Japan’s Lesser-Known Theme Parks: More Fun, Less Waiting in Line

  • X
  • line

Maybe you’re in Japan with kids, or maybe you adore rollercoasters, but really, most of us can enjoy a good day out at an amusement park! Japan certainly has quite a few to visit, and lots of travelers will stop in at Tokyo Disney, or head to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. These huge chains have big, well-known rides, and sure, that can be fun, but popular parks mean long lines! Some visitors are shocked by the two hours or more that they can often expect to wait when lining up for a popular attraction.

So, instead, we’d like to recommend that you spend your time more wisely, and head to one of Japan’s many home-grown amusement parks, or theme parks with more unique attractions. You might encounter fewer princesses wandering the grounds, but you’ll be sure to have a day filled with much more fun, and much less boring waiting around, with unique stories to tell back home!

Tokyo Parks

Yomiuriland Amusement Park is Tokyo's biggest amusement park! It's an easy trip out of the city, and the park has 43 different attractions, including rollercoasters, spinning cups, merry-go-rounds, bungee jumping spots, and more, so there's something for visitors of any age (and any level of courage.) During the summer, the water park area opens up for Tokyoites fleeing the summer heat, and you can splash around in the pools and slip down the slides. Yomiuriland is also known around Tokyo for the spectacular winter lights that go up each year and glitter warmly during the chilly, dark nights, with literally 6 million bulbs. Take a ride in the park's gondola to float over a sea of pink petals every April for cherry blossom season(before getting onto a rollercoaster and zooming through the pink trees instead!)

Yomiuriland Amusement Park
Google Maps
Hours: 10:00 – 20:30
Access: Keio Yomiuriland Station, Yomiuriland-Mae Station
One Day Pass: Adults ¥5400/Middle and High School Students ¥4300/Children ¥3800/65+ y.o. ¥4500
Official Website (en)

Rollercoaster Through the Sakura

Winter Light-Up

Gondola Above the Park


The Tobu Zoo is a "hybrid leisure land" in Saitama, just outside of Tokyo. The place is a cross between your every-day zoo, and an amusement park, with both animal enclosures and exciting rides to be found. Approximately 120 species of animal call the Tobu Zoo home, including rare white tigers, and their ridiculously cute cubs. You can even feed some of the animals snacks, or otherwise get some one-on-one time with them. Head over to the eastern part of the park to ride rollercoasters, float around in paddle boats, and try out the "sky cycle." During the summer they also have pools, with slides and wave pools.

Tobu Zoo
Google Maps
Hours: 9:30 – 17:00 (June: closed Wed | Jan: closed Tue, Wed | Feb: closed Tue ~ Wed)
Access: Tobu Doubutsu Koen Station
One Day Pass: Adults ¥4,800/Children & Seniors ¥3,700
Official Website (en)

White Tiger Souvenirs!

Some Lovely Lemurs

Giving the Tiger Cubs a Treat


Toshimaen is an amusement park with a history of almost 100 years, and while it's a park with lots of fun modern rides, you can still see some of that antique charm. Aside from three different rollercoasters, petting zoos, a big water park area for the summer, a "sky train", and plenty of other rides, they also have a beautiful old-fashioned carousel that looks especially amazing lit up at night. If rollercoasters etc. aren't really your thing, Toshimaen also puts up lights in the winter, and sets up an ice-skating rink, so you can glide on the ice under the stars. Within the park complex there's also an actual fishing area, along with a hot spring spa (Toshimaen Niwa no Yu)!

Google Maps
Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 (check the calendar for more exact information)
Access: Toshimaen Station
One Day Pass: Adults ¥4,200/Children ¥3,200
Official Website

Ice Skating in the Winter

A Magnificent Carousel

And of Course, Rollercoasters

Kansai Parks

Image Source: Hirakata Park Website

Hirakata Park has daily song and dance performances around the park, greatly entertaining younger visitors. You won’t see many international visitors in Hirakata, Osaka, but if you do, you might find a few of them enraptured by the gnome-themed theatrical entertainment, as well. Even on the busiest days, the park never gets overly crowded, so it feels like you have the rollercoasters, river rafts, and much more, all to yourself. Of course there is a waterpark area open in the summer, but perhaps the real draw for many is the themed events they have periodically. In the past there have been large inflatable pokemon scattered around the entrance, and right now there's a Cardcaptor Sakura exhibition going on (read more about the exhibition right here).

