal lined with hundreds of cherry trees. It’s a popular hanami spot in springtime.

Day trips from Kyoto

If you have more time, there are some day trips you can make from Kyoto to Osaka, Nara, Uji, Lake Biwa, Kobe, Himeji, Kurashiki, and Mt Koya.

Best places to stay in Kyoto in Downtown:

See more: Where to Stay in Kyoto First Time

3. Osaka, where to stay in Japan for food

Osaka is known as the food capital of Japan, you can eat till you drop in Osaka. Some must-try foods are pancakes with filling – Okonomiyaki, dumpling balls with octopus – Takoyaki, and conveyor-belt sushi.

Osaka is easily reached by shinkansen from Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Kyoto to Shin-Osaka Station.

Kita district, especially the area around Umeda station is the best area to stay in Osaka for the first time due to its prime location. Other central locations for first-time travelers are Miami (Namba), Central Osaka-Honmachi, and the Shin-Osaka Area. Staying near the Midosuji subway line also gives tourists convenient access to the bullet train station (Shin-Osaka), Namba Station, and Umeda Station.

Osaka with Osaka Castle, Kita, Miami, Dotonbori

One day is enough to have a good taste of Osaka. Start from Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle is easily accessible with the JR Osaka Loop Line to Osakajokoen Station.

Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo) is a famous landmark in Japan. It is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. Osaka Castle Observation Deck offers panoramic views across the city.

Sakuranomiya Park nearby has more than five thousand cherry blossom trees along the charming river bank. During the cherry blossom season from late March to early April, the park is filled with people having hanami picnics.

Catch the train to travel to Osaka Station in the modern Kita district. The areas around Osaka Station are filled with skyscrapers, office buildings, shops, restaurants and bars, entertainment, hotels, and big brand department stores.

Some of the shopping malls you can check out Hankyu Department Store, Yodobashi Camera, Grand Front Osaka, and Whity Umeda for underground shopping.

You can visit the Umeda Sky Building, one of the tallest and most impressive buildings in Osaka with an open-air observation deck on its roof. 

The next stop is the Miami district. You can take the Midosuji subway from Umeda Station to Shinsaibashi Station. You can do some shopping at Tokyu Hands Department Store, and Shinsaibashi-suji.

Keep walking to the south through the Shinsaibashi-suji arcade, you will get to Ebisu-bashi Bridge, which leads you to the well-known Dotonbori Canal. The famous Dotonbori arcade, is home to the most famous and largest restaurants, and Osaka symbols such as the renowned Glico running man, the huge crab sign, and neon lights. 

The narrow pedestrian-only Hozenji Yokocho is also close by and packed with traditional restaurants. Make your way to visit Hozen-ji Temple. 

In the evening, you can head to Abeno Harukas, one of Japan’s tallest buildings. The Harukas observatory offers a fabulous view over the entire city of Osaka.

Osaka Day trip to Nara

Nara is famous for its deer roaming around Nara deer park. The best way to travel from Osaka to Nara is by taking the Kintetsu Railway. It’ll take 30 to 40 minutes. Nara has two main stations: Kintetsu-Nara station and JR Nara Station.

When you arrive, you can buy small packets of special deer crackers to feed the deer. If you want, you can rent a kimono to continue sightseeing.

Some of the attractions on the day in Nara are:

  • Nandaimon Gate of Todaiji
  • Todaiji Temple with the bronze Buddha
  • Nigatsu-do Temple
  • Todaiji Hokkedo (Sangatsudo)
  • Kasuga-taisha Shrine
  • Yoshiki-en Garden

Best places to stay in Osaka in Kita district:

See more: Where to stay in Osaka First Time

4. Hiroshima, the site of the nuclear attack in 1945

Hiroshima attracts thousands of tourists each year to visit to learn about the tragic event of 1945, the devastation of the atomic bomb attack during World War II, excellent food, and great day trips. Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien Garden, and Peace Memorial Park are some of the best attractions in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima is easily reached by shinkansen. If you’re visiting Hiroshima for the first time, I would suggest staying near Hiroshima Station and the Downtown area. 

This central location offers you plenty of things to do, from the most popular attractions to a variety of bars and restaurants, and plenty of shopping options.

For 2 days in Hiroshima, you can spend 1 day exploring downtown Hiroshima, and a day trip to Miyajima island, which is a stunning UNESCO world heritage site.

