Mapped out: Japan’s Best Photo Locations
The top 18 places you need to visit.
You asked, and we answered! We're elated to announce Explorest's launch in the country of Japan! Expanding our coverage to this remarkable country has been a goal of Explorest’s for years, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with six talented Japanese creators @_deepsky, @rkrkrk, @yuma1983, @georgiarisa, @tokio_kid, and @_h1roya to bring you even more exclusive photo locations around the world.
Each one of the aforementioned creators has traveled extensively through Japan and captured the country in a way we’re beyond proud to share with our community. From the vibrant cherry blossoms in the spring to sacred temples in the autumnal mountains, we’ve got it all! Follow along below as we take you on a journey through the top 18 places to visit in Japan.
The Great Buddha at Hotei with Traffic Light Eyes
Starting off strong on our list of the best photo locations in Japan, @_deepsky brings us this inventive shot taken in Konan, Aichi. The two blazing red traffic lights serve as abstract eyes on The Great Buddha at Hotei and the cherry blossoms indicate the arrival of the country’s much-anticipated spring season.
The alluring combination of modern technology and classic architecture makes for a captivating image in Japan and we encourage all who visit to get carried away with their creativity and see what kind of faces you can create with the surrounding traffic lights, architecture, and landscape.
Nachi Falls and Seiganto-ji Temple
Regarded as the highest solitary waterfall in Nachi Falls stands 133 meters tall (436 feet) and is in the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Visitors to Nachi Falls can enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings, take a hike through the surrounding forests, and visit the nearby Nachi Taisha Shrine. The picturesque Seiganto-ji Temple sits atop the hills with the free-flowing waterfall in the background—a sight to behold for any visitor. This area is a perfect example of nature complimenting architecture—a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Old Nakasendo Street in Tsumago-juku
This next featured photo is one of our favorite photo locations in Japan. Tsumago-juku was originally built in the Edo-era, between 1603 and 1867. Since then, it’s been expertly preserved and restored to stay in premium shape. The beautiful architecture and lush mountains attract travelers, photographers and locals who prefer old to new, history to modern times, and quaintness over busyness.
Don't miss this town, which is a window to Japan's past. Take a step back in time and experience what life was like in Japan hundreds of years ago.
Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi and Cherry Blossoms
Also known as “Fuji-san”, the active volcano, Mount Fuji, is Japan’s tallest summit. It reaches over 3,776 meters and hikers from all over the globe visit to conquer the trails of the challenging mountain. What’s even better, Mount Fuji is only about 100 kilometers outside of Tokyo, making it easily accessible to travelers.
On his journeys through Japan, @_deepsky was able to find a picture-perfect photo spot that showed the volcano in the distance as it’s framed by cherry blossoms along Kawaguchi Lake. If you’re not an avid hiker, this lakeside viewpoint of Mount Fuji is for you—and it’s just as photogenic!
Koizumi Inari Shrine
Now we want to show you @rkrkrk's favorite place to take photos in Japan, like this image of the Koizumi Inari Shrine. A tunnel of vermillion will unfold in front of you as you pass through the 200 torii gates leading to the Koizumi Inari Shrine. The gates create three different lines, each 100 meters long, making a crimson-colored pathway that is as haunting as beautiful and mysterious.
When you’re visiting this spot, make sure to bring a friend! A human subject in the photo will bring a sense of scale to the image. It’ll also create a focal point that will help to balance the picture cohesively.
Waki Honjin Okuya
Travel back in time to waki-honjin in the historic town of Tsumago-juku in Nagano. Wreathed in cypress trees, the waki-honjin is a peaceful place that’s one of the most impressive historic structures in Tsumago. The eye-catching beacons of light inside the structure make for a strong, powerful and moving image, and during midday, the sunbeams will be at their strongest, so make sure to visit then. Another tip is to immerse yourself in the historical past and have your model dress in traditional clothing as an homage to the customs.
Kadokawa Musashino Museum Bookshelf Theater
This famous library is a fusion of an art gallery, culture house and museum. In 2020, the Kadokawa Musashino Museum was opened by one of Japan's largest publishing companies that’s primarily known for their manga magazines. When you stand in the space, you’ll see how massive the eight-meter-tall bookshelves are—a dream for any literary lover! There are over 50,000 books and the shelves are stacked, making for a captivating image that instantly draws you in.
Ancient Lotus Hall Observatory view of Rice Field Art (2022)
Arguably one of the most interesting photo locations we have on the Explorest travel app, the Rice Field Art (行田市田んぼアート会場) changes every year as the crops grow. And even when it changes, the mural continues to be an attraction year after year. In 2022, @yuma1983 captured the art depicting a scene with mountains, a wave and a man dressed in traditional clothing. Stand inside the Ancient Lotus Hall Observatory and gaze onto the field, taking in the intricate detail of the landscape artwork. We promise once you’re there, you’ll realize you’ve never seen anything like it!
credit: @yuma1983 — discover Ancient Lotus Hall Observatory view of Rice Field Art 2022 on the Explorest app
Yuma hit it out of the park with this absolutely breathtaking photo from Rurikō-in Temple! Can you even believe those colors? They resemble a painting more than a picture because of their vibrancy. This photo spot is quietly nestled in the mountains, just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of the city, so when you’re there, you’ll feel a sense of peace and serenity. Visit and experience the zen-like atmosphere as you snap a picture of the harmonious shades of green, yellow, orange and red.
