Pack your bags and get the passport ready – we’re visiting Japan’s most popular cities with this travel guide!
Japan is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, and for a good reason. This island nation is jam packed with incredible experiences you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Yet, across Japan, no two cities are alike, briming their own personality, charm and history to create wholly unique cityscapes.
Depending on the type of tourist you are, some will appeal more than others. Which is why we’ve come up with a list of the best cities to visit in Japan for every type of traveller. Whether you want to experience the traditional culture of Japan, or keen to geek out with the latest gizmos and gadgets, there’s a city for you in our guide to the top major cities in Japan to visit in 2023!
Better yet, your next holiday to Japan could be on us!
Simply sign-up here to win a $5,000 Luxury Escapes voucher!
The capital of Japan, Tokyo’s blaring lights and busy streets have become quintessential to how most think about Japan. This grand metropolis offers a smorgasbord of sights and sounds: whether you’re after quirky sightseeing or luxury shopping, whether you want gourmet dining or tasty street food, there’s never a dull moment to be had in Tokyo. Fans of Japanese pop culture like manga or anime will find plenty to rave about at Akihabara, while fashion forward shoppers will find the street wear of Harajuku to be captivating. As for foodies, you’ll find rich ramen and sensational Italian cuisine, quirky maid cafes and plenty more to rave on about with every bite. There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo, it can get a little overwhelming at times; yet with world-class public transport, you’re never a stop away from a good time. One of the best major cities in Japan, and one of the most unique cities in the world, Tokyo is an essential destination for everyone visiting Japan. Be sure to also check out our travel guide to the Top 7 Things to Do in Tokyo.
The historical capital of Japan, Kyoto offers a sharp contrast with the flashy Tokyo: where Tokyo is bleeding edge, Kyoto is firmly rooted in the past. For those wanting to soak in 1,000 years of tradition, then Kyoto is one of the of the best cities to visit in Japan. Temples, shrines and geishas are relics of the past, beautifully untouched by modernity in Kyoto, as if preserved in amber. Walking through the cobblestone streets of Gion and its ancient wooden houses feels like taking a time machine to the age of Samurai and warring kingdoms, with many cultural practices that are still being practiced. Traditional tea ceremonies, Kabuki performances, and historic Shinto shrines — including the famed red torii gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine — can all be found around the sombre streets of Kyoto. With excellent food, a relaxing atmosphere, and stunning vistas, time travel back on your trip to Kyoto!
Attention all foodies: Osaka is perhaps one of the best food cities in the world, regardless of your appetite. Whether you’re searching for luxurious high-end dining options or just a tasty snack from a street vendor, Osaka restaurants somehow make every bite better than the last. Local delicacies like the squid filled Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki highlight the seafaring history of Osaka. Beyond food, Osaka is an absolute treat. A more westernised city compared to Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka has a unique and lively flavour that is brimming with excitement and possibilities. The bustling city streets of Dotonbori are famed for its gaudy neon lights and unique shopping experience, captivating locals and tourists alike. The raucous night life of Osaka also makes this city one of the most fun places to party with friends. Often ignored for its bigger neighbour Kyoto, don’t miss this glittering gem of a city by visiting Osaka!
For many, the most recognisable part of Kobe has nothing to do with the city itself, but the bovine delicacy. Kobe beef — world renowned for its succulent flavours, rich aromas, and the delicate artistry of the chefs who prepare it — is a must try for foodies of any persuasion. Once you’ve licked your plates, there’s a whole city just waiting to be explored. The Kobe Harborland and Chinatown offer a range of unique shopping and dining options in this dynamic city. Pair this with the brisk sea breeze and compact nature of Kobe, and it’s easy to see why it is one of the most attractive cities in Japan. And once you’re done sightseeing for the day, relax your feet at Arima Onsen, one of the few onsen experiences that can be found inside a city, with hot springs bubbling right next to busy offices. Kobe may not get the same attention as its more well-known counterparts in Tokyo and Kyoto, but that doesn’t mean this port city doesn’t deserve yours.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima makes visiting the city today a sobering experience. See this unsettling history first-hand at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where the ruins of the Atomic Bomb Dome acts as a dark reminder of the past. While Hiroshima’s mournful history has defined how most think about the city, there’s so much more to the Hiroshima of today. The bustling Downtown Hiroshima offers a great shopping and dining experience for visitors, with delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki to snack on. For those wanting to experience ancient Hiroshima should make their way to Hiroshima Castle, which features weekly samurai performances outside the castle walls.
Packed to the brim with ski resorts and snow activities, Sapporo is Japan’s winter wonderland. Any serious ski enthusiast should make it a priority to visit one of the many ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics scattered within the city limit. For families or couples, the yearly Sapporo Snow Festival is a brilliant time in the snow, with giant ice sculptures breathing new life into this frosty city every February. And if you’re looking for a tasty drink after a long day on the slopes, the Sapporo Beer Museum lets you taste the city’s brewing history. Pack warmly when booking the magical snowscape of Sapporo!
Wanting a comprehensive bucket list of Japan? Here is the Ultimate Guide to the Best Things To Do in Japan. Can’t make it to Japan just yet? Experience a taste of the east thanks to the Top Japanese Bars around Australia.