With the world on lockdown and travel restrictions in place, many of us are home bound for the foreseeable future. However, sitting at home does not mean having to stop exploring the world. If anything, now is the time to get inspired and begin daydreaming about your next adventure in life. Thanks to the possibilities of the internet, it’s possible to take a virtual tour of Japan using Google Maps and Street view. Possibilities include viewing the Cherry Blossoms, climbing Mt. Fuji, strolling through Arashiyama bamboo forest, and visiting some of the most remote places in Japan. We’ve collected 20 of the best places to visit in Japan with Google Maps to showcase the possibilities and help you stay inspired.
1.) View the beauty of the Sakura
The best time to visit Japan is during the Sakura season when the cherry blossoms bloom. For a week or two, cities turn a beautiful pink as a sign that spring has come again.
In Japanese the term Hanami is used to mean “viewing the Sakura blossom”. Since 2012, it has been possible to see the yearly bloom of Sakura within Japan through Google Street view. Just like walking around in real life, you’ll walk around with other revellers, sharing the experience of marvelling at the cherry blossoms, all without having to worry about social distancing.
2.) Marvel at the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji
Climbing Mt. Fuji is a tough ascent, that will take you to the 3.776 m high summit. The climbing season normally is from early July to mid-September. The price of the hike up is worth it to see the early sunrise over the land of Japan.
With Google Street view you can do it any time of the year, without preparation and from the comfort of your own chair. The sunrise from the top looks amazing, and it’s interesting to see how Fuji-san looks up close and how many people you encounter on the route up.
3.) Explore Himeji Castle
Himeji castle is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Japan and was recently renovated.
Use Street view to see the castle, walk around the castle complex and explore Koko-en, the castle gardens. To visit Himeji castle virtually go here and here to visit Himeji for the real-life experience.
4.) Walk Shibuya Crossing – the busiest crossing in the world
Shibuya Crossing is a world-famous and iconic intersection in Shibuya, Tokyo, just outside Shibuya station. During busier times of the day, approximately 2,500 people are thought to cross each time the traffic light turns green.
Shibuya itself is famous for fashion, youth culture, many kinds of entertainment, and endless shopping opportunities. Don’t limit yourself to seeing just Shibuya crossing, see where adventure leads you in the Shibuya ward.
5.) Virtually get soaked in a Japanese Onsen bath
Visiting a Japanese bath is something everyone should experience at least once. There is a wide range of public and private Onsen throughout Japan and many can be seen on Street View.
There are countless Onsen around Japan. As a starting point visit: Manza Onsen Nisshin Kan, Jinata Hot spring or Shirahama Onsen. Try a search yourself, as you never know what you may find, such as these cute capibara taking a bath. Learn more about Japanese bathing here.
6.) Go on a virtual train ride in luxury
With Google Street View it’s possible to walk through many trains in Japan. Some options include the famous bullet trains as well as more luxurious trains specifically designed for enjoyment.
Have a wander around the most luxurious Shinkansen car class offered, the Shinkansen “Gran Class”. Then, walk down the train and compare that with how most people travel. Jump right in here.
7.) Attend the Saga Balloon Festival
Held every year for five days from late October to early November, the Saga Balloon Festival is the largest international hot air balloon competition in Asia.
Walk around and see the many hot air balloons take to the sky. There’s no need to wait until fall, you can experience the festival right now here through Street View.
8.) Take a stroll around the Hitachi Seaside Park.
About 2 hours north of Tokyo, Hitachi Seaside Park boasts a stunning array of flowers that bloom year-round such as blooming narcissuses, flaming Kochia balls and baby blue eyes. Then combine that with a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean, for a colourful display you won’t forget.
The park has around 200 hectares that are open to the public, and makes for great hikes, that can be done all digitally. The colours of the park are completely different each season, so you’ll want to come more than once.
Visit the Hitachi Seaside park digitally here
9.) Huis ten Bosch – a taste of Holland in Japan
Japan likes to bring the world to Japan. There is the Statue of Liberty in Tokyo and Swiss Alpine Village in Azumino, so why not build a Dutch city near Nagasaki? It is even complete with windmills and tulip fields.
At first glance when walking around Huis ten Bosch, it very much looks like a European town. However, once you start looking at the details, then you begin seeing the Japanese influence on things. It’s a fun little game of I spy with my little eye.
Start spotting yourself right here.
10.) Adachi Museum of Art and most beautiful zen garden of Japan
View the most picturesque Japanese garden at Adachi Museum of Art! Located in the upper regions of the Shimane region, the Adachi Museum of Art is not easy to visit during normal times, yet can be visited online with just a couple clicks.
It’s possible to virtually walk both the Zen garden and the galleries that host most of the museum’s twentieth century paintings.
Visit the Adachi Museum virtually here.
11.) Go urban exploring on the Abandoned Island of Hashima
Featured in James Bond Skyfall, the island used to be a base for mining activities. One day the island was shut down and people left within moments. Ever since, the island has remained uninhibited.
