Sumida Aquarium in 2024: What’s New at the Aquarium Next to Tokyo Skytree, From Penguin Politics to Dreamy Jellyfish

This article contains sponsored content.

  • X
  • line

If you’re looking for fun things to do around Tokyo Skytree, did you know that there’s actually a flock of penguins living in the middle of the Tokyo Solamachi complex? Sumida Aquarium is not only home to a group of penguins with enough drama to generate a relationship chart with yearly updates, but recent renovations have added jellyfish pools, kaleidoscopic tunnels, and other relaxing fun to the facility. If it’s your first visit or your 100th, it’s worth checking out Sumida Aquarium in 2024.

Find Fun Near Tokyo Skytree at This Tokyo Aquarium

Located in the Solamachi complex at the base of Tokyo Skytree, Sumida Aquarium is one of Tokyo's most popular aquariums, making it a Tokyo destination for family fun and a go-to Tokyo date spot as well. Due in part to its location, Sumida Aquarium has a fairly unique configuration, and it's known for taking on interesting projects to always keep things fresh and new. At the center of the aquarium, both literally and metaphorically, lives a large flock of more than 50 penguins, who spend their day leisurely swimming through the large penguin tank, sitting on the rocks, eating fish, and generally squawking to their hearts' content. One of Sumida Aquarium's most beloved projects is their unique penguin relationship chart, which is updated by the penguin keepers who get to know each and every one of the birds personally, and redrawn every year to reflect the changes you might see in anyone's lifetime. The 2024 Sumida Penguins Relationship Chart offers a little glimpse into the ins and outs of the penguins' rather complicated relationships, with each other and with their human pals as well, and gives us the latest news on the Sumida penguins' romances and the most heartbreaking breakup drama. The yearly chart makes it pretty tempting to go check in on the penguins regularly, but it has also made these birds into internet celebrities, and the new stars of Sumida Aquarium have even become official tourism ambassadors for Sumida Ward, the area of Tokyo they call home.

Of course, Sumida Aquarium's penguins might be popular, but they're not the only aquatic attraction at the aquarium! Some of the other popular aquarium residents include jellyfish, fur seals, and tiny garden eels, living their lives together with their human keepers as one big family next to Tokyo Skytree. The aquarium staff takes their job of providing a comfortable home for the aquatic inhabitants very seriously, and the construction includes features like tanks with special artificial seawater systems, providing a more aerobic environment for the animals.
rnThe aquarium is a comfortable place for visitors to spend time, as well, thanks to the airy open floor plan, with no set route but plenty of seating. It's an ideal place to sit back and relax (which can sometimes be a blessing in the midst of a busy Tokyo travel schedule), and visitors are free to enjoy snacks or drinks while watching the fish swim by. (There are snacks, sweets, and drinks at the Penguin Cafe, but visitors can also bring in outside snacks if they want!) Sumida Aquarium's relaxed vibes allow both locals and sight-seers to treat the place a little like a local park – it really is a great place for a picnic or a nice stroll!

Next, let's take a quick tour of Sumida Aquarium's most popular spots.

Sumida Aquarium (すみだ水族館)
Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi 5F/6F, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Hours: weekdays 10:00 – 20:00 | weekends & holidays 9:00 – 21:00
*Final admission 1 hour prior to closing.
*The aquarium is generally open year-round, but may close temporarily for facility maintenance. Please check the official website prior to visiting
Access: Next to Tobu Tokyo Skytree Station, or 5 min from Oshiage (Skytree) Station
Official Website (en)

① The Penguins: See the Swimming Penguins From Every Angle

Sumida Aquarium's penguin tank has a capacity of 350 tons (about 400,000 liters or 105,000 gallons), giving the penguins plenty of space (and depth) to dive through every day. Each penguin uses the space differently, and they hop in and out of the water at their leisure, diving deep or floating on the surface, lolling around or whipping past at high speeds, going it alone or gathering in groups. Sumida Aquarium's penguin flock has a lot of members, and it's especially fun to see how each bird's personality differs from the next. Fortunately, aquarium-goers can get a good look at the penguins from just about every angle. The penguin area is at the heart of Sumida Aquarium, on the 5th floor, but the 6th floor offers great views from above!

The famous Sumida Penguins Relationship Chart is always on display near the penguin area on the 5th floor, but if you really want to study every detail (and you might), the newest chart is also made available every year on the Sumida Aquarium website. It's not just a simple family tree – this chart is replete with little bits of penguin personality, anecdotes from their lives, and other fun notes from the penguin keepers. Of course the original chart is compiled in Japanese, but in recent years they've started releasing it in English as well, so that international aquarium visitors can fall in love with the Sumida penguins just as much as their keepers have!

