Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Chances are you’d heard travellers mention these three cities when they talk about their trip to Japan. But there’s more to Japan than its major metropolises.
TripAdvisor has revealed that the Japanese cities of Kanazawa, Ishigaki, Takayama, Nagasaki and Fujikawaguchiko-machi have been growing in popularity each year among international tourists.
Here are the five Japanese cities you should visit:
It is home to ancient samurai history where the military nobility lived and ruled for over 700 years in the 1100s.
Today, it is the only place where the samurai presence remains. Kanazawa Castle is one of the largest relics of the samurai age. The castle is adjacent to the famous Kenrokuen Garden. It is a beautiful place to go during the Sakura season when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Nearby, visitors can stroll through the Higashichaya Old Town to enjoy a cup of tea, traditional arts and crafts, and the overall nostalgia of this old Geisha district.
Not too far away sits the Myoryuji Ninja Temple which was built to protect the Emperor in dangerous times.
How to get there: To get to Kanazawa, fly to Tokyo. It is then a short 2½-3-hour bullet train ride on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen.
Restaurant recommendations: Kanazawa is known for its fresh seafood. Morimorizushi Kanazwa-ekimaeten is one of the most popular restaurants for high quality sushi but at affordable prices. A great izakaya (Japanese gastro pub) option would be Itaru Honten, which is famous for its Japanese sake pairings and use of local ingredients.
This is an island hub known for its beaches and great dive sites where you can find rare corals.
The jewel of the island is Kabira Bay which is located on its north coast – the bay is an ideal location for a dreamy tropical holiday. Not far from the bay stands Mount Omotodake at 528m, offering hikers magnificent views of the island and surrounding reefs.
At the Tamatorizaki Observatory, visitors are able to get a panoramic view of the island.
How to get there: Domestic flights to Ishigaki are available via Tokyo Haneda to Naha Airport in Okinawa – this takes about 2½ hours – followed by another hour-long flight to New Ishigaki Airport.
Restaurant recommendations: Ishigaki beef is the island’s most famous speciality and meat lovers should head to Sumibiyakiniku Yamamoto for the beef steak special. Yaeyama soba is another popular dish – its taste and texture is different to soba on the mainland. A good place to try this is Akaishi Shokudo.
If you are at an izakaya, try Awamori an alcoholic beverage indigenous to Okinawa which is distilled from long grain indica rice.
Not far from Kanazawa is Takayama. This beautiful castle town is known for its well-preserved old merchant districts from the Edo-period (1603-1868).
Sannomachi Street, which is located in the old town, is lined with ancient wooden houses, museums, coffee houses and shops selling traditional crafts and food specialities. To experience the picturesque Hida countryside, join the Satoyama Experience tour where you can cycle through local villages, rice fields and lovely Japanese homes.
With its cold climate and the availability of crystal clear mountain water nearby, Takayama has the perfect conditions for producing high quality Japanese sake.
How to get there: Getting to Takayama is fairly easy by bullet train on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya which takes about two hours. This is followed by a 90-minute transfer on the JR Hida limited express train to Takayama. Visitors can also fly to Kanazawa and take the JR limited express train and Shinkansen to Takayama via Toyama station which takes just over two hours.
Restaurant recommendations: Hida beef is a speciality of the Gifu prefecture. Meat lovers should visit Ajilkuratengoku to savour this through an authentic Japanese barbecue experience.
It is surrounded by mountains and the sea providing for amazing scenic views wherever you look.
The city has a sombre history dating back to World War II, when it was devastated by an atomic bomb. This is heavily memorialised at the Nagasaki Bomb Museum.
To get a 360-degree view of the city, ride a cable car to the summit of Mount Inasa, which is beautiful both in the day and at night. Alternatively, visitors can also take a boat tour to Hashima Island.
How to get there: To get to Nagazaki, fly to Tokyo Haneda. Take a domestic flight to Nagasaki Airport which takes just over 90 minutes.
Restaurant recommendations: Champon (pronounced “Chan-pon”) is Nagasaki’s regional noodle dish made with fried pork, seafood, vegetable and chicken in a pork broth. A good place to try this is at Shirairo. Fans of Chawanmushi (steamed custard egg) should also make a visit to Yossou, which is highly recommended by the locals.
5. Fujikawaguchiko-machi (Mount Fuji)
This is a Japanese resort town located on the northern part of Mount Fuji. It surrounds Lake Kawaguchi, one of the famous Fuji Five Lakes around Mount Fuji.
Many hikers use Fujikawaguchiko as a starting point for climbing the volcano along the Yoshida Trail. For music-lovers, the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum will enchant and beguile.
How to get there: Take the JR Limited Express line Kaiji from Tokyo or Shinjuku station to Otsuki station. The journey takes just 40 minutes. From Otsuki station, take the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko station which is a 55-minute journey.
Restaurant recommendations: Pumpkin Hoto is a popular local noodle soup from the Yamanashi Prefecture that is served in a big iron pot. To give this a try, visitors should visit Kosaku Hoto Kosaku.