Japan is a travel heyday right now – and rightfully so – it’s an incredible country. In fact, it’s one of my favorite countries to travel to. However, in my quest to find the lesser-traveled places wherever I go, I spent a lot of time in Japan off the beaten path on multiple trips to Japan!
I’ll give you ideas on going beyond the traditional Tokyo to Kyoto route and getting away from the crowds. I’ll introduce you to some favorite hidden gems from my travels in Japan, from the stunning Iya Valley in Shikoku to the horse culture of Tokachi to the snow-capped Japanese Alps and the wild coastline of Tohoku. These places live in the shadows of Japan, which few international visitors know about.
Overtourism in Japan
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of visitors to Japan has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with over 17 million people visiting between January and September 2023. The downside to these visitors is that they tend to flock to all the same cities; Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. These cities are phenomenal; however, they are crowded. The influx of tourists also brings increased petty crime, waste management issues, noise pollution, and overcrowding, which can negatively affect the environment and disrupt the lives of locals.
Tourists in Japan also tend to flock to Mt. Fuji. However, so many people climbed the iconic Mt. Fuji, queues were at the top, and the environment was damaged.
This has led the Japanese Tourism Agency to create measures to ease this overtourism. They recently designated 11 locations across the nation as “model tourism destinations“, hoping to encourage overseas visitors to explore beyond metropolitan areas while in the country.
In that vein, I too have identified a few of my favorite Japan off the beaten path destinations! Finding unique travel experiences and lesser-traveled regions in the world is my specialty. After extensive trips to Japan, I have always enjoyed these smaller villages, and lesser-known prefectures to the more popular ones.
I hope you can experience a more tranquil, less populated side of Japan that immerses you further into its unique Japanese culture.
Add These Hidden Gems to Your Japan Itinerary
I haven’t been everywhere in Japan, but I have been to each of the places listed below. Some are more hidden than others, but all of them are great options to add to any Japan itinerary so that you can be sure to experience the slower,…