6 New 2023 Must-Sees in Japan | Destinations for Tourists, Shoppers, and Locals Too

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From the brand-new Ghibli Park to the hottest new TeamLab experiences, things are heating up post-covid, and you won’t want to miss these on your next visit to Japan.

2023 Hotspots Around Japan

With the arrival of 2023, Japan is finally starting a new year with open borders, and the whole country is ready to welcome the world back! The pandemic put a pause on things in Japan, which meant that quite a few new sightseeing destinations and shopping facilities got put on the back burner for years. Some spots opened without all the fanfare, welcoming locals to a sort of soft open before the rest of the world arrived. Many other new facilities got thoroughly postponed, with construction dragging on and proprietors looking to wait things out. But the exciting results are clear in 2023 – there are already tons of new places for travelers in Japan to explore at the beginning of the year, and even more are coming soon!

3 Brand-New Destinations

① Ghibli Park



Photo taken at Studio Ghibi Expo

Where can you enter the world of Spirited Away, eat snacks from The Wind Rises, and take Totoro home with you? After years of anticipation, months of tantalizing development snapshots, and weeks of nerve-wracking ticket lotteries, Ghibli Park finally opened outside Nagoya at the end of 2022. The park has enough to make any Ghibli fan's heart sing, from an enormous stuffed Catbus for kids to climb on, to photo spots with No-Face, and even food stands cooking up some of the mouth-watering eats that so many of us drooled over while watching the movies. Even after the grand opening, this new theme park is technically still under construction, and visitors are currently allowed into just a portion of the full park footprint, but early views of Ghibli Park have been giving fans of Studio Ghibli a lot to get excited about. There's a lot to look forward to, and it's going to be heaven on Earth for fans of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, and just about any of Studio Ghibli's productions.

If you're sad to hear that adults can't climb on the stuffed Catbus, then you might be glad to know that you can at least get yourself a rather large Totoro from Hakuhinkan to cuddle with every day, and you don't even have to get to Aichi Prefecture for it. There's a squishy No-Face version, as well!

▷ See much more of Ghibli Park here!

Ghibli Park (ジブリパーク)
Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, 1533-1 Otsu, Ibaragabasama, Nagakute, Aichi
Official Website (jp)

② Okinawa’s DMM Kariyushi Aquarium



In recent years aquariums across Japan have been evolving, transforming from simple setups to stylish experiences that mimic installation art, and Okinawa's new DMM Kariyushi Aquarium is a prime example of this new generation of aquariums. The reputation (and enormous whale sharks) of Okinawa's older aquarium, Churaumi, still overshadows DMM Kariyushi Aquarium in the minds of many foreign travelers, but the new aquarium is a lot more conveniently located for tourists staying in Okinawa's capital city of Naha. We have no doubt that the picture-perfect appeal of the new facility is going to attract a wave of post-pandemic visitors! DMM Kariyushi Aquarium is all about the atmosphere – and the many photo spots just screaming "post me on Instagram!" – with a tropical forest where visitors can "hike" over the water, a glass floor hovering over a fish-filled tank, and a jellyfish room that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Kids will have fun with the aquarium phone app that identifies the fish in each tank, too.

DMM Kariyushi Aquarium (DMMかりゆし水族館)
3-35 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku, Okinawa
Official Website (en)

③ Super Nintendo World



Gamers have been dreaming of entering the bright and beautiful world of the Mario Bros. for almost half a century, and Super Nintendo World is finally making it a dream come true. The games are brought to life through a Mario Kart racing attraction, a real-life ride "on Yoshi's back," and over-the-top decorations throughout the whole area, recreating the colorful atmosphere that Mario has become known for. Since Super Nintendo World opened during the height of the pandemic as an area of Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, park closures and a lack of international tourists seriously limited the initial impact of this highly anticipated attraction. But the first-ever Super Nintendo World is now open to the world at large, and Yoshi fans should know – Osaka is the only place in the world with Yoshi's Adventure.

Nintendo fans should know – Japan is still the best place on Earth for fantastic Mario merchandise. Wherever you may be in the world, look to Japan for everything from a Piranha Plant board game to Mario hat mug covers. (We rather like these Question Block silicon muffin cups for bakers, too.)

Super Nintendo World (スーパー・ニンテンドー・ワールド)
Universal Studios Japan, 2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka
Official Website (en)

Bonus: Hana-Biyori



Rainbows of vibrant flowers, spring cherry blossoms and seasonal changes, outdoor gardens and indoor light shows, plus a trendy Starbucks to boot. Hana-Biyori sounds like an ideal leisure destination, especially in flower-obsessed Japan, so why is it still such a hidden treasure? With a grand opening in March 2020, Hana-Biyori started welcoming guests at an unfortunate time, and this unique botanical garden had barely opened its doors when it had to temporarily close them again during the pandemic. But Hana-Biyori, and the neighboring Yomiuriland Amusement Park (which runs the garden), are back open for good. It's hard to call it brand new after three years, but since it's still new to so many travelers in Japan, we think Hana-Biyori deserves a mention.

