Planning for a trip to Japan?
Then I think only the hustling and bustling cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are popping up in your mind. Right?
But you are making a mistake if some of Japan’s off-the-beaten paths are not on your bucket list.
Then what about checking out some of the hidden places in Japan that are not discovered by tourists yet?
Well, if you are truly interested, you are just at the right place now.
Today, I am here to let you know some of the secret places in Japan. Visiting them will definitely make your Japan trip different and exceptional.
Revealing 15 Off the Beaten Paths in Japan
The island country, Japan, is surrounded by a number of smaller islands that are stunningly beautiful and filled with nature.
Therefore, no matter whether you are a first-time visitor or not, these places are worth a visit.
So, let’s explore Japan like a local.
Here are the hidden gems for you.
1. Chichijima Island
When Tokyo is the most visited city in Japan, you might not think that any place can still be left hidden or undiscovered in the Japanese capital.
But what if I mention one such less explored spot in this city which can be a great escape from the crowd of the town?
Yes, I was talking about the island of Chichijima, which is surprisingly only a ferry ride away from Tokyo.
The nature here is waiting for you to reward with a tropical island vibe featuring white sandy beaches and bright blue water.
And if you never see a whale in real life, then this place will make a way out for you.
So, make your dream come true by watching these mysterious sea creatures in the morning.
But for that, you must visit this island between February to April or July to September.
Anyway, after spending the morning whale watching, you can get yourself ready to enjoy snorkeling over a shipwreck in the afternoon.
Now I am going to reveal the most appealing side of this island.
In the water around this island, you will see dolphins throughout the year.
Now tell me. Are you getting excited thinking that you can add “swim with the dolphins” to your Japan bucket list?
From swimming in the blue water to hiking in the nearby mountains, this peaceful place is chock full of outdoor adventures, where you can take a breath of peace for a while, avoiding the bustle of Tokyo.
So, I think this place will be worth visiting for you if mountains, islands, and sea attract you that much.
But if you prefer the opposite of an island as well as water that means desert, consider visiting the next place.
2. Tottori Sand Dunes
Japan is a country full of surprises, but even I was shocked to discover a desert hiding away in its Tottori prefecture.
Only a three-hour train ride from Osaka (no bullet train is available yet) will leave you in one of the less touristy places in Japan, the Tottori Sand Dunes.
Located within the Sanin Kaigan National Park, this desert stretches for 16 km along the coast of the Japan Sea, and its width is around 2 km.
In fact, it is the largest sand dune in the country.
Now, what can you do here, right?
Well, you should definitely trek up to 164-foot-high peaks to be rewarded with some epic views and sweet serenity.
Another interesting thing about this area is that camels are widely available here.
So, you will feel like traveling to any desert located in the middle east.
Now hop on the camel and relish the excitement.
Yes! Camel rides in Japan, and it is not a dream!
Besides, you will also find the Sand Museum here, where you can check out sand sculptures from renowned artists all over the world.
So, hurry up and visit this place if you wanna taste this desert-like atmosphere in this island country.
3. Narai Juku
Want to experience Japan as it was centuries ago?
Hey, I am not joking.
It is really possible if you visit the picturesque historic post town of Narai Juku, a quiet, small town in the Nagano Prefecture, which sits to the western Tokyo.
It has been standing since the Edo Period, and this place is famous for a number of things.
This town used to be a stop on the Kiso Way, a trade route extending between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).
Another notable thing about this town is its wooden houses that are incredibly well preserved, and since it is located in the Kiso Valley, the scenery is also beautiful.
These old-style houses retain the beautiful nostalgic atmosphere of a town that is hundreds of years old.
Just the thinking of it is giving me a spooky feeling!
What more Narai Juku can offer you is viewing a picturesque bridge and learning more about its history at the museum.
You can even consider hiking the famous Nakasendo trail, one of only five Edo-period highways that goes through dense forests and mountains.
While planning for a trip to the historical city Kyoto, you may think about visiting its numerous famous temples and shrines.
But now, I will introduce you to an off-the-beaten path in Kyoto, which is Amanohashidate.
This sandbar extends along the mouth of Miyazu Bay, and this place is covered with numerous pine trees.
If I translate the Japanese name Amanohashidate, it means bridge in heaven.
And the first time when you see this, you will surely understand that this place has done justice to its name.
Looking at the stunning views of this unique natural formation from the nearby mountainsides, you can only imagine it as a path between heaven and earth.
This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic views in the country, which is my favorite in all of Japan.
For relishing this mind-blowing beauty, you can come any time of the year, but May to August will be the best time.
So, to discover a new side of Kyoto, this aesthetic place in Japan is a must-visit for anyone who wants to taste something unique and unusual.
5. Iya Valley
You can explore one of Japan’s last remaining unspoiled landscapes in Iya Valley, which is placed in a remote area in Shikoku.
This natural V-shaped valley carved out from the cascade is overwhelming in its beauty.
Due to the high level of precipitation in the area, there are lush forests everywhere in the valley.
You will definitely want to witness its fresh early summer leaves and the beautiful autumn foliage.
