Japan is a fascinating country that has managed to squeeze in a whole lot of history, culture, and innovation in 377,975 km²! Whether you’re looking to explore its sacred temples, iconic skyscrapers, or beautiful natural wonders – there’s no shortage of incredible Japan landmarks!
However, with more than 3000 famous landmarks in Japan, deciding which Japanese landmarks to add to your Japan itinerary can be tricky. To help you sort through oodles of must-visit sites, here’s our list of the 18 very best landmarks in Japan. We’ve included everything from iconic monuments and World Heritage Sites to natural wonders and the very best cultural landmarks that deserve a spot on your Japan landmark bucket list!
Ready to discover the best places to visit in Japan? Grab a cup of matcha tea, and let’s dive right into this epic list of famous Japanese landmarks!
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Most Famous Landmarks in Japan: Quick Overview
Before we dive into the very best Japanese landmarks, here’s a quick look at the sites in this guide.
- Top 3 Famous Landmarks in Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kinkaku-Ji, Mount Fuji
- Cultural & historical landmarks in Japan: Senso-Ji, Shirakawa-go, Kiyomeza-Dera, Fushi Inari-Taisha, Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle, Kumano Nachi Taisha, Hakone Shrine, Nanzoin Temple
- Other famous places in Japan: Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Tower, Naoshima Island, Kegon Falls, Dontonbori
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18 Spectacular Japan Landmarks You Can’t Miss
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Entrance fee: free
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0000, Japan
Arashiyama’s mesmerizing Bamboo Grove is arguably the top natural landmark in Japan. Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, this Natural Heritage Site is famous for its towering bamboo walkways and a pleasant place to spend a bit of time in nature.
Besides walking through the bamboo-filled forest, other nearby must-dos include strolling along the Togetsukyo Bridge and taking a boat ride on the Hozugawa River. Stopping by the century-old Tenryuji Temple (another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a top Kyoto Zen temple) should not be overlooked either.
It’s easy to visit Arashiyama on a day trip from Kyoto via organized tour, by bus, or the JR Sagano/ San-in Line. If time permits, opt for a romantic ride on the famous Sagano train. The ride offers picturesque views, especially during cherry blossom season!
Where to stay: The GrandWest Arashiyama
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- Entrance fee: free
- Address: 1 Chome Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
If you’re looking for a unique Japanese experience, don’t miss Osaka’s most popular hangout spot, Dontonbori. This lively entertainment area is filled with neon lights, quirky illuminated billboards, and an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. The colorful pedestrian street runs along Osaka’s Dotonbori canal and is a firm favorite among shoppers and photographers. Some of the many photo spots include the huge Glico running man, the Kani Douraku crab, a pufferfish, and even an octopus!
Besides taking photos and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, one of Dontonbori’s biggest draws is its food! In fact, Dotonbori is one of the best places in Osaka to experience kuidaore! This means “eat till you drop,” or at least until your wallet empties! Since it’s not the cheapest area, make sure to factor a bit more wiggle room into your travel budget!
The easiest way to get to Dontonbori is by subway via Namba Station, which is only a 5-minute walk away.
Where to stay: Hotel Royal Classic Osaka
- Entry fee: free
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
Japan’s most important Shinto shrine, Fushimi Inari, dates back to 711 AD and is a worthwhile stop while visiting the southern corners of Kyoto.
Most famous for its thousands of red torii gates lining scenic trails up Inari Mountain, Fushimi Inari is an important cultural monument of Japan and dedicated to the god of rice. While many worshippers visit this stunning Asian temple to wish for good fortune, it’s also a popular hiking spot.
Just behind the main complex, you’ll find a network of trails through a lush forest leading to Mount Inari’s summit. While the track starts quite easily along a paved walkway, the hike gets more intense with many steps to climb. The lovely views, cute shrines, and quaint restaurants you’ll encounter along the way make up for it, though! The full hike takes about 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level and pitstops.
Both JR Inari Station and Fushimi Inari Station offer easy access to the area.
Where to stay: Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Recommended by Meg from HTW Travel
- Entrance fee: Free
- Opening Hours: 24 hours
- Address: 80-1 Motohakone, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0522, Japan
The Hakone Shrine majestically stands along the shore of Lake Ashi. The founding of this historical shrine dates back to over a century ago and is an important influence on Japanese history. The lakefront torii appears as if to float on water and is a must-see when visiting Hakone.
The best way to reach the Hakone Shrine is by traveling through the scenic area with a Hakone Free Pass. A 2-day pass costs between 4,600-5,700 yen and includes several modes of transportation. The pass allows travel by train, cable car, ropeway (with views of Mt. Fuji), boat, and bus.
