Japan is a country surrounded by hype and spectacular promises. But with that comes an awful lot of tourists and some rather overrated attractions. When you’re forking out on an already expensive trip, you want to make sure you’re making the most of it and seeing the true highlights that Japan has to offer.
Read our helpful guide to find out which cities and areas you should avoid before booking your trip.
Japan’s Most Overrated Cities
Tokyo is a wonderful city, full of spectacular sights – but many of these are actually quite overrated. The Tokyo Imperial Palace is one of them, as it’s not open to tourists. This sacred palace is beautiful, but it can only be seen from a difficult viewing distance as it is hidden on the other side of a fence. If you’re visiting Tokyo for its beautiful gardens, then you are much better off visiting Ueno Park or Shinjuku Koen.
In addition to this, the impressive Tokyo Tower is arguably overpriced – costing around $22 to reach the top of the 250-meter tall building. Although there are lots of cool things to do inside, including listening to live music, if you’re trying to do your holiday on a budget, then this is definitely one you can scratch off the list. There are plenty of similar options that are free for tourists to venture into, such as the Metropolitan Government Building.
Furthermore, the Tokyo Sky Tree is also slightly overrated. As with any big tourist attraction, you are bound to get hour-long queues to reach the top, take a quick photograph, and be ushered back down again. At a staggering $40 to ascend the 634-meter tall building, there are certainly better things that you could be spending your hard-earned cash on.
Unless you’re looking for geishas or visiting the famous Golden Temple, then don’t bother making the trip to Kyoto. Of course, the Golden Temple is beautiful and one of the best-preserved sites in Japan, but it’s an awfully long trip to visit one temple. There are plenty of other temples to see around Japan, so do some research before you set off.
Speaking of geishas, the Gion district of Kyoto is famous for them – attracting thousands upon thousands of culture-thirsty tourists each year. However, being in such high demand, Geisha girls are actually quite difficult to find, and in most cases, will be unwilling to stop and pose for photographs.
Working in local restaurants and hotels in the area, they are very busy and are very rarely seen in the daytime. If you do happen to spot a lady dressed as a Maiko or a Geisha, then it’s highly likely that they are fakes, dressed up to have photographs taken.
Instead, try visiting during the Gion Matsuri Festival, where you can be sure of seeing the girls perform traditional dances.
Famous for its futuristic and almost magical cosplay presence, this little street in Harajuku was once the hotspot for cosplayers and gaming teenagers to hang out in their spare time. However, it soon became known around the world, with thousands of tourists flooding the street each year looking to buy ‘authentic’ souvenirs and capture photos with some of the typical residents.
If you are looking for the same free spirit that used to exist here, try visiting the neighborhoods of Koenji, Nakano, or Shimokitazawa, where you will find a variety of live musicians, vintage clothing stores and cozy coffee shops and cafes.
Nikko is renowned for its rich history, beautiful cedar avenue, and jaw-dropping shrines and temples. But this means it can become very busy. If you’re looking for a day-trip out of Tokyo, Nikko is one of the most popular destinations – not exactly a restful burial place for the deceased.
Compared to other Japanese areas, the shrines are also quite overpriced, costing around $17 to get into. Instead, if you’re looking to escape the bustling city of Tokyo for one day, you should try visiting some more local shrines in Mount Takao or Kamakura.