I suggest you come here between October and November to see the breathtaking beauty of colorful autumn foliage.
Apart from these, this remote valley is home to a handful of lovely bridges made of living vines.
So, if you ever heard of famous woven vine bridges in Japan and wished to see one of them, this Iya Valley is offering you this infrequent opportunity.
Don’t you think that there is something surreal about climbing across these living bridges?
Yes, it is really something that you won’t find elsewhere.
Another thing you can do here is hiking the mountains.
Hence, to enjoy all these and experience the real charms of rural Japanese life, I am inviting you to this place.
6. Shirakawa and Gokayama Village
Have you ever watched the famous Disney movie Frozen?
Then you must have seen how beautiful Elsa’s village is! It looks like a winter wonderland, right?
Well, if you want to have the feeling of being somewhere just like the place straight out of this movie, you shouldn’t miss visiting Shirakawa and Gokayama Village.
Shirakawa and Gokayama Village are situated in far northern Gifu Prefecture.
These hidden villages in Japan are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site for their traditional farmhouses, gassho-zukuri, some of which even date back more than 250 years ago.
I suggest you go there during winter when a large amount of heavy snow falls on the steep thatched roofs of those houses, turning the entire village into a magical wonderland.
You should also spend a night at one of the farmhouses for the best experience ever.
And don’t forget to make a trip to the Shiroyama viewpoint to see the village of Ogimachi illuminated in the snow, looking like something out of a fairytale.
7. Rice Terraces
Are you surprised?
Well, it is normal to wonder about the existence of rice terraces in Japan when rice terraces are most commonly found in southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Bali.
But fortunately, you will find rice terraces in this country as well.
And it is worth taking a trip out there to the countryside and walking or biking through the paddies.
No matter when you go there, they will reward you with breathtaking scenery all year round.
The rice is harvested in autumn, turning it into a golden field.
In the summer, they are bright green in color, and they are usually covered in snow in winter.
And the terraces remain flooded with water during spring.
Though these rice terraces wear different looks in different seasons, I recommend you go there during autumn to observe the dazzling beauty of ripening golden crops under the sunlight.
8. Hozenji Yokocho Alley
Now I am going to reveal one of the secret places in Osaka that you won’t want to miss.
Located right next to the Hozenji temple, this historic alley is adorned with Edo-era architecture, and navigating this place will take you back to that period of history.
The 80-meters long narrow lane can bring a smile to your face if you are a foodie at heart.
This path is packed with taverns and restaurants where you can indulge in some of Osaka’s local dishes to calm down your growling tummy.
Visit any time of the year, take some snaps on your camera in the day, and finally return in the evening to witness an entirely new atmosphere.
And don’t forget to visit the nearby must-see place, the Hozenji temple in between.
9. Yakushima Island
Another offbeat place in Japan is Yakushima, a mysterious subtropical island with a large ancient forest.
For a true change of pace, you can visit this island, which is home to some of Japan’s oldest living trees
Starting with a 7200-year-old Jomonsugi cedar tree, most part of the island is covered in long-lived Yakusugi cedars and moss, which have helped this island earn the status of a World Heritage site.
Some Yakugushi you will find are over 1000 years old. So, there is something magical about being in this old forest.
And another part of the magic is that you can visit the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, which was the inspiration for Princess Mononoke, a Studio Ghibli film.
If you love hiking and nature, you really don’t want to miss this unique forest.
For hiking, the best time to visit this place is between September and November, when there is less rain and the weather remains cool.
But between the end of March and early April, you will get to see something spectacular on this forested island.
Yes, the whole island bursts into blooms with the mountain cherry blossoms!
What a pleasant surprise!
10. Rebun Island
Numerous mountains and islands are scattered throughout Japan, and this Rebun Island is off the beaten path in Hokkaido.
And where there are mountains, there is hiking. So, Japan can give you endless opportunities to get on the trek.
But if you are searching for a hiking getaway in a little more remote place, I will suggest you go to this Rebun Island, situated 50 km off the coast of the wilds of Hokkaido.
You will find an abundance of rare alpine flowers, green spaces, and a striking coastline at this 29km long, hidden gem in the Sea of Japan, especially in the southwest of the island at Motochi.
The required time for hiking the length of the island is almost eight hours. But you can choose smaller ones as lots of short tracks are also available there.
And a walk past the water of Sukai Cape is a must. You will be mesmerized by the clarity of its crystal blue water.
It is a journey of some hours, but I can guarantee that you will remember it for years after years.
11. Zao Fox Village
We all know about the cat island in Japan or the explosion of cat cafes in this country.
But have you ever heard about the Zao Fox Village of Miyagi Prefecture?
Situated near the beautiful Mount Zao, an active volcano in northern Honshu, this fox village will give a rare opportunity to hang out with six different species of these fluffy critters.
And If you think it is something scary, I can assure you that you are totally safe here.
So, no fear, my dear!
Anyway, you will find more than 100 animals there, but the most common is the adorable Japanese Red Fox.
You can even feed these clever fluffy-tailed creatures. Spend only JPY 1000 and pick up some snacks for that.
