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Things to Do in Japan - page 2

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Sannomachi Street (Sanmachi Suji)
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Take a walk down Sannomachi St (Kami Sannomachi) in Takayama’s old town, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Edo Period (1600-1868). This well-preserved portion of the historic city features traditional homes, merchant houses, sake breweries, shops and cafes — some of them have been operating for centuries.

Sake has long been an area specialty, and many of Takayama’s oldest sake breweries are congregated along Sannomachi St. Recognizable by the large globes of cedar branches (called sugidama) hung above the doors, these traditional breweries often welcome visitors to step in and sample the iconic Japanese beverage. Other points of interest along the street include the Hida Archeology Museum (Hida Minzoku Kokokan) and the Fujii Art Gallery, where visitors can browse exhibits showcasing folk art objects and household items from the Edo Period.

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Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja)
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Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja), a Shinto holy site on Miyajima Island in the Seto Inland Sea near Hiroshima, has a history dating back to the sixth century, when the first shrines were likely erected on the island, believed to be the above of gods. The iconic red torii, or shrine gate, that appears to float on the surface of the water just of the shores, guards the UNESCO-listed shrine. At the time the shrine was built, commoners weren’t allowed to step foot on the island due to its holy status, so the gate and temple were constructed in the water to allow visitors to approach by boat.

The entire Itsukushima complex, which in its present form dates back to the twelfth century, comprises several buildings connected by boardwalks, including a prayer hall and a performance stage.

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Kiyomizu-dera Temple
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Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of Japan’s oldest and most eye-catching Buddhist temples. Its classic red pagoda has been influential to Japanese architecture for centuries. Located on a hilltop, Kiyomizu-dera Temple is also worth visiting for its sweeping views over Kyoto.

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Nara National Museum
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Established in the late 19th century, the Nara National Museum is a well-respected exhibitor of Japanese Buddhist art. In addition to the original French Renaissance–style building, a newer wing also displays temporary exhibits. In both wings, visitors can admire predominantly Japanese Buddhist statues, paintings, scrolls, and ceremonial objects.

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Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san)
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As Japan's highest mountain, the legendary Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san) stands 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) tall. Travelers from around the world head to Hakone National Park to see the mountain, and over 1 million of them hike all the way to the top each year for the 360-degree views of Lake Ashi, the Hakone mountains, and the Owakudani Valley.

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LEGOLAND® Japan Resort
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Explore the creative and colorful world of LEGO® at LEGOLAND® Japan Resort, located in Nagoya. With seven different themed areas, over 10,000 LEGO models, and more than 40 attractions, including rides, shows, and interactive experiences, this 23-acre (9-hectare) theme park offers a fun and educational day out for the whole family.

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Arashiyama Park
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For classic Kyoto in a nutshell, head to Arashiyama Park. The perennially popular area is rich in temples and a riot of fall colors in November, with pink cherry blossoms in April.

The park area embraces several major sights, including Tenryu-ji Temple, founded in 1339. The main temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, Tenryu-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by tranquil Zen gardens and bamboo forest.

There are many other temples in Arashiyama, including the Gio-ji, Jojakko-ji and Daikaku-ji temples. Another highlight is walking across the Moon Crossing Bridge, with views over to Mt Arashiyama.

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Tokyo Imperial Palace
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Home to Japan’s Emperor, the Tokyo Imperial Palace occupies the site of the original Edo Castle (Edo-jō), the Tokugawa shogunate's castle, which was once the largest fortress in the world. Located in the center of Tokyo, the palace is surrounded by moats and serene gardens.

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Tokyo Tower
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At 1,092 feet (333 meters) tall, Tokyo Tower is an impressive Japanese landmark offering 360-degree views of the city from its two observation decks. Built in 1958 from red and white latticed steel, the Eiffel Tower-inspired structure houses a wax museum, a Shinto Shrine, an aquarium, restaurants, and other entertainment spots.

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Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Temple)
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The must-see Senso-ji Temple (also known as Asakusa Temple or Asakusa Kannon Temple) combines architecture, centers of worship, Japanese gardens, and traditional markets to offer visitors a modern-day look at Japan’s rich history and culture. Erected in AD 645 in what was once an old fishing village, Senso-ji Temple was dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Stone statues of Fujin (the Shinto wind god) and Raijin (the Shinto thunder god) guard the entrance, known as Kaminarimon or the Thunder Gate. Next is Hozomon Gate, which leads to Nakamise’s shopping streets, filled with vendors selling handicrafts and Japanese snacks. Don’t miss the Asakusa Shrine or Kannon-do Hall.

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More Things to Do in Japan

SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

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Located in Nagoya and opened in 2011, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is owned by Central Japan Railways (JR Central). For train enthusiasts, families, or simply those with a passing interest in the history of railways in Japan, this is an interesting museum with a large collection of real trains and other attractions.

The museum charts the history and technological advances that accelerated high-speed rail services in Japan and features actual trains, from old steam locomotives, to the country’s bullet trains and the latest magnetic levitating trains. Many of the exhibits can be explored from the inside, or viewed from beneath, with detailed explanations regarding their operation and maintenance also displayed.

Some of the museum’s most popular attractions are the train simulators, which include driving simulations for both traditional and shinkansen trains, plus a train crew simulation, where visitors can experience life as a train conductor. The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is also home to Japan's largest train dioramas.

