Japan - Off the Beaten Track - Handpicked Itineraries
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When thinking of Japan, the bright lights of Tokyo, the shining Golden Temple of Kyoto and the magical image of cherry blossoms swirling around Mount Fuji tend to come to mind. But the Land of the Rising Sun is home to many other, less well-known sites that can easily be added into your Japan holiday to create a truly unique experience. Here are our top ten places to visit off the beaten track of Japan!
BY Holly OBrien
Luxtripper Travel Editor

I loved adding on some of these incredible destinations to my last visit to Japan, where will you go next?

KANAZAWA

Can’t make it to Kyoto? Don’t worry, take the time-travelling shinkansen from Tokyo to nearby Kanazawa and find yourself transported back in time as you walk through landscapes dotted with ghosts of the Edo period. There’s something for everyone in this tranquil and peaceful city; see the elegant dances of the elusive Geisha as you dine on Japanese haute cuisine, or release your inner ninja at and discover the secrets of Ninjadera, a super fun temple complete with secret doors and traps!

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, take in the tempting smells of the Omicho Food Market as you wander through the maze of stalls – don’t leave without enjoying a seafood donburi (rice bowl topped with fresh seafood)! The weather in Kanazawa is temperate all year – so there's no excuse to miss the beautiful Kenroku-en Garden; one of Japan’s top three gardens. You’ll love discovering pretty teahouses hidden amongst the beautiful seasonal foliage. 

NAGANO

Undeniably photogenic and truly unique – Nagano is a must-visit if you love nature and wildlife. Fall in love with the cheeky snow monkeys as they soak in the steamy hot springs and marvel at how human they are – even monkeys love the heat of the springs! Visit in the spring and fall in love with the picturesque Apricot Village surrounded in beautiful cherry blossoms, or complete your dream Japan honeymoon at the Star Village Achi for an unparalleled stargazing date night.

There is an abundance of things to do in Japan, and you’ll love Nagano if you like your holidays to be immersive and authentic. Have fun with your partner creating your own Oyaki dumplings, a traditional (and delicious) dish – whose will taste the best? Or reveal your hidden musical talents and have a go at Taiko drumming, and spend the afternoon practising Zazen meditation at the Choshozenji Temple. Nagano is a great destination for families on their Japan holidays, with plenty to keep everyone entertained!

KISO VALLEY

Venture beyond Kyoto and step into the old-age streets of Kiso Valley and its post towns. Completely forget the technology of the digital age on your Japan holiday, leave behind any memories of working in front a screen, and slip back in time at Tsumago, the best-preserved post town. The absence of cars and concealed telephone wires mean that all evidence of modern-day lifestyles is eradicated!  

The Kiso 11 route is a must do – take the same journey as those who lived without railway services did and immerse yourself in old-age Japan. Visit the Naegi Castle and see the stunning vistas from the top of Mount Takamori, the ‘Machu Picchu of the East’, but not before building your energy with some delicious Gohei Mochi (rice cake) called Meibutsu – a local favourite. Watch out for Asian black bears on your Kiso Valley travels - make sure to carry a bear bell in order to warn them of your presence! 

HOKKAIDO

Hokkaido is a magical kingdom of hot springs and natural beauty, and there are so many things to do on Japan’s most northern island. Visiting Japan with your partner? Then your Japan holiday is incomplete without a blissful soak in a steamy outdoor onsen, complete with a perfect mountain view – Noboribetsu Onsen is a local favourite and Hokkaido legend. It’s also a paradise for those who love hitting the slopes. Cruise over the finest powder snow at the best skiing scene in Asia; the Japanese Alps.  

Come during the winter and you’ll arrive just in time for Sapporo Snow Festival; a huge ice sculpture celebration – it's hard to believe that people can make such beautiful things with ice! Warm up after a day of playing in the snow with a delicious, steaming hot bowl of Sapporo miso ramen, made famous by the late TV chef Anthony Bourdain. Though Hokkaido isn’t just about the snow and is stunning all year round. Get lost in the thick purple blankets of lavender that summer brings or stop by during autumn for a perfect fall paradise. 

HIROSHIMA AND MIYAJIMA ISLAND

Hiroshima was bought into the spotlight as a victim of the atomic bombs in World War II; but you’ll be moved to see that its ruins have been converted into a wonderful Peace Memorial and a beautiful park; both unmissable. Wander just a short walk through Hiroshima’s boulevards and you’ll come across the astounding Hiroshima Castle, climb to the top and you’ll be blown away by the sprawling view of the city below! 