Hakone is a beautiful destination to visit year-round. Winter offers the best chance of clear weather to see the iconic Mt. Fuji from the ropeway. In contrast, Hakone is covered with beautiful flowers in the spring, while summer brings a higher likelihood of rain. Even during a rainy day in Hakone, the beauty of this area shines through the fog.
End a day of exploring and visiting the Hakone shrine with a relaxing dip in a traditional onsen. Hakone is one of the most popular areas in Japan to experience a natural hot spring.
Where to Stay: Onsen Hotel Gerakan
Recommended by Greta from Greta Travels
- Entrance fees: 1,000 yen or 1,050 yen for entrance to the castle + the castle gardens
- Opening hours: 9 am to 4 pm
- Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan
If you’re looking for the most famous landmarks in Japan, you have to add Himeji Castle to your Japan bucket list. Located in the city of Himeji, Himeji Castle is the largest castle in Japan and a must on any Osaka itinerary.
It was built in the 14th century and has changed ownership numerous times throughout the centuries, with each owner bringing new changes to the castle structure. Today Himeji Castle is also known as the “White Heron Castle.”
Inside you will find carved clan markings and information panels on the history of the castle, as well as some gorgeous views. As you climb your way up the castle, you can enjoy an epic view of Himeji and the surrounding countryside.
Reaching Himeji Castle is very easy. The castle is located a short 10-15 minute walk away from the Himeji Train Station, which you can get to by train from all major Japanese cities. Many travelers visit Himeji on a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka.
Don’t miss out on this stunning spot, and make sure to add Himeji Castle to your must-visit Japanese landmarks list!
Where to stay: Hotel Monterey Himeji
Recommended by Audrey from That Backpacker
- Entrance fee: Free for the first viewing deck or ¥600 for the lower deck.
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm (March-Apr, Nov), 9 am to 4:30 pm (Dec-Feb), 8 am to 5 pm (May-Sept) 8 am to 5 pm (Oct)
- Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661, Japan
If you’re traveling in search of Japan’s natural wonders, then you cannot miss Kegon Falls, just on the outskirts of Nikko. Located in Nikko National Park, this waterfall is considered one of the most majestic falls in the whole country.
To reach the falls, you’ll first want to travel by train to Tōbu-Nikkō Station. Once you arrive, you’ll transfer to a local bus in the direction of Lake Chuzenji. From there it’s a 50-minute ride to the falls. As a tip, you may want to consider the Nikko Pass, which includes transportation to and from Nikko, access to local buses, and free admission to select tours and sights.
But back to the attraction. What makes Kegon Falls special is that they were formed when the Daiya River was rerouted by lava flows. Today, the falls stand almost 100 meters tall, and the water that feeds them comes directly from Lake Chuzenji.
Visitors have access to two viewing decks at the falls. The first viewing platform is free, and the second one can be accessed by riding an elevator that brings you down 100 meters. The cost for the latter is ¥600, but you get a completely different vantage point.
While you’re in the area, you can enjoy a boat ride on Lake Chuzenji, try the foot spa in Yumoto Onsen, and hike along Senjogahara Moor.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko
- Entrance fee: ¥500
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm daily
- Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
One of the most famous landmarks in Japan is Kinkaku-Ji, or more commonly known as the Golden Pavilion.
Kinkaku-Ji is a beautiful Zen temple in Kyoto’s northwestern corners and is the city’s top historical monument. With its two gold-plated top floors, sitting at the edge of a glimmering pond and surrounded by gorgeous gardens, Kinkaku-Ji has one of the most picturesque settings imaginable. Little wonder it’s a World Heritage Site and a huge must on any Kyoto itinerary.
While the temple previously served as the home of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the early 1400s, it’s had its fair share of destruction. It burned down on several occasions, and it was not until 1955 when the temple was rebuilt to the glorious version of today.
Aside from Kinkaku-Ji, the grounds also feature several smaller shrines, many souvenir shops, and a couple of restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat.
Since Kinkaku-Ji is one of the world’s most impressive religious monuments, it’s almost always crowded. Try to visit as early as possible and avoid weekends. If you prefer to join an organized tour, this Kyoto temples & shrines tour covers several iconic landmarks in the city.
Where to stay: Miun Kinkakuji
- Entrance fee: 400 yen
- Opening hours: Open from 6 am to 6 pm or 9:30 pm depending on the season. For more info, see here.
- Address: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
Kiyomizu-Dera, often also called the Pure Water Temple, is another prominent Kyoto monument that deserves a spot on your must-see Japan landmarks list!
