9 Oldest Cities in Japan

9 Oldest Cities in Japan

Japan is a land of ancient culture and tradition, and many cities and towns in the country have been around for centuries, some even dating back to prehistoric times. From the bustling metropolis of Tokyo to the small fishing villages of Okinawa, Japan has a fascinating variety of cities, each with its unique history and culture.

Nine of the many cities in Japan stand out as the oldest, each with its own ancient story to tell. These nine cities have been around for centuries, some even predating written history, and have witnessed countless events in their long and storied past.

So if you’re looking for an unforgettable journey through time, look at these nine oldest cities in Japan.

9. Himeji

Year Founded: 1346
Area: 534.4 sq. km.
Elevation: 150 ft.
Population: 536,170 (2023)

Himejiphoto source: Japan Guide

Himeji is a city located in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. It is most famous for its stunning Himeji Castle, also known as the “White Heron Castle,” which is considered one of the finest examples of feudal-era Japanese architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Himeji Castle was built in the 14th century and has undergone several renovations and expansions over the centuries.

Its unique design and extensive fortifications have made it one of the best-preserved castles in Japan, and is considered a symbol of the country’s rich cultural heritage. In addition to Himeji Castle, the city is also home to several other historic temples, shrines, and other cultural sites, making it a popular destination for tourists and history buffs.

Did You Know?

The city is also known for its traditional gardens and parks, which are beautiful places to relax and enjoy the local scenery.

8. Tsuwano

Year Founded: 1325
Area: 307.1 sq. km.
Elevation: 518 ft.
Population: 7,478 (2017)

Tsuwanophoto source: Japan Experience

Tsuwano is a small, traditional city located in the Shimane Prefecture of Japan. It is known for its well-preserved Edo-period (1603-1868) architecture, which includes several historic shrines, temples, and traditional buildings. One of the most famous landmarks in Tsuwano is the Taikodani Inari Shrine, a colorful shrine dedicated to the god of harvest and prosperity.

The shrine is located on a hill overlooking the city and is surrounded by thousands of torii gates, making it a popular destination for tourists and photographers. Overall, Tsuwano is a charming and traditional city that offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Japan and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the country’s rich heritage.

Did You Know?

The city is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, including rolling hills and scenic rivers, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating.

7. Kamakura

Year Founded: 1192
Area: 39.6 sq. km.
Elevation: 62 ft.
Population: 173,588

Kamakuraphoto source: Encyclopedia Britannica

The city of Kamakura is located in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. It is famous for its rich history and cultural heritage and is considered one of Japan’s most important cultural centers. The statue is housed in the Kotoku-in Temple, a popular destination for tourists and pilgrimages.

Kamakura played an essential role in Japanese history, having served as the capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333 and being the center of political and cultural activity during that time. Today, it is a vibrant and modern city that remains deeply connected to its past and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history and culture.

Did You Know?

One of the most famous landmarks in Kamakura is the Kamakura Great Buddha, a massive bronze statue of the Buddha that is considered one of the largest and most impressive examples of its kind in Japan.

6. Kagoshima

Year Founded: 1053
Area: 547.6 sq. km.
Elevation: 1,056 ft.
Population: 586,000 (2022)

Kagoshimaphoto source: GaijinPot Travel

Kagoshima is located on the southern tip of Kyushu Island in Japan. With a population of almost 600,000, it is the 8th largest city in the country. It is known for its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The city lies on the shores of Kinkō Bay, where the towering volcano Sakurajima is visible on the horizon. It is also the gateway to some of Japan’s most beautiful natural sights.

Kagoshima is home to the beautiful Shiroyama Park, the vibrant Tenmonkan shopping district, and the famous Senganen Japanese garden. Kagoshima is also well known for its food. It’s renowned for its pork dishes, including kakuni and tonkatsu, as well as its specialty sweets, such as satsuma imo and warabi mochi.

Did You Know?

The city’s craft beer, sake, and shochu are also popular with tourists.

5. Kyoto

Year Founded: 794 CE
Area: 827.8 sq. km.
Elevation: 1,608 ft. (on average)
Population: 1,463,444 (2022)

Kyotophoto source: Financial Times

Kyoto is a city in the Kansai region of Japan, famously known as the “cultural capital.” It attracts numerous tourists from all over the world due to its rich history and cultural heritage. In addition, Kyoto is renowned for its iconic landmarks, such as the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the Golden Pavilion.

