Japan Area Guides

The picturesque Yamadera temple complex in Yamagata Prefecture

Ever since I first started writing about Japan’s off the beaten path allures back in 2016, I’ve always struggled with how to best break up the country for ease of navigation. Simply put, terms like Tohoku largely only have significance to overseas audiences in relation to the 2011 triple disaster. Moreover, regions like the Chugoku region of Honshu has even less recognition overseas. At the same time though, a full on list of all of the prefectures is also not ideal either.

Now, I could set up the navigation of this blog based on tags or some other kind of taxonomy but I find this is not too helpful for you, the reader. After all, are you REALLY going to sift through 14 pages of posts on Kanagawa Prefecture to find an article on Kamakura? As you might imagine, a tag and category based approach is even more of a limitation when the one doing the browsing doesn’t know what he or she is exactly looking for.

To simplify the searching process I’ve opted to include all of my in-depth features on hidden gems in Japan on this single, easy-to-browse page. Below, you’ll find sections dedicated to each of the distinct regions of the country. Within these subdivisions, I’ve included dropdown menus for each of the 47 prefectures that include all of the articles that I’ve authored for that part of Japan. 

For conformity’s sake, I’ve elected to stick with the standard monikers for zones (e.g. Kanto, Kansai, etc.). Should this be confusing, just ignore the subsections and instead look for the prefecture that you’re considering traveling to. Note that all articles are in reverse chronological order within their individual sections.


Found up in Hokkaido on Panorama Road on the city outskirts, Shikisai Hill is one of the must-see, famous locations in Biei during the season between mid-months of summer. It's a great way to escape the hot weather elsewhere, especially if you are on a trip with kids.

By far Japan’s largest prefecture, Hokkaido is an entire region unto itself. Located north of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Hokkaido was only recently incorporated into the idea of Japan at the end of the 19th century. Even today, the prefecture is blessed with majestic natural scenery. What’s more, due to its historical relation with the rest of the country, Hokkaido has a vibe and culture that just hits differently from anywhere else in Japan.

Hokkaido Prefecture

See Articles
  • Matsumae Castle
    Situated on the southernmost tip of Hokkaido, this former outpost is home to thousands of cherry blossoms that only reach full bloom in late May.
  • Visit Furano & Biei
    Located in the center of Hokkaido, the dual towns of Furano and Biei are home to some of the most legendary flower fields that man has ever made.
  • Head to Hakodate
    Found in the southern Hokkaido, Hakodate is home to one of Japan’s best night views as well as cherry blossoms at the former fort of Goryokaku.
  • Northern Hokkaido
    Hokkaido’s northern reaches are home to the remote but beautiful islands of Rishiri and Rebun as well as all of Japan’s northernmost locations.


Snow falls on 100 year-old ryokan in Yamagata Prefecture's Ginzan Onsen hot spring town

Comprising the northern tip of Honshu, Tohoku is a truly magical part of Japan. Unlike with Hokkaido, it has long been considered to be a part of the country. At the same time though, the harsh national environs of Tohoku have given birth to a unique culture and people that is starkly different to Japan’s more forgiving regions. Whether you’re looking for deeply spiritual experiences of amazing outdoor adventures, Tohoku has got you covered.

Aomori Prefecture

See Articles
  • Iwakiyama Shrine
    Found at the foot of Aomori Prefecture’s Mt. Iwaki, Iwakiyama Shrine is an ancient sanctum that few foreigners ever get the chance to explore.
  • Autumn in Aomori
    Aomori is a prefecture that is great all year round but it truly comes alive during the months of autumn when the fall foliage starts to turn.
  • Hungover in Hachinohe
    Seaside Hachinohe is the second largest city in Aomori Prefecture. It is home to both boozy alleyways as well as Japan’s largest morning market.
  • Mt. Osore (Osorezan)
    Found on the northernmost tip of Aomori Prefecture, Mt. Osore (Osorezan) has been described to a earthly manifestation of the Buddhist afterlife.

Akita Prefecture

See Articles
  • Akita Prefecture
    Found in northern Japan, Akita is a prefecture with many allures. Whether you’re after history and culture or natural vista, Akita delivers!
  • The Oga Peninsula’s Namahage
    Akita’s rural Oga Peninsula is home to a unique take on oni called the Namahage. These ogres terrify people into getting their act together.

Iwate Prefecture

See Articles
  • Iwate’s Morioka
    Found between Aomori to the north and the rest of Tohoku to the south, Morioka is a convenient transportation hub that also has many attractions.
  • The Tragedy of Hiraizumi
    Unbeknownst to foreign tourists, the area of Hiraizumi in present day Iwate used to be a political center of power that rivaled that of Kyoto.

Yamagata Prefecture

See Articles
  • Uketamo (I Accept)
    Yamagata’s Shonai Plain is home to a unique culture of Yamabushi mountain ascetics that have been training on the Dewa Sanzan for centuries.
  • Yamagata Winters
    Located in the center of Tohoku, Yamagata is home to all sorts of wintery fun. From Ginzan Onsen to Mt. Zao, there’s something for everyone
  • The Heights of Yamadera
    Found in rural Yamagata Prefecture, Yamadera is one of northern Japan’s most picturesque attractions. Don’t miss this one when in Tohoku!

Miyagi Prefecture

See Articles
  • The Hitome Senbonzakura & Funaoka Castle
    Situated in the southern part of Miyagi, the Hitome Senbonzakura and Funaoka Castle together constitute one of Japan’s top cherry blossom spots.
  • The City of Sendai
    While not typically a destination on many tourists’ itineraries, Tohoku’s city of Sendai is chock full of an amazing assortment of hidden gems.