Hiroshima is famous for its delicious dishes and tasting okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake) is something that can’t be missed; watch as skilled chefs cook you this mouth-watering treat right before your very eyes! Don’t forget, a 15-minute ferry ride from the city will take you to Itsukushima Island, home to one of Japan’s three best views, Miyajima Floating Tori Gate – it really does look like it’s floating! This is the perfect place to chill while the sound of the ocean lapping at the shore fills your ears. How many cute deer can you spot roaming about on the sand as you look out to sea? 

OKINAWA

Okinawa is Japan’s own personal Hawaii. Long summers, soft white sand and crystal-clear waters with beautiful coral reefs... leave behind Japan as you know (and love) it and escape to paradise. Okinawa’s laid-back and naturally beautiful island offers so much to travellers who step off the beaten path, and just a 15-minute ferry ride from the main island will transport you to tiny islets with beaches and lagoons worthy of the Maldives! On top of that, the weather is beautiful all year round, and the stunning coral islands can be visited anytime. 

Make sure you definitely try Okinawa’s soba noodles; it’s a soul food for locals, who are some of the healthiest people in the world. After that, you’ll want to head out and discover Okinawa’s treasured shrines and enchanting temples – Futenma Shrine and its network of caves is a must-visit! Alternatively, grab your partner and take a romantic trip on the city’s Ferris Wheel when it’s lit up at night and talk about everything and nothing - a date-night straight out of the movies and a sweet honeymoon activity

GINZAN ONSEN

Picturesque, romantic and absolutely unforgettable – Ginzan Onsen’s snow-covered winter wonderland should be on everyone’s Japan itinerary. Imagine strolling along the Ginzan River and through the charming, traditional streets of Ginzan Onsen while wearing a kimono; a quintessential experience for any Japan holiday. Once you’ve taken it all in, it’s time to indulge with a dip in their luscious onsen (nothing beats a town literally named after the hot springs!). 

Ginzan Onsen is a retreat popular with visitors of all ages – take stunning photos and cool off at the waterfalls in Shirogane Park. Try and beat the queues and try some local curry bread before it sells out, it’s sure to keep you nice and warm! With that in mind, it’s hard to deny how romantic and perfect Ginzan Onsen is for couples, and you’ll love looking out over the snowy river as it’s lit up by the warm orange glow of oil lamps; the perfect Japan honeymoon destination. 

SHIKOKU

Nowhere beats Shikoku if you fancy an adventurous Japan holiday. Grabbing a bike and cycling across the Shimanami Kaido route is an absolute must, imagine feeling the wind in your hair while cycling across bridges suspended over the bright blue sea towards 6 beautiful islands. Learn the ways of the samurai in Omishima, or climb a mountain in Innoshima - a real achievement! These small islands really are a far cry from the urban cities of central Japan.

The Dōgo Onsen is a more than welcome retreat for your muscles to rejuvenate in after your cycling adventures. A traditional onsen burrowed within the urban sprawl of Matsuyama, it's surreal to relax in the past while being in the present. Treat your taste buds to the freshest of seafood cuisine and taste Uwajima Taimeshi (sea bream rice), a specialty that is only served in Ehime. This destination is a real addition to your exclusive Japan holiday – how many of your friends can say they’ve tried this?  

NAOSHIMA

This is one for lovers and creators of art! The sandy beaches and Mediterranean atmosphere of this island make it a far cry from buzzing urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka! This tropical feeling island is the perfect place to let your imagination go wild. You’re bound to have fun spotting the products of different artists and sculptors which are dotted around the island, like the famous Yellow Pumpkin by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Become part of the island’s artwork yourself and step into the Art House Project, where the interiors of abandoned traditional buildings have been given up as blank canvas’. When you’ve had your fill of incredible artwork, grab a bike and get a glimpse small-town life while cycling round the island – weave between the streets and see how those in the rural areas of Japan live.  

OKUNOSHIMA

Here’s one for Instagrammers! This island involves a small detour between Hiroshima and Osaka, but we promise it will be worth it. Okunoshima’s tiny island is home to over 300 cute, wild rabbits , so make sure to bring or buy some food to feed and befriend these irresistible balls of fur. Don’t forget to bring your camera - you’ll be the envy of all your friends with a trip to Okunoshima!  

Climb to the top of the island’s tallest hill and be greeted by absolutely beautiful panoramic views of the ocean and Japan’s surrounding islands. Spend your day relaxing on the beach with the cute rabbits, and head to the island’s onsen at sunset for a truly relaxing and indulgent end to an amazing day. Okunshima’s small, quiet island is an easy perfect day trip to add onto a Japan holiday

Your Perfect Japan Holiday

Each of these incredible destination be easily added into your itinerary to create your perfect Japan holiday - get in touch with one of our luxury travel specialists to let us plan your dream trip! 

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