Kyoto is also a feast for the eyes. Its stunning natural beauty consists of rivers, mountains, rolling hills, and scenic spots like the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Philosopher’s Path. In addition, the city’s unique culture and history make it a must-visit destination for those looking to experience traditional Japanese architecture and nature or explore its vibrant temples and shrines.

Did You Know?

The city also boasts museums, art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

4. Nara

Year Founded: 710 to 794 CE
Area: 276.9 sq. km.
Elevation: 185.04 ft.
Population: 367,393 (2023)

Naraphoto source: Japan Guide

Nara was the capital of Japan during the 8th century and is one of the country’s oldest cities. Nara, which is part of the Nara Prefecture, is famous for its rich cultural heritage and historical landmarks and temples, including the Todai-ji Temple, which houses the giant bronze Buddha statue in Japan.

The city is also known for its beautiful parks, including Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming deer considered sacred in the Shinto religion. Nara is a popular tourist destination and attracts visitors from all over the world interested in experiencing traditional Japanese culture and history.

Did You Know?

Other popular attractions in Nara the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, the Naramachi historic district, and the Nara National Museum.

3. Nagasaki

Year Founded: 607 CE
Area: 405.9 sq. km.
Elevation: 58.46 ft.
Population: 403,000 (2023)

Nagasakiphoto source: GaijinPot Travel

Nagasaki is situated in the western part of Kyushu Island in Japan. As a port city, it has a rich and diverse history, having served as a hub for international trade and exchange since the 16th century. The city is infamous for being one of the two cities in Japan to endure the catastrophic impact of an atomic bombing during World War II.

In memory of this tragic event, Nagasaki has established numerous monuments and museums, such as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, as a symbol of peace.

Nagasaki is also renowned for its rich cultural heritage, including the Dejima Dutch Trading Post, Japan’s first European settlement, and the Glover Garden, a collection of 19th-century Western-style houses. Other notable attractions include the Nagasaki Ropeway, Oura Catholic Church, and Mount Inasa Observation Deck, offering panoramic views of the city.

Did You Know?

In 1634, the city became Japan’s first center of European civilization with the establishment of the Dejima Dutch Trading Post.

2. Kumamoto

Year Founded: 558 CE
Area: 390.3 sq. km.
Elevation: 46 ft.
Population: 738,000 (2023)

Kumamotophoto source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Kumamoto, located in the Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan, is a city steeped in cultural and historical significance. It is renowned for the grand Kumamoto Castle, one of Japan’s largest and most well-preserved castles, initially constructed in the 17th century and refurbished in the late 19th century.

The city is also renowned for its natural beauty, notably the Aso Kuju National Park, housing the towering Mount Aso, one of the largest active volcanoes in Japan. The park offers breathtaking views of the picturesque countryside, including the vast Aso caldera, a volcanic crater.

Kumamoto is a foodie’s delight, with its delicious local cuisine, including “tonkatsu” ramen, a pork-based noodle soup, and “basashi,” a regional specialty of raw horse meat.

Did You Know?

It also boasts several hot springs, the famous being the “Yunokawa Onsen.”

1. Fukuoka

Year Founded: 57 CE
Area: 343.4 sq. km.
Elevation: -23 ft.
Population: 5,490,000 (2023)

Fukuokaphoto source: tsunagu Japan

Fukuoka is considered the oldest city in Japan, with a legacy that spans thousands of years. It has evolved from a small fishing village into a bustling metropolis renowned for its unique combination of traditional and modern cultures. The city boasts several cultural landmarks, such as the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, a highly regarded shrine dedicated to the god of scholarship.

Additionally, Fukuoka is famous for its delectable cuisine, including “motsunabe,” a hot pot made from beef or pork offal, and “mentaiko,” a regional delicacy of marinated roe. The city is dotted with numerous parks and gardens, the most popular being Ohori Park, a spacious park in the heart of the town that is perfect for picnics, jogging, or simply unwinding.

Did You Know?

Fukuoka is also well-known for its lively nightlife, with a thriving bar and club scene that draws visitors from all over.


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