Fukushima Prefecture

See Articles
  • Fukushima’s Iwaki City
    Situated along the coast of Fukushima, the city of Iwaki is a history port town that is most well known today for Spa Resort Hawaiians.
  • Nishi-Aizu & Kitakata
    Situated in the western extremes of Fukushima, Nishi-Aizu and Kitakata are two hidden gems that are perfect for repeat visitors to Japan.
  • Ashinomaki Onsen’s Okawaso
    Okawaso, a ryokan in Fukushima’s Ashinomaki Onsen, was the real life inspiration for Muzan’s Infinity Castle in the hit anime Kimetsu-no-Yaiba.
  • Aizu-Wakamatsu
    Most visitors only know of Fukushima in the context of the disasters of 2011 but the prefecture is actually home to a lot of samurai history.


People cross a busy intersection in Tokyo's Shinjuku area at dusk

Home to the never-ending megalopolis that is Greater Tokyo, the Kanto region mostly resides in Japan’s largest plain. Within its mountainous borders, you’ll find popular spots like Hakone, Nikko and Kamakura as well as the aforementioned capital of Japan. Honestly, you could spend a lifetime exploring this set of prefectures and never even come close to running out of things to do.

Tochigi Prefecture

See Articles
  • Kita Onsen Ryokan
    Found deep in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture’s Nasu Highlands, Kita Onsen Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn with centuries of history.
  • Tochigi Prefecture’s Nasu
    While the Nikko area is well known, Tochigi also home to hidden gems like Nasu, a locale that’s great for fans of hiking and hot springs.
  • Up in Utsunomiya
    Though located near the ever-popular area of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture’s capital city of Utsunomiya rarely gets the attention that it deserves.
  • Furumine Shrine
    Located near Nikko in Tochigi, Furumine Shrine is a hidden gem that pays homage to the tengu as well as the quasi-mythical hero, Yamato Takeru.
  • Lake Chuzen-ji
    The deeper areas of Nikko are sadly often passed up by tourists but Lake Chuzen-ji is a really relaxing spot that really ought not to be missed!
  • Seeing it ALL in Nikko
    While not exactly a hidden gem per se, the Nikko area is a destination that many overseas visitors to Japan fail to properly experience.
  • Nikko’s Takino-o Shrine
    While most overseas visitors make a beeline for the Toshogu Shrine, Nikko’s roots actually predate the Tokugawa shogunate by nearly 1,000 years.
  • Nikko’s Taiyuin-byo
    Taiyuin-byo is the mausoleum of the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. It’s located in Nikko, right next to the ornately iconic Toshogu Shrine.

Gunma Prefecture

See Articles
  • Mystical Mt. Myogi
    Found at the western extremes of Gunma, Mt. Myogi is home to an ancient shrine as well as some of Japan’s best weeping cherry blossom trees.
  • Gunma’s Koizumi Inari Shrine
    Found in remote Gunma Prefecture, Koizumi Inari Shrine is home to a collection of torii gates that’s worthy of being posted to Instagram.
  • Mountainous Minakami
    Found at the northernmost tip of Gunma, Minakami is without a doubt Japan’s top spot for adventure tourism and other outdoor activities.
  • Journey to Mt. Haruna
    Considered to be one of the three sacred peaks of Gunma, Mt. Haruna is chock full of all sorts of attractions such as shrines and hot springs.
  • Manza Onsen
    Manza Onsen is one of Japan’s highest hot spring towns. Here, you can quite literally soak away all of your worries while bathing in the clouds.
  • Kusatsu Onsen
    This in-depth guide to Gunma’s Kusatsu Onsen will tell you all that you need to know about what may very well be Japan’s top hot spring town.

Ibaraki Prefecture

See Articles
  • Ibaraki’s Oiwa Shrine
    Nestled in the Hitachi Alps, Oiwa Shrine is an ancient Shinto sanctuary that enshrines 188 deities and is said to be older than history itself.
  • Ibaraki’s Mt. Tsukuba
    Located only an hour away Tokyo up in Ibaraki Prefecture, Mt. Tsukuba is one of the best day hikes around for those in search of a casual climb.
  • Ibaraki Prefecture
    While Ibaraki is regularly considered to be one of the least appealing prefectures, it’s a treasure trove of attractions and hidden allures.
  • Kashima Jingu
    Kashima Jingu is a timeworn shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture that has a history dating back nearly 3,000 years to the very origins of the Japanese empire.
  • Mito & Kairaku-en
    Mito is the capital city of Ibaraki. In addition to striking the perfect balance between urban and rural, Mito is also home to an amazing garden.

