Heading To Japan? Here Are Five Cities You Have To Visit

Tokyo to Kyoto

By Natalie McGowan | 6th June 2024

It’s a widely known fact that Japan is a melting pot of incredible culture, food, and experiences. With so many amazing cities to explore, each with its own unique charm, picking which ones to visit can be tough. Of course, you have Tokyo with its neon lights, amazing vintage shopping scene, and non-stop entertainment, but to really make the most of your itinerary, you’ll want to venture beyond the capital.

Whether you’re after a peaceful escape to nature or you’re craving history and culture, Japan’s cities have something for everyone. Here are five cities to visit in Japan that promise an unforgettable holiday.


Fujikawaguchiko, a city you must visit in Japan

One of the lake towns that make up the Fuji Five Lakes area, Fujikawaguchiko is known for its picturesque views of Mt. Fuji. Boasting extraordinary natural beauty and a peaceful ambience, this tranquil lake town is about two hours from Tokyo by train, making it the perfect weekend getaway when the chaos of the city gets too much. 

What To Do

With a myriad of bike rental shops scattered around the town, it comes as no surprise that cycling is one of the main things to do when you visit. Spend the day cycling around the lake, with pit stops at the many quaint cafes along the way for a snack. Oh, and don’t forget to pack your portable charger and clear some phone storage – you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t get a pic of Mt. Fuji in all its glory from literally every angle possible.

Where To Stay

The best place to stay in this charming little town is near the train station, especially if you’re only planning a short stay. With a number of great hotels and Airbnbs to choose from (most boasting a spectacular view of the mountain), you really are spoiled for choice.

We stayed in this cosy, tiny home which was located a five-minute walk to the lake and two minutes from the train station. It had everything we needed for our two-night stay and even came with our very own viewing deck so that we could watch the sunrise over Mt. Fuji with a coffee every morning. 


Niseko, a city you must visit in Japan

If world-class skiing, vibrant nightlife, and breathtaking scenery are your thing, this ski resort town is for you. A powder lover’s paradise, Niseko is made up of four main ski areas: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri – all of which are connected by the All-Mountain Pass and together, offer over 40km of epic ski runs. A short flight from Tokyo followed by a two-hour drive from the nearest airport in Sapporo, Niseko may not be the easiest place to get to, but it is absolutely worth it.

What To Do

Of course, skiing in Niseko is a must, offering some of the best powder in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or have never seen snow before, there are plenty of options and slopes to suit all skill levels. 

After a long day of snow sports, a dip in an onsen is sure to relax your aching muscles and soothe your mind before retiring to your hotel room. But if you’ve still got some energy to burn, check out the local food trucks or dine at one of the lavish restaurants around town, then hit up the lively bars and nightclubs for the full Niseko experience.

Where To Stay

Grand Hirafu is the heart of Niseko, housing most of the town’s dining and nightlife. If you want to be in the middle of the action, this is the place to stay. We opted for Niseko Northern Resort in Annupuri to escape the crowds and loved it, despite the area definitely having fewer eateries and bars. Fortunately, free shuttle buses run daily across town, so you can’t really go wrong.


Nara, a city you must visit in Japan

Bowing deer, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a viral mochi shop…what’s not to love about this small but mighty city located just 45 minutes by train from Kyoto? 

What To Do

Nara is a very walkable city, so lace up your comfiest sneakers and get ready to hit your 10,000 steps. Coming from the train station, your first stop should be the viral sensation, Nakatanidou, to catch a mochi-pounding show and a deliciously chewy bite to eat. 


Famous mochi pounding in Japan 🤯🍡💗☁️ 📍Nakatanidou, Nara #mochi #mochipounding #nara #japan #japanfood #nakatanidou #travel #japantrip

♬ original sound – biteswithlily

Along the way, you may see some deer roaming the streets, but if you head to Nara Park, that’s where the furry locals hang out in thousands. Considered to be the messengers of the gods, Nara’s iconic deer have become a symbol of the city. With crackers available for purchase around the park, it’s not uncommon for the deer to bow for their crackers, asking ever so politely to be fed. 

Nara is also home to some magnificent ancient shrines and temples, including eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, which are well worth paying a visit to.

Where To Stay

Like me, you’ll probably find that one day in Nara is sufficient enough to see all that the beautiful city has to offer. However, if you’re looking to stay the night, JW Marriott Hotel and Novotel are both conveniently located with great rooms and modern amenities. 


Osaka, a city you must visit in Japan

Japan’s second-largest metropolitan city after Tokyo, Osaka is a vibrant, bustling city cherished for its incredible food scene. 

What To Do

Osaka’s rich food culture means the city is brimming with street food stalls and izakayas serving up some of the region’s tastiest signature dishes like takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes). A food tour, whether you opt for self-led or with a guide, is essential to fully experience the unique foodie scene.

The city also boasts a number of fascinating districts, like Shinsekai, a nostalgic yet futuristic suburb filled with retro arcades, neon lights, quirky shops, and hidden bars, and Amerikamura, which is home to the best vintage shopping in Osaka.

Of course, sightseeing at the city’s most famous tourist attraction, Osaka Castle is a necessity, as is a trip to Osaka Bay; a great place to spend the day, offering a reprieve from city life with its waterfront location. 

Where To Stay

Dotonbori, Osaka’s entertainment hub, is filled with eateries, bars, shops, and hotels, making it the perfect base for your stay in the city. There’s an abundance of accommodation options in the area for you to choose from, meaning you’ll no doubt find something to suit your taste and budget.


Kyoto, a city you must visit in Japan

The cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto is a blend of ancient tradition and natural beauty. With its rich heritage and laidback vibe, it’s the perfect city to experience the essence of classical Japan.

What To Do

Start your day at Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of red torii gates that form a mesmerising pathway up the mountain. Tip: as with any attraction in Kyoto, get there early to avoid the crowds! 

Next, head to Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto and stroll through the enchanting bamboo forest, followed by a visit to the monkey park where you can enjoy picturesque views of the city and watch the playful, wild monkeys in their natural habitat. 

Make sure to visit Kyoto’s gorgeous temples, including Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavillion), Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavillion), and Kiyomizudera, as well as the impressive UNESCO World Heritage site of Nijo Castle to see the beautiful gardens and learn about its history.

When night falls, head to Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district, and get lost in the old-world charm of the area. Hidden bars and izakayas are aplenty here, as are traditional shops selling handcrafted goods and souvenirs to take home. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a geisha hurrying to an appointment. 

Where to Stay

Gion is a great base for exploring Kyoto’s offerings, with its convenient location and variety of things to do. Otherwise, we chose Central Kyoto, which was just close enough to the action but far away enough that we could enjoy the peace and quiet. 

By Natalie McGowan Office DJ and serial online shopper, Natalie’s idea of self care is watching reality TV and getting a spontaneous tattoo.




You want it, we got it! 

Everything you need to know about fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and travel straight to your inbox.