Golden week, one of the longest holidays in Japan, is getting closer. This spring weather is encouraging many people to go out, but when planning your trip somewhere, of course you will have to take precautions for COVID-19. It’s still better to avoid the crowded popular tourist spots and make some effort to avoid the busiest time. But it’s still early to be a reluctant traveler yourself. Visit off the beaten path places instead, and take a deep breath surrounded by nobody but stunning nature and soothing sound.
Here are the 10 best off the beaten path places we recommend in Japan!
1. Lake Tanuki (田貫湖)
Lake Tanuki is a scenic lake located in Fujinomiya city, Shizuoka prefecture. It covers some part of “Asagiri Plateau” (朝霧高原), a scenic natural spot nestled in the southwest base of Mt. Fuji. It was originally formed as a man-made lake in an attempt to store sufficient water used for agricultural purposes such as irrigation for rice fields around.
Around the lake, cycling is the perfect way to discover beautiful nature. Fishing and boat cruises are another option for those who want to spend a peaceful time with a stunning backdrop of Mt. Fuji, the symbolic mountain in Japan. You can also find great campgrounds which offer a range of outdoor experiences such as Tanukiko Campground.
2. Mizushima (水島)
Visiting a remote uninhabited island could be the best way to enjoy your time away from crowds. “Mizushima” is a beautiful island in Fukui prefecture which can be reached only during a couple of weeks for summer season. It consists of two small islands connected one another by a sandbar, which creates a unique shape surrounded by sandy beach and shallow clear water. It’s often described as “Hawaii in Hokuriku region in Japan”, and attracts people for sea-bating, snorkeling or other marine activities!
3. Ine (伊根)
Ine (伊根) is a peaceful town nestled in Tango peninsula (丹後半島), which covers a northeast part of Kyoto. The calm town offers a great opportunity to take a glimpse of the traditional lifestyle of local people living in harmony with nature and ocean. The scenic townscape created by a number of fisherman houses is officially designated as Important Preservation of Historic Buildings as well. Rent a bike to explore the lovely town, which will bring you an unforgettable experience which you can never get at world-famous spots in the very heart of Kyoto. Sea kayaking is another option starting from May which takes you to an adventurous tour with a skilled instructor. Listen to the sound of the ocean, feel the power of nature and greet with friendly locals at the town.
4. Nakatajima Sand Dune (中田島砂丘)
Can you imagine that a 1.5-hour train ride from Tokyo takes you to one of the three greatest sand dunes in Japan? “Nakatajima Sand Dune” is a scenic spot located in Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka prefecture. It starches approximately 0.6 km from north to south, and 4km from east to west along the Pacific Ocean. It is also known as a breeding spot for sea turtles where they come to lay eggs and raise their babies. They are committed to a range of conservation activities to protect their habitat as well.
“Fumon” (風紋) refers to unique patterns and designs on sand formed by strong winds that blows through the Sand dune. At dusk, people flock there to watch the sunset slowly go down to the sea, creating an incredible scenery. Don’t forget to try some local specialties such as “Hamamatsu Gyoza”, fried dumplings!
Recommended hotel to stay: Okura Act City Hamamatsu
5. Achi Village (阿智村)
If you want to visit somewhere to enjoy stargazing at night, head to Achi Village which boasts the best view of the night sky in Japan! Nestled in a mountainous area in the southern Nagano prefecture, it attracts an increasing number of visitors with a breathtaking night view created by thousands of shining stars in the sky.
You can join a guided tour which is held throughout the year by “Star Village Achi”, an institution organizing several types of guided stargazing tours. A 15min gondola ride takes you to “Heavens Sonohara” (ヘブンスそのはら), a perfect spot for stargazing from a top of Fujimidai highlands at an elevation of 1,400m. In the end of the day, how about stopping by “Hirugami Onsen” (昼神温泉), a popular hot spring resort nearby which offers a refreshing Onsen experience!
6. Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉)
Kinosaki Onsen is one of the most famous hot spring resorts in Japan. Located in the northern part of Hyogo prefecture close to the border of Kyoto, it has served as a traditional Onsen spot with a history of over 1,300 years. In spite of the high name recognition, it offers a relatively peaceful and calm atmosphere compared to other famous Onsen resorts across Japan.
There are 7 different public Onsen spots called “Sotoyu” (外湯), and you can enjoy a variety of features at each spot. On their website, they offer helpful information on how crowded they are at the moment, which helps us avoid busy hours and enjoy Onsen safely with a social distancing. Just exploring the historic town will also bring you a range of experiences, such as zazen (meditation) at a historic temple or make a short trip to Genbudo Caves.
7. Tanize Suspension Bridge (谷瀬の吊り橋)
If you are looking for some thrilling experience, visit “Tanize Suspension Bridge” in Nara prefecture. This 297.7 meters bridge was originally constructed by donation from local people, aiming to build a convenient bridge connecting their remote area to the other side across Kumano river. It is now visited by numerous people as a symbolic tourist attraction around the area. Walking through the bridge requires courage, but offers a stunning scenery created by the contrast of surrounding peaks and the blue sky!
8. Taishaku Gorge(帝釈峡)
Selected among the top 100 scenic spots in Japan, “Taishaku Gorge” fascinates visitors with stunning nature spots and a range of outdoor activity options. Nestled in the northeast part of Hiroshima prefecture, it stretches about 18km with a number of popular sightseeing spots.
“Onbashi” (雄橋) is a giant rock with a unique shape naturally formed by erosion of river for over centuries. Cursing is also available at “Shinryu-ko”(神龍湖), a man-made dam situated in the center of the gorge. Immerse yourself in the world of lush greenery from spring to early summer, or wait for the arrival of fall to enjoy the exceptional autumn foliage!
It has been 10 years since the unprecedented earthquake hit the Tohoku region in Japan in 2011. It has brought tremendous damage to the local people beyond people’s imagination. “Jodogahama” (浄土ヶ浜) is a popular scenic spot which is in Miyako city, Iwate prefecture which has also received a severe damage.
It features a cluster of unique rocks which welcome visitors with a peaceful sandy beach and clear water. While it offers an impressive scenery, it also belongs to “Sanriku Fukko National Park”, which was formed aiming to pass down the experiences from the disaster to the next generations. Head to “Jodogahama Visitor Center”, which is located in the park and helps you access basic information about the ecosystem and geographical features of Jodogahama. “Blue Cave”(青の洞窟) is a mystical spot which is accessible only by boat cruise!
Read The Best Places to Visit Along The Sanriku Coast for more destinations around the area.
Recommended hotel to stay: Jodogahama Park Hotel
“Itoshima” (糸島) is a beautiful area located in the western part of Fukuoka prefecture in the Kyushu region. Although it is adjacent to Fukuoka city, the 5th largest city with a population of over 1.5 million people, it offers a relaxing atmosphere which embraces visitors with plenty of nature as well as lovely small shops and cozy cafes!
“Sakurai Futamigaura”(桜井二見ヶ浦) is a popular tourist spot which is famous for a pair of giant rocks in the ocean which looks like a couple. They are connected with each other with a sacred rope made of straw called “Shimenawa” (しめ縄) in Japan. In the front, a white torii gate stands silently, creating a breathtaking view especially at sunset! Take a relaxing stroll at “Akutaya Beach” (芥屋海水浴場), or pay a visit to “Sennyoji Temple” (千如寺) at Mt. Raizan!
Recommended hotels to stay:
Hotel New Gaea Itoshima
Rakuten STAY HOUSE x WILL STYLE Itoshima-Vacation STAY 45465
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