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35 Beautiful Japan Landmarks You Must Visit

Ancient history and sophisticated modern technology mingle seamlessly in Japan and together create some Japan landmarks not to miss. Centuries-old shrines across the country are connected by a super-fast bullet train, while Tokyo straddles both an imperial tradition and 21st-century hustle-and-bustle.

These are stand-out highlights on any Japan itinerary but are by no means the only ones.

With iconic cherry blossoms, juicy green bamboo, and delicate deer, there’s no shortage of natural beauty. The natural landscape invites reflection and oh-so-much awe.

That’s not to mention the serene way Japan carries its modern history in beautiful memorials like Hiroshima Peace Park.

The inspiring atmosphere is sure to leave you relaxed and refreshed. With these famous Japanese landmarks, you’ll soon see why this country stole my breath.

Japan Himeji Castle 2

I am crazy about Japan. Check out some of my other posts on Kanazawa, 1 day in Tokyo, 2 day Kyoto Itinerary, the Nakasendo Trail and What is Japan best known for.

35 Beautiful Japan Landmarks

1. Mount Fuji

Book Your Day Trip from Tokyo to Mt Fuji

Mount Fuji, with its snow-capped peak, is Japan’s most recognisable landmark. It’s the highest mountain in Japan and reaches over 12 000 feet. You can even see it from Tokyo –  but it’s definitely worth getting up close.

The mountain is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. You can only hike the mountain during the summer months when over a million people make a pilgrimage to Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji

There are multiple trails you can enjoy but most people start their journey at the 5th station. From there, the climb will take you around six hours.

If you want to hike from the mountain’s base, it’s best to start in the afternoon and spend the night before finishing off the next morning.

Alternatively, a day trip to Mount Fuji is ideal if you just want to appreciate a close-up view of Japan’s most iconic attraction.

Meet, Greet and Wifi at the Airport
Japan Rail
has a brilliant Meet and Greet service where they will meet you at the airport after arrival and get you going with your rail ticket, Pocket Wifi for Japan and take you to your next mode of transport – so good after a long journey.

japan mount fuji 1
Mount Fuji

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

From cultural activities to natural beauty, Kyoto’s many attractions make it one of the loveliest Japanese cities. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a stunning place that should be top of every visitor’s to-do list.

Once you’re standing surrounded by the green stalks, you feel like you’ve been transported to another, very magical world.

arashiyama bamboo grove
arashiyama bamboo grove

There’s a wooden walkway that twists through the bamboo. The site offers many great photo opportunities.

Admission is free. The grove is open 24/7 so it’s best to get there ahead of the crowds. Visiting around sunrise and sunset is always a breathtaking experience.

arashiyama bamboo grove
arashiyama bamboo grove

3. Itsukushima Shrine

The island of Miyajima is famous throughout the world as “The Shrine Island.” The island is off the coast of Hiroshima and is home to the splendid Itsukushima Shrine. This is another destination in Japan that you must visit.

The shrine’s main drawcard is that it is visually striking. The O-Torii gate rises out of the sea and appears to float on the water. This effect is enhanced around sunrise and sunset.

Itsukushima shrine

The Itsukushima Shrine is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was first built in the 6th century as a Shinto Temple to the daughters of the wind god Susanoo.

To visit the O-Torii gate on foot and admire the engineering involved, go at low tide. Otherwise, you can take a boat to the shrine and pass through the gate. You can get a ferry from either Miyajimaguchi Pier or Hiroshima Port.

Remember, the tradition is to bow twice, clap twice and bow one more time as you sail under the structure.

⇒Book a Hiroshima tour that visits Itsukushima Shrine

Japan - Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine

4. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Around the world, Hiroshima is eponymous with World War II and atomic destruction. Today, the city strives to promote a message of peace. This is best seen in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The park is situated at the epicentre of the atomic bomb which was the world’s first nuclear attack. The area was once the heart of the city. You can learn more about what happened on that day in 1945 at the Peace Memorial Museum.

Japan Hiroshima Peace Park 1
Hiroshima Peace Park

The skeletal remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall serve as a Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It’s a poignant sight listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The park is a 15-minute tram drive from Hiroshima Station. It’s open year-round, except for the last two days of December, and has a small admission fee.

Japan Hiroshima peace park at night
Hiroshima peace park at night

5. Nara Park

Nara Park is a sprawling area that is home to a number of eye-catching buildings. Despite its urban location, you can enjoy some stunning greenery.