Saitama Prefecture

See Articles
  • The Kumagaya Sakura Tsutsumi
    Hidden away in northern Saitama, the Kumagaya Sakura Tsutsumi is considered to be one of Japan’s top 100 places to see the cherry blossoms.
  • The Senbonzakura of Torayama
    Found deep in the mountains of eastern Chichibu, this hill is home to thousands of cherry blossoms and is also extremely popular with cosplayers.
  • The Town of Nagatoro
    Situated to the north of Chichibu in Saitama, Nagatoro is a tiny hamlet that is great for hiking, water spots and traditional river boat cruises.
  • Kinchakuda Manjushage Park
    Kinchakuda Manjushage Park is home to a 5 million spider lilies. Known as higanbana in Japanese, these flower around the autumn equinox.
  • Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine
    Found just to the north of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, Omiya’s Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine is an often overlooked hidden gem.
  • The Hundred Caves of Yoshimi
    Found up in the middle of nowhere in Saitama, the so-called Hundred Caves of Yoshimi have often been referred to as “Japan’s Cappadocia.”
  • Mitsumine Shrine
    Found in the mountains of Chichibu, Mitsumine Shrine is an ancient sanctuary that pays homage to the now-extinct Japanese wolves of yesteryear.
  • Escape to Chichibu
    This primer will tell you all you need to know about Saitama Prefecture’s rural Chichibu. The area makes for a great day trip from Tokyo.
  • The Castle at Kita-in
    The Kita-in temple complex in Kawagoe belies a hidden secret. It was essentially constructed out of the former pieces of the former Edo Castle.
  • Kawagoe’s Warehouses
    Found less than an hour north of central Tokyo in Saitama, Kawagoe is home to a number of historic warehouses from the Edo period (1603–1868).

Tokyo Prefecture

See Articles
  • Asukayama Park
    Located on Tokyo’s northern edge, Asukayama Park is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees and is a great alternative to more crowded spots.
  • The Unko Museum
    Hidden away inside of the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza shopping complex in Odaiba, the Unko Museum (lit. “the Poop Museum”) is Tokyo’s latest oddity.
  • Scaling Mt. Kumotori
    Found in the far west of Tokyo, Mt. Kumotori is the tallest peak in the prefecture. It’s also the home of Kamado family in Kimetsu-no-Yaiba.
  • Tokyo’s Retro Koenji
    Found west of Shinjuku, Koenji is Tokyo’s top retro neighborhood. From vintage clothing to old school eateries, Koenji has much on offer.
  • Fantastic Fuchu
    From ancient shrines to the lovely Kyodo-no-Mori, western Tokyo’s Fuchu is an area that is chock full of hidden gems and attractions.
  • Tokyo’s Top Onsen
    Unbeknownst to many overseas visitors, Japan’s capital of Tokyo actually has a wide variety of natural hot springs within the confines of the city.
  • Tokyo’s Shibaura Minami Futo Park
    Found at the foot of Tokyo’s ever-iconic Rainbow Bridge, Shibaura Minami Futo Park has been one of my go-to spots when I need a place to think.
  • Tokyo’s Todoroki Ravine
    The Todoroki Ravine is a natural sanctuary in the middle of Tokyo. Found near Futako Tamagawa, this hidden allure is a welcome reprieve.
  • Tokyo’s Gotoku-ji
    If you’ve spent any time on Instagram and follow Japan creators, chances are high that you’ve seen Gotoku-ju and its maneki neko statues before.
  • Tokyo’s Tennozu Isle
    Found near Shinagawa Station, Tokyo’s artsy island of Tennozu Isle is one of my favorite getaways from the hustle and bustle of the megalopolis.
  • Tokyo’s Great Fire of Meireki
    This installment of Backyard Tourism traces the roots of the devastating Great Fire of Meireki to a small temple compound in Tokyo’s Sugamo area.
  • Sugamo’s Crimson Panties
    Tokyo’s historic Sugamo area is often referred to colloquially as “grandma’s Harajuku” due to the fact that many elderly shop there.
  • Open Air Museums
    Found near Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural and the Nihon Minka-en Open Air Museum have some amazing historic buildings to explore.
  • A Haneda Layover Guide
    This guide will show you how to make the most of a 24 hour layover at Tokyo International Airport (or just sneak in one more final attraction).
  • Ryusen-ji & Meguro
    The names of many places in Japan belie a hidden history and Meguro is no exception. This article will reveal the origins of Merugo’s moniker.
  • Old School Shibamata
    Found on the eastern outskirts of central Tokyo, Shibamata is an adorable neighborhood that is chock full of all sorts of hidden attractions.
  • Yasukuni Shrine
    While Yasukuni Shrine is a political landmine, I believe that visitors to Japan should visit so that they can see the OTHER side of the story.
  • Meguro Parasitological Museum
    Tokyo is home to a number of odd curations but nothing tops Meguro’s Parasitological Museum. Here, you’ll find all sorts of grotesqueness.
  • Nakano Broadway
    Found in Tokyo’s Nakano area, Nakano Broadway is a great alternative to Akihabara when it comes to places to purchase anime and gaming goods.
  • Tokyo’s Mt. Mitake
    Situated in the westernmost reaches of Tokyo, Mt. Mitake has long been a sacred pilgrimage site. These days, it makes for a great day trip.
  • The Yokai of Chofu
    Located in the western Tokyo, Chofu makes for a wonderful day trip from the city center. The area is rife with references to GeGeGe-no-Kitaro.
  • Relaxing in Ryogoku 
    Eastern Tokyo’s Ryogoku is home to both the sumo area and the Awesome Edo-Tokyo Museum. The area makes for a great half-day adventure in Tokyo.
  • Tokugawa Ienari’s Sloppy Seconds
    Tokugawa Ienari was the scandalous 11th Tokugawa shogun. Though best known for his sexual antics, he also saved a number of temples too.
  • Tokyo’s Ramen Jiro
    While ramen is a well known dish, few foreign visitors have ever heard of Ramen Jiro. This monstrosity is nothing short of pure, greasy gluttony.
  • Mt. Takao & the Tengu
    Found in the westernmost reaches of Tokyo Prefecture, Mt. Takao is a sacred mountaintop enclave that is a popular day trip from Japan’s capital.
  • The Haunts of Yotsuya
    While Yotsuya is best known as the location of Sophia University, it’s also home a famous ghost story as well as a number of other tales.
  • Tokyo’s Themed Dining
    While Tokyo has many themed dining experiences, it hard be hard to pick out the good spots from the scams. This guide will provide some pointers.
  • Wolves, Cats, & Darkness 
    Tokyo has a large collection of shrines and temples but a handful of them are actually hiding some amazing secrets. Here’s three of my favorites!
  • Mori Tower’s Sky Deck
    If you’re in search of the best high-rise view in all of Tokyo, look no further than Mori Tower’s 238 meter-high outdoor Sky Deck in Roppongi!
  • Tokyo Ramen Street
    Conveniently located within Tokyo Station, Tokyo Ramen Street is a collection of shops that is a delicious mecca for noodle lovers.
  • Take-no-Yu Onsen
    Found in Tokyo’s post area of Azabu Juban, Take-no-yu is an authentic onsen that boast hot springs with waters as dark as a cup of black coffee.
  • Tokyo’s Atago Shrine
    Found in the center of the city near Tokyo Tower, Atago Shrine is one of the many hidden gems that are located within the confines of Tokyo.
  • Yanaka’s Shitamachi Vibes
    Found near Ueno Park, Tokyo’s area of Yanaka is one of only a few places to survive World War II. As such, it retains its old school charm.
  • Happo-en’s Gardens
    Found in the heart of Tokyo, Happo-en’s gardens are sure to be a great addition to any itinerary. Moreover, they are entirely free to explore!
  • Koishikawa Korakuen
    Nestled in the world’s most densely populated megalopolis, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of the top traditional Japanese gardens in Tokyo.
  • Ueno Park 
    Oddly enough, Tokyo’s Ueno Park is the best one-day itinerary for those short on time. It has a bit of everything great about Japan.

