Japan is one of the most fantastic tourist destinations in the world, full of incredible things to see, from traditional architecture and dainty cherry trees to sprawling metropolises and shopping centers. People from all over the world visit Japan every year, ready to try traditional foods, dress up in a yukata and walk through the large, tranquil gardens of Shinto shrines. And while most are familiar with some of the most iconic landmarks in Japan, including Mount Fuji, the Shibuya Crossing, the Torii path at the Fushimi Inari Taisha, or the floating gate at Itsukushima Jinja, there are many other unique spots to see in the country.
Most tourists are unaware of these hidden gems, which, while unfortunate, means that the areas are not so crowded, and you can take your time visiting everything at your own pace. Here are some of the nicest spots to add to your itinerary.
If you’re a fan of animation, you’re most likely familiar with the legendary Studio Ghibli. Located in Mitaka, in the western part of Tokyo, the museum combines displays meant for children with technological exhibits and the fine arts. A lot of it is also dedicated to animation techniques, making it a must-see for those interested in the craft that goes behind their favourite films.
If you want to visit, you must purchase your ticket in advance. Only two hundred overseas visitors are admitted daily to avoid overcrowding. The museum has several other features, all inspired by characters and motifs in Ghibli movies. The Mamma Aiuto souvenir shop, getting its name from the sky pirates in “Porco Rosso”, sells several different items, including animation movies under the Ghibli Museum Library label.
There’s a rooftop garden featuring a five-metre statue of one of the robots in Castle in the Sky and a playroom for children twelve years old and younger which includes a Catbus just like the one in “My Neighbor Totoro”. You can also enjoy a bookstore and reading room where you’ll find books recommended by Miyazaki Hayao.
In 2022, Ghibli Park was opened in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture. It includes a replica of the Kusakabe house from “My Neighbor Totoro”. The theme park is still in development, but it is set to have the antique shop from “Whisper of the Heart”, the Cat Bureau from “The Cat Returns”, settlements and villages reminiscing those in “Princess Mononoke”, as well as a Valley of Witches inspired by “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”.
When booking a trip to Japan, secure a Sydney Airport car park spot beforehand. Australian tourists enjoy travelling to the country, so you must be quick to get the best site.
Japan is well known for its breathtaking natural spots, of which there are many you can visit yourself. One of them is the wisteria tunnel in Kitakyushu. Around 150 flowering plants belonging to approximately twenty different species can be admired here. Not only is Wisteria an ornamental plant, the arrangement of the tunnel makes it even more impressive.
The Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is ideal for peaceful walks. You can follow several designated pathways, but exercise isn’t the only thing you’ll get from this walk. The Japanese government recognises the forest as having its unique sound, created by the creaking, swaying and rustling of the bamboo. The forest is all the more interesting as it contrasts with the urban landscape nearby.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
The Japanese word here stands for “Hell’s Valley”, so you’ll be forgiven for expecting this place to be a little scary. Yet, it is anything but. An incorporated area of the Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park, the name comes from the landscape, which combines cold forests with the steam and boiling water that seeps from the ground.
The area is famous as the home of a considerable population of Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys. Typically, they would only come to the park during the winter, when they enjoy lounging in the onsen’s warm waters, while during the summer, they live in other areas of the park. However, as park attendants have begun feeding the monkeys, they remain near the hot springs regardless of the season.
If you’re lucky, you might see them gathering around in huge numbers, sometimes amounting to a few hundred.
Look for airport parking in Sydney before you set out to ensure you get the best spot available for your vehicle throughout your journey.
Japan’s cuisine is well-known worldwide, with an incredible number of recipes and iterations on all dishes; visiting the country is a veritable adventure for any food lover. Some believe that to get the best of what a country’s cuisine offers, you must become familiar with its street food and local ingredients. In this regard, Japan truly has a lot to offer.
The Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto is one of the best ones you can visit. The Japanese have been selling fish in the area since the 780s, and it is commonly referred to among the locals as “Kyoto’s kitchen” due to the abundance of food options and ingredients available. With nearly 200 stalls available, you sure have much to choose from.
You can sample locally-made tofu, red bean paste desserts, mochi, the traditional Japanese pickles known as Tsukemono, barbecued quail, candied kumquats, sushi, tea and boiled squid. Whether you’d like to stick with something more traditional or are ready to expand your tastes, there’s something for you here.
If you enjoy going off the beaten path, there are many places you can visit in Japan. Mount Koya, in the Wakayama Prefecture south of Osaka, is home to the ancient temple of Kongobu-ji, completed in 816 and the head of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism. If you enjoy hiking, you can try the Koyasan chichi-Michi while you’re here, a traditional pilgrimage route through the mountains.
In the mountainous Gifu Prefecture, you can explore Takayama, a town with narrow streets and wood houses dating back to the Edo Period. There are also several small museums. Since the mid-1600s, Takayama has been the spot of a biannual festival celebrating spring and autumn.
Be prepared for an exquisite experience when you visit Japan. To make the experience complete, choose accommodation at a traditional Japanese ryokan, and wear the customary geta footwear and a kimono to show your appreciation for the culture.