28 Most Stunning Landmarks in Japan
Discover the Captivating Landmarks of Japan: From Timeless Tradition to Modern Marvels
Step into a world of timeless beauty, where ancient traditions seamlessly intertwine with modern marvels, as we explore the most captivating landmarks in Japan. From the majestic Mount Fuji to the enchanting Fushimi Inari Shrine, these famous Japanese landmarks will leave you utterly spellbound.
In this article, we'll uncover the most famous landmarks in Japan, as well as some hidden gems that showcase the incredible diversity of this nature focused country. And what's best, is that you can see most of these famous landmarks with my 3 week Japan itinerary.
Picture yourself crossing the busy Shibuya Crossing, where thousands of people converge in a symphony of organized chaos. Imagine walking through the serene paths of the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, with the gentle whispers of towering bamboo stalks. Or photographing the stunning Mount Fuji, the iconic landmark of Japan that everyone admires and respects.
Prepare to be swept away by the most famous Japanese landmarks that everyone loves and wishes to see at least once in a lifetime.
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Mount Fuji, or Fujisan as it's known in Japanese, is the country's tallest peak and perhaps its most iconic landmark. Standing at 3,776 meters (12,389 feet), this active volcano has long been a symbol of Japan and a source of inspiration for artists but also hikers. Mount Fuji's symmetrical cone is considered a sacred site, and it is an essential stop on any Japanese itinerary.
While Mount Fuji is a year-round destination, winter is often the best time to spot the volcano as the air tends to be clearer with fewer clouds. Winter sees fewer tourists, allowing you to enjoy the tranquil beauty of Mount Fuji without the crowds. However, if you want to climb Mount Fuji, the official climbing season is from early July to early September, so winter visits are best suited for sightseeing and photography rather than climbing to the summit.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is a revered Shinto shrine located in Kyoto and one of the most famous landmarks in Japan. Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its rows of vermilion torii gates that create a tunnel-like effect up Mount Inari.
The Shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and prosperity. The thousands of torii gates that line the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) pathway up Mount Inari have been donated by individuals and businesses seeking blessings and success, each gate bearing the name of its donor.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is open 24/7, and has no entrance fee. While the shrine can be visited at any time, the best time to explore is either at first light in the morning or in the late afternoon for sunset.
Shibuya Crossing, the world's busiest pedestrian intersection, is an iconic symbol of Tokyo and definitely a must-see landmark in Japan. Shibuya crossing has gained international fame thanks to it being featured in many international mediums. Even after so many years, visiting Tokyo, and I'm still just as excited about crossing it and photographing it. Shibuya Crossing is the definition of organized chaos, that's for sure.
Experiencing Shibuya Crossing is one of the best things to do in Tokyo so make sure to add it to your itinerary. The best time to visit the crossing is during the evening rush hour to really have the full experience.
There are several wonderful vantage points for seeing Shibuya Crossing from above: try the Shibuya Sky observation deck, the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building or the L'Occitane Café, both of which overlook the intersection. One of my favourite places is the Hikarie building, which overlooks a rather interesting part of Shibuya crossing and Shibuya station.
Arashiyama bamboo grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, is one of the most famous and visited places in Japan. The bamboo forest is a beautiful path lined with very tall and thick bamboo stalks that gently sway.
Due to its immense popularity, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove can get quite busy, especially during the cherry blossom season. It's best to arrive as early in the morning as possible, especially if you wish to take some magical photos.
Consider visiting the grove in mid-December during the annual Arashiyama Hanatouro illumination event, when the bamboo groves are beautifully illuminated.
Itsukushima Shrine is a renowned Shinto shrine on the island of Miyajima. The shrine is a famous Japanese landmark, famed for its floating torii gate, which appears to rise from the sea during high tide.
One of the most memorable times to visit the shrine is during the Koyo Festival, when the vibrant autumn foliage creates a stunning backdrop for the sacred site. To reach Itsukushima Shrine you can take a quick ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima.
As you explore the island, you'll encounter friendly deer roaming freely around the shrine and the surrounding park. While visiting Miyajima, make sure to try some Momiji manjū or succulent, fresh oysters, which are a local speciality.
Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, is a famous landmark situated in the Asakusa district.
Senso-ji is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, and the temple is known for its striking Kaminarimon Gate and five-storied pagoda. The temple grounds are open 24/7, but the main hall is accessible from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm. The best time to visit is in the morning to avoid crowds.
