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My Top 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Japan

I have been living, working, and traveling in Japan since May of 2017. These travel tips are based on my experiences.

Hiraodai is one of my top ten favorite places in Japan.

Hiraodai is one of my top ten favorite places in Japan.

Best Places to See in Japan

As someone who has traveled a great deal in Japan within a short amount of time, I have visited many different places. I've been pleasantly surprised by spots like Hiraodai and the limestone caves, and I would like to share with you the places I've enjoyed the most.

Here are my top 10 most beautiful places to visit in Japan, as well as suggestions for when you may want to visit in order to best capture their beauty.

1 and 2: Beppu and Yufuin, Oita Prefecture

Beppu and the nearby area of Yufuin, both of which are in Oita Prefecture, are my all-time favorite places to visit in Japan.

Why You Should Visit

Here you can find amazing hot spring onsens, as well as beautiful and unique hot springs called The Hells, or jigoku. You can cook food using the steam from the hot springs, a style called jigoku mushi. You can even get a steam bath for your feet at a place that's just a two-minute walk from the steam-cooking restaurant.

From the hot springs in Beppu, you can catch a bus over to my favorite spot, the Kintetsu Ropeway in Yufuin, to see the beautiful nature parks and fall foliage.

Finally, after visiting the hot springs and the ropeway, you can head back towards the ocean and visit Beppu Kaihama Spa Beach.

When You Should Go

I recommend the fall because you will be able to see the beautiful foliage. I visited for the first time on November 6, 2017.

Opening Hours & Bathing Fee (Beppu Kaihama Spa Beach)

  • March to November: 8:30–18:00 (last reception 17:00)
  • December to February: 9:00–17:00 (last reception 16:00)
  • Cost: 1,030¥

Getting There

The Beppu Hells and the various attractions in Yufuin are easily accessible by public transport; there's a bus that will take you to all of the major sights. The buses to Beppu and Yufuin are nearby each other.

3. Mt. Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture

Reasons to Visit

Mt. Aso, in Kumamoto Prefecture, offers stunningly beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and an active volcano.

A strong earthquake hit Kumamoto in 2016, and Mt. Aso erupted in 2016 and 2021. As of May 2022, a no-entry zone has resulted in the closure of the road and hiking trails to the crater, and the crater itself.

Also, please note that for safety reasons, you currently cannot drive on Laputa Road, which was the inspiration for the Ghibli film Castle in the Sky.

However, this is still an amazing area to visit. You can see all of the sights on the way up the mountain either by driving or by taking the local bus. It was absolutely gorgeous in the winter with the ice covering the ground. You can see the smoking volcano, and on the way to Mt. Also you can also see beautiful mountain ranges and some waterfalls.

When to Go: I highly recommend this for a winter or spring visit.

4. Limestone Caves of Hiraodai, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture

Why You Should Visit

See a beautiful nature park that's off the beaten tourist path.

Hiraodai is a gorgeous nature park with two long limestone caves. The water becomes so deep at the end that you can even swim out of the cave. The surrounding mountains and greenery were beautiful in December, but because of the water in the caves, I would recommend going in summer, when it's hot outside and you want to cool down.

When to Go

Summertime would be best so you can enjoy swimming out of the cave. I personally went in winter.

Admission Price

Adults: About 800¥

5. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Reasons to Visit

To see the snow monkeys and enjoy an amazing little hot spring town. It's also an excellent place to go skiing.

Before I visited, I had seen several videos of Nagano's Jigokudani Monkey Park. When I recently went to Kawaguchiko, I finally had the opportunity to see the snow monkeys for myself.

I was completely swept away by how beautiful Nagano was. It was a winter wonderland; the sight of the mountains and small shops covered in snow was a sight to behold. The walk up to the monkey park does take a while, but it is well worth it.

Please keep in mind that in the dead of winter this place closes earlier than normal: 16:00 for the monkey park and 15:00 for the hot spring.

When to Go: Right around ski season is best, so January-February.

Entrance Fees

  • Adults: 800¥
  • Children (ages 6-17): 400¥

6. Torohki No Taki Waterfall, Yakushima

Why You Should Visit

Yakushima was one of my all-time favorite places in Japan. My only reason for putting it a little lower on the list is that the lack of public transportation can make getting around the island somewhat of a hassle. But there is still plenty to see and do on this beautiful island. Out of all of the sights I visited in Yakushima, Torohki-no-taki was definitely the most magical for me.

This island is best known for its magical forest known as Mononoke Forest, which was the inspiration for the film Princess Mononoke. The island also features paradisial black sand beaches, white sand beaches, several waterfalls, natural hot springs, sea turtles during nesting season, an amazing river for canoeing, and several mountains that are perfect for hiking.

When You Should Go

Summer or early fall is best because there is better access to public transportation and more tours are available.

Getting There

From Kagoshima Station, there is a bus to the ferry port. For the more expensive ferry that leaves every two hours, the cost is 15,000¥ round trip.

7. Nara Deer Park, Nara

Why You Should Visit

To see the giant Buddha, feed plenty of cute deer, and enjoy a nice day in the park with beautiful fall foliage.

Nara Park is a kid-friendly place because there are plenty of outdoor activities as well as deer wandering all around the city. You can buy food to feed them, although you do need to be careful. The deer can get a bit pushy when there is food involved.

This park is one of my top picks because everything was within walking distance, and there were a variety of things to see and do.

When to Go

I would suggest visiting in the fall. I personally went on November 23, and the park's trees were gorgeous with their brightly colored leaves.

8. Kawaguchiko

Reasons to Visit

For a relaxing vacation with plenty of sights to see, including some mountain hiking (e.g., Chureito Pagoda and Mt. Kachi Kachi Yama).

Known for its fabulous views of Mount Fuji, Kawaguchiko a gorgeous place to visit. But there's a lot more to Kawaguchiko than its views. There is also skiing (in the winter), an ice cave, a wind cave, a bat cave, and several hot springs and onsens. You can even get those well-known photos with reflections of Mount Fuji on the lake at a nearby lake called Lake Saiko.

When to Go

Visit during the winter so you can get amazing pictures of Mount Fuji. Recently, I visited Kawaguchiko in early January, and I was able to get stunning pictures of the mountain.

Getting Around

Thankfully, while there isn't much in the way of train service, you can buy a pass for unlimited rides. There are three different lines: red, green, and blue. The red and green lines are the ones you will probably use most heavily, unless you plan to go camping.

9. Arashiyama Monkey Park, Kyoto

Why You Should Visit

To get excellent views of the central part of Kyoto, and also to see some cute monkeys.

This is a great place for when you want to escape crowded central Kyoto—but don't want to stray too far from the city. Arashiyama has everything from boat rides to bamboo forests, and from gorgeous kimonos to the famous monkey park. Personally, I liked the monkey park the best. From the park, you can see (and feed) the monkeys while simultaneously getting an amazing view of central Kyoto.

When to Go: I recommend visiting in the summer so that you can best experience what Arashiyama has to offer.

10. Nunobiki, Kobe

Why You Should Visit

For beautiful nature trails that lead you to several waterfalls and a breathtaking lake, a scenic ropeway ride, and a gorgeous herb garden.

Nunobiki, in Kobe, is another spot that is slightly off the beaten track. This area is especially beautiful at the end of summer or early fall. There are several waterfalls you can view, a ropeway, and the Nunobiki Herb Garden, which features an outdoor area with hammocks and tables to eat lunch. The garden also has a greenhouse where you can get a foot bath and see several types of spices that they grind up there.

When to Go: I would suggest late summer or early fall.