You may have been to Tokyo, Osaka and/or Kyoto already; these three are some of the most popular destinations for those who travel to Japan. It comes as no surprise because these destinations have a little bit of everything that the country has to offer, which are culture, history, and good food. However, for those who want to discover another part of Japan, here are some of the places to consider visiting.
Matsumoto is a quaint city in the Japanese highlands; the scenic bus and train ride to it provides views of the verdant countryside and transforms into a city once you reach the station. This city isn’t immediately on the list of travelers to the country, but it is a noteworthy addition.
The city is small enough to explore in a day and is intimate enough not to overwhelm visitors. Nakamachi Street and the Nawate Shopping District are good places to stroll around in, grab a bite, or a drink and shop for souvenirs. Spend half a day in the Matsumoto City Museum of Art to see different exhibits from various artists.
The highlight of the city is Matsumoto Castle. Matsumotojo is one of the most beautiful and complete castles in Japan. It’s a castle constructed on a plain instead of a mountain or hill. The design and black wainscoting of the castle give it grandeur. This site is also one of the best places and most popular to see the cherry blossoms in spring. Visit at night to see it light up the night sky.
Kamikochi is a noteworthy day trip from Matsumoto. It’s a huge park where visitors can enjoy nature. The national park has trails for both beginners and experienced trekkers and hikers. The low trails will take you to various sacred ponds and provide spectacular views of the Japanese Alps. You can also climb the nearby mountains to get overlooking views of the park.
If you want an idyllic and well-preserved countryside with matching traditional houses, Shirakawa-go is the place to go. This UNESCO-listed destination is slowly gaining popularity among tourists who are in Central Japan. This destination is popular because of the traditional farmhouses that look like hands in prayer; some are even more than 200 years old.
The viewpoint provides spectacular views of the houses of Shirakawago. You can also enter some homes to see what life was like centuries ago; some homeowners preserved some of the furniture and tools used in the olden days. Try the white rice wine in one of the temples as part of the experience.
During World War II, there were two atom bombs dropped in Japan; these were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The latter isn’t as famous as the former; Nagasaki is a noteworthy addition to your Japan visit list because it has several attractions worth visiting.
Nagasaki is a bustling port city that has its own charm. It played an important role in foreign trade and relations for centuries because it was one of the few ports open to foreigners during the country’s isolation. Learn about the dark day when the atom bomb leveled the city by visiting the Atom Bomb Museum and Peace Park. These show you the foolishness of war and the lives of those who managed to survive the ordeal.
Nagasaki is also one of the places where industrialization took place in the country. Traders from the Netherlands and other parts of the world left their mark in the city. Visit Glover Garden to see the open-air museum and the exhibit of the mansions of former Westerner Industrialists that lived in the city.
Dejima is also worth a visit because of its significance to the region’s development. This is a place where merchants came and went centuries ago. Other destinations to see in the city are the Oura Church, Kofukuji and Sofukuji Temple, Dutch Slope, and Mt. Inasa to see one of the best night views of Nagasaki.
Magome, Narai and Tsumago
These three towns along the Kiso Valley Trail are one of the very few places in the country where there are no towering concrete buildings. These three post towns are along the route that royalty, peasants, and travelers took to get to Edo or Kyoto. These quaint towns allow you to travel back in time because of the well-maintained establishments. There are shops that sell local products and restaurants to eat authentic food. To get the overall experience, spend the night in some of the “ryokans” in town.
Japan has plenty of other destinations waiting to be discovered. The places on this list are only a few of those off-the-beaten-path cities and towns which you can visit. Book that ticket and discover what this country has to offer outside of the usual trips to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.