Japan is a very attractive country due to its strong historical culture which materializes today in different aspects. In fact, more than 30 million visitors make the trip to discover this culture and its magnificent sites. However, there are so many that it is often difficult to make a choice to select which ones to visit. This is why we have selected 10 (+ 1 bonus!) of the most resplendent places in the archipelago.
1. Himeji Castle
Also called White Heron Castle, Himeji Castle which dates back over 400 years (built in 1609) is a great place to discover the beauty of Japanese medieval castle architecture. It is made up of six floors that you can all visit one by one after paying entry (less than ten euros per adult, less than three per child) in order to enjoy the magnificent view it offers over the entire the city of Himeji. It is also one of the last twelve wooden castles in Japan, which earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and was considered a cultural treasure of Japan at the same time.
2. Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
The Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine is the largest and most famous Shinto shrine in Japan, among the more than 30,000 in the Japanese territory. It serves as a cult towards the kami divinity Inari who is considered the goddess of cereals, foundries and trade. The shrine was first erected in 711 in Mitsugamine by the Hata clan, however it was moved in 817 to Inari Mountain in Kyoto where it is currently located. However, its thousands of toriis were added more than a thousand years later, financed by rich businessmen or traders in exchange for the inscription of their names on the doors. These are the black writings that we see on each of them. You will therefore be able to visit the site through a four-kilometer hike which lasts on average between 2 and 2.5 hours. Be careful though, it is a place very popular with tourists so it won't be too bad to go there early in the morning to be able to enjoy the landscape even more. With a little luck you will even be able to take one of these magnificent photos under the toriis passage.
3. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle can easily be likened to a historic warship. While the construction of its keep was completed in 1585, it was heavily damaged 11 years later following an earthquake in 1596. After reconstruction, it suffered a significant attack during the Edo period in 1614. of more than 200,000 men of the Tokugawa clan. However, he resisted this assault but fell the following year under a second siege from the same clan. Once the castle was rebuilt in 1620, it did not take 50 years to be ravaged by flames since it caught fire in the year 1665. Osaka Castle was then left as it was without reconstruction for almost 200 years. . It was finally renovated in 1843 before being destroyed once again following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Rebuilt in 1928, it suffered bombing from American air raids which, one last time, damaged the foundations of this castle. . The government made the firm decision to renovate Osaka Castle in 1997 and for 23 years the castle and its moat have proudly dominated the city of Osaka. If you go to Osaka its visit will therefore be a must and if you are lucky enough to go there during the hanami period (cherry blossom period) the view will be even more beautiful. Its visit is free for children under 15 and will cost no more than €5 per adult. Finally, just as Himeji Castle offered a breathtaking view of Himeji, Osaka Castle will offer you a magnificent view of Osaka from the top of its eight floors and its traditional Japanese architecture.
4. The Philosopher’s Walk
Located in Kyoto, Philosopher's Walk is a little corner of paradise in the middle of an urban area. Its name comes from the philosopher Kitaro Nishida who enjoyed meditating there daily , but he was not the only one to frequent this path which was once widely used by Buddhist monks. The beauty of this walk of more than two kilometers which runs along the Lake Biwa canal comes from the romantic atmosphere which emanates from it in the image of Japanese Zen culture. To make the most of what this place has to offer, you should preferably go there in spring during the hanami period, so you can contemplate the circular arcs formed over the canal by the sakuras. You will also find along this canal a whole bunch of bars, shops and tea pavilions which will allow you to enjoy the magic of this place in peace.
5. Asakusa Shrine
You will find within the Asakusa Shrine located in Tokyo on the banks of the Sumida River the Sensō-ji temple which is none other than the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. It was erected in honor of the goddess Kannon and is therefore very popular with the Japanese people who attach great importance to it. Very popular for its sparkling colors and traditional architecture, Asakusa Shrine also has many souvenir shops on the Nakamise-dori shopping alley that will allow you to put your hand in your pocket to bring back a little something for your loved ones.
