Here is your future Travel Guide for your trip to Japan. Our family spent 14 days exploring this beautiful country, including visiting hidden gems. If you are planning a trip there, then add these places to your MUST-SEE List! These places often fly under the radar, but trust me, they hold an undeniable allure that deserves to be experienced.
A few things to note. We were able to take this bucket list trip for a 14-day adventure through Japan as a family (my wife and two amazing kids, aged 10 and 5). We decided to rely solely on public transportation, skipping the car rental hassle. Turned out to be a breeze! Japan Rail (JR), ferries, and the occasional taxi ride seamlessly connected us to our destinations. Plus, strolling around Japan felt incredibly safe, giving us the chance to soak in the beautiful sights and sounds around every corner.
Check out the 10 Unforgettable spots below!
DAY TRIPS FROM OKAYAMA
Make your base in Okayama and explore these day trips during your stay. Okayama is a captivating city that seamlessly blends history, natural beauty, and modern charm. Known as the "Land of Sunshine," Okayama boasts a rich cultural heritage and is home to numerous historical landmarks, including the iconic Okayama Castle and the renowned Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's three most exquisite gardens. Visitors are captivated by the city's serene atmosphere as they explore the historic streets of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, lined with traditional white-walled buildings and picturesque canals. With its vibrant arts scene, delicious local cuisine, and warm hospitality, Okayama is a destination that offers a perfect balance between tradition and modernity, leaving a lasting impression on all who visit.
Prepare to be transported back in time at Himeji Castle, a true icon of Japan. They call it the White Heron Castle for a reason! This UNESCO World Heritage Site has stood tall since the 14th century, showcasing breathtaking architecture and intricate details. Explore its numerous rooms, discover hidden passages, and lose yourself in the beauty of its gardens. It's like stepping into a real-life feudal fairy tale!
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter:
Take a journey to the past in the enchanting Bikan Historical Quarter, nestled in the city of Kurashiki. Wander along picturesque canals lined with charming wooden houses and explore delightful boutiques and cozy cafes. Enjoy the boutique shopping and scenery. We found an amazing fashion designer who has been making premium denim for 18 years and an awesome wood fire pizza restaurant. Trust me, the tranquil vibes of this historical quarter will captivate your heart.
Calling all art enthusiasts! Naoshima Island is an absolute paradise for you. This tiny gem in the Seto Inland Sea is a haven of contemporary art set amidst breathtaking natural landscapes. Discover mind-blowing art museums, unique installations, and whimsical sculptures. The Benesse House Museum, the Chichu Art Museum, and Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkin artwork are just a taste of the magic that awaits you. This blend of art and nature will create an unforgettable experience.
Okayama Castle, also known as the "Crow Castle," is striking with its black exterior and gorgeous gardens, making it a must-visit destination. Explore the museum inside the castle to uncover its historical significance, and don't miss the opportunity to climb to the top for a panoramic view of Okayama city. If you visit during spring, you'll be greeted by a breathtaking explosion of cherry blossoms in the surrounding Korakuen Garden. It's like stepping into a dream!
Kojima Jean Street
Kojima Jean Street, nestled in the district of Kojima in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture, is a haven for denim enthusiasts and a vibrant hub of denim culture. Known as the "Denim Capital," this unique street is lined with an array of denim-related shops, boutiques, and workshops, showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry of Japanese denim. Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of high-quality jeans, from renowned brands to local artisans creating bespoke denim pieces. Whether it's browsing the latest denim collections, learning about the intricate denim-making process, or finding the perfect pair of jeans, this lively street is a must-visit destination for denim enthusiasts seeking to experience the indigo-dyed heartbeat of Kojima.
Hit Setonaikai National Park for these bucket list experiences
Setonaikai National Park, located in western Japan, is a breathtaking coastal paradise that spans across multiple prefectures, encompassing over 3,000 islands scattered in the Seto Inland Sea. Revered for its stunning natural beauty, the park is a haven of tranquility and diverse ecosystems. From its crystal-clear turquoise waters and picturesque sandy beaches to its lush forests and rugged cliffs, Setonaikai National Park offers a harmonious blend of land and sea. The park is also famous for its art islands, such as Naoshima, where contemporary art installations harmonize with the surrounding nature, creating a unique cultural experience.
Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road:
The Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road is an incredible way to see the wonders of Japan. This 70-kilometer route connects the mainland to Shikoku, while bridging the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Rent a bicycle and embark on a journey across scenic bridges, picturesque islands, charming fishing villages, and peaceful beaches. Breathe in fresh mountain air and enjoy the great outdoors as you take in the stunning views along this cycling paradise. This cycling road will be one of the most spectacular things you do.
Welcome to Setoda, a hidden coastal gem on Ikuchijima Island. Retreat to this charming town and slow down to take in the landscapes and historic sites. Explore the magnificent Kosanji Temple, a true architectural wonder filled with ornate buildings, serene gardens, and fascinating sculptures. Setoda's tranquil ambiance and natural beauty will rejuvenate your soul. When visiting here, make sure to stay at Soil Setoda, a boutique hotel offering incredible cuisine.
Rabbit Island (Ōkunoshima):
Prepare for some serious cuteness overload on Rabbit Island, or Ōkunoshima. This little slice of paradise in the Seto Inland Sea is home to hundreds of adorable rabbits. Interact with these fluffy creatures, feed them, and capture unforgettable moments. Don't forget to explore the island's nature trails and enjoy a picnic surrounded by these furry little companions. The kids absolutely loved visiting this island and interacting with the rabbits.
Hiroshima, a city in southwestern Japan, carries profound historical significance and serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Despite the devastation caused by the atomic bomb during World War II, Hiroshima has risen from the ashes to become a vibrant and thriving metropolis. The Peace Memorial Park stands as a solemn reminder of the past, honoring the victims and promoting a message of peace and nuclear disarmament. Visitors can explore the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, a preserved structure that symbolizes both the horrors of war and the city's commitment to peace. Hiroshima's charm extends beyond its tragic past, with bustling shopping districts, delicious cuisine, and picturesque landscapes, such as the tranquil Miyajima Island with its iconic floating Torii gate. As a city of remembrance and renewal, Hiroshima encapsulates the enduring spirit of hope and the importance of embracing peace and harmony.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum:
To truly understand Hiroshima, you must delve into its past. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum provides a solemn and educational experience, honoring the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing. Inside, you'll find powerful artifacts, heart-wrenching photographs, and personal accounts that urge us all to reflect on the consequences of war and the paramount importance of peace. It's a heavy visit, but one that will leave you profoundly inspired.
Welcome to the mystical "Island of Gods," Miyajima! This enchanting place is renowned for its iconic Itsukushima Shrine, complete with a "floating" torii gate. Hop on a ferry from Hiroshima and immerse yourself in the island's serene atmosphere. Explore vibrant streets, make friends with the friendly deer, hike up Mount Misen for breathtaking views, and indulge in local delicacies like the savory Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. It's a piece of paradise you won't want to leave.
Japan offers a world of diverse experiences that cater to every traveler's interests and passions. From ancient castles that whisper tales of the past to serene islands that embrace you with their natural beauty, each destination unveils a unique glimpse into Japan's rich cultural heritage. Embark on this remarkable journey and create memories that will last a lifetime. Japan truly has something for everyone, guaranteeing an adventure you'll never forget. Our family is already dreaming of returning.