② The Jellyfish Room: Enter the Ethereal World of the Jellies

Removed from the noisy fun of the penguin enclosure, Sumida Aquarium's jellyfish area offers an otherworldly ambience, with graceful jellyfish floating past along the walls and in pools below your feet, their long tendrils trailing behind like long strands of lace. This part of the aquarium was renovated in 2020, and these days it not only has large tanks of brown jellyfish and Pacific sea nettles set into the wall like paintings, but also a spacious oval tank with a diameter of 7 meters (23 ft) that holds around 500 moon jellies. Their translucent bodies glow in the changing lights that illuminate the water, and a bridge-like walkway runs over the water to a piece of reinforced glass, allowing visitors to hover above the jellyfish like magic, seeing them from a brand new angle.

In addition to the jellyfish area, Sumida Aquarium's "Kaleidoscope Tunnel" was also constructed in 2020, and it now uses lighting, projections, and mirrors to create a magical path along the edge of the aquarium. One wall has a series of smaller jellyfish tanks, and benches are placed so you can sit down and soak it all in. With all the fanciful decorations, it's one of the most popular places for visitors to take photos in the aquarium.

The jellyfish living in Sumida Aquarium are actually born and raised in the aquarium, and the laboratory-like Aqua Base area offers a unique chance to see how jellyfish grow from tiny specs to full-grown jellies, with each stage of growth divided and marked for observation. The tanks are also tended by aquarium staff, who are happy to answer any questions visitors might have about the jellyfish or other animals, and share behind-the-scenes stories from around the aquarium. The approachable staff is one of the things that makes Sumida Aquarium so much fun to visit!

③ The Ogasawara Sea Life Tank: See the World’s Natural Heritage in Tokyo

Sumida Aquarium's large sea life tank is built to reproduce a marine scene from around the Ogasawara Islands, a small group of outlying islands far southeast of Tokyo, and the 450 animals of 45 different species live together to give visitors a glimpse of Ogasawara ecology. As the easternmost inhabited islands that are still counted as a part of Japan, the Ogasawara Islands are so far away that the ferry from Tokyo takes 24 hours, but they're actually still counted as part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. However, the isolated location in the middle of the Pacific has blessed these little specks of land (and the surrounding waters) with unique scenery enjoyed by both humans and the local wildlife, leading to its registration as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2011.

Sumida Aquarium's large tank gives visitors a peek into life under the sea in Tokyo's furthest neighborhood, and in 2023 the aquarium added a new area called the Ogasawara Base to focus in on even more details of the island ecology. The area has tanks built to reflect an island estuary habitat, and it gives visitors a chance to meet, appreciate, and better understand some of the Ogasawara Islands' most endangered species – like green sea turtles – to show how important it is to protect the wildlife who call the islands home. It's a mission that Sumida Aquarium has been committed to since it opened its doors to the public.

Since 2012, Sumida Aquarium has been working together with the Ogasawara Islands community on a number of projects: showing off the beauty of the island ecology with the large Ogasawara Sea Life tank, cooperating on sea turtle conservation endeavors, and even using plastic taken from the ocean to create cute turtle earrings – sold in the aquarium gift shop. The official aquarium website has a page dedicated to their Ogasawara projects, although the information is currently only available in Japanese.

Sumida Aquarium's goals include the creation of a more comfortable environment for the endangered animals outside the aquarium, but they also aim to provide the same thing for the animals living on the premises, and with that in mind they worked with the specialists at Aqua Design Amano to create a series of "natural aquascape" tanks near the aquarium entrance. Using an elegant selection of living plantlife, the tanks are set up to utilize the natural source of oxygen to recreate comfortable habitats for the fish that feel closer to their homes in the wild, but the tanks are also arranged with thought and care to create beautiful scenes for visitors to drink in as they enter the aquarium. Aqua Design Amano's unique tanks have drawn attention from all over the world, and aquarium staff will tell you that from time to time, aquarium enthusiasts will show up specially to see these specific tanks.

④ The Coral Reefs: Meet Nemo’s Friends and the Garden Eels

Out in the wild, coral reefs provide precious niches for many marine creatures to live and reproduce in safety, and some of the best-known representations of that are Nemo (a clownfish) and Dory (a blue tang), two species of fish that genuinely rely heavily on the protection that coral reefs supply. Coral reefs around the world are home to numerous different species, and the coral reef area of ​​Sumida Aquarium offers a little look at a few of them including clownfish and blue tangs, although the clownfish here are actually a slightly different species from Nemo. To get the full picture, they also have a space for the little garden eels that live in strong currents and deep sand around the coral.

