The Best 8 Japanese Countryside Destinations You Must Visit
Japan’s major cities are a sight to behold. There are always interesting activities to do and places to visit. It’s no wonder why this country had 31.8 million international visitors in 2019 alone. But if you’re keeping your doors open for metro cities only, you are seriously missing out on a lot.
Aside from its leading cities, the Japanese countryside is also a gem to visit. If you are looking for a relaxing stay in Japan, away from the bustle and hustle of the economic centers, and be in awe of the nation’s history and diversity, here are the 10 best Japanese countryside destinations to visit.
If you are looking for a quick countryside getaway, Hakone is one of your best bets. Only 50 miles away from the capital Tokyo, it is a good location for a weekend trip. It’s a popular destination for its numerous onsen, the beautiful Lake Ashinoko, and the impressive view of Mt. Fuji.
If you are also looking for a wide collection of abstract sculptures, Hakone is also the home to the Hakone Open Air Museum, where you get to see unique sculptures made by local and international artists. The museum also dedicated a whole hall to the works of Pablo Picasso.
If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli then this place is a dream destination. Often named as the inspiration behind the anime Princess Mononoke, Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture is a tourist-favorite spot (locals too!). It’s a great place for shinrin-yoku (森林浴), or forest bathing.
One of the most interesting activities to do in the location is to take a trek to Mt. Miyanoura via the Arakawa trail. It’s a good hike with the waterfalls as your scenic view. By taking this trail, you will be able to see the Jomon Sugi, an ancient tree that is roughly 7,200 years old.
The Shiretoko Peninsula, located at the easternmost part of Hokkaido Island, is one of the most thoroughly maintained national parks and the most untouched of all Japan’s countryside. The reason? Shiretoko has the most number of bears in the world. Definitely not the location where you’ll be able to confidently relax.
However, you’ll still be able to appreciate the grandness of the place by visiting the Five Lakes Visitor Center. If you are an animal lover and would love to know more about the wild, this place a is must-visit.
If you are visiting during the winter, travel to the Sea of Okhotsk’s coastline where you’ll be able to see naturally drifting ice from Russia.
Kabira Bay, Ishigaki
Japan is famous for its stunning and alluring metro cities but some often forget that Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. Imagine the number of beaches and coastlines this nation has!
If you go as far as South, about 1,200 miles away from Tokyo, is the dazzling island of Ishigaki where the pearl-growing cove of Kabira Bay resides. Clear blue waters and sparkling white sand, it’s a beautiful beach to stay in.
Though you won’t be able to take a swim in Kabira Bay, the whole island has numerous beaches, most are empty and untouched, are potential swimming and snorkeling areas.
Mount Daisen, Tottori
Tottori Prefecture is the least-populated in the entirety of Japan. However, this fact doesn’t take away the charm the rural destination offers. The most distinguishing feature of Tottori is Mount Daisen, a large, volcanic mountain with a striking scenic view.
If you are interested in the spiritual history and culture, you can visit the 1,300-year-old Daisen-ji Temple, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Japan. For some exceptional art, take a look at Mabuya, a multi-purpose gallery, and cafe run by community members.
Another one on the list for a quick weekend country getaway is Shimoda, a coastal two on the southern edge of Izu Penninsula. It’s only a three-hour drive from Tokyo but is home to a fascinating local history. While you are there, you have to head over to Perry Road which tells the story of American Commodore Matthew Perry’s arrival in Japan during the mid-1800s.
If you travel by car, you can stop over at Izu’s other coastal towns and take a detour.
Famous for being a winter destination but is also a must-visit during the summer as well. Hokkaido sure has it all. If you are looking for a memorable Japan experience, you have to visit Lake Akan, a crater lake surrounded by stunning a picturesque view of Akan Mashu National Park.
The location is famous for producing marimo, a breed of algae that grows in a perfect spherical shape. The Akan Adventure Tourism also created an immersive multimedia experience called the KAMUY LUMINA, an Enchanted Night Walk at Lake Akan, which will show you the beauty of Hokkaido and the culture of its indigenous people, the Ainu.
If you are looking for a destination where you can genuinely feel peace and some alone time, head over to Shonai, located in the northwestern corner of Yamagata Prefecture. It’s not a common tourist spot so the prices for accommodations and meals are cheap. However, it is only easily accessible by plane. Once you’ve arrived in the area, a car would be best for getting around.
You can visit the Zenpoji Temple and watch a prayer ceremony by Buddhist monks or stop by the award-winning sake brewer Takenotsuyu, the maker of the area’s premium rice crops. If you are bringing a child with you, the destination also has Kamo Aquarium, a place dedicated to jellyfish.