“Japan Off The Beaten Path” is one of those phrases that just invites itself to endless stories and beauty . We have scoured the books and the Internet to come come up with a list of the best hidden gems! Here are 6 that this great country has to offer.
6. Terraced Stonewalls of Takagai (高開), Tokushima
Driving through central Tokushima, you may come across a series of terraced stonewalls in the village of Takagai, one of the 100 Villages of Japan. The stonewalls were laid 400 years ago to optimize land space and build homesand fields on the mountainous slopes.
Today, the stone walls is the locals’ pride and is well-preserved by them. The best time to visit is in spring, when the locals plant shiba-sakura, a kind of bright pink moss on the rock walls, making it quite a spectacle on the mountain top!
5. Kayabuki no Sato (かやぶきの里), Kyoto
A small village in northern Kyoto, Kayabuki no Sato is famous for its thatched-roof farmhouses, many of which are still in use by the villagers. Although there are not much tourist facilities in the area, visitors who take time to stroll around the village are rewarded with an authentic experience of rural Japan, complete with a beautiful landscape of the mountainous region and the Yura River.
4. Fukuroda Falls (袋田の滝), Ibaraki
Fukuroda Falls of Ibaraki is one of the great waterfalls in Japan! It is nicknamed “四度の滝” (“The waterfall of four seasons”) by famous priest Seigyo because of the stunning scenery visitors can enjoy in the four different seasons.
That said, the Fukuroda Falls is the most beautiful in winter when it completely freezes over. There is an annual winter illumination and the brave-hearted can even try ice-climbing!
3. Mt Zao (蔵王山), Yamagata
Come winter and the SNOW MONSTERS awaken. This is Mt Zao, in Yamagata Prefecture, one of the few places where you can see ice trees due to the heavy snowfall and strong winds.
Although it is a ski resort, non-skiers can also take the ropeway to the top, where you will be awarded with a spectacular view of the snowy landscape. Be warned though, it can get bitterly cold at the top. But not to worry as the outdoor hotsprings of Zao Onsen town awaits you at the bottom. What a way to enjoy the winter!
2. Sukiji Beach(底地ビーチ), Okinawa
Sukuji beach , an image of paradise on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. Sukuji beach has very shallow and clear watersand white sandy shore, making it ideal for wading and snorkelling in the warm waters.
About 2km from Sukuji beach is the famous Kabira Bay, a beautiful scenery of white sand and emerald blue sea. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed due to the presence of jellyfish and strong current. However, you can take a glass-bottom boat to enjoy the beautiful coral reefs and to visit the cultivation sites of the black pearls.
1. The Road of Laputa (ラピュタの道), Kumamoto
The Road of Laputa – this driving route earns its nickname from its similar landscape to the floating island of famous animation Laputa, Castle in the Sky.
Located in Kumamoto Prefecture, the scenic route winds around Mt Aso, giving panoramic views of the ridges of Aso area. Driving on the narrow road, it seems like you are driving in the sky! On cloudy days, a sea of clouds appear around the mountains, making it feel as though you are driving through the sky. Be sure to make this drive if you are doing a road-trip in Kyushu!
If you are worried about travelling on your own in Japan, trippiece (en.trippiece.com) organizes free trips to off-the-grid destinations and events in Japan every weekend. Founded in 2011, trippiece is a social platform for travellers to link up with likeminded people for their next adventure in Japan. Stop wanderlusting and start travelling!
After being a JET in Sapporo, freezing in almost-Siberian climate, Shuu swore off winter vacations and has returned to tropical Singapore. She now works at a travel website for Japan, en.trippiece.com and spends her time discovering hidden places in Japan or planning her next diving getaway.