Hirakata Park
Google Maps
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 – 17:00/Weekends 10:00 – 18:00
One Day Pass: Adults ¥4,400/Elementary School Students ¥3,800/Children 2 y.o. & up ¥2,600
Official Website (en)

Image Source: Hirakata Park Website
"Pippin and Poppy's Kuru Kuru Helicopter", for the child in all of us.

Image Source: Hirakata Park Website
A gnome-filled performance!

Image Source: Hirakata Park Website
Uncle Frodo's Electric Train, for when we're feeling the need for a little speed.


Image Source: Toei Studio Park Website

TOEI Kyoto Studio Park is both an attraction for visitors looking for a fun day out, and also a movie and TV studio in active use. (The park even closes for a few days here and there for shooting!) Their official English tagline is "Experience Samurai Movies", and just walking through the park is indeed a fun experience, since they've recreated a historical town, complete with shops and homes and bridges. There are even historical reenactors putting on performances in the streets to further convince you that you've traveled back in time to be with Japan's samurais. You can dress up in old-fashioned kimono, too, if you want to fit in better (or take some amazing pictures). If that's not enough, there are also stage shows and more hands-on attractions to enjoy, like shuriken throwing contests and laser mission "Escape the Castle". (Here's a chance to show off how good you got at shuriken throwing during that Naruto phase of yours.)

TOEI Kyoto Studio Park (東映太秦映画村)
Google Maps
Hours: 9:00 – 17:00 (Occasionally open later.)
Access: 2 min. from Satsueisho-mae Station, 5 min. from Uzumasa Station, Uzumasa-Koryuji Station
One Day Pass: Adults ¥2,200/Middle & High School Students ¥3,200/Children 3 y.o.+ ¥1,100
Official Website (en)

Image Source: Toei Studio Park Website
Pretend that you, too, are in a historical drama!

Image Source: Toei Studio Park Website
Climb like a ninja.

Image Source: Toei Studio Park Website
Spot the beasts of the deep.


Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka City, Mie was built as the first full-scale standard international racing course in Japan. Huge pro-racing events are still held there every year, but they've also added a racing-themed amusement park to the big complex. Now there are opportunities for drivers of all ages and skill levels to safely race around the tracks in electric race cars, specially made kids' motorcycles, and all-terrain vehicles. It's a speed-lover's dream! If you need a break after all that racing, there are more relaxed rides, plus cool exhibition areas with interactive exhibits and interesting models to teach you about the history and practicalities of racing today. Perfect for race car fans big and small.

Suzuka Circuit Theme Park
Google Maps
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 – 17:00/Weekends 9:30 – 18:00
Access: From Shiroko Station, either take a taxi or a Mie Transportation bus.
One Day Pass: Adults ¥4,300/Children (7~12 y.o.) ¥3,300/Children (3~6 y.o.) ¥2,100/60+ y.o. ¥3,000
Official Website (en)

Circuit Challenger's electric car racing.

Excellent photo-taking opportunities.

Acro Bike: safe and fun motorcycle racing!?

Parks Around Japan

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is a uniquely Japanese combination of hot springs and novelty entertainment. Slip into your swimsuit and take a dip in hot tea baths, cool iced coffee baths, red wine baths, and more! These baths are really made with the ingredients they say, so if you've dreamed of a cup of coffee so big you can get your whole body into it, this might be your chance. They even have limited-time-only baths that change seasonally, so you'll always find some new intriguing bath to relax in. Lots of the tubs also have event times, which often include staff carefully splashing bathers with more concentrated versions of whatever drink they're submerged in. If that doesn't sound fun enough for you, they have something of a hot springs water park! And of course, you can go there to experience a more traditional onsen hot spring as well.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
Google Maps
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 – 18:00/Weekends 9:00 – 19:00
Access: From Odawara Station, take a bus to Kowakien bus stop.
One Day Pass: Adults ¥2,500/Children ¥1,400
Official Website

Enjoying our afternoon tea.

