Rural areas

Japan’s countryside is a joy to explore. Here are some suggestions for some places to visit that will take you out of the main cities and give you a chance to see a different side of Japan.

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Atami

Atami is a seaside resort at the northeastern end of the Izu Peninsula, about an hour west of Tokyo by bullet train. Although it was much developed during the bubble economy of the 1980s, with many hotels and ryokan built along the coastline, today many of these hotels lie empty and the area is trying…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Fuji Five Lakes

The Fuji Five Lakes area is found at the northern base of Mount Fuji around Lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko. It is one of the best places to see fabulous views of Mount Fuji from a close distance and also a good base for those wishing to climb the mountain. Hiking, camping, fishing…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Hakone

Perhaps the most famous of the fifty three stations on the old Tokaido Road from Kyoto to Edo, Hakone is most famous for its peaceful lake, steaming hot springs, and above all, for its views of Mount Fuji. Within easy reach of Tokyo, Hakone is a popular holiday spot, and a number of museums and…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Ikaho

Ikaho Onsen is a hot spring resort nestled in the misty hills of Gunma Prefecture, about an hour by car from the Shinkansen Station at Takasaki and two from Tokyo. The forested hills behind Ikaho Onsen make up Ikaho Shinrin Koen, or Ikaho Forest Park, 224 forested hectares encompassing several small peaks, valleys, and beautifully…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Iriomote

An island in the Yaeyama district of south western Okinawa, Iriomote is Okinawa‘s second largest island. Largely undeveloped, nearly 90 percent of the island is covered by dense jungle and mangrove forests, much of which makes up the Iriomote National Park, the southernmost of Japan’s national parks. Iriomote’s attractions are based around tours to Iriomote’s…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Ishigaki

Ishigaki is the main island of the Yaeyama island group in south western Okinawa. The island offers several pleasant beaches and has good snorkeling and diving in the surrounding coral reefs. Snorkeling can be enjoyed at nearly every beach on the island, while diving is usually arranged through one of the many dive shops. For…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Iya Valley

The Iya Valley is a remote, mountainous valley in western Tokushima Prefecture. Located deep in the heart of Shikoku Island, the secluded valley is characterized by steep mountain slopes and deep rocky gorges which were traditionally crossed by vine bridges. Three of the vine bridges, Iya Kazurabashi and the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi bridges, are maintained to…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,

Izu

The Izu Peninsula is a resort area popular for its hot springs, beautiful coastlines, beaches, mild climate and scenic mountainous interior. Only an hour or so southwest of Tokyo, its proximity to the capital makes the area a popular weekend getaway and Mount Fuji is only about 50 kilometers to the north and can be…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , ,

Kaga Onsen

Kaga Onsen is a the name given to an area comprising four small hot spring towns about an hour south of Kanazawa. These hot springs have been popular onsen destinations since their discovery over 1300 years ago and are and remain popular onsen towns to this day. One notable aspect of Kaga Onsen’s hot spring…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kamikochi

Kamikochi is a highland basin more than 2,000 metres above sea level in the centre of the Japan Alps. At the heart of the Chubu-Sangakku National park, it is of truly outstanding natural beauty, with verdant slopes reaching up into jagged peaks and clear blue rivers flowing over white stones. The area is home to…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Kazurabashi

Historically, suspension bridges made of mountain vines (kazurabashi) were one of the only ways to transport people and goods across the rivers of the of the Iya Valley. Legend tells us that they were either first raised by Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism, or made by Heike refugees hiding out…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Kerama Islands

Less than an hour by ferry from the main island of Okinawa Honto, the Kerama Islands boast unspoilt beaches, coral reefs, and stunning scenery. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular, and friendly sea turtles make unforgettable swimming companions. In the winter months, migrating whales pass near the Kerama Islands, making for spectacular whale watching.

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Kiso Valley

The Nakasendo Road runs through the very centre of Japan, brushing the shoulders of the Japan Alps and winding along river valleys and over forested passes. The best preserved of the five Edo Period highways, the Nakasendo Road connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Long stretches, particularly in the more mountainous regions, remain very much as they…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Lake Chuzenji

A short drive behind the town of Nikko proper the Nikkō national park begins, at the heart of which is Lake Chūzenji. Formed when the now extinct Mount Nantai last erupted, the lake area is refreshingly cool in the summer, and once acted as a summer residence for foreign embassies to Tokyo. There are walking…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Magome

Over the pass from nearby Tsumago, the old post town of Magome is slightly larger, with a mix of new and old buildings away from the strictly traditional main street. There is little in the way of museums or sights, but it makes a wonderful place to wander and get your bearings before starting the…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Mashiko

Mashiko is located in the southeastern part of Tochigi, and it falls in the Prefectural Nature Park which spreads across the northern reaches of the Kanto Plain. The town is known throughout Japan and the world as a production centre of pottery. The origin of Mashiko ceramics can be traced to the middle of the…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan, Kanto  |  Tags: , , ,

Miyajima

A short ride from Hiroshima across the Seto Inland Sea from Hiroshima, Miyajima quite literally means “Shrine Island” for its principal Itsukushima Shrine, the whole island has long been considered sacred by association. Miyajima is best recognised for its iconic red torii gate – an element of what is said to be one of the…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: ,

