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Post Reply Japanese Culture outside of Tokyo, Kyoto?
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M / Midwest
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Posted 3/17/13
Hi,

I would like to visit Japan and am curious about sites of interest outside of the Tokyo and Kyoto areas that are most popularly associated with tourism. I would like to go a bit off the beaten path as it were to experience more authentic Japanese culture and the unique natural beauty of Japan which I have often admired in photographs of the country. Where would you reccomend a foreigner to vist?
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32 / M / The Netherlands
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Posted 3/26/13

marmondesu wrote:

Hi,

I would like to visit Japan and am curious about sites of interest outside of the Tokyo and Kyoto areas that are most popularly associated with tourism. I would like to go a bit off the beaten path as it were to experience more authentic Japanese culture and the unique natural beauty of Japan which I have often admired in photographs of the country. Where would you reccomend a foreigner to vist?


Oh my, where to start... Places plenty!

To leave some for other people I'll just cover the Kansai area (which includes Kyoto)

Osaka, a modern city with a lot of places to go.
Mostly known for their rich culture, many foods and open people.

Nara, only ~30 minutes by train from Osaka.
A temple village and Nara's famous deer park.

Close to Osaka there's Himeji, also 20~30 minutes by train from Osaka.
Himeji castle is one of the castles in Japan from the Sengoku period which is in near original state.

Wakayama is just beautiful if you want a day of walking around.

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43 / M / Reno, NV, USA
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Posted 3/26/13
One of these days, I'm going to make a special trip for the Tohoku region, and Hokkaido (might need separate trips). I had thought about it for 2012, but then got married and had a son! I'll just have to shelve those plans until my kid is a bit older!

For off-the-beaten-path natural beauty, I'm told Hokkaido is particularly impressive-- hence my desire to go there. Of places I've actually been to and can recommend, there's Miyajima Island and the area around the Ikutsushima Jinja; lots of deer roaming around like in Nara, and there's also the "floating" red torii gate in the water at the entry, which is probably among the more famously photographed sites in Japan. Hakone and the area surrounding Lake Ashi is near Tokyo, and has quite nice scenery (forests, lakeside views, sulfurous volcanic vents where you can eat the blackened eggs boiled in the hot springs etc.). It is, however, quite touristy (both native Japanese as well as some foreigners). While you've sort of "excluded" Kyoto from your inquiry, I have to say that the parts away from the downtown (and I've been mostly to the western parts myself) have a lot of the old temples and gardens that might appeal to your fancy (old culture and natural beauty). The bus system in Kyoto I found pretty easy to use, and so you can go to places not on most tourist trails or go at off hours to avoid the crowds.
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20 / F / The Desert
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Posted 6/6/13
There are a lot of great touristy places to visit in Japan.
When I went we went to multiple cities. I went to Tokyo & Kyoto but since you want something else, I'll list the others.

Osaka
Nara
Hiroshima (You should definitely try to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Museum. Its a piece of world history).
Miyajima

Other notable places to visit
Nikko
Kamakura
Himeiji
Sapporo
Yokohama
Nagano
Mt. Fuji is a must see!

