Japan is a small country, no larger than California. But we often think it's far bigger than it really is because its image is one of busy people bustling in the streets and big bright lights beaming 24/7.

Japan may be the hotspot of technology in Asia which is apparent in Tokyo, the largest city in the world, but it still retains its culture and tradition in the face of growing urbanization. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are dotted all over the archipelago, showing how important religion is to the Japanese people.

The Japanese people also celebrate many festivals all year-round to honor the different entities that made Japan the powerful country it is today. Japan is a combination of modernity and tradition.

There are so many things to do in Japan it can be hard to narrow it down. So I'll help! Here are 3 awe-inspiring cities in Japan and the highlights to do in each.

1. Tokyo

You haven’t been to Japan if haven't been to Tokyo. Tokyo is the nation’s capital. You’ll be blown away by its setting – a mix of massive neon skyscrapers and remarkable temples. Japan knows how to have a modern pace with the laid-back atmosphere.

Kabukicho Japan

The Kabukicho district never sleeps!

If you’re craving nightlife, head to the Kabukicho, an entertainment red-light district located in northeast Shinjuku. Just take the Tokyo Metro train to Shinjuku Station.

Here you can find a variety of bars, hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants dotted all over the place. You might also want to check out the Ginza, a high-fashion district in Tokyo where the elite and shopping addicts go. The restaurants here are also world-class.

To get here take the Tokyo Metro train to Ginza Station. The Kabukicho opens daily at 7:00 PM until dawn while the Ginza is already open at 10:00 AM and closes at 10:00 PM.

Japanese Imperial

Tourists at the Japanese Imperial Palace

Since you’re already in Tokyo, a visit to the Imperial Palace is a must. It’s the place of residence of the emperor. Its alluring gardens are open to the public and you might even be lucky enough to see the emperor, together with the royal family, make an appearance on the balcony.

Sensoji,Japan

The beautiful pagoda roof of the Sensoji Temple

You can’t miss the Sensoji! It’s the biggest and oldest Buddhist temple in Asakusa, just a 30-min drive from Tokyo. It’s a famous tourist attraction because of its distinct wooden halls, shrines, beautiful pagodas, and a nearby ancient shopping street called Nakamise.

2. Hakone

Step into a nature paradise in the mountainous terrain of the city of Hakone. The city is just less than 2 hours away from Tokyo by train, and it’s popular for tourists seeking tranquility. You’ll be in awe of the iconic Mt. Fuji, steaming onsens (hot springs), and historical museums.

Sengokubara

The Sengokubara onsen in Hakone

You can find onsens all over the Hakone region – from hotels, ones open for public and private onsen resorts. Onsens are hot springs, with the warm water coming from the volcanoes surrounding the area.

Hakone Shrine

The mystifying beauty of the pathway in Hakone Shrine

Another mystifyingly beautiful place in the Hakone region is the Hakone Shrine. It stands at the foot of Mt. Hakone, at the far end of Lake Ashinoko, where forests are dense, and the heavy mist shrouds the nearly invisible shrine. The mysterious shrine boasts large red Torii gates, towering shrines, and a path of red lanterns leading to the lake. Such an amazing sight to behold!

Open Air Museum Japan

The garden at the Hakone Open-Air Museum

Hakone is also the place to be for art enthusiasts or for those who simply enjoy going to museums. There’s the Hakone Open-Air Museum where you’ll find masterpieces by Picasso, the Hakone Museum of Art which displays all sorts or ceramics and earthenware that dates back to the ancient times, and the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum which boasts of artworks made from elegant glass.

Most of these museums open at late morning and close before dusk.

3. Kyoto

Kyoto is the part of Japan where culture and tradition prevail. Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, ancient houses, imperial palaces, and vast gardens are the places you’ll find in Kyoto.

Kinkakuji, Japan

The Kinkakuji temple is just splendid!

The most visited place in Kyoto is the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), a Zen temple and a former residence of a famous shogun in Japan. The beauty of the gold leaf-coated top floors of the temple is incredibly unique and the structure itself is impressive.

Kiyomizu-Dera

The wonderful veranda of the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple overlooking the city

Another tourist spot in Kyoto is the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. The temple stands on the side of the mountain, with a beautiful veranda overlooking the city. Visiting the temple in the late afternoon will allow you to see the humbling sunset in the veranda. This is why most tourists associate the temple with love and romance. Isn’t it romantic to watch the sunset in a magnificent temple? The temple also has a small waterfall nearby. Locals believe that drinking water from the waterfall has therapeutic properties.

geisha in the Gion District

A beautiful geisha in the Gion District welcoming guests

If you want to take a break from exploring temples and palaces, you should go to the Gion District. Gion is a place where culture meets modernity. You’ll find a lot of shops, teahouses, and restaurants in the district. Most tourists visit Gion to see real geishas (legendary skilled entertainers) and maikos (geisha apprentices) entertaining guests at teahouses.

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Japan’s beauty is indescribable. It’s what draws tourists. There’s a place to visit for every preference - may it be an ecstatic nightlife, a walk through history, a tour of Buddhist temples and shrines, a peaceful day at the lake, a relaxing recreational activity or a reconnection with nature.

Also, the Japanese people are the nicest people on Earth! They are accommodating, hospitable, and always willing to help a lost tourist find her way.

Have you been to Japan? What destinations would you recommend? Share your thoughts below!

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3 Awe-Inspiring Cities to Visit in Japan - Breathe Travel

Image source: author's own & pixabay.com