Hiroshima with Hiroshima Castle, Atomic Bomb Dom, Hondori, Okonomimura:

You can easily visit attractions in Hiroshima with the Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus (Meipuru-pu) including Hiroshima Castle, Okonomimura, the Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and the Atomic Bomb Dome. 

Hiroshima Castle was reconstructed from a 16th-century castle that was destroyed by the atomic bomb of August 1945. The castle offers charming views of the city.

After visiting Hiroshima Castle, walk south to see the Atomic Bomb Dome. Atomic Bomb Dome (Peace Memorial Park) is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Peace Memorial Park was the political and commercial heart of the city before a nuclear attack. After the bombing, it was devoted to peace memorial facilities. 

Aioi Bridge was the target of the atomic bomb, and was reconstructed after the war but gradually damaged and a new bridge replaced the old one in 1983. You can walk across Peace Park.

Next is the Children’s Peace Monument, a monument commemorating the thousands of innocent children that died in the atomic bombing.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about the tragic history of Hiroshima before and after the atomic bomb in WWII. 

After the Museum, visit Hondori shopping street, where you can find many local and souvenir shops. If you want more shopping, visit Aioi-Dori Avenue and Peace Boulevard/ Heiwa-Odori Street.

Spend your evening at Okonomimura. Okonomimura is the best place to try Hiroshima’s famous pancake, Okonomiyaki (Hiroshima-yaki). This local specialty dish is one of Japan’s most popular food theme parks with a collection of restaurant stalls.

Miyajima with floating torii gate, Itsukushima Shrine, Mount Misen, and Daishoin Temple:

Miyajima (Itsukushima) is a Unesco World Heritage Site, a sacred island less than an hour outside of Hiroshima city. There are a few ways to travel from Hiroshima to Miyajima:

  • take the JR train or tram to Miyajimaguchi ferry station, then take a ferry across Miyajima
  • take terry from Hiroshima peace park to Miyajima

There are plenty of history and cultural attractions in this part of Hiroshima Bay. It’s famous for its floating torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. 

When you arrive at the Miyajima Ferry Terminal, continue walking along the waterfront. You will see some wild deer on the island that has become familiar to people.

You will reach the busy Miyajima Omotesando Shotengai shopping street with a lot of souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Be sure to try special dishes like okonomiyaki and grilled oysters!

Keep walking along the waterfront, you will see the famous attractions of Miyajima, the 16 m tall and 60 tonnes floating shrine gate of the Shinto shrine Itsukushima. 

Itsukushima-Jinja Shrine was built in the 6th century and consists of a few buildings linked by wooden walking paths. The dark wooden Senjokaku Pavilion and the red five-story pagoda at Toyokuni Shrine are nearby.

Take the Miyajima ropeway to the sacred Mount Misen, the highest mountain in Miyajima. Mount Misen is at its most beautiful during spring cherry blossoms, and autumn foliage season.

Mount Misen Observatory offers stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea and Hiroshima city. There’re also Buddhist statues, shrines, and temples nearby. Be sure to visit the Daishoin Temple with its cave and statues at the foot of Mount Misen.

Best places to stay in Hiroshima Downtown:

See more: Where to Stay in Hiroshima First Time

5. Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city

Yokohama is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture, a 30-minute train ride from central Tokyo. Originally it was a small fishing village, but when Japan reopened to the world after a period of national isolation, it became one of the first ports which allowed foreign trade.

Minato Mirai means ‘future port’ and as the name suggests, it’s an area by the water packed with attractions, entertainment, and shopping. There are plenty of things to do and see in Yokohama.

Minato Mirai 21 is the best area to stay in Yokohama due to its prime location. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of the action, within walking distance to tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops. It also offers a wide range of accommodations that suit all budget travelers.

Minato Mirai 21 is located close to the central station which is the stop of the Shinkansen bullet train around Japan to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.

Landmark Tower is one of the tallest buildings in Japan, home to the 5-star Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, the observation deck Sky Garden on the 69th floor which offers a 360-degree view of the city and Mt. Fuji.

The Nippon Maru nearby was built in 1930 and used as a training ship for the Japanese Merchant Marines. It’s a part of the Yokohama Port Museum and is open to the public.

The Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum is an interactive museum on aerospace, technology, ocean, transportation, and the environment. This is a great place to visit for families with kids along with the Yokohama Anpanman Children’s Museum. 

The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum is a food museum that shows the history of Japanese instant Ramen noodles including Nissin Ramen noodles. Here, you can create your cup of noodles in the My Cupnoodles Factory workshop, and make your instant ramen noodle from My Chicken Ramen workshop.