Chiba Prefecture

See Articles
  • Visit Awa Shrine
    Located on the southernmost tip of Chiba’s Boso Peninsula, Awa Shrine is an ancient Shinto sanctuary with three millennia of history to it.
  • Come to Katsuura
    Located at the southernmost tip of Chiba’s Boso Peninsula, the fishing village of Katsuura is the perfect spot for those in need of an escape.
  • Sakura City’s Hiyodori-Zaka
    Located near Narita International Airport, the Hiyodori-zaka in Sakura City is a bamboo-lined path that can rival the likes Kyoto’s Arashiyama.
  • Katori Jingu
    Found not too far from Narita International Airport, Katori Jingu is a holy site in Chiba that pays homage to the legacy of swordsmanship.
  • Chiba’s Nokogiriyama
    Found on the western coast of the Boso Peninsula, Nokogiriyama (lit. “Sawtooth Mountain”) makes for the perfect day trip from Tokyo.
  • Historic Sawara
    Found a mere stone’s throw from Narita International Airport, the historic area of Sawara makes for a great final destination before your flight.
  • A Narita Layover Guide
    Unbeknownst to many transit passengers, the area around Japan’s Narita International Airport is home to an amazing smorgasbord of allures.

Kanagawa Prefecture

See Articles
  • Nishihirabatake Park
    Located in the town of Matsuda, Nishihirabatake Park hosts an annual Kawazu-zakura cherry blossom festival from mid February to early March.
  • Visit Misaki Port
    Found on the southern tip of Kanagawa’s Miura Peninsula, this sleepy fishing village is well known for both its tuna and natural beauty.
  • Yokohama’s Koganecho
    Formerly a seedy red light district that was chock of brothels, this part of Yokohama has now been transformed into a haven for artists.
  • Kanagawa’s Samukawa Shrine
    Samukawa Shrine in Kanagawa is a serene, 1,600 year-old hidden gem that rarely (if ever) pops up on the radars of overseas visitors to Japan.
  • Heavenly Hayama
    Found near the historical area of Kamakura, Hayama is a posh, seaside retreat that is popular with Tokyoites during the humid months of summer.
  • Yugawara Onsen
    Conveniently found on the westernmost extremes of Kanagawa Prefecture, Yugawara Onsen is one of the closest hot spring towns to central Tokyo.
  • Spiritual Mt. Oyama
    Nestled on the western border of Kanagawa, Mt. Oyama has long been a spiritual peak to which many wayward pilgrims have flock for years.
  • THE Kamakura Area Guide
    While Kamakura is not really a hidden gem, this exhaustively definitive guide will show you that there’s far more than most visitors think.
  • Kamakura’s Kencho-ji
    Found in Kita-Kamakura, Kencho-ji is one of the area’s great temples. This sprawling complex has enough attractions to be a day trip unto itself.
  • Sankei-en Gardens
    Situated only a few minutes away from downtown areas, Sankei-en is a traditional garden that is a stark contrast to the rest of the Yokohama.
  • Benzaiten & the Fox
    Found in the ever-historic Kamakura, the neighboring Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine & Sasuke Inari Shrine are some of the area’s best hidden gems.
  • Yokohama’s Chinatown
    Yokohama’s Chinatown is always bustling with commerce. It’s an area that is a living example of the city’s legacy as an important port town.
  • Odawara Castle
    Conveniently located in nearby Kanagawa Prefecture on the outskirts of Hakone, Odawara Castle is the closest medieval fortress to central Tokyo.
  • Two Days in Hakone
    Thought not what one might call an off the beaten path destination, Hakone has more than enough hot springs, history, nature and more to enjoy.
  • Yokosuka’s Sarushima
    Found in Kanagawa Prefecture, the historic Sarushima (lit. “Monkey Island”) is an uninhabited island that’s located off the coast of the Miura Peninsula.
  • Fushimi Hakuseki Inari Shrine
    Found just outside of the military base in Yokosuka, this dilapidated shrine will give you the sense of being spirited away by the deity Inari.
  • Noge’s Boozy Backstreets
    Found on the yet-to-be-developed side of Sakuragicho Station, the boozy back streets of Yokohama’s Noge area have a lot of soul to them.
  • Yokohama’s Minato Mirai
    The seaside area of Minato Mirai is both simultaneously a romantic getaway from Tokyo and a great spot for those who love diving into history.
  • Kamakura’s Wakaejima
    Kamakura’s Wakaejima (or “Wakae Island”) was Japan’s first man made port. You can still see the ruins of this engineering marvel today.
  • Charming Hase-dera 
    Situated not too far from the coast of Sagami Bay, the Hase-dera temple complex is one of the Kamakura area’s many must visit attractions.
  • The Legend of Enoshima 
    Located near the former military capital of Kamakura, Enoshima is a great add-on to any itinerary. It has both fun and spiritual attractions.
  • The Mandarado Yagura
    Found on the border of Zushi in the hills surrounding Kamakura, the eerie Mandarado Yagura is the largest collection of tombs in all of Japan.


