Off the Beaten Path in Japan - Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto with Remote Lands

27 February 2017
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Japan is a country of striking contrasts. Some of the world's most modern cities sit surrounded by breathtaking countryside filled with mountains, volcanoes, gorges, forests and gardens, all enveloped by 30,000 km of stunning coastline. The Japanese are famed for their decorum; endlessly polite, experiencing little to no crime, not even littering, yet they display tremendous creativity through art, fashion, architecture and technology. Old Japan with its historic temples, shrines, geishas and sumo coexists in harmony with the new Japan and its manga, anime, cosplay and J-pop.

There is, however, a tendency for travelers to the country to limit their Japanese experience to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone or Hiroshima. However, with over 7000 different islands to choose from, Japan has so much more to offer those willing to venture off the beaten path and discover the abundance of experiences both within, and beyond, the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

Authentic Japanese Culture on the Islands of Kyushu and Shikoku

Kyushu and Shikoku are two islands perfect for any traveler looking to experience true Japan where few tourists ever venture. Bursting with singular experiences, this 17-day itinerary allows visitors to get to know a different side of Japan against the backdrop of some breathtaking landscapes. Head to the famous onsen town of Ibusuki to stay at wellness resort Ibusuki Hakusuikan for cathartic hot springs and the unique experience of being buried up to your head in hot black volcanic sand. Take a high-speed ferry to magical Yakushima Island - Japan’s first UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site - to hike through the sacred forests of thousand year old sugi trees, while staying at luxurious Sankara Resort & Spa. Explore the isolated Iya Valley of dramatic gorges and thatched houses in the traditional “wild west” of Japan where rogue samurai fled to escape the law. Drive across the longest suspension bridge in the world to Awaji Island to explore some of Tadao Ando’s most astonishing yet little known works including his Escher-meets-Stepwell Hyakudan-en gardens and Mizumi-do floating temple.

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Uncovering the Unique Beauty of Okinawa  

Okinawa is best known for its eponymous World War II battle and the world’s highest life expectancy of almost 90 years for women. Before the industrial and technological boom of the late twentieth-century, there was a simpler, slower-paced way of life in rural Japan. This seven-day itinerary to the island solace of Okinawa will give visitors a peek into the traditions of the bucolic lifestyle, while also cranking up the adrenaline with deep sea dives; opportunities to swim alongside the enigmatic hammerhead shark in the East China Sea are coupled with the impressive nightlife that can be found on the streets of Okinawa’s energetic capital, Naha. Finish the trip to on the pristine beach paradise of Yonaguni, where travelers can add to their underwater escapades by descending into the mysterious waters surrounding the Yonaguni Monument, and decide for themselves whether it is a naturally occurring rock formation, or an Asian “Atlantis” - the watery remnant of the ancient civilization of Mu.

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Central Hokkaido for Adventurers

This action-packed seven-day itinerary is a trip of extremes, where visitors will experience the challenge of a trek to the snowy summit of Mt. Taisetsu, searching out the steam and heat of the active volcanoes that can be found throughout the area, before warming tired bodies in the rejuvenating natural hot-spring baths of the Sounkyo onsen – the area’s finest. Visit Abashiri and conquer the currents of the Kushiro River and the chance to catch sight of unique local phenomena such as sun pillars and diamond dust. Crown the trip with a little indulgence at the Ryugetsu factory, where can guests will learn and sample the secrets of the famous local sweet manufacturer. The afternoon sees the procession of confection continue, with a tour of the facilities and museum of the Ishiya Chocolate Factory, where guests can complete their research of local sweet trends by “testing” a cornucopia of cocoa treats. Hokkaido is ideal all four seasons, with the world’s finest powder skiing in winter and snow so light that snowballs instantly crumble, to wonderful hiking and biking from spring’s cherry blossoms to autumn’s colorful foliage.

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These are just some of the ways you can open up Japan and begin to understand the Land of the Rising Sun better, but don’t feel you have to squeeze everything in one trip - you can always come back! Think of Japan as you would China or India or the USA - the first trip scratches the surface but many more visits are required to experience the extreme variety in this vastly rich and historical country.

Our teams in New York and Bangkok are experts in all aspects of Japanese travel, so contact us now on [email protected] or call +1.646.415.8092 (US) or +66.2260.7584 (Asia), and we'll help create you the Japanese trip of a lifetime.

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