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Off the beaten track in Japan

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Off the beaten track in Japan

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This article is an itinerary.

Off the beaten track in Japan is your guide to interesting places in Japan that don't get many visitors (or at least many foreign visitors).

Goko Five Lakes, Shiretoko National Park
Lanterns on a Neputa float, Hirosaki
Hot spring in the Oku-Hida Onsen Villages
Temple roofs in Mt. Koya
Vine bridge across Iya Valley
Iron chains down Mt. Ishizuchi
Kondoi Beach on Taketomi


This is not really an itinerary — unless you have a couple of months and unlimited funds at your disposal — but rather a listing of interesting places scattered around Japan. Find the region you'll be visiting below, and see if you can work in a few of these into your own itinerary. From north to south:





  • OdaibaTokyo's newest district on a reclaimed island in Tokyo Bay, very popular among Japanese but still under the radar for most foreigners
  • Kawasaki — dull industrial Tokyo suburb known for the inimitable Iron Penis Festival (April) and its home shrine


  • Oku-Hida Onsen Villages — luxurious hot springs nestled in the Japan Alps
  • Ono — castles and temples without the tourists
  • Sado Island — place of exile and gold mines, now featuring the yearly Earth Celebration and the self-proclaimed Alcohol Republic
  • Eiheiji Temple — head temple of the Soto Zen School of Buddhism. It was founded in 1244 by Zen Master Dogen.


  • Mount Koya — secluded hilltop complex of Buddhist temples only a short hop away from Osaka or Kyoto
  • Koka — small town near Kyoto famous for its ninja history, unique ceramics and location on the Tokaido Road


  • Onomichi — pleasant little temple town home to many Japanese authors
  • Tsuyama — a beautiful historic town offering Kakuzan Park, one of the best places in the Chugoku Region to view cherry blossoms in the spring, Shurakuen Garden, and Joto Street, a well-preserved historic road located along the pilgrimage route to Izumo Shrine.
  • Daisen — a city most famous for Mount Daisen, a great place in the West to hike, climb, and skii (in the wintertime). A walk through the trails to Daisen-ji Temple is quite peaceful and serene.


  • Iya Valley — one of Japan's Hidden Valleys, known for its vine bridges
  • Mount Ishizuchi — Shikoku's highest mountain, climbed with iron chains
  • Uwajima — a nondescript little rural town with bouts of bull sumo and a shrine devoted to fertility & phalli


  • Yakushima — A mountainous, rain-soaked island, home to giant cedars thousands of years old