A visit to Senso-ji is incomplete without a stroll along Nakamise Dori, a shopping street on the temple's approach that is ideal for finding traditional Japanese desserts and unique souvenirs.
Himeji Castle is one of Japan's most iconic landmarks, renowned for its beauty and historical significance. Also known as the White Heron Castle due to its elegant, white exterior resembling a heron in flight, Himeji Castle is a stunning example of a traditional Japanese castle design. Himeji Castle is a symbol of Japan's rich cultural heritage, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To reach Himeji Castle, you can take advantage of the extensive Japan Rail network (and use your Japan Rail Pass). From Osaka or Kyoto, simply board a JR Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Himeji Station.
Himeji Castle is especially popular during the cherry blossom festival, when the castle grounds are adorned with cherry blossoms.
Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto known for its gorgeous top two floors, which are covered in gold leaf. The temple is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important part of Kyoto's historical and cultural landscape.
In my opinion, Kinkaku-ji is one of the most beautiful Japan landmarks and a precious Kyoto temple that looks just as beautiful in real like as in a picture. I was very much surprised to see how stunning it photographs and really looks postcard perfect.
Kinkaku-ji can be easily accessed by public transportation. From Kyoto Station, you can take the Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 and get off at the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop. The temple is just a short walk from the bus stop.
Hiroshima peace memorial
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial stands as a poignant reminder of the tragic events that unfolded on August 6, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. The skeletal remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall is now a symbol of peace and humanity's hope for a world free from nuclear weapons.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Surrounding the Atomic Bomb Dome is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, home to several monuments and memorials, including the Children's Peace Monument, the Peace Flame, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a lavishly decorated shrine located in the city of Nikko, nestled within the picturesque mountains of Tochigi Prefecture. This magnificent shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years. The shrine is renowned for its intricate architectural details, colourful carvings, and elaborate ornamentation.
To reach Nikko Toshogu Shrine, you can take a train from Tokyo to Nikko. From Tobu-Nikko Station, the shrine is a 30-minute walk or a short bus ride away.
The best time to visit Nikko Toshogu Shrine is during autumn, when the surrounding mountains have the most vibrant foliage.
Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, is a famous Shinto shrine located in a tranquil forest in the heart of Tokyo. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who played pivotal roles in Japan's modernization during the Meiji Restoration.
Located near the vibrant districts of Harajuku and Shibuya, Meiji Shrine can be easily accessed by public transportation. The shrine is just a short walk from Harajuku Station.
A great time to visit is during the first few days of the new year, when the shrine hosts traditional Shinto ceremonies and attracts large crowds for Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year.
With a bit of luck, you might even see a wedding during your visit to Meiji Shrine.
One of the most famous landmarks in Japan is the historical and culturally rich Gion District in Kyoto. The Gion District is celebrated for its well-preserved traditional architecture, stone-paved streets, and wooden machiya townhouses, Gion is Kyoto's most iconic geisha district.
Gion is situated along the eastern bank of the Kamo River and is easily accessible from various parts of Kyoto. Gion is home to numerous teahouses, or ochaya, where geiko and their apprentices, called maiko, entertain guests with traditional dance and music performances.
One of the highlights of visiting Gion is the chance to witness the geiko and maiko walking gracefully through the narrow streets, dressed in exquisite kimono and traditional makeup.
Dotonbori is an entertainment district in the heart of Osaka, known for its vibrant atmosphere, dazzling neon lights, and delicious street food. Dotonbori is an important destination in Osaka because it has a reputation as the “nation's kitchen”. And honestly, there is so much food to be enjoyed here. Try takoyaki (octopus-filled batter balls), okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancakes), kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered meats and vegetables), and yakiniku (grilled meat).
The area has lovely restaurants and bars too, perfect for foodie travellers that want to eat their way around Japan. Don't miss the famous Glico sign, which features the iconic image of a runner crossing the finish line with arms raised in triumph. This ad for the confectionery company Glico has become synonymous with the district.
Todai-ji Temple is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples. Established in the 8th century during the Nara Period, Todai-ji is a key center for the Kegon school of Buddhism and is renowned for its colossal bronze statue of the Great Buddha, or Daibutsu.