The legend goes that one of the gods of Kasugataisha Shrine travelled from near Tokyo to present-day Nara Park on a white deer. Since then, the deer became sacred.

Japan deer in nara park in autumn
Deer in Nara park in autumn

There are over 1400 deer in Nara Park which run wild. However, they are happy to accept bits of “deer cracker” from tourists.

On the approach to Todaiji Temple, you’ll find rickshaws queued up. Taking one of these around the park is a good idea to see the park’s attractions.

These include temples and Nara Museum. Nara Park is also a perfect spot to break for lunch, whether that’s under a shady tree or in one of the cafes.

⇒Visit Nara Park on a tour of the city

Deers in Nara Park

6. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most important of the thousands of shrines which are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

This famous landmark in Japan originated in the 8th century. The buildings themselves are stunning and you’re welcome to make an offering to the god. The main attractions, though, are the torii gates which criss-cross the woods behind the temple, forming a network of shaded walking paths along the mountain.

Japan Fushimi Inari Taisha 2
Fushimi Inari Taisha

There are thousands of these torii gates which were donated by individuals and companies. It’s not too strenuous to climb to the top. There are a few restaurants where you can rest along the way.

It will take you around 2 to 3 hours to summit Mount Inarithe mountain and return. However, you can turn around at any point.

Most people stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection, roughly the halfway mark, where you can get some lovely Kyoto views.

The Kyoto-based shrine is open at all hours and has no admission fee. It’s a top attraction in the city and can be viewed while on a day trip of the city.

Japan Fushimi Inari Taisha 1
Fushimi Inari Taisha

7. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is called the “White Egret” or “White Heron” Castle because of its white colour and graceful resemblance to these species of birds. It’s the most famous of Japan’s castles and was a filming location for The Last Samurai.

Japan Himeji-castle
Himeji Castle

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the city of Himeji in Hyogo, a four-hour train ride from Tokyo. The castle is the best surviving example of Edo feudal architecture and is admired for its superior woodwork. Building started in the 15th century and was completed in 1609.

With over 80 buildings, this massive heritage site has a lot to explore. It’s a good idea to take a guided tour.

Japan Himeji Castle 1
Himeji Castle

8. The Imperial Palace

This immense palace complex is the official residence of Japan’s imperial family and a must-see on your Tokyo itinerary. Although most of the buildings are off-limits, some of the gardens are open to the public where you can enjoy the splendid architecture.

The Imperial Palace tokyo japan in summer
The Imperial Palace in summer

Highlights of the palace grounds include the Fushimi-yagura watchtower, the Megane-Bashi stone bridge and the iron Nijū-Bashi bridge.

The Imperial Household Agency runs free 75-minute tours Tuesday to Saturday most weeks of the year at 10 am and 1:30 pm. You can reserve your spot online up to a month in advance but no later than four days before the time. Although the tours are in Japanese, there is an app for English explanations.

japan_tokyo_imperial-palace-tatsumi-watchtower-reflection japan landmarks
Pink petals in the moat around the Imperial Palace

9. Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is another famous Japan landmark not to be missed. Images of the road crossing have come to typify modern Japan.

Tokyo Japan Shibuya Crossing 1
Shibuya Crossing

The Tokyo intersection is one of the busiest in the world with over 250 000 people crossing it daily. Give it a try: you have only two minutes before the light changes to make it across!

The crossing is surrounded by skyscrapers and advertising screens, giving it a Times Square kind of atmosphere. To get a good view of the crossing, head up to the Starbucks on the second floor of Shibuya Tsutaya.

⇒ Capture the sight on camera with a photography tour of Tokyo at night

Shibuya Crossing 2 tokyo japan.png
Shibuya Crossing

10. Dotonbori, Osaka

Dotonbori is the brightly coloured downtown area of Osaka. It is famous for its bright advertising billboards and some fantastic Japanese food. The name Donbonbori refers to both the Dotonbori canal and Dotonbori street which runs parallel to the canal.

dotonbori osaka
dotonbori osaka

11. Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto

This temple is noted for having one of the most famous rock gardens in Japan, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups.

Ryoanji Zen Garden in Tokyo
Ryoanji Zen Garden

The beautiful garden has an interesting design around a large pond and is lovely to walk around and sightsee. There is a restaurant at the park that specialises in Yudofu (boiled tofu) and is a must-try.

12. Ginkakuji, The Silver Pavilion in Kyoto

Known as Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple that dates back to 1490 and is celebrated for its beautiful gardens and incredible views.

