Top 12 Best Cities to Visit in Japan

Japan is an attractive country to visit with its vibrant cities, advanced communication system, and rich culture.

Thousands of visitors come to this country every year to explore its natural scenes, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tall skyscrapers, world-class food, and ancient palaces.

You will never get tired of traveling around, and even one trip isn’t enough to visit all the cities of Japan.

But, if it’s your first trip, you should go for the best ones.

So, here I am presenting you with the best cities to visit in Japan that have easy access across the country and are filled with loads of attractive spots.

Now, be prepared to explore each one cause you never know what specialty the next one offers you.

Top 12 Best Cities to Visit in Japan to Get The Most Out of Your Trip

As Japan is a state where the new and old culture coexist side by side, often travelers get confused about which city to visit or not.

Some prefer to see the advanced side when few want to know about their ancient lifestyle.

That’s why I have listed down from major cities like Tokyo to small Japanese cities that tourists often skip as they don’t know much about those.

And, at the end of this writing, you will indeed find the answer to this question, “What city in Japan should I visit?”

Also, I will mention the approximate accommodation cost and meal price, which will help you estimate your tour budget.

Note that the prices may vary according to season and which region you choose to stay.

Let’s start with the heart of Japan, which is none other than Tokyo.

1. Tokyo: A Mixture of Traditional & Modern Attractions

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, which offers captivating tourist spots and is also a great place to live as a foreigner.

It’s one of the most populated cities globally, with around fourteen million people living here. 

But, what makes this place great is that it has everything to suit the taste of each type of traveler. 

The moment you like to experience the dazzling city view, you may go to the Tokyo Tower, which is situated in the Shiba-Koen district of Minato.

Tokyo tower

The observation deck of this tower provides an incredible panorama of the city.

However, the night view is my favorite cause it shows how lively this place is with blinking light.

You can also visit the Electric Town (Akihabara) area, a significant shopping place for video games, manga, anime, electronics, and computer-related goods.

Hence, If you are a tech person, you will feel like entering into a dream paradise that can offer you vibrant technological stuff.

For those who wanna explore the ancient site, you may head to the Sensoji Shrine, the oldest shrine in Tokyo.

Other worth visiting places are The Imperial Palace and the Museum of Modern Art, situated next to each other in Chiyoda City.

When you want to escape from the chaotic streets of the town, a green space like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden will make your mind and body peaceful.

However, what does this metropolis have to offer to the couples?

As I said already, it is equipped with every type of fun place, and there is also a romantic dating spot here called Chidorigafuchi Moat.

Tokyo is indeed the most visited city in Japan because of its diversity and easy accessibility.

You may spend some quality time with your partner by riding a boat on the lake.

This place looks straight out from a fairy wonderland during spring, with soft pink cherry blossoms covering up the whole area.

Cherry blossom in Tokyo

And, when you are hungry, you can taste some delicious food from restaurants and food stalls.

How about eating some mouth-watering dishes at an affordable price?

Although Tokyo is an expensive city, yet you will find some top-class Michelin stars restaurants that won’t even rob your pocket.

Katsuzen, Tsuta, Zuisetsu, Saito are some of the famous restaurants that you can consider visiting.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $45 to $246/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $9 to $15. (inexpensive restaurant)

2. Kyoto: The City of Festive & Culture

Kyoto is surely one of the most beautiful cities in Japan as it is the home of a long-listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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This city displays quiet charm with shrines and tranquil gardens everywhere.

Some of the must-see spots in Kyoto are Nijo Castle, Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, The Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Katsura Imperial Villa, and The Byōdō-in Temple.

However, if you ask for my personal favorite, I will say The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

It is one of Japan’s unique locations that provides the tourists with a spectacular view and a calming sound of clattering bamboo.

In case you choose to visit Kyoto, I will suggest you not miss this place cause it’s such a place that resembles earthly heaven.

For an exceptional sightseeing experience, you should go to the entertainment district of Gion.

There you will find geishas walking around the streets lined up with the wooden folk houses.

Kyoto is Japan’s religious center with over 1000 Buddhist temples.

Rather than spotting geishas on the street, you can also witness their dance performances during Miyako Odori, a traditional dance festival.

