The country famous for its pink-cherry-blossom-lined streets and its Koi-filled ponds is stunning in its rural and metropolitan areas, alike.
The cities of Japan, though, are where life is brimming with endless possibilities and overflowing plates of high-end sushi.
Neon lights glow over clean streets that bustle with life, and skyscrapers loom over the citizens majestically.
But which cities should you visit when you go to Japan (see also ‘When Is The Best Time To Go To Japan?‘)? All of the cities in Japan have something to offer, so there is bound to be at least one that fulfills your wanderlust.
Take a look below at our top choices for cities in Japan, and find your next dream destination!
First on the list is possibly the most obvious: the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. Tokyo is the biggest city in the country, and thus is the city fullest of life and opportunity.
Among the streets of Tokyo, you will find a perfect mixture of tradition and novelty.
The city boasts ancient temples, that perch beneath futuristic skyscrapers. Centuries-old cherry blossom trees form arches over the sidewalks, upon which robots make up some of the public art displays.
In Japan, you won’t find a place more culturally interesting than Tokyo. Art from all eras of life covers the city, both in high-end art galleries and museums, and through the live acts of street performers.
In terms of food, Tokyo has everything you could ever want from a Japanese city. It has fancy restaurants and famous chefs, and cute little rice bars tucked away on narrow streets, behind fresh food stalls and markets.
Once you know the city well, you will be able to find so many of the best-kept secrets of the culinary world in Tokyo – but there are so many that you will never stop finding gems!
Tokyo (see also ‘Best Time To Visit Tokyo‘) is a great city to visit if you are not planning on renting a car, or on walking for miles at a time. Below the city is a huge web of subway tunnels, which connect every nook and cranny of the city.
The subway is so easy for tourists to use, because the trains run super frequently, and nearly all of the signs have English translations.
If you want to experience a Japanese city that never stops breathing, head to Tokyo to absorb the unparalleled energy.
Kyoto actually used to be the capital of the country, before Tokyo took its spot – and for good reason. One of the reasons that this city is so admired is because of the thousands of historical sites that grace its land.
Within the confines of this city exist thousands of ancient temples, which link the city’s inhabitants to their ancestors and provide tourists with real insight into traditional Japanese culture.
These temples are joined by hundreds of Zen gardens filled with practicing monks, for which the country is very well known.
Although it is no longer technically the capital of the country, Kyoto is still considered to be one of the most important cities in the country, both for its spiritual and cultural histories that are on display.
Many people also believe Kyoto to be much prettier than the city of Tokyo, largely thanks to its traditional wooden architecture and little streets that are filled with artisan stalls.
Despite its firm tie with ancient Japanese culture, the city of Kyoto also has its fair share of modern influences.
Dotted alongside the traditional buildings, you will find modern restaurants and cocktail bars, which satisfy the tourists that search for a vibrant nightlife.
Also, the city is full of tea houses, which – although ancient in traditions – house a tea that has become a popular beverage in the modern western world: matcha. Kyoto really does combine the past with the present.
Our favorite thing about Kyoto is the food halls, which sell everything from greasy noodles, to fresh sushi, to craft beers! The atmosphere in these halls is amazing, but the food is even better.
This city, although lesser known than Kyoto and Tokyo, is teeming with rich history and full of cultural significance. In fact, many people consider this city to be second to Kyoto, in terms of historic importance.
Kanazawa is a vibrant hub, particularly for art-oriented people. Over the centuries, hundreds of artists and creative people settled in Kanazawa, and their legacy lives on even in the current day.
The city has hundreds of art galleries and interactive workshops, which aim to keep the ancient arts of Japan alive. For example, some art workshops in the city teach gold leaf painting.
Part of the reason that this art form is so popular in Kanazawa is that the city is Japan’s biggest gold leaf provider.
Kanazawa produces 99 percent of the country’s gold leaf, and the name of the city actually translates to something along the lines of ‘fields of gold’.
One of the most popular attractions in the city is the castle, which houses thousands of years of history, and is deeply tied to the art of Samurai.
Another of Kanazawa’s main attractions is the Kenrokuen Garden, which sits on the castle’s grounds. It is one of Japan’s biggest and best landscape gardens, and features all the characteristics of a typical Japanese garden.
This city is perfect to visit if you want to experience all areas of Japanese culture, without the chaos of a larger city.
So, there you have it: our top three favorite cities in Japan (see also ‘How Big Is Japan Compared To The US?‘).
Although there are so many incredible cities that did not make it to our list, these three cities provide – in our opinion – the best metropolitan experiences that Japan has to offer.
In all three of these cities, influences from both ancient history and modern evolution are evident and embraced.
Each of these cities is sprawling with opportunities to learn about the impressive history of Japan, alongside chances to experience its ever-advancing technologies.
In all of these cities, you will be exposed to insanely delicious Japanese cuisine, from all areas of the country, and you will be faced with endless mouthwatering drink options, too.
Everything from art, to architecture, to natural beauty is available to enjoy in these cities, and you will never run out of things to do in any of them.
These three cities provide a well-rounded and rich picture of city life in Japan, and each one has its own special quirks.