Todai-ji Temple's feature the Nandaimon Gate, which is guarded by two imposing wooden statues of Kongo Rikishi, the Niomon Gate, the Hokkedo (Sangatsudo) Hall, and the Kaidan-in Hall.
The temple complex is located in Nara Park, a green space known primarily for its charming Nara deer, considered messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion. Nara is less than an hour away from both Kyoto and Osaka by train, making it an ideal destination for a day trip.
Shirakawa-go is a picturesque rural village in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture. The village is a famous Japan landmark known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which feature steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snowfall. Shirakawa-go is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for its unique architectural style.
The village is in a remote valley and can be accessed from major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Nagoya via train and bus. From Nagoya or Kanazawa, you can take a train to Takayama and then transfer to a bus that will take you directly to Shirakawa-go.
Shirakawa-go is beautiful throughout the year, but during winter, the village is transformed into a snowy wonderland, with the illuminated thatched-roof houses creating an enchanting atmosphere.
Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, known for its contemporary art museums, sculptures, and installations. Naoshima is sometimes called the Art Island, now a popular destination for art enthusiasts.
Naoshima is famous for its outdoor art installations, including Yayoi Kusama's iconic yellow pumpkin sculpture. The pumpkin has been a recurring symbol in Kusama's art since her childhood, representing a sense of comfort and familiarity to the artist. The sculpture is vivid yellow with black polka dots.
The Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, in Kamakura is a monumental bronze statue of Amida Buddha that stands as one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in Japan. The statue dates back to the 13th century and is approximately 11.4 meters (37 feet) tall and weighs around 121 tons, making it the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, following the one in Nara's Todai-ji Temple.
The statue was originally housed in a wooden temple hall, but the structure was destroyed by a series of typhoons and tidal waves in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Great Buddha has since been left in the open air and has withstood the test of time, weathering the elements and becoming a symbol of resilience and serenity.
To visit the Kamakura Daibutsu, you can take a day trip from Tokyo, as I usually recommend for Kamakura.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Jigokudani Monkey Park, in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan, is a famous and unique wildlife attraction that allows you to observe Japanese macaques (snow monkeys), up close in their natural habitat.
The park, situated in the picturesque Yokoyu River Valley, is named “Jigokudani,” meaning “Hell's Valley” due to the steep cliffs, dense forests, and hot steam rising from the geothermal springs in the area.
The main draw of Jigokudani Monkey Park is the opportunity to see the snow monkeys bathing and socializing in the natural hot springs. The park is especially popular during the winter months. The park supports research and education efforts to understand the snow monkeys and their ecosystem better.
Yakushima Island is a subtropical island located in Kagoshima Prefecture, and is renowned for its ancient cedar forests. The island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, in recognition of its ecosystem, which has remained largely untouched for thousands of years.
What makes Yakushima Island famous is its ancient cedar trees, known as Yakusugi. These trees are native to the island, and some Yakusugi are estimated to be over 1,000 years old. The most famous tree, Jomon Sugi is believed to be between 2,170 and 7,200 years old.
Kenrokuen Garden is one of Japan's most famous and beautiful traditional landscape gardens, located in Kanazawa. Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of the top three most famous gardens in Japan, alongside Koraku-en, and Kairaku-en. These gardens together are known as “Three Great Gardens of Japan”.
Originally constructed in the 17th century as part of the outer garden for Kanazawa Castle, Kenrokuen Garden was later opened to the public in 1871. The garden spans approximately 25 acres and features a variety of elements, including ponds, streams, bridges, tea houses, and carefully arranged trees and flowers.
Tokyo's Yokocho alleys, while not traditional landmarks like temples or shrines, have gained fame and recognition for their distinct nostalgic Showa Era atmosphere. Yokocho, which translates to “side alleys” are narrow streets filled with small bars, eateries, and izakayas.
There are several well-known Yokocho alleys scattered throughout Tokyo, such as Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, Golden Gai in Kabukicho, Nonbei Yokocho in Shibuya, and Ebisu Yokocho in Ebisu. Each Yokocho has its own distinct character, and every bar and restaurant has a unique feature too.
Chureito Pagoda (Arakura Sengen Shrine's five-story pagoda), is a famous landmark in Japan, known for its stunning views and postcard perfect setting. It is located in the town of Fujiyoshida in Yamanashi Prefecture, about two hours away from Tokyo. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine complex, which was built as a peace memorial in 1963.