Prada Tokyo Aoyama Staircase
Calling all luxury shoppers—this photo spot is for you! Designed by Swiss architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron, the Prada Tokyo Aoyama store is as fashionably exquisite as the clothing and accessories inside. The geometric building, with sleek, crisscrossing glass panels, appears as though it changes slightly when viewed from different angles. @yuma1983 stood on the exterior of the building to get this perspective, and in doing so, was able to capture a subject walking down the staircase. The final image blends light, shapes and design all in one for a photo that’s one-of-a-kind.
Nasu Flower World
Our next featured photographer and model is @georgiarisa, who primarily focuses on stunning portraits with equally alluring backdrops, like this blooming flower garden in the Tochigi prefecture. A quick two hour drive away from Tokyo, Nasu Flower World (那須フラワーワールド) is brimming with seasonal flowers, such as roses, lupins, tulips and more. Explore the rows of vibrant plants and then stop to admire the Nasu Mountains far off in the distance—such a dreamy scene!
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑) is a slice of heave in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This serene setting is sheltered from the busier areas of Tokyo, making it an ideal place for moments of true peace. The delicate Japanese gardens and moss-laden trees cover the grounds and fill up the space with a picturesque landscape. Take a walk through the gardens and admire the ponds, cherry blossoms and other unique flora.
Meigetsu-in Temple Hydrangea Blossoms
Next up, Georgia takes us to a photo location that’s almost 1,000 years old! The Meigetsuin Temple, also called Ajisaidera (meaning Hydrangea Temple), was founded in 1160 and constructed in memory of a loved one. This romantic setting can be visited year-round, but in the summer, you’ll get to witness the pathways bursting with powder blue hydrangea blossoms—hence the temple’s other name. For synchronicity, we recommend having your model dress in a hue similar to the flowers. The end result is a beautiful display of color that’s so aesthetically pleasing.
Hanayagura Observatory view of Mount Yoshino
Experience the valley of Mount Yoshino during the fall season, just like @tokio_kid. From the Hanayakura Observatory, you can see the rolling hills, with splashes of autumnal colors throughout the landscape. It’s an incredible view, especially because you have a panoramic view of how the architecture seamlessly blends in with the mountain, coexisting in such a photogenic way. If you happen to be there in the spring instead of the fall, you’ll be met with thousands of cherry blossoms instead of fall foliage. No matter the season, this view shouldn’t be missed!
Shaka Nehan (Nirvana statue of Buddha) at Nanzoin Temple
Until you’re there, it’s almost impossible to comprehend the size of Shaka Nehan—it’s massive, weighing 300 tons! This temple, which is also known as the Nirvana statue of Buddha, resides in Sasaguri, Japan. The 41-meter-long figure represents the Buddha at the moment of his death when entering the final stage of Nirvana, a peaceful transition known as the time when we’re released from our suffering. If you really want to emphasize the structure, have a model stand in the frame and see how they compare to the giant Buddha.
Ginzan Onsen (Silver Mountain Hot Spring)
Known chiefly for its winter views, the town of Ginzan Onsen is a remote hot springs location hidden away in the countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. Ginzan Onsen directly translates to “Silver Mountain Hot Spring,” and when the town was first founded, it was actually built for silver mining. In @tokio_kid’s image, you can see the city’s original small-town charm, enhanced by the Taisho-era buildings and small wooden bridges. And even though visitors flock to see the architecture, the main attraction for this area is the bathhouses with naturally heated hot springs. Visit and experience the hot springs for yourself—it’s worth the trip!
Chureito Pagoda, Mount Fuji and Cherry Blossoms
The Chureito Pagoda is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Japanese culture, history, and natural beauty—and @_h1roya's beautiful image shows you why. The views of Mount Fuji are truly breathtaking, and the pagoda's significance as a symbol of peace makes it a unique and meaningful place to visit. Visit during the spring and you'll enjoy the vibrant cherry blossoms. On a clear day, you can see the entire mountain from the pagoda's vantage point. The pagoda was built in the 1960s to honor the memories of those who died in World War II, both Japanese and non-Japanese.
Tsunoshima Bridge and Amageseto Strait
Tsunoshima Bridge and the beautiful North Nagato coast are dreamy places to be. It's the second-largest bridge in the entire country (1,780 meters long), and with land and the Genkai sea in view, photographers are awarded endless opportunities to snap engaging images. On a clear day, you can see the surrounding islands and the distant mountains. Don't miss out on this beautiful place to connect with the surrounding landscape, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and take photos of Japan's grand bridge.
If you want to discover new photo spots, download the Explorest app today. We provide insider recommendations to help you photograph your travels, near and far.