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Off the beaten track in Japan - Share your recommendations

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Old 27-03-2014, 12:32 AM   #1
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Off the beaten track in Japan - Share your recommendations

I would like to create a thread here for discussing and recommending any off-the-beaten-track adventures you have done in Japan.
  • It could be any trip you have done before (and so you may be able to share some photos) or any plans to some remote locations that you are planning.
  • Or perhaps you want to include some off the beaten track explorations you have in mind in your upcoming trip and you would like to discuss the feasibility of your plans here.
  • Finally, maybe you have just graduated from a newbie to Japan status and have no ideas to share, but you would like to see what possibilities are available.

To make things not too onerous or tedious, everyone is welcome to suggest a place and give a few lines of comments. Perhaps even add a photo or two. Those people who really want to find out more are welcome to post questions in reply or PM the poster directly.

And lastly, as this is *OFF THE BEATEN TRACK* discussion, please kindly do not clutter this thread with posts about common touristy places. For example like:
  • Visiting Tsukiji market
  • Hakone Round trip
  • Visiting Miyajima (but talking about climbing the mountain is okay)
  • how to get to Arashiyama

To start off, here are some of my recommendations.
  • Visit Takachiho, Kyushu. The place feels like a hidden valley in the middle of nowhere. The gorge landscape and small countryside charms are highly memorable. Definitely a top destination in Kyushu.
  • Visit Yakushima, Kyushu. Hard to get to but the effort to get there is totally worth it if you are into nature and landscape. Do plan to stay more than 3 days to savour the various sights. And driving around the island is highly recommended.
  • Visit Takejima, Okinawa. This is the authentic Okinawan village you may have read about before or seen on TV. The island is like a real kampung, staying overnight is absolutely essential.
  • Climb Haguro mountain in Dewa Sanzan, Tohoku. It is a short 3-5hrs climb and you can stay in a real temple at the end of the climb. The climb up is beautiful and the temple you are staying in is authentic and gorgeous.
  • Visit Magome and Tsumago, Chubu. The 2 village-towns are beautifully preserved and the highlight of the trip will be to hike that short 5hrs trail between the 2 towns. This stretch is formerly a part of the Nakasendo and you are hiking the same trail that people used in the past to travel from Kyoto to Edo. Also stay in one of the ryokans in either of the towns to expereince what staying in the countryside feels like.
  • Visit Naoshima, Shikoku. This is the best place in Japan for art lovers. This place has art museums and installations all over the island. Likewise, stay overnight on the island and use the art installation public bathroom.
  • Go kayaking in Kushiro Wetland, Hokkaido. Go with one of the outdoor activity companies operating in Kushiro and go kayaking in the wetland. And see the cranes in the crane refuge nearby. You probably have to stay overnight here as it is so remote but you will definitely enjoy the peacefulness there.
  • Visit Ishinomaki, Tohoku. This town was one that bore the brunt of the 2011 Tsunami. Most of the buildings near the coast are stlll missing. There is an interesting Manga musum dedicated to Shotaro Ishinomori, the guy who created the Kamen Riders. There is also a Cat Island nearby you can visit. The experience of walking those devasted area is unforgettable.
  • Visit Yamadera, Tohoku. This place is temple parked on the edge of a steep mountain and cliff. The view from the outlook pavilion on top is fantastic, but even just standing in the pavilion will give you vertigo, because it is jutting out of the cliff itself. The place is also very easily accessible by trains, and the mountain is just 5 mins walk from the train station. A day trip from Tokyo is possible.
  • Climb Mt Takao, Tokyo. A half day trip from Shinjuku. Take train from Shinjuku to Tako, change to local line to Takaoguchi. You can either walk up or take the cable car. There are 6 hiking routes up the 600m high Mt Takao and they are all very accessible to anyone with moderate fitness. Go on a weekend and climb the hill with plenty of Tokyoites out to enjoy the fresh air and nature of Takao. There is a temple near the summit with all the tourist souvenirs you can buy. You can easily expand the hiking ambition to include the neighboring hills. The classic hike is Mt Takao to Mt Jinba (8 hours).
  • Climb Mt Mitake, Tokyo. A day trip from Tokyo. Train from Shinjuku to Mitake. Take a bus from Mitake Station to the ropeway station up Mt Mitake and then it is a short 3 hour climb to Mt Ohtake (1266.5m) from there. And take the long way down to Okutama. Soak in Moegi-no-yu onsen before returning back to Tokyo.
  • Do the Kyoto Circular Trail. It takes 4 days and it takes in all the mountains surrounding Kyoto. Starts from Fushimi Inari and ends at Saiho-ji Temple, going one entire loop anti-clockwise around Kyoto. The best sections IMO are the ones from Ginkakuji onwards up to Enryakuji and then descending to Ohara, and the section from Takao to Arashiyama.
  • Cycle around Biwako Lake A fun and relaxing way to enjoy the natural beauty of the biggest lake in Japan. Within an hour train ride from Kyoto, and plenty of bike rental options can be found in the major stops along the way, this is a great holiday for the young and fit.
If I remember anything else, I will add them in later posts. If you have anything to ask about these trips, you can reply here or PM me!

