Japan has always been a popular holiday destination for foreign tourists, but last year saw a record number of tourists visit its shores. This can probably be attributed to a weaker yen and easing of visa requirements for travellers from some Asian countries, but I also think the quality of the attractions and sights on offer draws the tourists in as well.
The Japanese government has also made a concerted effort to increase the amount of visitors to Japan via various promotional campaigns. Boosting tourism has been one of the cornerstones of Prime Minister Abe’s growth strategy for Japan.
The New Year in 2015 is going to be an even hotter year for travelling in Japan. The following is a list of what I think are the top 5 must see places to visit in Japan.
1. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s best preserved samurai castles and is a must see for any castle lover. The castle is fondly known as “Shirasagi-jo”, which means White Heron Castle in Japanese due to its brilliant white exterior and its resemblance to a heron taking flight. It was one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites when registered in 1993, and is one of the few original castles remaining in Japan from the samurai age.
Why you should visit in 2015
After five years of extensive renovation work to the main tower and walls the castle is back to looking its best. The scaffolding around the main tower has been removed and the castle will be back to its full glory by March 2015. The main tower is already looking magnificent in pristine white and will be a must see come this cherry blossom season in Japan.
Where: Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture
2. The Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in Temple
The Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in Temple is regarded as Japan’s most beautiful building. If you want a preview, take a look at the back of a ¥10 coin, where you can see an image of this elegant building. The building is one of the few original wooden structures to survive from the Heian Period (710 – 1185), and is one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Why you should visit in 2015
Renovation work was completed last year to restore the Phoenix Hall, which has been painted in the same colours used when it was first repaired in the 12th century. You can now view the famous hall as it looked almost a thousand years ago.
Where: Uji City, Kyoto
3. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park located in the center of Hiroshima City contains several memorials to the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima. The purpose of the park is not only to memorialize the victims of the bomb, but to also raise awareness of the horrors of nuclear war and advocate world peace.
Why you should visit in 2015
Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park has been one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I truly believe that this is something that everyone, both Japanese and foreigners should experience at least once in their lives. This year on August 6th the park will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.
Where: Hiroshima City, Hiroshima
Kanazawa is a beautiful city that is rich in both culture and history. It has one of the best preserved samurai and geisha districts in all of Japan, as well as being home to one of Japan’s best gardens in Kenroku-en. Kanazawa is one of my favourite places in Japan and is well worth the visit.
Why you should visit in 2015
Kanazawa has long been a hidden gem, but this will change now that the travel time from Tokyo has been reduced due to the opening of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen line in March 2015. The new line will cut the journey time from Tokyo from 4 hours to around 2.5 hours. Making this fascinating place more accessible and therefore a must see destination in 2015!
Where: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Koya-san or Mount Koya is a complex of temples, monasteries and necropolis deep inside a mountainside forest. The area is one of Japan’s most pristine and sacred and is often called the “Shangri-la” of Japan. Koya-san is best experienced with an overnight stay at one of the town’s temple lodgings to catch a glimpse of Japanese spirituality and long-held religious traditions.
Why you should visit in 2015
This year Koya-san will mark its 1,200th anniversary. We all need a good detox after the year we had in 2014, and we can achieve this at Koya-san where early morning chanting will cleanse both the body and mind.
Where: Wakayama Prefecture
There you have it, my top 5 places to visit in Japan in 2015. I hope you have enjoyed the list and will mark some of these places down for a visit in 2015.
There are also many many great places across Japan. If you search area names (like, kyushu tourism, shikoku tourism, tohoku tourism), you hit relevant sites.
By the way, N-sta (TBS) reported on TV just two days ago that there are fraud groups from China, disguising in monks and selling fake cards, praying beads, etc., to foreign tourists in Japan. They approach foreigners on the street, with sweet words, or sometimes assertively, grabbing arms and almost snatching money out of tourists’ hands. They seem to appear in Akihabara, Ueno Park, Asakusa, etc, in Tokyo. They may appear in other touristic places.
Please beware, and hope you enjoy your stay in Japan!
We are travelling to japan from 29th Oct to 5th NOv 2015. We have 2 small kids ( below 4yrs) so please suggest best plan to cover natural beauty of japan from 30th to 4th Nov. we like to cover kyoto, nara, Osaka castle and aquarium, Hiroshima, Tokyo mt fuiji.
Please suggest best plan to cover.. which place and when.. which JR pass will help us better to travel?
Post looks great, thanks for the tipps. Will visit Tokio/Japan for a few days in September – what would be your general Top 5 for first time in Japan?
Sorry, this reply is a little late! My top five for a first time visitor to Japan would be Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Hiroshima. I hope you enjoyed your stay in Japan.
Yes, Japan is the best place for travelling, there are many popular and enjoyable destinations for making travelling memorable. I also planned to go Japan, But my budget is low. So, if you have some low budget tips which help me to travel.