Well, I suggest you not feed them by hand but rather throw the food to the ground.
Though they are quite tame, who knows, they are wild animals after all.
After roaming around in this fox sanctuary, if you wish for a big animal hug, go to the on-site petting zoo, where you will get to see bunnies, goats, and ponies.
12. Kurokawa Onsen
You will find a number of historic onsen towns sprinkling all over Japan.
So, you might think that when onsen is so common throughout this country, how can it be an unusual place?
Well, they all have their own aesthetics and charms, but there is something particularly unique about Kurokawa Onsen.
It may be its pure nostalgic atmosphere retaining in its original wooden building structures, or the river that streams through the heart of the town, or even its unique location right in the middle of nature.
Whatever it is, this Kurokawa Onsen is definitely worth a visit, especially when you are heading to the western Kyushu region during your Japan trip.
Roads here are lined with many onsen bathhouses, historic buildings, small souvenir shops, tiny cafes, and restaurants.
As an intriguing place, this place should be crowded all day long, but the real scenario is totally opposite.
So, wander around peacefully in this area to explore those traditional structures, buy small keepsakes, immerse yourself in the flavors of local foods, and finally, after a hectic day, you can go to the Kurokawa Onsen for relaxation.
13. Ine Funaya
Ine Funaya is another underrated place in Japan.
Not many places in this country are completely off the beaten path, but without a local train station, Funaya, the fishing village, is one of the hidden gems in Japan.
To reach this village, firstly you will need to ride a train from Kyoto to Miyazu Station. Then hop on a local bus to get Funaya.
Though you have to struggle a little to reach there, this exceptional coastal village is well worth the journey.
The main highlight of this village is the traditional fishermen’s houses, which are called Funaya.
Sitting on top of the water, this traditional waterfront wooden building’s first floor is used as a garage for boats. And the residential space is on the upper floors.
Some of them have now been converted into guest houses where you can stay overnight to enjoy the first-hand Funaya experience.
But if you ask for my suggestions, I will say that the best way to explore Ine and its Funaya is from the sea by riding a regular sightseeing ferry that runs throughout the day from Ine Marina.
14. The Izu Peninsula
Are you eagerly waiting for a beach vacation?
Then head to the Izu Peninsula.
A less than 2 hours train ride to the south from Tokyo will leave you in this one of the quiet places in Japan.
So, what can you do here?
This area is well-known for its plethora of beautiful hot springs and gorgeous coastline.
It also combines some breathtaking natural features with lovely walking trails along the coast.
Hence, whether you want to sit back and relax on the white sand beach of Shirahama or trek the rugged Irozaki Coast, you can get your seaside fixed here.
While relishing the best beach days, what about enjoying hanami ( cherry blossoms viewing festival) here?
Sounds pretty unique? Right?
Then, try to come here between February and March to enjoy the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival along with your relaxing beach and tiresome hiking days.
Apart from all these, you can also get to witness an incredible view of Mount Fuji on a clear day from the peninsula’s west coast.
In addition, I suggest you find some time if you can and visit the famous onsen resort Shuzenji which offers not only bath houses but also meditation classes.
15. Monet Pond
You might have heard or even visited the famous Blue Pond in Hokkaido, but now I am inviting you to see the Monet Pond, which is not that famous but, of course, worth visiting.
A small body of water having a length of only 60 feet, this pond is located in Seki City in Gifu Prefecture.
You can easily access the pond by car, but buses are also available here four or five times a day from Gifu Station.
This naturally beautiful pond remarkably resembles the pond in the French painter Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilies series, which actually delineates the Japanese garden at his home in Giverny, France.
I think you already have guessed the reason behind the name of this pond.
Beautiful water lilies floating on the glass-like turquoise water and colorful Japanese carp swim under the flowers create such a panoramic view that you can only imagine as a picture.
To observe the best and the most stunning view, go there during early summer when the water lilies are in full bloom or late autumn when the surrounding Japanese maples of the pond turn red.
So, you can step into this unusual japan itinerary to enjoy some of the best picturesque scenes in the world.
Well, these are the most beautiful unusual places in Japan that you can visit while being in this country.
But before going to a conclusion, I want to give some tips and tricks to make your journey easier and smooth.
Some Tips and Tricks to Visit Unusual Places in Japan
Yes, we have google these days. And, of course, it helps us learn a lot about the unknown.
But there is something more than this that only the living we know.
So, getting someone who has experience in these places or visited these places as a tourist will be most convenient.
That’s why I suggest you hire a private guide from any travel agency in Japan.
It will make your journey comfortable and hassle-free.
Some other advantages are:
- It will save you time. So, you can travel to more places.
- You can make the schedule the way you want according to your preference.
- The time will be flexible, and also it will let you focus only on the people you are traveling with.
- Another benefit you will achieve from this plan is that it will definitely save some money cutting the unnecessary cost.
That’s all for today. Let’s end it here.
By this time, I had revealed some unknown parts of Japan to you.
Now, you may choose some of these 15 secret places in Japan and add them to your bucket list.
Wishing you an exceptional and pleasant journey ahead.
Thank you for being with me till now.