You have visited the main initial tourist destinations including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, but you love Japan so much that you want to go again. However, you don’t want to go to the same spots but would rather visit other areas within Japan that can offer a little something different. Here is a guide tailored just for you. But first if you haven't already, please check out my first article titled First Time in Japan: Where To Go And What To Do to get a better understanding of why I chose the below listed areas for this article.
First of all, nice to meet you guys, my name is Chris Okano and I have been to all 47 prefectures within Japan, meaning I have traveled to every area within Japan. With this article, I hope to offer you guys some advice on where to go after you have visited all of the obligatory areas. This article will be kind of a mix of spots that are focused on certain activities as well as spots that are more general that I think deserve more recognition for tourists of all backgrounds and interests.
Located on the northern part of Kyushu Island, Fukuoka is a prefecture that I think deserves so much more recognition. I like to compare this area to Osaka since for me, they resemble each other quite a bit. From the very friendly locals to the delicious food and relaxed environment, Fukuoka is probably one of the best areas for those that want a more relaxed city vacation. While Tokyo and Kyoto are the top 2 areas for travel within Japan, it also means that you will be exposed to many other foreigners all flocking to the same touristy areas.
Here in Fukuoka, you can visit, Hakata and Tenjin for some nice city life great for shopping and delicious restaurants or you can experience more of the nature feel by exploring outside of the city center towards some of the islands including Nokonoshima or near Dazaifu for the Dazaifu Tenman-gu. Here are some other spots for Fukuoka Prefecture for different types of travelers.
Known to be the most famous of the hundreds of tenmangu in all of Japan, Dazaifu is a definite must if you make your down to Fukuoka. Dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane, a famous scholar and politician, the shrine is associated with education, which is why you may see many students here.
A large and beautiful shopping mall, Canal City includes over 250 shops, cafes and restaurants. The shopping mall is designed with a canal running throughout the mall with a fountain in the middle offering water shows every 30 minutes from 10am-10pm.
Ohori Park A park situated in the middle of Fukuoka offering a nice change of pace from the busy city life. There is a very beautiful hexagonal vermillion pavilion within the pond in this park that offers a nice escape. There is also the Fukuoka Art Museum, Ohori Park Japanese Garden and Gokoku Shrine within walking distance from this park.
Nokonoshima Most famous for its flower park, this gorgeous island is only a short ferry ride away from the city center. You can definitely make a day-trip here or even a half-day trip if you are short on time. Get your camera ready for some beautiful flowers.
Located in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa is known as the little Kyoto. However, in my opinion, it deserves a lot more attention and not just as the lesser known Kyoto. As soon as you exit Kanazawa Station, you know you are about to experience something grand as the station itself is absolutely gorgeous.
One of the more beautiful stations in all of Japan, Kanazawa Station will be the station you arrive at if coming from Tokyo. There are a good amount of shops, restaurants and a tourist information center here that you can venture off to before exploring this area in more detail.
Listed as one of the "three most beautiful landscape gardens' in all of Japan with Mito's Kairakuen and Okayama's Korekuen, the beauty of Kenrokuen is breathtaking. Depending on the season, the views you may see can change but no matter what season you visit, you will for sure be shocked with how magnificent this garden is.
Dress up in a kimono in the many rental shops nearby and walk through this ancient looking district that will resemble a great deal with Kyoto . the word chaya literally means teahouse were actually a type of restaurant with geishas as entertainment for guests. These were usually outside of the city during the Edo Period with Kanazawa hosting three well preserved ones, including Higashichaya, Nishichaya and Kazuemachi.
Historically ruled by the Maeda family from 1583, this castle offers some beautiful architecture that you must see.
Myoryuji (aka Ninja Temple) Built by the Maeda lords, this temple is often referred to as the Ninja Temple with absolutely no relevance to ninjas. Because of its interesting defenses, it developed the name "ninja temple", which eventually stuck until today. There are many hidden tunnels, secret rooms and a complicated system of corridors and staircases.
While this prefecture could technically be in your first trip to Japan, the only reason holding me back from including it is the distance and time it takes for one to travel there. You could easily feel lost in Hokkaido with the amount of beautiful locations you can experience there. While it may be more known as the prime area for snow sports, this prefecture has A LOT to offer during the warmer seasons.
The capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a city with a lot to offer standing as the 5th largest city in all of Japan and the largest city in Hokkaido. It hosted the 1972 Winter Olympic Games, hosts one of greatest snow festivals in the world with tourists from all over flocking here and has some of the best snow for winter activities.
Hokkaido's most famous hot spring resort, Noboribetsu offers some of the best hot spring water in all of Japan. Famous amongst both Japanese residents as well as foreigners, take a dip into one of these hot springs for an unforgettable experience.
Home to some of the best snow Japan has to offer, Niseko is a VERY popular snow resort location globally. There are many resort villages spread around this city making for a great community of skiers and snowboarders.
A small harbor city north west of Sapporo, Otaru is famous for its canal area hosting one of the most famous snow festivals there as well. Historically one of the main trade and fishing ports, this area still gives off a very special vibe.
Picturesque views and delicious sushi , Hakodate is a must if you can make it down to the southern point of Hokkaido. Because it was one of the first cities that opened up to foreign trade, there is a lot of Western influence that can be seen in this city.
Another very famous hot spring town in Hokkaido, Jozankei offers a more convenient location to other major cities in Hokkaido. This area is recommended to travelers who don't have enough time to make the trip to Noboribetsu.
Furano For a more countryside view of Hokkaido, definitely make your way over to Furano to experience some amazing views. Make sure to visit between the months of June and September to catch the flowers in full bloom.
Just like Hokkaido, Okinawa is an easy choice for travelers to choose and could easily be in your itinerary during your first visit to Japan; however, I will include it in this article simply because the average tourist to Japan doesn’t spend more than a week in Japan making it difficult for visitors to explore Okinawa in addition to other prefectures. If you can fit this island into your itinerary however, you won’t be disappointed. It’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches and small islands off its coast making for an incredible paradise vacation.
Here are the top 10 islands off the coast ranked by Japanese residents.
When coming to Okinawa, you will probably be flying into Naha, another great place for some beautiful beaches. If you want, you could just stay on the main big island and experience everything there for a full week. However, I do suggest venturing off to some of these more remote islands in order to get the full experience of Okinawa.
Well that's going to wrap it up for this article. I hope it was helpful for any repeat visitor to Japan giving you some insight on where to go and what to do once you have already explored the main touristy cities. If you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear back from you guys in the comment section down below!
Great article! I'd been to japan 5 times before moving here in spring last year, but those first 5 trips were mostly spent in Tokyo with the odd trip to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama etc. Since moving here I've tried to see more of Japan. As much as possible with limited free time and without access to Japan Railpass. (^__^), but have yet to visit any of these places.