Japan is very doable on a budget and can be a lot of fun. Some basic tips are:
1. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling in Japan, look at picking up a Japan Rail Pass as this will save you money and time.
2. Possibly the biggest expense will be accommodation, but there are many cheap alternatives available such as Capsule Hotels, Minshuku Guesthouses and Business Hotels.
3. Eating at budget Japanese food chains will save you a bit on your food bill. Some of my favourites are Yoshinoya/Sukiya for beef bowl, Katsuya for Tonkatsu and Coco Ichiban for Japanese curry. You can find plenty of good one coin (500 yen) restaurants all over the country.
Hi, I don’t know where you are planning to stay but I’m currently in Osaka. I do splash a little cash around the place where I can, but general living is pretty cheap. You can eat out at some places for no more than 1,000 yen, and sight seeing makes things feel free. If you are staying in one area, that’s good because local trains are so cheap! For example, I went to Kyoto for around 800 yen (a single, so 1600 there and back). Also, there’s lots of great places to go just in one prefecture alone. That means you’ll have lots of places to go at low prices.
If you are wanting to travel around and be as cost efficient as possible, for around £150 (I’m from England), you can get a Japan Rail Pass, which allows you to travel pretty much everywhere for one week, as much as you want to. If you’ve got that, you can visit many places as the best value. £150 is a lot, especially on a low budget, but it’s the best price available, and if you put it to good use it’ll be much more than worth the amount you’ll pay.
You can google for the Japan Rail Pass, it’ll pop up, it’s worth reading about!
I’m going for a month this April any advice
It really depends on what you want to see and your interests. I think Kanazawa and Himeji Caste are the hot spots at the minute but definitely visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara if this is your first trip to Japan.
I will be spending a week in both Kyoto and Tokyo (last week of March, first week of April, respectively), with a day trip down to Hiroshima. The first 3 places are already on my list of “must sees”….I can’t wait to go! =)
That sounds great Kevin! Definitely for a short stay in Japan I would recommend the “Golden Route” of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima.
Hey John, I agree with you, Japan is the best option for a holiday, there is is swathed in natural beauty, from the snow festivals and lavender farms of the northern isle of Hokkaido to the sun-drenched beaches and the turquoise waters of the subtropical islands of Okinawa.
Thank you Sophi, Japan does offer you a taste of everything and the landscapes are so varied as you travel through the country. I have only seen a fraction of what the country has to offer and I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of it over the coming years.
Your article made me reminisce the good places & culture I’ve experienced in Japan back in the days. I hope I could have the chance to go back.. 🙂
Thank you Venus! I hope you have the chance to visit Japan again one day 🙂
I will be in Kyoto in July! finally going to Japan and I can’t wait 😀
Kyoto is an amazing place full of history and culture. Make sure you take a day trip to Uji to see the beautiful Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in Temple as well as sample some of the famous Uji Matcha 🙂
I will be in Hiroshima this August definitely!
That’s great! Will you be visiting Nagasaki as well?
It depends on my budget, not sure yet, so ashamed :))
You will be in Nagasaki too?
Yeah, not sure at this stage. I’d love to be but we will have to wait and see 🙂
Thank you so much Sarah. I hope you get the chance to visit these amazing places in Japan.
It’s hard to make a list when there are so many beautiful places in Japan. Hida Takayama is one of my favourites and we are lucky to live close by in Gifu. I also recommend a stop by Gujo Hachiman on the way to Takayama.
I’ve only ever been in the summer. I believe it can get extremely cold there in the winter.
Eiheiji temple in Fukui Prefecture,brought in the new years there.
Most definitely will go back for a daytime visit
I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip 🙂
Can’t wait for Himeji Castle. I’ve ‘only’ been there a hundred times, but now FINALLY it’s back for good! ^^
Looking forward to seeing some of your shots when you visit ZJ 🙂
How does Fuji not make it on here!!!
because everyone knows it? Why is Todaiji not on here? Probably because everyone knows it.
I made this list with sights specifically best to be seen in 2015 due to renovations or changes. Both Mount Fuji & Todaiji in Nara would make my Top 10 Must See Places for Japan at any time.
Thank you! I hope you can visit some of these amazing places 🙂
I would love to add a place called Shirakawa-go (World Heritage) with the village of old Gassho style houses
The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are also must see
destinations in Japan, and located in my backyard. I recommend the
illuminations in winter.
This was great 😀
I don’t think I will have the money to go there, but I’m really interested in the locations you wrote about. Even if I’m more a “Japanese Technology” Fan (like the Shinkansen <3 and Honda robots), I can't discard the beauty of the Traditional Japan and the awesome contrast between Old and New 😀
Nice article 😀
Thank you so much! Glad to hear you really enjoyed the article 🙂