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Orange Leaves

10 Unmissable  Secret Spots
to Visit in Japan in 2024

Japan: Where sushi meets skyscrapers and serenity! Tokyo's neon buzz, Kyoto's ancient temples, Osaka's street food galore—each city a chapter in a wild manga adventure. Bullet train to Hiroshima, pay respects, then off to Fuji for cable cars and Instagram gold. Don't forget the countryside charm of Shirakawa-go and Takayama.


Pack light, eat big, and bow often. Japan: the land of the rising fun! 

10. 石垣島Ishigaki Island (沖縄口Okinawa)


The beautiful Kabira Bay of Ishigaki Island, located at the southernmost tip of Okinawa Prefecture, was named one of Japan's best travel destination islands in 2024. Okinawa itself is Japan's most popular beach resort, attracting visitors year-round with its stunning ocean, unique culture, and tropical cuisine. Okinawa boasts over 100 remote islands, with over 30 inhabited. A direct flight from Tokyo is what you need.

Firstly, Ishigaki Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer tourists than the main island. It is renowned for its emerald green waters of Kabira Bay and the Mantaray Scramble diving spot. Exploring hidden beautiful beaches or enjoying local delicacies like Ishigaki beef are also great options.

Highly recommend taking a ferry to the nearby Taketomi Island for a different natural experience. Visiting Ishigaki Island and its neighbouring islands allows you to experience different natures and cultures, potentially offering a more unique experience than the main island of Okinawa. It's best to visit before it becomes the most famous beach resort destination.

How Long to Spend: 3 nights minimum but 5 nights would be better.! A longer stay also allows you to avoid the crowds more easily and take some of these wonderful day trips at a slower pace.

9. ニセコ町Niseko (北海道Hokkaido)


The snowy scenery of Niseko, located in Hokkaido, is now one of Japan's most famous tourist areas, attracting short-term and long-term visitors from around the world. In 2024, it remains one of Japan's top travel destinations. Niseko is situated slightly west of Sapporo, the central city of Hokkaido, and to the west of New Chitose Airport.

Undoubtedly, the main attraction of Niseko is its high-quality snow, known as powder snow, perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Niseko United, comprised of Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort, Niseko Village Ski Resort, Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, and Niseko Hanazono Ski Resort, is well-known. 

Even outside of winter, visitors can enjoy the natural blessings brought by Mount Yotei in the Niseko region. Fukushima Park in Kyogoku Town is famous for its delicious water, a natural creation of the park and Mount Yotei. The crystal-clear, white Shiribetsu River flowing at the foot of the Niseko Mountains offers enjoyable river activities. Of course, Niseko also offers abundant fresh seafood and high-quality natural hot springs (onsen) commonly found in Hokkaido.

How Long to Spend: 5 nights or longer if you want to take a round trip across the whole Hokkaido.

8. 清水寺Kiyomizu-dera Temple(京都市Kyoto)


Kyoto's must-visit— the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, is the oldest temple in Kyoto. Perched on a cliff, it's a remarkable example of traditional post-and-beam architecture. Though originally built in the Heian period, most of what you see today, including the main hall, dates back to the early Edo period, rebuilt under Tokugawa fir.


The iconic "Kiyomizu Stage" juts out from the main hall, supported by 139 massive wooden pillars, intricately assembled without a single steel nail or iron, making it a rare example of suspended architecture in Japan.

On a clear day, the panoramic view from the Kiyomizu Stage offers breathtaking vistas of the entire Kyoto cityscape, with landmarks like Kyoto Tower visible. Not just during the day, but the sunset glow and night views from here are equally stunning, so time your visit accordingly if you're a fan of twilight or nighttime scenery. Whether it's the blossoms of spring, the waterfalls of summer, the fiery foliage of autumn, or the delicate snow of winter, Kiyomizu-dera gathers the essence of Japan's ancient capital, ensuring visitors are captivated by its beauty throughout the seasons.