Some more intense watery fun.

If you're feeling elegant, soak up some wine.


Nasu Animal Kingdom is, to put it simply, something of a zoo. But instead of focusing on animal enclosures, Nasu Animal Kingdom is known for its many animal performances. The shows are fun enrichment for both the animals performing, and those watching. Sitting in the stands for the Bird Show, you can watch stunning eagles, hawks, owls, and other winged friends soaring past your head. (And after the show, nab a picture with one!) When you visit, check the show schedule (jp) first thing, so you'll know exactly when to go see the bird show, or shows with cats, seals, or sheep. More recently, they also opened their Wetland area, an indoor section where you can observe (and sometimes feed) rainforest animals. Don't forget to meet the Wetland's star jaguar!

Nasu Animal Kingdom (那須どうぶつ王国) 
Google Maps
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 – 16:30/Weekends 9:00 – 17:00 (Winter: ~16:00)
Access: Check the official website for free shuttle bus information!
One Day Pass: Adults ¥2,400/Children (3 y.o. to elementary school) ¥1,000 (Winter discount available.)
Official Website (en)

Nasu World Monkey Park has more than monkeys, and you can interact with almost all of the animals there! Other zoos might let you observe the monkeys from afar, but Nasu World Monkey Park has a petting zoo area with Japanese macaques, squirrel monkeys, and more, plus multiple species of lemur. They also give visitors opportunities to spend some time with macaws and ball pythons, if monkeys aren't your favorite. There are even elephant rides, where you can take a quick trip on the elephant's back, and then have a few minutes to thank it (and feed it some snacks). If the Animal Kingdom shows weren't enough for you, the Monkey Park also has a Monkey Playhouse! Watch some of the park's monkeys show off their unique personalities and obvious intelligence, as they play around with their handlers.

Learn more about these two parks, PLUS the Nasu Safari Park!

Nasu World Monkey Park
Google Maps
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 – 17:00 (closed Wednesdays)
Access: From JR Kuroiso Station, take a bus towards Highland Park to Rindo Lake bus stop.
One Day Pass: Adults ¥2,100/Children ¥1,200
Official Website

A grand entrance.

Animals galore!

Feeding our new buds some snacks.


Bios Hill in Okinawa is a huge chunk of land is dedicated to celebrating the flora and fauna of the subtropics. You can certainly spend some time in nature and with the animals being raised on the premises, if that sounds like fun! As a theme park, you can get on a boat and cruise the lake, get in your own canoes, ride in an Okinawan water-buffalo-drawn car, and dress up in traditional Ryukyu (Okinawan) costumes. These outfits are a little like your average Japanese kimono, but they've got some distinct island spirit. There's also the "Big Swing", a standing swing raised in the air, giving you a great view of the lush green surroundings!

Bios Hill (ビオスの丘)
Google Maps
Hours: 9:00 – 18:00
Access: Take the route 111 or 117 express bus from Naha Bus Terminal. Get off at Ishikawa IC bus stop and go the last 15 minutes by taxi.
Admission Fee: Adults ¥900/Children ~15 y.o. ¥500 (various activities at additional cost)
Official Website (en)

Canoeing through Okinawa.

The "dragon-shaped" river.

A very Big Swing!


So, are we all set for summer, now? If you were feeling a little limited by the pair of bigger amusement parks in Japan, you've certainly got a few more options after reading this! (Speaking of which, aren't we all waiting with bated breath to hear more about the Ghibli Park opening in the next few years?) These parks aren't all huge, and they're not all the same, but those unique features are what makes each of them so much fun. We hope you'll have a great day out at one of the theme parks!