Using Street View you can go explore the island yourself, without having to worry about your safety. There’s even a virtual boat tour that will take you around the island.
Start your urban exploration of Hashima Island here.
12.) Walk around Tokyo station – without having to worry about getting lost.
From the outside, Tokyo station looks like a 19th century station building, not unlike elsewhere in the world. Yet, within, it’s an entirely different beast. On an average day about 3.5 million people pass through and there is well-planned infrastructure to accommodate for such heavy use.
Tokyo station can be fully explored via Google Maps: walk the everlasting corridors, go up to the platforms and get on board a train. Don’t worry about getting lost, you can always use the back button in your browser.
Enter Tokyo station virtually here.
13.) Endless torii-gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha
One of the most iconic sights in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of the Kami Inari, Deity of Rice. The complex is famous for its endless rows of Torii-gates. Trails going up mount Inari pass many smaller shrines, with a panoramic view of Kyoto on top.
Climbing up takes about 2 hours, though you can do so virtually without breaking a sweat from the comforts of your home.
Start your Torii-adventure here.
14.) See the beauty of the Kyushu coastline at Sakurai Itoshima
One of the top 100 most beautiful sunset views in Japan, Sakurai Futamigaura in Itoshima is famous for the two giant “married couple rocks” that are joined by a “Shimenawa” rope and the torii gate standing on the beach.
Kyushu is the laid-back region of Japan, due to its warmer weather and beautiful beaches. It has beautiful outdoor areas and Itojima belongs to the best. Take a virtual walk along the beach while imagining the sound of the ocean waves, the sea birds and a slight breeze passing by. For one moment you don’t need to be anywhere else.
Start your walk on beach here.
15.) View Fuji from the Chureito pagoda.
Located in the Arakurayama Sengen park, the Chureito Pagoda is the most quintessential view of Japan, period.
The view is often used on the cover of Japan travel guides and promotional materials and certainly does not disappoint. It’s especially scenic during the Sakura period and during autumn when the whole area turns red.
Start marveling here, and enjoy the majestic view of Fuji.
16.) Shiroyama Park – see the Kagoshima skyline with Mt. Sakurajima in the distance.
This is a personal favourite of many. Shiroyama park used to be where the local governor lived and with good reason. The view over the Kagoshima skyline is amazing, with the active volcano named Sakura-Jima in the distance.
Imagine sitting here in the shade on a hot summer day, with a refreshing cold drink, looking at the Pacific with smoke rising up from the Sakura-jima caldera in the distance. There’s simply no other view like this in Japan.
Have a look for yourself here.
17.) Cape Nosappu – the most eastern point in Japan
Cape Nosappu, close to the sleepy town of Nemuro, is the most eastern point of Japan and where the sun rises earliest. It’s one of the most remote places of Hokkaido and on a clear day, it’s possible to see Russia in the far distance.
Coming here is no easy feat. From Tokyo it is a 7-hour train ride to Sapporo, then another 6 hours by train to Nemuro and then a further 40 minutes by bus. Yet, here we are with just a quick search query.
Look into the far distance yourself here.
18.) Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s most visited attractions, and with good reason. There’s something magical about walking through the tall, swaying bamboo trees. Adding to the illusion, as you walk among the bamboo forest, the sun catches the branches and shimmers through at different angles casting enchanting shadows.
If you do visit, digitally or in person, make sure to go further than just the bamboo forest. There’s a lot more to explore in the area such as temples, old trails and the nearby monkey forest.
19.) Kawachi Wisteria Garden
There are different places in Japan to see Wisteria in full bloom, though the Kawachi Wisteria Garden is by far the best. Located about 30 minutes by bus from Kokura city, it’s a popular spot to visitors who are looking for the best Instagram moments in Japan.
The downside of its popularity is that the garden has had to start implementing time slots for visitors. However, there’s no need to wait online!
Visit the Wisteria right here.
20.) The Golden Pavillion in Kyoto.
Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion is perhaps the best-known temple in Kyoto . It is famous for its top two floors which are completely covered in gold leaf. Around the temple is a beautiful Zen garden to walk around in.
Take a moment to wander around the complex, enjoy the grounds and small shrines scattered throughout. You’ll notice that the Golden Pavilion is very popular and there are crowds all around. Having a look at who is visiting is a good source of entertainment itself.
See the Golden Pavillion youself here.
How to explore Japan using Google Maps youself
The above is just an example of the countless highlights of Japan. By using Google Maps you can explore and discover an endless variety of wondrous places. If you’re new to Google Maps, then here’s how to get started.
The first step is to go to Google Maps and do a general search. This can be a city you are interested in like Tokyo, Kyoto or Hiroshima.
You’ll then see the map view of the city, now look at the bottom right of your screen and there is a little man in yellow (we like to call him Bob). Drop click Bob and drag him over to where on the map you want to start exploring. It’s that easy.
So now it’s your turn, go out there virtually, and show us what you can find!