The small amusement park, Cosmo World, is within 3-minute walk from Cup Noodles Museum. Cosmo World is popular with kids, tourists, and couples. It has a large Ferris wheel, Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel, with the largest clock in the world at the time of its opening, and a roller coaster.

You can visit the traditional Japanese garden, Sankeien Garden, which was the private home of Tomitaro “Sankei” Hara, a wealthy silk merchant. Sankeien Garden is at its most beautiful in the cherry blossoms in late March or early April, the pink lotus blossoms in July and August, and the plum blossoms in February.

Other points of interest are:

  • Yamate and Yokohama Foreign Cemetery
  • Yokohama Motomachi for shopping
  • Chinatown for food
  • Kirin Beer Factory

Best places to stay in Yokohama in Minato Mirai:

See more: Where to Stay in Yokohama

6. Hokkaido, fresh seafood, unspoiled nature, lots of outdoor activities

Located at the north end of Japan, Hokkaido is Japan’s biggest island and prefecture. The island is famous for its unspoiled nature, delicious fresh seafood, and onsen. It attracts lots of outdoor lovers like cyclists, hikers, skiers, snowboarders, and campers.

The international airport of Hokkaido is Sapporo’s Chitose Airport with flights from some countries. But most visitors have to transit in Tokyo and Osaka. There are also bullet trains from Tokyo to Hakodate via the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

You can visit the artificial lake, Blue Pond, in Biei. The color of the pond ranges from vibrant turquoise to emerald to cobalt blue, which is claimed to be the result of aluminum hydroxide.

Furano has breathtaking picturesque landscapes with multi-colored flowers or the lavender fields at Farm Tomita, which turn into snow land in winter.

You can learn and taste local beer at the Sapporo Beer Museum, Japan’s only museum dedicated to beer.

Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the most famous winter festivals in all of Japan. This is a place to go for winter fun. You can see many amazing snow and ice sculptures at this seven-day event in February each year.

Mount Asahi is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido, attracting lots of hikers in summer, as well as skiers and snowboarders in winter. Asahidake Onsen is an onsen town located at the foot of Mount Asahidake.

Hokkaido is home to six stunning national parks with beautiful lakes, mountains, volcanoes, and waterfalls. They are:

  • Akan Mashu National Park
  • Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
  • Rishiri Rebun Sarobetsu National Park
  • Shikotsu Toya National Park
  • Shiretoko National Park
  • Daisetsuzan National Park

You can relax in Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort. You can choose to stay in one of its many Japanese ryokans with hot spring baths.

The island is also famous for its fresh seafood, and salt ramen. The historic port city, Hakodate is bursting with crab, tuna, squid, abalone, and other delights. It is a great place to do sightseeing and enjoy local food.

7. Hakone, a popular weekend getaway from Tokyo

Located just 100 km west of Tokyo, Hakone is a popular weekend getaway from Tokyo

This mountain town is famous for its incredible natural scenery, luxurious ryokans, and plenty of hot springs.

Many travelers visit Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo, but it is best experienced if you stay a night or two at a Japanese-style inn called ryokan.

Hakone is easily reachable from Tokyo. From Tokyo Station, you can take shinkansen to Odawara Station, and take another train to Hakone or take a private transfer. From Shinjuku Station, you can take Odakyu Railways (Romancecar) to Hakone-Yumoto Station.

It is recommended to buy a Hakone Free Pass to have free unlimited public transport in Hakone, a lake cruise at Ashi lake, and a discount on many attractions in Hakone.

There are numerous museums in Hakone. Hakone Open-Air Museum has impressive sculptures by famous Japanese and international artists. You can also find the Pola Museum of Art and Okada Museum of Art here.

The Hakone Shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi, Hakone Checkpoint, and Odawara Castle are some of the historical and cultural sites in Hakone.

You can use Hakone Freepass for the Hakone round course, or Hakone’s sightseeing loop, which is a good way to see the landscapes. In the loop, you can experience various modes of transportation including:

  • Hakone Tozan Railway: consists of two sections. The lower section from Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto, and the upper section from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora. 
  • Hakone Tozan Cable Car: The train runs from Hakone Yumoto Station to Gora Station, giving you a wonderful mountain view and deep ravines.
  • Hakone Ropeway offers stunning views of Owakudani Valley, Lake Ashinoko, and Mount Fuji.
  • Cruise across the lake: You can see the red torii archway and the Hakone Sekisho from the boat. 