If, after checking all these parks out, you're thinking that maybe theme parks aren't actually your thing, there are lots of good summer festivals to go to in Japan, and the fireworks that happen every year are spectacular too! Or take a look at our new event calendar to find something to do today.

Be sure to look out for more exciting articles every day at JAPANKURU
Or add us on Instagram and Facebook to share your pictures of Japan. 🗾

Follow us @Japankuru on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

  • facebook
  • line


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



⚔️The Robot Restaurant is gone, but the Samurai Restaurant is here to take its place. Check it out, and don't forget your coupon!
🍣신주쿠의 명소 로봇 레스토랑이 사무라이 레스토랑으로 부활! 절찬 쿠폰 발급중
#tokyo #shinjuku #samurairestaurant #robotrestaurant #tokyotrip #도쿄여행 #신주쿠 #사무라이레스토랑 #이색체험 #할인이벤트 #歌舞伎町 #東京景點 #武士餐廳 #日本表演 #日本文化體驗 #japankuru #japantrip #japantravel #japanlovers #japan_of_insta

⚔️The Robot Restaurant is gone, but the Samurai Restaurant is here to take its place. Check it out, and don't forget your coupon! 🍣신주쿠의 명소 로봇 레스토랑이 사무라이 레스토랑으로 부활! 절찬 쿠폰 발급중 💃18歲以上才能入場的歌舞秀,和你想的不一樣!拿好優惠券去看看~ #tokyo #shinjuku #samurairestaurant #robotrestaurant #tokyotrip #도쿄여행 #신주쿠 #사무라이레스토랑 #이색체험 #할인이벤트 #歌舞伎町 #東京景點 #武士餐廳 #日本表演 #日本文化體驗 #japankuru #japantrip #japantravel #japanlovers #japan_of_insta

Japanese appliance & electronics shopping with our KOJIMA x BicCamera coupon!
用JAPANKURU的KOJIMA x BicCamera優惠券買這些正好❤️
코지마 x 빅 카메라 쿠폰으로 일본 가전 제품 쇼핑하기

#pr #japankuru #japanshopping #kojima #biccamera #japaneseskincare #yaman #dji #osmopocket3 #skincaredevice #日本購物 #美容儀 #相機 #雅萌 #日本家電 #일본여행 #면세 #여행꿀팁 #일본쇼핑리스트 #쿠폰 #일본쇼핑 #일본브랜드 #할인 #코지마 #빅카메라 #japankurucoupon

Japanese appliance & electronics shopping with our KOJIMA x BicCamera coupon! 用JAPANKURU的KOJIMA x BicCamera優惠券買這些正好❤️ 코지마 x 빅 카메라 쿠폰으로 일본 가전 제품 쇼핑하기 #pr #japankuru #japanshopping #kojima #biccamera #japaneseskincare #yaman #dji #osmopocket3 #skincaredevice #日本購物 #美容儀 #相機 #雅萌 #日本家電 #일본여행 #면세 #여행꿀팁 #일본쇼핑리스트 #쿠폰 #일본쇼핑 #일본브랜드 #할인 #코지마 #빅카메라 #japankurucoupon

Which snacks make the best Japanese souvenirs?~ Jaga Pirika ~
일본과자 선물 뭐하지?~자가피리카 편~
#pr #calbee #jagapokkuru #japanesesnacks #japanesefood #japanesesouvenir #japantravel #japantrip #naritaairport #hokkaido #나리타국제공항 #일본여행선물 #흔하지않은기념품 #일본쇼핑리스트 #일본과자추천 #고구마과자 #일본간식추천 #일본면세점쇼핑 #개별포장 #일본감자칩 #도쿄나리타공항면세점 #현지인추천 #일본여행 #일본기념품리스트 #자가포쿠루 #자가피리카