The former post town of Magome-juku is located high up in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture.

Situated in the mountainous core of Japan’s main island, Chubu is an area that is deeply characterized by its geography. For centuries, Chubu has been one of the most important parts of Japan and thus the region is blessed with a mind-boggling number of historical and cultural allures. Within its mountainous terrain, you’ll discover a diverse array of attractions that are sure to be highlights of your trip.

Niigata Prefecture

See Articles
  • Niigata City & Tsukioka Onsen
    Found on the Sea of Japan side, Niigata City and the nearby Tsukioka Onsen are a great option for anyone looking for something different.
  • Yahiko & Its Ancient Shrine
    Located to the southwest of Niigata City, Yahiko and its ancient shrine are a real hidden gem that more visitors to Japan ought to experience.
  • Japan’s Snow Country
    Though called Snow Country (or “Yukiguni” in Japanese), this part of Japan has a lot more on offer than JUST amazing options for winter sports.

Nagano Prefecture

See Articles
  • The Ultimate Guide to Ueda
    While not as famous as Nagano’s capital, Ueda is a city in central Japan that is blessed with a smorgasbord of nature, history and hot springs.
  • Nagano’s Narai-juku
    Sheltered away in the northern sections of the Kiso Valley, Nagano’s Narai-juku was the biggest and most wealthy town on the Nakasendo highway.
  • Iiyama City
    Located up in northern Nagano, the city of Iiyama is home to bountiful in both breathtaking natural landscapes and a rich historical legacy.
  • A Day Trip to Matsumoto
    Nestled amidst the Japanese Alps in Nagano, Matsumoto and its ever-iconic Matsumoto Castle are one of the best day trips from Japan’s capital.
  • Welcome to Nagano City
    Nagano City is the capital of the prefecture. In addition to being the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, it’s also a great spot for sightseeing.
  • Mystical Suwa 
    Found on the banks of Nagano’s Lake Suwa, this part of Japan is home to some truly antediluvian shrines that date from time immemorial.

Yamanashi Prefecture

See Articles
  • Saruhashi Bridge
    Nestled in the mountains between Tokyo and Yamanashi, Saruhashi is one of Japan’s top three bridges and is especially enchanting during autumn.
  • Savoring Kawaguchiko
    Found in Yamanashi, Kawaguchiko is a spot that is normally crowded but thanks to the pandemic, its lakeside attractions aren’t as busy anymore.
  • Hottarakashi Onsen
    This hot spring offers great views of the Kofu valley basin as well as Mt. Fuji. It’s the type of place that you go to just get away from it all.
  • Hidden Yamanashi Redux
    Yamanashi is a cornucopia of allures that range from the sacred Mt. Minobu and the ruins of the Koshu domain to the wineries of the Koshu Valley.
  • Aokigahara
    Found at the foot of Mt. Fuji, the ever-serene Aokigahara forest is in need of shedding its stigma of being Japan’s so-called “suicide forest.”
  • Hidden Yamanashi
    Though best known for Mt. Fuji, Yamanashi Prefecture is also actually home to gorgeous nature, great local food and ancient pilgrimage sites.

Shizuoka Prefecture

See Articles
  • Hangout on Hatsushima
    Situated just off the coast of Atami in Shizuoka, Hatsushima is the perfect place to escape the worries of the city and relax in nature.
  • Shuzenji Onsen
    Found in the heart of Shizuoka Prefecture’s Izu Peninsula, Shuzenji Onsen is a charming hot spring town with over 1,000 years of history to it.
  • The Inatori Hosono Highlands
    Hidden away in the mountains of the Izu Peninsula, the Inatori Hosono Highlands are home to one of Japan’s most epic fields of tall silver grass.
  • Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine
    Found on Hamamatsu’s northern outskirts, Akihasan Hongu Akiha Shrine is an ancient sanctuary that’s famous for it’s “golden torii of happiness.
  • Hang Out in Hamamatsu
    Found between Tokyo to the east and Kyoto to the west, Hamamatsu is a treasure trove of hidden gems that most visitors to Japan sadly skip.
  • The Story of Shimoda
    Found at the southern tip of Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula, the historic town of Shimoda is is deeply tied Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan.
  • Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha
    Found at the base of Mt. Fuji in Fujinomiya, the venerable Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha has honored Japan’s iconic peak since time immemorial.
  • Kunozan Toshogu Shrine
    Many people are aware of Nikko’s ornate Toshogu Shrine but the original place of enshrinement for Tokugawa Ieyasu is actually in Shizuoka.
  • Seaside Atami 
    Located near Tokyo, Shizuoka’s onsen town of Atami offers visitors a glimpse of what life would have been life during Japan’s economic bubble.

