The iconic and unique sights of Japan
Japan is a fascinating country to explore. It’s a country full of contrasts, with ancient traditions and blow your mind modern entertainment, intricate architecture and millions of bright lights, breathtaking scenery and huge skyscrapers.
Australian travel photographer Ben Bjarnesen toured Japan in April during cherry blossom season, and found the iconic and unique sights that draw visitors to this beautiful country.
If you are lucky enough to be in Japan at the right time, make sure you head along to a sumo tournament for an unforgettable experience. Only six tournaments are held throughout the country every year, lasting for 15 days each. Buy tickets through the official vendor, buysumotickets.com, from convenience stores (you’ll need to brush up on your Japanese for this), or at the stadiums.
The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district (red-light district) is not for the faint hearted but is surprisingly family-friendly. Prepare to be blown away during this Japanese cabaret show, staring giant robots and millions of flashing lights, with drum playing dancing girls. Staring neon tanks battling samurais and ninjas, alongside giant dinosaurs and pandas, you’re sure to be entertained like never before! Do some research to make sure it’s right for your family. Not everyone will be comfortable with this one. Advanced bookings are recommended.
A visit to one of Tokyo’s most colourful temples should be on your list. This Buddhist temple dates back to the year 628, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple. On your way to Sensoji, leave time to shop for Japanese souvenirs and traditional snacks, sold along the Nakamise shopping street which is said to be centuries old.
If you are looking for the most spectacular vantage point to see Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi, then take the three-minute cable car ride up the Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway
Another unique Japanese experience for visitors, is a trip to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can see wild Japanese Macaques bathing and playing in a natural hot spring. The park allows you to observe these monkeys closely, as they are so used to humans being around.
If you’ve always wanted to see a geisha, then Hanami-koji-dori in Gion is the place to go. This is where the geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) live and work, so you have a better chance of seeing them here. Remember to always be respectful to the Geisha.
Hundreds of blossoming cherry trees line the Philosopher’s Path which winds along the canal in northern Kyoto, making it one of the most popular spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) every April.
One of the most iconic sights of Kyoto would have to be the 1300 year old Fushimi Inari Taisha, made famous for its thousands of vermilion coloured torii gates. This shrine is the most important of the 30,000 Shinto shrines spread throughout the country. Take the time to visit the shrine buildings and hike through the mountain trails. The hike to the summit takes two to three hours, however you don’t have to go the whole way if you don’t want to. Most people stop half way and head back down. Admission is free.
With over 200,000 monuments, and the graves of samurai warriors and powerful feudal lords, it is worthwhile making a stop at the Okunoin Temple. The Temple is not only the site of Japan’s largest cemetery, it is one of the most sacred sites for followers of Kobo Daishi.
The Torodo Hall, meaning the Hall of Lanterns is a spectacular site and is used as the main hall of worship. The 10,000 lanterns remain lit at all times, creating an enchanting space.
One of the three finest bridges in Japan, the Shinkyo Bridge (sacred bridge), at the entrance to Nikko’s shrines and temples, is picture perfect. But if you wish to cross the bridge, you’ll need to pay around 300 Yen.
There is so much to see in Japan. We hope this has given you some inspiration for planning your dream holiday.