12 Top Rated Travel Destinations in Japan

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Japan has so many things to offer for its visitors. The following 12 Top Rated Travel Destinations list will give you a good start to explore one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It covers temple and shrine highlights, magnificant castles, best outdoor spots and a memorial park. If this is not enough for you checkout hundreds of more destinations on this website.

1. Fushimi Inari-Taisha in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Fushimi Inari Taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine) is one of the most popular and famous Shinto shrines in Japan. The head shrine of Inari with a history of over 1300 years is known for its endless arcades of thousands of vermilion torii gates along the 4km pathway up the sacred mountain Inari (233 metres). It is an iconic sight.

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2. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine on Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture

The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Miyajima, a small island near Hiroshima. The famous torii gate is a landmark sign and known all over the world. It is considered as one of the three most scenic views of Japan. During low tide you can even walk to the O-Torii gate

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3. Mount Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture

Mount Fuji near Tokyo is with 3776.24m the highest mountain of Japan. Its iconic shape is known all over the world. In 2013 Mt. Fuji or Fuji-san received the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The active volcano belongs to the three sacred mountains of Japan. You should plan a hiking tour to the top, which is a very popular activity during the summer months.

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4. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

The Zen Buddhist Temple Kinkaku-ji or "Temple of the Golden Pavilion" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kyoto. It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan and a perfect example of the construction style during the Muromachi period (1337 - 1573). The two upper floors are completely covered in gold leaf. You want find a more beautiful temple in the country.

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5. Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Kiyomizu-dera ("Pure Water Temple") is one of the most famous and popular Buddhist temple in Japan. Kiyomizu-dera was founded in 778 and is also part of the seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. The main hall with its wooden stage hovering 13 meteres above ground is a masterpiece of Japanese temple architecture and a tourist hotspot.

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6. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Kyoto Prefecture

To remember the victims of the world´s first atomic bomb attack the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with its Genbaku Dome in the center of Hiroshima stands as the symbol of this tragedy. Over one million visitors from all over the world come every year to this 120.000 square meters park.

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7. The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu) is part of the Kotoku-in Buddhist temple. The Kamakura Daibutsu is the second largest Buddha statue in Japan, after the Daibutsu within the Todaiji Temple in Nara. The open-air statue is designated as a National Treasure and was built in 1252.

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8. Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture

Himeji Castle is the most beautiful and most visited castle in Japan. It is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Himeji-jo belongs to the 12 remaining original feudal-era castles in Japan. The unique architecture style, white facades and the beautiful surroundings made a long lasting impression on me. The best time for a visit is the cherry blossom season in April/May.

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9. Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture

The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko was built in 1617. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its decorative and architectural masterpieces at the shrine complex. It hosts the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), who was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. My highlight was the Yomeimon Gate (Yomeimon). It has the status of a National Treasure.

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10. Todaiji Temple in Nara, Nara Prefecture

The Todaiji Temple with The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) statue is one of the most impressive sights in Japan and the biggest tourist magnet in Nara. You will find there the largest wooden building (Big Buddha Hall) in the world and the largest bronze statue of the country. The temple complex was founded in 752.

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11. Osaka Castle, Osaka Prefecture

Osaka Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan. It is the iconic symbol of Osaka and a very popular sightseeing spot. The castle grounds covering an area of 60,000 square meters. The construction of the Osaka Castle begun in 1583 under the leadership of shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537 - 1598).

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12. Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture

The island Yakushima, south of Kagoshima, is famous for the rainforest, its old cedar trees, beautiful beaches, high mountains and the good food. It has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This trip was my personal Japan hiking highlight. If you are ready for a real adventure this is the place to be.

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