5 Of The Most Gorgeous Cities In Japan You Have To Visit (That Aren't Tokyo)

Tokyo, located on the Japanese island of Honshu, is an adventurer's wonderland and photographer's dream. The bustling metropolis is laden with bright lights, yet nature is never far away, as magnificent Mount Fuji looms over the city. In a 2017 interview with Maxim, late TV chef and travel expert Anthony Bourdain spoke of his devotion to Tokyo, and it's easy to see why he cherished it. There are endless attractions and cultural experiences, as some of the best things to do in the Japanese capital include exploring neighborhoods like Shibuya and feasting on local cuisine like tonkatsu and shabu-shabu. 


Like any popular destination, Tokyo isn't perfect. It's notoriously expensive and packed with tourists. While Tokyo might be the most widely known city in Japan and the largest city in the world (via CNN), it's not the only place worth seeing in the country. 

Several under-the-radar cities are just as awe-inspiring and waiting to be explored. Some of these destinations have been marred by tragedy only to blossom from adversity, and others will blow you away with their ethereal scenery. Your Japan bucket list is about to get a little bit longer.


Located about four hours from Tokyo via a bullet train from the Central Japan Railway Company, chances are you've heard the name Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, American forces detonated an atomic bomb over the city. This devasted Hiroshima, which took swift action to rebuild following the attack. In the decades since World War II, Hiroshima has become a major metropolitan area and a tourist hub perfect for history enthusiasts. 


The picturesque coastal city continues to honor its traumatic past through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on the grounds of the stunning Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The memorial has plenty of positive reviews on Tripadvisor and has exhibits explaining the aftermath of the bomb and its grisly effects on Hiroshima's citizens. Admission prices for adults and children are under $2. For those needing a quick respite from the city, Shukkeien is a scenic garden with vivid greenery on the Kyobashi River. 

As for lodging accommodations, Hiroshima has unique options for every budget, including ​​Capsule Hotel Cube Hiroshima and The Knot. Capsule hotels are typical in Japan and provide visitors with a sleeping pod rather than an entire room. Prices at Capsule Hotel Cube Hiroshima start at under $20 per night. On the other hand, the Knot is a contemporary hotel where prices start at under $40 a night when booked in advance. Before you leave the city, be sure to dine at Guttsuri-an for an unforgettable seafood meal. 



According to data published by Statista in 2022, Yokohama is Japan's second most populous city. Yokohama is less than an hour from Tokyo and has the same big-city allure, while one of the port city's biggest draws is its fantastic Chinatown. The colorful neighborhood is a go-to spot for Chinese fare, with chich Cantonese restaurant Saiko Shinkan getting rave reviews on Tripadvisor.


However, if you want to see Yokohama in all its glory, head to Minato Mirai 21. The neighborhood is known for its epic skyline and distinct offering of attractions. This includes the Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden, which provides awe-inspiring views of the city more than 900 feet above the ground. It's open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and admission is under $10. Other notable things to do at Minato Mirai 21 include visiting Yokohama Cosmo World, a dazzling theme park overlooking the port, and the nearby CupNoodles Museum. Visitors can customize and design their own CupNoodles for under $5. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. but is closed on Tuesdays, and admission is under $5.


Yokohama has endless things to do for every type of traveler out there. But where should they stay? Along with a fine roster of hotels for every budget, Airbnb also offers affordable and traditional accommodations, with listings offering tatami mats in a private guest house for as low as $34 a night. 


If urban metropolises are not for you, head to Nikkō, a small city just a two-hour journey from Tokyo. Established in 766, Nikkō is renowned for its otherworldly and mountainous scenery, and it is also a spiritual destination home to more than 100 historic shrines and temples considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.One of the most notable is the Nikkō Tōshōgū shrine. Constructed in the 17th century, the colorful holy place is a sight to behold and honors Japanese military leader Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hours for the Nikkō Tōshōgū shrine vary per season, and admission is under $10. Another must-see is the Nikkō Futarasan-jinja shrine, where you'll find the iconic and widely photographed Shinkyo Bridge.


One way to experience all three of these highlights and more is via a six-hour guided walking tour of Nikkō provided by the Japan Guide Agency. Tour prices start at $145.61 per person, and additional stops include the stunning Kegon Falls and Lake Chūzenji, amongst others. 

Travelers seeking relaxation can stay at one of Nikkō's hot springs, like Okukinu Onsen Kaniyu. Along with various onsen facilities, the inn features rooms with traditional tatami mats. You can expect to pay under $300 a night for a room.Check out the fantastic Ritz Carlton, Nikko, overlooking Lake Chūzenji, for a lavish stay. An onsite onsen is also available, and prices can go upwards of over $900 per night.


Fukuoka is a gem located in Kyūshū. Notably, Tonkatsu ramen originated from this city, but Fukuoka has much more than noodles to offer. The city, situated on Hakata Bay, has various attractions where one can enjoy its natural and seasonal beauty. At Ōhori Park, visitors can walk or bike along a massive pond with skyline views in the background. Ōhori Park also has a Japanese Garden and the Fukuoka Art Museum. In addition, there's Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, where visitors will find a variety of colorful flowers throughout the year, creating a vivid-dream-like landscape. Bike paths, bike rentals, and scooter rentals are available for guests. Moreover, the vast park consists of a swimming pool, a theme park, a wildlife park, and so much more. Hours vary per season, and admission to the park is under $3 for adults and children.


For the city's best view, head to Fukuoka Tower, where you can see the coastal skyline from an observation deck over 400 feet above the ground. While you enjoy the scenery, grab a coffee or a meal at the Refuge Sky Café & Dining. Fukuoka Tower is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Admission for adults and children is under $10.

With that in mind, finding a good meal in Fukuoka is not hard. According to CNN, Fukuoka is renowned for its street food sold in carts called yatais, although you'll only find these at night.


At Takayama, tourists will feel as if they traveled back in time. It's located in the Japanese Alps, about two hours from Nagoya, one of Japan's most populous cities, and travelers can easily travel between the two cities by train. Takayama is best known for its historic sites and architecture, anda must-visit in the city is the fairytale-like Hida Folk Village, which exhibits preserved centuries-old homes and buildings that tourists can enter. Hida Folk Village is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is under $5.


Furthermore, Tripadvisor users recommend exploring Sanmachi Suji. The historic neighborhood has noteworthy buildings, including Takayama Jinya, which was the headquarters for the local government beginning in the late 1600s. You can grab a bite to eat here at Center4 Hamburgers. The American-style eatery is top-rated by Tripadvisor users, and its specialty is the Hida beef burger made with Wagyu, local to Takayama.

Another unforgettable attraction in Takayama is the Shinhotaka Ropeway. The cable car travels above the Japanese Alps and features two ropeways and two stations with various amenities. These include a visitor center with walking trails, hot springs, and eateries. The Shinhotaka Ropeway is open daily, and hours vary per season. A roundtrip ticket for adults and children is under $30. Hotel Hotaka is located directly next to the Shinhotaka Ropeway if you need a place to stay. It has majestic mountain views and several indoor and outdoor hot springs.