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Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

Cleveland, Ohio
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Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

Hello everyone,

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!

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1. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

Well a trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima or Mt Koya from Kyoto is a possibility, then head north to Kanazawa, Takayama with a visit to Shirakawa-go before returning to Tokyo.

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

My impression of driving around central Honshu is that the 'unseen' parts of Japan are 'unseen' for a reason; they aren't particularly interesting. The places that are accessible and memorable are in fact often visited by western tourists.

Hiroshima and Miyajima are well worth visiting but hardly unseen. Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go and Takayama the same - popular places. That doesn't mean, 'don't go', it just means, you'll see some of your western tourist friends there too. If you do go to these places, I recommend spending the night; Miyajima is gorgeous and quiet at night, far different after the boatloads of tourists have gone home. Shirakawa-go, too; bus after bus pulls in during the day, but in the evenings it's calm and atmospheric.

During October both Takayama and Shirakawa-go have festivals; Takayama's is the 9th & 10th - it's great fun but you'd have to plan ahead and make accommodation reservations. Shirakawa-go's is around the same time, you'd have to check; it's a celebration of new sake, and most lodgings are closed to allow the innkeepers to participate.

Hida-Furukawa, just north of Takayama, sees few western tourists and is a very nice little town. Gujo-Hachiman is also a wonderful small town - one of my absolute favorites.

The small towns of the Kiso Valley are scenic, too, though transportation is harder, I understand. (I have only driven to all these places; you'd have to dig up the train & bus info though many people that post here can help more than me.)

Kamikochi should be gorgeous around that time, though probably full of leaf-peepers. I drove from Takayama to Tokyo mid-October last year and the leaves along 158 were wonderful. Buses a-plenty, though.

All the places I am mentioning are well-known to Japanese tourists and increasingly popular with western tourists as well. The places I saw very few western tourists were the Noto Peninsula, Sado Island in October (that was a great place to go but you'd probably have to fly there to maximize your vacation time), Tohoku region.

New York
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3. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?


When in October will you visit Japan? If your trip is around mid-end October, you may be able to see Japan’s autumn foliage. Please see


Tohoku at the end of October would be good for beautiful autumn leaves. If your trip is early-mid October, you may visit mountain areas, such as Kamikochi, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Karuizawa, etc.

If you are not interested in the autumn foliage and want to visit unseen regions by Westerners, you may check out the Sanin (San-in) region (Tottori, Matsue, Izumo, Hagi, etc.), which is the northern part of the Chugoku region and is facing the Sea of Japan. In my opinion, the San-in region is less crowded and pretty relaxing. You can visit those small cities/towns in San-in by train. Please see


Nashville, TN
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4. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

There are some tremendous places that few foreign tourists visit. Here are some suggestions.

One of my favorite trips is from Himeji to Kinosaki; you could do Himeji in the morning (including Mt. Shosha, if you want to 'do it right'), then head to Kinosaki by train. You'll cut through some rugged mountains and should wind up in the onsen town by late afternoon. Check into your ryokan, wander the shops, and hit the baths before eating dinner served in the ryokan. Wander around some more (the outdoor baths are great in the cool evening) and retire for the night. Breakfast will be in your inn. Grab some more tickets for onsen (your hotel should provide these for free; there are a variety of bath houses that you can vist), take the cable car up the mountain and walk back down, eat onsen-water boiled egg (common in most onsen towns), take another bath or two, then take the train for Kyoto (another very scenic route). You could do this in reverse, of course, but you risk missing the sites in Himeji (all close by 5:00 or so).

Another option in that region is Wakayama. The Kii Peninsula is, in my opinion, one of the greatest 'misses' of tourists to the region. The problem is it's a bit remote and many of the sites are served only by bus. So it's not a bad place to rent a car and drive around, if you have a decent sense of direction and understand at least how to match the Japanese in your map/GPS to what you see on the sign. You could start in Kyoto, go through Nara, around Wakayama, and up through Mie before returning to Kyoto. You might have some traffic in the Kyoto region, but if you do this on a weekday you should be fine.

