National Geographic Traveller hosted the Natural Japan Travel Geeks event in partnership with Japan House. A panel of four experts came together on Thursday 12 March to share their experiences and give advice to inspire and enjoy the best of rural Japan.
Here are seven takeaways:
- Where to start. Getting out to rural Japan can make travellers feel like they’re stepping back in time. If you’re unsure where to go, Tohoku is a good place to start as it provides that authentic Japanese experience, said Madeleine Bromige, product manager at InsideJapan.
- Try out the public transport system. The bullet trains are very efficient and make getting around really easy. Everywhere you could wish to visit can be reached easily and quickly; even remote destinations will have small stations.
- Be aware, not afraid, of cultural differences. While the language barrier can be a challenge when travelling around rural Japan, there’s a culture of helping visitors that means travellers can’t go too far wrong, said Simon Wright, director of programming at Japan House.
- Be open minded when it comes to breakfast. When in rural Japan, travellers might have to give up comforts like their regular dose of coffee, said Madeleine Bromige —breakfast options might be limited, and a little surprising, so make sure to bring a sense of adventure with you.
- Taste the local sake. Pretty much anywhere you go, you’ll get to taste local sake — but anywhere with a natural river or lake nearby will be a good place to try the popular drink as it’ll be made with pure water, suggested sake sommelier Natsuki Kikuya.
- Where to hike. Hiking enthusiasts should consider visiting Kamikochi, a region of the Japanese Alps, in spring and autumn. What’s more, it’s so easy to get to from Tokyo, said Madeleine Bromige.
- Be Spirited Away. If you’ve seen Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and loved the landscapes, Simon Wright recommended heading to Yakushima, which was the inspiration for the film.