5 Activities To Check Out In Japan’s Less Touristy Areas Before It Gets Crowded


Qistina Bumidin •  Mar 22, 2022

We know that once Japan announces that all of us can finally travel to the Land of The Rising Sun, we’ll be booking a trip to visit the Japanese cities we’ve missed terribly: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. It’s totally understandable; we missed them as much as you do! ?

As much as there might be hope for more travel plans this year, Covid-19 has changed the way we travel. We’re searching for hidden gems to avoid crowds and also to capture that true authenticity we’ve missed ?

Why not let Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) help you organise a trip to Japan’s hidden side? JNTO is currently having a NEW campaign to launch a new website aiming to introduce hidden gems in Japan! Their new website, which you can check out via this link, has specially curated itineraries of unique activities you can’t get in other popular destinations in Japan ? Now you’ll have even more new reasons to visit this amazing country! And who knows, they might even be your new favourite go-to vacation spots? ?

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5 Hidden Gems In Japan’s Less-Touristy Areas

1. Snap beautiful pictures and paddleboard around hidden floating torii gates at Takashima, Shiga Prefecture

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Taking beautiful pictures with torii gates as the backdrop is the ultimate I’ve-been-to-Japan shot, and there are so many of them scattered all across the country. But did you know there’s another secret area that also has torii gates that are as magnificent? ? Located at Shirahige Shrine in Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture, the floating torii gates stand majestically on Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. It makes for a picturesque view that can rival Itsukushima Shrine’s beauty, and it’s much less crowded, so you can spend as long as you like trying to get the perfect shot ? While it’s much easier to access the place using a car than by public transport, the breathtaking views will definitely make your trip worthwhile. 

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Some of the best times to capture a picture-perfect moment is either before sunrise or during the late afternoon, which truly will make you feel like you’re standing in the midst of greatness ? Why not get closer to such beauty? Rent a stand-up paddleboard for 2 hours and explore the lake around the torii gate, which you can’t do elsewhere! ? You’ll get to take close-up shots of the gates, see countless fish swimming in the clear water, and have free time exploring other parts of the lake or simply relaxing on their private beach. Don't worry, if you're not too stable on the board, you'll get professional guidance from instructors. You can find all the information you need right here

P.S. It’s only an hour away from Kyoto, which you can squeeze into the Kyoto itinerary we’ve planned for you

2. Take Instagram-worthy photos of sunsets at this reflective beach

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Japan has claimed the title as one of Asia’s most Instagrammable spots, and definitely for good reason ? If you’re all for the ‘Gram or you’re just a sucker for amazing views, you definitely should put visiting Chichibugahama Beach in Mitoyo City, Kagawa prefecture ? This 1km-long beach creates reflective tidal pools during their low tides. When the air is still, the pools create a seamless reflection of the sky for many kilometres in the low-lying flats. If you visit about 30 minutes before or after the sunset, during which the tides are low, you’ll be able to capture the beach in all its heavenly glory ? While you do have to payto enter, it helps maintain the cleanliness of the beach and also limits the number of people at any time, so rest assured that you wouldn’t have to wrestle around with strangers. You can read up for more information at this link

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Kagawa Prefecture lies in the Setouchi region, which is particularly known for their thriving local art scenes. For art appreciators, why not take the time to explore the Arts Islands in Setouchi? Japan Tourism National Organisation has curated a special itinerary for you to visit photogenic spots via this link, including Chichibugahama Beach in autumn, the perfect weather to soak up a different side of Japan’s vibrant arts culture. 

3. Rise up to the challenge of shooting arrows while on a horse

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Think samurai culture, and the first thing that pops into your mind is wielding a katana in style like Himura Kenshin’s iconic reverse-blade katana in the anime Rurouni Kenshin ? But samurai culture is beyond that. Although the samurai were best known for their swordsmanship with the katana, yabusame (“art of archery”) was actually considered a more vital skill, and almost exclusively the symbol of the professional warrior during 11th century Japan ?

Live out the true samurai experience at Takeo Yabusame Horseback Archery Riding Clubin Saga Prefecture, Kyushu. You’ll get to watch trained archers shooting at targets with a bow and arrow elegantly while riding a horse galloping at full speed. Want to experience it yourself? ? Dress up in the traditional archer’s costume and shoot arrows from a stationary horse for a simulated yabusame experience. Himura Kenshin who now? ?

#HHWTip: With wild and boundless nature, rich history and culture, welcoming inhabitants and of course delicious halal local specialities, Kyushu Island is full of treasures to discover, just like this out-of-the-world experience of horseback riding. If you’re not sure where to begin, JNTO helps to break down your future vacation plans on their website here according to the region you’re heading to. Just click on Kyushu and you can check out all the activities you can do, and also itinerary suggestions based on specific seasons you can add to your plans!

4. Be a geisha for the day at one of Japan’s oldest geisha districts

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

One of the best ways to appreciate culture is through donning traditional outfits, and the kimono is definitely the perfect look. While many have tried it on in the beautiful streets of Asakusa, we all know that it gets a little too crowded. If you’re truly curious about the elusive geisha culture, or you simply want to take a peaceful stroll down the streets of the past, Higashi Chayagai in Kanazawa, Chubu ?

Rent an authentic kimono from Kanazawa Kirara, located just a 5-minute walk from Higashi Chayagai and travel around the pristine streets of Higashi Chayagai on a VIP rickshaw ride. You can also have a professional photographer accompany you around to take your gorgeous photos ?

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Some of the traditional wooden buildings along the streets still house entertaining geishas, such as Kaikaro, which opens to the public for special geisha events only during the day. Alternatively, you can pay a visit to Ochaya Shima, a historical geisha house that has been preserved as a museum. Here you can see how the geisha lived and worked and also enjoy a cup of green tea with a traditional wagashi sweet ?

Higashi Chaya is also overflowing with shops featuring products made from gold leaf, one of Kanazawa’s chief crafts. You definitely have to check out Hakuichi, a souvenir shop specialising in gold leaf products. In fact, this shop even sells ice cream coated in edible gold leaf! ? JNTO has provided more information you need to know about your location, so check out at this link!

5. Drive to survive at an actual F1 track

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

Are you Team Max or Team Lewis? Whichever side you’re on, battle out for the ultimate title championship at one of the most technically challenging Formula 1 tracks in the entire F1 Grand Prix world tour ? Located in Suzuka City in Mie Prefecture, you’ll get to be behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art EV (electric vehicle) that resembles a miniature F1 car, where you control the throttle, brake, and gears on the steering wheel ?

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization

You can expect the ultimate F1 racing experience: speeding around the Suzuka Circuit whilst completing various missions, with team radios from your very own pit crew. Appropriate language is only allowed! ?Suzuka Circuit is also part of Motopia, a large amusement park with fun, thrilling activities perfect for all ages, if the speed’s a little too much for you. For more information, you can check it out here!  

#HHWTip: Many of us visit Japan for different reasons, which makes this country perfect for all types of travellers. JNTO lets you build your very own itinerary by categorising different activities for each specific interest. For instance, if you’re an adrenaline seeker and live out your wildest racing dreams, click on the ‘Cities’ category under the Passions tab at JNTO's website, and you’ll find so many activities outside Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, suited to your liking ?

Japan has so much to offer, and visiting the country just once is not enough ? With more travellers preferring to head off to less crowded places that still retains their authenticity, taking the off-the-beaten path will definitely give us a much-needed break from the urban sprawl ? There’s still more to explore on the hidden side of Japan, so remember to use JNTO’s NEW website to help make your planning a little easier, especially in areas you’re still new in ?

This article is brought to you by the Japan National Tourism Organization. 

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