Many people go to Japan to see beautiful cherry trees in the spring, spectacular maple leaves in the autumn., and breathtaking architecture and nature in between. While these may also be the most busy time of year for tourism in Japan, each of the sights I have put down here are perfect to be appreciated at any time of year. There are a few key sights in Japan that are not perhaps restricted by prefecture, and which are key to getting to know Japan and seeing the best of what the country has to offer.
The highest mountain in Japan is at the same time the most climbed mountain. Its beautiful white peak can be seen from Tokyo Skytree on a clear day, and it reigns between Tokyo and Kyoto. You can see it on the way to Kyoto if you are taking the Shinkansen train. The mountain can be climbed, and both locals and tourists go up to the top to take photos of the view from the highest point. This journey is no trifle- the most popular route takes five-seven hours and is only advisable to do in the summer, between July and August, when the mountain has no snow and the weather is mild. It is best to research the climb first, making sure to take a good shoes, a jacket, a headlight, water and snacks at the very minimum. An entertaining version of the climb is shown here from Abroad in Japan, and here you will be able to get more information about the route.
The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji is a must see when in Kyoto. Built originally as part of a retirement villa for the shogun Yoshimitsu, it is now under protection of UNESCO and the National Special Historic site. The pavilion is not the only thing to see at the estate- the garden is a perfect example of the Muromachi period design, and is worth viewing in all the seasons. Perhaps use this as an opportunity to taste some green tea among the beautiful surroundings at the tea shop at the end. For directions, check here.
Todai-ji is the landmark of Nara, and is one of the most impressive Buddhist temples in Japan. Its great size and the famous ‘Golden Buddha’ make the temple worth the train trip from Kyoto to Nara. The Daibutsuden or great hall is the largest wooden structure in the world. The road up to the temple is equally picturesque, complete with the Nandaimon gate, largest wooden gate leading you up to the temple. The road is also full of Nara deer, all begging the visitors for crackers and food. A must see when in Kyoto!
4. The Great Torii Gate at Itsukushima
The Torii Gate at the Itsukushima shrine is a true sight to behold- the red outlines reflects on the lake and rises up against the trees and buildings in the background. The first shrine in the area goes back all the way to the 6th century, and the setting is perfect to show the contrast between the structure and the woods. The gate can be enjoyed at two times during the day, during the high tide when the gate is viewed from the shrine on land, anat the low tide, when the island shrine is accessible on foot.