Originally built in 798, around a sacred spring, Kiyomizu-Dera is a beautiful Buddhist temple and today recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the hilltops of Southern Higashiyama, offering incredible scenery no matter which way your turn. Spring, in particular, is an excellent time to visit when the grounds are blanketed in cherry blossoms. Autumn is another great time to visit, especially since it’s revered as one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Japan.
Although there’s plenty to keep you busy on the grounds, the shining star here is undoubtedly the main hall. It features a massive wooden deck that was built without using any nails. Besides visiting the main hall, be sure also to pop in at the Jishu Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to matchmaking and a popular spot among couples. The holy Otowa-no-taki spring, is another must-visit place. Here you can drink the sacred water, which grants longevity and good health.
Kiyomizu-Dera is a sprawling complex, so allow ample time to wander the gardens, explore the temples and shrines. Make sure to also enjoy a cup of matcha at one of the onsite tea houses. Afterward, make your way down the slope. Here you’ll find dozens of quaint shops selling everything from souvenirs to ceramics to bamboo umbrellas and more!
The temple is easy to reach via bus from Kyoto Station, but if you don’t feel like bothering with public transport, this compact Kyoto one day tour is a great fuss-free alternative!
Where to stay: Luxury Hotel SOWAKA
Kumano Nachi Taisha
Recommended by Cassie from Cassie the Hag.
- Entrance fees: Free (300 yen if you visit the treasure house)
- Opening hours: 7 am to 4:30 pm
- Address: 1 Nachisan, Nachikatsuura, Higashimuro District, Wakayama 649-5301, Japan
Kumano Nachi Taisha is one of the must-see cultural landmarks in Japan. Not only is this grand shrine a historical gem, beloved since ancient times, but it is also advantageously located next to the Nachi Falls. At 133 meters tall, Nachi Falls is actually the tallest waterfall in Japan.
The temple is popular to visit by car, on a day trip from Osaka, or as the final destination for those hiking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. (Join a private tour here).
The natural landscape surrounding the striking Shinto shrine and the beautiful red pagoda is unsurprising when one considers the nature worship prominent within Shinto-Buddhist communities. The mountains, rocks, and waterfalls around these parts were considered a superior spiritual nature of the landscape of the Gods. The area was once visited by samurais, Buddhists, and emperors keen to have a spiritual experience and remains an impressive sight for visitors to this day.
Where to stay: Katsuura Gyoen Ryokan
Recommended by Sunetra from Globetrotting Su
- Entrance fees: Free
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- Address: Fuji-Hakone-Izu National park, Kawaguchiko
Mount Fuji (or Fujisan) is arguably the most famous landmark in Japan – recognizable miles away with its symmetrical cone shape and bright white peak. It is the highest sacred active volcano in Japan, standing 3776m tall.
Mount Fuji lies in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is surrounded by lakes, making this region very beautiful. Besides its sheer height, what really makes it so special is that it’s covered in snow for five months a year. Seeing Mount Fuji is considered a great feat as most of the time, this mountain is elusive and covered in clouds or fog. On a clear day, though, the chances are high that it can be viewed as far away as Tokyo – some 100 kilometers to the east!
The easiest way to reach Mount Fuji is by bus or train from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station (1-1.5 hours). One can also take the bullet train from Tokyo. Although Mount Fuji can be easily visited on a day trip from Tokyo, spending a couple of days here is highly encouraged. That way, you’ll have ample time to explore the beautiful sights around the Fuji Five Lakes, such as Lake Kawaguchi, Fuji Sengen-Jinja Shrine, and Churieto Pagoda. For adventurous hikers, Mount Fuji is officially open for climbing during July and August via several routes.
Where to stay: La Vista Fuji Kawaguchiko or Fufu Kawaguchiko if you really want to treat yourself.
Recommended by Helen from Japlanease
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Opening Hours: 8 am – 5 pm
- Address: 1035 Sasaguri, Kasuya District, Fukuoka 811-2405
The Buddha at Nanzoin Temple is one of the most incredible sights you’ll see in Japan. It’s immense – 11 meters high, 41 meters long, and weighs in at 300 tonnes. Yet, despite its size, the Buddha is hidden from view until you’re literally steps away from it. When you arrive at the huge open square it sits in, the only word you can utter is ‘wow!’
The original temple site was founded in 1830, but the Buddha was built in 1988 as a place to house the sacred ashes of two of the disciples of Buddha, Maudgalyayana and Ananda, that had been gifted from Myanmar. The priests at Nanzoin are very vocal about the fact that this is not a sightseeing spot but a place of worship. They don’t allow selfie sticks or tripods. Clothing should be respectful and keep your voice low.
