Japan Off the Beaten Path: Stunning Hidden Gems in Japan

Awaji Island's Zenbo Seinei from an aerial view

Japan, a country renowned for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant cities, and iconic landmarks, captivates travelers from around the world. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene beauty of Kyoto’s temples, Japan’s popular destinations have always been in the spotlight. However, beyond the well-trodden tourist trails lies a world of lesser-known wonders waiting to be explored. In this article, we venture off the beaten path, to uncover hidden gems that offer a unique and unforgettable experience, far away from the usual tourist crowds.

Explore the World of Anime at Nijigen no Mori on Awaji Island

Nijigen no Mori is a popular entertainment complex on Awaji Island that showcases the rich world of Japanese anime. The theme park features various immersive anime experiences and serves as a hub for anime enthusiasts and fans of Japanese pop culture. Nijigen no Mori provides attractions from popular franchises such as Naruto & Boruto, Dragon Quest, Godzilla and more which attract a diverse range of visitors, both domestic and international.

Three popular attractions at Nijigen no Mori are the captivating world of “Naruto & Boruto Shinobi-Zato”, a reproduction of the beloved “Dragon Quest World”, and the stunning “Godzilla Interception Operation”. You can unleash your inner shinobi as you challenge ninja-inspired attractions and immerse yourself in the action-packed park. And in the Dragon Quest World, you can experience a classic RPG adventure suitable for both long-time fans and newcomers, making it a fantastic experience for all.

You will also be able to experience the Godzilla World as you will be invited to become members of the “National Awaji-island Institute of Godzilla Disaster” and tame the fearsome beast by completing a series of “missions”. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the franchises or experiencing them for the first time, you can immerse yourself fully and enjoy them to the utmost by visiting Nijigen no Mori on Awaji Island. This lesser-known and secluded location in Japan is a hidden gem, offering a chance to explore and relish the enchanting world of anime.

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Address 2425-2 Kusumoto, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-2301
TEL 0799-64-7061
Website https://nijigennomori.com/
Reservations https://ticket.nijigennomori.com/en/
Operation Hours Everyday10:00-22:00
*Each attraction has a different last reception time and closing time.

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Encounter “Hell” by Experiencing Beppu Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour)

Beppu, located on the southern island of Kyushu, is famous for its geothermal activity and numerous hot springs. The name “Jigoku Meguri” translates to “Hell Tour,” and this unique attraction is aptly named for its mesmerizing and surreal onsen (hot spring) landscapes. What makes it so special is its collection of seven extraordinary hot springs, each with its own distinct appearance and captivating allure. These hot springs showcase the raw power of nature, with vibrant colors, bubbling mud pits, and steaming geysers that seem to transport visitors to a different realm.

The allure of Jigoku Meguri lies in its distinct contrast to the serene hot springs that Japan is usually known for. Instead of offering a place for relaxation and rejuvenation, this hidden gem takes visitors on an exhilarating journey through the fiery and dramatic aspects of nature’s geothermal activity. It is an exploration of the fascinating forces that shape the Earth, and a chance to witness the awe-inspiring sight of the Earth’s inner power.

For those seeking to escape the tourist crowds and discover Japan’s hidden treasures, Jigoku Meguri in Beppu is a must-visit. Its enchanting and surreal landscapes offer a thrilling and unforgettable journey, making it a true off the beaten path gem that adds a unique and memorable dimension to any Japan itinerary.

Discover a Primeval Forest Paradise at Yakushima

Tucked away off the coast of Kyushu, Yakushima stands as an unspoiled hidden gem in Japan, away from the well-trodden tourist trails. Its lush primeval forests, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer an awe-inspiring retreat for nature lovers seeking an off the beaten path adventure. Here, ancient cedar trees, create a mystical ambiance that transports visitors to a bygone era.

Yakushima’s status as a hidden gem ensures its authenticity and pristine allure remain intact. Unlike more popular tourist destinations, the island exudes a sense of serenity and tranquility that captivates the soul. In Yakushima, the air feels fresher, the sights more magical, and the experience truly one-of-a-kind, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking an off the beaten path escape in Japan.

The Timeless Beauty of Shirakawa-go in Gifu

Nestled in the scenic mountains of Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go stands as an enchanting hidden gem and off the beaten path destination in Japan. Renowned for its traditional Gassho-style houses with steep thatched roofs, the village exudes a timeless charm that transports visitors back in time. Unlike the bustling metropolises that often draw crowds of tourists, Shirakawa-go offers a serene and authentic experience that is a world apart.

As one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, its picturesque landscapes, especially during snow-blanketed winters, create postcard-perfect settings that feels like a well-kept secret awaiting discovery. Visitors can wander through the quaint streets, interact with the warm-hearted locals, and marvel at the architectural wonders that have stood the test of time.