Which snacks make the best Japanese souvenirs?~ Jaga Pirika ~ 일본과자 선물 뭐하지?~자가피리카 편~ #pr #calbee #jagapokkuru #japanesesnacks #japanesefood #japanesesouvenir #japantravel #japantrip #naritaairport #hokkaido #나리타국제공항 #일본여행선물 #흔하지않은기념품 #일본쇼핑리스트 #일본과자추천 #고구마과자 #일본간식추천 #일본면세점쇼핑 #개별포장 #일본감자칩 #도쿄나리타공항면세점 #현지인추천 #일본여행 #일본기념품리스트 #자가포쿠루 #자가피리카

Niki Golf offers a huge selection of new and used golf gear in Ueno, Tokyo. Between the weak yen and the shop's willingness to haggle, there's never been a better time for beginners or seasoned experts to pick up some clubs, golf wear, or limited-edition Japanese golf equipment!
#ueno #nikigolf #golfshopping #golfgear #🏌️ #golflife #golf #golftips #golfjapan #jpangolf #golfclub #honma #ameyoko #二木ゴルフ #二木ゴルフアメ横本店 #nikigolfameyoko #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyoshopping #japantrip #japantravel #japanlovers #japan_of_insta #japankuru #pr

Niki Golf offers a huge selection of new and used golf gear in Ueno, Tokyo. Between the weak yen and the shop's willingness to haggle, there's never been a better time for beginners or seasoned experts to pick up some clubs, golf wear, or limited-edition Japanese golf equipment! #ueno #nikigolf #golfshopping #golfgear #🏌️ #golflife #golf #golftips #golfjapan #jpangolf #golfclub #honma #ameyoko #二木ゴルフ #二木ゴルフアメ横本店 #nikigolfameyoko #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyoshopping #japantrip #japantravel #japanlovers #japan_of_insta #japankuru #pr

Odaiba's DiverCity Tokyo Plaza is home to the famous real-size 20m-tall Unicorn Gundam, and the popular shopping center has even more Gundam on the inside! Check out the Gundam Base Tokyo on the 7th floor for shelves upon shelves of Gunpla, and the Gundam Base Tokyo Annex on the 2nd floor for cool anime merchandise. Both shops have tons of limited-edition items!
#pr #odaiba #tokyo #tokyotrip #japantrip #japantravel #PR #divercity #divercitytokyoplaza #tokyoshopping #gundam #unicorngundam #gundambasetokyo #anime #otaku #gunpla #japankuru #오다이바 #다이바시티도쿄 #오다이바건담 #건담 #일본건담 #건프라 #건담베이스도쿄

Odaiba's DiverCity Tokyo Plaza is home to the famous real-size 20m-tall Unicorn Gundam, and the popular shopping center has even more Gundam on the inside! Check out the Gundam Base Tokyo on the 7th floor for shelves upon shelves of Gunpla, and the Gundam Base Tokyo Annex on the 2nd floor for cool anime merchandise. Both shops have tons of limited-edition items! #pr #odaiba #tokyo #tokyotrip #japantrip #japantravel #PR #divercity #divercitytokyoplaza #tokyoshopping #gundam #unicorngundam #gundambasetokyo #anime #otaku #gunpla #japankuru #오다이바 #다이바시티도쿄 #오다이바건담 #건담 #일본건담 #건프라 #건담베이스도쿄





      VIEW MORE →

      Hokkaido (北海道) is the northernmost of the four main islands that make up Japan. The area is famous for Sapporo Beer, plus brewing and distilling in general, along with fantastic snow festivals and breathtaking national parks. Foodies should look for Hokkaido's famous potatoes, cantaloupe, dairy products, soup curry, and miso ramen!

    • Niki, in south-west Hokkaido, is about 30 minutes from Otaru. The small town is rich with natural resources, fresh water, and clean air, making it a thriving center for fruit farms. Cherries, tomatoes, and grapes are all cultivated in the area, and thanks to a growing local wine industry, it's quickly becoming a food and wine hotspot. Together with the neighboring town of Yoichi, it's a noted area for wine tourism.

