Taste of Japan: 6 Places Beyond Tokyo
Escape the busy streets of Tokyo with the six hottest destinations you can only find off the beaten track.
With its bustling nightlife and buzzing atmosphere, there’s much to love about Tokyo. Take a step off the grid for a truly authentic introduction to this island nation and you’ll find there’s much more to discover than skyscrapers and sushi.
Exploring destinations off Japan’s beaten track has never been easier. Using Tokyo and Kyoto as a base, small tour groups like those operated by G Adventures make it easy to see (and taste) the very best of Japan at a relaxed pace. With expert guides, dive into the burgeoning wine scene in Yamanashi while taking in the views of Mt Fuji, or hit the slopes in Sapporo and taste one of Japan’s finest exports as you explore the lesser-known side of this diverse country.
Here are our top six destinations that prove there’s much more to Japan than just Tokyo and Kyoto.
‘Little Kyoto’, as it is affectionately known, lies more than 400km northwest of the Japanese capital, Tokyo, and though it is often overlooked and off the beaten track, the city is a favourite among Japanese locals who flock from near and far to try the famed seafood.
Steeped in history, the city is a living museum featuring some of the best-preserved sites from the Edo period. Be sure to pack your map as it’s easy to get lost amongst the city’s samurai and geisha districts but then again, that’s a good thing, right?
Be sure to tick off our top picks for Kanazawa below
One of the most popular sights in the city, the garden is a perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon, strolling the grounds and discovering its many streams and ponds.
The castle gardens and its outer buildings are open to the public every day of the year, with the castle standing as a reminder of the region’s deep historical and cultural roots.
Located on the doorstep of the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is famed for its seafood. Its deep-sea prawns and sea bream make for some of the best sushi in the country. It’s also one of the oldest markets in the region, serving locals with fresh seafood and produce for more than 280 years. With numerous restaurants nestled within the bustling market scene, there’s something for everyone.
As the third largest city in Japan, no trip to the island nation is complete without a stop in one of its most important commercial cities. Expect the unexpected in this city of contradictions, where old meets new.
Wander around Osaka’s most famous canal with its bright neon lights and buzzing atmosphere. Explore the local restaurant scene with its quirky decorations and discover why the city is considered a mecca for the kuidaore (basically ‘eating till you drop’) food culture, with bars and small restaurants on every corner.
Explore the bright and busy streets of the Dotonbori Canal and step back in time as you enter the cobblestoned streets of Hozenji-Yokocho. Known for its quaint restaurants that line the dimly lit streets, the area is perfect for experiencing the true culture and cuisine of Osaka.
Serving the people of Osaka for more than 190 years, the 580m-long market is commonly referred to as ‘Osaka’s kitchen’ and is a great place to people watch as you sample the very best seafood and local produce the country has to offer.
Spend a day amongst the Buddhist monks at Koyasan as you take in the scenic views and quiet surrounds. Try the local specialty of Koya-dofu – a process of freeze-drying tofu and then reconstituting it – and for a truly authentic experience, ensure Hanabishi restaurant is on your list. The restaurant has been serving locals for more than 120 years and is the perfect way to sample the vegetarian food that has sustained the monks in the mountains for centuries.
As the capital (and largest) city on the northern island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a dynamic city with adventures to be found both in and around the city. What the city lacks in traditional architecture and history it makes up for in modern amenities, a bustling cultural nightlife and, of course, the snow fields.
Sapporo Beer Museum
Arguably one of Japan’s greatest exports is its famed beer. Take a tour among the factory and be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at how the beer is made using one-of-a-kind high-tech machinery. Finish the 60-minute tour with a cold beer and lunch inside the museum’s beer garden.
What’s not to like about Nagano? From its hot springs to idyllic mountain views, there’s no questioning whether the 90-minute train ride from Tokyo is worth your while. Considered the “gateway to the Japanese Alps”, the city is also home to the historic Zenkoji temple.
Founded in the seventh century, the temple is a major pilgrimage site for both tourists and locals who continue to make the journey to Nagano. Considered a national treasure, the temple features a hidden Buddha that’s revealed only once every seven years.
Bonus hot tip:
When visiting Nagano, head to an onsen (Japanese hot springs), to enjoy some R&R.
Escape the bright lights and busy streets of Tokyo and experience rural Japan. Just over two hours from Tokyo, Yamanashi is the ideal way to dive headfirst into Japan’s burgeoning wine scene. Try your hand at fruit picking whilst taking in some of the best views of Mt Fuji. There’s plenty to see and do in this hidden gem.
Top picks of what to do in Yamanashi:
- Exploring the local Koshu wine vineyards
- Fruit picking including tasting the famous peaches, plums and cherries
- Bask in the scenery of Mt Fuji
Reposted with the permission of Delicious, celebrating food and the people who produce it, and passionate ‘foodies’ from around Australia and the rest of the world.