Unveiling Tranquility and Peace on Awaji Island at Zenbo Seinei

Located in the serene landscape of Awaji Island, Zenbo Seinei stands as a hidden gem and an off the beaten path destination, dedicated to rejuvenating both the body and mind. Zenbo Seinei, crafted primarily from cedar wood, exudes a majestic aura, seemingly floating above the lush treetops. The allure of Zenbo Seinei lies not only in its unique design but also in the tranquil atmosphere it provides. Standing on the 100-meter shaded yet open Zen deck, visitors can bask in the warm sunlight and gentle breeze, surrounded by breathtaking greenery during the day and a sky full of stars at night.

Since its opening, Zenbo Seinei has been drawing increasing attention from individuals seeking respite from their busy lives, prioritizing their mental and physical well-being. This haven offers instructor-led sessions of yoga and meditation, providing the perfect opportunity for visitors to recharge their body, mind, and soul. Awaji Island’s serene environment serves as an ideal backdrop for a Zen retreat, allowing visitors to not only reconnect with themselves but also with nature, fostering a sense of mental and spiritual “wholeness”.

One of the highly recommended activities is to engage in the four-hour day trip plan and immerse yourself in a diverse range of activities designed to foster inner peace. Meditation sessions provide an opportunity to practice mindfulness and find serenity within. The Zen tea ceremony offers a meditative experience while immersing oneself in the grace and beauty of Japanese culture. Zen calligraphy allows self-expression and reflection through brush and ink. For those in search of a truly tranquil and transformative experience, Zenbo Seinei beckons as an exclusive and hidden sanctuary off the beaten path in Japan.

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Name Zenbo Seinei
Address 2594-5 Aza-Banaka, Kusumoto, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-2301
Tel 0799-70-9087
Website https://www.zenbo-seinei.com/en/
Program Reservations https://zenbo-seinei.urkt.in/direct/offices/587/courses
Hotel Reservation https://rsv.temanasi.jp/29/room/search
Operation Hours Mon: 9:00 am~5:00 pm / Tues~Sun: 11:00 am~6:30 pm
Closed: Varies depending on a month. Please inquire.

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The Naruto Whirlpools: Discover a Surreal Natural Phenomenon on Awaji Island

Earth throws up stunning natural spectacles all around the world and Japan offers plenty of these extremely breathtaking natural wonders which you can find throughout the country. Occurring in the strait between Naruto City in Tokushima Prefecture and Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture is the famous natural wonder, The Naruto whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮, Naruto no Uzushio) which has been one of the main tourism sources in Awaji Island. 

The Naruto Whirlpools are large and powerful tidal whirlpools that are formed due to the gravitational pull of the moon and the ocean current. It occurs when the tide moves large amounts of water in and out of the narrow strait, and experts observe that the whirlpools can form up to 20 meters in diameter and rush at speeds of around 15 km/hour.

The Naruto Whirlpools offers a unique and exhilarating experience for visitors who seek to witness the forces of nature firsthand. While not as well-known as some of Japan’s other landmarks, the Naruto Whirlpools offer a sense of exclusivity and intimacy with nature that is truly remarkable. As visitors stand on the observation decks, they can feel the rush of the swirling waters below, connecting with the sheer force of the ocean in a truly unforgettable manner. The Naruto Whirlpools provide a rare opportunity to witness a breathtaking natural spectacle, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking off the beaten path in Japan.

Embracing Nature’s Splendor at Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest and most celebrated freshwater lake, embodies the essence of a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Nestled in the heart of Shiga Prefecture, Lake Biwa boasts a profound cultural and historical significance, yet it remains off the beaten path from the typical tourist routes. Surrounded by picturesque landscapes, including lush mountains and charming lakeside towns, the lake offers a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle of more well-known destinations.

Lake Biwa’s unassuming beauty is a testament to its status as a hidden treasure in Japan. It provides a serene and authentic experience for those seeking a deeper connection with nature. Visitors can indulge in various outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, or cycling along the scenic paths that hug the lake’s shores. The lake’s calm waters also make it a perfect spot for water sports, and its enchanting surroundings are home to many quaint shrines and temples steeped in local traditions and legends. For those who venture to explore Lake Biwa, a world of surprises and delights awaits. Lake Biwa offers an opportunity to escape the crowds and immerse oneself in the beauty of nature and the charm of authentic Japanese culture.

Discover Japan’s hidden gems, off the beaten path and waiting to be explored. From the mystical allure of Yakushima’s forests to the beauty of Awaji Island, each destination offers a unique and authentic experience. Embrace the magic of these lesser-known treasures, away from the crowds, and unlock the soul of Japan’s raw beauty and cultural richness.