With the combination of islands, beaches, mountains, and hills, the Japanese landscape is a sight to behold in your heart.
And this is the reason why this stunningly beautiful country attracts a large number of visitors all around the world.
However, what most people understand about the name Japan is all about the dazzling neon-lit streets of Tokyo, the gorgeous ancient temples and shrines of Kyoto, and the hustling and bustling nightlife of Osaka.
Indeed they reflect the splendor of Japan, but this country is actually something more than these.
The less-explored towns that are scattered across the country have something special and unique, where a different and deeper kind of beauty awaits.
And today, I am here to unveil those hidden beauties by presenting the top 10 most beautiful towns in Japan.
Top 10 Most Beautiful Towns & Villages: the Untold Beauty of Japan
If you are visiting Japan, not for the first time, I would suggest you look for a more authentic local appeal other than Tokyo or Osaka that you can find in the traditional Japanese towns and villages.
Or you can include one or a few of these places in your bucket list, even if it’s your first time.
1. Biei: Beautiful Floral Display
How does it feel to step into a fairy tale?
Well, I know it cannot be literally true, but Biei, a small town in Hokkaido, can make you feel like being in a wonderland.
If you want to experience the natural beauty of Japan, this one of the most beautiful countryside towns in Japan can be a perfect destination for you.
You might know Hokkaido as the country’s winter playground, but Biei attracts visitors with its surrounding rolling hills covered in a rainbow-like carpet of flowers and trees.
While you are there, be sure to visit Shikisai Hill especially, which is the top spot in the town for flower viewing.
The breathtaking view is just like a beautiful picture painted by a talented artist.
You can also stroll through the eye-catching lavender fields.
Bike or drive through the countryside and view this traditional Japanese village that looks like nowhere else in the country.
This place is also worth visiting for the blue pond, a pristine little water body that turned into a heavenly blue color due to the nearby mineral deposits.
This stunning beauty makes Biei a worthwhile stop in Hokkaido.
2. Hida-Takayama: A Little Kyoto
The most interesting thing about Hida-Takayama is its nickname!
It is a small city in Japan’s central prefecture of Gifu, which is also known as Little Kyoto.
When you walk along the roads of this small city, it will really remind you of Kyoto.
But what do you think the reason is?
Yes, you have guessed it right.
Numerous temples, shrines, and traditional buildings of 18 century stand tall with pride in every nook and corner of this town, which will give you a vibe of old-fashioned Japanese charm.
The surrounding Hida Mountains pleasantly separate this cute little ancient Japanese town overlooking the scenery of traditional shops, riverside markets, and Japanese-style inns.
Like most areas, its historic center, San-machi Suji street, is also full of traditional buildings. You can enter those old, dark wooden structures through blue noren (fabric) curtains.
The narrow streets of this town are bordered by small canals of running water. They are often used for washing clothes and removing winter snow, just like in centuries past.
A morning market is also hosted near the river, where you can find different kinds of daily necessities.
Don’t forget to visit the Hida Folk Village also while you are there.
It is actually an open-air museum, consisting of around 30 farmhouses built in the classical architectural style of rural Japan.
3. Karuizawa: A Romantic Retreat
If you ride a high-speed train, this small Japanese town is only one hour away from the capital city Tokyo.
So, it’s a popular day-trip spot from the capital, which attracts plenty of locals and tourists.
Karuizawa is a beautiful resort town that lies beneath the imposing Mt. Asama, which is one of Honshu’s most active volcanoes.
This town has quite a romantic history which has given it the title of a romantic retreat since 1957.
Are you eager to know that story?
Well, Emperor Akihito met his future bride, Empress Michiko, in this beautiful town.
I believe that the desire to have him or her forever by your side will be written here at once.
Anyway, I would suggest you visit this place in the fall as vibrant and gorgeous autumn colors are pleasantly displayed here in nature.
The summer temperature is relatively cooler too.
So, you can even consider hiking through this magnificent beauty.
After the tiresome hiking, don’t forget to relax by soaking in one of the onsens or hot springs scattered throughout the town.
What more you can do is visiting the Yacho-no-mori, or Wild Bird Forest, which is home to over 60 different bird species.
4. Oshika: A Picturesque Mountainous Village
Oshika is located in the mountainous southern part of Nagano Prefecture, surrounded by the majestic natural vistas of the Southern Alps.
After strolling through narrow mountain roads, you will find the village of Oshika at the bottom of a ravine.
Only 1,100 people live in this Japanese mountain town, but it claims to be home to some of the liveliest and happiest people in the country.
They achieve it with a longstanding culture that is constantly being reborn through a combination of ancient and modern traditions.
As this village in Japan is surrounded by mountains, the nature of Oshika takes on a different mind-blowing scenario in each season.
Cherry blossoms are everywhere in spring, where there is lush greenery in summer.
Autumn foliage is stunningly displayed in the fall, and in winter, the mountains are covered in snow.
Hence, you can’t be able to get the whole experience of Oshika with just one visit!
Still, no matter in which season you visit this place, be sure that you are going to get something spectacular every time.
5. Shirakawa-Go: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Shirakawa-go is one of the most beautiful villages in Japan, situated in far northern Gifu Prefecture.
This remote mountain village is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its traditional farmhouses gassho-zukuri, some of which date back more than 250 years ago.
Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer” in English.
Curious to know the reason behind this name?
Well, the steep thatched roofs of the farmhouses exactly resemble the hands of Buddhist monks attached together in prayer.
This unique architectural style is passed down from generation to generation.
It is specially designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in this region during winter.
To enjoy the best view of this village, I would suggest you go there during winter, as this place turns out to be more magical at that time.
However, you should also try spending a night at one of the farmhouses for the best experience ever.
Yes, this place is in a little remote area, but I can assure you that the trip will be worth it.