6. Kegon Falls
Located in Tochigi Prefecture in Nikko National Park, Kegon Falls has been considered one of the eight most beautiful sights in Japan. They are located at almost 1,300 meters above sea level with a height of 97 meters, making them the third highest waterfall in Japan. You will find a dozen waterfalls there, all of which form at Lake Chūzenji, itself the source of the Daiya River. The site is also splendid to go see in winter when the falls are completely covered in ice.
7. Itsukushima Shrine
The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine dates back to 593 AD and is a must-see in Miyajima. The version that we know and that we can visit today, however, dates from 1168. The sanctuary had in fact been rebuilt in order to make it even more sumptuous following important donations from a military general at the end of the period of Heian (794-1185). At the same time, it was on this date that the immense torii (16 meters) located at sea which is the beauty of this place was erected. You may know this, but it is forbidden to enter a Shinto shrine without passing under the torii gate at the entrance. It is a way of demarcating the normal world from the sacred world. Therefore, to enter Itsukushima Shrine you once had to pass by sea by boat under its torii gate. This place is considered one of the three most beautiful views that can be found in Japan, which makes it a good reason to make the detour. This also led to the sanctuary being listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996.
8. Kenroku-en Garden
Kenroku-en Garden, or Kanagawa Garden, was first laid out in 1620 and continued to evolve until the 1840s. It was then owned by the rulers of the former Kaga province, the Maeda family . Unfortunately, a fire ravaged it in 1759 but it was quickly renovated in 1774. It was only since 1874 that it was open to the public and that we can visit it. Much like the reputation of traditional Zen gardens that Japan knows, the Kanagawa garden is a place of choice to enjoy a relaxing setting with magnificent views of its pond, its lanterns and its flora through more than eleven hectares. As proof, the Kenroku-en garden is considered no less than the most beautiful in the archipelago. You can access it for less than three euros per adult and less than one euro per child.
9. The Tokyo Skytree
Built in 2012, the Tokyo Skytree, which as it indicates, is located in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, is no less than the second freestanding tower in the world. From its height of 634 meters, it is almost twice as high as its twin, the Tokyo Tower, the one which resembles the Eiffel Tower, except that it is painted red. The Tokyo Skytree is therefore a broadcasting tower open to the public in which you will find an observatory at 350 meters high and another at 450 meters. Be careful though, if you plan to go there, plan to go early in the morning if possible because it is a very touristy place and the queues are very long. You will also find at the foot of the tower a large shopping center housing all kinds of businesses, a planetarium, an aquarium as well as restaurants to eat.
10. Mount Fuji
This ranking could not exclude the most popular and resplendent volcano of the archipelago, surrounded by its five magnificent lakes. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 as “Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration”, Mount Fuji has a symbolic dimension for the country, but also religious and artistic. For example, we can cite Hokusai's famous series of prints “the 36 views of Mount Fuji” in which we find a whole bunch of different points of view on the site. With a peak at 3776 meters above sea level, Mount Fuji is the highest point in Japan and is located about a hundred kilometers southeast of Tokyo. It is still active although its last eruption dates back to 1707. You can naturally, for the most daring among you, embark on its ascent. It is nevertheless quite easy and accessible for everyone in the sense that it does not involve any particular difficulty. You will just have to plan the day since the ascent lasts from three to five hours depending on the speed of the group, and two to five hours to come down.
11. The ghost island of Ha-sima (bonus)
After the discovery of a coal deposit (a type of coal) in 1887 on this small island located twenty kilometers from Nagasaki, a mine was installed there as well as numerous infrastructures which gradually transformed this desert island into a city in its own right. . The employees worked there but also lived there and the increase in the mining population intended to exploit the mines as much as possible made this island one of the most densely populated areas in the world at the time. No one has lived there since 1974 and the island was even banned from access until 2009 because it was considered too dangerous. However, the city of Nagasaki has since undertaken heavy renovation work in order to make it a tourist and attractive place that you can visit, provided you follow the path established in the south of the island.