Written by Jasmine O
Experience Rural Japan! 5 Must-Visit, Nature-Filled Places
Japan's countryside is worth visiting at least once to savor a slower pace of life. The rural parts of Japan are everywhere: the fairytale-like Yakushima, a beach in Shikoku with reflective sands, and quiet mountain in Tokyo will soothe your worries and inspire you to appreciate the simple things.
Where and How to See Rural Japan - 5 Recommended Destinations
With its cosmopolitan, modern cities, advanced transportation and technology, and small geographical size, it can be challenging to find greenery, nature, and places with few people in Japan––especially for those visiting Tokyo. However, the countryside in Japan is accessible when using the JR Pass. This article introduces five idyllic rural spots in Japan worth visiting at least once. Some are accessible from Tokyo via train, and some require long journeys. All are amazing and will provide a one-of-a-kind experience.
Continue reading below to learn about these special spots, from areas with idyllic sunsets to a nature resort above a sea of clouds, to remote islands accessible only via boat. These destinations will give you inspiration, whether or not you are planning a trip for next year, or still dreaming about Japan.
1. Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture
Photo by Pixta
Yakushima is a nature paradise, famous for its resemblance to "Princess Mononoke" by popular anime film director, Hayao Miyazaki. Home to Yakusugi, some of the largest cedar trees in the world, these ancient forests are heavily protected and well-preserved. Travelers can enjoy trekking through the dreamlike scenery. Camping is also possible.
Advanced preparation is required to go to Yakushima due to its remote location. This island is off the coast of Kagoshima in southern Japan: getting here requires a 2-3 hour ferry ride from the harbor in Kagoshima Prefecture. Those coming from other parts of Kyushu can use JR trains (using the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is convenient), and those coming from Tokyo are encouraged to fly to Kagoshima Airport.
2. Mt. Mitake, Western Tokyo
Picture from The Rock Garden On Mt. Mitake - Listen To A Mountain Stream In Tokyo
Mt. Mitake may surprise many as it is technically located in Tokyo, but it is around a 2-hour train ride from the city center. Receiving much fewer visitors than the popular Mt. Takao, this quiet, 929-meter elevation (3,048 feet) peak and its trails is perfect for unwinding and being at one with nature for the day, or during a short side trip.
On Mt. Mitake, look for the rock garden trail, which will lead you through a moss-filled, rocky path that will take your breath away with its beauty. There are several other hiking trails to enjoy. Visitors can stay the night and do takigyo, or waterfall meditation, as well. Guided tours are available and ideal for those wanting to learn in-depth about the mountain.
To get to Mt. Mitake, it is recommended to use the JR pass and take the JR Chuo Line for about 90 minutes, heading west from Shinjuku Station. Get off at Mitake Station, and ride the bus to Takimoto cable car station. Take a 5-minute cable car ride to the peak, which is the ideal place to start your nature explorations.
3. Tomamu Resort, Hokkaido Prefecture
Get a stunning view from above the clouds at Tomamu Resort in Hokkaido. This famous resort is owned by a few different resort inns, including the Tomamu Towers and hotels part of the Hoshino Resort group. Visitors can take a ropeway up to an observation deck with a picture-perfect view of a sea of clouds ("unkai" in Japanese) that appear under the appropriate weather conditions.
Photo by Pixta
The resort area contains farms with petting zoos, restaurants, and accommodations, but the surrounding area is very rural. Driving is the easiest way to get around this rural part of Hokkaido.
Nearby are Biei and Furano, known for a glowing blue pond and lavender fields, which are best accessed via car.
4. Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture
Photo by Pixta
The Oki Islands are a remote set of islands off the coast of Shimane Prefecture. With the majority of the islands uninhabited and a UNESCO Global Geopark designation, visitors can take in the rugged coastlines, grassy highlands, and calderas (crater-like spaces left after a volcanic eruption). These charming islands offer the ideal refuge from city life, as there is nothing but nature here. Travelers can escape with hiking, water sports, fishing, and local seafood in this paradise of nature.
Most visitors stay on Dogo or Dozen, the main island with accommodations on them. Hotels and some camping are available. A stay of at least two nights is recommended here, as travel involves a 4-hour ferry ride from Shimane or Tottori. The natural surroundings, lack of modern distractions and flashy billboards, however, are worth the trip.
5. Chichibugama, Kagawa Prefecture
Photo by Pixta
For those looking for a sunset unlike anything you've ever seen: Chichibugahama in Miyoto, Kagawa Prefecture, is the place to go. Located in Shikoku, an island just south of Okayama and Hyogo prefectures, this small town is famous throughout Japan for its colorful sunsets and reflective sands.
Visitors can enjoy a stroll down this gorgeous beach at dusk while taking in views of the Seto Inland Sea and its islands, such as art-filled Naoshima and Teshima. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the magic.
Another thing to try in Mitoyo is udon! A thicker variety known as Sanuki udon noodles are made here, so visitors can slurp down these fresh, delicious wheat noodles like the locals at one of the many restaurants in and around the city.
Those with a Japan Rail Pass can navigate via train here, but we also suggest renting a car or using taxis for comfort.
Surround Yourself with Nature in Japan's Countryside!
Japan’s countryside is a breath of fresh air that will delight all who adventure out to see it. From Mt. Mitake, just outside of central Tokyo, to Yakushima, where travelers will feel like they’re characters in their favorite Studio Ghibli film, these areas allow one to experience a quieter side of Japan and its true beauty. Put these on your dream destination list!
Main image by Pixta