Japan's 10 Most Visited Tourist Destinations

5 Jul

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When you visit Japan prepare to be treated as a friend. This is mainly because of the Japanese government program for promoting tourism in the country. The campaign is called Yokoso Japan, which means “Welcome to Japan”. The goal of the program is to attract more visitors from abroad and increase their number up to 10 million by 2010. It is worth mentioning that last year the country registered 6 million tourists from abroad. For the last five years the Japan National Tourist Organization made a number of important steps to convince tourists that once closed society is now open for foreigners.

 According to the tourism agency seven out of ten most impressive attractions for foreigners are located in the capital of Japan, Tokyo. Below there is the list of Japanese most popular places to visit.

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Ueno Park, Tokyo

Ueno Park is a large park located near the Ueno Station. The park was opened for the public back in 1873. Its visitors have a wide range of attractions to choose from. The statue of Saigo Takamori stands at the south entrance of the park. Saigo Takamori played an important role in the history of Japan. During the early Meiji Period he was one the main figures in performing Meiji Restoration of 1868.

There are a lot of museums in Ueno Park. Some of the most notable art museums are: the Tokyo National Museum, the NationalScience Museum , the National Museum for Western Art and the Tokyo Metropolitan Fine Art Gallery.

In addition, Ueno Park features the country’s first zoological garden, which was established in 1882. After the relationships with China got back to normal, Chinese representatives offered a couple of panda bears as a gift to Japan. In 1972 Ueno Park became the home of these pandas. Unfortunately, the last panda bear of the zoo died in 2008. A large pond in the park is called Shinobazu pond. In its center there is the statue of the goddess of Benten.

Visitors really should pay a 200 yen fee to enter the Toshogu Shrine, a shrine built to commemorate Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the one to put the roots of the Edo shogunate, which ruled the country in the period between 1603 and 1867.

Undoubtedly, one of the most marvelous spots of the park is the area of over 1000 cherry trees. During the period of the cherry blossoming, the park turns into Japan’s most popular destination for hanami parties (the viewing of cherry blossoms). Outside the park there is the Ameya-yokocho, a very active street composed of lost of small shops.

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Harajuku, Tokyo

Harajuku is the central part of one of the most extreme teenage cultures in Japan. Apart from teenagers, the Harajuku offers shopping for people of different age. In addition, it features a number of historic sights. The most attractive point is believed to be Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) along with its side streets arranged by numerous fashion shops, boutiques, clothes stores and fast food outlets.

For the ultimate experience of the ten culture try to pay a visit to this street on Sunday, the time when youngsters dress up in various crazy costumes to look like characters from anima cartoons, punk musicians and others. Lots of cafes and restaurants for people of all ages are situated along a tree lined avenue called Omotesando. This avenue is sometimes called the Champs-Elysees of Tokyo. A lot of attention is paid to the shopping mall, called Omotesando Hills and located along the avenue.

Apart of teenage parties, bars and restaurants, Harajuku is also the place whete one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines is found. The Meiji Shrine is found in a huge green oasis together with Yoyogi Park. In addition, tourist can adore the amazing ukiyo-e paintings (Paintings of the Floating World) presented in a rather small but impressive Ota Memorial Museum of Art.

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Asakusa, Tokyo

It is one of the few districts of Japan’s capital that has maintained the tone of the old Tokyo. The main attraction of Asakusa is Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple, constructed in the 7th century. The shopping street that leads to the temple is where people can buy different traditional, local snacks, as well as various souvenirs.

It is quite easy to explore the district by foot. In addition you may consider taking a trip on a rickshaw, called jinrikisha, which literary means “man powered vehicle”. To take the tour in two for 30 minutes costs about 8,000 yen.

Asakusa has been the main entertainment district of Tokyo for a number of centuries. It is worth mentioning that throughout the Edo Period Asakusa was situated outside Toyo’s limits. At that time it was the site of kabuki theatres and a popular red light district. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century a lot of modern entertainments, such as movies, started developing in the district.

The easiest way to get to Asakusa is to take the sightseeing cruise and travel across the Sumidagawa River. You will be able to see the Hama-Rikyu gardens, located in Shiodome, which is Tokyo’s most notable gardens.

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Shibuya, Tokyo

This is a district of Japan’s capital that is often referred to a shopping and entertainment area, being located around Shibuya Station. The ward is one of the most colorful and busy places within Tokyo. Shibuya is the birthplace of many Japan’s most popular fashion and entertainment brands. There are two main rivals that compete for the largest department and fashion store in the district; these are Tokyu and Seibu corporations.