Miyako Islands

Just 45 minutes by air from Okinawa main island, the group of eight Miyako Islands are a paradise for divers and snorkellers. With 400km of water separating the Miyako Islands from Okinawa Honto, the islands boast unique wildlife, and are among the few islands of Okinawa not inhabited by the poisonous habu snake. This separation…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Mount Aso

Mount Aso, towering above the surrounding villages and paddy fields, is an active volcano and (closely monitored) rising fumes remind visitors of the very real danger. The conical active peak, Mount Naka, holds the dubious honour of Japan’s first recorded eruption, and is the real centre of hi no kuni: the land of fire. The…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: ,

Mount Yoshino

Located in the Yoshino-Kumano National Park at the center of Nara Prefecture along the Yoshino river, Mount Yoshino is considered to be the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Japan. The whole of Mount Yoshino is registered as a World Heritage site. There are around 30 thousand cherry trees in the area, which is divided…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Mt Fuji

Reaching its conical and often snow-capped volcanic peak 3,776 metres into the sky, Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san in Japanese, is Japan’s highest mountain – and in many ways its symbolic heart. Though dormant, Mount Fuji is respected, and revered, in a country very much tied to Shinto roots in which kami, or gods, inhabit natural…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: East Japan  |  Tags: , ,

Naoshima

Japan’s Seto Inland Sea is dotted with ruggedly beautiful islands that rise sharply from the rough waters. Left behind by Japan’s urbanizing economy, these islands are redefining themselves as centres of art and architecture. Foremost among these is Naoshima, which is now well known in Japan and abroad for its modern museums, architecture, and sculpture….

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: West Japan  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Niigata

Niigata Prefecture is a region of contrasts. From the towering mountains of the Japan Alps, to the depths of the Japan Sea, Niigata’s natural beauty shines through. The seasons are also starkly divided as the winter months’ deep snow earned it the nickname of Snow Country, but the summer brings sweltering heat. Niigata is particularly…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Northern Japan  | 

Niseko

Japan’s most famous ski resort is known for its incredible powder snow, spectacular back country skiing and the large number of foreign skiers who come to the resort town each winter, especially Australians. This influx of foreign skiers has made Niseko very accessible to English speakers and – compared with other ski resorts in Japan…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  Tags: , , ,

Noto Peninsula

The Noto Peninsula is a very scenic area in the northern part of Ishikawa Prefecture, best known for its coastal scenery. Because public transport in the area is limited, renting a car is the best way to explore.

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: ,

Oboke & Koboke

Oboke (大歩危, Ōboke) and nearby Koboke (小歩危) are narrow, high sided gorges near the entrance to the Iya Valley and popular places to visit. Formed by the gushing white water of the Yoshino River, their names mean “big dangerous steps” and “small dangerous steps” as their jagged rock walls are not easy to traverse. The…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,

Okinawa Main Island

The largest of the sub-tropical islands that make up Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa Island is also the most populous, with Okinawa city near the centre and the prefectural capital of Naha on the south west coast. Naha was also the capital of the Ryukyu kingdom, and Shuri Castle remains a justifiably popular attraction. Famous for markets,…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Sado

Popular for its stunning natural scenery, green hills and cliffs dotted with strange shaped rocks and small islands, Sado Island also has an interesting, though dark history. Because of its relatively secluded location, the island was used as a place of political exile for elements showing a tendency to oppose the system in power. Some…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Northern Japan  |  Tags: , , ,

Shirakawago

Although modern roads now make the traditional area of Shirakawa-go accessible in under an hour from the nearby city of Takayama, for many centuries the surrounding mountains and heavy winter snowfalls made the district nearly unreachable. Cut off from the rest of the country, the villagers at Shirakawa-go continued their traditional lifestyle until very recently,…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Japan Alps  |  Tags: ,

Taketomi

Part of the Yaeyama islands in south western Okinawa, Taketomi is a small island just off the coast of Ishigaki.The small main village consists mostly of traditional style, single storied houses, surrounded by stone walls, and covered with red tiled roofs and traditional lion-like shisa statues to ward of evil spirits. The island has both…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , ,

Tokashiki

Tokashiki is a small island in the Kerama island group of Okinawa, located a short ferry ride from Okinawa Main island. Popular with young Japanese holidaymakers, Tokashiki has some stunning beaches although not much in the way of high level accommodation.

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Okinawa  |  Tags: , , , ,

Tsumago

Tsumago, once just another post town on the Nakasendo road, is now the most famous of a handful of well preserved villages along the Kiso Valley stretch of the ancient highway. The town itself is most pleasant early in the morning or after the tourist buses (which park outside the pedestrian-only town) have left for…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Central Japan  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Yakushima

Yakushima is a small subtropical island located off the southern coast of Kyushu and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is extensively covered by a cedar forest containing some of Japan’s oldest living trees, many of which are more than 1000 years old and are known as yakusugi. The most ancient of these trees are said…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , , , ,

Yudanaka

Of the nine hot springs that make up the Yamanouchi district, Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen are the best known. Bathing in the nine traditional wooden baths in Shibu Onsen is said to ward away evil and bring good health and longevity. The area owes its geothermic activity (and much of its tourism) to the nearby…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Japan Alps  |  Tags: , ,

Yufuin

The small hot spring resort of Yufuin is not far from Beppu, a much larger resort town. Yufuin has many galleries, boutiques and charming cafes and is popular both as a day trip destination and as a place to stay. The town’s skyline is dominated by views of twin-peaked Mt Yufu and the area is…

Type: Rural areas  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , ,