It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.
30. Shinsaibashi – Osaka
Starting things off, Osaka’s Shinsaibashi shopping district has something for just about everyone (as you can see by this photo that shows what appears to be everyone in the city browsing along its covered pedestrian walkway).
29. Nishiki Market – Kyoto
Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” you might not find much in the way of souvenirs here, but it’s a great place to pick up ingredients for dinner or soak up the local atmosphere.
28. Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology – Aichi
We suppose they could have just called it the “Toyota Museum,” but then people might think the focus is just on cars, and not the broader theme of technology and innovation in general.
27. Video Game Bar Space Station – Osaka
There’s a certain simple, pure fun to hanging out with some friends, sitting on your couch, and knocking back a couple of cold ones as you play some old school games. Unless your couch is old and lumpy, you sold off your old consoles, or you’re out of beer. Thankfully, this Osaka bar is here to help.
26. Kaiyukan – Osaka
Rather not kill time in Osaka by killing zombies? The local aquarium, the Kaiyukan, is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Don’t miss feeding time for the facility’s massive yet tranquil whale shark.
25. Sensoji – Tokyo
Tokyo’s most famous temple, located in the Asakusa neighborhood, remains one of the best ways to see Japan’s traditional side while staying in the capital.
24. Centar Gai – Tokyo
Sensoji too sedate for you? The collection of shops and restaurants known as Center Gai, right across the street from the famous Shibuya Scramble intersection, is a chance to experience Tokyo’s cacophony at its most colorful.
23. Dotonbori – Osaka
Osaka’s foremost entertainment district is at its most dazzling after dark, where the light from the towering walls of neon signage reflect off the canal and enwraps you in its glow from all angles.
22. Nara Park – Nara
The spacious Nara Park is one of two places in Japan where visitors can mingle with freely roaming packs of deer (the other being Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island).
21. Jigokudani Yean Park – Nagano
It’s important to read things all the way through. For example, Jigokudani (Hell Valley) sounds like a terrible place to visit. Tack Yaen (wild monkey) on the end though, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s 21st most popular destination.
20. Meiji Shrine – Tokyo
The Shinto counterpart to Buddhist Sensoji, the structure itself may not be the most impressive shrine in Japan, but the gorgeous forest path that leads up to it will make you forget just how close you are to the heart of the busiest city in the world.
19. Mori Art Museum – Tokyo
Even if you’re got only a passing interest in high art, the vires from the attached observation deck, high above the Roppongi Hills entertainment complex, is a great way to get a grasp of the massive scale of Tokyo.
18. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – Nagasaki
As the second city to be devastated by a nuclear bomb, Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum is a grim reminder of the horrors of war.
17. Nijo Castle – Kyoto
Instead of for protection, this Kyoto landmark was created to show the wealth and power of the shogun, and as such has a lower structure and more expansive gardens than other castles in Japan.
16. Robot Restaurant – Tokyo
Modern decadence, on the other hand, is perhaps best encapsulated at this Shinjuku eatery where food is delivered to your table by bikini-clad waitresses piloting bikini-clad giant robots.
15. Kenrokuen Garden – Ishikawa
Decidedly more refined is Kenrokuen, long considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.
14. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama – Kyoto
We’re not sure why Iwatayama ranked higher than Jigokudani Yaen, but we’re guessing it might have something to do with its closer proximity to the already attractive tourist destination of Japan’s previous capital. Whatever the reason, though, can you ever really have too many monkey parks?
13. Sanjusangendo Temple – Kyoto
Too hyped up from the monkey park? This temple, with its one thousand statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, ought to calm you down.
12. Matsumoto Castle – Nagano
One of Japan’s most impressive original wooden fortresses, Matsumoto Castle’s location in the middle of Matsumoto City makes it an easy visit for those also looking to hike in the mountains of nearby Kamikochi.
11. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Okinawa
More whale sharks also means more votes for tropical Okinawa’s showcase of aquatic life.
10. Shinshoji Temple / Naritasan – Chiba
We’re happy to see Naritsan make the list, since we’re big fans ourselves.
9. Hakone Open-Air Museum – Kanagawa
This outdoor collection of sculpture also happens to be near some of Japan’s finest hot springs and most beautiful views of Mt. Fuji.
8. Shinjuku Gyoen Park – Tokyo
One more reason why you shouldn’t believe people who tell you, “There’s no greenery in central Tokyo!”
7. Kiyomizu Temple – Kyoto
Some people complain about this hillside temple being crowded. It is, but that’s only because of how incredibly beautiful and awesome it is.
6. Mt. Takao / Okunoin Temple – Tokyo
With hiking courses, beautiful foliage, and tales of tengu raven spirits, Mt. Takao is worth a visit for anyone into fitness, nature, or folklore.
5. Todaiji Temple – Nara
In contrast to the cute deer running around outside in Nara Park, Todaiji houses the solemn 15-meter (49-foot) Great Buddha.
4. Kinkakuji – Kyoto
Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion continues to attract visitors year-round.
3. Miyajima Island / Itsukushima Shrine – Hiroshima
Miyajima’s torii gate rising out of the sea is something you’ll only see in Japan, and is the reason why it’s been gracing the covers of travel guides for decades. Add in the appeal of the deer that wander around town, the hiking trails that lead to the top of the island’s Mt. Misen, and the amazing views one you get there, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s number-three choice.
2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Less than an hour away from Miyajima, Peace Memorial Park includes the A-Bomb Dome, Children’s Peace Monument, and the Peace Flame.
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto
The top spot went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the seemingly endless tunnels of torii gates that cover the hillside it’s built on. Long overlooked due to its distance from other Kyoto attractions it’s still just a short train ride away from Kyoto Station, and one of the most unique experiences travelers can have in Japan.
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