Are you wondering where to visit in Japan?
If so, I would start with the most popular regions of Japan, namely Kanto, Chubu and Kansai.
Located on Japan’s biggest island Honshu, these three regions have a great number of important cultural heritage sites and major tourist attractions that are easily accessible by public transport.
Here is some useful background information for you to know about Kanto, Chubu and Kansai as well as major cities located in these regions.
Tokyo (Region: Kanto)
Tokyo is Japan’s capital and literally means the east capital in Japanese. Previously known as Edo, it’s Japan’s most populated city with over 37 million residents in its greater metropolitan area. Despite all that, the city has a history of just over 400 years, which isn’t so long compared to other major cities such as Kyoto.
The city centre is largely divided into three areas: Western Tokyo, Central Tokyo and Northern Tokyo.
Western Tokyo covers young and energetic shopping districts such as Shibuya and Shinjuku. The city’s green spaces, the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and Shinjuku Gyoen are also situated in this area.
Central Tokyo is the political and economic centre, as the Tokugawa Shogunate had governed the country from the Edo Castle, which was situated where the Imperial Palace currently stands. Marunouchi and Ginza are filled with business people, tourists and wealthy customers for high-end boutique brands and department stores.
Northern Tokyo, represented by Asakusa, is a downtown district where merchants and artisans thrived in the Edo period. The area remains as a traditional and artistic centre with places such as the old-town district of Yanaka and Ueno where national museums are located.
Tokyo is a great access point to many sightseeing spots. They include the foreign-influenced port city Yokohama, a coastal town with zen temples and the Great Buddha Kamakura, the warehouse district of Kawagoe, and UNESCO cultural heritage sites such as Nikko and Mt Fuji.
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Nagoya (Region: Chubu)
Located right in the centre of Honshu Island, Nagoya has easy access from both Eastern Japan and Western Japan. Having been one of Japan’s biggest manufacturing centres, the central region is known as a major producing area for traditional crafts such as pottery and lacquerware as well as for fermented food including miso, mirin, and vinegar, which are the secret ingredients that make Japanese cuisine so delicious.
As the birthplace of Japan’s three most famous samurai warriors from the Warring States period, the central region has two of the five castles that are registered as national treasures with their castle-keeps being intact for at least 400 years, namely Inuyama and Matsumoto. Another national treasure castle, Hikone, located by Japan’s largest Lake Biwa is also easily accessible from the Chubu region.
Among other tourist attractions in Chubu are Tsumago and Magome post towns on the Nakasendo Trail, merchant houses of Takayama, and Shirakawago farmhouses.
Kyoto (Region: Kansai)
Kyoto was Japan’s capital for more than one thousand years. During the time, Kyoto was the home of the Emperors, while the city flourished culturally. A countless number of shrines, temples, and important sites were built. Some of them still exist today and have become popular tourist attractions. These include Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Golden Pavilion, and Nijo Castle.
Kyoto also has notable gardens attached to temples such as the zen garden of Ryoanji temple and the stroll-style garden in Tenryuji temple.
Some of the places that are worth visiting are one of Japan’s most scenic views, Amanohashidate, the sacred headquarters of the Shingon Buddhist school Mt Koya and the old imperial capital Nara.