Japan is filled with incredible experiences. Here are 9 you can’t miss

Japan is a fascinating country that offers a rich blend of culture, history, nature and cuisine. But if you want to explore beyond the usual tourist attractions and discover some hidden gems, here are 10 under-the-radar or offbeat experiences that you can have in Japan.

Explore the tropical paradise of Okinawa

Okinawa is a tropical paradise that is often called the “Hawaii of Japan”. It is the birthplace of karate and has a unique culture and history that differs from mainland Japan. Okinawa is ideal for nature and water lovers who admire the stunning beaches, coral reefs, jungles and islands. You can also enjoy the cherry blossoms in spring, the whale watching in winter and the delicious cuisine all year round.

Walk the ancient pilgrimage trails of Kumano kodo

Kumano kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage trails that connect sacred sites in the Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. It is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage routes in the world, along with the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Kumano kodo offers a spiritual and scenic journey through mountains, forests, rivers and villages. You can visit shrines, temples, waterfalls and hot springs along the way.

Relax in the hot springs of Hakone

Hakone is a popular resort town that lies less than 100 kilometres away from Tokyo. It is famous for its hot springs, or onsen, that are scattered around the area. You can soak in the mineral-rich water, enjoy the views of Mount Fuji and experience the traditional Japanese hospitality. Hakone also has other attractions such as museums, gardens, cable cars and a lake cruise.

Discover the beauty and history of Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and one of the oldest in the world. It is located in Shiga prefecture, near Kyoto. Lake Biwa has a rich biodiversity and a long history that dates back to prehistoric times. You can enjoy various activities on and around the lake, such as boating, fishing, cycling, hiking and visiting historical sites. Lake Biwa also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year.

Experience the rural charm of Takayama

Takayama is a small city in Gifu prefecture that has preserved its traditional atmosphere and culture. Takayama is famous for its old town, where you can see wooden houses, shops and sake breweries from the Edo period (1603-1868). You can also visit the morning markets, where local farmers sell their fresh produce and crafts. Takayama is also a gateway to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site with unique farmhouses.

Stay in a funaya house in Ine

Ine is a fishing village on the Sea of Japan coast, in Kyoto prefecture. It is known for its unique houses called funaya, which are built on stilts over the water and have boat garages on the first floor. Ine has about 230 funaya that line the bay and create a picturesque scenery. You can explore Ine by boat, bike or foot, and even stay overnight in some of the funaya that have been converted into guesthouses.

Explore the diverse attractions of Kyushu

Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands and has a lot to offer for adventurous travellers. Kyushu has active volcanoes, hot springs, tropical islands, historic castles, modern cities and delicious food. You can visit places such as Nagasaki, where you can learn about Japan’s history and culture; Fukuoka, where you can enjoy urban life and street food; Kumamoto, where you can see the majestic Mount Aso and the Kumamoto Castle; and Yakushima, where you can hike in the ancient cedar forest.

Admire the art and nature of Naoshima

Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea that has become a world-renowned destination for contemporary art. Naoshima has several museums, galleries and installations that showcase the works of famous artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Tadao Ando and James Turrell. Naoshima also has beautiful beaches, hills and villages that complement the artistic atmosphere. You can stay in one of the hotels or guesthouses on the island and enjoy the art and nature at your own pace.

Visit the cultural and historical city of Kanazawa

Kanazawa is a city in Ishikawa prefecture that has a rich cultural and historical heritage. Kanazawa was once a powerful feudal domain and a center of arts and crafts. You can visit attractions such as the Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan; the Kanazawa Castle, a symbol of the city’s history; the Higashi Chaya District, where you can see traditional teahouses and geisha performances; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can see innovative artworks.

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