Some of the future trips I have in mind:
  • Do the traverse of the peaks in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park in Saitama. It takes about 4-6 days and it takes in all the peaks from Mt Kinpo (2,599m) to Mt Kobushigatake (2,479m) to Mt Kumotori (2,017m).

Last edited by kifo; 26-02-2016 at 03:38 PM..
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Old 27-03-2014, 09:29 AM   #2
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nice thread.. good to see something different from the usual tokyo-osaka-kyoto tours
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Old 27-03-2014, 12:27 PM   #3
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nagano - visit yudanaka. i went there to visit jigokudani where huat the photos usually depict: monkeys soaking in onsen. too bad i went dat time not during winter
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Old 27-03-2014, 12:33 PM   #4
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Does the rabbit island count as off the beaten track?
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Old 27-03-2014, 12:33 PM   #5
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nagano - visit yudanaka. i went there to visit jigokudani where huat the photos usually depict: monkeys soaking in onsen. too bad i went dat time not during winter
Oh yah! I did that! I went in Dec so it was all white but the walk in to the Monkey refuge was treacherously slippery with frozen ice on steep paths.

I would also recommend staying over in the Shibu Onsen next door. The tiny town has 7 small public onsens which you are supposed to visit all in one day for good luck. Finding all the onsens and sharing them with Japanese tourists and locals is a sure way to make new acquaintances! Soon you will find yourself going in a group searching for the next onsen together.
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Old 27-03-2014, 12:34 PM   #6
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Does the rabbit island count as off the beaten track?
Yeah I wanted to go there myself! Is it somewhere near Hiroshima???
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Old 27-03-2014, 12:38 PM   #7
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Yeah I wanted to go there myself! Is it somewhere near Hiroshima???
Yup! the nearest shinkansen station is call mihara iirc

Ok I share later tonight!

V fun haha and almost no foreign tourists
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Old 27-03-2014, 01:15 PM   #8
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Itching to visit these places, but I haven't even covered the "must-see" yet
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Old 27-03-2014, 02:15 PM   #9
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lemme contribute some places i have been to:

Ibaraki - Ibaraki prefecture is right next to tokyo and the largest city in the prefecture, Mito is only about 1hr by train away. while Ibaraki is popular with domestic travellers, not many foreigners visit the place, except to see Kairakuen, one of the top 3 garden in japan.
some attractions in Ibaraki includes:
Mount Tsukuba - also know as Mt Fuji in the west
Hitachi Seaside park - one of the surreal places in the world to see before u die
Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan | 17 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die - 8398
Hananuki Gorge - beautiful place for autumn leaves

Goshikinuma (five colour lake) - Goshikinuma at the foot of Mount Bandai in Fukushima is a great place of some light hiking. the colour of the lake changes colour in different part of the year. unfortunately, it is in Fukushima, so i doubt many ppl will be interested to go there.

