5 Best Cities to Visit in Japan to Learn About Its History

Best Cities to Visit in Japan

Japan is one of the most unique countries in the world, which millions of people visit every year. Usually, tourists come to see Tokyo and other major cities, but those hungry for knowledge should focus on best cities to visit in Japan for learning about the culture and history of the Land of the Rising Sun.

With over 100 million people living in it, Japan is 10th most populous country in the world. The country spreads on exactly 6,852 islands, meaning that you would need a whole lifetime to visit all of the interesting tourist spots. But, if you’re a history buff, certain places must be on your itinerary. To help you out, here are five best cities to visit in Japan to get a genuine insight into this country’s spirit.

1. Kyoto

For more than a thousand years, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan, which is why almost every corner of the city testifies about its glorious past. In fact, one-fifth of all National Treasures of Japan are located inside the city boundaries. Some of the sites you must not miss include Kamigamo Shrine, Tō-ji, Ryōan-ji, Nijō Castle, and Nishi Honganji.

Still, the city is not all about the past. Today, Kyoto is a modern city with nearly 1.5 million residents. The city’s industry is blossoming, making Kyoto one of the most important cities on the island of Honshu. In today’s Japan, Kyoto is a sort of capital of traditional festivals. If you are visiting Japan in summer, make sure to stay in Kyoto for the Gion Matsuri festival, which features promotion of traditional Japanese foods and crafts. The festival lasts whole July and is crowned with a massive street parade.

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2. Sapporo

The host-city of 1972 Olympics is one of the most-vibrant cities in Japan, yet somehow it flies under the radar of most tourists from abroad. But, Sapporo is definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to witness the life of ordinary people in modern-day Japan. Although there are some historical landmarks dating back to the ancient time, Sapporo’s birth is actually related to the mid-19th century. In fact, this is one of the youngest cities in Japan, which is seen by its carefully planned architecture.

When visiting Sapporo, the best thing you can do is wander around the town as that way you’ll get an authentic insight into the life in Japan. Feel free to go bit further away from the crowd if you wish to try real Japanese food, instead of what’s served in fast food restaurants in the city center.

With a good meal, comes a good beer, so don’t waste an opportunity to try one of the most famous beers from Japan, which is named after the city. In fact, you can also visit the Sapporo Brewery, which was built more than 140 years ago.

3. Himeji

You might’ve not even heard about Himeji, but this city is where you’ll find true examples of traditional Japanese architecture. The city is located in the southern part of the Honshu Island, in an area that is known for amazing beaches. Still, the history is the number one thing that brings travelers to Himeji.

One of the most significant buildings in Japanese history, the Himeji Castle is situated above the city and is considered the finest example of traditional castle architecture in the country. The castle itself is composed of 83 different buildings, all built between early 14th century and the year 1618.

4. Hiroshima

When it comes to the history of Japan and in fact, the whole planet, the biggest scar was left in 1945, when the city was a site of a nuclear attack. Despite being almost completely burned to the ground, the city rose from the ashes, becoming the 11th-most populous city in the country. Still, despite coming back from the dead, Hiroshima still has lots of reminders of the war.

This is one of the best cities to visit in Japan as it is bound to leave a strong impression on you. You can learn more about the atomic bombing of the city and pay your respect to the victims by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the park of the same name. In fact, the later one is the home of the Peace Pagoda, built in mid-1960s, almost entirely of steel.

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5. Tokyo

You can’t make a list of best cities to visit in Japan, without including its capital and the biggest city, Tokyo. The metropolis is without doubt one of the most interesting cities on the planet. It is home to nearly 14 million people, which means that Tokyo never sleeps. In fact, whatever you might be interested in, you will surely find it in this city – Tokyo is Japan’s center of culture, entertainment, sport, and so on.

In order to get just a tiny grip on what Tokyo has to offer, you would need to spend at least a month in the city. Among the parts of Tokyo, that you should not miss is the Roppongi, a mundane district with hundreds of museums and art galleries, but also cafes, bars, and nightclubs. If history is your focus, make sure to visit the Sensō-ji, a temple constructed back in the 7th century.

How to Experience the Real Japan?

Japan is a country that has too much to offer, so a regular 2-week holiday will not quench your thirst for exploration. Instead, if you are hungry for knowledge, you should think about moving to Japan for some time. This way, you will be able to check out all of the best cities to visit in Japan, but also to learn about Japanese culture, firsthand.

If the finances are what’s stopping you from achieving your dream of living in Japan, you should know that there are ways not only to save money while traveling Japan, but also to make some. You should look into the possibility of enrolling in one of many working holiday programs or think about teaching English in Japan.