How Long to Spend: 1 day for an authentic Kyotoites experience

7. 池袋Ikebukuro(東京Tokyo)


How Long to Spend: 1-2 days for pure happiness.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights for an authentic Tokyoites experience

The night view of Ikebukuro Tokyo remains the gateway to Japanese travel and the most popular tourist area, with its charm seemingly fully explored. However, Tokyo's travel trends change every year. What should you do in Tokyo in 2024? Explore pop culture in Shibuya or Harajuku. Experience the nightlife of Shinjuku? Shop for anime and manga in Akihabara? Indulge in premium sushi in Ginza?

This time, I want to introduce Ikebukuro. It's a well-known area within Japan, famous for its large electronics stores and department stores near the station. However, the reason Ikebukuro is now in the spotlight is that it's becoming a new hub for pop culture. While Akihabara is typically associated with otaku culture like anime and manga, Ikebukuro has garnered particular attention lately, especially after the major anime store Animate reopened on a large scale in 2023. Ikebukuro also boasts shops themed around Studio Ghibli, Pokémon, One Piece, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Furthermore, Ikebukuro offers reasonably priced hotels and hostels, as well as a variety of Japanese cuisine to enjoy, such as ramen and conveyor belt sushi. Geographically, Ikebukuro is located in the heart of Tokyo and serves as a hub for many JR lines and subways. Experience a closer look at Tokyo's everyday life in Ikebukuro.

How Long to Spend: 1-2 nights for an authentic Tokyoites experience

6. 妻籠宿Tsumago-juku (長野県Nagano)


From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya, then transfer to the JR Shinano Limited Express line for Nagiso Station. From there, Tsumago is just a 10-minute bus ride away. Taxis are also available due to infrequent bus service.

If you crave the tranquillity and timeless charm of a quaint town, where walking on cobblestone streets feels like stepping back into an era when horse-drawn carriages roamed, Tsumago is your ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle. Once a renowned lodging post-town, Tsumago will transport you to the bygone days of Japan's Edo period, where the former bustle and prosperity have transformed into a collection of quaint yet elegant inns, awaiting your discerning taste.

How Long to Spend: a day trip for a historic experience

5. 金閣寺Kinkaku-ji ( 京都市Kyoto)


Constructed in 1397, Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, boasts a history of over 700 years. It suffered a devastating fire in 1950, nearly destroying it, but was reconstructed in 1955 to its original splendour.


Prior to visiting Japan and without reading any related information, Kinkaku-ji was one of the few impressions of Kyoto, so it was a must-see. While I've visited numerous temples and shrines in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji truly stands out—it's memorable and distinctive, no wonder it's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Originally named "Rokuon-ji," the temple earned its famous moniker "Kinkaku-ji" due to its exterior covered in gold leaf. Witnessing it firsthand was quite stirring. While the temple isn't as large as imagined, it's incredibly exquisite and dazzling. Nestled quietly by the lake, seamlessly blending with the surrounding gardens and trees, it exudes elegance, drawing attention effortlessly.

Moreover, it's worth noting that the reflection of Kinkaku-ji in the lake is a favorite photography spot for travelers. I took a few shots, and they truly captured its beauty! Without the nearby lake and garden landscaping, perhaps Kinkaku-ji wouldn't be as enchanting.

How Long to Spend: a day trip for a historic experience

4. Universal Studios Japan ( 大阪市Osaka)


Universal Studios Japan is conveniently located, and easily accessible from both downtown Osaka and surrounding transportation hubs: only 11 minutes from Osaka Station, 16 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station, and 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport.

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka is a must-visit destination for travellers exploring the Kansai region!

For avid fans of Hollywood movies, explore "New York," "Hollywood," "San Francisco," "Jurassic Park," and "Waterworld" sections to relive thrilling memories of iconic films. Those who love dinosaurs must experience the adventurous atmosphere of "Jurassic Park." For fans of the magical world, "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" is a top choice. Cartoon enthusiasts should head straight to "Universal Wonderland" and "Minion Park." Gaming enthusiasts must visit "Super Nintendo World" to experience classic Mario games transformed into exciting attractions, where you can even hit blocks and collect coins—it's so much fun, you'll want to come back again and again!

