Off the beaten path

Good morning everyone,

Did you get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather on the weekend? If not, don't worry. All of this week is looking pretty much the same...it's going to be a couple of degrees cooler but basically highs will be in the mid 20s and skies will be mostly sunny all week. Sounds great to me!

Off the beaten path, means a place that isn't well-known or a little away from usual or popular places. Here are some tourist destinations that you may or may not have heard of which are off the beaten path...

Japan is often known by tourists for its most popular attractions, like Mount Fuji, the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, and its amazing shrines and temples.

But there’s a lot more to this island nation than that.

Narai-Juku

narai-juku, japan

This small, quiet town in the Nagano Prefecture, which sits to the west of Tokyo, is the ideal place to visit if you want to experience Japan as it was centuries ago. The town used to be a stop on the Kiso Way, a trade route that stretched between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).  Its wooden houses are incredibly well preserved, and since it’s located in the Kiso Valley, the scenery is also beautiful.

Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel

metropolitan area outer underground discharge channel

This enormous underground channel is located in Saitama, about 30km north of Tokyo. It was built as a way to divert flood water during rain and typhoon season. There are close to 6km of tunnels that sit 50 meters under ground, as well as 59 pillars that are attached to pumps capable of dumping 200 tons of water per second into the Edo River. Tours are free.

Yakushima

yakushima japan

The rain forest that sits on Yakushima Island — which is located off the southernmost tip of Kyushu Island in southeastern Japan — is a unique ecosystem that’s incredibly diverse. Yakushima boasts 1,900 species and subspecies of flora, 150 bird species, and 16 mammal species. It’s home to an ancient species of the sugi — a Japanese cedar — and it’s also a UNESCO heritage site. One step inside the forest and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a real life fairytale.

Standing Sushi in the Tsukiji Fish Market

standing sushi japan

Instead of going to one of the more touristy dining options near Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, join one of Japan’s “salarymen” in a standing sushi restaurant. These establishments don’t offer chopsticks or seats, but they do have good quality fish at cheaper prices. Diners can simply walk up to the bar, grab a plate of whatever looks appetizing, and then eat it right then and there. If you want to try one, you'd better get on it because Tsukiji won't be around for much longer...in fact, you may have already missed out...

Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku

takaragawa onsen osenkaku

Japan is known for its onsen — public baths that are located around the country’s numerous hot springs. Rotenburo are a kind of onsen, but instead of just being a bath, these open air hot springs are usually part of a larger traditional Japanese hotel and spa. The Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku in Minakami-machi is both stunning and luxurious, and tucked away in the midst of nature so you can cleanse your body and spirit with a visit here.

Rice Terraces

rice paddy japan

Although rice terraces are more commonly associated with southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia, they exist in Japan as well. It’s worth it to take a trip out to the countryside and walk or bike through the paddies.

The terraces make for breathtaking scenery year around. Autumn is when the rice is harvested, so the crops are ripe and golden. In the summer they’re bright green, in the winter they’re usually covered in snow, and in the spring the terraces become flooded with water.

Takao Beer Mount

takao beer mount

Similar to a beer garden, this all you can eat and drink buffet is located on top of Mount Takao, which is part of the Meiji no Mori Takao National Park. This is a great place to sit outside, enjoy a beer, and a great view of Tokyo. Plus, you don’t even have to hike to the top, as there’s a train that transports visitors up the mount...but you should hike to the top, the beer would taste that much better if you did! Although, I'll forgive you for taking the train on the way back, no one wants to go hiking after having a beer and a big meal...

How many of these places did you know about? Have you been to any of them? Do you know any other 'secret' places that are beautiful but not overrun with tourists? 

Have a great day!


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