The day you decide to do it, it is your lucky day - Japanese quote
One can say the same thing about a visit to the beautiful country of Japan. Japanese cities have a rich history with a culture that dates back to many centuries. And the most fascinating thing about Japanese cities is how they have evolved keeping in mind the modernity and industrial development that have taken place more recently. Japan is one of the superpowers in the world with Tokyo being the center of that.
But there is a completely different and serene side to Japan as well. So while you have the jaw-dropping skyscrapers and busy streets of Tokyo and Osaka, you also have the ancient shrines of Kyoto and the tranquility that welcomes you at Hiroshima. Each city in Japan has something unique to offer which makes the competition among the cities in Japan so tough when it comes to choosing your itinerary. This article has curated the list of the most visited Japanese cities that are worth traveling to at least once in your entire lifetime.
Visit Tokyo - The Capital & Commercial Hub of Japan
Tokyo or the Tokyo Metropolis, as it is called in Japan is the defacto capital of the country. It is also the most populous Japanese city. Located at the head of the Tokyo Bay, the city is the hub of political and economic activities in Japan. The Emperor of Japan also operates out of this city, which is also the headquarter of the national government. The current estimated population of Tokyo is 13,960,236 with the Greater Tokyo Area being declared the most populous metropolitan area in the world. This area alone houses more than 37 million people!
Tokyo was historically a fishing village which went by the name of Edo, which became the seat of the power for the Tokugawa shogunate. At the end of this era, the imperial capital Kyoto was moved to the city and renames Tokyo which literally translates to eastern capital.
Tokyo has the distinction of being hailed as the world' largest urban economy in terms of GDP and has been categorized as an Alpha+ city by the Globalization & World Cities Research Network. This was reaffirmed in 2019 when Tokyo boasted of hosting 36 of the Fortune Global 500 companies. It ranks 4th on the Global Financial Centers Index, preceded only by New York, London, and Shanghai.
Visit Tokyo to witness the perfect harmony of modernization and natural tranquility. The Ogasawara National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts thousands of tourists and locals every year. And then there are the magnificent museums that tell the tale of the rich history of the city, with Tokyo National Museum leading the list.
Indulge in A Touristy Delight in Osaka
Osaka is located in the Kansai region of Honshu in Japan. With a population of over 20 million people, Osaka is the second largest metropolitan area of Japan and the 10th largest urban area in the world. Of all the cities in Japan, Osaka is one city that has undergone a huge evolution in terms of power and development. It was traditionally considered the economic hub of Japan and by the 5th Century, it had assumed great powers with the opening up of a regional port. It also briefly served as the imperial capital in the 7th and 8th centuries and continued to flourish well into the 19th century, during the Edo period. It was during this time that Osaka came to be reckoned as the seat of Japanese culture.
Osaka remains a major center for economic and financial activities in Japan. It houses the Osaka Securities Exchange as well as big multinationals like Sharp and Panasonic. If you are a tourist in Osaka, be sure to visit the Osaka Castle, the Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine, and the Shitenno-ji, which is the oldest Buddhist temple in all of Japan.
Osaka is also known for its food all over Japan and the world. There are many food critics that hail Osaka as the food capital of the world. The fine sake of Osaka has made a name of its own and is prepared from fresh mountain water. It is this culinary prevalence that has facilitated access to high-quality ingredients, a huge merchant population, and a big tourist base that have boosted the local economy manifold.
Taste Japanese History & Culture in Kyoto
Kyoto City is one the many Japanese cities that offers a rich taste to its visitors by way of history and culture. Located in the Kansai region, Kyoto belongs to the Keihanshin Metropolutan area. Historically, Kyoto was chosen as the seat of Japan's imperial court in the 8th Century and the city was rearranged on the lines of the ancient Chinese capital of Changan that followed Chinese feng shui. So, the Imperial Palace faced south with the right sector, Ukyo, and the left sector, Sakyo, facing west and east respectively. You will still find traces of this old city plan in the grid pattern streets of modern-day wards like Shimogyo and Nakagyo.
Kyoto is home to approximately 20% of the national treasures of Japan and 14% of important cultural properties. The UNESCO has enlisted 17 locations in the Kyoto-Uji-Otsu region as World Heritage Sites that include monuments of ancient Kyoto. The city has been witness to many wars including the devastating second World War. You'd be surprised to know that Kyoto was on the original list of targets for the atomic bombing and was later taken out by the personal intervention of high-rank officers. Kyoto still survives as the cultural center of Japan, with the national government relocating its Agency for Cultural Affairs to this beautiful city in 2021.
Does Kyoto need any special tourist permit?
Visit Hiroshima to Feel the Warmth & Hospitality of Japan
If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905 - Albert Einstein
Mankind mostly remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the scars of a tragic event in history perpetrated by themselves. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a living reminder of the horrors and atrocities of the past. But there is so much more to this beautiful Japanese city where the people have learnt to look at the brighter side of life. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole world.
Founded as a castle town on the Ota River delta in 1598, Hiroshima rapidly developed and evolved into a major urban center and industrial hub in Japan by the early 19th century. In 1868, it was conferred with an official city status. Historically, Hiroshima has been a center of military and political activities. It played significant roles throughout the Imperial Age through some of the biggest wars including the two world wars and the Russo-Japanese war.
You can visit Hiroshima during any of these major festivals hosted by the city-
- Hiroshima Flower Festival
- The Ebisu Festival
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
Step into The Beautiful Port City of Yokohama
Yokohama is a close competitor of Tokyo when it comes to being the largest city in Japan. It is also the most populous Japanese municipality that serves as the major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area. The city has risen to become one of the most prominent port cities in Japan.
The word Yokohama literally means horizontal beach and there is a very interesting history behind this name. Yokohama is essentially a gulf area divided by a sandbar, which was the original Yokohama fishing village, from the open sea. This village jutted out from the land at a perpendicular angle or horizontally when you would look at it from the sea. And that's how the tag of horizontal beach was attached to it.
If you are visiting Yokohama, you cannot miss these popular cultural spots in the city-
- Harbor View Park
- Yokohama Chinatown
- Minato Mirai
- Landmark Tower
- The Hikawa Maru
- Nippon Maru
- Yokohama Marine Tower
- Cup Noodles Museum
- Yokohama Archives of History
- Silk Museum
And not just tourists. Yokohama is also a popular excursion destination for locals. So, it is always bustling with people at any time of the year. This adds to the revelry and festive mood of the city, which is sure to leave you craving for more.
Also visit The Imperial Palace of Japan and get a taste of modern monarchy!