Kumano/ southern Wakayama - Kumano region in southern Kansai. the region is famous for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, as well as numerous onsen towns.
some towns/attraction in the region:
Shirahama - onsen town known for its zoo and Sandenbeki caves
Taiji - Whaling town made famous by the movie, The Cove
Kushimoto - southern most tip of Honshu. known for Hashigui Iwa rock formation
Nachi - Nachi Taisha, one of the 3 grand shrine along the Kumano Kodo route. japan highest waterfall, Nachi falls, is just next to Nachi Taisha
Hongu - Hongu Taisha, another of the 3 grand shrine is located here, together with a few onsen towns
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Old 27-03-2014, 03:14 PM   #10
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lemme contribute some places i have been to:

Ibaraki - Ibaraki prefecture is right next to tokyo and the largest city in the prefecture, Mito is only about 1hr by train away. while Ibaraki is popular with domestic travellers, not many foreigners visit the place, except to see Kairakuen, one of the top 3 garden in japan.
some attractions in Ibaraki includes:
Mount Tsukuba - also know as Mt Fuji in the west
Hitachi Seaside park - one of the surreal places in the world to see before u die
Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan | 17 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die - 8398
Hananuki Gorge - beautiful place for autumn leaves

Goshikinuma (five colour lake) - Goshikinuma at the foot of Mount Bandai in Fukushima is a great place of some light hiking. the colour of the lake changes colour in different part of the year. unfortunately, it is in Fukushima, so i doubt many ppl will be interested to go there.

Kumano/ southern Wakayama - Kumano region in southern Kansai. the region is famous for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, as well as numerous onsen towns.
some towns/attraction in the region:
Shirahama - onsen town known for its zoo and Sandenbeki caves
Taiji - Whaling town made famous by the movie, The Cove
Kushimoto - southern most tip of Honshu. known for Hashigui Iwa rock formation
Nachi - Nachi Taisha, one of the 3 grand shrine along the Kumano Kodo route. japan highest waterfall, Nachi falls, is just next to Nachi Taisha
Hongu - Hongu Taisha, another of the 3 grand shrine is located here, together with a few onsen towns
I have been to Mito for the art museum. The art museum tower has a beautiful distinctive futuristic design. Unfortunately it was damaged during the 2011 earthquake so it is no longer possible to go up.

Also thanks to your recommendation, I have recently been to Kumano (but I have yet to finish my field report here. Sorry about that!) Although I had great fun hiking the Kumano Kodo, I doubt many will be interested to commit to such a long hike on your Japan trip so I shall not plug it here. However if you have the time, do visit Koyasan (strictly not off the beaten track as it is always swamped with foreign tourists) and also Kii-Katsura. From Kii-Katsura, you can easily visit the beautiful Nachi Taisha and see the highest waterfall in Japan. The place to stay in Kii-Katsura is the grand old Urashima Hotel. The hotel is built into a thin peninsula jutting out into the Pacific and you have to take the turtle shaped ferry to get to the hotel. The hotel is huge and old so it has gone through many expansions, there are different wings of the hotel that will take hours to walk around. Being on a isolated strip of land, it has everything you could possibly need for entertainment. Japan tourists will spend their whole weekend on the hotel alone, going to onsens (several), pachinko, arcade centers, restaurants, bars, cafes, fishing, taking walks on the cliffs, and many other activities organized by the hotel.
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Old 27-03-2014, 03:26 PM   #11
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My friend went on some pilgrimage trial in Oyasan?
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Old 27-03-2014, 04:22 PM   #12
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Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture

Takehara: Home of Tamayura ~Hitotose~ | The Infinite Zenith

Chichibu, Saitama

A Tour of Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture - The Setting of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day | Seichi Junrei | Visit Japan with Tokyo Otaku Mode
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Old 27-03-2014, 04:33 PM   #13
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Not sure if Mother Farm in Chiba-ken is considered...touristy.
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Old 27-03-2014, 05:55 PM   #14
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My friend went on some pilgrimage trial in Oyasan?
Where is Oyasan? Or you mean Koyasan?
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Old 27-03-2014, 06:03 PM   #15
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Did you write those 2 articles? The places you visited is amazing! I have heard of people visiting these anime seichis or rokechis but many of them the actual places themselves are pretty normal. But the 2 places you have highlighted here looks very beautiful and lovely. I haven't watched those two anime before but I am now interested to watch them already!

When I visited Takayama 2 years back, I haven't watched Hyouka yet so I missed the opportunity to go hunting for the Hyouka rokechis. But seeing that there are already so much to see and do around Takayama, I doubt I would be able to squeeze out the time even if I had watched the anime.

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