Despite its name, Ginkauji is not covered in silver, though these were the original plans. But the plan was abandoned due to delays and the death of the patron Ashikaga Yoshimasa.

Ginkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto

The Silver Pavilion provides beautiful gardens and half a dozen other temple buildings to see. Though the main hall (Hondo) is not open to the public, visitors can enjoy walking along a circular path through the terraces savouring the peaceful scenery.

13. Yukizuri at Kenrokuen Gardens

Kenrokuen Gardens are said to be the 3rd most beautiful gardens in Japan, making them one of the key tourist sights in Japan. If this survey was taken in the autumn I think this Kanazawa garden would have taken first place for two reasons.


Firstly, the autumnal leaves in Kenrokuen Gardens Kanazawa were absolutely stunning.

The second reason is the application of Yukizuri to the Karasakinomatsu pine trees of the gardens. This involves assembling ropes on the trees that create a triangular effect so that the winter snow will fall off the pines rather than weighing on them and causing damage.


Yukizuri on the pine trees of Kenrokuen gardens is one of the most iconic images of the Ishikawa region and for good reason. November is the perfect time to visit Kenrokuen as the Yukizuri is applied at the beginning of November and the autumnal leaves are still on the trees – photography heaven.

The lake at Kenrouken Gardens

Begin your tour at the Hisagoike pond. This stunning pond has small temples, little wooden bridges and autumn leaves on steroids – all of which make for fantastic reflection photos. Nearby is Japan’s oldest fountain which reaches heights of 3.5 metres.


Then head to the Karasakinomatsu pine trees and photograph them from every angle. Start with some up-close shots of the pine trees with Yukizuri and then move around the nearby fountain to get some reflections and water in the foreground shots. I took a lot of photos here.

Or organise your own private tour.


14. Naoshima

You may well have seen a rather striking pumpkin all over social media in the last 12 months. This pumpkin was created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and is located on Naoshima. This Japanese island is dedicated to contemporary art.

Naoshima island japan
Naoshima island japan

15. Shirakawa-Go

This lovely village is one of Japan’s key winter destinations and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a mountain settlement that was quite cut off from the rest of the world due to its location. This isolation led the locals to develop their own unique culture and practices and their unique architecture.

Shirakawa-Go Japan
Shirakawa-Go Japan

16. Amanohashidate, Kyoto

A unique pine covered sandbar in Miyazu Bay in northern part of the Kyoto region. It is said that when Amanohashidate is viewed from the mountains at either end of the bay it looks like the path between heaven and earth. It is ranked one of Japan’s top three scenice views.

Amanohashidate japan
Amanohashidate japan

17. The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) Kamakura

The second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan at just over 13 metres, the Kamakura Daibutsu was erected in 1252. Japan has many Daibutsu or Great Buddha statues but this is one of the most famous. This daibatsu was originally inside a temple. The temple was swept away in 1498 but the statue has continued to brave the weather since.

Great Buddha Kamakura japan
Great Buddha Kamakura japan

18. Osaka Castle

This five storey castle was built in 1538 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to demonstrate the strength of Japan. The castle was destroyed during the 17th century but has been rebuilt since. Today it is home to a museum and located in a beautiful 106 hectare park.

Osaka Castle japan
Osaka Castle japan

19. The Hells of Beppu

This wins for the best name for Japanese landmarks! These waters are too hot for humans to dip but they are absolutely stunning. There are seven hot pools in total. Five are in the Kannawa region and two are in the Shibaseki district. The pools in Kannawa include one that homes and breeds crocodiles whilst Shibaseki has a pool that contains red water.

The Hells of Beppu japan
The Hells of Beppu japan

20. Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple PC Flickr Dick Thomas Johnson

Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and home to the statue of the holy Buddha. This is one of Tokyo’s most popular and most colourful temples and one of the most popular places to visit in Tokyo.

Enter Sensoji Temple through the Kaminarimon Gate. There is then a 200 metre historic shopping area before the second gate and the five-storey temple.

Sensoji Temple PC Flickr Chee.Hong

21. Natadera Temple, Kanazawa

Natadera is a monastery/temple which was founded in 717 in the middle of a stunning rocky landscape. The temple and its gardens are famous for their autumn leaves.


The wonderfully named Enchanted Rock Outcropping was just stunning. The rocks look like they have smiles carved into them. The temple itself is very nice – apparently, when you walk through it you are reborn – but nature is the highlight of this temple.

