So many things to see and do, so little vacation time. For help deciding how to prioritize your list or for ideas to add to it, check out these recommendations by foreigners who are living or lived in the area. (Recommendations are in no particular order.) More details about each attraction can be found by clicking the links.
Kokusai Street, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture
Recommendation by Louise Dupuy, resident of Okinawa
Kokusai Street is a popular shopping district in central Naha, Okinawa. I love its eclectic mix of shops, where you can find delights such as traditional crafts, tacky t-shirts, Awamori, and Shisa. So many Shisa! It’s also great for international food.
Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture
Recommendation by Celia Jenkins, former resident of Kumamoto
Kurokawa (“black river”) onsen town is one of my favourite places to hit the hot springs in Kyushu. Stay the night or just pop in to sample the naturally heated waters, surrounded by babbling brooks and misty mountains – I stayed at Hozantei and absolutely adored it.
Shodoshima – Kagawa Prefecture
Recommendation by Kate Kennedy, resident of Kagawa
This island hosts a wide range of neat sightseeing activities. I enjoyed taking a stroll through the flourishing olive groves whilst trying a specialty olive ice cream. I loved visiting the famous “Angel Road” beach. Shodoshima boasts a Mediterranean vibe which I think makes for a relaxing and unique day trip or weekend getaway.
Fugan Canal Kansui Park, Toyama Prefecture
Recommendation by Grace Maeno, resident of Toyama
One of the coolest spots in Toyama! We call it the “Kansui Koen” and it’s a feel-good place with bright sunshine and clear waters. There’s a super popular (and crowded!) Starbucks here. “Heaven’s Gate Bridge” is my favourite spot to chill out and watch the Tateyama Mountain Range.
Hitome Senbonzakura, Miyagi Prefecture
Recommendation by Emily Schilb, resident of Miyagi
Miyagi has many great locations to view cherry blossoms, but this is one of my absolute favorites! If you are lucky enough to be near Sendai for the sakura season, the sight of these trees blooming along the river is breathtaking.
Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street, Osaka
Recommendation by Donna Sheffield, resident of Osaka
I love the unpredictable charm of the shops on this long, winding arcade. If you’re tired of samey shopping malls, a wander down this indoor street market will awaken your curiosity anew. There’s a pleasing mix of food stalls, modern items and traditional Japanese curios at reasonable prices.
Nagaoka Fireworks, Niigata Prefecture
Recommendation by Babina Kharel, resident of Niigata
There’s no exaggeration when I say Nagaoka Fireworks is simply WOW!! When I recall the experience of seeing the majestic and splendid fireworks, I run out of words. The themes and stories the fireworks illustrate make it extra special. Don’t dare to miss it and be prepared to handle the crowd.
Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
Recommendation by Duane Cavalier, resident of Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen sits only a few hundred meters from the world’s busiest train station, but is one of Tokyo’s most relaxing locations for residents and visitors alike. I especially enjoy its traditional Japanese garden, and the serenity I feel strolling through it, contrasting this peaceful oasis with the bustle of city all around.
Lake Kawaguchi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Recommendation by Madeleine Donaldson, resident of Yamaguchi
For a snap of Mt. Fuji fit for a postcard, a trip to Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi is a must. The lake offers breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji in any season – just avoid cloudy days! I particularly love viewing Fujisan with cherry blossoms in spring, and maple leaves in autumn.
Mt. Hakodate, Hokkaido
Recommendation by Steven Askew, resident of Hokkaido
If you like to push yourself before your afternoon beer, I wholeheartedly recommend Mt. Hakodate. One of the best runs I’ve had in Japan. The path is beautiful. The wildlife is astounding. The view is breath-taking. At 334m, it’s just perfect. Skip the cable car and hit the path. You seriously won’t regret it. Then, back for Hakodate beer!!