6. Otaru: Renowned for Winter Snow festival
Little Otaru became an important fishing port when the country’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido, was colonized in the late 19th-century.
You can reach Otaru only after a short 25-minute drive from Sapporo.
This old port city has transformed into a popular destination for visitors and tourists with an eye towards sushi eating.
The main highlight of this small town is a quaint industrial canal running through the harbor and the warehouse that sits next to it.
The canal area gets packed with Japanese tourists, but you can find quiet neighborhoods spotted with stately herring mansions towards the town center.
If you want to observe the magnificent beauty of this small town, go there during winter.
The famous winter festival Otaru Snow Gleaming Feast takes place in February.
The whole area is covered with beautiful white snow. Plenty of snow lanterns are lit around the canal line that creates a dazzling and unworldly appearance to blow your mind away.
This spectacular view made me feel like I was observing the prettiest town in Japan!
You can even consider this place to enjoy fresh seafood as this place is the most famous for such kinds of dishes.
7. Kamakura: A Town Rich in History
When Tokyo’s non stop hustle and bustle make you exhausted, Kamakura can be a peaceful, serene escape for a relaxing break.
It is located to the south of Tokyo in less than one hour’s distance.
So, it will be an easy and rewarding day trip from the Japanese capital.
Once Kamakura was an important political center. It is often called the ‘Kyoto of Eastern Japan’ for its centuries-old Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, historical monuments, and old wooden homes.
Covering the coast and surrounded by rolling forest landscapes, Kamakura’s natural scenery serves as a dramatic background for these beautiful religious constructions.
Here, you can also see a massive bronze statue of Amida Buddha in Kotoku-in Temple.
So, take a trip to Kamakura for a moment of rumination in front of the Great Buddha.
The densely forested ground of Kotoku-in Temple is excellent for wandering around, where you may even have a glance at Buddha’s sandals displayed between the beautiful temple buildings.
If you feel more interested in the town’s history, you should check out the Kamakura Gozan – the 5 Great Zen Temples of Kamakura.
In addition to the town’s historical attractions, its hills offer several lovely hiking trails.
The town becomes crowded, particularly during the summer months, when it attracts visitors with its scenic sandy beaches and relaxed atmosphere.
8. Ine: Popular for Its Funaya (Fishing Houses)
Ine is a town around Ine Bay located in the northern Kyoto Prefecture.
It is one of the unique places to visit in Japan that has a long and rich history as a fishing village.
What makes Ine really unique is the existence of funaya or wooden boat houses sitting on top of the water.
On the first floors of these traditional waterfront buildings, there are garages for boats and residential space on the upper floors.
More than 200 funaya are still remaining along the bay.
Most houses are personal residences, and some of them are now guest houses where visitors can stay overnight to enjoy a first-hand funaya experience.
However, if you ask for my suggestions, I would say that the best way to explore Ine and its funaya houses is from the sea.
You will find two types of boat tours available here. Large sightseeing boats offer passengers a 25-minute loop around the bay.
Besides, if you want a slightly more personalized and luxurious experience, you can take smaller sea taxis operated by local fishermen.
But be noted that they are relatively expensive.
Anyway, you have to book the small boat tours in advance, unlike the large sightseeing cruises.
For reservations, go straight to the tourism office at Funaya no Sato Park.
9. Totsukawa: Perfect destination for Nature Lovers
Totsukawa, the largest town in Japan, is situated in the Yoshino district, Nara Prefecture.
Located deep in the mountains, once this village was home to some of the fiercest samurai.
The trails, part of the Kumano Kodo network of pilgrimage routes, run through this village, and it has remained almost unchanged since ancient times.
This village is ideal for nature lovers since there is beautiful lush greenery everywhere and plenty of gorgeous things to observe.
Hikers can enjoy soaking in one of the hot springs, such as Iori-no-Yu, which has bathtubs made of local cedar.
Besides, you will also get a free foot bath and cool drinking water here.
In the evening, the sun sets between two mountain ridges creating wonderful scenery.
One of the best waterfalls in Japan, named Sasanotaki, is also in this village to enhance its beauty.
Another highlight is Tamaki Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in 37 BC by Emperor Sujin.
And not to mention Tanize Suspension Bridge, which is stunning in any season, offering safe thrills and panoramic views when you cross it.
Every year on August 4, an exciting festival called Yuredaiko is held here, where taiko drummers perform on this narrow bridge high above the valley below.
10. Magome: Famous for Nakasendo Trail
Feudal Japanese village Magome is a post town located in the Kiso Valley, which once served as a significant stop-over point for travelers of the Edo period.
Magome-juku is an ancient road that made the long journey between Tokyo and Kyoto along the Nakasendo Trail, connecting the two cities during the Edo period.
It was the forty-third of the sixty-nine stations of the Nakasendo.
The main feature of this small town in Japan is its beautifully restored old buildings that you can find at the two sides of the main street, a wide stone walkway.
Apart from admiring those pretty architectures, the main reason to visit this town is to hike the Magome-Tsumago Trail, which is a five-mile section of the Nakasendo Trail.
This pleasant trail runs through forests and farmland and passes waterfalls before ending in the equally beautiful town of Tsumago.
The trail is well-marked in English. Hence, you don’t have to face any difficulty when hiking through it.
If you don’t want to walk back to Magome after completing the hike, you can take a bus trip between the two villages.
So, here are my listed 10 picturesque villages and towns in Japan.
I have nothing more to say.
Let’s conclude it here.
Where Japan has some quite big cities, it also has a lot of smaller and lesser-known towns and villages that deserve your time to be explored and discovered.
So, make sure to stop by some of these most beautiful towns in Japan on your next trip.
Each of these lovely small towns is worth visiting for its own individual charm.