Amazing autumn colours

After you have visited the temple itself don’t miss the Chinjudo observation platform. This provides a view over the entire area and particularly the Enchanted Rock Outcropping and makes for some stunning photos.

I think this stunning temple and its gardens are one of the must go places in Japan

22. Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

This Shinto shrine was built in 1920 to honour Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The shrine is particularly popular during the first days of the Japanese New Year. This is where visitors come for the year’s first prayers known as the hatsumode. The temple also has a beautiful forest with over 100,000 trees.

Meiji Jingu tokyo japan
Meiji Jingu tokyo japan

23. Matsushima, Miyagi

This group of dazzling islands in the Miyagi prefecture is also one of Japan’s most scenic views. The bay is dotted with 260 pine clad islands. There are four particularly scenic spots from which to view Matsushima: the Magnificent View, the Beautiful View, the Enchanting View and the Grand View.

24. Tokyo Tower

Since its opening in 1958, the Tokyo Tower has been the landmark of Tokyo. However, in 2012 a new tower opened in Tokyo, the Tokyo Skytree. Tokyo Skytree is now the tallest tower in Tokyo at 634 metres tall vs the 333 metres of Tokyo Tower.

The highest point for observation is on Tokyo Skytree at 450 metres. Visiting one of these towers and taking in the view is a must see in Tokyo.

Skip the Queue ticket for Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree

25. Ashikaga Flower Park

This beautiful flower park is best known for its purple wisteria or fuji flower which is in full bloom from late April to early May. The park displays the fuji flowers in a rainbow of colours including blue, pink and white. Ashikaga is also home to a 100 year old fuji tree which has its own umbrella of fujis as well as a walk through tunnel made up of white wisteria.

Ashikaga Flower Park japan
Ashikaga Flower Park japan

26. Traditional Wooden Houses in Kyoto (Machiya) and Geisha’s

These traditional wooden houses are a large part of Kyoto’s unique charms.

Gion is situated in the Higashiyama district and is one of the few remaining Geisha neighbourhoods in Japan.

geishas in kyoto japan

The best time to spot these beautifully trained artists is around sunset as they make their way into wooden teahouses, known as okiya, for an evening of work. I suggest booking a guided tour to see the traditional geisha women and learn about the picturesque neighbourhood.

After your sighting of the elegant geishas, take a walk through Nishiki Market and the Teramachi Shopping Arcade.

27. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Have you seen the photos of the snow monkeys bathing with their red faces? These monkeys are actually macaques and are located in the hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Whilst the monkeys can enjoy the hot springs, I am afraid that the humans are only able to admire them from afar.

Jigokudani Monkey Park japan
Jigokudani Monkey Park japan

28. Kiyomizu Dera Temple, Kyoto

The Kiyomizu Dera Temple stands next to the Otowa Waterfall. In 1994, the temple was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan
Autumn Color at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan

The main appeal of the temple is the wooden balcony on the first floor. It provides sweeping views of the cherry blossom and maple trees in the temple’s gardens, and Kyoto’s city skyline in the distance.

29. Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

Also, known as Kinkakuji Temple, the Golden Pavilion is considered one of the best of Japan’s landmarks and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Kinkaku-ji golden temple kyoto japan

You’ll want to get here at the opening time (9h00 – 17h00), as there are fewer crowds, and it’s more photogenic.

There are plenty of places to see on the temple grounds. As you walk through the terraces, you will find an abundance of statues, the beautiful Anmintaku Pond and the Sekkatei Teahouse. Towards the exit, there is a small tea garden and some souvenir shops for you to explore. 

30. Kabuki-Za Theatre, Tokyo

Kabuki-Za theatre is the main venue for Kabuki shows in Tokyo and is in the Ginza district. Kabuki is a performance art that involves kimonos, maks and drums. It is guaranteed that you won’t have experienced a show like this before.

Kabuki-Za japan
Kabuki-Za japan

31. Nikko Temples and Shrines

This small mountain city is located north of Tokyo. It is home to the Toshugo, some of Japan’s most over-the-top shrines. Nikko also has a beautiful national park with hot pools, monkeys, waterfalls, and mountains.

Nikko Temples japan
Nikko Temples japan

32. Kyoto Imperial Palace

This palace in Kyoto Imperial Park was the residence of the Japanese imperial family until Tokyo became Japan’s capital in 1868. The park is home to both the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Sento Imperial Palace. Guided tours are available.

