Top things to do

Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Nikkō

Tōshō-gū

A Unesco World Heritage Site in an idyllic natural setting, Tōshō-gū is a lavishly ornate Shinto complex within which Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the first shōgun and founder of the Tokugawa Bakufu (Japan's last fe…
Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Asakusa & Sumida River

Sensō-ji

Tokyo’s most visited temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy), which, according to legend, was miraculously pulled out of the nearby Sumida-gawa by two fishermen in AD 628. The image…
Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Nara

Tōdai-ji

Nara's star attraction is the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha), centrepiece of this grand temple on the Unesco World Heritage List, with origins going back to AD 728. The Daibutsu statue itself is one of the largest b…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Harajuku & Aoyama

Meiji-jingū

Tokyo’s grandest Shintō shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, whose reign (1868–1912) coincided with Japan's transformation from isolationist, feudal state to modern nation. Constructed in 192…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Ise-Shima

Naikū

The Inner Shrine of Ise-jingū is thought to date from the 3rd century and enshrines the sun goddess, Amaterasu-Ōmikami, considered the ancestral goddess of the imperial family and guardian deity of the Japanese nati…
Top Choice Mountain in Fuji Five Lakes

Mt Fuji

Fuji is divided into 10 concentric ‘stations’ from base (first station) to summit (10th), but most climbers start halfway up at various fifth station points, reachable by road. The most popular climbing route is the…
Top Choice Castle in Himeji

Himeji-jō

Japan's most magnificent castle, Himeji-jō, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, national treasure and one of only a handful of original castles remaining (most are modern concrete reconstructions). It's nicknamed Shira…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Nara

Kasuga Taisha

Founded in the 8th century, this sprawling shrine, on the Unesco World Heritage List, lies at the foot of a deeply forested hill, where herds of sacred deer await handouts. Until the end of the 19th century, Kasuga …
Top Choice Museum in Shiga Prefecture

Miho Museum

Secluded amid hills and valleys near the village of Shigaraki, this knockout museum houses the Koyama family collection of Japanese, Middle Eastern, Chinese and South Asian art, and beautifully displayed special exh…
Top Choice Spectator Sport in Asakusa & Sumida River

Ryōgoku Kokugikan

If you’re in town when a tournament is on – for 15 days each January, May and September – catch the big boys in action at Japan’s largest sumo stadium. Doors open at 8am, but the action doesn’t heat up until the sen…