Japan is a country that never fails to fascinate its visitors. From its rich history and culture to its natural beauty and delicious cuisine, there is always something new to discover. While Tokyo and Kyoto are well-known tourist destinations, there are many hidden gems in Japan that are waiting to be explored. In this article, we will introduce you to some of the lesser-known destinations, hidden natural wonders, unique cultural sites, and local delights in Japan’s hidden gems.
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Lesser-Known Destinations in Japan
Japan is a country known for its bustling cities, stunning temples, and vibrant culture. However, there are many lesser-known destinations in Japan that are just waiting to be explored. Here are some of the best hidden gems that you should consider adding to your itinerary:
- Tottori: Located on the coast of the Sea of Japan, Tottori is known for its sand dunes, which are the largest in Japan. Visitors can ride camels, try sandboarding, and take in the stunning views of the Sea of Japan. Tottori is also home to the Tottori Castle Ruins, which offer a glimpse into Japan’s feudal past.
- Koyasan: Koyasan is a small town located in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. It is home to over 100 temples, many of which offer lodging to visitors. Koyasan is also the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism, and visitors can attend morning prayers and meditation sessions.
- Kanazawa: Kanazawa is a historic city on the Sea of Japan that is known for its traditional architecture and beautiful gardens. It is home to the Kenrokuen Garden, which is considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Kanazawa is also known for its seafood, particularly its crab.
- Yakushima: Yakushima is a small island located off the coast of Kyushu. It is home to ancient forests that are over 1,000 years old and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can hike through the forests, soak in hot springs, and spot rare wildlife like the Yakushima macaque.
Hidden Natural Wonders in Japan
The land of rising sun is also known as a country that is blessed with natural beauty, from its snow-capped mountains to its turquoise waters. While some natural wonders like Mount Fuji and the cherry blossoms are well-known, there are many hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the best hidden natural wonders in Japan:
- Oirase Gorge: Located in Aomori Prefecture, Oirase Gorge is a beautiful hiking trail that winds through forests, past waterfalls, and along a river. The gorge is particularly stunning in the fall, when the leaves change color.
- Iriomote Island: Iriomote Island is a small island located in the Okinawa Prefecture. It is home to mangrove forests, beautiful beaches, and a variety of wildlife, including the rare Iriomote wildcat.
- Nachi Falls: Nachi Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Japan, with a height of 133 meters. It is located in Wakayama Prefecture and is considered a sacred site in Shintoism.
- Shiretoko Peninsula: The Shiretoko Peninsula is located in Hokkaido and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears and sea eagles. Visitors can take boat tours to see the coastline and spot whales and dolphins.
Unique Cultural Sites in Japan
While many visitors flock to popular sites like Kyoto’s temples or Tokyo’s shrines, there are many unique cultural sites that are just waiting to be explored. Here are some of the best:
- Wajima Morning Market: The Wajima Morning Market is held every morning in the town of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture. It is a bustling market where visitors can sample local foods like crab and sea urchin, as well as buy crafts and souvenirs.
- Gokayama: Gokayama is a small village located in Toyama Prefecture that is known for its traditional thatched-roof houses. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and visitors can take a tour to learn about the unique architecture and way of life in this rural community.
- Otaru Music Box Museum: Located in the city of Otaru in Hokkaido, the Otaru Music Box Museum is a unique museum that showcases over 25,000 music boxes from around the world. Visitors can see how the music boxes are made and even create their own.
- Nara Deer Park: Nara Deer Park is located in the city of Nara and is home to over 1,000 wild deer that roam freely. The deer are considered sacred in Shintoism and visitors can feed and pet them.
Local Delights in Japan’s Hidden Gems
The food in Japan is also well renowned for its umami taste and variety, from sushi to ramen to wagyu beef. While visitors to Japan may be familiar with these popular dishes, there are many local delights to be discovered in the country’s hidden gems. Here are some must-try foods in Japan’s lesser-known destinations:
- Tottori: Tottori is known for its seafood, particularly its crab. Visitors should try the local specialty, Matsuba crab, which is known for its sweet and delicate flavor.
- Koyasan: Koyasan is famous for its vegetarian cuisine, which is prepared by Buddhist monks. Visitors can try Shojin Ryori, a traditional Buddhist meal that features seasonal vegetables and tofu.
- Kanazawa: Kanazawa is known for its gold leaf, which is used in a variety of foods and drinks. Visitors can try gold leaf ice cream, gold leaf sushi, and gold leaf sake.
- Yakushima: Yakushima is famous for its cedar trees, which are over 1,000 years old. Visitors should try the local dish, Yakusugi Gohan, which is rice cooked with cedar leaves and served with local ingredients like mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
Overall, Japan is a country with many hidden gems waiting to be explored. From lesser-known destinations to hidden natural wonders to unique cultural sites, there is something for everyone in Japan’s hidden gems. And don’t forget to try the local cuisine while you’re there!