Japan is a fascinating city, drawing in over 31 million travelers from around the world on a yearly basis, and although first-timers tend to gravitate towards spending most of their time Tokyo and Kyoto, there are many other enchanting cities to explore. We love Osaka for all the food options it has to offer, Sapporo for the mountains, Nara for ancient temples and artwork and Fukuoka for its beaches.
Out of the 700 plus cities, here are our top picks in Japan outside of Tokyo and Kyoto, and what we love to do in each one.
Osaka is known for its food scene, so it’s no surprise that this is the place to take your tastebuds on a journey. For fine dining where you can find some of the best Japanese beef is Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M. For some local cuisine that’s cheap yet absolutely divine is Okonomiyaki Chitose—they don’t take reservations and there are only 12 tables inside but it’s worth the wait. Aside from the food, we love to shop in Shinsaibashi-Suji, a shopping area that has been around for over 380 years or the Abeno Harukas, which also features a museum and an observatory.
Sapporo is located in a mountainous region of Hokkaido and is the place to go to experience the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, lasting for about a week in February. The festival centers around a snow sculpture competition, food, ice-skating and more. Due to the City’s location, Sapporo is an ideal place to go hiking. Right outside the City, there’s Moiwa Mountain, which has a cable car if you don’ want to climb to the top on foot. If you’re a beginner and are looking to hike along a beautiful trail, there’s Maruyama, which takes about 40 minutes to reach the summit, plus easy to get to via the Tozai Metro Line.
Nara is famous for its ancient temples, one of which is the well-known Tōdai-ji, dating back to 738 CE—it’s where the largest statue in the world of the Buddha Vairocana is located. Another Buddhist temple we recommend visiting is the 1,300-year-old Kasuga-taisha, famous for the many interior bronze lanterns and where deer roam freely all around (due to the Shrine’s location in a deer park). The oldest temple in Nara is Horyuji Temple, established in 607 and is not only the oldest construction on Earth made from wood but is also one of Japan’s oldest temples.
For those who want to experience beach life in Japan, Fukuoka, located on the coast of Kyushu Island, is the city to visit. One of the best beaches is Niginohama—it’s uncrowded and long with gold-colored sand and plenty of pine trees. There’s also Fukae, perfect for families with children, featuring white sand and clean water. Another favorite is Seaside Momochi, where you can join in on an array of beach activities such as soccer or beach volleyball, dine or grab a snack at one of the many restaurants, or shop at nearby boutique stores. Just remember, it does snow here, so summertime is the best time to head to Fukuoka
Japan is a wonderful and exciting country to explore, and if you’re looking to hop on a train, airplane or drive to other parts of the nation, we recommend you consider adding these cities to your list.
If these or any other destinations speak to you, we’d love to help you get there in comfort and save you up to 70% off. Submit a flight request or contact your agent and we’ll find the best dates to travel there!