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I’m not going to lie. I’m completely and utterly in LOVE with Japan. Since arriving back home, I usually spend my spare time looking at photos of my travels or thinking about planning (another!) trip.
I wanted to write this blog post to share with you how beautiful Japan is and inspire you for your next trip. So if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Japan read on (or if you’ve already been, get ready for some reminiscing!)
Psst: for my photography enthusiasts, make sure you check out my guide to Instagrammable places in Tokyo!
Here are my favorite photos from my time in Japan:
1. Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi-Inari is iconic Japan. There’s a reason why the torii gates at this shrine are so famous!
My visit here was one of my most memorable experiences in Japan. I arrived a bit before 8 am in the morning, and begun my hike up Inari mountain, through the thousands of striking Torii gates. Each torii gate has been donated by a local Japanese business (the big torii gates cost over one million yen!)
Tip for visiting: make sure you visit early in the morning (the earlier, the better!) to beat the crowds of tourists that visit every day. Fushimi-Inari Shrine is open 24/7 so if you can visit outside of traditional sightseeing hours, you’re bound to have a magical moment (or two!) here. For more information about how to avoid crowds in Kyoto, check out my guide!
2. Higashiyama District, Kyoto
The Higashiyama District is the best area for experiencing all of what Kyoto has to offer. The laneways are narrow and filled with tiny restaurants and charming merchant shops selling traditional Japanese crafts.
I still remember the exact moment I captured this photo. The laneways were noisy and crowded with people. And as the sun began to set, there was almost a hush that fell across the crowds of people as the golden light filled the street.
Tip for visiting: Sunset is the best time to visit this Insta-worthy spot in Kyoto. It can get crowded here (especially if you’re visiting during the summer or cherry blossom season) but embrace the crowds – it just adds to the atmosphere! For more information about how to avoid crowds in Kyoto, check out my guide!
3. The Giant Pumpkin (by artist Yayoi Kusama), Naoshima Island
Lesser known to first-time visitors to Japan, Naoshima Island is an art lover’s dream. The island is not only surrounded by clear blue water and untouched beaches but is also filled with art museums and exhibits. My favorite spot on Naoshima Island was this adorable pumpkin, by the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. After hearing about Kusama’s exhibitions (her work is often displayed in major cities in the US!) it was especially exciting to see her artwork in Japan.
4. Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island
This shrine is iconic Japan. I mean, where else in Japan can you see a floating torii gate??
Miyajima Island is just a day trip away from Hiroshima, and most visitors come to see the floating torii gate during high tide. If you’re planning a visit to Miyajima Island, make sure you check out my guide to visiting Miyajima Island!
Tip for visiting: to enjoy the magic Itsukushima Shrine has to offer, spend at least one night here. After the day-trippers have left, Miyajima Island is magical. You’ll be able to see the sunset behind the floating torii gate, and as it gets dark, the tori gate is illuminated by lights.
Important update: the Torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine is currently undergoing renovations. The torii gate is currently covered, and you will be unable to see it during this time. Itsukushima Shrine however is still open, and Miyajima Island is still worth a visit if you are visiting from nearby Hiroshima!
5. Shikisai no Oka flower field, Hokkaido
Hokkaido is such an underappreciated tourist destination for foreign travelers to Japan. This northern island is incredibly popular amongst Japanese during the summer (it’s considerably colder compared to Tokyo and Kyoto) and is also famous for snow sports during the winter.
During the summer months, however, Hokkaido is known for its incredible flower fields. If you’d like to visit Hokkaido, I’ve got a guide to things to do during the summer in Hokkaido!
Tip for visiting: Located in a town called Biei, Shikisai no Oka gets SUPER busy with tourists looking for flowers during the spring and summer. If there’s a specific flower field you want to visit, make sure you visit as early as you can, as it can get crowded!
6. Mountains of Kamikochi, Nagano Prefecture
I came across an article about Kamikochi while researching a visit to Takayama, and decided to make a short detour there. I am SO glad I visited Kamikochi.
Let’s be honest here; Japan isn’t exactly known for its mountainous regions… But despite this, I fell in love with Kamikochi and highly recommend it to those looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences.
I met a lady from Kyoto when I was in Kamikochi who asked me why I would make an effort to visit Kamikochi when I could visit Tasmania, which is only a 1 hr flight from my home city of Melbourne. I think the photo below captures exactly why I would visit Kamikochi…
Tip for visiting: Kamikochi is not the easiest of places to visit! There is no train station here, but the easiest (and laziest way) to get to Kamikochi is to take a highway bus. The bus takes approximately 5 hrs, and there are options which depart both Tokyo or Kyoto. If you’re short on time, you can even take an overnight bus! Check out my guide to Kamikochi if you’d like to know more.
7. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
If you’ve ever done any research into visiting Japan, chances are you’ll see photographs of the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Forest just outside Kyoto. For good reason – this Bamboo forest is stunning to visit!
I always recommend including a visit to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest for travelers visiting Kyoto.
8. Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Tokyo isn’t known for its temples, but the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is a sight to behold. In front of the temple are rows of tiny stalls selling souvenirs and delicious Japanese snacks. Sensoji Temple was one of my favorite temples in Tokyo, and I include it in my suggested 2-day in Tokyo itinerary!
Tip for visiting: Sensoji temple was one of the first temples I visited in Tokyo. We were suffering from jetlag and couldn’t sleep – instead, we visited the temple (at 7 am in the morning!) It’s beautiful to photograph before the crowds pick up, but I wouldn’t recommend visiting so early, as none of the stalls were open! Make sure you visit during the opening hours for the surrounding shops (most open around 9-10 am in the morning)
9. The city skyline, Tokyo
Like any major city around the world, Tokyo’s skyline is iconic. I loved watching the sunset in Tokyo and seeing all the bright lights illuminate the skyline.
This is a beautiful spot to capture incredible views of Tokyo. If you’re a photography fan, make sure you check out my guide to Instagrammable places in Tokyo!
Tip for visiting: one of the most budget-friendly spots to watch the sunset in Tokyo is the observation deck at the Tokyo World Trade Center, where entry is 620 JPY – a bargain compared to the entry fees at Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree!
Have you been to Japan before? If yes – where was your favorite place in Japan?
If you’ve never been, is it on your bucket list?
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