Discover Japan’s Rural Charm

Discover Japan’s Rural Charm

Japan is a country that is renowned for its modern cities, cutting-edge technology, and bustling metropolises. However, it is also a place of hidden treasures beyond the cities, a place where visitors can discover a different side of Japan that is just as fascinating and engaging. Rural Japan offers an authentic glimpse into the country’s rich culture, unique traditions, and stunning natural beauty. In this article, we will explore the best destinations, unique local traditions and festivals, unforgettable rural experiences, connecting with nature, and tips for a successful rural Japan adventure.

Exploring Rural Japan: The Best Destinations

Japan’s rural areas are spread across the country, ranging from the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern island of Kyushu. Here are some of the best destinations that you should consider visiting when exploring the rural side of Japan:


Located in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is a village that is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri houses, which have steep thatched roofs that resemble clasped hands in prayer. These houses were built to survive the heavy snowfall of the region and have been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the houses and learn about the culture and history of the village.


Takayama is a small city located in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture. It is known for its well-preserved streets that date back to the Edo period, making it feel like a living museum. Visitors can explore the old town, visit the Takayama Jinya, a former government building from the Edo period, and sample the local cuisine, such as Hida beef and sake.

Oita Prefecture

Oita Prefecture is located on the island of Kyushu and is known for its hot springs, waterfalls, and natural beauty. Visitors can explore the many hot springs in the area, including Beppu, Yufuin, and Kurokawa. The prefecture is also home to the Usuki Stone Buddhas, which are a series of stone statues that date back to the Heian period.

Unique Local Traditions and Festivals

Rural Japan is rich in unique traditions and festivals that date back centuries. Here are some of the most exciting festivals and traditions that you can experience in rural Japan:

Awa Odori

Awa Odori is a traditional dance that originated in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. The dance is performed during the Obon festival, which is held in August, and involves groups of dancers wearing traditional clothing, playing instruments, and dancing through the streets.

Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival is an annual event held in February in Sapporo, Hokkaido. The festival features massive snow sculptures, ice sculptures, and other winter activities. Visitors can also sample the local cuisine, such as soup curry and Hokkaido seafood.

Tanabata Festival

The Tanabata Festival is held in various locations throughout Japan in July. It is a celebration of the legendary meeting between two star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who were separated by the Milky Way. Visitors can see colorful decorations made of paper and bamboo, and enjoy traditional food and music.

Unforgettable Rural Experiences: Food and Accommodations

One of the highlights of visiting rural Japan is experiencing the local food and accommodations. Here are some of the most unforgettable experiences that you can have in rural Japan:


Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers visitors a chance to experience Japanese culture and hospitality. Ryokan typically feature tatami-matted rooms, Japanese-style meals, and hot springs. Visitors can relax, unwind, and immerse themselves in the local culture.


Onsen is a Japanese hot spring that is said to have therapeutic properties. There are many onsen resorts located throughout rural Japan, offering visitors a chance to soak in the hot waters while surrounded by nature. Some popular onsen destinations include Beppu, Yufuin, and Kusatsu.

Local Cuisine

Japan is known for its unique and delicious cuisine, and rural Japan is no exception. Visitors can sample local specialties such as Hida beef in Takayama, soba noodles in Nagano, and seafood in Hokkaido. Many local restaurants offer meals made with locally-sourced ingredients, giving visitors a chance to taste the flavors of the region.

Connecting with Nature: Outdoor Activities

Rural Japan is home to some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world. Here are some of the best outdoor activities that you can enjoy in rural Japan:


Japan has many beautiful hiking trails that offer stunning views of the countryside. Some popular hiking destinations include Mount Fuji, the Nakasendo Trail, and the Kumano Kodo. Visitors can enjoy the fresh air, exercise, and scenery while exploring the beauty of rural Japan.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Japan is known for its excellent ski resorts, and many of them are located in rural areas. Some of the best ski destinations include Niseko, Hakuba, and Shiga Kogen. Visitors can enjoy the fantastic powder snow, the stunning scenery, and the unique culture of winter sports in Japan.


Cycling is a popular way to explore rural Japan, as it allows visitors to see the countryside up close and at a leisurely pace. Many areas offer bicycle rentals and guided tours. Some popular cycling destinations include Shimanami Kaido, a series of bridges that connect Honshu to Shikoku, and the Kibi Plain, a scenic area in Okayama Prefecture.

Tips for a Successful Rural Japan Adventure

Visiting rural Japan requires some preparation and planning. Here are some tips to help you have a successful and enjoyable trip:

Learn Basic Japanese

While many people in Japan speak English, learning some basic Japanese phrases can be helpful, especially in rural areas where English may not be as prevalent. Simple phrases like "hello," "thank you," and "excuse me" can go a long way in making connections with the locals.

Plan Ahead

Many rural areas have limited transportation options and accommodations. It is essential to plan ahead and make reservations for transportation, lodging, and activities in advance.

Be Respectful

Japanese culture places a high value on respect and politeness. Visitors should be mindful of local customs and etiquette, such as removing shoes before entering a home or temple, and bowing as a sign of respect.

Dress Appropriately

Rural Japan can be more conservative than urban areas, and visitors should dress appropriately, especially when visiting religious sites. It is recommended to wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees.

Embrace the Experience

Visiting rural Japan is a unique and unforgettable experience. Visitors should embrace the culture, traditions, and natural beauty of the region, and be open to new experiences and connections with the locals.

In conclusion, exploring rural Japan offers visitors a chance to see a different side of the country, one that is just as fascinating and engaging as its cities. From unique traditions and festivals to unforgettable food and accommodations, and stunning natural landscapes, rural Japan has something for everyone. By following these tips and recommendations, visitors can have a successful and enjoyable trip that will leave them with lasting memories of Japan’s hidden treasures.

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