Japan is home to a multitude of picturesque villages that span the entire country, each with its unique charm and allure, whether it’s steeped in history or nestled amidst breathtaking natural landscapes. These stunning locales are an absolute must-visit during your journey through Japan.
1. Biei, Hokkaido
Biei, a quaint town in Hokkaido, is often referred to as the “town of hills.” True to its name, the hillside vistas here are nothing short of magnificent. Embrace the enchanting scenery that only an agricultural town like Biei can offer.
2. Tsurui, Hokkaido
The name “Tsurui” translates to “There are cranes here,” and as expected, this village is home to an abundance of cranes, specifically the majestic red-crowned cranes. Witness these elegant birds in their natural habitat, a spectacle exclusive to Tsurui.
3. Higashinaruse, Akita
Higashinaruse is renowned for having some of the most mesmerizing starry night skies in Japan, thanks to its exceptionally clear air. The area also boasts numerous waterfalls and springs, nurturing lush greenery, including the historic Suzukoya no Mori, where ancient Japanese beech trees over two centuries old flourish, filling the air with crisp freshness.
4. Kitashiobara, Fukushima
Kitashiobara harmoniously coexists with nature, with nearly 80% of the area covered in mountain forests. The Goshikinuma lakes, natural wonders known for their ever-changing colors, offer captivating views amid this verdant paradise.
5. Kiso, Nagano
Nestled at the base of Mt. Ontake, Kiso is a village steeped in history and surrounded by nature. Its main attraction is the Nakasendo, an ancient street. Explore the serene and open ambiance of Kaida Plateau, found at the mountain’s foothills.
6. Nagiso, Nagano
Located near Kiso, Nagiso preserves buildings from the Edo period (1603 – 1868). The town’s charm evolves with the seasons, captivating visitors throughout the year. If you’re in Nagano, make sure to include a visit to Kiso and Nagiso on your itinerary.
7. Nakanojo Kuni, Gunma
Boasting a landscape composed of about 92% mountain forest and plains, Nakanojo Kuni is a haven admired by literary figures and poets for its tranquil natural scenery. Savor the renowned 10-wari soba (buckwheat noodles made with 100% buckwheat flour) and rejuvenate yourself in hot springs surrounded by nature.
8. Hayakawa, Yamanashi
Hayakawa, situated in the southwestern part of Yamanashi Prefecture, is a vast town encircled by the peaks of the Southern Alps. Despite its expansive terrain, it is one of Japan’s least populated towns. The streets of Akasawa, adorned with traditional buildings, hedges, hills, and stone steps, create a harmonious landscape that blends seamlessly with the surrounding mountains.
9. Totsukawa, Nara
Totsukawa holds the distinction of being Japan’s largest village in terms of area. Here, residents coexist with nature, as 96% of the land is covered in mountain forests. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, passes through Totsukawa, making it a must-visit destination.
10. Yoshino, Nara
Yoshino is famed for its enchanting cherry blossom trees, with approximately 30,000 of them gracing the slopes of Mt. Yoshino. These cherry blossoms bloom in full splendor from early to mid-April, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle. Beyond the cherry blossoms, there are plenty of other natural wonders to explore in the area.
11. Ine, Kyoto
Once a thriving fishing village, Ine now thrives in its traditional performing arts and cultural heritage. The sight of approximately 230 fishermen’s houses lining Ine Bay is an iconic view worth experiencing.
12. Kamikatsu, Tokushima
Kamikatsu, a predominantly mountainous town, boasts 55 settlements nestled between altitudes of 100 to 700 meters. The town is adorned with beautiful terraced fields, including the renowned Kashihara terraced fields, listed among Japan’s top 100.
13. Minamioguni, Kumamoto
Nestled at the foot of Mt. Aso, Minamioguni is blessed with the Chikugo River, Kyushu’s longest river, flowing through its heart. Surrounded by mountains and water, this town offers a rich natural environment, complemented by numerous hot springs. Don’t miss the breathtaking Senomoto Kogen among the town’s many attractions.
14. Takaharu, Miyazaki
Takaharu is a historical town and the birthplace of Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Jimmu. It is renowned for the Amanosakahoko, a legendary three-pronged spear embedded in the earth upon the descent of Ninigi no Mikoto, Amaterasu’s grandson. Takaharu is also home to the Kirishima Geopark, Japan’s inaugural national park.
15. Aya, Miyazaki
Aya is famous for its lush evergreen forests and offers a serene escape for those seeking a slower pace of life. Here, you’ll find the world-famous Teruha Suspension Bridge, one of the largest pedestrian suspension bridges globally, providing a dramatic experience amidst dynamic nature.
Exploring these enchanting villages will undoubtedly enrich your journey through Japan, offering a glimpse into the diverse and captivating facets of this remarkable country.