The pandemic certainly impacted travel to Japan, with lengthy border restrictions in place from early 2020 until October 11th, 2022. The hardship of not having international visitors was felt by many businesses, and consequently some ended up closing their doors.
In saying that, there was a lot of new life that sprung up during that period, with a host of new attractions awaiting visitors to Japan. This guide covers 10 new spots that opened in the past two-ish years.
Ghibli Park, Aichi
One of the most anticipated new openings over the last couple of years has been Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi. Built on the grounds of the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, this isn't a park that focuses on thrill rides or attractions – it's a more whimsical venue intended to immerse visitors in all things Ghibli. Some of the park's highlights include a screening room showing various short Ghibli films, the Children's Town area (designed as a replica of the Higashi-Koganei Station area in Tokyo where Studio Ghibli is located), and the Catbus room that recreates the world of My Neighbor Totoro.
1533-1 Ibaragabasama, Nagakute, Aichi 480-1342
Super Nintendo World at USJ, Osaka
Universal Studios Japan has been a drawcard for travelers to the area ever since its opening, but a fun new addition to the park completed in 2021 certainly adds to the appeal. Super Nintendo World allows visitors to experience the world of Mario in real life, with themed rides and eateries plus park-exclusive merchandise for sale. At present, timed entry tickets are required for this section of the park, and more details about how to obtain those can be found on the USJ website.
2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031
Miyashita Park complex, Tokyo
Shibuya's Miyashita Park isn't new, in theory. The urban green space was originally opened in 1953, but it was revamped into a shopping and entertainment complex and reopened in 2020. With around 90 retail stores, bars, eateries, and even office spaces, the venue has revitalized this area of the city. There is also a 1,000m² lawn area which is perfect for a picnic or just for some outdoor relaxation.
6 Chome-20-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001
Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka
Plans for the Nakanoshima Museum of Art were originally formulated back in 1990, so calling the venue long-awaited might be an understatement. Finally coming to fruition in February this year, the museum focuses on art and design pieces related to Osaka from the late 19th century to the present day. The museum's permanent collection includes almost 6000 pieces, with Western-style paintings by Japanese artists, nihonga (Japanese style-paintings), European art, and contemporary art as some of the highlights. The venue also hosts limited-time exhibitions throughout the year, so be sure to check out their website before you stop by.
4 Chome-3-1 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0005
Shibuya Sky, Tokyo
Shibuya Sky makes this list on a technicality – if we're being specific, it actually opened in November of 2019. However, with borders snapping shut in early 2020 because of the pandemic, many people haven't yet had the chance to check it out. The observation deck rises 229 meters above the city, and offers a spectacular 360-degree view out over the Tokyo metropolitan area.
2-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-6145
Chansey Park, Fukushima
Japan is packed with attractions for Pokémon fans to enjoy, from numerous Pokémon Centers to Tokyo's Pokémon Cafe. A new addition to this repertoire was added in late 2021 – the Chansey Park in Fukushima, which includes Pokémon themed play equipment and park benches. Right by the venue is the Namie roadside rest area, which stocks a variety of unique Pokémon goods.
Chimeiji Kiyohashi, Namie, Futaba District, Fukushima 979-1513
Kadokawa Musashino Museum, Saitama
The striking Kadokawa Musashino Museum is the work of architectural firm Kengo Kuma & Associates, and the rock-like design was inspired by the crashing of tectonic plates. The five-floored venue has plenty for visitors to check out, including the very Instagrammable bookshelf theater, the EJ Anime Museum, art galleries, and more.
3 Chome-31-3 Higashitokorozawawada, Tokorozawa, Saitama 359-0023
Ishikawa Prefectural Library, Ishikawa
There are a myriad of stunning libraries across Japan for literary lovers to enjoy, and one to explore is the Ishikawa Prefectural Library – it received a facelift and reopened in mid-July of this year. With an ampitheater-style design, relaxing reading areas, and open bookshelves, the library is both aesthetically pleasing and extremely functional.
2 Chome−43-1 Kodatsuno, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0942
Hello Kitty Apple House, Hyogo
Fans of all things kawaii ought to check out the Hello Kitty Apple House in Hyogo Prefecture, which opened earlier in 2022. The adorable building serves as a theater and observation deck, and offers impressive 360-degree views out over the surrounding area. Fun fact: the giant fruit-shaped structure is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest building in the shape of an apple, although we're not sure that there's too much competition in that field!
177-5 Nojimahirabayashi, Awaji, Hyogo 656-1724
Marufukuro Hotel, Kyoto
A number of new accommodation options opened during the border closure period, and one of those was the Marufukuro Hotel in Kyoto. What makes this hotel unique is that it was once the Nintendo headquarters, adding a little helping of history to any stay. The venue's refurbishment was supervised by renowned architect Tadao Ando, and you can explore more of the boutique hotel on their Instagram account.
342 Kagiya-cho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto 600-8126