Geisha dance performance kyoto

This feast occurs during spring, so if you are willing to come to Japan during this period, you should not miss this performance.

As this town has both traditional cafes and world-class restaurants, you can enjoy some traditional food as well as modern cuisine, whatever you prefer.

To name a few restaurants in Kyoto are Honke Owariya, Gozanbo, Gion Karyo, Ippudo Ramen, Den Shichi Sushi Saiin, etc.

In case you are a vegan, you may go to Ajiro, famous for its vegetarian Shojin cuisine.

Moreover, you don’t even need to worry about finding affordable accommodation within the town as Kyoto is one of the cheap cities in Japan according to living costs.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $32 to $182/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $6.5 to $8.5. (inexpensive restaurant)

3. Hiroshima: City That Holds A Sad History

Hiroshima is one of Japan’s must-see cities as it carries a sorrowful history.

On August 6th, 1945, this town was almost totally destroyed by the atomic bomb.

This past history is perhaps the main reason why so many foreigners come to visit this place.

Now, want to know the dark memory of this city? Then, you should go to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Here, you can watch the skeletal remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which documents the bombing of this city during WWII. 

Atomic Bomb Dome Hiroshima

At the heart of this town, you will find the Hiroshima castle, covered in black glaze and ornate wood.

The castle is the home to a shrine and a Samurai museum. 

A Samurai performance occurs right outside the palace walls every week, popular among locals and foreigners. 

Samurai performance

In case you are a car enthusiast, the Mazda Museum will let you experience some outstanding vehicle displays and an overview of Mazda’s history.

When talking about the food, you should try the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a type of pancake stuffed with cabbage, a fried egg, bean sprouts, noodles, and sweet sauce.

In case you stay in this town for a day, I suggest you travel to Miyajima Island to see Itsukushima Shrine and the well-known “floating” torii gate.

During high tide, the torii gate seems to float on the blue waters, and while the current is low, you can walk up to the gate.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $38 to $109/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $7.5 to $12. (inexpensive restaurant)

4. Nara: A Place Where Wild Deers Roam Freely

On a high-speed train from Kyoto, you can reach Nara in less than one hour.

So, if you are staying in Kyoto, you can easily have a day trip to this city. But, when you want to explore the whole town, stay at least one night.

It is one of the most interesting cities in Japan because you will find over 1,000 deer roaming freely in Nara Park, which is a rare sight.

Remember that these deer hold National Treasure Status, and you should not bother or harm them anyway.

Nara Park deer

After spending some time with these adorable animals, you can head to Tōdai-ji Temple, constructed in 752.

This shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has Japan’s most giant bronze Buddha statue, which is 15 meters tall.

Near the entrance of the temple grounds, you will find The Todaiji Museum that has a splendid collection of Buddhist art.

Another nearby temple is Kasuga Taisha, where you can arrive by walking on a stone lantern-lined path. 

On the evening of 3rd February and 14 to 15 August, a feast takes place in this shrine called Mantoro, which features around 3,000 lanterns placed along the pathways.

Kasuga Taisha lantern illumination

The effect is truly magical, and if you are in Nara on these dates, don’t miss it.

When you wanna enjoy a little hike, you may walk up to the summit of Mount Wakakusa.

It’s also this city’s top place for Sakura viewing. The grassy slope of this mountain is lined by cherry trees that start to bloom around early April.

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Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $39 to $174/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $6.58 to $13.5. (inexpensive restaurant)

5. Sapporo: The Best Winter Destination

Wanna flex some skiing & snowboarding techniques?

Well, coming to Sapporo will give you the opportunity to showcase your snow activity skills.

It is also one of the coolest cities in Japan, where you will find the finest snow powder in the country.

Sapporo snow skiing

Sapporo, best known as the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is the capital of the northern island of Hokkaido.

But, what makes this city so special is the Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracts ice sculptors from everywhere in the country to build massive ice statues and castles.

At night, colorful lights illuminate the statues, which is one of the main charms of this celebration.

As it is held every February, if you come here this month, don’t forget to attend this celebration.

sapporo snow illumination

While in town, I will ask you to take some time to pay a visit to the Ishiya Chocolate Factory and try their special white chocolate.

