While creating an itinerary for our Japan trip, I learned that Japan has beautiful countryside with charming towns and beautiful villages. They are like places that came straight out of a fantasy or a movie!
Though I’ve already created a blog post about the towns in Japan with beautiful mountain views, I think other villages in Japan are still really worth discovering. In fact, some of the Japanese villages are so unique and so charming it seems I could spend more than a week staying there.
I’ve only chosen towns and villages in Japan with a population of less than 15,000. These towns shall give us the privacy and tranquillity our break deserves, and also some fresh and clean air to purify our lungs!
Without going further, here are the seven towns in Japan that will surely satisfy our countryside experience wanderlust:
Ine – The town also known as the Venice of Japan
We can find the town of Ine in the northernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture, touching the sea of Japan. It is a charming village where we can get a glimpse of the boathouses lining along the bay. Ine is known to give fantastic accommodation and a unique historical perspective to anyone who comes to it.
Check out Ine’s location in Google Maps.
What makes the town of Ine unique?
The unique thing that we can see and experience in the town of Ine is the boathouses, called Funaya. They are wooden houses that look like houses floating on the sea with the seawater situated directly at the front of their doorsteps.
Funaya serves two purposes for the villagers and fisherman living in Ine. The first floor of the Funaya is the dock for their boats and the second floor serves as their dwelling area.
The reflections of these houses on the water make them even more beautiful, especially when hit by sunlight. The Funayas lining up the shore makes a scene that we cannot see anywhere else in the world. This scenery is the reason why Japan designated Ine as an Important Preservation District of Historic Buildings.
What to do in the town of Ine?
- Have a delicious seafood meal in Funaya Shokudo or Boathouse Cafe while having an excellent view of the surroundings.
- Hire an Ine Bay Marine Taxi or Get a boat tour to check the Funaya up close
- Go to Funaya no Sato Park. Here we can find an observation deck allowing us to see a panoramic view of the town and nearby waters.
Yoshino – The town best to see cherry blossoms
Yoshino is a mountainous town located in the northern portion of Yoshino District in Nara prefecture. Here we can find thousands of cherry blossoms, especially in the nearby Mount Yoshino.
Going from Yoshino town to Yoshino Mountain is only a few-minute bus ride from the town center. However, sometimes visitors prefer to hike the mountain since it is effortless to climb since there are already beautiful cherries on the trail.
Well, if we have plenty of time, why not? For me, it is the perfect and the healthiest activity with the cherries, especially during spring while they are in full bloom.
See the location of Yoshino Town in Google Maps.
What makes the town of Yoshino unique?
Yoshino is a floral paradise, an ultimate destination in Japan during the spring season. The town is the gateway to Mount Yoshino, which is, according to statistics, is home to 30,000 trees with 200 kinds of sakura blooming wonderfully every year.
The eight-kilometer trail starting from the town center and along the northern face of Mount Yoshino has four areas. Historically there are 1000 trees for each part but, perhaps now there are many more!
The four areas of Yoshino are:
- Shimo Senbon – The lower area
- Naka Senbon – The middle area
- Kami Senbon – The upper area
- Oku Senbon – The inner area located on the top of the mountain
Since the cherries grow at different altitudes, they bloom on separate weeks of the spring season. It gives us plenty of “time allowance” to see the cherry blossoms without coming in with the crowd.
What to do in the town of Yoshino?
- Enjoy the time under the pink and white blooms of the cherries and sakura in Hanayagura Observatory in the Kami Senbon area. Bring blankets and have a picnic with the beautiful pinkish sceneries.
- Chill at the cafes at Shimo Senbon lower area, which is just a 30-minute walk from the Yoshino station. There we can see scenic valleys carpeted with cherry blossoms and sakura.
- Visit the picturesque shrines with cherry blossoms. There are several temples in the mountain to wander at like, the Yoshimizu Shrine, Kinpusen-Ji Temple, and the centuries-old Nyoirin-Ji Temple.
Tsurui – The Soundscape town of Hokkaido Japan
Tsurui is a village located in the eastern portion of Hokkaido in the Kushiro subprefecture. Unlike other towns included in this post, Tsurui is different. Why? Because it is neither the houses nor the people in Tsurui that attracts tourists but the animals.
Tsurui is one of the 100 soundscapes of Japan where we can escape noise pollution and enjoy the sounds of nature. This town is the breeding ground of the red-crowned cranes contributing to the restful sound and experience in Tsurui.
However, the red-crowned cranes aren’t the only attraction in Tsurui. The village has panoramic walkable wetlands, too. Then during summer, the hills near the town turn lush green. It is when the visitors see the authentic countryside of Japan with dairy farms on the fields.