A truly off-the-path area is Shikoku. There was a person who posted info here a few months back that went on a rafting trip on Shikoku; it sounded like a ton of fun. It's a scenic island with a famous pilgrimage route (meaning lots and lots of shrines). There are some famous Onsen as well (including Dogo Onsen, the one used as a model for the movie Spirited Away). The trouble with Shikoku is that it's not all that quick/easy to get from there to Tokyo. But if you fly into Kansai you can take a ferry straight from the airport to the island.

In theory you could do 3-4 days in Shikoku and another 3-4 days in Wakayama, traveling between the two by ferry. I've never taken the ferry in Japan so can't comment on the quality.

Izu Penninsula is another consideration. I like Atami, though that might just be my quirky opinion. Izu is an interesting place to drive around.

If you want to do Niigata, you could go along the coast as you suggest. Use the Japan Guide link below and click on the CHubu region of the map. Eiheiji in Fukui is nice, if you like temples. Ishikawa has a famous garden (one of the best in the country). These two would nicely break up a trip to Niigata, as would a stop in Takayama.

Here are some good links, in addition to this forum:



www.google.com (sometimes this is so obvious people ignore it)

In addition, most travel web sites have forums or online information; it's generally limited (they want you to buy the book after all), but it's good enough to get started. And don't forget your library: mine has a nice selection of guide books that I use to plan trips.

John W.

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5. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

A route I did a couple of years ago was great and I hope to do it again. Left from Hiroshima via shinkansen to Yamaguchi. From there got on a JR bus over the mountain to Hagi, on the Japan Sea side. An hour later arrived in Hagi, an important historical small town with lots to see there. Then left a couple of days later in the morning, to take a small local train up the coast. It's a beautiful ride along the coast, several possible places to stop for short visits, but I didn't do that. Arrive in Matsue around noon. Visited a couple of amazing sites (and staying there for a day or so would have been nice). Took the night train from there back to Tokyo, but it would be an easy trip from Matsue to many other interesting places along the way, either farther up the coast or into the mountains.

Cleveland, Ohio
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6. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

Excellent suggestions! Some of this is exactly the type of pointers we were hoping for -- a lot of that stuff is difficult to whittle out of travel books, since the ones that mention them at all tend to have 1 very glancing paragraph on what's actually in some of these smaller towns.

Much appreciated!

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

Worthwhile, but Get Few Western Visitors:

Matsue & Adachi Museum (you can get there on an overnight Sunrise Izumo train where you get a tatami mat in a bunk platform instead of a seat)

Ceramics Wholesale Center, Arita (30% off a wide variety of nice pottery)

Naoshima Art Project on Naoshima Island

Choseizan Kosanji Temple, Setoda

Disaster Reduction Museum, Kobe

Sugihara Memorial Museum, Yaotsu (near Nagoya)

Nihon Minkaen Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum, Kawasaki (near Tokyo)

Nagasaki is also worth a visit, but it does get lots of Western tourists.

Aoyama Dori and San...
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8. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

I agree with John's suggestion to think about Shikoku. It is not "spoiled" by an influx of foreign tourists and there is plenty to see and do there if you do your homework.

Tokyo, Japan
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9. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

>>My impression of driving around central Honshu is that the 'unseen' parts of Japan are 'unseen' for a reason; they aren't particularly interesting.<<

Very funny, Spendthrift! And so true.....sort of. :-)

Aomori is pretty, as is Iwate. Although it's not "close" or in between Kyoto and Tokyo, a trip up north is definitely nice and "secluded."

I'm a fan of walking around old neighborhoods. The big "my boom-u" for the past couple of years has been walking around Kawagoe in Saitama.




Yanaka in Tokyo is a fun place to walk, too.


Sunshine Coast
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10. Re: Sugestions for 7 days of "unseen Japan"?

We also like less-seen areas, so here's our itinerary in 2 weeks time.

Arrive Tokyo,leave next day on night ferry to Tokushima on Shikoku . Rent a Tocoo car and drive to Iya Valley ,stay 2 days,back to Takamatsu, over to Naoshima on ferry and on to Okayama and Kurashiki, train to Matsue, 3 days, fly domestic (cheaper than train) back to Tokyo and on to Kamakura for a night and go home from Tokyo.

Perhaps some of this is of use as a suggestion?