Then, have a walk around the Historical Village of Hokkaido, which is an open-air museum presenting sixty-period structures, each of them showcasing what the initiated life was once in this region.

After that, you may head to Mount Moiwa and take a cable car to the top.

From there, you can see the open view of this city and other natural spaces surrounding it.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $34 to $121/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $8.7 to $14. (inexpensive restaurant)

6. Osaka: Foreign-Friendly Locals

Compared to other cities in Japan, Osaka has the nicest foreigner-friendly atmosphere.

The locals are extroverted type, making you feel like you are in your home country.

Osaka is also renowned as Japan’s street food capital. Some famous snacks are takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

Takoyaki street food

As it’s a small town, you will get to experience an almost rural Japanese charm here.

During WWII, this city was heavily bombarded, that’s why it lacks historical sight compared to the other cities in Japan.

However, the good thing is, you can buy some vintage clothes and electronics at better prices than in Tokyo.

Two must-see spots of this city include the Open Air Museum of Japanese Farmhouses and the National Bunraku Theatre, where you can watch the ancient art of Japanese puppetry.

Osaka Castle is another great place to visit. There you can take a Gozabune boat and admire the 16th-century palace from the water.

Gozabune boat osaka castle

This region is also home to many onsens (thermal baths), which some people think of as a spa, but trying it out will give a unique cultural experience.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $28 to $111/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $6.5 to $10. (inexpensive restaurant)

7. Sendai: Home to Many Festivals

Sendai is known for its different types of festivals. Among them, the most popular one is Tanabata Matsuri.

It is also recognized as the “star festival”, which is held on the 7th day of the 7th month of every year.

As stated by a Chinese legend, the two stars Vega and Altair, which are generally detached from each other via the milky way, can meet on this day.

Tanabata Festival

Because the 7th month of the year nearly matches with August instead of July, following the lunar calendar, that’s why Tanabata is still celebrated on 7th August in some areas of Japan like Sendai.

On the other hand, in some regions, it is celebrated on 7th July.

One trendy Tanabata custom is writing wishes on a piece of paper and then hanging them on a specially built bamboo tree, hoping for that wish to come true.

Tanabata wish paper

This city’s other attractions are the Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth, SS30 observation deck,  Sendai Castle Ruins, and Zuihoden Temple.

From here, you can also head towards the nearby Matsushima that provides one of the best views in Japan.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $36 to $100/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $5.70 to $8. (inexpensive restaurant)

8. Kanazawa: Renowned for Its Samurai Districts

Kanazawa has some fantastic ancient architecture, such as Kanazawa Castle and the attractive gardens surrounding it.

At the bottom of the castle, the Nagamachi Samurai district is located where you can catch a glimpse of the old lifestyle of samurai and their families.

Nagamachi Samurai district

In a different region of the town, the Higashi Geisha District will let you experience the chaya or teahouses where the geishas used to entertain the wealthy people once.

Here you can drop by the Ochaya Shima Museum to learn about how the geishas used to live.

Many of the former geisha houses have been transformed into guest houses or restaurants.

Kanazawa Geisha district

However, most of the houses are dedicated to the exhibition of past memories and are now a nationally assigned Important Cultural Asset.

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You can also visit the Gold Leaf Sakuda Shop and buy a souvenir decorated with gold leaf, which is a traditional local craft.

Also, try some wagashi sweets and a cup of green tea at the nearby teahouse to refresh your mind and stomach!

Shortly, Kanazawa is one of the best cities in Japan for tourists who are fascinated to know about some past culture of this country.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $36 to $209/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $7.8 to $12. (inexpensive restaurant)

9. Takayama: A Edo Period Town

Travelers often visit the major cities in Japan like Tokyo, Osaka, or Sapporo and miss out on something stunning like Takayama. 

Situated deep in the mountains of central Japan, this city is prominent for the great preservation of its Edo Period (1603-1868) ancient center, known as the Sannomachi.

Long ago, this city was under the direct control of the shogunate.

Now, the town attracts visitors to see the Edo streetscape and buildings.

Hida folk village

During the winter season, these ancient houses, the Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum and the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine look straight out of a picture while covered in soft snow.

If you stay in Takayama overnight, I suggest you sleep in ryokans, small inns that provide traditional accommodations, authentic local food, and tea ceremonies.