What makes the town of Tsurui unique?
Tsurui is the place in Japan where we can find the red-crowned crane, the rarest crane species in the world. It is sometimes called Tancho Crane or Manchurian Crane. Either way, these cranes serve a symbolic purpose in the Japanese people.
In Japan, red-crowned cranes emblem happiness, marital fidelity, love, and longevity. That’s why when we look at Japan Airlines, it’s the animal that’s in its logo.
What to do in the town of Tsurui?
- Visit the Nature Center. It is where we can find the information desk, watch short presentations about the cranes, see an art exhibit, and drink hot coffees. The Nature Center is the first part of learning about the Tancho Cranes.
- Come to the observation area, where we can borrow some binoculars to see the birds up close from afar.
- In summer, get an authentic experience of Tsurui’s agricultural industries in the ranch-style restaurant and hotel Heart’n Tree. There, we can get our cottage surrounded by green fields, eat local meals, and experience cheesemaking and other craft cooking classes.
- Also, in summer, see Japan’s “largest” marshland starting from Onnenai Visitor Center. Here, walk along a wooden platform crossing the fields full of fen plants, Japanese alder trees, and cotton grass. It’s also a spot where we can see the red-crowned crane, Ezo red fox, Siberian salamander, and Yezo deer. A perfect destination for nature lovers!
Biei – The Town with Rainbow Fields
Another beautiful town which we can find in Hokkaido is Biei. The town is in the Kamikawa subprefecture and famous for many picturesque views, featured several times by national television.
It has two areas. The first is the Patchwork Road, the northwestern portion of Biei, offering scenic rural landscapes all year round. The second area is called Panorama Road. Like what its name suggests, it gives visitors panoramic views of the hills and farms to anyone who comes to it.
Check out Biei’s location on Google Maps.
What makes the town of Biei unique?
Biei has hectares of fields covered with plants blooming with different kinds of flowers. Here, plants like French Marigolds, Poppies, Sunflowers, Lupins, Iris Germanica cover the Biei’s smoothly rolling hills with colors of the rainbows.
It is the ultimate destination for flower lovers and a perfect spot to get the epic Instagram shot that all your followers will adore!
What to do in the town Biei?
- Visit the Hokusei Hill Observatory. It is an observatory inside pyramid-shaped exteriors where we can have fantastic views of the Zeburu Hills and the fields of Biei. It is also a flower park where we can explore on foot and by electric carts.
- Rent a bike or car to explore the Biei. There is nothing more pleasurable than seeing the flower fields and admiring them at any speed or phase that you desire.
- Enter Takushinkan, a gallery full of photos of Biei and other scenic landscapes in Japan.
- Rent and ride a golf cart or tractor-pulled wagons in Shikisai Hill to see the flower and lavender farms in a more fun and enjoyable way!
- Come to the Farm Tomita and get a stunning sight of purple carpet hills while having the alluring smell of the lavenders. The full bloom lasts for tend days, starting from the mid of July.
- Feel tranquil in Aoiike – Shirogane Blue Pond. Going to the Gatorade blueish white pond with withered birch forest shall be a unique and enchanting activity apart from exploring the fields.
Magome – A mountain town with old traditional houses
In the old days, there was a route called Nakasendo, which connects Kyoto and Tokyo. The path was long and tiring, so people start building post towns along this route to give the travelers accommodation in the middle of their journey.
Kiso Valley is one of the places which Nakasendo traverses. And it is where the Japanese people built post towns. One of these post towns is Magome.
Many of these towns are gone already and did not survive the test of time. Now, only a few only remain, and Magome is one of the lucky ones who made it up until this time.
In the current political map of Japan, Magome belongs to the Nakatsugawa district in Gifu prefecture. It no longer serves travelers as it used to before as people preferred highways and trains to move from one city to another.
Yet, thousands of travelers still come to Magome. The irresistible sceneries of the town keep on attracting them. The traditional wooden houses, cobblestone paths, and scenic mountains are just a throwback to the past that gives the visitors a nostalgic feel, satisfying their wanderlust.
What makes the town of Magome unique?
The high elevation, cobblestone path, and wooden houses of Magome give the visitors awe mixed with a nostalgic feel of Japan. Though other places, like in Kyoto, have similar structures and cobblestone walkways, Magome’s view of the mountains makes the town distinct from others.
What to do in the town of Magome?
- Hike the old path Nakasendo from Magome to Tsumago to see more panoramic views of the mountains, waterfalls, waterwheels, and more shrines.
- Check out Shimizuya Shiryokan. Here we can see a gallery of the belongings of the citizens of Magone. There are scrolls, items of clothing, and pottery to discover.