To get to Nanzoin, take the Fukuhoku Yutaka line from Hakata station in Fukuoka to Kidonanzoin-Mae, about 20 minutes away. It’s then a short, clearly-signed walk to the temple complex.
Where to stay: Base yourself in Fukuoka, both the Hakata Excel Hotel Tokyu and the We Base Hostel are good central choices.
Recommended by Helen from Differentville
- Entrance fees: Island, free. Museums and art houses vary.
- Opening hours: Outdoor exhibits 24/7. Museums and art houses vary but note that most sites are closed on Mondays. See here for full details.
- Address: Kagawa District, Kagawa 761-3110
A bright yellow spotty pumpkin sitting on a seafront jetty is probably the most iconic landmark you can expect to see on Japan’s Naoshima Island. Still, artist Yayoi Kasuma’s pumpkins are definitely not the only reason to visit this art-filled island in the Seto Sea.
In fact, there are four museums, seven art houses, two small towns – the backstreets, cafes, and restaurants of which deserve some of your attention, an art-filled bathhouse – and numerous outside sculpture exhibits on the island.
You can theoretically visit Naoshima on a day trip, but it takes some forward planning, and you may have to miss out on one or two things. (See this post on how to do Naoshima in one day). If you really want to see everything, you will need to stay overnight.
Naoshima is a 20-minutes ferry ride from the small town of Uno. The nearest large town is Okayama, a 50-minute train ride away, while Uno is around 2 hours by bullet train from Osaka or Kyoto and 90 minutes from Hiroshima.
Where to stay: The glamping domes of Sane Mane offer a unique experience or try My Lodge for more conventional accommodation.
Recommended by Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sights
- Entrance fees: 600 yen
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm)
- Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
Osaka Castle is one of the most historical landmarks to visit in Japan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the castle in 1583, shortly after Oda Nobunaga, the man that was trying to unify Japan, died. Hideyoshi continued his quest for unification and managed to finish the castle after a few expansions in 1597, just one year before his death.
Fast-forward to 1615. Hideyoshi’s son, Toyotomi Hideyori, claimed he’s the rightful ruler of Japan. However, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the current de facto ruler, had a different opinion. Conflict ensued, and the famous Siege of Osaka Castle began. It would end with the death of the entire Toyotomi family, cementing the Tokugawa clan as the rulers of Japan for the next 250 years.
The castle itself is a spectacular white and green fortress that towers over the moat and beautiful castle grounds. The central tower is five stories tall and covered in gold leaf decorations.
Inside Osaka Castle, you can find the Osaka Castle Museum, where you can learn more about the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the events that led to the unification of Japan.
The easiest way to get there is by taking the Osaka Loop Line to the Osakajo-Koen Station.
Where to stay: Hotel Consort
Recommended by Noel from This Hawaii Life
- Entrance fee: Free
- Opening hours: 6 am to 5 pm
- Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
One of the biggest attractions to visit in Tokyo is Senso Ji, located in the Asakusa district of the city. This large complex houses Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and an array of historic buildings and shrines.
You enter the temple grounds through the Nakamise-Dori, the area of local shops, snacks, and other souvenir stops before the main gate entrance called the “Thunder Gate” with imposing paper lantern painted black and white. There are gorgeous five-story pagodas, the Sensoi Kannon Temple, along with several shrines and minor temples to explore in this colorful ancient Tokyo landmark.
You can visit the temple from 6 am to 5 pm, although the grounds are always open to walk around. There is no fee to enter, although you can always donate any of the collection boxes. Senso-Ji is also a great place to explore the small side streets, which has many choices of different Japanese food to eat. Also, there are many hotels around Asakusa, and it’s easy to walk on foot or catch any local trains to visit other parts of this very large metropolis of Tokyo.
Where to stay: Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International
Recommended by Sydney Richardson from A World in Reach
- Entrance Fees: Free to see the crossing, 600 yen for the MAGPark Viewing Deck
- Opening Hours: 24/7 for the crossing, 10 am-9 pm for MAGPark
- Address: 1 Chome-2-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0043, Japan
Tokyo is a city that’s buzzing with excitement, and there’s no better place to experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo than at Shibuya Crossing – one of the most iconic landmarks in Tokyo.
Shibuya Crossing is a pedestrian scramble crossing in front of Shibuya Station and one of the top things to see in Tokyo. Cars stop in all directions allowing pedestrians to cross from all around. More than 3000 people can cross at Shibuya Crossing, making it the busiest pedestrian crossing globally.
