Travel Japan: 12 Hidden Gems From Across the Country
Anyone can Google, "Must see places in Japan," but we want to lead you off the beaten path. Leave the tourists behind and see more of the incredible experiences Japan has to offer as we take you on this virtual tour of Japan's Hidden Gems!
We crafted this tour in conjunction with our May 2019 Tour of Japan Bokksu. For our 3rd birthday, we curated fan-favorite snacks from around the country to create our own snack tour of Japan, but we wanted to go a little further for those of you interested in traveling to Japan.
For this tour, we're going to 12 different prefectures. We've organized it from North to South so you can easily follow along with a map and plot out the Japan trip of your dreams!
Ready? Let's go!
Starting our journey in the northernmost region of Japan, we take you to Watanabe Experience Farm! Hokkaido is known for having the creamiest milk in all of Japan. As a prefecture, Hokkaido is home to one-fourth of the arable land in Japan, making it perfect for farming of all kinds, and Hokkaido alone produces 50% of the country's cheese. Come in the summer to this grassy paradise and see cows grazing for miles. Experiences offered at Watanabe Experience Farm include milking or feeding the happy cows, making butter by hand, and even making ice cream!
Address: 646-4 Teshikagagenya, Teshikaga, Kawakami District, Hokkaido 088-3222, Japan
There’s more to Aomori than just apples. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the remote Shimokita Peninsula and make the pilgrimage to Bodai-ji. This Buddhist temple is located on Mount Osore (Fearsome Mountain), a still active volcano. In Japanese mythology this peak one of the entrances to the underworld. Many locals visit the peak to honor dead ancestors and relatives, but it also attracts religious pilgrims and tourists for it's otherworldly atmosphere. For those of you who want an extra challenge, hike the entire Osore-san Mountain Range and end your journey with a dip in the temple-run hot springs.
Address: Usoriyama-3-2 Tanabu, Mutsu-shi, Aomori-ken 035-0021, Japan
Kotobuki Toraya Sake Brewery makes the best of Yamagata’s long, cold winters. Their sake is specially crafted with fresh snow water from the Zao mountain range, creating the cleanest sake possible. The winter cold makes the area ideal for sake brewing and allows the sake to ferment at low temperatures to yield a strong aroma and complex flavor. Take a tour and have a tasting of this brewery's fine sakes. Tours are scheduled through phone reservation only.
Address: 〒 990-2235 Yamagata, Yamagata Prefecture 大字 Nakazato Kitada 93-1
For you extra-intrepid Classic Bokksu members. Visit the Furumachi district in Niigata and head to Niigata Hanamachi Chaya program to learn about the 200-year-old traditions of the geisha. Watch as the professionally trained Geigi perform traditional Japanese dances, surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden. Don't be shy, you're welcome to join in the dancing and learn some new moves!
Address: Niigata Saitou Villa, 576 Nishi-Ohatacho, Chuo-ku, Niigata City
The Samurai Museum, located in the heart of Tokyo, is an experiential museum. Guests of the museum can try on samurai armor, watch a live sword show, take calligraphy lessons and more! With expert lectures and historic artifacts on display, the museum aims for each guest to leave with a deeper understanding of not just Samurai, but of the spirit of the Japanese people.
Address: Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Kabukicho 2-25-6
Nagoya is usually the main attraction in Aichi, but further east is the beautiful Sakurabuchi Park. The 1,000 sakura trees that make up this park were planted in the Edo period by the lord of the nearby Shinshiro Castle. We recommend visiting in spring for a truly stunning view of the sakura or in fall for the equally beautiful fall foliage. A winding river passes through the park, and the footbridge crossing it provides the perfect spot to take photos.
Address: 〒441-1331 Aza Yanaida, Niwano, Shinshiro-City, Aichi
Kyoto is known for balancing modern and traditional Japanese culture. Toraya offers a bit of both at its flagship Kyoto Tea House. Toraya established its first wagashi shop during the 1600s in Kyoto and quickly grew to become the leading wagashi shop in Japan, setting the standard for high-quality wagashi. Though the original building is no longer there, their modern shop is a quiet respite from the busy city streets and offers a taste of Japan's most traditional sweets along with a beautiful garden view.
Address: 415 Hirohashidono-cho, Ichijo-kado, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City, KYOTO
The motherland of takoyaki, pan-fried balls of dough with octopus (tako) topped with special sauces, you’ll find yourself magnetically drawn to Takonotetsu. At this shop, you can try your hand at making your own takoyaki without the commitment of buying any special equipment. You can just order from the menu too, but where's the fun in that? They have both traditional takoyaki and some inventive variations for you to try. With the freedom to customize the takoyaki you create (and eat), don’t get too overwhelmed with all the options at your disposal!
Address: 1-10 Kakuta-cho Kita-ku Osaka-city 530-0017, JAPAN
Play ball! Japan loves its baseball, and there’s no better trip than to Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium where you can cheer on your favorite Japanese baseball team in this retro-classic ballpark. Baseball may be America's pastime, but it's one of Japan's passions. Rooting for your hometown team is a part of Japanese culture. Every game the Hiroshima Toyo Carps play at their home stadium brings cheering crowds supporting their team. The wild energy of a Toyo Carp game at Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium can't be beat!
Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Minamikaniya, Minami Ward, Hiroshima, 732-0803, Japan
Deep in Fukuoka are the Shiraito Falls. While relaxing beside the waterfalls enjoy delicious somen nagashi. Somen nagashi are thin Japanese wheat noodles that cascade down split open bamboo shoots. Test your chopstick skills as you try to catch the somen rushing past you in the pure spring water. Complete this fresh meal by fishing for your own masu (trout) with a simple bamboo fishing rod!
Address: Shiraito 460, Itoshima City, Fukuoka Prefecture 819-1154
More info on visiting here (Japanese only, use google translate)
You've probably never done anything like this before! The town of Ibusuki in Kagoshima is known for its onsen "hot springs" and suna-mushi "sand-bathing". Visit one of the many spas along the Ibusuki coast for a dip in the hot sand. Indulge in the benefits of the warm, mineral-rich sand. Staff will bury you to the neck in the warm sand and you'll be left to enjoy the sounds of nearby waves.
Address: n/a. Many sand-bathing opportunities are available along this stretch of beach.
In the southernmost part of Japan lies a theme park celebrating old style “Ryukyu” Okinawa with traditional houses and cultural experiences. Travelers can try the most popular Okinawan dishes like Okinawa soba, create classical Okinawan pottery, or paint a small statue of shisa, the lion-dog hybrid that wards off evil and brings good.
Address: 1130 Yamada, Onna, Kunigami District, Okinawa 904-0416, Japan
We are not affiliated with any of the websites or businesses linked in this article, we just think they're really awesome. Next time you're in Japan be sure to check out one of these hidden gems!