▷ See much more of Hana-Biyori here!

Hana-Biyori
4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi, Tokyo
Official Website (en)

3 Spots to Look Forward to in 2023

① TeamLab Borderless in Azabudai



Photos taken at the former TeamLab Borderless

TeamLab is an artist collective focused on experiential installation art, and they've been responsible for some of Japan's most popular, trendy, and "insta-bae" spots in recent years. TeamLab interactive exhibitions pop up around Japan from time to time, and their distinctive use of light, sound, and texture always draws crowds, but the two dedicated TeamLab museums have successfully become some of the most popular attractions in Tokyo. TeamLab Borderless and TeamLab Planets are known to be packed with people, who flood to fill the rooms decorated with interactive projection-mapped walls, floors covered in warm water, reflective glass, or squishy cushions, and ceilings hung with glittering lights or live orchids. But this undeniable popularity is why the decision to close TeamLab Borderless in August 2022 came as a surprise to many. Fortunately, the TeamLab museum is already set to return in 2023, in a new location not far from Tokyo Tower, called Azabudai Hills. Details from the project are still scant, although press releases promise some of the same popular flower-filled rooms and "aerial climbing" as before. We'll just have to wait until TeamLab Borderless reopens to learn more, and in the meantime, TeamLab Planets is fortunately still around despite years of limbo!

TeamLab Borderless (チームラボ ボーダーレス)
Official Website (jp)

② The Making of Harry Potter



Photo taken at USJ

When Toshimaen closed in 2020, there were certainly those who mourned the loss of the classic retro amusement park, which had welcomed Tokyoites for almost a century. But when one door closes another opens, and the large lot on the edge of central Tokyo is now being transfigured into the "Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo: The Making of Harry Potter." Modeled off the facility in London, this Harry Potter experience promises real sets and props from the making of the Harry Potter movies, spread over a footprint of 30,000 square meters. Just what scenes from the movie will be recreated in Tokyo is still being kept a secret from us mere muggles, but if this destination's offerings are anything like the hippogryphs and butterbeer in London, Harry Potter fans in Tokyo won't want to miss it.

(In the meantime, have you seen these amazing Japanese anime-style Harry Potter products from Japan? The Fred and George illustrations are particularly good.)

Warner Bros Studio Tour Tokyo: The Making of Harry Potter (ワーナーブラサース スタジオツアー東京 ‐ メイキング・オブ・ハリー・ポッター)
3-58 Hayamiya, Nerima City, Tokyo
Official Website (jp)

③ Ikebukuro’s Renovated Animate



Animate under construction

For 40 years, the Animate's flagship store has been a symbol of Ikebukuro and the area's status as an otaku culture destination. (Some otaku even say that Ikebukuro is superior to Akihabara, especially for hobbies like cosplay.) The towering building has become a go-to shopping destination for all things anime-related over the decades, and to celebrate that impressive 40-year history, the already expansive facility is getting even bigger. The newly renovated Animate flagship store, opening in early 2023, is a whole 10 floors packed with anime and manga goods, along with more niche items like otome games, boys' love, and doujinshi. To really make the place special, however, the Ikebukuro Animate flagship will also have multiple event spaces, a gallery, a cafe, and a dedicated theater! Anime otaku will never want to leave.

The experience of being surrounded by all your favorite things is what makes a trip to the new Animate indispensable for anime fans in Tokyo. But if you're stuck halfway across the world (or even just outside of Tokyo), there are still great places to shop for anime and manga merchandise online! Check out Sofmap or Hobby Stock for a great selection.

Animate Ikebukuro (アニメイト池袋本店)
1-20-7 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima City, Tokyo
Official Website (jp)

An Exciting Year for Japan



The last few years in Japan have felt like one long intermission, especially with Japan's closed borders lasting so much longer than most of the world. But all that waiting means that there's a lot of exciting news coming in the next twelve months! These six spots are all absolute must-sees for the year of 2023, but they're also just the tip of the iceberg. Don't miss out on all the fun!

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⚔️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
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⚔️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

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用JAPANKURU的KOJIMA x BicCamera優惠券買這些正好❤️
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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~
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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!
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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!
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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

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MAP OF JAPAN

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    • HOKKAIDO

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      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).

    • SAPPORO

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      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!

    • FUKUSHIMA

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      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.

    • YAMAGATA

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      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.

    • TOCHIGI

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      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.

    • NIIGATA

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      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.

    • SHIZUOKA

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      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.

    • CHUGOKU

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      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.

    • HIROSHIMA

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      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.

    • SHIKOKU

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      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)!

    • FUKUOKA

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      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.

    • KAGOSHIMA

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      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.

    • OKINAWA

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      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.

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