In Japan, are you hoping to venture off the beaten path? We have 30 utterly undiscovered Japan hidden gems for you to visit!
It’s safe to say that we adore Japan utterly. The instant we landed, we fell in love with the nation.
the charming Japanese people, delicious food, and fascinating culture. One of those nations we could visit over and over again is Japan.
The conventional tourist sites in Japan are normally the focus of most first-time visitors’ itineraries: a quick tour of Tokyo, followed by a few days in Kyoto.
Then perhaps spend a day in Hiroshima or Osaka to cross those places off your bucket list.
But Japan is much more than just these well-known tourist destinations! If you want to explore some of Japan’s undiscovered hidden beauties while you are there.
therefore we suggest selecting a few of the (mainly unknown) locations on this list to include in your itinerary! Whether you’re considering an autumn, spring, summer, or winter trip to Japan. Every season has a spot on this list!
Also Read: 13 Best Destinations For Couples Holidays
GET OFF THE PATH IN JAPAN WITH THE HELP OF THESE AMAZING HIDDEN GEMS!
At A Glance – Off The Beaten Path in Japan
- Kumano Kodo
- Lake Biwa
- Ize Peninsula
- Naoshima Island
Top 15 Off The Beaten Path Locations in Japan
#1 | Okinawa
One of Japan’s most picturesque regions is the region where karate originated.
However, Okinawa is one of those Japanese treasures that can’t be kept a secret forever. Western tourists are beginning to take notice of it more and more.
The tropical paradise is often called the “Hawaii of Japan”. With its incredible beaches and wild jungle, it is the perfect combination of untouched yet developed enough.
Okinawa would be the perfect vacation spot for someone who enjoys the outdoors, the water, and the relaxed island lifestyle.
But the island’s reputation is not just based on its picturesque surroundings. Expect to experience exquisite cuisine and witness the cherry blossoms (in the spring, of course).
How to Travel: A flight from Tokyo to Okinawa takes about 3 hours.
Also Read: 11 Picture Perfect Places For a Weekend in Spain
#2 | Kumano Kodo
One of Japan hidden gems awaits you if you look for it. Stop looking now! Although Kumano Kodo, a historic pilgrimage route that leads through the Wakayama highlands, is not frequently visited.
It ought to be on the bucket list of any adventure traveller. a trail that is well known to hikers, The Kumano Kodo has numerous trails. Some people need days or even weeks to complete the entire hike.
You can start and end your hike wherever you want because the majority of areas are accessible by bus.
Remember to pack lightly and stay at the neighbourhood inns (Ryokans) along the road for the most genuine experience.
The Kumano Kodo can be hiked all year round, however be aware that winter can bring snow. You will pass through the Nachi Falls, which are listed as Sacred Sites in the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
Visit the Seiganto-Ji Temple nearby to witness its 3-story vermilion pagoda.
How to Travel: Catch the Kuroshio limited express from Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station) to Kii-Tanabe Station.
#3 | Hakone
Even though Hakone is only a little more than a one-hour train ride from Tokyo’s south, western tourists frequently pass by it.
That is unfortunate because the stunning area has a lot to offer. from small mountain communities, to conventional Ryokans featuring onsen and breathtaking mountain vistas, gorgeous lakes and erupting volcanoes.
It’s also one of the best locations to view cherry blossoms in the spring or autumn foliage. Make a day trip to the Hakone Air Museum while you’re there to see one of the largest Picasso exhibits in the entire world.
Plan your vacation with the aid of our comprehensive guide to Hakone!
How to Travel: Catch the Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
You must instead depart from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station if you intend to use a Japan Rail Pass.
#4 | Lake Biwa
Despite being the largest freshwater lake in Japan and being in the Shiga Prefecture, Lake Biwa is one of the least popular tourist destinations there.
Around the lake, there are numerous activities available. From swimming, windsurfing, touring imposing castles, quaint villages, and learning about the incredible gastronomy of the area (eating some sweetfish and carp is a must!).
The lake can be reached from Kyoto in about ten minutes, which is the nicest part. The Shirahige Shrine, with its “floating” torii gate on the water, should not be missed.
How to Travel: From Kyoto Station, go to Otsu Station on a JR Tokaido rail route.
#5 | Takayama
Takayama, one of the most distinctive places to visit in Japan, is situated in the mountainous Hida region of the Gifu Prefecture and provides a more traditional experience than other areas of the nation.
Takayama is renowned for its heritage-listed ancient township, excellent local food, including ramen, sake, wasakana, and sansei.
It is also a great place to watch autumn foliage and cherry blossoms in the spring. It’s the ideal Japanese hidden gem for the adventurous foodie!
How to Travel: From Nagoya (approximately 4.5 hours), Toyana (5 hours), or Matsumoto, take a train.
#6 | Funaya
Do you enjoy Venice? It turns out that you can experience Italy while in Japan. Funaya, which translates to “the Boathouses of Ine,” is frequently referred to as the “Venice of Japan.”
It is one of the most distinctive spots to visit in Kyoto and is situated in the northern area of Kyoto Prefecture.
a waterfront community with wooden boat cottages constructed directly on the water. It is a very popular location for filming movies and TV shows because of its distinctive appearance.
From the heart of Kyoto, one can take a day excursion to Funaya. Take a boat excursion to explore the boathouses from the water or sign up for a cycling history tour to discover more about the town’s past.
How to Travel: Travel from Kyoto by train (Amanohashidate Station on the Kyoto Tango Miyatoya Railway Line), then take the Tankai Bus to Ine (1 hour).
#6 | Asahikawa
Asahikawa should be on your trip wish list if you are not afraid of the snow because it is one of Japan’s best kept secrets.
The region, which is bordered by the Taisetsuzan mountains and is situated on Japan’s Hokkaido Island, is well-known among skiers and snowboarders for its tremendous winter snowfall.