Kyoto Imperial Palace japan
Kyoto Imperial Palace japan

33. Onbashi Bridge, Shobara

Onbashi Bridge crosses the beautiful Taishaku Gorge in Shobara. The bridge is made from limestone and has been formed over thousands of years. Today it is no longer possible to cross the bridge but there are paths that allow visitors to get a nice photo.

onbashi bridge japan
onbashi bridge japan

34. Hagoromo Falls, Hokkaido

These 270 metre high falls drop down over multiple steps. This gives the illusion of an angel’s robe – the english translation of Hagoromo. The best views of the falls are from the observation deck in the nearby town which is also home to Tenninkyo Hot Springs.

Hagoromo Falls japan
Hagoromo Falls japan

35. Mozu-Furuichi Kofun, Osaka

Mozu-Furuichi are several dozen tombs that are the largest tombs in Japan and some of the largest tombs in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 4th and 5th century when the Japanese elite prepared elaborate tombs to show off their power and wealth. Do check before you go as the tombs are often close to the public.

Mozu-Furuichi Kofun japan
Mozu-Furuichi Kofun japan

Getting to Japan

Tokyo is the most common point of entry into Japan. Tokyo has two airports that receive international flights, Narita and Haneda airports. Narita Airport is quite a bit farther away from central Tokyo so if possible fly into Haneda rather than Narita airport at the start of your 10 day Japan itinerary.

Haneda handles most domestic flights (but also international flights – JAL operates from Haneda Airport) and Narida handles more international flights.

If you must fly in or out of Narita airport then I suggest using the more expensive option of the Narita Express train. The journey from Narita Airport to Tokyo station takes one hour and is direct.

Kid friendly buddha

The good news is that if you have purchased the Japan Rail pass (which is a great idea if you are spending time in Japan) it covers the Narita Express Train.

If you are flying into Haneda airport the fastest and easiest option is to take the Keikyu Airport Line to Shinagawa and then swap to the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku line to Tokyo Station. This will take about 35 minutes

Flights to Tokyo

Meet, Greet and Wifi at the Airport
Japan Rail
has a brilliant Meet and Greet service where they will meet you at the airport after arrival and get you going with your rail ticket, Pocket Wifi for Japan and take you to your next mode of transport – so good after a long journey.

Japan Guide to Getting Around

Tokyo has a fantastic metro system. Buy your Tokyo metro pass online before you go to avoid queues (there are 24, 48 and 72-hour options available).

The Japan Rail Pass offers amazing value to overseas visitors. The pass covers virtually every train in Japan – including most bullet trains – and costs just USD$270 for 7 days rail travel. 14 and 21-day options are also available. As is a very reasonably priced upgrade to first class. Amazing value for Japan’s excellent trains.

The Japanese currency is the Yen. Whilst many places accept credit and debit cards, cash is still the most common method of payment. Many smaller restaurants, taxis, and shops will only accept cash so do make sure you have some on you at all times during your trip.

Frequently Asked Questions about Landmarks in Japan

What are the most famous landmarks in Japan?

Some of the most famous landmarks in Japan include Mount Fuji, Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing, Sensoji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Himeji Castle, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

What is the significance of Mount Fuji in Japan?

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and is considered a sacred site in the Shinto religion. It is also a symbol of Japan and is a popular tourist attraction.

What is the history behind Himeji Castle in Japan?

Himeji Castle was built in the 14th century and is considered one of the best preserved examples of Japanese castle architecture. It has survived wars, natural disasters, and restoration efforts and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is the meaning behind the Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine?

The Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine are a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Japan. They are also thought to represent the transition from the secular world to the spiritual world.

What is the significance of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan?

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a reminder of the devastating effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. It serves as a tribute to the victims and a symbol of peace and hope for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Final Thoughts on Landmarks of Japan

Whether you’re a nature lover or a history fanatic, you’ll find something to love in Japan. In fact, it’s probably the ways in which natural beauty, cultural history and innovative technology are seamlessly integrated.

Imperial Palace guard

This graceful balance can be found in many famous landmarks in Japan. Across the country, regional palaces, ancient monuments and lush oases stand testament to the enduring beauty and resilience of the Japanese nation.

So, whether you visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park or the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, these landmarks will give you a good taste of lovely Japan. And I can promise that you’ll be coming back for more.

Tokyo Japan shibuya-crossing
Shibuya Crossing

I covered all of the costs involved in writing this blog post. However, this Japan landmarks post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

nara park japan
Deers in Nara Park

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