As Japan emerges from its COVID cocoon after months of self-isolation and self-reflection residents and tourists alike are contemplating the post-COVID world and, in terms of travel, what this actually means. Japan appears to have either been lucky in escaping the worst of the situation or the measures that the government implemented actually worked. It’s uncertain, at least for the moment, what the face of international travel will look like but for residents traveling in Japan (in the Japan COVID world) it’s encouraging to think that it’s now possible again to take trips here and enjoy the most of what the country has to offer.
For visitors concerned with safety and the inevitable question, “Is Japan safe?” then it’s worth considering options such as travel insurance, Japan’s outstanding reputation when it comes to hygiene and if you’re not feeling ready just yet the option of virtual tours which has become something of a global pastime of late.
As people will, almost certainly, try to avoid crowds and touristy zones such as Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan Travel guides you to a curated list of places off the beaten track in the lush Japanese countryside where families and loved ones can immerse themselves in Japan’s flourishing forests, history, culture, camping and general outdoor activities.
Izu Skyline, Shizuoka Prefecture
Not far from Tokyo, Shizuoka Prefecture is an absolute gem. Known, primarily, for its abundance of onsen (hot springs) towns such as Ito and Atami it’s a few hours car trip from Tokyo on the renowned Izu Skyline toll road for very affordable fees (ideal for couples and families on a budget). The views of Mount Fuji are incredible with visitors capturing uninterrupted views of this great symbol of Japanese unity and pride. The landscape in the Izu area of Shizuoka is truly stunning and it’s advantageous to make a stop at the Takichiyama Observatory, an observation space located alongside the Izu Skyline with bountiful views.
Awajishima, Hyogo Prefecture
Awajishima is a picturesque island in Japan’s beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Not far, by car, from major cities such as Osaka or Kyoto, visitors can take a ferry to Awajishima and truly absorb what this island has to offer. If you’re looking for an eclectic list of activities then Awajishima has it all from temples such as the idyllic Senko-ji and a variety of clean beaches to The Awajishima Museum (devoted to the island’s history and distinctive culture) and the Awaji Ningyoza theater. Peaceful, traditional and idyllic, this island is one of Japan’s best kept secrets and the perfect spot to unwind after the stresses of recent times.
Lake Tanukiko, Shizuoka Prefecture
Situated near the glorious Mount Fuji, Lake Tanukiko is perfect for a road trip with loved ones. There is free parking, an array of camping facilities with cooking shelters and cafeteria in addition to amenities such as boat rental, bike rental and fishing. For photography lovers the views of Mount Fuji are pretty much perfect at Lake Tanukiko so get your cameras at the ready. In addition to this, hiking is also a popular activity with the Tokai Nature Trail passing through the banks of Lake Tanukiko. It’s a quiet and relaxing spot with enough nature, spectacular landscapes and tranquility to soothe any worries or stresses you may have experienced in recent months.
Ueyama Rice Terraces, Hyogo Prefecture
Rice is more than simple sustenance in Japan. It’s connected to the soul and spirit of the nation. Tucked away in Hyogo Prefecture, the Ueyama rice terraces are stunning and symbolize Japan’s complex, profound and embedded relationship with the seed. Accessible by car the area is also a popular hiking trail with few tourists and beautiful landscapes. Ueyama rice terrace is known to be one of the best rice fields in Japan and gives visitors a rare glimpse into Japanese agriculture and society.
Beauty Forest, Niigata Prefecture
Niigata is a remarkable prefecture situated on the Sea of Japan. Blooming with life, culture and history it’s one prefecture which doesn’t really get enough attention. Niigata’s Beauty Forest is free, perfect for walking and hiking and is the perfect way to experience “forest bathing” which has become something of a recent trend in Japan. Niigata is only 2 hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen (or a few hours drive) making it an accessible and exciting adventure for tourists looking for something more natural and to escape Japan’s bustling urban centers.
Iya Valley, Shikoku
Located in Tokushima Prefecture, Iya Valley is a wild and dramatic series of mountain valleys and ravines. Until now, this area of Japan has been criminally overlooked and is a genuine under-the-radar destination. With outrageous landscapes and a variety of quirky vine bridges it’s an exciting prospect for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for something a little bit different. Accessible by car (car rentals are widely available from nearby airports and major train stations) it’s worth every penny and minute of your time. Rural, rugged and exceptional, Iya Valley should be near the top of any travel list for Japan.
- Nishiiyayamamura Tonotani, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0101, Japan
Tajima, Hyogo Prefecture
The good folk of Tajima have made a concerted effort of late to trailblaze the use and accessibility of English for visitors to this lush and beautiful part of Hyogo Prefecture. Tajima has its own English website choc-a-bloc with information about this under-the-radar destination. Tajima is renowned for its plethora of hiking trails and official routes and is packed with museums, temples, castles and history. Tajima also hosts a multitude of onsen which is a terribly authentic Japanese way of winding down after a long day of hiking and traversing the area. Car and bike rentals are widely available for visitors’ convenience.