Japan is, by far, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited; whether you prefer a sparkling ocean, expansive mountains, intricate cityscapes or all of the above – you will find a stunning view there without having to look very hard. Though there are surely many more, I have selected my top five personal favorite views of Tokyo and Kyoto from our travels there this summer.
#5: Tokyo Tower Observation Deck
The iconic Tokyo Tower stretches high above the Tokyo skyline, and is hard to miss due to its bright vermilion color and latticed metal design. The structure is the second tallest in Japan, and has been visited by 150 million people since it was built in 1958 (that’s 6,737 a day). We went to this famous building during our first full day in Tokyo and found the views from its nearly 360-degree observation deck to be spectacular.
#4: Chureito Pagoda
This pagoda outside Tokyo in Yamanashi is one of the most famous views of Mount Fuji. A small group of us ventured here during our first free day with the hopes of seeing the famous volcano ourselves. However, the weather had very different plans for us, and we ended up caught in the rain and surrounded by storms completely blocking the view of Mount Fuji. Atop a giant hill, we ran past the pagoda and under a small pavilion to shelter ourselves from the downpour, where we were surprised with a less-obstructed and beautiful view of the town below. We soaked in this view for quite a while and waited for the storm to pass.
#3: Top of Enoshima
During our day trip to Kamakura, we took a short detour to Enoshima, a small island located in Sagami Bay. The island featured many food vendors, tourist shops, and two interesting jet skiers performing (?) to Cascada’s “Every Time We Touch” on repeat for about two hours, because why not? A trek to the top of the island led us to a shrine, and a look-out deck with a jaw-dropping view of the ocean that seemed to go on forever.
#2: Monkey Park
Who would guess that wild monkeys running around the top of a mountain out in the open and flashing their red bums to a bunch of tourists would only be the second most impressive thing about a place? Not me, initially. During our time in Kyoto, some of us visited Monkey Park Iwatayama, where we were able to see Japanese macaque monkeys living in their natural habitat. The hike up to the park was a bit more than any of us were expecting, but when we arrived, an incredible view of Kyoto and its surrounding mountains awaited us, monkey bums included.
#1: Hasedera Temple’s hydrangea path
And finally, my absolute favorite view in Japan was from the hydrangea path at Hasedera Temple. This place was so stunning and the in-season hydrangea blooms reminded me of my childhood home, where we had them growing beside our driveway. The views of the beach and ocean, combined with the lush hills and colorful flowers were just amazing to take in all at once.
(The featured image at the top of the post is by Tyra Williams. All other images were taken by author unless otherwise indicated.)