Sometimes people ask me, "Where's your favorite place in Japan?" Well, that's a difficult question. I have several favorite places for completely different reasons. I have yet to travel all over Japan, but I've been to some of the "hot spots" so to speak. In my opinion, these places are cool, but if you already live in Japan or plan to visit, maybe you'd have a different opinion. I'll also name some popular places that I'm not that fond of for various reasons.
In no particular order, here are my Top 5 Places in Japan:
1. Ueno, Tokyo: For a taste of Tokyo that doesn't completely overwhelm the average tourist or traveler, Ueno has a good blend of stuff that makes Tokyo popular without all the insanity of more popular places. There's a zoo there, several museums, and also tons of shops. The popular shopping area Ameyoko is also nearby which can provide tourists with tons of little souvenirs to take home. I enjoy Ueno Park as well, as it's pretty open and sometimes there are various performers about. There are also a staggering number of homeless people here, but that's not really a good reason to visit.
2. Minato Mirai, Yokohama: This is bar-none one of my favorite places in Japan. The giant Cosmo Clock Ferris wheel is a pretty famous landmark and very beautiful during night time. It's a pretty busy area, but not too much. I like Yokohama more than Tokyo because it has a lot of the same charms, yet Yokohama feels more open and less cramped. There's also several ships in the port to look at and it's a nice place to go for a romantic stroll during the night. I personally like going here in the winter time as it has lots Christmas lights up and makes the walk around that much more entertaining. Also, World Porters has lots of shopping stuff inside if that's your thing.
3. Kiyomizudera, Kyoto-This is a temple in Kyoto which I really enjoyed visiting. It has a breath-taking view during the autumn season with all the changing leaves and is nestled in the mountains for an even better view! This is one of the more famous temples in all of Japan and was extremely crowded when I visited there. I highly recommend Kyoto overall for a "balanced" visit in Japan, as you can see some modern things and still get a taste of the old capital with lots of traditional temples. I spotted a maiko (geisha in training) when I was there and that was sort of cool to just see her walking around.
4. Hakone, Kanagawa- Hakone is a popular tourist spot mostly for its famous onsen (hot springs) but I liked it for its stellar view of Mt. Fuji from one of the nearby mountains. We took a trolley up to the top of this mountain and hiked around and also took a boat ride on the lake. I got sunburned the worst I've probably been in a long time, but it was worth it. This is a great place to relax and enjoy a leisurely stay if you're in Kanagawa.
5. Enoshima, Kanagawa- This list heavily favors Kanagawa as that's where I live, so I have some bias when it comes to talking about the area. Enoshima is really awesome for me. There's a nice beach to hang out at and winding steps up a mountain that leads to many different shops and temples littered throughout. The climb of the steps had this haunting drum music following us everywhere that gave a really cool vibe. I took some time to stare out over the sea wall and smell that salty air. Really makes me relax a lot. The trip all over was tiring but definitely worth it. I highly recommend a stop here especially during hotter times.
Now, here's my list of places that I don't like very much personally. Feel free to give them a shot, but they're not places I'm really into.
1. Roppongi, Tokyo-Roppongi is sort of the gaijin (foreigner) paradise. There are tons of bars, tons of places for entertainment and debauchery. Well, I'm not in my 20s anymore, so that kind of stuff doesn't interest me as much. Plus, the place usually gives me a creepy vibe. I did have a wonderful night here once at a work-related party at the Ritz Carlton with an amazing view of Tokyo Tower lit-up from the 48th (?) floor. But that's unlikely to happen again. So, I have mixed feelings about Roppongi. I've heard many bad stories from other people getting in trouble there, but if you know how to take care of yourself, you should be OK.
2. Shinjuku/Kabukicho, Tokyo-Probably my least favorite of the Tokyo wards would be Shinjuku. I don't know, it just doesn't do anything for me. This area is extremely popular with Kabukicho being more of the "night-life/adult entertainment" district. I was harassed one time when I went down there (I guess I looked like an easy mark) so it put me off on visiting there in the future. Just not really my cup of tea. But I've heard if you really want to get into the more "edgy" side of Japan, Kabukicho is your first stop.
These two places stand out to me the most as being "not my thing," but I'd recommend going there if you're smart with your money, careful with your drinks, and don't follow strange women to strange bars. Then maybe you can still have fun there without ending up in jail at the end of the night.
So, hope you enjoyed by lists! Feel free to ask any questions about other recommendations if you'd like!