    • Niseko is about two hours from New Chitose Airport, in the western part of Hokkaido. It's one of Japan's most noted winter resort areas, and a frequent destination for international visitors. That's all because of the super high-quality powder snow, which wins the hearts of beginners and experts alike, bringing them back for repeat visits. That's not all, though, it's also a great place to enjoy Hokkaido's culinary scene and some beautiful onsen (hot springs).

    • Otaru is in western Hokkaido, about 30 minutes from Sapporo Station. The city thrived around its busy harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to active trade and fishing, and the buildings remaining from that period are still popular attractions, centered around Otaru Canal. With its history as a center of fishing, it's no surprise that the area's fresh sushi is a must-try. Otaru has over 100 sushi shops, quite a few of which are lined up on Sushiya Dori (Sushi Street).


      VIEW MORE →

      Sapporo, in the south-western part of Hokkaido, is the prefecture's political and economic capital. The local New Chitose Airport see arrivals from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, alongside international flights. Every February, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Odori Park―one of the biggest events in Hokkaido. It's also a hotspot for great food, known as a culinary treasure chest, and Sapporo is a destination for ramen, grilled mutton, soup curry, and of course Hokkaido's beloved seafood.

    • Consisting of six prefectures, the Tohoku Region (東北地方) is up in the northeastern part of Japan's main island. It's the source of plenty of the nation's agriculture (which means great food), and packed with beautiful scenery. Explore the region's stunning mountains, lakes, and hot springs!

    • Akita Prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, in the northern reaches of Japan's northern Tohoku region. Akita has more officially registered important intangible culture assets than anywhere else in Japan, and to this day visitors can experience traditional culture throughout the prefecture, from the Oga Peninsula's Namahage (registered with UNESCO as a part of Japan's intangible cultural heritage), to the Tohoku top 3 Kanto Festival. Mysterious little spots like the Oyu Stone Circle Site and Ryu no Atama (Dragon's Head) are also worth a visit!


      VIEW MORE →

      Fukushima Prefecture sits at the southern tip of Japan's northern Tohoku region, and is divided into three parts with their own different charms: the Coastal Area (Hama-dori), the Central Area (Naka-dori), and the Aizu Area. There's Aizu-Wakamatsu with its Edo-era history and medieval castles, Oze National Park, Kitakata ramen, and Bandai Ski Resort (with its famous powder snow). Fukushima is a beautiful place to enjoy the vivid colors and sightseeing of Japan's beloved four seasons.


      VIEW MORE →

      Yamagata Prefecture is up against the Sea of Japan, in the southern part of the Tohoku region, and it's especially popular in winter, when travelers soak in the onsen (hot springs) and ski down snowy slopes. International skiiers are especially fond of Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Gassan Ski Resort, and in recent years visitors have been drawn to the area to see the mystical sight of local frost-covered trees. Some destinations are popular regardless of the season, like Risshakuji Temple, AKA Yamadera, Ginzan Onsen's nostalgic old-fashioned streets, and Zao's Okama Lake, all great for taking pictures. Yamagata is also the place to try Yonezawa beef, one of the top 3 varieties of wagyu beef.

    • Japan's most densely populated area, the Kanto Region (関東地方) includes 7 prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa, which means it also contains the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. In modern-day Japan, Kanto is the cultural, political, and economic heartland of the country, and each prefecture offers something a little different from its neighbors.

    • Gunma Prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo, and in addition to the area's popular natural attractions like Oze Marshland and Fukiware Falls, Gunma also has a number of popular hot springs (Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, Shima)―it's even called an Onsen Kingdom. The prefecture is popular with history buffs and train lovers, thanks to spots like world heritage site Tomioka Silk Mill, the historic Megane-bashi Bridge, and the Watarase Keikoku Sightseeing Railway.


