As border restrictions ease and Japan opens up to tourists, you might be ready to search for places to see in the country.
This guide will offer different types of destinations to fit your travel expectations and is tourist friendly so you can maximize your trip. Of course, if you’re already living in Japan and need to step away from the busy streets of Tokyo, these destinations could do that too!
Little Edo in Kawagoe
Stepping into Kawagoe’s Little Edo “Koedo” is like entering a portal to take you back in time. If you like dressing up in a kimono and taking a stroll down Instagram-worthy streets, then this is the place to visit. Kawagoe is only 30 minutes from Tokyo, with a direct line from Ikebukuro station, so you can easily add it to your itinerary.
Koedo is lined with kurazukuri (warehouse-style buildings) selling souvenirs, snacks, and more. A must-try in Kawagoe is the sweet potato turned into fries, ice cream, and other variations. There’s also the Toki no Kane bell tower, a symbol of Koedo dating back to the 1600s. The area also has multiple temples and shrines, the famous Starbucks in Kanetsuki-dori, which has outdoor terrace seats to enjoy a Japanese garden, the local brewery Coedo, which specializes in craft beer (including sweet potato flavor), and Unagi Hayashiya, which is known for the best unagi (freshwater eel).
Food, history, culture, aesthetics, relaxation, and memories – you can experience them all in Koedo.
Minamiizu in Shizuoka
We stayed in Minamiizu during the summer vacation, and this place is a definite must-try. The coastlines of Shizuoka are filled with beaches, so you can literally go beach hopping. What’s more, the spots you can actually swim in are so vast that the area doesn’t feel congested, even during the peak summer season.
If you go to the beach early morning, the water is clear and free from kelp for full relaxation. There are even waves to go boogie boarding on. There was something about the area we stayed in that made my family fully unwind and recharge. The area is also filled with hotels and Airbnbs that are a short walk from the shore, so you can take a dip or sunbathe at any time. To add to the convenience, there are multiple paid showers to wash off the sand before you go back to your room.
One more thing, the food was excellent. My husband, who doesn’t like fish and chips, ordered the same thing for three consecutive days because of the seafood’s freshness. There are multiple restaurants in the area that specialize in sashimi and grilled seafood, so you can expect the freshest catch to be served on the table.
Other activities to try in Minamiizu or other parts of the Shizuoka coastline are fishing, kayaking, hiking (there are multiple caves to explore!), scuba diving, and snorkeling. They say that water has excellent healing properties for the mind, body, and spirit. You can expect just that when visiting Minamiizu.
Snow Monkey Park in Nagano
How about a destination during the cold winter months? Head on over to Nagano Prefecture, filled with hot springs, traditional Japanese inns, and the Japanese Macaque or snow monkey, which is native to the mountains of Nagano.
The Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park in Yamanouchi is the best place to see these snow monkeys as they go down to the valley during the winter to enjoy some heat from the onsens. You can witness these photogenic monkeys take a dip in the water and portray similar emotions of comfort and satisfaction that humans feel. Although visitors aren’t allowed to touch the monkeys, they’re used to human presence, so you can get close to take photos.
The best time to visit the park is from December to March. There is an ¥800 entrance fee, and it’s advised to go early (the park opens from 9 am to 4 pm) as the venue can quickly pile up with tourists.
Foodie destinations in Japan
If you are a foodie, there are a couple of areas worth visiting as they specialize in a particular food. Shimoda for seafood, Hokkaido for dairy, Morioka for soba, Kobe for beef (of course), or Yokohama for ramen.
Food is an essential part of any trip and is especially crucial in the itinerary of food lovers. Almost every tourist destination in Japan has a specialty, so it’s recommended to do a quick Google check for the must-try dish in the areas you’re visiting. Whether it’s sweet potato prepared differently or weird but delicious tofu skin, you’d be pleasantly surprised at what these cities and towns have to offer.
Theme parks for some fun and excitement
Relive your Disney childhood at Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea, catch up on the latest attractions at one of the four Universal Studios in Osaka, try the ultimate roller coasters that broke world records at Fuji Q Highland at the foot of Mt Fuji, or go full kawaii mode at Sanrio Puroland in Tama City, Tokyo.
Japan has multiple theme parks that cater to every visitor, whether it’s a love for legos (Legoland in Nagoya) or tech and games (Tokyo Joypolis in Odaiba). Another noteworthy amusement park is Nagashima Spaland in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture, with kid- and adult-friendly rides and a water park. It is the second largest amusement park after Tokyo Disneyland. The venue also holds various events showcasing each season.
Whether you’re a thrill seeker or must be close to water to call any trip a vacation, there is definitely something in Japan to cater to your needs. No wonder the country is often included in people’s must-visit lists.