Visit the city’s renowned zoo to view orangutans, polar bears, and penguins while sightseeing.
The city is particularly well-known for its winter carnival, when amazing ice sculptures may be seen. While you’re there, be sure to try the renowned Asahikawa Ramen.
However, keep in mind that Asahikawa is the coldest city in the nation, so pack a jacket!
How to Travel: Sapporo and Asahikawa are connected by limited express trains (approx. 80 minutes).
#7 | Ize Peninsula
One of spectacular natural Japan hidden gems is the hilly Ize Peninsula, which is located around 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo..
Expect to witness magnificent beaches, spectacular rock formations, and lush vegetation. Don’t forget to see Mount Omuro, one of the Izu region’s biggest volcanoes.
It is the ideal day trip location for those wishing to get away from the city because it is so close to Tokyo. However, as it’s a resort region with lovely hotels and hot springs, it’s ideal for a weekend trip, so you might want to stay a bit longer.
How to Travel: The train from Tokyo to the peninsula takes about 50 minutes.
#8 | Niigata
On Japan’s west coast, in the Niigata Prefecture, is the city of Niigata. Niigata, which is located on the Sea of Japan’s coast, is well-known for its outstanding rice (be sure to explore all the gorgeous rice fields), as well as its sake.
Whatever time of year you choose to visit Niigata, you can be sure it will be a pleasant surprise. Enjoy the magnificent fireworks displays in the summer, then don your snow boots and hit the slopes in the winter.
How to Travel: Almost anywhere in the nation may readily be reached by train and the most popular route is from Tokyo.
#9 | Kyushu
Kyushu is the ideal location to go if you truly want to explore hidden Japan. It is challenging to sum up the vibrant island in a single statement because it has active volcanoes, natural hot springs, delectable cuisine, and a thriving metropolis.
Surfers love the subtropical environment of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, where they can catch waves between Hyuga and Cape Toi.
In addition, the island has stunning beaches, pounding surf, and natural hot springs. When hunger strikes, indulge your inner foodie by trying Kyushu’s renowned Hakata ramen, which is made with pig.
How to Travel: A rail trip to Kyushu from Tokyo Station takes roughly five hours..
#10 | Naoshima Island
A trip to Naoshima Island, and more specifically the Benesse Art Museum, will undoubtedly be enjoyable for those who appreciate modern art.
A visit to the stunning location wouldn’t be complete without visiting Yayoi Kusama’s famed work, the Giant Pumpkin.
However, the island will still be a welcome surprise even if art isn’t your thing. Explore Naoshima and its stunning surroundings by renting a bike.
How to Travel: From Osaka, board a train for Okayama.
#11 | Tottori
Tottori, which is distinct from many of these other secret locations, is situated on the western coast of the Sea of Japan.
Tottori has enormous sand dunes and historic ruins, while other sites in Japan have volcanoes and hot springs.
Yes, Tottori is well renowned for having the largest sand dunes in Japan, covering an area of more than 30 square kilometers. Another must-see are the remains of the ancient feudal castle.
Don’t forget to explore the Uradome Coast in Japan when venturing off the main route because it has stunning sandy beaches, impressive rocky islands, and lovely pine trees.
How to Travel: Go to Shin-Osaka Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen. After that, switch to Super Hakuto. All told, allow roughly 6 hours for the trip.
#13 | Kanazawa
Kanazawa can initially appear to be your normal urban vacation spot.
But if you dig a little further, you’ll discover that it’s full of customs and even crafts that make you think. You should go there if you want to view the renowned snow monkeys as well!
Ishikawa Prefecture’s capital city was previously devoid of tourists. It is now a must-visit location for excellent cuisine, culture, and art.
So, when you’re done exploring Tokyo, board a bullet train, and you’ll be in the lovely city in just three hours.
How to Travel: From Tokyo, take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen.
#14 | Nikko
Although Japan is renowned for its throbbing energy and colourful way of life, some people may find it a little exhausting.
Plan a vacation to Nikko National Park if you’re seeking a location to unwind and learn more about the customs and World Heritage Sites of the nation.
The city, which is only a two-hour train trip from Tokyo, will astound you with its alpine wilderness and magnificent temples.
Even though Nikko is frequently recommended as a day trip, spending a few nights there won’t be a waste of time.
How to Travel: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station, where you can change to the JR Nikko Line.
#15 | Matsumoto
Last but not least on this list of off-the-beaten-path destinations in Japan is Matusmoto, the second-largest city in Nagano Prefecture, where you can view one of the country’s most magnificent castles.
The Japanese Alps around Matsumoto, and their splendor is really breathtaking. It’s a terrific site to set up shop if you want to access ski areas, mountain resorts, and other winter activities.
Wander around Matsumoto’s streets and savour the city’s charming cafes, or visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in the winter.
This unusual road across the mountains is carved out of the snow, creating a spectacular “snow corridor” where the snow walls on either side can soar as high as 20 meters.
How to Travel: Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and Matsumoto may be reached by train in just over 2.5 hours.
Looking For More Japan’s Undiscovered Gems?
Here are 15 additional locations in Japan that weren’t included in this post but are still worth visiting if you’re looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations:
- Iya Valley
- Yakushima Island
- Sado Island
- Mount Koyasan
- Historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
- Takachiho Gorge
- Geibikei Gorge
- Shizuoka City
Ready To Make Travel Plans To Japan?
Japan not only has some incredible undiscovered jewels to offer, but the entire nation is a genuine gem in the world just waiting to be discovered!
On your upcoming journey to the land of the rising sun, we hope this article has given you some ideas for off-the-beaten-path destinations to check out!
Visit the official Japan tourism website to review the most recent regulations and travel information to make the most of your trip.