10 of the MOST Scenic Places in Japan

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Wondering where the most scenic places in Japan are? Contributor Elle is sharing her favorites!

Japan is that friend that truly appreciates you for who you are – not despite of your quirks but because of your quirks. It is a country where beauty reigns in every corner – from the personalities of the local people to the architecture and the flora and fauna.

Within minutes of stepping off the plane at Tokyo’s Narita airport – greeted by warm smiles and quirky confectionary – I was ready to delve head first into this beautiful country and its fascinating culture. Within minutes of stepping back on the plane at Osaka’s Kansai airport two weeks later – wearing a bittersweet smile and a suitcase full of matcha items  – I was ready to return. 

What follows is ten of the most beautiful places that I visited in Japan. These places redefined the meaning of beauty in the dictionary of my mind and continue to fill my most Wes Anderson-esque day dreams.

10 Most Scenic Places in Japan

1. Arashiyama’s Path of Bamboo

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Despite boasting a mere length of 300 meters, the Path of Bamboo in Kyoto’s Arashiyama region appears as if the portal to a whole other world. A type of world straight out of the pages of a fairytale by the Brothers’ Grimm. During the day, the path can appear more crowded than a subway train in Tokyo during peak hour.

However, if you arrive early (i.e. before 8am) or take advantage of a rainy day, you may just be lucky enough to get the place to yourself. For that however brief moment of quiet, the wisdom and zen of the towering green stalks of bamboo will permanently seep into your soul. Listen to the bamboo sway in the wind, creaking softly as they collide and bend, and breathe in the cleansing scent of the damp forest.

Visit Arashiyama with these tours:

Check here for places to stay near Arashiyama

2. Chidorigafuchi Moat

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At Chidorigafuchi, the beauty of Japan is brought alive by the image of couples and families rowing away their day together. During spring, the beauty of this shared love is highlighted by the addition of weeping cherry blossom trees which completely line the banks of the moat. However, this site is more than just a pretty face. It also holds significant historical importance as the moat for the Edo Castle during the age of the Tokugawa shoguns as well as the Imperial Palace that stands upon the site today.

Check here for places to stay in Tokyo

3. Chureito Pagoda 

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I’m 99.9% certain that there is a rip in space/time at this exact spot, that causes time to freeze. I don’t quite know how long I stood behind the Chureito Pagoda gazing with heart shaped eyes out to Mt Fuji and the sea of cherry blossoms surrounding it. But it could never be long enough. While the view is breathtaking enough, the site also holds historical and cultural importance. The pagoda is actually part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, built way back in the 8th century.

4. Nara Deer Park

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If you have ever wondered what life would be like if deer took over the Earth, then a visit to Nara Deer Park will put your thoughts to rest. According to Japanese legend, deer are considered messengers of the gods. This means the deer of Nara have been encouraged to congregate within the area over the past several hundred years. Today, they prance around town as the most iconic symbol and are recognized as natural treasures.

Although they are wild, they have been semi-tamed by tourism. Some have even learned to bow to ask visitors for food. That said, they can most definitely become aggressive if they think you will feed them – or they smell food in your bag as my friend and her soon-to-be-eaten-by-a-deer lunch found out. Just how many deer are there? The latest count puts it over 1,200!

To see the deer of Nara, check out this afternoon tour.

Check here for places to stay in Nara

5. Osaka Castle

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Complete with an extensive garden that changes colour with the season, a moat with a wooden bridge just waiting for Prince Charming, and a pastel color-palette straight off a 16th-century ball gown, Osaka Castle must be where Disney princesses go to spend their “happily ever after.” It’s full of stunning aesthetics and rich history. There’s little wonder why the castle is constantly ranked as one of the most visited attractions in all of Japan.

If you’re in Osaka, get the Osaka Amazing Pass, which will grant you access to 30 iconic sites in the city, including the castle. You can arrange to pick it up at the airport. 

Check here for places to stay in Osaka

6. Kinkakuji Temple

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A traditional Buddhist temple… With a gold lead façade… Set upon a reflecting zen pond – need I say more?

Check here for places to stay in Kyoto

7. Miyajima Shrine

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While Hiroshima is most internationally known as the site of the US atomic bomb attack in 1945, there’s so much beauty here. Visit the Peace Memorial Park and see the juxtaposition of devastation and tranquility to see the beauty of peace. Meet the kind-hearted, second-generation atomic bomb survivors as they teach visitors to make origami paper cranes to see the beauty of human spirit. Through the sunsets at Miyajima Shrine, Hiroshima will show you the beauty of Japan’s nature.

The city is a perfect template for demonstrating how with openness, hope, and ingenuity, even history’s greatest crimes can be made into something truly beautiful.

Check here for places to stay in Hiroshima

8. Fushami Inari Shrine

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Comprised of 12,000 tori gates leading up a forested mountain, Fushimi Inari Shrine is undeniably one of the most scenic places in Japan for both its natural and manmade elements. With the gates dating all the way back to 711 A.D., experiencing each and every one is like touching a piece of human history. It is, quite simply, one of the most impressive sights that I experienced in all of Japan.

To tour Fushimi Inari, check this tour which also includes a visit to a sake brewery

Check here for places to stay in Kyoto

9. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

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Forget Tokyo Disneyland, the Jigokudani Onsen Tour is Disneyland for snow monkeys. I assure you that choosing to spend a day in Jigokudani instead will leave you 100% more satisfied and heart-eyed. Word of advice though, do not touch, startle, or stare into the eyes of the monkeys (no matter how cute they are). This is not a zoo and these animals are WILD and will behave as such.

Book a day tour of Jigokudani here

10. Hiroshima Castle

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Constructed in 1590, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb, much like everything else in the city. In the years since however, the castle has been restored. Today it stands tall and proud as a physical embodiment of resilience (as well as our wildest tree house fantasies).

Check here for places to stay in Hiroshima

Do you have a beautiful place to add to the list of place to visit in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

For more travel to Japan, check these posts next:

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Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and at thisisyugen.com.

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HEY THERE, I'M NICOLA!

I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. In fact, I’ve visited 54 countries and cooked 196 cuisines in this very pursuit. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

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