      VIEW MORE →

      Tochigi Prefecture's capital is Utsunomiya, known for famous gyoza, and just an hour from Tokyo. The prefecture is full of nature-related sightseeing opportunities year-round, from the blooming of spring flowers to color fall foliage. Tochigi also has plenty of extremely well-known sightseeing destinations, like World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Ashikaga Flower Park―famous for expansive wisteria trellises. In recent years the mountain resort town of Nasu has also become a popular excursion, thanks in part to the local imperial villa. Tochigi is a beautiful place to enjoy the world around you.

    • Tokyo (東京) is Japan's busy capital, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city as a whole is quite modern, crowded with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, Tokyo also holds onto its traditional side in places like the Imperial Palace and Asakusa neighborhood. It's one of the world's top cities when it comes to culture, the arts, fashion, games, high-tech industries, transportation, and more.

    • The Chubu Region (中部地方) is located right in the center of Japan's main island, and consists of 9 prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It's primarily famous for its mountains, as the region contains both Mt. Fuji and the Japanese Alps. The ski resorts in Niigata and Nagano also draw visitors from around the world, making it a popular winter destination.

    • Nagano Prefecture's popularity starts with a wealth of historic treasures, like Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple, and Togakushi Shrine, but the highlight might just be the prefecture's natural vistas surrounded by the "Japanese Alps." Nagano's fruit is famous, and there are plenty of places to pick it fresh, and the area is full of hot springs, including Jigokudani Monkey Park―where monkeys take baths as well! Thanks to the construction of the Hokuriku shinkansen line, Nagano is easily reachable from the Tokyo area, adding it to plenty of travel itineraries. And after the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, ski resorts like Hakuba and Shiga Kogen are known around the world.

    • Aichi Prefecture sits in the center of the Japanese islands, and its capital city, Nagoya, is a center of politics, commerce, and culture. While Aichi is home to major industry, and is even the birthplace of Toyota cars, it's proximity to the sea and the mountains means it's also a place with beautiful natural scenery, like Saku Island, Koijigahama Beach, Mt. Horaiji. Often used a stage for major battles in Japanese history, Sengoku era commanders like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu left their own footprints on Aichi, and historic buildings like Nagoya Castle, Inuyama Castle, and those in Meiji Mura are still around to tell the tale.


      VIEW MORE →

      Niigata is a prefecture on Japan's main island of Honshu, situated right on the coast of the Sea of Japan, and abundant with the gifts of nature. It's known for popular ski resorts such as Echigo-Yuzawa, Japanese national parks, and natural hot spring baths, plus local products like fresh seafood, rice, and sake. Visitors often spend time in the prefectural capital, Niigata City, or venture across the water to Sado Island.


      VIEW MORE →

      Shizuoka Prefecture is sandwiched between eastern and western Japan, giving the prefecture easy access to both Tokyo and Osaka. Not only is it known for beautiful natural attractions, with everything from Mount Fuji to Suruga Bay, Lake Hamanako, and Sumata Pass―Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is known as a go-to spot for hot springs lovers, with famous onsen like Atami, Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Dogashima. Shizuoka attracts all kinds of travelers thanks to historic connections with the Tokugawa clan, the Oigawa Railway, fresh eel cuisine, Hamamatsu gyoza, and famously high-quality green tea.

    • Kansai (関西) is a region that includes Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga Prefectures. Kansai contained Japan's ancient capital for hundreds of years, and it's making a comeback as one of the most popular parts of Japan. Kyoto's temples and shrines, Osaka Castle, and the deer of Nara are all considered must-sees. Plus, the people of Kansai are especially friendly, making it a fun place to hang out.

    • Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan between the years 794 and 1100, becoming a center for poilitics and culture, and to this day it's a great place for close encounters with Japanese history. The cobbled streets of Gion, the atmospheric road to Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji's golden walls and countless historic attractions, even Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge―Kyoto is a place of many attractions. With new charms to experience throughout the seasons, travelers can't stop themselves from returning again and again.

    • Nara Prefecture's important history reaches back to 710, a time now called the Nara era, when it was once capital of Japan. Called "Heijo-kyo" during its time as a capital, it's said that nara was once the end of the silk road, leading it to flourish as a uniquely international region and produce important cultural properties of all kinds. To make the most of each season, travelers head to Nara Park, where the Nara deer who wander freely, or climb Mount Yoshino, a famous cherry blossom spot.

