Nature in Japan: Where to Go & How to Explore the Japanese Countryside

Are you interested in exploring rural Japan? Going into nature and enjoying the Japanese countryside? Then this article is for you.

Japan is a very popular tourist destination, with millions of tourists every year.

However, when most people travel to Japan, they end up only traveling to big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, missing out on so much more that Japan has to offer.

Also Read: 40 Fun Facts About Japan

Japan has beautiful landscapes and unique cultures that differ from life in the big cities. We want to introduce some of the more unique, off-the-beaten-track destinations that Japan has to offer and take you into nature.

Tips for Exploring Japan’s Countryside

Exploring the Japanese countryside is a bit hard, mainly because of transportation and the language barrier.

Here are some useful tips for maximizing your trip to rural Japan:

  • Keep enough cash. Most places don’t take cards in Japan’s countryside.
  • Learn common phrases in Japanese. There’s a higher language barrier in the countryside and learning even a little bit of Japanese can go a long way for you.
  • Download Google Translate. It will help when reading signs and communicating with the locals.
  • If you need a taxi from a rural location, look for a nearby restaurant/shop and ask them to request a local taxi for you.
  • Rent a car if possible. Do some research and if public transportation doesn’t seem to be a great option, a rental car will take you anywhere.
  • When taking public buses, you can buy a ticket on the bus. But most buses also allow you to use the Suica or Pasmo transportation card, which saves you the hassle of carrying around change.
  • Download Google Maps. It has all the train routes and most bus routes. If Google Maps doesn’t have the bus routes for your destination, you can try checking the website for the city by doing a simple google search “bus route”
    Ex: “Hirosaki bus route”

Places to Visit to Enjoy Japan’s Countryside

1. Hirosaki Castle Park

Hirosaki Castle - Japan countryside
Picture by Angaurits – exploring rural Japan

Hirosaki Castle is located in the Aomori Prefecture, known for its massive amounts of snowfall and the Nebuta Festival.

If you happen to be in Japan during the sakura season (cherry blossom season), you HAVE to visit Hirosaki Castle Park.

There are over 2600 sakura trees and over 50 different types of sakura flowers here. The whole castle area is a breathtaking scenery and it’s recommended on pretty much every top sakura viewing recommendation list.

How to get here:

From Tokyo, you can take a direct bus (cheaper but longer) or take the Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station and take the Ou line.

2. Kawaguchiko

Kawaguchiko in the Japanese countryside

One of the most iconic symbols of nature in Japan is Mt. Fuji. And if you love the sight of Mt. Fuji, but don’t want to climb it, then you can get a close-up view from Kawaguchiko.

Kawaguchiko is part of the 5 Fuji Lakes and the easiest to access out of all of them.

On top of having one of the closest views of Mt. Fuji, Kawaguchiko is famous for its hot springs and is home to the famous Fuji Q Highland Amusement Park.

How to get here:

The Shinkansen doesn’t run to this area so, from Tokyo, the best way would be to take a direct bus to Kawguchiko. You can reserve highway buses with Willer Express.

3. Ishigaki

Ishigaki: tropical nature in Japan

Ishigaki is Japan’s hidden tropical paradise.

It’s an island south-west of Okinawa Hontō that will show you a different side to nature in Japan.

It’s not very well known among travelers, but it’s a popular destination among locals and quite cheap to travel to from Osaka or Tokyo.

In Ishigaki, you can find many different kinds of beaches, including some made entirely out of coral and star-shaped sand. It’s also one of the best places to go scuba diving and to watch the night constellation.

How to get here:

You can fly into Naha Airport and transfer to Ishigaki. But if you’re visiting other parts of Japan, there are cheap flights from Osaka and Tokyo as well.

Also Read: How to Snorkel and Why You Shouldn’t Take Seashells From the Beach

4. Nikko

Nikko - to explore Japan's nature

Nikko is the perfect day trip from Tokyo out into nature to enjoy Japan’s countryside. It’s a town at the entrance of Nikko National Park

Nikko is only a 2-3 hour train ride away and it’s filled with breathtaking natural sceneries.

Here, we recommend checking out Chuzenji Lake, Nikko’s scenic lake spot, and Kinugawa river, where you can ride a boat down the river, between tremendous canyons.

How to get here:

From Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen to Usunomiya and then take the Nikko line to Imaichi Station in Nikko city. From there, you can take local buses that run to both Chuzenji Lake and Kinugawa river.

5. Beppu

an Onsen in Beppu
Picture by Fredrik Rubensson – rural Japan

If you happen to be traveling to Kyushu, then we highly recommend taking a trip out to Beppu in the Oita prefecture.

Beppu is rural Japan at its best. It’s a hot spring town located next to a volcanic mountain range and has over 2000 onsens.

If you’re here, we highly recommend staying at a ryokan on the mountainside, where you can hop into a mud bath onsen while looking out over the town.

How to get here:

If you want to visit Beppu, we recommend flying into Osaka. From Osaka take the Shinkansen to Kokura Station, and then transfer to the Sonic limited express. Both tickets are covered by the JR pass.

6. Zao

a ski slope in Zao, Japan

Snowboarding in Japan is extremely popular and many travelers go to Niseko in Hokkaido.

Instead, we recommend going to Zao in Yamagata if you’re looking for a unique experience.

Zao is famous for the Juhyo which translates to “Snow Monsters”. The trees here are covered in so much snowfall that at night, they look like snow monsters.

And speaking of night, the ski resort illuminates the slopes at night, allowing you to snowboard at night with the Juhyo!

How to get here:

From Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen to Yamagata station and then take a local bus to the ski resort.

Enjoy the Japanese countryside!

I hope we have convinced you that rural Japan is beautiful and well worth visiting. Nature in Japan is so diverse that it has something to offer any type of traveler.

And, if you are thinking about going to Japan, also read:


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exploring Japan's countryside

Danny Kang

Author: Danny Kang
Danny is an American who has been living in Tokyo for 3 years now. Together with his partner Tomomi, he created the travel/expat blog Kuma Station, to share their experiences and help those that plan to travel to Japan.

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