Super Nintendo World

#WE ARE MARIO!! Unleash your gaming instincts to the fullest! Experience thrilling family fun at the world's first "Super Nintendo World™." Using cutting-edge technology, the park brings the Mario Kart race track to life, allowing you to compete for victory in "Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge." This global first Mario Kart-themed park is sure to send your adrenaline skyrocketing!

How Long to Spend: 1-2 days for pure happiness.

3. 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館Ghibli Museum (三鷹市Mitaka)


The Ghibli Museum, nestled in the Tokyo satellite city of Mitaka, is surrounded by lush greenery, hence its name "Mitaka no Mori" or "Forest of Mitaka." With a strict reservation in place, visitors must purchase tickets in advance for designated entry times. These tickets are unique, resembling "film cells" featuring scenes from Ghibli movies, serving as cherished mementos.

Designed by the animation master Hayao Miyazaki himself, the museum is brimming with Ghibli elements from beloved films like "My Neighbor Totoro," "Castle in the Sky," and "Spirited Away." Here, visitors encounter not only whimsical architecture and iconic characters but also original sketches and behind-the-scenes materials. The souvenir shop and themed café are also major attractions.


The Ghibli Museum not only showcases Miyazaki's storytelling prowess but also shares the stories behind his creations. Miyazaki, known for his renowned animated films, has been a part of many people's childhood memories. Join the Ghibli Museum in stepping into Miyazaki's fantastical world of creativity—become a lost child wandering through the Forest of Mitaka!


The museum is easily accessible from Mitaka Station via a dedicated bus or a leisurely stroll. It's not far, and the scenery along the way is delightful. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a "Totoro" statue in the reception area—though, remember, they don't sell tickets there!

How Long to Spend: 1 days for pure cutiness.

2. 姫路城Himeji Castle  (兵庫県Hyōgo Prefecture )


"Himeji Castle" is one of Japan's earliest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. "Himeji Castle," nicknamed the "White Egret Castle" for its stunning white walls and roofs, stands proudly with its multi-tiered keep, presenting an awe-inspiring sight. Unharmed by wars or disasters, Himeji Castle retains its ancient charm in pristine condition.


During cherry blossom season, Himeji Castle attracts tourists from all over who come to admire its beauty and elegance, as well as the nearby temples and gardens. Its iconic architecture has made it a popular filming location for movies, dramas, and TV shows. Well-known productions like "The Last Samurai" starring Tom Cruise and Hou Hsiao-hsien's "The Assassin" have used the nearby thousand-year-old temple. 

After capturing beautiful photos of Himeji Castle against the backdrop of cherry blossoms, why not try on the classic Japanese "ninja attire"? Learn the standard ninja poses from professional ninja actors and take a commemorative photo with Himeji Castle. Before heading home, you can even choose to bring back a souvenir like a ninja shuriken or headband!

How Long to Spend: 1 day as a ninja in your dreamy castle. 

1. 鎌倉Kamakura   (神奈川県Kanagawa )


Kamakura- Original Scene from "Slam Dunk": A Must-Visit in a Lifetime. 


When Kamakura is mentioned, many people think of "Slam Dunk," which is a classic work full of memories for many. Countless people visit Kamakura as a pilgrimage, to see the seaside where Haruko and Sakuragi waved to each other, walk along the Shonan coast where Rukawa Kaede used to go to and from school, take a photo in front of Kamakura High School, and personally experience the hot-blooded youth on this quiet coastal area.


The Enoshima Electric Railway, with its over a century of history, is hailed as one of Japan's most romantic train lines. Travellers can ride the train along the coastline to Shonan, where outside the train windows, they can see the lush greenery of the mountains and shimmering ocean. Enoden is not only a convenient mode of transportation but also an essential experience when visiting Kamakura!

How Long to Spend: 1 day as SlamDUnk dream comes true.

Before You Go

Travelling to Japan could be completely or partially different from your past travelling experiences and this could stress you, especially when you can't understand the Japanese language and some tips. Here are the quick guides, I wish you success on the speedrun.

Now you have your secret places list to visit in Japan in 2024.

Pack light, eat big, and bow often.  

For more help mastering communication skills while travelling, you can book some Japanese lessons with one of our teachers. We also run tons of cultural experiences so get ready to immerse yourself in the Eastern world!  

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