1. Tokyo Skytree - Tokyo Skytree was constructed as a tourist attraction, broadcasting and observation tower in 2010 in Sumida, Tokyo for cost of 65 billion JPY. It stands 2,080 feet tall making it the tallest tower in the world, and the second largest structure in the world becoming open to the public in May of 2012. It is primarily used for TV broadcasting for the Kanto area because the Tokyo Tower could no longer provide adequate coverage due to being surrounded by newly constructed skyscrapers.
Fun Fact: On the 5th and 6th floor you can find the Sumida Aquarium.
2. Broadcasting Towers - Towers are located in just about every region of Japan. They have a wide variety of architectural styles and serve as TV broadcasting towers, business offices and public attractions such as observation decks, as well as offering shopping and restaurants. The Abeno Tower in Osaka stands 984 feet tall (300 meters) and is the tallest building in Japan. TV towers can be found in Sapporo and Nagoya, each with the purpose of providing TV broadcasting to the surrounding areas.
Fun Fact: The Nagoya TV Tower was destroyed two times in different Godzilla movies, once by Godzilla in Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964), and again by Battra in Godzilla Vs. Mothra (1992 remake).
3. Station Towers - While traveling through Japan I found it very fun getting off the Shinkansen in different major cities in Japan and seeing the station towers. They offer a wide variety of hotels, shops and restaurants and are a popular destination for travelers who want to hit the ground running. My favorites are the Kyoto Tower because they have a ramen alley offering different types of ramen from all over Japan, and Osaka Station City because, as the name implies, it is basically a giant vertical city.
Fun Fact: Kyoto station is home to a ramen shop serving an illusive, Kyoto-style ramen that utilizes a chicken base. Find it here.
4. Todai Temple - This temple began it’s constructed in Nara in 728 AD, and sits majestically surrounded by lawn space and pagodas. Currently it is 157 feet wide and 160 feet long, but it is actually 30% smaller after being reconstructed due to a fire in 1567. Besides it’s astounding size, it also holds the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, Daibutsu.
Fun Fact: There is a hole in one of the supporting columns. Superstition states those who can crawl through the hole will have good luck. It’s a tight squeeze, but worth a shot!
5. Castles - Castles are scattered all through the Land of the Rising Sun. They range in size and authenticity, some are the same structure from hundreds of years ago and some are reconstructed to replicate the original structure (while offering modern conveniences such as air conditioning and elevators.
Inuyama CastleFun Fact: Himeji Castle is also known as the White Heron Castle due to the architecture resembling a bird taking flight.
6. The Golden Pavilion - Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, rests in western Kyoto atop a pond surrounded by a picturesque garden. You have probably seen pictures, but this is one place you really need to see for yourself. Originally built in 1397 as a retirement home for Shogun Ashikaga, but was later converted into a Buddhist Temple by his son. After a monk set it on fire in 1950 the temple was rebuilt and slight additions to the gold and interior have been made since then. The building is 3 stories of different styles of architecture (zen, samurai and shinden) on each floor. The outside of the building is covered entirely with gold leaf.
7. Ise - Ise Grand Shrine is located in Mie Prefecture to the west of Nagoya about 2 hours away by Kintetsu train. It was built to honor the goddess of Amaterasu-omikami and currently holds one of three sacred items. It’s construction began in 4BC, and is currently rebuilt every 20 years as a part of the Shinto tradition.
Fun Fact: It’s architectural style is forbidden to mimic in any other part of Japan.