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Off the beaten track in Japan

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Japan‘s venerable culture is as fascinating as it is complex. A visit to the incredible cities of Tokyo and Kyoto is usually top of the list for visitors, and with good reason, but often it is those unexpected experiences in off-the-beaten-track spots which make your trip so memorable. There is no better way to get under the skin of a destination than to experience it at a local level, in places less accustomed to tourists, where the welcome is warm and the local life authentic. Where will your most memorable moment be?

Autumn in rural Japan

The Noto Peninsula

If it’s beautiful coastal scenery you are after, you’ll find it on the Noto Peninsula, which juts into the Japan Sea from the north coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu. Discover wild landscapes which lead from one picturesque village to another, many of which still make their living from fishing.

It’s an authentic and peaceful region where you can explore hilly inland terrain on foot or by bike, or follow the flat coastal trails where you can marvel at rice terraces and spectacular coastal views. To round off your trip, choose fabulous local accommodation where you can experience the traditional life of the area, enjoy hot spring soaks, and dine on wonderful regional specialties.

Noto Peninsula Japan

The Diamond Route

A relatively new arrival on the Japanese tourism scene, the Diamond Route has been designed with those who love outdoor pursuits in mind. Get out into nature on a bike, on foot or by water, with multiple options to choose from and mountain trails, forests, rivers and gorges to explore. The infrastructure in this region is excellent and everything is set up for adventure sports, so all you have to do is enjoy the action and the great scenery – ending your exciting days with a relaxing soak in an onsen, perhaps.

Kegon Waterfall Japan

Okinawa

Follow numerous Japanese holidaymakers and head for Okinawa, the most southerly region of Japan which has a very different feel to the rest of the nation. Here you will sense the significant Chinese influence everywhere, and feel the importance of the Ryukyu heritage when it comes to local history, culture and cuisine.

Okinawa is perfect if you’re traveling in the winter and would like a break from the cold, as it’s Japan’s warmest region. Winter visitors can even catch the cherry blossoms here, as the celebrated flowering begins in mid-January, lasting around a month. During your visit, be sure to enjoy plenty of time out on some of Japan’s finest beaches, as perfect curves of white sand and cerulean sea are the norm in Okinawa.

Okinawa beach

Shikoku

Located off the southern shore of Honshu, Japan’s major island, Shikoku is a fairy-tale mixture of forest-clad mountains sheltering clear streams and forgotten temples inland, encircled by a busy coastline of commerce and fishing ports. The secluded Iya Valley is a real getaway destination in Shikoku’s central region, where traditional bridges woven from vines are strung over rushing emerald rivers.

One of the main reasons that domestic tourists make their way to Shikoku is to complete the 88-temple pilgrimage route, a trail that weaves all around the island. It’s frequented by white-clad pilgrims pacing out their devotion step by step, often carrying a traditional walking stick and wearing a conical straw hat. To undertake the whole pilgrimage is quite a commitment, but taking in one of the most scenic stretches is a great way to get to know more about this island and Japanese culture up close.

Temple on Shikoku pilgrimage route

Hokkaido

There are a whole host of reasons to explore Hokkaido, not least because many visitors to Japan do not venture to its northernmost island. This area does see some tourist footfall, but it is still a relatively undiscovered region – one that’s particularly rich in natural scenery, dotted with hot springs and cool, clear lakes.

During the winter months, Hokkaido is known as a great ski and snowboarding destination, but beyond the slopes of the Japanese Alps it isn’t usually on the tourist radar. Make the most of the solitude with some stunning hiking through coastal nature reserves, wetlands bursting with wildlife, and remote peninsulas stretching into the sea. Don’t miss the chance to sample some of Japan’s best seafood, too.

Hokkaido, Japan

Make it happen

Who can resist the lure of Japan‘s lesser-known draws? Contact our trusted local experts today – they will create a bespoke itinerary just for you, entirely based on your preferences and priorities.

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