Toyama Prefecture

See Articles
  • Toyama Prefecture
    Nestled between the Sea of Japan and the northern Japanese Alps, Toyama Prefecture is chock full of an endless array of hidden gems and allures.

Gifu Prefecture

See Articles
  • Gujo-Hachiman
    Nestle in the northern half of Gifu Prefecture, Gujo-Hachiman is a former castle town with an epic Bon dance that can last for weeks at a time.
  • Go to Gifu City
    While Shirakawago and Hida-Takayama have gained a lot of fame in recent years, the southern sections of Gifu are a treasure trove of hidden gems.
  • Gero Onsen
    Found just around an hour to the south of the historic Hida-Takayama, Gifu Prefecture’s Gero Onsen is one of Japan’s top three hot spring towns.
  • The Site of Reversible Destiny
    Yoro Park is home to a bizarre attraction called the Site of Reversible Destiny that is said to be able to alter the trajectory of one’s fate.
  • The Ultimate Kiso Valley Guide
    In all of Japan, there are few allures that are as authentic as the stretch of the Kiso Valley between the post towns of Magome and Tsumago.

Aichi Prefecture

See Articles
  • Inuyama Castle
    Aichi Prefecture’s Inuyama Castle is Japan’s oldest surviving medieval fortress. If you’re in the area and like history, you need to check it out!
  • Aichi’s Toyokawa Inari
    Toyokawa Inari is a Buddhist temple in Aichi that is part of a trinity of Inari sanctuaries along with Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Taisha.
  • Aichi’s Industry Tourism
    While a lot of overseas tourists tend to skip Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture in lieu of Kyoto, this part of Japan is a haven for industrial tourism.
  • Explore Nagoya Castle
    Found in Central Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya Castle was an incredibly important medieval stronghold during the Edo period (1603–1868).
  • Atsuta Jingu
    Hidden in downtown Nagoya, Atsuta Jingu is a shrine that allegedly is home to the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi which has been called “Japan’s Excalibur.”

Ishikawa Prefecture

See Articles
  • Visit Historic Kanazawa
    Often referred to as “Mini Kyoto,” Kanazawa is every bit as historic and charming as Kyoto but is rarely as crowded as the former capital.
  • Kanazawa’s “Ninja-dera”
    Kanazawa’s Ninja-dera is a temple that has been designed to function as a concealed castle. The building is full of false doors and deadly traps.

Fukui Prefecture

See Articles
  • Fukui Prefecture
    Found on the Sea of Japan side of the country, Fukui Prefecture is a treasure trove of Buddhism, medieval castles and, of all things, dinosaurs.


Two tourists wearing kimono visit Kyoto after the coronavirus pandemic

Home to eternally popular cities like Kyoto and Osaka, Kansai is a region that almost always makes its way onto the itineraries of international visitors. At the same time though, there is so much more to this part of Japan than just the mainstream destinations. What’s more, even within these overcrowded locales, there still exists many hidden allures for intrepid adventurers to discover.

Shiga Prefecture

See Articles
  • Shiga’s Omihachiman
    Located on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Omihachiman is a historic hamlet with with perfectly preserved merchant quarters.
  • Needing Nagahama
    Found just to the north of Hikone, Shiga’s former castle town of Nagahama is home to both samurai era vibes and the sacred isle of Chikubushima.
  • Enryakyu-ji & Mt. Hiei
    Sacred Mt. Hiei is home to a Buddhist temple named Enryaku-ji that was so influential that the warlord Oda Nobunaga was forced to attack it.
  • Shirahige Shrine
    Shiga’s Shirahige Shrine (lit. “White Beard Shrine”) has long been a popular pilgrimage spot for those looking to live as long as they can.
  • Shiga’s Koka Area
    Found in Shiga Prefecture, the Koka region is home to an eclectic collection of nature, ancient kilns, ninja enclaves and artsy museums.
  • The Mysteries of Chikubushima
    Found in the middle of Shiga Prefecture’s Lake Biwa, Chikubushima is a sacred island that is dedicated to the syncretic goddess Benzaiten.
  • Historic Hikone Castle
    Situated on the northern bank of Lake Biwa, Hikone Castle is one of Japan’s remaining original strongholds. It is also a defensive masterclass.

Mie Prefecture

See Articles
  • Asama-dake Kongosho-ji
    Located to the northeast of Ise Jingu at its Kimon, Asama-dake Kongosho-ji has long served as a protective bulwark for the ancient shrine.
  • The Ninja of Iga-Ueno
    Often hailed as the cradle of ninjutsu, Iga-Ueno in Mie is one of the only places in Japan where you can experience authentic ninja culture.
  • Mie Prefecture
    A trip to Mie Prefecture will be a travel experience that will create everlasting memories. Regardless of your interests, it is sure to deliver.

