Photo: Pakutaso

New York Times makes a surprising pick for the best city to visit in Japan

By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

When you think of traveling to Japan, the first destinations to come to mind are likely the most popular: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and maybe Hiroshima. But Japan is a large country with a huge array of beautiful places off the beaten path, and it seems like that knowledge is spreading to more and more travelers.

U.S. newspaper The New York Times recently released a list of 53 Places to Go in 2023, and a Japanese city was second on the list, but it wasn’t one anyone would have expected. After London, the second-most recommended destination for 2023 was Morioka, the capital of Iwate prefecture in northeast Japan.

▼ Morioka Castle Ruins Park


Morioka is surrounded by mountains and intersected by multiple rivers, so despite lacking many famous sightseeing spots, its beauty set it apart as the list’s top destination in Japan for 2023. The New York Times highlighted Morioka Castle Ruins Park in autumn, decked out in the reds and oranges of the fall leaves, as an especially beautiful scene.

▼ Some of the mountains around Morioka


The New York Times described Morioka as a beautiful place to enjoy leisurely walks without large crowds, and just a quick ride by bullet train from Tokyo, to boot. The paper also loved the city’s mixture of Taisho era (early 20th century) architecture, old Japanese-style inns, and modern hotels, and the natural beauty of the city’s many rivers played a starring role as well.

Morioka is also famous for wanko soba, which is an experience in itself, and The New York Times mentioned the city’s many restaurants, including a jazz cafe with 40 years of history. Within an hour’s drive one can also visit a fantastic hot spring area, although many locals will tell you that there’s an even better one just one train stop away.

▼ Wanko Soba is served in individual bowls of small servings like this.


As a result of its high ranking by the internationally renowned newspaper, Morioka is expecting an influx of tourists this year, and deservedly so! It would be a wonderful place to stop and slow down after a hectic tour of Tokyo.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the full top 10:

  1. London

  2. Morioka, Japan

  3. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, U.S.

  4. Kilmartin Glen, Scotland

  5. Auckland, New Zealand

  6. Palm Springs, U.S.

  7. Kangaroo Island, Australia

  8. Vjosa River, Albania

  9. Accra, Ghana

  10. Tromsø, Norway

The only other Japanese city to make the list was Fukuoka, Japan, which ranked 19th.

Source: NHK News via Hachima KikoThe New York TimesTimeout

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Faster! Japan’s Shinkansen to get speed boost along Tohoku route

-- Why are people moving in droves to Fukuoka Prefecture? We asked someone who did for some insight

-- This Year of the Rabbit, visit some of the best Japanese sightseeing spots related to rabbits

© SoraNews24

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I never did trust that liberal rag. This list does nothing to build up trust.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

So random...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Maybe some group from Morioka did a good job promoting the city to the NYT staff, it seems too random for the city to be in the spotlight since it is not really famous. Then again some of the other cities in the ranking are also quite unknown so manybe that is what the selection tried to pick up.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Borderline ridiculous.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The first two Instagram photos look great. I searched for some more photos of Morioka and it does look very beautiful. A place doesn't have to be famous or popular to be beautiful and worth visiting.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

London on top of Morioka, Japan? I'm not sure about that. I can name better places to visit ahead of London. I'm not sure if I would put Palm Springs on the map, and I'm from California. This list is totally biased. Palm Springs can be visited in a couple of hours, tops. Arashiyama would go much higher than Palm Springs, for openers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This list is totally biased.

But also educational. Probably half the population of Scotland had to google Kilmartin Glen to find out where it is. (Or was that only me?)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Palm Springs??? I don't get that one!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You guys don't understand. this isn't a top.of list or anything of that sort, it's a random list of places people never thought to visit. They do it every year so of course it's not gonna be Paris, Tokyo, HK on the list.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

it's a random list of places people never thought to visit.

London is number 1

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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