    • Osaka is known for friendly (and funny) people, but its history is nothing to laugh at, playing a major part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century unification of Japan. Thanks to long years of economic activity, it's one of Japan's biggest cities, and Osaka's popular food culture earned it the nickname "The Kitchen of the Nation." To this day Osaka is the model of western Japan, and alongside historic structures like Osaka Castle, it also has major shopping malls like Umeda's Grand Front Osaka and Tennoji's Abeno Harukas. Osaka is a place to eat, eat, eat, with local specialties like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushi-katsu, and for extra fun, it's home to Universal Studios Japan.


      VIEW MORE →

      The Chugoku Region (中国地方) consists of five prefectures: Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In Chugoku you’ll find the sand dunes of Tottori, and Hiroshima’s atomic bomb site, plus centers of ancient history like Grand Shrine of Izumo.


      VIEW MORE →

      Hiroshima Prefecture has everything, from world heritage sites to beautiful nature and delicious local cuisine, and it's either an hour and a half from Tokyo by plane, or four hours by train. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island and the Atomic Bomb Dome, two Hiroshima UNESCO sites, are famous around the world, but in Japan it's also famous for food. Seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, especially oysters, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and Setouchi lemons are all popular, and the natural scenery alone is worth seeing.


      VIEW MORE →

      On the other side of the Seto Inland Sea opposite Japan’s main island, Shikoku (四国) is a region made up of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. The area is famous for its udon (in Kagawa), and the beautiful Dogo Onsen hot springs (in Ehime).

    • Kagawa Prefecture is on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, facing Japan's main island and the Seto Inland Sea. It's known for being the smallest prefecture in Japan, by area, but at the same time Kagawa is called the "Udon Prefecture" thanks to its famous sanuki udon. Aside from Kotohiragu Shrine and Ritsurin Garden, the prefecture's small islands are popular, and Kagawa is full of unique destinations, like Angel Road. They say that if you lay eyes on Zenigata Sunae, a huge Kagawa sand painting, you'll never have money troubles ever again.

    • Located in the most southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu (九州) is an island of 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima. The island's unique culture has been influenced by Chinese and Dutch trade, along with missionaries coming in through Nagasaki's port. Modern-day travelers love the lush natural scenery and fresh food, plus the natural hot springs found all throughout the area (thanks to volcanic activity)!


      VIEW MORE →

      Fukuoka Prefecture has the highest population on the southern island of Kyushu, with two major cities: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Thanks to growing transportation networks, Fukuoka is more accessible than ever, and so are the many local attractions. On top of historical spots like Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, travelers shouldn't miss Fukuoka's food scene, with motsu nabe (offal hotpot), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and famous Hakata ramen―best eaten from a food stall in the Nakasu area of Hakata. Plus, it's full of all sorts of destinations for travelers, like trendy shopping centers, and the beautiful nature of Itoshima and Yanagawa.


      VIEW MORE →

      Kagoshima Prefecture played a major role in Japan's modernization as a backdrop for famous historical figures like samurais Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who pushed Japan out of the Edo era and into the Meiji. Because of that, Sengan-en Garden is just one of many historical destinations, and when it comes to attractions Kagoshima has plenty: the active volcano of Sakurajima, popular hot springs Ibusuki Onsen and Kirishima Onsen, World Heritage Site Yakushima Island, even what Japan calls the "island closest to heaven," Amami Oshima. Kagoshima might be found on the very southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, but there's plenty to see.


      VIEW MORE →

      The island chain of Okinawa (沖縄) makes up the southernmost tip of Japan, which is why it's also the most tropical area in the country. Thanks to a history of independence and totally distinct political and cultural events, Okinawa has a unique culture, and remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still visible all over the islands. Food, language, traditional dress, it's all a little different! It's also said to be the birthplace of karate.