Sumida Aquarium's garden eels are actually some of the most popular animals in the whole building. When the aquarium closed temporarily during the covid pandemic, keepers noticed that the eels (already timid by nature) were becoming increasingly shy of new visitors, and they decided that a special online event (the "Garden Eel Show-Your-Face Festival") was the best way to stave off the eels' newfound stage fright. The video calls with the garden eels were so popular that people logged in from around the world, and lines were backed up with quarantined callers who wanted a little face time with some cute eel friends.

The project was a success, and although the garden eels almost always stay home with most of their bodies in little burrows beneath the sand, they're now welcoming visitors back from around the world post-lockdown. If you visit the eels in the early morning, however, you might have to wake them up to see them start to poke their heads out of the sand. Garden eels like to sleep in, deep inside their sandy burrows, and they can't even blame the pandemic for their sleeping habits! (The photo above is what they look like after being woken up first thing in the morning. They're just lucky they don't have to worry about bedhead.)

⑤ The Goldfish: Enjoy a Little Japanese Flair at the Edo-rium

Fancy goldfish at the aquarium? Well, Sumida Aquarium is after all a Japanese aquarium located in the middle of Tokyo! Their Edo-rium area, named after the old-fashioned name for Tokyo (Edo), features some of the most colorful, unique, and overall beautifully bred goldfish you might ever see, surrounded by decorations that mix traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern design. With goldfish lanterns hanging overhead, and rows of flamboyant goldfish whipping their fluttering tails and dancing through the water, the area feels a little like a Japanese festival.

Don’t Miss! Adorable Animal Snacks and Drinks

With its many comfortable seats and tables, Sumida Aquarium allows visitors to bring in outside food and enjoy it while watching the animals, but you might not want to bother after seeing the options at the Penguin Cafe. Not only is the food tasty, but it's ridiculously cute too, with penguin and fur seal donuts, penguin onigiri rice balls, penguin ice cubes floating on seas of blue soda, and plump little chocolate fur seals resting on beds of whipped cream. Order some snacks, fun drinks, or just a cup of coffee, and find a seat near your favorite aquarium animals to relax and take it all in.

Don’t Miss! Unique Souvenirs & Original Items at the Aquarium Gift Shop

Want to take a little bit of all the aquarium fun home with you? After exploring Sumida Aquarium, you might be on the lookout for a fun souvenir, and the gift shop has some tempting options. Options range from ocean-themed snacks to cute (and useful) everyday items, along with plenty of fun toys, picture books, and little trinkets. Some of the most popular items are Sumida Aquarium originals, available nowhere else. Look out for their tote bags, magnets, and stickers perfect for decorating your suitcase. Of course you can also find the acrylic turtle-shaped earrings made in collaboration with the Ogasawara Islands – each pair has a unique pattern made from swirls of the recycled ocean plastic!

For those who like traditional Japanese crafts, the shop also has some aquarium-themed items specially made by local Tokyo craftsmen using traditional methods. There are Edo kiriko glasses engraved with scenes from under the sea, and penguin ornaments made by traditional wooden doll artisans! And the shop also has some funky items that make great souvenirs for yourself or a friend, like penguin-shaped ice cube trays, and boxes of daifuku mochi shaped like aquarium animals.

Sumida Aquarium: Enjoy the Aquarium Up Close

Sumida Aquarium has a unique motto that translates to something along the lines of "Get close and you'll find even more to like." (近づくと、もっと好きになる。), but it's easy to see how the motto fits the aquarium's general style. The open floor plan offers visitors the chance to go where they please, see the animals from unusual angles, and really spend some time getting to know all the residents of the aquarium. A few words and pictures aren't enough to explain the magic of this urban aquarium – to see what Sumida Aquarium is all about, you'll need to get a closer look, and visit it next time you're in Tokyo!

For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don't forget to follow us on X (Twitter), Instagram, and Facebook!



NAME:Sumida Aquarium (すみだ水族館)


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

  • facebook
  • line


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



・The new Tokyo flagship for Volcom Japan is a center for all things skateboarding, street fashion, art, and culture, all in the heart of Shibuya!
・Volcom日本旗艦店東京澀谷登場 本格派滑板街頭潮流藝文新據點
#Volcom #japankuru #shibuya #日本購物 #日本潮流 #日本街頭時尚 #澀谷 #東京購物 #東京購物推薦 #東京潮店 #澀谷潮店 #滑板 #雪板 #衝浪 #볼컴 #시부야

・The new Tokyo flagship for Volcom Japan is a center for all things skateboarding, street fashion, art, and culture, all in the heart of Shibuya! ・Volcom日本旗艦店東京澀谷登場 本格派滑板街頭潮流藝文新據點 #Volcom #japankuru #shibuya #日本購物 #日本潮流 #日本街頭時尚 #澀谷 #東京購物 #東京購物推薦 #東京潮店 #澀谷潮店 #滑板 #雪板 #衝浪 #볼컴 #시부야