Good luck!
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Posted 7/31/13 , edited 7/31/13
My favorite region is Tohoku, particularly Fukushima, where my husband is from. We hope to move there in a couple years. I go to Japan once or twice a year and visit new prefectures, but Fukushima is always a second home to me and that's where we spend most of our time in Japan. I recommend it as the country side and history is beautiful and fascinating. If visiting Fukushima the popular place to visit is Aizu which is filled with history.
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M / VA, USA
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Posted 8/4/13
There are a lot of great places to visit, but while I was living there I used an app called fotopedia for iphone and it has pictures and descriptions of different places. I highly recommend the app.
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27 / M / Some army base in...
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Posted 1/4/14 , edited 1/4/14
There's Okinawa as a tourist spot as well. I know of a few people on mainland that love to come visit here. You can go snorkeling, diving, and even just plain old relaxing on the beach. A friend from tokyo came down, and they heard about the blue cave we have here. We also have whale sharks you can see up close and sea turtles. I think it's a good spot if you want to get away from mainland japan and see some of the smaller islands.
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23 / M / Canada
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Posted 1/4/14 , edited 1/4/14
I had been wondering about this topic myself, I imagine that even a decent 3 star hotel in Tokyo would be pricey.. so I had wondered about visiting another city. Osaka sounds like it would be a good starting hub... do people there know at least basic english? I don't know any japanese beyond the pleasentries.
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43 / M / Reno, NV, USA
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Posted 1/4/14
I can only speak to my limited experience in Japan (three trips in my life, totaling perhaps 6 weeks total time in country), but it seems to me that most Japanese, outside of those in the tourist/hospitality industries (i.e. where English or other foreign languages are in some way required for the job-- e.g. tour guides, hotel staff), cannot manage English very well. That's in no way meant as a criticism-- in Japan, the language is Japanese after all, and essentially every nation in the world has its own language(s) and individual culture-- so, as best one can, 'when in Rome...' If anime is a reliable guide to the culture (and I suppose that's a really big IF!) English is a common or perhaps even required school subject, but like anything else, if one doesn't need or use the skill once learned, it's likely to be forgotten or at best reduced to some rudimentary level. After finishing high school, I imagine the vast majority of Japanese won't ever really need English in their daily lives. I also wonder if Japan is like Korea (my wife's Korean-- and sharing from what she tells me of schools there...) where foreign language teaching is geared largely towards passing the written entry exams for the next level of schooling, and not really towards actual conversation or usage of the language in real-life situations.

Anyway, all that to say that I doubt even "basic English" proficiency is widespread as a practical matter in Japan-- at least based on my own experience. Nonetheless, even without any Japanese, with a sense of adaptability as well as a friendly attitude and open mind, you can still have a great time in Japan, I'd say. (I did on my first two trips.) And any Japanese you do know will just enhance your experience that much more. (As happened to me on my third trip.)
CaelK 
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Posted 1/5/14 , edited 1/5/14
Ah, sure. I'll bite.

I could write a bunch of stuff that I've already written all over again, or I could just direct you to my blog.
http://d.hatena.ne.jp/caelk/searchdiary?word=%2A%5BJapan%20Trip%202012%5D

Other than this...
Sendai - Stopped by on the way towards the mountains. I think it was Haguro (could have been Gassan), beautiful place. For bonus points, take a week's worth of luggage with you when you climb the mountains. ... Okay, or don't.
Hiroshima - Stopped by for the Atomic Bomb Museum. Pretty surreal, standing at ground zero.
Nikkou - Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried here at Nikkou Toushou-guu.
Mito - The local specialty is Natto. If anyone offers Tonkatsu stuffed with natto and ume-boshi... from personal experience, it has the consistency of slime and is physically painful to eat. I describe it as Chemical Magical Cooking.
Kyuushuu - Dejima, Sakura-jima, and Shimabara are all historically significant places. You could also consider Ganryuu-jima if you're a Miyamoto Musashi fan, it's pretty close. The island's famous mountain is Mt. Aso, it's famous castle is Kumamoto Castle. I've been to Mt. Hiko as well, though it's really off the beaten path. We had to walk up a highway to get there since the bus only comes three times a day. Fukuoka is known for Hakata ramen (Tonkotsu ramen). Kumamoto is known for horse meat (especially in sushi form).

Consider hitting up Wikitravel or something for other sites.

Also, sushipath's experience mimics my own. I'd say that Tokyo has a decent chance of finding a random Japanese person who could speak enough English for you to understand basic things. Outside of Tokyo, I'd estimate chances at Kyoto, Nara, and Oosaka are... shaky at best. Hotel staff there would be a good bet, but I'm not sure about random people in the street.

Other than this, I'd recommend some Japanese. Maybe get a phrasebook or something if you don't have the time.

Also, we found a hotel in Kobe (or Oosaka, can't remember) that was close to a train station for $20 a night. Baths were communal and you got a small tatami room, though it's enough if you want to just sleep. You can do around $45 a night in Tokyo and most other places.
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