🔖 4 min read

The fact that Japan is a major tourist destination is a secret to no one. It’s also common knowledge that even today, centuries after opening its doors to the outside world, the island nation still preserves an aura of mystery and secrecy. As a country with a rich history and cultural heritage, Japan has myriad facets, boasting a tapestry of contrasting features, and it doesn’t reveal all its secrets right away. One has to know where to look to lift all the layers and discover Japan’s true essence. 

However, most tourists don’t even bother to search beyond the surface as they usually flock to the same popular destinations and visit the same iconic landmarks along the Golden Route – an itinerary that encompasses go-to attractions and activities for first-time visitors such as the Meiji Shrine, the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and the Senso-ji Temple in the country’s capital, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, Matsumoto Castle, Mount Fuji, riding the bullet train, relaxing at a traditional Onsen, and so on. 


The case for exploring the unexplored

As wonderful (and numerous) as these tourist hotspots may be, they don’t provide the full picture of Japan’s unique beauty and charm. This also creates a discrepancy in the way people perceive this unique country: there’s the Japan that the majority of foreigners know and the Japan that remains hidden to the unwitting visitor. 

One might argue that straying off the beaten path comes bundled with safety risks. The last thing one wants is to get mugged or injured during their trip and then deal with the claims process which, as experts at Personal Injury Claims UK explain, can be quite challenging. 

However, Japan has consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world over the years, so the chance of getting into trouble even in remote areas is rather slim. Besides, travelling should be about exploring new worlds and gaining new perspectives, and that can only happen if you’re willing to immerse yourself in the local culture and find out what makes the places you visit so fascinatingly unique. 

So, if you want to enjoy a truly authentic Japanese experience, you need to venture off the tourist trail at least for a little bit, and delve into a world of hidden wonders in the land of the rising sun. 


Nonbei Yokocho

One doesn’t have to travel to far-flung corners of Japan (although the transport infrastructure allows you to do just that) to come across hidden gems. In fact, some of these unknown spots lie right next to major attractions, as is the case with Nonbei Yokocho or the Drunkards’ Alley – a tiny area packed with small yakitori shops and izakayas, transporting visitors back in time, to an older Tokyo where these types of streets were much more common in the urban landscape.

The fact that Nonbei Yokocho is located right in the heart of Tokyo, just a few steps away from the iconic Shibuya Crossing, makes the place all the more fascinating. If you want to escape the crowds and get a taste of a different Tokyo, you should give this quaint spot a try.  


Takachiho Gorge

There’s certainly no shortage of natural attractions and stunning sceneries all across Japan, but not all of them are as popular with tourists. One of the lesser-known but not less spectacular natural wonders is Takachiho Gorge, situated in the forest of Miyazaki, on Kyushu Island.

This narrow valley carved by the Gosake River and flaked by towering rock walls on both sides is popular with locals for its breathtaking beauty and spiritual significance as a power spot that gives off positive energy. And if your trip has brought you to Miyazaki, you might as well check out the nearby island of Aoshima for its feline population and giant Buddha statue. 


Tottori Sand Dunes

One wouldn’t usually associate images of sand dunes and camels with Japan, but that’s exactly what you’re going to experience if you travel to the Tottori Sand Dunes on the coast of the Sea of Japan. This intriguing landscape is the creation of the strong winds along the coastline and the sediments carried by the Sendai River into the sea over thousands of years. The magnificent sand dunes spread across 16 kilometres and give visitors the chance to engage in activities like sandboarding, camel rides, hiking, or local wildlife spotting. 



Far away from the tourist hustle and bustle, tucked away in the Japanese Alps, lies Takayama, a small secluded town that provides one of the best examples of rural lifestyle in Japan. This is an ideal destination for nature lovers and those who want to bask in the idyllic Japanese countryside.

The architecture of the place is mesmerizing, with perfectly preserved traditional wooden buildings bordering winding narrow streets. While you’re here, you must also visit a traditional sake brewery and taste some local specialties at the Miyagawa Morning Market. 



Koyasan is another fascinating destination that doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves. Situated deep into the woods, in northern Wakayama, Koyasan is a Shingon Buddhist complex comprising 117 temples and one of Japan’s most sacred sites.

No matter where you find yourself on the religious spectrum, you’ll be utterly enthralled by the otherworldly atmosphere and incredibly peaceful feel of this place. The forest cemetery is a sight to behold, especially during the monks’ morning prayers. 


Get ready to chart your own path 

There’s an abundance of lesser-known destinations and attractions that not many people venture to, either out of convenience or simply because they are not aware of their existence.

The hidden treasures we’ve mentioned serve as an example of Japan’s diversity and uniqueness, and the wonderful things you can discover if you dare to leave the beaten path behind and embrace the unknown. This should serve as a motivation to break away from your comfort zone and design your own travel experience while visiting Japan.