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

Asakusa's Sanja Matsuri, one of the biggest festivals in all of Tokyo, is almost here! Make sure you check out the festival route so you don't miss all the festivities this May.
#asakusa #sanjafestival #sanjamatsuri #asakusashrine #sensoji #sensojitemple #japanesefestival #shintoshrine #japaneseculture #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #asakusasightseeing #matsuri #japantrip #japantravel #springinjapan #tokyotravel #japankuru #산자마츠리 #아사쿠사 #일본마츠리 #일본여행 #일본5월

Asakusa's Sanja Matsuri, one of the biggest festivals in all of Tokyo, is almost here! Make sure you check out the festival route so you don't miss all the festivities this May. #asakusa #sanjafestival #sanjamatsuri #asakusashrine #sensoji #sensojitemple #japanesefestival #shintoshrine #japaneseculture #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #asakusasightseeing #matsuri #japantrip #japantravel #springinjapan #tokyotravel #japankuru #산자마츠리 #아사쿠사 #일본마츠리 #일본여행 #일본5월

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

Evangelion, in miniature!? Tokyo's SMALL WORLDS Miniature Museum is actually a must-see for anime lovers, thanks to the tiny Evangelion Hangar and Tokyo-III... plus a whole universe of other scenes both real and fictional.
#smallworlds #smallworldstokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #evangelion #eva #anime #miniature #miniatures #animefigure #japantrip #japantravel #에반게리온 #스몰월드 #에반겔리온 #スモールワールズ #오다이바 #아리아케

Evangelion, in miniature!? Tokyo's SMALL WORLDS Miniature Museum is actually a must-see for anime lovers, thanks to the tiny Evangelion Hangar and Tokyo-III... plus a whole universe of other scenes both real and fictional. #smallworlds #smallworldstokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #evangelion #eva #anime #miniature #miniatures #animefigure #japantrip #japantravel #에반게리온 #스몰월드 #에반겔리온 #スモールワールズ #오다이바 #아리아케

Have you sat down for a snack at Sumida Aquarium yet? This aquarium next to Tokyo Skytree is known for its penguins and garden eels, but we can't get enough of their cute snacks! There are lots of good seats around the aquarium, too, so it almost feels like one big cafe. 🐧
Find out more at Japankuru.com! (Link in bio.)
#japankuru #sumidaaquarium #skytree #tokyoskytree #solamachi #sumida #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #aquarium #japanesesweets #themecafe #すみだ水族館 #Japan #日本 #일본 #Japon #ญี่ปุ่น #Japão #япония #japantravel #日本旅行 #日本旅遊 #japan_of_insta #japantrip #traveljapan #japan🇯🇵 #igerstokyo #explorejapan

Have you sat down for a snack at Sumida Aquarium yet? This aquarium next to Tokyo Skytree is known for its penguins and garden eels, but we can't get enough of their cute snacks! There are lots of good seats around the aquarium, too, so it almost feels like one big cafe. 🐧 • Find out more at Japankuru.com! (Link in bio.) • #japankuru #sumidaaquarium #skytree #tokyoskytree #solamachi #sumida #tokyo #tokyotrip #tokyotravel #aquarium #japanesesweets #themecafe #すみだ水族館 #Japan #日本 #일본 #Japon #ญี่ปุ่น #Japão #япония #japantravel #日本旅行 #日本旅遊 #japan_of_insta #japantrip #traveljapan #japan🇯🇵 #igerstokyo #explorejapan

For anime fans, the Evangelion areas at Small Worlds Miniature Museum are a must see! The tiny miniature people in the Evangelion Hangar look like ants beneath the moving Unit-01, Unit-00, and Unit-02! And over in Tokyo-III, characters like Shinji, Rei, and Katsuragi live life on a miniature scale.
#odaiba #tokyo #tokyotrip #japantrip #japantravel #ariake #smallworlds #miniaturemuseum #smallworldstokyo #tokyotravel #evangelion #eva #anime #miniature #miniatures #animefigure #japankuru #스몰월드 #에반게리온 #오다이바 #오다이바관광 #오다이바스몰월드 #미니어쳐

For anime fans, the Evangelion areas at Small Worlds Miniature Museum are a must see! The tiny miniature people in the Evangelion Hangar look like ants beneath the moving Unit-01, Unit-00, and Unit-02! And over in Tokyo-III, characters like Shinji, Rei, and Katsuragi live life on a miniature scale. #odaiba #tokyo #tokyotrip #japantrip #japantravel #ariake #smallworlds #miniaturemuseum #smallworldstokyo #tokyotravel #evangelion #eva #anime #miniature #miniatures #animefigure #japankuru #스몰월드 #에반게리온 #오다이바 #오다이바관광 #오다이바스몰월드 #미니어쳐





      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.