10 of the Most Beautiful Landmarks in Japan

by Travelbag on 28 August 2015, 12:08PM

A heady mix of both new and old, ancient and modern, Japan has the power to enthral even the most seasoned and cynical of world travellers. From the buzz of Tokyo to the calm of a natural spring, and from incredible sushi bars to strange takes on European treats or American fast food (apple vinegar flavour Kit Kat, anyone?), it’s a place you can so easily fall in love with.

And if you’re not yet sold, did we mention the amazing traditional markets, the world-class museums and beautiful historic national parks? It's fair to say that Japan is a land of contrasts, and has something for everyone. We’d challenge anyone to visit this country and not find something they love.

Here, you'll find a top 10 rundown of some of the best sights and landmarks that Japan has to offer.

1. The Hot Springs of Kinosaki

A natural wonder, the hot springs at Kinosaki are among Japan's finest (and this is in a country where bathing in hot springs is something akin to a religion). Visiting a hot spring is something very unique to Japan and it’s a truly special and memorable experience. A popular activity while in this spa town is to go to the fountain in the square, where you can have a mesh bag of fresh eggs boiled in the geothermic waters while you wait. This lovely rustic village is especially magical when the snow falls, or when the cherry blossoms are out.


2. Katsura Rikyu

This imperial villa in Kyoto is a landmark of incredible architectural beauty. With hills and a pond in the form of a dragon, four tea-houses (one for each season), and artfully landscaped gardens, this villa is a masterpiece of Japanese architecture and garden design. We’d absolutely recommend visiting one of the tea houses – as this is something ingrained into Japanese culture and something many of the elders hold dear to their hearts and traditions. Brush up on some history before visiting, so you know what to expect – and you’ll appreciate the experience all the more.


3. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Filled with individual histories and stories, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is widely considered one of the most interesting and memorable things to do while in Japan. It can be tragic in parts (as you’d expect) but as a powerful and important part of Japanese history, you can’t not visit the country and learn more about the events that shaped it. While not strictly a landmark as such, the museum's focus on children's stories makes it particularly accessible to the under 16s, while the Peace Garden is exceptionally moving and will make anyone emotional.


4. Fushimi Inari Shrine

For a landmark of great beauty, both cultural and spiritual, look no further than the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Based on a hill, a visit to the shrine includes lots of walking and climbing (so remember to pack some decent walking boots and light airy, comfortable clothes), with the benefit being the higher you get, the quieter it becomes. With traditional lamps illuminating the way, admire the golden ornaments and black and orange Tori gates - it's one of the most fascinating things you can do while in Japan. It truly feels like you’re escaping civilisation, and that alone is something worth experiencing.


5. Miyajima

Miyajima is an island in the Inland Sea, filled with landmarks (and arguably a landmark in its own right). With wild deer, a cable car, rope bridges, traditional shrines (including the Itsukushima Shrine, which appears to float at high tide - quite a thing to witness). Miyajima is a must-see if you're visiting nearby Hiroshima.


6. Mount Fuji

Japan's highest mountain stands proud at 3,766 metres, so it’s hard to miss it when you get near. While the holy mountain is picture-perfect year round, if you plan on climbing this colossus, you'll need to plan your trip between 1st July and 27th August - the only time it's possible. Many climb the mountain at night in order to see the spectacular sunrise in the morning, which is a once in a lifetime experience in itself.

Around the mountain there are many beautiful nature parks and villages, where you can stop in traditional Japanese guesthouses and hotels – for a true taste of local culture. We’d recommend booking yourself into a hotel or guesthouse with a view of the mountain, so you can wake up and enjoy one of the world’s finest views.


7. Daibutsu of Kamakura

The Daibutsu of Kamakura (or Great Buddha of Kamakura) is possibly Japan's most famous landmark. Made of bronze, the statue is 13.5 metres tall, and sits in a serene, meditative lotus position. Open 365 days a year, it's definitely worth travelling to see the breath-taking Great Buddha of Kamakura- for a small fee, it's even possible to go inside. Once covered by a temple roof, the Great Buddha is now exposed to the elements, but he doesn't seem to mind - in fact, the warm rays of the sun seem to give life and warmth to his kindly features.


8. Golden Pavilion Temple

Built in 1397 and appearing to float in its accompanying Mirror Pond, this multi-layered yellow Zen temple is actually covered in pure gold on its upper two stories, an example of the beautiful opulence of many Japanese temples. Complete with a fascinating history, the Golden Pavilion Temple is another must-see in Kyoto. Make sure you don't miss the small waterfall in the grounds - it's designed to create a perpetual rainbow, which is quite lovely to behold, and unlike anything you’ll have seen before.


9. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge can eat its heart out - at almost 4,000 metres across, and the world's longest suspension bridge, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (or Pearl Bridge) was only finished in the 1990s, providing a much-needed transport link across the Inland Sea. It’s an experience in itself to make the drive across, and if you’re a lover of bridges or even architecture in general, you’ll adore viewing this huge, stunning structure. Withstanding the devastating Kobe Earthquake in 1995, this bridge is testament to Japanese ingenuity and engineering prowess and will leave you awestruck.


10. Tokyo Imperial Palace

Still the main residence of the Emperor of Japan, the Imperial Palace is one of Tokyo's, and indeed Japan's, most important landmarks, a symbol of imperial might and awe. It’s everything you’d expect from a palace, huge and opulent – and absolutely perfect in its own beauty. With gardens and tours open to the public, the Imperial Palace offers a fascinating insight into the Japanese psyche, but on a much simpler level – is just a simply wonderful day out. Visiting the palace will give you a glimpse into a magical period of history, and you’ll almost feel as though you’re stepping back in time yourself.


Click here to read more about Japan and and to book your next trip.


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