Japan’s cities are the biggest (and we would say, best) in the world. Now, three Japanese cities have been ranked in the top ten to visit in 2024.
Japan is trending! Well, of course it is! This incredible country is at the top of almost every traveller’s ‘to-visit’ list thanks to the spectacular sights, sounds, and experiences it has to offer international visitors. Its cities are among the biggest and best in the world and in a recent poll of the top ten trending cities to visit in 2024 by Skyscanner, three out of the top ten cities on this exclusive worldwide list were from Japan - Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo. That means out of the thousands of cities in the world, three of the top ten that tourists are most excited about visiting are in Japan! Perhaps the only surprise from the poll was the order with Sapporo top at No.5, Osaka at No.6, and Tokyo at No.10. Of course, all three cities have a huge amount to offer visitors and we’re here to tell you all about their unique highlights as well as how best to travel from city to city with the JR Pass for unlimited travel on Japan’s world-leading rail network. Ready for a city break? Let’s go!
Three Trending Japanese Cities To Visit in 2024
1. Visit Tokyo
The big one! Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the biggest, most populous city in the world. The term ‘mega city’ was practically invented for Tokyo - it is a vast, sprawling, dazzling metropolis and a vision of the future, with more landmarks packed into one city than most entire countries have. Tokyo is a unique experience - a truly global city that’s also quintessentially Japanese, with a huge amount to see and do and a quirky character that’s all its own.
From the Tokyo Tower to Tokyo Skytree (both offering panoramic views across the city’s spectacular skyline), to Shibuya Sky and Shibuya Scramble - the world’s busiest crossing - to Tokyo DisneyLand and DisneySea, to entertainment districts like Akihabara and Roppongi, the anime and manga of Nakano Broadway, and the nightlife of Golden Gai to the greenery of Yoyogi Park and the grandeur of Tokyo Imperial Palace - the list of things to see and do goes on and on and on. There’s almost too much to cover. To learn more about Tokyo’s most famous districts and which ones suit your particular interests - be it food, nightlife, culture, shopping, anime, temples, shrines, or something else - read our guides to the city’s most popular areas such as Asakusa, Chiyoda, Akihabara, Roppongi, Odaiba, Ginza, Omotesando, Ueno, and more.
2. Don’t Miss Sapporo
Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, and in some ways, may come as a more offbeat recommendation. It’s certainly less touristy than Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. Sapporo and Hokkaido generally are becoming more and more popular with visitors who want to see a different side of Japan, as well as those who love colder, snowier climates.
Hokkaido is known for its spectacular snow and winter festivals and illuminations, its ski resorts and world-leading slopes, its regional food specialities, and more - all of which make its capital, Sapporo, an increasingly cool destination.
Read our guide to the Sapporo Snow Festival for more about that and our Starters Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan if that takes your fancy. You might also be interested in Asahikawa, Hokkaido’s snowy second city. For those interested in the northern island of Hokkaido, be sure to check out our 5-day Hokkaido Rail Itinerary. It’s essential reading.
3. Check out Osaka
Osaka is another of Japan’s mega cities. The second largest city in Japan and one of the top ten biggest cities in the world, Osaka offers many of the diverse experiences that Tokyo delivers, as well as a few of its own trademark attractions such as Osaka Castle, Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, Kuromon Seafood Market, and the legendary Dotonbori district, and the city is often called Japan’s kitchen due to its famously good seafood and legendary street food.
It’s neon lights were one of the inspirations for Ridley Scott’s iconic film Blade Runner (he also filmed the movie Black Rain in the city in the 1980s) and it was the first Japanese city to have a capsule hotel - a concept that has swept across Japan and become synonymous with the country. Like Tokyo, Osaka is vibrant and diverse with so much to do in one city it’s almost hard to summarise. Thankfully, we’ve put together detailed guides to many of Osaka’s most popular districts for entertainment, nightlife, food, and shopping, from the legendary canal district of Dotonbori to Umeda, Shinsekai, Namba, and more. Be sure to read up on the city before you visit.
Why Are Japanese Cities So Special?
Big In Japan - Japan’s Cities in Numbers
Visiting Japanese Cities by Rail
Japan’s major cities are connected by the country’s world-leading domestic rail network. The country’s clean, modern and super-fast trains and the unbeatable efficiency of its rail system is the envy of the rest of the world. It’s one of the many things Japan is famous for. Trains in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya are so efficient, many city dwellers do not own a car or even a driver’s licence. Read our Visitors Guide to Japan’s Trains and Railways for much more information. The Japan Rail Pass is your one ticket for all of Japan and provides unlimited travel on the entire national JR network, including the high speed Shinkansen bullet train lines. Travel at your own pace with unlimited freedom to explore Japan as well as free seat reservations, the best value travel, and the ability to upgrade to first class. Discover more about why a JR Pass is such a brilliant investment in our guide to Why The Japan Rail Pass Is Worth It. Here is a small selection of our recommended rail itineraries for seeing several major cities in Japan during one holiday with the Japan Rail Pass.
This 7-day itinerary was put together by our most experienced JR Pass advisors to offer the perfect 7-day itinerary with stops in three of Japan’s best cities.
This flexible itinerary has been designed to help you enjoy the best highlights Japan has to offer, bringing the modern, traditional and timeless together.
- For more on the subject of city destinations, read our in-depth guide to Cities in Japan - this comprehensive guide includes everything you need to know.
- Looking for cities more off the beaten path? Then our guide to The Less Frequented Japanese Cities You’ll Definitely Want To Visit is for you, with info on excellent but lesser known Japanese cities such as Kanazawa, Nikko, Beppu, Nagano, Kagoshima, Fukuoka, and Yokohama.
- Stay connected while exploring busy cities by investing in a PocketWifi device for constant internet access and high speed unlimited data. We highly recommended it.
- If you’re planning a visit to a Japanese city and it’s your first time in the country, why not make life easier by using our Meet & Greet service on arrival? It’s like having an expert on Japan as your personal assistant. We’ll take care of you from the moment you arrive.