The 30 Most Iconic Japanese Landmarks

Itsukushima Shrine, Japan
Itsukushima Shrine, Japan | Photo by Nicki Eliza Schinow on Unsplash
Alicia Joy

Tokyo Writer

Explore Japan’s most iconic landmarks, both natural and man-made, from the ancient temples of Kyoto to the bright neon lights of Osaka.

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1. Shibuya Crossing

Architectural Landmark

Hundreds of people crossing the roads in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
Jezael Melgoza / Unsplash

Often called the world’s busiest pedestrian scramble, Shibuya Crossing has become a symbol of modern Tokyo, and one of the most iconic urban landmarks on the planet.

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Natural Feature

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan
Atsushi Tsubokura / Unsplash

The beauty and mystery of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, on the outskirts of Kyoto, has never been replicated anywhere else on Earth.

4. Dotonbori

Historical Landmark

© Alexander Smagin / Unsplash

While the bright lights of Tokyo remain Japan’s most famous, Osaka’s downtown Dotonbori district rivals anything the capital has to offer when it comes to neon signs and thrilling nightlife. Dotonbori at night is a bright as it is in the day, and its incredible selection of restaurants attracts foodies the world over.

8. Ashikaga Flower Park


© dktazunoki/Shutterstock

Ashikaga Flower Park’s stunning purple wisterias attract thousands of visitors each year. The wisteria bloom in late April to early May, and the park is easily reached from Tokyo.

12. Kobe Port

Architectural Landmark

© cowardlion/Shutterstock

Once the world’s busiest port, Kobe was decimated by the 1995 earthquake and now stands as evidence of the people’s resilience.

13. The Hells of Beppu

Natural Feature

© buttchi 3 Sha Life/Shutterstock

The Hells of Beppu are a designated Scenic Place of Beauty by the Japanese government. It’s aptly named, as the water here is way too hot to go for a dip.

14. Matsushima

Natural Feature

Rock formations in Matsushima Bay, Japan
Chuck Eugene / Unsplash

The group of islands known as Matsushima in Miyagi prefecture have long been cherished for their beauty, and are also one of the Three Views of Japan.

17. Daibutsu

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Daibutsu statue in Kamakura, Japan
mos design / Unsplash

The Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, can be found in Nara, in the Buddhist temple Todai-ji. There are many Daibutsu scattered throughout the country, but this has garnered the most fame. This National Treasure is well over 1,000 years old.

18. Kyoto's Machiya

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Japan’s historic machiya are mostly concentrated in Kyoto. These traditional wooden townhouses are responsible for much of that ancient city’s charms, including the famous Gion and Pontocho geisha districts.

22. Lake Kawaguchiko

Natural Feature

Lake Kawaguchi in Japan at dusk
Takashi Miyazaki / Unsplash

The Fuji Five Lakes also include Yamanakako, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko, but Kawaguchiko is the most easily accessible. All of the lakes boast stunning views of Fuji’s snow-capped peak, and the embellishment of springtime cherry blossom or auburn fall foliage really makes for a spectacular sight. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

25. Studio Ghibli Museum


Studio Ghibli Museum, Japan
Alex Rerh / Unsplash

Not many museums double up as landmarks, but this place has been designed with the same creativity and attention to detail as each of Studio Ghibli’s magical animated films. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

27. Zenkoji Temple

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Zenkoji Temple in Japan
Yuika Takamura / Unsplash

Wherever you go in Japan, you’re likely to discover plenty of beautiful temples, but 7th Zenkoji is one of the most important and revered in the whole country, dating back to the 7th century, and housing the first Buddhist statue ever brought to Japan. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

28. Nagasaki Peace Park


The tragedies wrought by the atomic bombs dropped in 1945 will never be forgotten, but the struggles of Nagasaki are often overshadowed by the horrors of Hiroshima. This park, like its contemporary further north, is a tranquil and commemorative space, designed as a quiet but powerful memorial to the city’s collective strength. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

30. Sangenjaya

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Wandering through the small back alleys of Sangenjaya, Tokyo, around midnight
Alex Knight / Unsplash

The lively back alleys of this district offer a glimpse into the real Tokyo. Full of character and life, the area’s tightly packed streets are full of vibrant bars and eateries – best explore in the evening, of course. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

Want to know the difference between a ryokan, machiya and a minshuku? Discover our guide for more information.

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