The best places to stay in Japan span some of the world’s largest and most modern cities, gorgeous mountainside towns and a majestic countryside. Few other countries in the world blend the excitement of urban life with natural beauty as well as Japan, all of which can make it very difficult to actually decide where to stay in Japan.
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The 10 best places to stay in Japan: from Tokyo to Hokkaido
From the magical urban sprawl of Tokyo to the adventurous island of Hokkaido, here’s where to stay in Japan.
1. Tokyo: the coolest place to stay in Japan (& the best place for first-timers)
Arguably the best place to stay in Japan, Tokyo is an incredible metropolis offering a breathtaking snapshot — and then some — of contemporary Japan.
In Tokyo, you’ll find many of Japan’s best hotels, restaurants and things to do. The list of places to see and explore is nearly endless. Dance and party in the electric wards of Shinjuku and Shibuya, enjoy Japanese fine dining in Ginza, enjoy upscale shopping in Roppongi, explore Japanese culture in Asakusa, marvel at Japanese pop culture in Akihabara….
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2. Kyoto: where to stay in Japan to explore Japanese culture
Whereas Tokyo represents modern Japanese society, Kyoto is a case study in Japan’s traditional culture. You’ll still find all the major elements of a modern city here, but also thousands of temples and examples of Pre-War architecture, many of which are hundreds of years old.
Kyoto is easily the best place to stay in Japan if you want to explore Japanese culture and architecture. The most notable examples include Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple and the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Or, get off the beaten path in Kyoto and explore Japan’s natural beauty in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
3. Osaka: where to stay in Japan for authentic Japanese food
Also known as “Japan’s Kitchen,” Osaka is the best place to stay in Japan to sample both authentic Japanese cuisine and international gastronomy. In fact, Osaka is widely regarded as one of the best foodie cities in the world.
The Namba area of Chuo Ward, in central Osaka, is the city’s liveliest district, with the top nightclubs, bars and restaurants. It also borders the Osaka Castle area, which almost feels like a separate world. Between the two areas, you can experience the best of Osaka’s modern and traditional Japanese culture.
4. Hakone: the best place to stay in Japan for a romantic getaway (or the hot springs)
Hakone is a huge departure from the bustling cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka — all of which are home to millions upon millions of people. In contrast, Hakone’s population totals less than 12,000 people.
It’s the perfect place for a quiet, countryside getaway. And with stunning views of Mount Fuji and the relaxing atmosphere of its famed hot springs, it’s a romantic spot for couples, too. If you’re spending at least a week in Japan, particularly near Tokyo, Hakone offers a great change of pace — and it’s one of the most unbeatable places to stay in Japan.
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5. Hokkaido / Sapporo: where to stay in Japan for adventures in nature
If you’re looking for one of the best places to stay in Japan that (almost completely) forgoes the urban scene, Hokkaido is an island just north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Sapporo, which is best known for its breweries, is Hokkaido’s only major city.
Otherwise, the island largely serves as an outdoorsy sanctuary, with limited development centered on exploring the island’s gorgeous natural scenery. Hiking, snow sports, fishing and otherwise enjoying Japan’s countryside are the top attractions here. Check out our guide on the best months to visit Japan for weather details.
Overall, Hokkaido is one of the most unique places to visit in Japan — and one of the most beautiful.
6. Naoshima: Japan’s “art island,” and where to stay for a laid-back, cultural excursion
Naoshima doesn’t have the same star power as Tokyo or Osaka, but this small island in the Seto sea is one of the best places to stay in Japan for a relaxing, cultural experience. It’s rarely crowded (on the same scale as Japan’s larger cities, anyway), but it’s can’t-miss territory for travelers with a keen interest in unique art and architecture.
Art installations, museums and fun Art House projects — a trend where older homes are renovated in unique and interesting ways — can be found throughout the island, which is also quite scenic in itself. The beaches of Naoshima are gorgeous and decidedly low-key throughout much of the year.
7. Yokohama: the best place to stay in Japan for shoppers, foodies & entertainment seekers
Yokohama, unofficially part of the larger Tokyo metropolis, tends to get overshadowed by its internationally famous sister city. But don’t let that keep it off your radar — Yokohama makes a great case for being one of the best places to stay in Japan in its own right.
It’s considerably less crowded than Tokyo throughout the year, yet offers many of the same experiences and attractions. And again, Tokyo is actually quite close. You could totally stay in Yokohama and enjoy day trips to Tokyo to get the best of both cities.
In any case, Yokohama is a hub of great shopping, gastronomy and authentic Japanese entertainment. The waterfront area — marked by a massive and beautifully lit Ferris wheel — is especially inviting, and typically where you’ll find the best accommodations.
8. Okinawa: one of the best places to stay in Japan for locals & beach lovers
A favorite destination among both Japanese locals and international travelers, Okinawa is one of the most unique places to stay in Japan. Over millennia, its distance from the main island of Honshu led to the development of its own distinct and rich culture — from customs to architecture to, of course, its gastronomy.
Beyond the cultural appeal of visiting Okinawa, though, the island is undeniably gorgeous. The beaches here are among the best in Japan, and the main draw for many travelers.
If you’re planning a longer trip to Japan, Okinawa offers an enjoyable change of pace and scenery from Japan’s metropolises. Book your trip with Fora and we can help you build a tailored itinerary that’ll take you all over Japan’s best places to stay.
9. Kamakura: where to stay in Japan for medieval architecture & popular beaches
Kamakura has a unique vibe to it. And while Kamakura is still (unofficially) part of Tokyo’s massive metropolis, it feels far removed from the latter’s urban sprawl. Almost everywhere you look, you can expect to see gorgeous centuries-old Buddhist or Shinto temples along with lush gardens, small forests and quaint rivers in between the city’s contemporary elements. The balance between development and nature is delightfully harmonious.
And while Kamakura isn’t quite as close to Tokyo as Yokohama, day trips to the big city are still easily accessible. You could visit Tokyo one day, then enjoy Kamakura’s gorgeous beaches the next.
10. Nara: one of the best places to stay in Japan for families & culture junkies
Nara is another excellent place to stay in Japan for an authentic and less crowded experience. The city is famous for its unusually tame deer population, which casually coexists with locals throughout the city. It might be a strange sight to see cute deer strolling through Nara’s parks and streets, but (respectfully) interacting with the deer is perfectly acceptable for travelers, and a potentially magical experience for families.
Beyond friendly deer encounters, Nara once briefly served as Japan’s capital, leading to significant cultural development. Scenic temples, quiet gardens and contemporary goodies make Nara a fun place to explore in its own right, but it’s also quite close to Osaka if you’re eager for day trips (see our Osaka travel guide).
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