The Chureito Pagoda is particularly famous for its breathtaking panoramic views of Mount Fuji, especially during the cherry blossom season and the fall foliage season.
The Blue Pond (Aoiike in Japanese), is a famous and mesmerizing natural attraction located in Biei, a small town in Hokkaido.
It has gained popularity for its stunning, vibrant blue colour, which is a result of natural minerals dissolved in the water. The colour can change depending on the season, weather, and lighting conditions. The presence of aluminium hydroxide in the water, combined with the way sunlight reflects off the suspended particles, creates the pond's mesmerizing blue hue.
To visit the Blue Pond, you can take a train from Sapporo to Asahikawa and then transfer to a local bus bound for Biei. The journey takes about three hours.
Seiganto-ji is a historic Buddhist temple in Wakayama Prefecture, a famous landmark in Japan thanks to its picturesque location near Nachi Falls. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” and holds great significance for both religious and cultural tourism.
The templeis located in a breathtaking natural landscape, including the tallest waterfall in Japan, Nachi Falls. To reach Seiganto-ji take a train from Osaka or Kyoto to Kii-Katsuura Station and transfer to a local bus.
Tokyo Tower is a famed landmark in Japan for several reasons. Completed in 1958, the tower stands at 333 meters (1,093 feet) tall and was originally inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The primary functions of Tokyo Tower is as a broadcasting tower for television and radio signals. But it has also evolved into a popular tourist destination thanks to its two observation decks that offer stunning panoramic views of Japan's capital. The Main Observatory is located at 150 meters (492 feet), while the higher Top Observatory stands at 250 meters (820 feet).
Tokyo Tower is beautifully illuminated at night, and the lighting design changes throughout the year.
Tokyo Skytree, is an iconic symbol of the city, and has gained fame as Japan's tallest tower and the world's tallest freestanding broadcasting tower, standing at an impressive 634 meters (2,080 feet).
The Tokyo Skytree has two observation decks at 350 meters (1,148 feet) and 450 meters (1,476 feet) and on clear days you can ever catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
Just like the Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Skytree is beautifully illuminated at night with vibrant lighting schemes that change depending on the season and special occasions.
Widely considered the most beautiful place to see the cherry blossoms, Yoshino is a picturesque town located in the Nara Prefecture of Japan, nestled within the Kii Mountains.
The town is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms, with over 30,000 cherry trees spread across the mountain slopes. Yoshino is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” which encompasses several sacred temples, shrines, and pilgrimage routes.
Tokyo Imperial palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace is considered one of the most famous landmarks in Japan due to its historical, cultural, and political significance. The palace serves as the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial Family, which is the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.
Admire the beautiful traditional Japanese architecture, as well as the meticulously maintained gardens, moats, and stone walls. The East Gardens, which are open to the public year-round, are particularly popular for their seasonal blooms and historical remnants of the Edo Castle. The Nijubashi Bridge, a double-arched stone bridge leading to the inner palace grounds, is an iconic sight and a popular spot for photography.
What is Japan's most famous landmark?
Mount Fuji is arguably the most famous landmark in Japan. As the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), it has become a symbol of Japan's natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Mount Fuji is just 100 km from Tokyo and is renowned for its perfectly symmetrical cone shape and its stunning views, especially during the cherry blossom season in spring and autumn, when the leaves change colour.
What are 4 landmarks of Japan?
There are many famous landmarks in Japan, but here are four of the most iconic ones:
- Mount Fuji - The highest mountain in Japan, located on Honshu Island.
- Fushimi Inari Shrine - An important Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, located in Kyoto.
- Shibuya Crossing - The busiest pedestrian crossing in the world located in the heart of Tokyo.
- Himeji Castle - A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved castles in Japan, located in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture.
Who is a famous landmark in Tokyo?
Here are the top 5 most iconic landmarks in Tokyo:
- Tokyo Skytree - The tallest tower in the world, with observation decks offering panoramic views of the city.
- Shibuya Crossing - The busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, surrounded by neon lights and video screens.
- Tokyo Tower - A landmark tower in Tokyo that was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and offers views of the city from its observation decks.
- Meiji Shrine - A Shinto shrine located in Shibuya that is surrounded by a tranquil forest.
- Senso-ji Temple - An ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, famous for its towering red lantern and bustling Nakamise shopping street.
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