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Dotonbori

Dotonbori

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Dotonbori (also called Dotombori) is a bustling nightlife district in Osaka’s Minami area. It stretches along the Dtomborigawa River, with a multitude of small restaurants, bars, and neon lights that come alive after nightfall. An entertainment neighborhood, Dotonbori is famous for its varied cuisine and huge animated signs.

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Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu)

Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu)

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The Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is the most important and popular Shinto shrine in Tokyo. Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, in 1926, the shrine comprises buildings of worship, gardens, and a forest where each tree was planted by a different citizen of Japan wanting to pay respects to the emperor. A highlight of the shrine is the Meiji Memorial Hall, where visitors find more than 80 murals dedicated to the emperor.

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Sagano

Sagano

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Often mistaken for the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, Sagano expands north of the Togetsukyo Bridge in Kyoto. The tranquil area encompasses some of Kyoto’s most stunning landscapes. With rural residential areas, mountains dotting the horizon, fields ablaze with color and a famous bamboo forest, Sagano may just be one of Japan’s prettiest (and lesser known) spots.

By far, Sagano is best known for its bamboo groves. Walking trails wind through the forest, with thin, tall bamboos lining either side. Sun light filters through the narrow trunks, casting shadows along the path. Beyond the grove, one of the best ways to experience Sagano is on bicycle. In addition to the bamboo groves, there are numerous temples to explore, as well as the river and the well-traveled bridge. This idyllic nook on the outskirts of Kyoto should not be missed.

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Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market

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With more than 100 shops, stalls, and vendors selling everything from fresh-off-the-boat fish and seafood, to tasty sweets and sushi takeaway, Nishiki Food Market is a wonderland of culinary delights. Kyoto’s biggest and most popular food market is a local institution and a popular attraction for traveling foodies.

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Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko)

Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko)

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Located in southwest Hokkaido, close to Sapporo, Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko) is the second-deepest lake and second-largest caldera lake in Japan. Surrounded by volcanoes on all sides, the lake is a popular recreation area for locals and visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors, wildlife, hot springs, and beautiful scenery.

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Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street

Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street

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In Japan’s Edo period, Kawagoe was a prosperous castle town and due to it escaping damage during World War II, the city still has many of its old streets still in tact. Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street is lined with traditional buildings on both sides, making it full of character — the ideal place to learn about the history of the area while enjoying a spot of shopping.

This small street is around 400 meters long and is situated less than a kilometer north of Hon-Kawagoe Station. The style of the buildings are that of traditional Japanese warehouses (kura), that were specifically designed to be fireproof after a large fire ripped through the area in 1893. These days, many of the buildings are either shops or restaurants catering for a burgeoning tourist crowd.

Ichibangai Street is best explored on foot as part of a Kawagoe walking tour that also takes in the old city’s other attractions, such as Dream Street, Spatiotemporal Bell, Snack Street, and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.

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Shibuya

Shibuya

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The area surrounding Shibuya Station—famous for its busy streets, flashing neon advertisements, trendy boutiques, and teeming malls—ranks among Tokyo’s most energetic neighborhoods. Shibuya Crossing, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in its own right.

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Okinawa World

Okinawa World

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To some, the four areas of Okinawa World may look just like theme parks, but even locals know this popular destination offers seasoned travelers immediate access to almost all of Okinawa’s culture, history and ecology in one easy spot.

Visitors can spend the day exploring the dark and narrow passes of the impressive Gyokusendo Caves, which span some five kilometers underground. Kingdom Village, a vibrant replica of a traditional community grants travelers a passport to rural settlements and ancient times. And outdoor enthusiasts will love wandering the trails of Gangalanotani, where untouched forests and archeological sites get visitors up close with prehistoric times. And while not for the faint of heart, Habu Museum Park gets hearts racing with its famous exhibit of poisonous snakes and other indigenous creepy crawlies.

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Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree

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Since opening in 2012, the Tokyo Skytree has taken the title of Japan’s tallest building—and one of the tallest in the world—measuring an incredible 2,080 feet (634 meters) high. In addition to serving as a TV and radio broadcast tower, it has two observation decks affording spectacular views across Tokyo and the distant Mount Fuji.

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Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)

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The Japanese royal family lived in Kyoto Imperial Palace(Kyoto Gosho) until 1868, when the capital moved to Tokyo. It’s located within the Kyoto Imperial Park, which also houses other palaces and shrines. This must-visit attraction allows visitors to gain a greater understanding of Japan’s rich history and culture while enjoying landscaped gardens.

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Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

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Located in the industrial city of Nagoya, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology introduces visitors to the history of Japanese manufacturing technology. Through its displays, the museum traces the history of the Toyota company, which started as a textile firm and evolved into an international automobile maker.

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Miyajima Island (Itsukushima)

Miyajima Island (Itsukushima)

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Miyajima Island (officially named Itsukushima) has been a Shinto holy place for centuries and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shrine, a red gate (torii) rising from the water just off Miyajima’s shores. Other ancient shrines and temples speckle the island, nestled among a thick forest of maple and cherry trees.

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Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

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The Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest seafood market in the world, handling more than 2,000 tons of marine products a day. Although the market wasn't originally intended to be a major tourist attraction when it opened in 1935, Tsukiji now regularly shows up on visitors’ lists of must-see destinations in Tokyo. Witnessing the fresh tuna auction before the sun rises is the primary draw.

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