5 Tips For Exploring An Undiscovered Japan
Japan has so many extraordinary sights that it is no wonder some 30 million tourists visit the Land of the Rising Sun every year. The vast majority, of course, follow the well-trodden path by taking tours of the capital, Tokyo, seeing the incredible sight of Mount Fuji, visiting the historic temples of Kyoto and by taking a ride on the world-famous bullet train. But if you are prepared to follow the road less traveled, there is another side of Japan that is just as wondrous.
Here are five tips for exploring an undiscovered Japan.
An idyllic island in the north of Japan, Hokkaido is rammed full of stunning natural wonders and national parks. Famous for its breathtaking lakes, incredible hot springs and beautiful wildlife, this island is as wonderful in the summer as it is in the winter.
The Furano Flower Fields are breathtaking in full bloom, while the mountains are alive with adventure sports. In the winter, it boasts some of the best ski resorts in the world, with the hugely popular Sapporo Snow Festival being the highlight of the season.
Just take care when you’re on the slopes! Although skiing isn’t as dangerous as you might think (with only 1.7% of skiers from the UK returning home on crutches, for example), it’s still important to have insurance just in case.
When you have finished having fun during the day, you will discover that Hokkaido is also a mecca for foodies with some spectacular seafood restaurants and its locally brewed (and delightfully fresh) Sapporo beer.
Kyushu is so often missed by tourists, but it is hard to understand why, as it is a place of incredible natural beauty.
For a start, Mount Aso is worth seeing. Just as beautiful as its more celebrated big brother – Mount Fuji – this volcano is the most impressive of the many on show here. We would also recommend taking a boat right through Takachiho gorge, which is exceptionally beautiful.
If you have time, make sure you visit the island of Yakushima in Kyushu. It is a few hours away by ferry but the magical forest there is a UNESCO World Heritage site, while the sea turtles make the journey worthwhile all on their own.
The second-largest city in Japan is, perhaps, not an obvious candidate for ‘undiscovered Japan’ and yet Osaka is missed by the vast majority of tourists because they prefer to go to Tokyo and Kyoto.
What makes Osaka so special is the people; they have a unique confidence and humour about them and they’re delightfully outgoing.
The food and drink scene is also excellent – so much so that the locals have a special word: Kuidaore, which is translated as ‘eating yourself to ruin.’ Osaka is a brilliant place to taste Sake, too, while it also boasts everything from Michelin-starred eateries to incredible street food and food markets.
Beautiful weather, wonderful beaches and intriguing history, Okinawa is an amazing place.
Most people have heard of Okinawa (not least because it featured in Karate Kid II many years ago), but few understand why it is such a popular destination with Japanese tourists. This is Japan at its laid-back best. With lovely restaurants and a lively culture all of its own, you will always be welcomed warmly to Okinawa.
With its sleepy rural villages, incredible art scene and relaxed way of life, a visit to Shikoku brings with it a wonderful change of pace.
The immaculate Iya Valley has a truly magical atmosphere, while the Awa Odori dancing festival is a fantastic way of sampling Japanese culture if you are visiting in August. If you’re an art lover, you must visit the art island of Noashima, which has an incredible density of beautiful museums and galleries to celebrate the local artistic talent. Try the divine udon noodles here, and enjoy the peace and relaxation.