Kyoto Prefecture

See Articles
  • My Oh Maizuru
    Nestled along the Sea of Japan, this city was once home to the Maizuru Naval District and much evidence of this wartime legacy still remains.
  • The Yodo Suiro Waterway
    Located somewhere between Kyoto and Osaka to the south, the Yodo Suiro Waterway is home to hundreds of beautiful Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms.
  • Yasui Konpiragu
    Situated in the heart of Kyoto’s Gion district, Yasui Konpiragu is a spiritually potent shrine that can help you sever any bad entanglements.
  • Amanohashidate & Ine
    The beautiful Amanohashidate sandbar and the fishing village of Ine are two of the top attractions in the seaside portions of Kyoto Prefecture.
  • Kyoto’s Seimei Shrine
    Abe-no-Seimei was a Heian period (794–1185) geomancer who is often described as the “Merlin of Japan.” Kyoto’s Seimei Shrine is dedicated to him.
  • Uji & Daigo-ji
    Found to the southeast of Kyoto, the ever-iconic Byodo-in Uji combines surprisingly well with a visit to the massive Daigo-ji temple complex.
  • Kurama & Kibune
    Kurama and Kibune are a pair of destinations in Kyoto that are respectively home to the spiritual attractions Kurama-dera and Kifune Shrine.
  • Kyoto During the Pandemic
    Kyoto used to be a city plagued by overtourism but the pandemic has allowed the ancient capital to reclaim its former charm that had been lost.
  • The Myth of Shuten Doji
    Hidden away in the extreme western reaches of Kyoto, Mt. Oe is the mythical home of the vengeful Shuten Doji, the so-called “Drunken Demon.”
  • Iwashimizu Hachimangu
    Located around 30 minutes south of Kyoto, Iwashimizu Hachimangu is a hidden gem that played an integral role in the Minamoto’s rise to power.
  • Fushimi Inari Taisha at Night
    Fushimi Inari Taisha is open 24 hours a day meaning that you can visit at night when the shrine is far less crowded than it is during the day.

Nara Prefecture

See Articles
  • The Muro-ji Temple Complex
    Situated in eastern Nara Prefecture, Muro-ji is a secluded temple with over a millennia of history to it that’s particularly pretty during fall.
  • Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji
    Located atop of Mt. Shigi, the Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Buddhist enclave is a hidden gem in Nara Prefecture that feels very similar to Mt. Koya.
  • Overnight in Nara
    Most visitors to Nara only ever experience it as a day trip. To really unlock the city’s potential though, you need to spend a night nearby!
  • Nara’s Omiwa Shrine
    Found in Nara Prefecture, Omiwa Shrine is regularly considered to be the oldest Shinto shrine in all of Japan. Don’t miss it if you’re nearby!
  • Yagyu Village’s Itto-seki
    Located in Nara, Yagyu Village’s Itto-seki is the source of inspiration for the famous bolder splitting scene in the anime Kimetsu-no-Yaiba.
  • Nara Prefecture
    Overseas visitors to Nara rarely experience much beyond the deer-filled Nara Park but there’s so much more to see and explore in the prefecture!
  • Nara’s Asuka Area
    Found to the south of Nara’s iconic deer park, the Asuka area was where the polity that become the early Japanese empire first rose to power.
  • Gorgeous Mt. Yoshino
    Found in the southern sections of Nara Prefecture, Mt. Yoshino is one of Japan’s best spots for viewing the cherry blossoms during spring.

Osaka Prefecture

See Articles
  • Osaka’s Minoo Park
    Found to the north of Osaka, Minoo Park is one of the Kansai region’s best kept secrets when it comes to viewing the breathtaking autumn foliage.
  • Heaven & Hell at Osaka’s Senko-ji
    A visit to Osaka’s secret Senko-ji temple complex is like experiencing a journey and back again to the Buddhist interpretations heaven and hell.
  • Osaka’s Daisen Kofun
    The ancient Mozu Kofun Cluster in Osaka’s Sakai City allegedly contains the tomb of Emperor Nintoku. It now has UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Wakayama Prefecture

See Articles
  • Wakayama’s Shirahama
    Considered to be one of Japan’s largest three onsen towns, Shirahama in Wakayama has been beloved by the people of Kansai for over a millennia.
  • The Ogumotori-goe
    Unable to break free of alcoholism, I beseeched the gods of Kumano and they sent me on an epic quest of redemption across the Ogumotori-goe Pass.
  • The Kumano Sanzan
    The sacred and antediluvian Kumano Sanzan trio of shrines is comprised of Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha.
  • Overnight on Mt. Koya
    While Wakayama’s sacred Buddhist bastion of Mt. Koya isn’t exactly a hidden gem, a lot of people don’t miss out by not staying overnight.

Hyogo Prefecture

See Articles
  • The Takeda Castle Ruins
    Regularly referred to as Japan’s Machu Picchu these castle ruins in Hyogo Prefecture often appear to be floating above the clouds in the early morning.
  • Hightail to Hyogo
    The city of Kobe as well as the rest of Hyogo is chock full of hidden gems and off the beaten path destinations that most tourists sadly miss.


The ever-iconic floating torii gate of Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Sadly, the Chugoku region lacks a lot of recognition overseas. While it is indeed home to iconic locations like Hiroshima and Miyajima, few people are aware of much else. This is unfortunate as this part of the country boasts all sorts of wonders. From the many islands in the Seto Inland Sea to hidden hamlets in its mountainous core, there’s a plethora of things to see and do in Chugoku!

Tottori Prefecture

See Articles
  • Tottori Prefecture
    Though Japan’s least populated prefecture, Tottori is home to some truly amazing attractions such as Mt. Daisen and the legendary sand dunes.

Shimane Prefecture

See Articles
  • Shimane Prefecture
    Shimane Prefecture is an area that is hailed as the “land of the gods.” Here, you’ll find Izumo Taisha and a number of other ancient allures.

