I travel regularly to Japan for work, and have spent a great deal of time touring around the big cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, so I'm pretty familiar with the things to do in those immediate areas. In October, I'll be returning, and my wife will be traveling with me. We're taking 7 days after my work requirements to vacation.
My question is whether anyone can suggest sites for a 7-day itinerary touring some of the more "unseen" regions of the country, where most vacationing Westerners don't go outside of the major cities? For instance, I've previously taken trips to visit Ibaraki province (Kairakuen park and Fukuroda waterfalls, etc...) and as far north as Sendai, and absolutely loved the more relaxed traditional feel of Japan outside its major cities. Not to mention the food and culture!
Starting from Kyoto, we need to end up in Tokyo 7 days later. We're looking for anywhere that train travel is possible in that time, via reasonably quick links. (Meaning: while it'd be nice to see both Osaka and Niigata, the 7+ hour journey between those two probably isn't worth losing most of an entire day to travel, unless there's a great 3-4 day itinerary hopping along the north coast from Kyoto through Kanazawa, for instance...)
Most of the books and guides I'm seeing focus mainly on the cities, so any off-the-beaten-path suggestions would be appreciated! I can string together a travel itinerary from there.
Thanks and safe travels to all!