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Top 5 Must See Places in Japan for 2016

Make 2016 the year you visit Japan!

By 5 min read 23

Japan was recently named #2 in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2016, which means there is no better time to visit Japan than right now! The following is a list of some of the must see places in Japan for 2016. These places may not be the most famous or popular tourist destinations, but all have a special reason for visiting in 2016. Happy travels!

5. Setouchi Triennale Art

Where: Kagawa Prefecture


The Setouchi Triennale Art show on the beautiful islands of the Seto Inland Sea in Kagawa Prefecture is a festival of art, music, drama and dance. About 100 new artworks by artists from Japan and overseas are exhibited across twelve islands as well as the town of Takamatsu on the mainland of Shikoku. It is a treat for art aficionados and tourists alike, who want to experience the flavour of Japan’s local island culture and life.

Why you should visit in 2016

This year is the third edition of the event, which was first held in 2010. The Setouchi Triennale Art is held every three years, so now is your best chance to see it as the next edition will not be until 2019. The event is spread across three seasons: spring (20 March to 17 April), summer (18 July to 4 September) and autumn (8 October to 6 November). This year, the 2016 event will seek to promote each region’s speciality dishes as well as internationalisation.

Info: http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/

4. Ise Shima

Where: Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shima region located in eastern Mie Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan is an area rich in nature, history and culture. It is home to many resorts and beaches as well as being famed for its abundance of fresh seafood and pearl divers. The Shima Peninsula has been designated a national park for its natural beauty and cultural importance with the area home to Ise Grand Shrine, Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine.

Why you should visit in 2016

Ise Shima will host the G7 summit this year on May 26 and 27, 2016. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe chose the area because of its deep traditions, rich culture and beautiful nature. He would like the attending world leaders to feel first hand traditional Japanese culture and beautiful nature. The main venue for the summit will be the picturesque island of Kashikojima, located along the rugged Pacific coastline. Ise Shima with its historic sites, beautiful landscapes and amazing food is one of the must see destinations in Japan.

Info: http://www.japan.go.jp/g7/

3. Universal Studios Japan

Where: Osaka

Universal Studios Japan, also known as (USJ) is a popular theme park located in Osaka. It opened in March 2001 and is based on the original Universal theme parks in the US. Universal Studios Japan is huge at 39 hectares and is the second most visited theme park in Japan after Tokyo Disney Resort. Recent additions to Universal Studios Japan include Biohazard, Monster Hunter and the extremely popular The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the blockbuster Harry Potter film series.

Why you should visit in 2016

Universal Studios Japan will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year by opening a new record-breaking roller coaster, called “The Flying Dinosaur”. It promises to have the world’s longest track (1,124 meters) and the deeper drop ever (37.8 meters). Scheduled to open in spring, 2016, in its Jurassic Park area, the roller coaster will take you around 360-degree spins and is bound to please even the greatest thrill-seekers amongst us.

Info: https://www.usj.co.jp/e/

2. Hakodate

Where: Hokkaido


Hakodate is a port city that is the gateway to Hokkaido, located at its southernmost tip. It offers breathtaking views, delicious seafood and unique architecture. Voted last year as one of Japan’s most attractive cities it is definitely one of Japan’s top hidden destinations with amazing attractions such as Mount Hakodate, Fort Goryokaku (Japan’s first Western style fortress), and Red-brick Motomachi (historic residential district).

Why you should visit in 2016

March 2016 will see the launch of a new Shinkansen (bullet train) service which will connect Hokkaido with the rest of Japan. The much anticipated JR Hokkaido Shinkansen will link Tokyo with Hakodate cutting travel time down to around 4 hours. This is great news for travellers to Japan, making its northernmost and often overlooked island far more accessible to visitors. The Japan Rail Pass will be accepted on the new route helping foreign tourists explore the natural charms and sightseeing spots of Hokkaido on a budget.

Website: http://www.hakodate.travel/en/

1. Mount Fuji

Where: Shizuoka/Yamanashi Prefecture

The iconic Mount Fuji has to be Japan’s most famous and recognisable attraction. The active volcano is located about 100 km southwest of Tokyo and is the country’s tallest peak at 3,776 meters. Fuji-san as it is referred to by the locals has been a pilgrimage site for centuries as well as an inspiration for Japanese artists and poets. It was added to UNESCO World Heritage List as a Cultural Site in 2013.

Why you should visit in 2016

This year in 2016, Japan will celebrate a new national holiday called “Mountain Day”. The special holiday was made to encourage Japanese citizens and visitors to Japan to celebrate all things mountain related. The new holiday will fall on 11th August, which coincides with the busiest weekend for climbing Mount Fuji. It is anticipated that the World Heritage Site will see an increase in visitors keen to celebrate Mountain Day by visiting or climbing the sacred mountain.

Website: http://mtfuji-jp.com/


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  • Great post and good recommendations from everyone. We would highly recommend also taking a trip out towards north-west Japan to a prefecture called Tottori ken. The countryside is beautiful and the locals very friendly. Mt Daisen is also a beautiful spot and has some great skiing conditions during winter. So many places to choose from, so little time 😉

    • Thank you JTM! The purpose of the post was to highlight some places that have a special reason to visit in 2016. I tried to include a mixture of well known and off the beaten path destinations. Tottori is also an amazing place that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

  • nishinariku says:

    Talked with my son who has been to U SJapan and he told me it was very Japanese
    2 hour or longer waits for every thing!
    And $$$$$$$$

  • सत्यशील कौशिक says:

    Luckily in my first trip(last year) I visited Tokyo, Kawasaki, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. I couldn’t go to Nara and I didn’t go to Universal Studios.

  • nishinariku says:

    Who wants to come to Japan and go to Universal Studio EXCEPT Chinese??

    • 98% of the park’s population are composed of Japanese locals…

    • Plenty of people do! It is actually one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. I would rather visit Osaka Castle myself, but that is just me 🙂

      • nishinariku says:

        And I’ve been in Osaka- shi long before that place.

        • And that is your choice. No problem with that. Not everyone is like you and many people come to Japan to visit places like this. It is also extremely popular with local Japanese people. I have been once and enjoyed my visit. I much prefer Japanese castles, temples, shrines and Edo period towns and that is fine as well. Lets enjoy the many different aspects of Japan 🙂

          • Just read in the Japan Times ~ Mount Fuji and popular theme parks Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and Tokyo Disneyland topped what foreign tourists posted on social media during their stay in Japan. Very popular destinations for foreign tourists to Japan!

  • Vera Valieva says:

    Even though the triennale is in the top, it’s #5, but I’d really put in #1! =) It looks so interesting, especially when it offers one ticket for all 3 periods of the triennale. Anyway, I agree about featuring it.

  • Thank you so much! I hope to write another post just like this for 2017 early next year. I hope some of these off the beaten path destinations become more popular as they are hidden gems.

  • papiGiulio says:

    Hmmm, Universal Studios? Of course everyone has their own choices but I’d choose something more special/Japanese like Castle Takeda instead of a themepark, but thats just me 🙂

    • Yes, it is a choice for 2016! This list is must see places for 2016 and not must see places overall in Japan. If you are a first time visitor to Japan my Top 5 would be Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima. Universal Studios Japan is a popular choice for many people, especially fans of Harry Potter and world record-breaking roller-coasters 🙂

  • Rob Brown says:

    I’d recommend Kyoto or Nara over Universal Studios!



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