Japan is truly a splendid country. It’s a nation with vibrant cultural heritage, old traditions carried over to the modern era, and globally renowned history.
We’ve only been to Japan once, but we stayed there for quite a long time. Despite that, we felt that we haven’t had enough of the country. In fact, among the countries we’ve visited, Japan is one of the countries we’d love to go back to, always.
The country may appear small on the map but being there made us feel that it’s bigger than we expected. It is divided into 47 prefectures, which are districts that are under the government of a prefect.
If you’re planning to visit Japan, there are prefectures that you shouldn’t miss. To make it easy for you, we ranked the top 11 prefectures of the Land of the Rising Sun. Our bases for this ranking are the prefecture’s historical significance, iconic landmarks, number of travel activities, and, of course, our personal perspective.
From 11th to the top
11. Fukuoka – Its capital, which is also called as Fukuoka, is one of the top ten most populated cities in Japan. The prefecture as a whole offers a good mix of cultural destinations, traditional food experiences, and modern city life. Fukuoka is also famous for yatai stalls, or street-side food stalls, that sell ramen and other goodies. One of the biggest bronze statues of Buddha in the world can also be found in Sasaguri, Fukuoka.
10. Ibaraki – This prefecture is located northeast of Tokyo. It may not have a lot of landmarks as compared to other prefectures but it is where you could find Hitachi Seaside Park. A theme park and flower garden in one that is open all year round. The Park’s flowers change depending on the season. But of course, it’s during springtime that you could fully witness its true beauty.
9. Hyogo – A prefecture located in Kansai Region, just an hour away from Osaka. The Himeji Castle, Japan’s biggest feudal castle which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site, is located in Hyogo. The Castle known as the White Heron is also one of the best places to see the Cherry Blossoms during the spring season.
8. Kanagawa – Located just at the south of Tokyo, this prefecture is home to two of the famous cities in Japan — Hakone and Yokohama. Wanting to see Mt. Fuji? Then you can view the majestic mountain in Hakone. Kanagawa is also home to several colourful parks with fields of different flowers depending on the season.
Photo by c7corvette1327
7. Osaka – It is, in our opinion, the second busiest city in Japan. Osaka, like Tokyo, offers a fusion of modern and traditional culture. One of the most intricate castles is also located here — the Osaka Castle. Plus, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you’ll get a chance to enter the wizarding world for a day in Universal Studios located at Osaka Waterfront.
6. Hokkaido – The name literally means Northern Sea Circuit. It is the second largest island in Japan located in the northernmost part of the country. It’s a famous destination for both foreigners and local tourists for being one of the go-to winter destinations. It also has some of the most beautiful flower gardens and famous Onsen (hot spring) towns.
Photo by Deltaworks | Furano Flower Park
5. Nara – Formerly known as Heijo and is the first permanent capital of Japan. It is also the home to the country’s most iconic temples. One of which is Todaiji, the world’s largest wooden building which houses one of Japan’s biggest bronze Buddha statues. Nara also offers a unique experience to interact with deer freely roaming around the city.
4. Kyoto – The former capital of Japan boasts so many iconic destinations that will definitely transport you back to the era where ancient Japanese emperors, feudal lords, or even samurais once ruled the country. The city was plagued by wars and fires but it’s spared from the attack during World War II. Kyoto is also the home to Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkakuji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
3. Yamanashi – You may not have frequently heard of Yamanashi yet, but this prefecture is the closest and one of the best places to see Japan’s pride — Mt. Fuji. It has five famous lakes that could reflect Fuji-san itself. Seeing the majestic mountain from this vantage point is one of the most picturesque places to marvel at the world-famous mountain.
Photo by K2-Kaji
2. Tokyo – Japan’s current capital is definitely a must-visit. Tokyo has a buzzing city life that is not on par with the rest of prefectures. It is also the centre of the country’s pop and traditional culture, shopping, biggest parks, and the world’s busiest intersection — Shibuya Crossing.
1. Hiroshima – This prefecture needs no introduction since it has been a topic in several history classes worldwide. You may not be thrilled to visit Hiroshima but trust us that a day or two in it will enlighten you in so many ways. A visit here will totally change your perspective about war and may even wrench your heart after immersing yourself in its dark past once you visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial. However, you’ll be amazed by how this prefecture has risen from the ashes, how people remain humble and have embraced peace, and how they look at life with so much hope and faith.
Our ranking is definitely not etched in stone. Your perspective and experiences may be different from ours. However, regardless of your top destinations and prefectures, Japan is without a doubt a country that every traveler should visit at least once.
Stay-tuned for more of our Japan adventures in the coming weeks as we go into the details of our experiences in each prefecture that we’ve visited.