Honshu is Japan’s main and most central island, home to cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and also the most popular island for tourists to visit.

Honshu is home to many different cultures and a fine example of modern Japan. There are tonnes of things to see and do in Honshu, but that doesn’t mean that Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido aren’t also worth visiting.

In this article, Superprof is looking at why you should visit Honshu and what you should do when you’re there. From cultural trips to shopping and food, Japan is waiting for you.

The Biggest Cities in Honshu

If you’re looking for some urban tourism during your time in Japan, Honshu is probably the best place to go. The island is home to some of Japan’s largest cities so you’ll have plenty to do.

Which is the biggest city in Honshu?
Honshu is home to many big cities and the biggest is Japan's capital, Tokyo. (Source: sofi5t)

Most of Japan’s tourists go to Honshu and Tokyo in particular. This city is home to over 42 million people and everything you could ever want to do, but back in the Edo period, it was just a simple fishing village!

There’s so much to do in the capital city that we couldn’t list everything. If you’re looking for something to do in Tokyo, there are a few unmissable neighbourhoods or districts to visit like Shibuya and Shinjuku, to name a couple.

In addition to excellent restaurants, museums, shopping, and even Disneyland, you won’t be bored. We recommend dedicated at least a week to visiting Tokyo. You’ll need time to see the Imperial Palace, Akihabara if you like anime and manga, and the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa.

However, Tokyo isn’t the only Japanese city in Honshu that you should visit. Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city is home to a castle, aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, theatres, temples, and would take you a few days to see.

We also recommend Kyoto with its temples and shrines. The city was the capital until the 19th century. You can also enjoy Japan’s history and culture by visiting the Gion district or attending a Japanese tea ceremony.

There are so many cities to visit in Honshu:

  • Hiroshima
  • Kamakura
  • Miyajima
  • Nagoya
  • Nara
  • Yokohama
  • Chiba
  • Shizuoka
  • Hamamatsu
  • Niigata

To experience more of urban life in Japan, we recommend Tokyo if it’s your first time visiting Japan.

Find out more about Japan's main islands.

Trips Around Honshu

There’s more than just large cities in Honshu. There are a lot of places worth visiting in Honshu.

Which are the best trips to go on in Honshu?
No trip to Honshu is complete without a trip to Mount Fuji. (Source: kimura2)

The most popular trip undertaken by tourists is to Mount Fuji. It’s an extremely popular destination and Japan’s highest mountain/volcano is an important natural, cultural, and historic site.

It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 as  “Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration”. Just take Hokusai’s works as an example.

There are plenty of travel agencies that can organise trips to Mount Fuji for you. Trips normally take a whole day and you’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery, shrines and torii, and food in local restaurants.

To really discover Japan, you have to go to Mount Fuji.

There are also trips you can take in Honshu including the Hakusan National Park in the central Chubu region. The park covers over 477km2 and is great for hiking.

We also recommend checking out the onsen in the region. These thermal springs are found all over the Land of the Rising Sun. They’re great for your skin or just relaxing.

The most famous onsen in Honshu include:

  • Ōedo Onsen Monogatari (Odaiba, Tokyo)
  • Jinata Onsen (Shikine-Jima)
  • Taragawa Onsen (Gunma-Ken)
  • Kinosaki (Kansai)
  • Lamp no Yado (Noto-Hanto)
  • Shirahama (Wakayama-Ken)
  • Asakusa Kannon Onsen (Asakusa, Tokyo)

Don’t hesitate to venture outside of the Japanese capital to discover other amazing places.

Discover what there is to see and do in Kyushu.

Visit the Most Beautiful Temples and Shrines on the Island

Japan is home to plenty of temples and shrines. There are both Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines.

What is the main religion in Japan?
Shinto, one of Japan's main religions, is as old as Japanese culture itself. (Source: viarami)

In Honshu, you can find tonnes of them. There are over a hundred in Tokyo itself including the famous Senso-Ji in Asakusa and the Meiji-Jingu in Harajuku. There are around 200,000 Shinto shrines across the whole of Japan.

If shrines and temples are your thing, you’ll want to head to Kyoto where there are 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shintoist shrines. The best known are:

  • Kinkaku-Ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
  • To-Ji
  • Higashi Hongan-Ji (Eastern Monastery of the Original Vow)
  • Nishi Hongan-Ji
  • Yasaka-Jinja
  • Ginkaku-Ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
  • Nanzen-Ji
  • Kiyomizu-Dera
  • Fushimi Inari-Taisha
  • Ryoan-Ji
  • Shimogamo Shrine

If you head to the northeast of Tokyo, you can also see Japan’s largest Buddha. The Ushiku Daibutsu is 120 metres tall and is easily much bigger than the Buddhas in Nara and Kamakura. You can climb 85 up the statue and visit a museum inside.

The town of Kamakura is also home to many temples. There are the Kenchô-Ji and Engaku-Ji with its gardens. There are also shrines including Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, which welcomes 9 million tourists each year.

Find out why you should visit Shikoku.

Try Honshu Culinary Specialities

When you travel to Japan, you have to try the food as it’s among the best in the world. You don’t go to Japan to just eat burgers (though the burgers there are excellent). You go there to try the local cuisine.

What should you eat in Japan?
So much great food, so little time! (Source: DesignNPrint)

Japanese cuisine is centred around fish and seafood. The most famous is probably sushi, raw fish often served on a bed of rice and seaweed with soy sauce and wasabi.

Making sushi is an art and you can even take classes on making it.

There are plenty of sushi restaurants in Japan, especially in the capital. The cost is normally quite high but there are chain sushi restaurants like Uobei for those on a budget.

Ramen is another common dish in Japan. For very little, you can get ramen all over Honshu. These are noodles in a meat or fish broth with egg or other ingredients depending on the dish.

You can get ramen all over the country and in Tokyo, of course. If you’re looking for cheap ramen, we recommend Ichiran Ramen.

Of all the dishes in Honshu, we also recommend you try:

  • Mamakari Sushi (Okayama)
  • Hotaru Ika (Toyama)
  • Sudachi Soba (Nara)
  • Kogashu Ramen (Kyoto)
  • Black Hot Dog (Akihabara, Tokyo)
  • Hida Beef Sushi (Takayama)
  • Tamago-Katsu (Tokyo)
  • Chanko Nabe (Tokyo)
  • Ebi-Imo Kaseiki (Kyoto)
  • Gyu-Katsu (Tokyo)
  • Oyakis (Nagano)
  • Kamaishi Ramen (Kamaishi)
  • Ichinoseki Mochi (Ichinoseki)
  • Nanbu Senbei (Aomori)
  • Hoto (Kanto)

Japanese cuisine is an important part of life in Honshu and this is a place where you can enjoy it. Try yakitori or takoyaki for an authentic Japanese experience.

Now you should know a bit more about Honshu. To learn more about Japan and its main cities, check out our other articles on the subject.

Check out why you should visit Hokkaido.

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If you're looking for a more personalised experience, one-on-one tutorials are an excellent way to learn. The tutor can teach in a way that works for you. As there'll only be you and the tutor in the class, you'll get plenty of opportunities to practise speaking Japanese, too. While these are usually the most expensive type of tutorials, they're also the most cost-effective as every minute is spent helping you to master the language.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.