Japan may be a small country, but it has a rich culture spanning thousands of years. This is the home of sushi, Zen Buddhism, anime, and countless castles testifying of its resonant history. However, the Land of the Rising Sun is much more. Traditional landscapes and modern architecture coexist perfectly and offer unique sights and experiences. If you find yourself in this amazing Asian country, here are a dozen most beautiful places to visit and feel the magic of Japan.
1. Watch snow monkeys relaxing in an onsen
Japan is a great country to travel solo since it offers so many unique opportunities like watching snow monkeys bathing in a hot spring. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Nagano is one of the landmarks and main attractions because of these Japanese macaques. And these monkeys put on quite a show for the park visitors like cuddling, grooming each other, and simply relaxing in the warm water. You can visit the park anytime, although winter is the best period to make wonderful photos and visit the nearby town of Yamanouchi.
2. Meet the bowing deer at Nara Park
There are many spots in Japan where you can have a wonderful time with animals like the Zao Fox Village and Rabbit Island. However, a trip to Nara Park near Osaka will take you among free-roaming deer that like to bow to visitors. These animals are regarded as messengers of god and it’s a real honor to walk among them in Japan. Once here, visit some of the temples in the area like Kasuga-tasha Shrine, and Yakushiji Temple.
3. Start your morning in the bamboo forest
When you find yourself in Kyoto, dedicate at least one morning to take a stroll in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The sunlight moves between the tall bamboo trees and makes the experience a perfect way to start a day of exploring the region. The area is covered with enchanting sounds of bamboo leaves and stalks swaying in the wind. This brisk stroll is also a great way to warm up for the day ahead and stay fit.
4. Experience the authentic Zen garden
Japanese Zen gardens are some of the most famous landscaping practice which has taken over the world. So, once you come here make sure to visit an authentic one and feel the peacefulness and tranquility they offer. Shukkei-en Garden in Hiroshima dates back to the 17th century and is full of bridges taking you over various sceneries and to the small bamboo forest. Every section of the garden is dedicated to a different part of the country making this garden a miniature version of Japan.
5. See the tallest waterfall in Japan
Nachi Falls is 436 feet tall waterfall making it the tallest one in Japan which is even visible from the Pacific Ocean. It is located near one of the three Kumano shrines Nachi Taishi and you can reach it by train from Kyoto or Osaka. The shrine is more than a thousand years old, although you will find other Shinto and Buddhist sites near the waterfall as well. The waterfall makes a dramatic drop into the rushing river below which is a perfect spot to take a moment and rest from your tour.
6. Visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura or Kamakura Daibutsu is located near Tokyo and is one of the most popular tourist destinations. The area has numerous historical spots, monuments, temples, and shrines so plan a day trip to fully enjoy the sights. The popular Buddha statue is made of copper and is more than 36 feet tall on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. It’s a rare opportunity to see a Buddha statue in an open space which makes this monument unique and otherworldly at the same time. This is the second-largest Buddha statue in Japan after the one in Todaiji Temple.
7. Discover the fairytale castle of Osaka
Osaka Castle Park is ideal to spend the day resting from lots of walking and exerting yourself with sightseeing. Small details colored on the castle and trees surrounding it makes this place a fairytale-like sight where you can relax. This is a perfect spot to enjoy some traditional architecture and you can even go inside the castle for a small fee even though entrance to the park is free. Once here, make sure to try one of the best matcha ice creams in Japan and other delicious dishes from the food stands.
8. Stop by the geisha district in Kyoto
It would be a shame to come to Japan and not see one of its biggest landmarks – the geisha district. Gion is located in Kyoto and is one of the most famous geisha districts in Japan full of traditional wooden houses and temples. This is also a place where you can try on traditional Japanese clothing and get a photoshoot in full attire. Since this is a popular tourist destination, you might even encounter a geisha although the feel of old Japan is exciting to experience in itself. The makeover will take three hours to fit the wig, dress you up, and apply traditional makeup but will be a perfect souvenir to take home.
9. Enjoy the best snow in the world
Japan ski resorts are one of the most famous in the world and mostly because of the amazing snowfall perfect for skiing. Hakuba, Niseko, and Myoko Kogen are some of the most popular places to have a wonderful winter holiday. If you are not so much into skiing, go on a relaxing hike or visit villages situated in the mountain foothills. Hot springs are located all over the mountain slopes and perfect way to relax and enjoy the view over picturesque landscapes.
10. Don’t miss the largest cemetery in Japan
The largest cemetery in the country, Okunoin, is a good place to start exploring the sacred Mount Koya area. More than 200,000 Buddhist monks, warlords, and dignitaries from Japanese history are buried here making it an important spiritual sight. The cemetery is located in the forest which is also home to numerous temples, shrines, and statues of Buddha. The best time to visit Okunoin is before dusk when the light starts fading away and the sight turns even more beautiful as it becomes eerie.
11. Take a stroll by the Blue Pond
The Blue Pond in Hokkaido is a wonderful place to take a stroll and enjoy the magical scenery. The high concentration of magnesium makes the water milky blue and dead trees sticking from it make it a peculiar sight. During the summer, the whole area becomes even more beautiful because of the blooming lavender fields in Furano. In winter, the area changes the colors completely turning into a white and gray breathtaking landscape.
12. Feel the magic of cherry blossoms on Mount Yoshino
If you want to witness the famous cherry blossoms, then head over to Mount Yoshino. With more than 30,000 cherry trees this is one of the most popular destinations in Japan. The best spots for viewing are Hanayagura Observatory and Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine although walking underneath the trees is a sight to behold as well. The area has several traditional inns or ryokans where you can relax and soak in a hot spring.
To feel the magic of Japan, all you need is a good itinerary and enough information so you don’t miss anything. Although these most beautiful places to visit don’t cover all the beauties, they are a good starting point for the Japanese experience.
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