Often overshadowed by a glamour of Tokyo and other urban cities, nonetheless Japan’s countryside still exists as an inseparable part of the country. You can live your entire life in Tokyo without running out of things to do, but saying that the cities are all that Japan has to offer is a gross understatement. To list out the majority of where one should go when decided to travel outside city limit is impossible, thus we can only offer places that represent a special part of Japan.
Like any country, one would often overlook its rural areas, claiming that there is not much to do there. The statement is partially true: If one visits a country and expect coffee shops, fine dining, fine arts museum, vibrant night life and dynamic activities , then the countryside should not appear on the agenda.
But if you come to Japan for a well-balanced retreat journey with spectacular mountainous views, dreamy lakes with small, rural houses and serenity and tranquillity in the air, then Japan’s countryside is a place for you.
Hakone is a popular choice for those who have stayed in Tokyo for a long time and want an escape, but also do not have much time on their hands. Only 85 kilometres away, the famous countryside feels like a perfect retreat from chaotic Tokyo, with a wide variety of onsen (hot spring baths), the calm and tranquil lake Ashikono, and the stunning view of Mount Fuji.
Hakone is suitable to visit year-round. When you have decided to take a road trip to Hakone, you will not run out of things to do. If you want to look deeper into the local culture, Hakone Open Air Museum is for you.
2. Kamikōchi (上高地, Upper Highlands)
Kamikōchi is a very popular hiking and camping position. Hidden away in the Hida mountains of Nagano Prefecture, Kamikōchi boasts a stunning view and a perfect getaway trip.
If one wants to avoid crowded tours, then the route from Kappabashi to Tokusawa, where most tourists will not be able to find the time and motivation to take part in. One note from us, that this is the longest route, it is recommended for those who want to spend a night on the mountain and in good fitness condition.
But for those who simply want a calm retreat without physically exhausting themselves, a guided hiking tour is recommended. The tour will take you to the most iconic attractions in the area, including Hotaka Shrine (a Shinto shrine), Taisho pond, onsen baths, and to try Kamikōchi delicacy grilled river fish. It will not take you more than 3 hours, but the results will for sure be memorable.
3. Mount Daisen, Tottori
Tottori is the least populated prefecture in Japan, further contributed to your goal of an escape. The focal point of the trip is Mount Daisen, the 1300 metres mountain that will surely make Mount Fuji jealous when talking about scenic beauty. The destination is most suitable for hiking, where tourists can climb to Misen Park
The area is also home to Daisenji Temple, which happens to be one of the starting points of the hiking to the top route. The temple is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Japan.
4. Kawagoe, Saitama
Cannot travel too far? Find that even Hakone is too far? Or not willing to climb mountains? Then Kawagoe is for you. Kawagoe is especially beautiful in March and April, as this is the time you can see cherry blossoms. Board a boat and take a ride on Shingashi river. A tip: You should plan your trip at the end of the cherry blossoms season, as the petals will pinken the water, making it extra picturesque.
But what if you cannot visit in this time? Kawagoe has other plans for you. From Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, to relaxing Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom, or sampling sake at Koedo Kurari, or if you like a Japanese-themed Starbucks, you have it.
5. Lake Akan, Hokkaido
Hokkaido Prefecture has been a famous winter destination, but nevertheless, summer visits to Hokkaido can also be among the best places in Japan. Lake Akan, situated in Akan-Mashu National Park is one among many must-see destinations of Hokkaido.
Visiting Akan Lake, you can see the marimo a specie of algae that grows into a spherical balls, and considered a piece of art. Aside from it, you can enjoy the newly created Kamuy Lumina, a night walk created by Akan Adventure Tourism, features distinctive Ainu’s culture, an indigenous people to Hokkaido.