Exploring Rural Japan

Visitors often think of Japan in terms of bullet trains , advanced robotics, and other futuristic technological advancements. These are 100% right to be associated with the country, but it does somewhat pull a shawl over Japan’s pristine rural areas. Alongside the Land of the Rising Sun’s success in developing new technologies, Japan has also worked hard to preserve its natural, rural landscapes – as seen in the many low-key rural Japanese sites that are slowly but surely gaining popularity around the world.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

While relatively unknown, these well-preserved sites below are shifting tourists view the Land of the Rising Sun, and this is being recognized in the travel sector and across other industries. Expatbets extensive guide to Japan, details how more tourists are now heading to rural areas such as Higashinaruse in Akita and Totsukawa in Nara. Even as Japan consistently stands at the forefront of technological advancements, not just in Asia but also in the world, it should be noted that it has also done extremely well in terms of preserving the country’s natural beauty and traditions. But why take our word for it when you can visit Japan yourself to see its natural, rural beauty with your own eyes?

Higashinaruse village

Higashinaruse village in the far southeast corner of the Akita Prefecture is one example. This mountainous area can be extremely warm, hot, and humid in the summers while in the winter, AccuWeather reveals just how freezing cold the area can be. As such, it’s home to a wide range of winter resorts that offer skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities for the adventurous traveler. In the summer, you can visit the many beautiful waterfalls to be found at Higashinaruse, a look into the massive groundwater system that keeps the village’s flora and fauna lively all year round. After getting your fill of adventure, you can then rest your weary bones at Oyasukyo Daifunto, a natural and steaming hot river that flows through a gorge. Local tours there offer beautiful walks along the river, culminating in onsen hot baths for those who want to soak their tired muscles.

Onsen hot baths in Nara Prefecture’s Totsukawa

The gorgeous onsen hot baths in Japan.    Source

The gorgeous onsen hot baths in Japan.

More traditional onsen hot baths can be found in the Nara Prefecture’s Totsukawa – Japan’s largest rural village. With over 64,000 hectares of forests covering about 96% of Totsukawa’s overall land area, NHK is right about calling this village a spiritually charged place of beauty. Stay in 300-year-old Mandokoro Farmer’s Inn where you can experience farm work and even learn how to cook the local cuisine. Check out the Kiridasu wood workshop to see the furniture and other creations made by local artists using wood sourced from Totsukawa’s forests. You should also try to catch a performance of the Oo-Odori, the classical Bon Dance style of the Musashi District – which you might get to see during a visit to the Totsukawa Village Education Museum.


Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine on Honshu Island

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a deeper look into Japan’s rural history, few sites are better for these purposes than the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine located at the southwest portion of Honshu Island. Nestled in a cluster of mountains, this historic site was responsible for the rapid economic development of not just Japan but the whole of South East Asia back in the 16th and 17th century, which you wouldn’t guess now considering that Iwami has naturally reverted into a heavily wooded area. One visit to the site and you’ll know why it was declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.


Other NOTABLE Areas

These are just some of the many must-see rural sites that you can visit in Japan today. Other notable areas include Tsurui village on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It’s the only place in Japan where you can find a lot of wild red-crowned cranes interacting naturally, so make sure to bring a good camera. Meanwhile, Nagiso village in Nagano is home to plenty of extant buildings from the notorious Edo period, allowing visitors to take a walk back in time to Japan’s tumultuous but indescribably beautiful feudal past. In short, there’s no shortage of gorgeous places to visit when you get out of Japan’s cities.

Final Thoughts

One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Japan along with you. Here are some books I recommend...

One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.

Read on: Full list of travel gear I use on every trip

And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com). 

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