The district’s milestone is its large intersection located in front of the Hachiko Exit, which features lot and lots of neon advertisements and huge video screens. Each day the intersection is crossed by an enormous number of pedestrians. Each time the light turns green a huge number of people crosses the street.

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Ginza, Tokyo

This is the most prestigious districts in Tokyo in terms of shopping, dining and entertainment. It includes a huge number of department stores, art galleries, restaurants and night clubs. The land here is extremely expensive, for instance a square meter is worth over 10 million yen, which is about $100,000. In Ginza one may find all of the world’s leading fashion and cosmetics brand names.

The name of the district comes from the silver coins mint that struck coins in the period between 1612 and 1800. The silver coin was called ginza, thus the name of the district. Ginza started turning into an upmarket shopping district after the Great Kanto Earthquake, which took place in 1923.

The most suitable time to pay a visit to the district is during a weekend afternoon. This is the time when the central Chuo Dori closes to traffic and turns into a large zone for pedestrians.

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Shinjuku, Tokyo

This is another popular district of Tokyo (which by the way includes 23 districts). It is best known for the large shopping, entertainment and business site located around Shinjuku Station. It would be interesting to note that Shinjuku Station is the busiest railway station in the country with two million passengers using it on a daily basis. The station is served by six railway companies.

Turning your head west of the station you can see the Shinjuku skyscraper district, the place where most of Tokyo’s tallest buildings try to reach the sky. There are a number of premier hotels, as well as the Metropolitan Government Office, which offers its observation desk free for anyone willing to appreciate the stunning view of Tokyo.

Northeast to the Shinjuku Station there is the Kabukicho, the wildest and largest red light district in the country. The redevelopment is still taking place, though the station is surrounded from all four sides by numerous stores and subterranean malls.

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The Rest of Tokyo

The overall population of Tokyo is 12 million people, which statistically means that one in ten Japanese people live in the capital. The city evolves quite fast and there are a lot of things to see, for instance new mall/condo/hotel/office complexes created by Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. You may consider taking a monorail to the harbor island of Odaiba. The island is a good place for shopping, taking sun baths on the beach, taking a ride on a Ferris wheel to adore the wonderful view of the city, paying a visit to Toyota showroom or visiting the science museum. Due to the fact that Japan is a monarchy, it is really worth paying a visit to the Imperial Gardens.

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Kyoto

In the period between 794 and 1868 Kyoto was the capital of Japan and served as the residence of the emperor. Currently it is the seventh largest city in Japan with a population exceeding 1.4 million. The city suffered from many wars and fires. However, because of its historic importance it was not chosen to be the target of an atomic bomb. In addition it was not bombed during the air raids that occurred during the Second World War. Today the city houses numerous temples, shrines and many other historically important constructions. It is probably the second most popular tourist destination in Japan after Tokyo.

The city is also famous for its shojin ryori, which is a Buddhist vegetarian temple cuisine and the finest garden in the country, Katsura Imperial Villa, which dates back to the 17th century.

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Osaka

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan, its population exceeding 2.5 million. In terms of importance it holds the second place following the country’s capital. For many centuries Osaka served as the main economic motivating force of the Kansai region. Earlier the city of Osaka was known as Naniwa. It was the first even known capital of Japan. Afterwards the capital moved from one city to another as country’s emperors changed.

It could have become the capital of Japan, when back in the 16th century Osaka was chosen to be the place of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s castle, but it never to happen. After the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu brought to an end the family tree of the Toyotomi and established a new place for the government, Edo (Tokyo).

To get to the city you need two and a half hours by shinkansen. The main feature for those in love with traditional Japanese architecture is the Osaka Castle. Forty minutes from this castle there is the Himenji Castle, which was erected between the 14th and 17th centuries. It is also worth checking the neighboring Kobe, the place where the disastrous earthquake of 1995 took place.

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Yokohama

The population of Yokohama is over 3 million people, which makes it the second largest city in the country. People can reach the city in 30 minutes by train from Japan’s capital. Yokohama is a strategically important port that opened in 1859, being one of the first Japanese ports. After the opening of the port, Yokohama, from a small village began a fast development to become one of Japan’s major cities.

The town is very often visited by tourists. Due to the fact that the port for many years served as a port for foreign trade, some foreign influences can be spotted here. The city’s Chinatown is one of the most popular spots in the city. This place demonstrates that Chinese and Japan’s biggest minority group. The city also houses a number of museums, one of them being dedicated to the famous Japanese comic-book superhero, called Anpanman. The head of this superhero is a red-beam bun.

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