Must-see Old Cities in Japan


Kurashiki Canal ©xiquinhosilva/Flickr

Japan is a very old country: archeologists demonstrated that the Japanese archipelago was already inhabited in 14.000 BC. From the very beginning, the inhabitants had gathered in groups and started to establish small communities, villages and later cities.

Japan’s historical cities had managed to maintain the traditional and cultural environment of ancient Japan. Many shrines, temples and other buildings transmit the feeling of the ancient past. Japan has many old and historically valuable cities. In this article, I’ve selected some of the most beautiful old cities of Japan.


Nara Yakushiji

Yakushiji, an old pagoda in Nara ©andyket/Flickr

Nara is considered to be the oldest city in Japan; it was the country’s capital in the 8th century AD. The city gives place to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. These historic monuments are shrines, temples, a palace and a primeval forest. National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties can also be found here.

Nara, a previous capital of Japan is still considered as a very important city. It attracts thousands of tourists every year. Not only the historical buildings, but festivals, nice parks and cherry blossom spots also attract visitors.



Karatsu Castle

Karatsu Castle, Fukuoka ©colincookman/Flickr

Starting from the 13th century, the city was an important port. It is rumored that Fukuoka is the oldest city of Japan: it was founded around the 5th-6th centuries. In 1889 Hakata and Fukuoka’s castle town were united to form today’s Fukuoka.

Several castle ruins, old temples, shrines and parks attract tourists. Daizafu, a small city near Fukuoka also provides many historical places.




Kurashiki Canal ©xiquinhosilva/Flickr

Kurashiki city was an important rice distribution center. Many storehouses, which were used to store rice, were turned into shops and museums. During the Heian and Edo periods the city was a river port.

The most interesting sight of the city is Ohara Museum, Japan’s oldest Western art museum. The canal area is also an important place; it belongs to Bikan Historical Quarter. The canals were made to enable the boats to ‘navigate’ in the city.




Kitano-cho, Kobe ©Stéphane D/Flickr

Written documents claim that the city was founded in 201 AD by Empress Jingu. It was also an important port and the capital of Japan in the 12th century. In the 14th century it became an important hub for trades.

Rokku mountains and the sea provide a lovely environment to the city. Kobe also has a historical Chinatown (called Nankinmachi), many parks, museums and gardens. Kitano, a former merchant area represents the historical importance of the city.



Yokohama Chinatown

Chinatown of Yokohama ©hirotomo/Flickr

Yokohama is the second biggest city of Japan. At the beginning, it was just a fishing village, but in the 18th century it became an important port. Soon after the opening of foreign trade, Yokohama became a major city.

The most important sight of the city is the historical Chinatown. It is the largest Chinatown in Asia, with more than 205 China-themed restaurants and shops. Besides this, many museums, Japanese gardens, parks and traditional restaurants provide the beauty of the city.

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