However, I like the Hida No Sato Folk Village most, which is only a 20-minute drive away from the city center.

It’s an open-air museum including over 30 historical thatch-roof houses. 

Shirakawago village

Another world-famous village is Shirakawa-go that also has traditional houses which are over 250 years old.

But, you have to leave the city for a short day trip to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $44 to $171/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $5.70 to $8. (inexpensive restaurant)

10. Beppu: Relax & Soak in The Hot Spring

Located in Oita Prefecture, Beppu is Japan’s iconic Onsen region. There are hundreds of hot springs with diverse atmospheres in this city.

But, these onsens are divided into eight areas, and that’s why Beppu is also known as Beppu Hatto, which means 8 springs in Japanese.

You can choose to stay in an onsen ryokan and enjoy the warm spring.

Beppu hot spring

To name a few such inns are Yamada Bessou, Kannawaen, Nagominoyado Mutsuki, Hotel Umine and Nogami Honkan.

After spending a hectic travel day, you may relax here and let all your worries wash out.

The steam and mist that floats throughout the streets will make you feel like flying on an Aladdin magic carpet as the air looks like drifting clouds!!

Beppu city view

I believe coming to Beppu will be worth every sweat of yours as it has some impressive architecture and a quiet, laid-back feel to the place.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $47 to $316/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $7.80 to $13. (inexpensive restaurant)

11. Himeji: A Castle Town

Himeji is placed in the Kansai region of Japan.

The top attraction of this city is the magnificent Himeji Castle. It’s both a designated national treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nearby the castle, there are some samurai houses and Japanese-style gardens that you can explore.

Himeji Castle

As, in less than one hour from Osaka or Kyoto, you can reach this place, you don’t even need to stay overnight here to explore all the spots.

Hence, a short day trip to this city will be enough to visit all the attractions. 

If you choose to eat your lunch here, you may try out some delicious food from a nearby restaurants like Yamayoshi, Iccyoura, Ju Ju, or Takopia.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $36 to $77/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $6.5 to $8. (inexpensive restaurant)

12. Nagasaki: Where The Mystery Island from Skyfall Movie Is Situated

Although the nuclear attack in WWII destroyed Nagasaki, it slowly rebuilt over the following few decades.

You can have a glance at that history in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Also, a walk around Peace Park will let you see many memorials and monuments.

Mount Inasa stands in this city from where you can have a “10 million dollar view”!!

Well, don’t get panicked!!

As the view of Nagasaki is one of the prettiest in Japan, it has a nickname which is 10 million dollar view.

Nagasaki night view

To experience it, you need to take a ropeway cable car up to Mount Inasa.

Once you climb to the observation platform, you will have a 360-degree view of the whole city and the port. 

Off to the bay of Nagasaki, Hashima Island is located, which is an abandoned place.

Hashima island

Once, this land was used as a forced labor camp and to access undersea coal.

The scene of the destroyed structure of an island from the famous James Bond movie Skyfall was shot here, and now it’s open for visitors.

So, don’t miss out on going here anyway in case you are a big fan of this blockbuster movie.

Hotel & Meal Cost (Approximately)
Hotel Room: $41 to $226/ night.
Per Meal Cost: $8.76 to $12. (inexpensive restaurant)

Top Cities to Visit in Japan On Your First Trip

I know that it’s hard to visit all the cities I mentioned when you are in this country for a short vacation.

However, if you are in Japan for the first time, I suggest you plan a tour to the following cities at least because these have the most tourist attractions.

  1. Tokyo.
  2. Kyoto.
  3. Osaka.
  4. Hiroshima.

Also, these places are well-connected by the bullet train, so you can easily travel from one to another.

A 10-day trip will be enough to cover up all the locations of these cities.

In case you are on a long break, try to visit all the locations that I talked about.

I can ensure you that it will be worth spending every moment in this country and you will return home with utmost satisfaction.

Okay, dear, we are at the end of our journey.

Let’s wrap it up here.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have no questions remaining in your mind regarding the best cities to visit in Japan after going through this writing.

Whether you come here with your family, friends, or alone, you will be able to have a great time here.

Lastly, have a good day.