Okayama Prefecture

See Articles
  • Deep Okayama
    While Okayama Prefecture does make for a great half-day add on to Hiroshima and Miyajima, there’s a heck of a lot more to this part of Japan.
  • Hop off at Okayama 
    While Okayama has many layers to it, the prefecture also makes for a great half-day addition to most of the standard Hiroshima itineraries.

Hiroshima Prefecture

See Articles
  • Takehara City
    Found in eastern Hiroshima, Takehara is a historic port town on the Seto Inland Sea that combines well with the “Rabbit Island” of Okunoshima.
  • Hiroshima’s Tomonoura
    Located at the eastern edge of Hiroshima in the city of Fukuyama, Tomonoura is a picturesque and historic port town on Japan’s Seto Inland Sea.
  • Hiroshima’s Onomichi
    Hiroshima’s Onomichi is most famous for being the starting point of the Shimanami Kaido but the port city also has its own host of attractions.
  • Osaki Kamishima
    Located off of the coast of Hiroshima in the Seto Inland Sea, Osaki Kamishima offers a glimpse of what living on one of Japan’s islands is like.
  • Hiroshima’s Okunoshima
    Found off of the coast of Hiroshima in the Seto Inland Sea, Okunoshima is home to hundreds of rabbits but the cuteness belies a dark history.
  • Braving a Visit to Kure
    Found less than hour from Hiroshima, the port and shipbuilding city of Kure served as the headquarters of the Japanese navy during the war.
  • Back in Hiroshima
    While Hiroshima is no stranger to tourists, most visitors sadly only ever experience the sites related to the atomic bombing and World War II.
  • Overnighting on Miyajima
    The sacred isle of Miyajima is a well established destination. That said, one great way to avoid the crowds is to spend the night on the island.

Yamaguchi Prefecture

See Articles
  • Introducing Iwakuni
    Found not too far from Miyajima in nearby Yamaguchi, Iwakuni and its iconic Kintai Bridge are great add ons to the standard Hiroshima itinerary.


The hilltop torii gate of Takaya Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture

Officially the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku has long been something of a backwater, at least in comparison to other historical power centers. Because of this though, Shikoku has developed over the years in a way that is different from the likes of Tokyo and Kyoto. Within Shikoku, you’ll encounter a slower pace of life that is more iconic of that “real Japan” vibe that people so often come looking for.

Kagawa Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon

Tokushima Prefecture

See Articles
  • Two of Eighty-Eight
    Tairyu-ji and Yakuo-ji are the first two temples on the Shikoku Henro Pilgrimage that I’ve had the chance to see. Both are located in Tokushima.

Ehime Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon

Kochi Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon


The volcano of Sakurajima and the city of Kagoshima in Kyushu

The southernmost of Japan’s major islands, Kyushu has many things that make it unique. Though home to bustling urban centers like Fukuoka, Kyushu’s mountainous center also means that things get rural real quick. Here in these lesser known locations, you’ll find all sorts of sacred attractions that can easily rival that sense of “spirituality” that people flock to Japan’s ancient capital for.

Fukuoka Prefecture

See Articles
  • Explore Asakura
    Located in Fukuoka, Asakura was allegedly where Queen Himiko, the first Japanese known to history, held dominion over a land called Yamatai.
  • Fukuoka Prefecture’s Akizuki
    Asakura City’s former castle town of Akizuki is a representation of what samurai life would have been during the waning centuries of their power.

Oita Prefecture

See Articles
  • Charming Himeshima
    Found of the coast of Oita’s Kunisaki Peninsula, Himeshima is a small island that is actually home to a treasure trove of hidden allures.
  • Deeper into Oita
    While Oita is best known for Beppu and its lovely hot springs, places like the Kunisaki Peninsula conceal many ancient and spiritual wonders.
  • The Ballad of Usa Jingu
    Oita’s Usa Jingu is an ancient shrine that was also the first place to see the syncretic union of Shinto and Buddhism over 1,000 years ago.
  • Kicking it in Oita
    Oita is a prefecture with a surprising amount of depth to it. This guide will give you a typical overview and also recommend some hidden gems.

Miyazaki Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon

Saga Prefecture

See Articles
  • Saga Prefecture
    Rarely on the radar for visitors to Japan, Saga Prefecture is a place that is all about high-quality ceramics, good sake and foxy shrines.

Nagasaki Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon

Kumamoto Prefecture

See Articles
  • Coming Soon

Kagoshima Prefecture

See Articles
  • Between Kagoshima & Okinawa
    The area between Kagoshima Prefecture on mainland Kyushu and Okinawa is dotted with a number of unique islands that are all home to hidden allures.
  • Amami Oshima
    Located between the southern tip of Kagoshima Prefecture and the Okinawa Islands, Amami Oshima is a hidden paradise that can easily be accessed from Tokyo.
  • Sengan-en & the Shimazu Clan
    Found on the outskirts of Kagoshima, Sengan-en is a Japanese garden that has been built out of the former residence of the mighty Shimazu clan.


A woman in Okinawa basks in the summer heat and enjoys her vacation

Nearly 1,000 kilometers from Kyushu, the islands of Okinawa were historically their own sovereign entity called the Ryukyu Kingdom. Due to this legacy and Okinawa’s proximity to the Asian mainland, the various tropical islands that comprise the prefecture are home to a culture that is distinct from what you can find anywhere else in Japan. Of course, the beautiful beaches and natural environs are also to die for.

Okinawa Prefecture

See Articles
  • Okinawa’s Isle of Miyakojima
    Found far to the south of the Japanese mainland, Okinawa’s tropical island of Miyakojima is a one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Subscribe to My Newsletter