Hidden Gems: 7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Japanese Destinations

Hidden Gems: 7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Japanese Destinations

Undiscovered Gems 2023-11-23 ParkingNearAirports.io

The well-traveled path from Tokyo to Kyoto is easily comprehensible due to the appealing qualities these renowned cities possess, such as diverse attractions and breathtaking landscapes. However, the allure of Japan extends beyond the popular Shibuya pedestrian crossing and the graceful geishas found in Gion. For those seeking a unique experience, consider exploring these lesser-known destinations in Japan, comprising seven hidden gems. Let's get started!

Are these hidden Japanese gems your next adventure?

1. Nara

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Often overshadowed by Kyoto, Nara was also once the capital of Japan. One of its main attractions is the city's population of sacred sika deer, with approximately 1,200 of these wild animals freely roaming Nara Park. Another must-see is Todaiji Temple, also called the Great Eastern Temple, which was built in 752. The temple's main hall, known as Daibutsuden, holds the distinction of being the largest wooden building in the world, although what stands today is only two-thirds of its original size. Before leaving, make sure to take a peaceful walk through the woods to visit Kasuga-Taisha, Nara's most renowned shrine. Here, you will find numerous bronze and stone lanterns, which have been donated by worshippers. These lanterns are lit twice a year, in February and August.

2. Yanagawa

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Yanagawa, located considerably off the popular tourist path, offers a unique and enjoyable experience on Kyushu Island. Exploring the extensive canal system on a donkobune, a small flat-bottomed boat, is a delightful excursion reminiscent of the famous city of Venice in Italy. These peaceful waterways, now serving as a refuge from the hectic pace of modern life, reveal the town's historical reliance on canals for irrigation as a former farming village. One must not miss the opportunity to disembark and visit the impressive Yanagawa Ohana villa, originally built for the ruling Tachibana family. Surrounded by a charming garden adorned with pine trees, it's a captivating sight. Lastly, it would be remiss to leave without indulging in Yanagawa's renowned specialty dish, river eel.

3. Beppu

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Beppu, located in Kyushu, is a lesser-known destination renowned for its hot springs. It's recommended to allocate sufficient time to explore its seven unique hot springs, known as "hells." Each hell exhibits its own distinct characteristics. Oniishibozu Jigoku is noted for its bubbling mud pools, resembling the shaven heads of monks. At Kamado Jigoku, also called "cooking pot hell," visitors can savor hard-boiled eggs cooked in the sulfurous waters. Particularly striking is Chinoike Jigoku, distinguished by its vibrant red hue, earning it the moniker of "blood pond hell." Maximizing the region's geothermal energy, visitors can indulge in a sand bath, effectively purging impurities from their bodies as they are cocooned in a dense layer of black volcanic sand.

4. Uji

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The traditional practice of utilizing cormorants to engage in fishing may not align with everyone's sensitivities. However, during the summer months, visitors have the opportunity to witness the time-honored techniques that have been employed for centuries to sustain livelihoods from the water. This age-old method, known as "ukai," involves adept fishermen utilizing cormorants to dive for fish, with their necks thoughtfully restrained to prevent them from consuming their catch. Many opt to embark on a cormorant boat trip along the Nagara River in Gifu prefecture. Alternatively, one can avoid the crowds by selecting Uji, a conveniently situated location near Kyoto. Moreover, Uji showcases a couple of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the Byodoin temple and Ujigami Jinja shrine, which further enhance its appeal.

5. Matsumoto

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Matsumoto, a city in Japan, is primarily characterized by its prominent 16th-century castle, famously known as Crow Castle due to its striking black wooden walls. To reach the castle, one must cross the moat, where elegant swans gracefully glide and colorful koi carp can be spotted beneath the water's surface. Upon ascending the steep staircase, visitors will discover an impressive assortment of armor and weaponry. To further explore the city's historical core, descend and proceed to Nakamachi Street. This charming street is lined with traditional merchants' houses that have been repurposed into restaurants. It's highly recommended to sample the local delicacy of soba buckwheat noodles while there. Adding to the city's allure, the picturesque Japanese Alps provide a stunning backdrop. For adventure enthusiasts, this area offers an abundance of hot springs, hiking trails, and ski runs to enjoy.

6. Kobe

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The city of Kobe, which is a short fifteen-minute shinkansen ride from Osaka and easily accessible from Kyoto, is often overlooked by tourists. However, it bears significance as it was devastated by an unexpected earthquake in 1995. In remembrance of the lives lost, there is a memorial museum known as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution. This institution offers a captivating experience, allowing visitors to witness how earthquake-proof measures have been implemented in key buildings throughout the city. Additionally, visitors can purchase souvenirs, such as freeze-dried food and portable toilet bags, which serve as disaster preparedness kits. After exploring the museum, take a ride on the city's ropeway to view the rebuilt city from above.

7. Kanazawa

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Kanazawa offers an exciting opportunity for adventurous tourists to explore its wonders. The castle, although it has faced numerous destructive fires, has undergone multiple rebuilds and still maintains surviving stone walls that originate from the 16th century. Adjacent to the castle is the breathtaking Kenrokuen, a traditional garden renowned as one of the country's most beautiful. Moreover, the city boasts several chaya or teahouse districts that date back to the Edo Period. Near the Higashi Chaya District, tourists can discover the Kanazawa Gold Leaf Museum and even engage in the art form themselves by gilding a souvenir to bring back home. However, the main attraction of the city lies in Nagamachi, the former samurai district situated between two ancient canals. Visitors can experience a glimpse of the past by exploring highlights like the Nomura House, Kaga Hanshi, and Ashigaru Shiryokan, all of which provide insights into a bygone era.

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