Rural Japan stands in sharp contrast to the ultra-modern urban side of this country. Everyone visits Japan to see its incredible capital city and to explore the nation’s best-loved temples, but in order to experience Japan like the locals do, it is important to venture beyond the usual tourist sites. In order to say that you have truly seen all that this country has to offer, travel out to Japan’s countryside. From noodle making to kayaking, these beautiful rural destinations will guarantee unique adventures.
Nestled within the mountains of Hida, Takayama is a picturesque city set beneath lush rural surroundings and famed for its history of talented carpenters and craftsmen. The city boasts an idyllic Old Town with many preserved buildings that date back to the Edo Period. The Old Town has plenty of dining options and some sake breweries to visit. Visitors can also take rickshaw rides around the town for something a little more relaxing.
There are a number of museums including the Takayama Museum of History and Art which explores the history of this interesting city. For locally crafted souvenirs, visit the daily morning markets which open at 6:30 until midday. Visitors can also take some exciting day trips to more rural towns and mountainous destinations.
Samurai were once the protectors of Japan and highly skilled fighters. Today they are an important symbol of Japanese history and are still highly respected by the Japanese people. In the quaint town of Izumi, visitors can see the homes of these warriors and step back in time to experience what rural Japan was like over 400 years ago.
Izumi invites visitors to wear kimono and meander through the ancient streets and sites before taking part in authentic activities such as the iconic tea ceremony. Though this sounds quite touristy, Izumi is surprisingly quiet and provides a fantastic insight into Japanese history.
Along with the samurai residences, visitors can also take leisurely walks through the area’s fields and forests and catch a glimpse of the thousands of crane birds who migrate here. Izumi is a family-friendly destination and tea ceremonies require a minimum of five people.
Iiyama is a small city located in Nagao Prefecture. The city boasts beautiful natural scenery and plenty of temples to see. For foodies, visitors can take part in a traditional soba noodle class and learn about Japanese agriculture. Slightly further afield is Mount Kuriowa which is home to the beautiful Gifu butterfly and offers a number of nature walks. In winter the area is adorned in a blanket of snow and is most famous for its charming snow covered huts that line the foot of the slopes.
To completely escape the hustle and bustle of the city, visit Gokase, an untouched area that is brimming with year round activities. Set in the highlands of Kyushu Island, Gokase offers the chance to see a part of Japan that most foreign visitors do not get to explore. In winter, the area is primarily a ski resort with fantastic slopes for those looking to try their hand at skiing or snowboarding.
The mountains of Gokase are divided by a picturesque river. In summer, this river is the perfect place for kayaking and taking part in a number of water sports whilst embracing the jaw-dropping vistas. Gokase really is an unspoilt part of Japan that provides fresh air and lots of hikes.