- Visit Toson Memorial Museum and Tsuchimaya Shiryokan. Here, we can see the works of Shimazaki Toson, a renowned writer also born in Magome.
- Learn the history of Magome in Wakihonjin Museum. It is a small museum where we see a gallery describing the lives in the old Nakasendo post town.
Hakuba – The town with the best view of the Japanese Alps
Hakuba is a town located in the Japanese Northern Alps of Nagano prefecture and home to the numerous ski resorts in Japan. In 2019 statistics, Hakuba was found to have only 9000 permanent citizens. However, during the peak seasons, the number of transient residents overpass that of the permanent residents.
What makes Hakuba very attractive for the tourists are its mountain slopes that suit all-level skiing skills. It is perfect for everyone, especially for anyone who wants to try skiing for the first time. That includes me!
But for me, skiing will only be the second reason why I will visit Hakuba. Sightseeing of the Japanese Alps is more than enough for me. It is a place where I can spend a whole day just staring at the mountains while sipping a hot coffee. The Japanese Northern Alps is one the home of the 3000-meter-high-peak mountains in Japan.
What makes the town of Hakuba unique?
The proximity of Hakuba to the Northern Japanese Alps separates Hakuba from the rest of the small towns in Japan. Aside from its numerous skiing resorts, the scenic view of the mountains from its grounds is enough to tell why it is an exceptional town in Japan.
Additionally, according to japanvisitor.com, the snow that falls in Hakuba is one of the finest in Japan. They say that the snow in Hakuba is “powder snow.” That’s why it was chosen before to host a Winter Olympics.
What to do in the town of Hakuba?
- Skiing – During winter and early spring, go skiing at the slopes of the Japanese Northern Alps.
- Hot air balloon ride – There are available hot air balloon rides from the town. Get a ride to see a spectacular overlooking view of the mountains from the air.
- Paragliding. If a hot air balloon ride is boring, try paragliding.
- River rafting – Hakuba has a nearby river to test our rafting skills!
- Fishing – If you have more time, spend some of it fishing in the fresh waters of the rivers that come from the mountains.
- Canyoneering – Jump into Gatorade blue waters from a cliff and test your scrambling skills.
- Canoeing – If you find canyoning tiring, then try some relaxing water sports like canoeing.
Book your activities from the official website of Nagano prefecture.
Shirakawa – The fairytale town of Japan
The hidden gem of Japan. Literally, Shirakawa is a “hidden” village due to its location. It is one of Japan’s cultural treasures that gained a World Cultural Heritage Site status in 1995.
Shirakawa is located in the Ono district of Gifu Prefecture in western Japan, nestled in the Ryohaku Mountains. It is the place in Japan where the heaviest snowfall happens every year. And this is the reason why Shirakawa became a charming village to visit.
The harsh condition, the heavy snowfall, has made the people of Shirakawa built more powerful houses to shelter them from the winter weather. Though these houses were not actually intended to attract tourists, they became an attraction because of their unique style that looked like nothing else in the world.
The beautiful-looking houses, together with the natural setting of Shirakawa, made the entire picture of the village look like it was made for a movie or a fairy tale. It is a sight that will really captivate the soul of a pure-breed wanderer.
What makes the town of Shirakawa unique?
The “Gabled Gassho Style” Houses of the Shirakawa made the village completely unique, apart from any town in Japan. It has triangular-shaped eaves that look like an open book propped up on its covers. This design makes the houses in Shirakawa adapted to stand firm against the snow deposits on its roof during heavy snowfalls.
The tranquility of nature adds to the cozy aura of the place. The town looks much beautiful when seen from a viewpoint near the village. For me, this town eclipses the hobbit village in New Zealand in terms of beauty and character.
What to do in the town of Shirakawa?
- See Wada house, the “largest” gassho-style house in Shirakawa. It has a garden, fields, and waterways. On its second floor, we can check the artifacts and items used by the Wada Family.
- Check out a Monk’s residence in Shirakawa. They live in Myonzenji Temple, known for the yew tree and its bell tower gate.
- Learn more about Shirakawa Village in Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum.
- Get a panoramic view of the town from the Tenshukaku Castle Keep Observatory and Ogimachi Castle Ruin Observation Area.
- Learn the culture that was developed in Shirakawa. Go to Tajima House, and let’s get an idea of how Shirakawan people thrived with their silk culture as their key industries.
So, that is my top 7 charming countryside towns in Japan! Tell me any suggestions in the comment box below. I hope I helped you learning something about Japan, or on planning a trip, or on whatever you’re looking for. That’s all. Thanks for reading!
Be sure to read my article The 5 Best Towns in Japan With Spectacular Mountain Views. I put some final thoughts about choosing a town to visit in Japan. Hope it helps you too! 🙂
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