When visiting Shibuya Crossing, you’ll want to experience the crossing yourself as well as get a high vantage point for a view of the crossing. Head to the Hachikō exit of Shibuya Station, where you’ll see the crossing; then, make your way through the scramble for yourself. Crossing the street with hundreds of people at the same time is a unique experience! Next, head up to MAG’s PARK atop the MAGNET by SHIBUYA109 department store. This rooftop deck will give you the perfect bird’s-eye view of the crossing down below. Another popular spot to view the crossing is the Starbucks in Shibuya Tsutaya. Just a heads up, it gets crowded quickly!
Where to Stay: Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
Recommended by JB from Will Fly for Food
- Entrance fees: Free to enter the village. JPY 200-600 for the houses and museums.
- Opening hours: Varies per museum, but around 9 am to 5 pm.
- Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu 501-5627, Japan
Shirakawa-go is a region located in the remote Shogawa River Valley in Gifu prefecture. Together with Gokayama, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses.
Ogimachi is the largest and most famous village in Shirakawa-go. It’s home to 59 gassho-zukuri farmhouses renowned for their distinct slanted roofs. Shirakawa-go can get up to two meters of snow at the height of winter, so these thatched gable roofs are built at a steep angle to allow heavy snow to fall off quickly.
Thanks to these gassho-zukuri farmhouses, Shirakawa-go is one of the most atmospheric and photogenic places in Japan. It’s beautiful at any time of the year though it’s almost magical in winter when the houses and landscape are covered in a thick blanket of snow.
The majority of visitors to Ogimachi make day trips from nearby Hida Takayama (50 minutes away by bus). Still, nothing compares to the experience of actually staying at a gassho-style guesthouse!
Where to stay: Gassho-zukuri guesthouses inside the village. Just be sure to book well in advance.
Recommended by Emma from Emma Jane Explores
- Entrance fee: 1000 – 3400 Yen for adults and 550 – 2550 Yen for children, depending on when you visit.
- Opening hours: The Observation Deck is open from 8 am to 10 pm.
- Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
The Tokyo Skytree is immediately recognizable against the city’s skyline and is a favorite Tokyo attraction for visitors to the bustling capital.
The highest tower in the world, the Tokyo Skytree, stands at 634 meters high and has a wonderful observation deck with sweeping panoramic views stretching all the way out to Mount Fuji.
The Tokyo Skytree is easily accessible via Japan’s impressive rail network, with both the Tokyo Skytree Station and Oshiage Station servicing the attraction. Tickets are available to purchase online in advance, which will ensure that you’re able to skip the long lines of tourists queuing up to visit. Access to the Skytree’s observation deck cost between 1000 Yen and 3400 Yen for adults and between 550 Yen and 2550 Yen for children. Prices are cheaper on weekdays compared to weekends.
Because Tokyo is so easy to travel around thanks to the great rail network, basing your stay around the areas of Shibuya, Ginza or Shinjuku makes for a great holiday.
Where to stay: The Shibuya Tobu Hotel is fantastically located, and a great mid-range option for a Tokyo stay.
Recommended by Daria from The Discovery Nut
- Entrance fees: Main observatory – 900 yen (around 8 USD)
- Opening hours: 9 am to 11 pm (last visitors get in at 10:30 pm)
- Address: Shiba-Keon District of Minato
Another iconic Tokyo landmark is the bright orange-white Tokyo Tower. Completed in 1958, the 1,092-feet Tokyo Tower had been the tallest structure in Japan until 2012, when the Tokyo Skytree surpassed it. Today it is one of the most well-known Japanese landmarks, enjoying a much wider recognition than its taller sibling.
Regarded as one of the symbols of Japan’s post-war development, Tokyo Tower also serves as a television and radio broadcasting facility. The tower has two observation decks from where you can get an incredible panoramic view of Tokyo’s surrounding areas. And if you’re lucky, even see Mount Fuji in the distance!
Tokyo Tower also has a cafe, souvenir shops, and even a performance venue where visitors can enjoy live music. One of the best times to visit Tokyo Tower is at night when you can see the amazing lights of the sprawling city below you. Just a heads up, grab your observation deck admission ticket in advance!
The nearest station to Tokyo Tower is Akabanebashi Station on Oedo Line.
Where to stay: Mitsui Garden Hotel Roppongi Tokyo Premier
Famous Japanese Landmarks in Conclusion
Well, that’s all we’ve got on the most unmissable landmarks in Japan! While this post barely scratches the surface of Japanese landmarks, it should provide a well-rounded glimpse of the top attractions to visit during your trip. Have you visited any of these famous Japanese landmarks? Feel free to share your top tips, best places to visit, and anything in between in the comments below!
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