Escape the bustle of chaotic city life by visiting tranquil Japanese towns spread over differing, yet continuously picturesque, landscapes. Savour another perspective of Japan showcased by these small towns with their own individual charms. Here’s our pick of must-visit towns in Japan that will keep your finger on the camera shutter:
1. Hida Takayama Old Town
Lose track of time amidst parallel rows of beautifully preserved wooden houses and shopfronts finished with lattice doors and windows. Located in the heart of the Hida Mountains, Hida Takayama houses, temples, and shrines, stem from the Edo Period (1603-1867). When visiting, rise early to browse ranges of fresh vegetables and treats at riverside morning markets, and don’t forget to splurge on delicious sake!
Magome is a peaceful mountain town residing in the Kiso Valley. It is aesthetically pleasing with several traditional rustic shopfronts, wide stone walkaways, and breath-taking vistas.
Dark wooden craft shops and tasty noodle restaurants are also plentiful. The Magome-Tsumago Trail is a popular hike for visitors that begins in Magome, winding through stunning greenery with scenic waterfalls, and eventually ending in the town of Tsumago.
For a laidback seaside getaway, this quaint fishing town located north of Kyoto, facing the sparkling Sea of Japan, is must. Also known as ‘the Venice of Japan’, Ine’s charm is exemplified by its unique and historic fishing houses called ‘funaya’. Encircled by mountains, more than 200 Funaya line the coast of the bay, taking the form of double storey, wooden waterfront buildings. Cycle around the town, explore the bay by boat, and even stay in a funaya – Ine is worth it!
Experience old Japan by visiting this small, riverside town that is off the beaten path.
Japanese-style inns and crystal-clear waters embody the historic town of Gujo-Hachiman, as well as its overlooker, Hachiman Castle. Stroll along ancient streets and don’t miss out on the lively Gujo Dance Festival that occurs in summer. An interesting fact: Gujo-Hachiman is the birthplace of replica food!
A remote town in Japan’s Kii Mountains, Yoshino is a spectacular spot for cherry blossom viewing, as slopes of thousands of cherry trees enclose the town. With a simple hike, experiencing this vibrant floral paradise can be easily accomplished. However, cherry blossoms aren’t Yoshino’s only attraction. The town is also associated with rich history, relaxing hot springs, must-try restaurants, and numerous shrines and temples.
Celebrated as a town that is completely at one with nature, Minamioguni is a charming hidden gem tucked within the northern part of Mount Aso. It is perhaps most famous for its pristine and mineral-rich hot springs, as they welcome a growing popularity. Minamioguni is a special place where one can relax, unwind, and forget about city noise.
Tomonoura is a delightful port town hosting picturesque, narrow streets lined with rustic, wooden houses. Its bayfront is likewise photogenic, splattered with small multicoloured boats. Its laidback ambience means it is typically overshadowed by more well-known destinations yet overlooking this old-fashioned fishing town would be a mistake. Interesting fact: The Wolverine was filmed here in 2012!
Unwind in Karuizawa’s lush mountain resort town situated at the foot of Mount Asama. Home to elegant houses and heaps of recreational activities such as golf, hot springs, shopping, skiing, and more, this popular spot is only one hour away from central Tokyo.
Indulge in Karuizawa’s chic luxuries and marvel at its beautiful natural surroundings. Karuizawa’s flora offers an array of lovely autumnal colours, and Shiraito waterfalls is certainly worth the visit.
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