11 Major Cities in Japan

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Here are the top 10 cities in Japan by population:

Tokyo

Prefecture: Tokyo
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Web Site / Official Travel Guide

Tokyo is obviously Japan’s most well-known and populated city; it’s actually the most populated metropolis in the world. It’s the political, industrial, commercial, and cultural center of Japan. It’s also the country’s capital, my favorite place on Earth, and considered the third “command center” for the world economy behind New York and London.

Yokohama

Prefecture: Kanagawa
Yokohama City Official Site / Visitors’ Guide

Yokohama is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and Japan’s largest commercial port. It was the first port to open its gates to outside trade in 1859 after Japan’s isolation period. The city has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, and the largest Chinatown in Japan. It’s easily reachable by a half hour train ride from Tokyo.

Osaka

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Prefecture: Osaka
Osaka City Official Site / Tourist Guide

Osaka is the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and the economic center of the Kansai region for centuries. It’s famous for its delicious food; particularly okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Its original name was Naniwa, and the first known capital of Japan.

Nagoya

Prefecture: Aichi
Nagoya City Official Site / City Guide

Nagoya is the capital of Aichi Prefecture and is one of Japan’s major ports alongside Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama. It’s famous for the Atsuta Shrine (one of the three sights to see in Japan, and said to house one of the three Imperial Regalia) and Nagoya Castle.

Sapporo

Prefecture: Hokkaido
Sapporo City Official Site / City Guide

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and was the host for the 1972 Winter Olympics. This city is well known for its beer (which is called, dare I say, Sapporo), ramen, and their annual yuki matsuri (snow festival), which is one of my dreams to go see. Quite frankly, I’m surprised this city is so high on the list, since the mean annual temperature there is 47 °F and they get an average of 43 inches of snow a year!

Kobe

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Prefecture: Hyogo
Kobe City Official Site / Official Tourism Guide

Kobe is a stone’s throw from Osaka and the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. Like Yokohama, it was one of the first port cities to open for foreign trade, and therefore has a large Western influence in many of the buildings around the city. It’s also the Japanese headquarter to many foreign companies, including Eli Lilly, Proceter & Gamble, and Nestle. It’s also well-known for its quality Kobe beef and hot spring resorts.

Fukuoka

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Prefecture: Fukuoka
Fukuoka City Official Site / Convention & Visitors Bureau

Fukuoka is closer to Seoul than Tokyo and the largest city on the island of Kyushu. It’s known for its amount of green space. The population of Fukuoka just passed that of Kyoto in July 2011.

Kyoto

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Prefecture: Kyoto
Kyoto City Official Site / Sightseeing Guide

Also close to Osaka and Kobe, Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868, and is now the capital of the prefecture with the same name. With its endless number of temples, shrines, and other historical sites, Kyoto is one of the tourist Meccas of Japan. Its historical significance saved it from bombings during World War II, making it one of Japan’s only major cities to escape significant damage during that time.

Kawasaki

Prefecture: Kanagawa
Kawasaki City Official Site / Tourism Guide

Kawasaki City is part of the Greater Tokyo Area and has coastlines facing Tokyo Bay. It’s also home to the Keihin industrial area, one of the biggest industrial areas in Japan. Factories and technology companies based in Kawasaki include the Nippon Oil Corporation, Fujitsu, NEC Corporation, Toshiba, and Dell Japan.

Saitama

Prefecture: Saitama
Saitama City Official Site (Japanese) / Prefecture Site (English)

Like Kawasaki, Saitama helps make up the Greater Tokyo Area. It’s a young city; founded in 2001 and combined the cities of Urawa, Oomiya, Yono and Iwatsuki. Honda is headquartered here.

Hiroshima

Prefecture: Hiroshima
Hiroshima City Official Site

Six rivers flow through Hiroshima, nicknaming it the “City of Water.” Along with the city of Nagasaki, it was one of the sites of the atomic bombings in World War II, which completely devastated the surrounding area. Great efforts were taken to rebuild the city, now known as the “City of Peace,” and is home to the Peace Memorial Park. Historical hertiage sites, like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden, have been rebuilt.


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