The big cities in Japan are all known for different reasons: Tokyo for its busy streets, Kyoto for the ancient sites, Hiroshima for its 20th century history and Okinawa for its beaches. But these big cities only show a slice of the real Japan. If you are planning to travel around in the country do not miss out the opportunity to visit the countryside and go on a new adventure.

The beauty of Japanese nature

Japanese nature is breathtaking, and if you like active holidays going on a hike or bike ride through the mountains and rice fields will not disappoint Life Japan offers great biking tours around the country. If you admire nature but in a more relaxed way you can plan a trip to one of the Nihon Sankei ( Three views of Japan) locations. The three amazing natural sights are located in three parts of the main island Honshu. Matsushima scattered rock islands (shima) covered in pine (matsu) near the coast located in Miyagi Prefecture. The second location is Amanohashidate in Kyoto is a 3.3 kilometre long sandbar. And the third one, Miyajima is a sacred island with a big torii (red gate signaling a Shinto shrine) in the ocean, is a great day trip from Hiroshima city.

The torii in Miyajima

The torii in Miyajima. From Flickr

Local dishes

When visiting the countryside you can also try amazing local dishes, as the Japanese are famous for their cuisine for a reason. Many dishes have local varieties for example the pork bone based tonkotsu Ramen is the best in the south in Fukuoka, while the miso based one is a real Hokkaido specialty.

Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka

Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka. From Flickr

Miso Ramen from Hokkaido

Miso Ramen from Hokkaido. From Flickr

Travel back to the Edo period

A popular destination to experience rural Japan is Takayama. This Edo period town is a train ride away from Tokyo where you can admire the beautiful mountains. And if you are not afraid of getting lost you can take a train form Takayama to the more rural areas to wander around and have a great local meal. Only a 15-minute ride away from the city you reach beautiful Furukawa with small canals and traditional homes painted crisp white.

Streets of Furukawa

Streets of Furukawa. From Flickr

Japanese hospitality

If you stay over night you can also experience Japanese family hospitality as in most rural areas there are no western style hotels, but small family run bed and breakfasts called minshuku. In these guesthouses you will sleep in the wonderfully smelling tatami floored rooms on futon mattresses placed on the floor, and get serves local food made by the family. If you would like to visit the famous Japanese hot springs than you might want to stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn which are similar to minshuku in style, serving kaiseki ryori, high quality traditional meals based on seasonal and local foods. These ryokans are made to help you relax, even though they are rooted in traditional Japanese etiquette and they might seems strict at first, give it a try and you will find yourself in an exotic spa with wonderful nature and kind people surrounding you.

Beutifully prepared Japanese haute cuisine, Kaiseki Ryori.

Beutifully prepared Japanese haute cuisine, Kaiseki Ryori. From Flickr