Many people who travel to Japan know about all the tourist spots in Japan. The famous temples and castles are frequently visited, and famous sightseeing destinations are populated with tourists and citizens alike. But those who enjoy doing the less popular things or those who would just like a change of pace from the classic destinations may enjoy what this list has to offer. These are the lesser-known places that Japan has to offer. Although some of these places are still relatively well-known, these places are overlooked in favor of the most popular destinations.
- Izu Peninsula
The Izu Peninsula has always been a favorite getaway for Tokyoites impatient to escape the concrete jungle. It’s located in Shizuoka Prefecture, a couple hours’ drive south of the metropolis and the atmosphere couldn’t be more different. The region is teeming with nature-soaring mountains, gushing rivers, pounding waterfalls, windblown coastlines, white-sand beaches, and glorious hot springs. Fascinating local history and folklore add a layer of cultural exploration for visitors in addition to taking in the jaw-dropping scenery.
- Matsumoto Castle
Japan’s castles are sprinkled around the country, but Matsumoto Castle, a designated National Treasure, is truly special. Against the background of the snowcapped Japanese Alps mountain range and elegant cherry trees in spring, Matsumoto Castle is a picturesque scene tucked away in Nagano Prefecture. Although spring is an excellent season to visit the castle, any time is worth checking out this historic location. Also known as ‘Crow Castle’ due to its dark exterior and wing-like rooftop, it still retains its original wood and stonework. This castle’s stoic appearance is highlighted by the quiet grounds seemingly isolating it from the surrounding city of Matsumoto.
Central Japan’s Kamikochi highlands beauty is said to match that of Yosemite Valley in California, U.S. Visitors come from all around to hike its mountains, and marshes and discover its clear lakes and river streams at about 1,500 meters above sea level. Approximately 18 kilometers in length, Kamikochi is a high mountain valley located in the Northern Japan Alps in Chubu Sangaku National Park of Nagano Prefecture. Open for only about seven months a year, the valley is flocked to by nature lovers from spring to mid-November.
If you find yourself in Nagano City, take a day trip to nearby Togakushi Village, which is just a 45-minute drive away. With a shrine in a sacred forest, top-notch soba noodles, and a hint of ninja intrigue, the village ranks among Japan’s great ‘off the beaten path’ destinations. Though modest in scale, Togakushi is surrounded by hills and mountains which come to life with dazzling colors in the autumn, plus kid-friendly ninja parks offer welcome diversions for families. The undisputed highlight, however, is the hike along a path lined with towering cryptomeria trees to the Togakushi Okusha Shrine in the foothills of Mount Togakushi.
- Matsuyama Castel
Matsuyama Castle is one of the better castles in Shikoku that is easily and uniquely accessible within Matsuyama City. To reach it, visitors can take a ropeway cable car, walk there or take a one-seater chairlift the recommended and more exhilarating means of transport. The castle has more than a few special features, so discovering the samurai cosplay, and wandering the surrounding grounds.
Kurashiki is located in Okayama Prefecture, not far from the prefectural capital of Okayama City. Kurashiki has a preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the city served as an important rice distribution center. The name ‘Kurashiki’ can be roughly translated as ‘town of storehouses’ about the rice storehouses.
Elegantly picturesque with its old-fashioned street lanterns and European-style buildings, Otaru is a charming port city flush with nostalgia that is also known as a top culinary destination.