8. Fukuoka, a good place to experience food stall culture

Fukuoka not only has direct connections with Tokyo and Osaka by shinkansen or airplane but is also well-connected to South Korea by air and sea. There are flights from Haneda Airport and Osaka’s Itami Airport to Fukuoka Airport.

Located on the northern coast of Kyushu, Fukuoka is the fifth largest city in Japan. The city is divided by Nakasu island into 2 areas: the business hub of Hakata and the cultural center of Tenjin. Hakata is home to the Hakata Station, the stop of the bullet train line. 

Many festivals take place in Fukuoka but the most famous are the Hakata Dontaku Festival in Golden Week in May and the Hakata Gion Yamakasa in July.

Fukuoka offers some of the best cuisine, nightlife, and shopping in Japan. It is famous for its good and cheap food. You should try Fukuoka specialty, goma saba, as well as Hakata ramen with creamy tonkotsu soup. There are lots of yatai, or food stall culture, Yanagibashi Market, and Nagahama Seafood Market.

Some of the best things to do and see in Fukuoka are:

  • Fukuoka Castle
  • Sumiyoshi-jinja Shrine
  • Kyūshū National Museum
  • Kushida-jinja Shrine
  • Hakata Machiya Folk Museum
  • Dazaifu Tenman-gū
  • Fukuoka Tower
  • Marine World Uminonakamichi
  • Ohori Park

9. Kamakura, center city of Japan in the medieval age

Located less than an hour from Tokyo Station on the JR Yokosuka Line, Kamakura is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture. The city was once the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura Shogunate. 

Kamakura is a great day trip from Tokyo, home to numerous beaches, Japan’s oldest Zen temples, and the Great Buddha.

Many attractions are located within walking distance from Kamakura, Kita-Kamakura, and Hase stations. The Great Buddha is the famous symbol of Kamakura, located at Kotoku-in Temple.

Hasedera Temple is located on the hill, offering a beautiful view of the city and Sagami Bay. The temple attracts lots of visitors during the Hydrangea Festival in June and July.

There are also Meigetsuin Temple, Engakuji Temple, Engakuji Temple, and Hokokuji Temple, which is a small Zen temple known for its bamboo grove.

You can find numerous shrines in Kamakura. Zeniarai Benten Shrine is popular with people in the business world, where you can wash your money under the sacred water of spring and pray for more.

There are lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants on Komachi Street (Komachi Dori). It’s a great place to grab a meal or buy souvenirs.

Within a short train ride west of Kamakura, you can visit Enoshima island and Shonan Beach. The Enoshima Candle Lighthouse offers a panoramic view of Enoshima island, home to the Enoshima Shrine.

10. Wakayama, Japan’s spiritual heartland in the Kansai region

Located a couple of hours south of Osaka, Wakayama is on Honshu’s Kii Peninsula, the southern coast of Kansai. 

Wakayama can be reached by limited express trains from Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya. There are flights to Kansai International Airport, which is very close to Wakayama City. The prefecture’s airport is Nanki Shirahama Airport. 

The famous tourist attraction in Wakayama is Mount Koya (Koyasan), the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism, and a great place to do temple stay.

You can visit Wakayama Castle, which was reconstructed after being destroyed in World War II, and. There is also Nachi Waterfall, Japan’s highest waterfall.

Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan, and the connecting pilgrimage routes are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is known as the holy ground where gods dwell, and has healing auras.

The Yunomine Onsen can be found along the Kumano Kodo. The onsen is the only UNESCO Heritage site bath in the world. It is said that the bath’s color changes seven times a day!  You can relax by enjoying the warm water and the fresh eggs on the onsen water.

Where should I stay in Japan for the first time?

Tokyo, along with Kyoto, and Osaka is the best place to stay in Japan for first-time travelers because they are the most popular tourist cities in Japan. There are plenty of things to do and see in these cities, and you can soak up Japanese culture and history.

What are the best places to stay in Japan?

Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Hokkaido, Hakone, Fukuoka, Kamakura, and Wakayama are the best places to stay in Japan for tourists because they are the most popular cities in Japan that offer a wide range of attractions and amenities.

See more:

Overall, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the best areas to stay in Japan for first-time travelers. If you have a long time in Japan, you can visit many incredible cities such as Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hakone, and Kamakura.

Leave a Comment