[Travel Japan by Video] 5 Popular Tourist Spots for Exploring Japan’s History and Nature
A must-see for anyone planning a trip to Japan! In this article, we've collected some stunning videos of travel destinations that highlight Japan's rich history and natural environment. Take an armchair journey and find some ideas for your next trip to Japan!
1. Kushiro (Hokkaido): Hokkaido in Summer All to Yourself
With low humidity and only a few days with really high temperatures, Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture, is very comfortable in the summer. This video shows stunning views of Kushiro and its grand natural landscapes. The highlight here is Japan's largest marshland, Kushiro Marsh. There are more than 2,000 different species of animals living in this vast 69,000-acre marsh, including the red-crowned crane, which has been given Special Natural Monument status in Japan.
The marsh has wooden paths and a tourist train, but I personally want to try the canoe tour featured in the video! It would be such a fantastic experience to enjoy the greenery and refreshing wind while canoeing down Kushiro River which runs through the marsh.
The fresh and tasty seafood that Hokkaido is known for is also one of the joys of travel in this area. The robatayaki (charcoal grill) that an elderly woman is cooking on in the video looks wonderful!
How to get to Kushiro: Around 300 km from Hokkaido's main city, Sapporo. Around 45 minutes by plane.
Lake Akan is another great place to enjoy Kushiro's natural environment. The marimo algae balls that grow at the bottom of the lake have also been given Special Natural Monument status and are a must-see in the area.
Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center is located on a small island on Lake Akan that can be reached by ferry. Here you can see real marimo in an aquarium designed to simulate the lake bottom. It can be quite a calming experience to pause and take in the sight of these adorable, round creatures.
There is also an onsen town called Akanko Onsen on the shore of the lake. You can enjoy the wonderful views of Lake Akan while soaking in an onsen (hot spring) here.
2. Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma): Stroll Around an Onsen Town
Next up is a video that will have you feeling like you're hot-spring hopping in a historic Japanese spa town!
Kusatsu Onsen is counted as one of the three great hot springs of Japan, both for its output of natural spring water, which is the greatest in Japan, and the quality of the water itself. Shown at the beginning of the video is a "yubatake", where the hot spring water is cooled down to extract mineral deposits from the water called yunohana.
"Yumomi", the process of cooling down the water by stirring it with a wooden board, is introduced midway through the video. The natural hot spring water of Kusatsu Onsen is not only hot, but also acidic, so it has great antibacterial properties. The water is cooled down through the "yumomi" process, rather than by simply adding cold water, so its benefits are not diluted.
What I'd really like to do in Kusatsu Onsen is put on a light cotton kimono (yukata) and stroll around the town as shown at the end of the video. It would be great to enjoy a beer here and buy some yunohana as a gift to take home. This would be a really relaxing trip to recover from all the stress of everyday life!
How to get to Kusatsu Onsen: Around four hours via express bus from Tokyo.
For those who enjoy skiing and snowboarding, the Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort opens in the winter. There is a free shuttle bus from the onsen town and all equipment, including clothing and snowboards, can be booked online. It's really something else to soak in a hot spring after skiing or snowboarding! The onsen town looks beautiful covered in snow, too.
3. Ise Jingu (Mie): Experience the Solemn Shrine Atmosphere
This video gives you a sense of the long history of Ise Jingu, which was founded about 2,000 years ago, and its spiritual atmosphere. This shrine is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Japan's traditional culture!
Watching the video, I was struck by the deep connection between the Japanese people and the natural world. I was also amazed that morning and evening prayers have been repeated every day for 1,500 years. The video has many scenes of Shinto priests in prayer, but the general public can, of course, pray at the shrine as well. People are often concerned about the etiquette of visiting religious places while traveling abroad, so be sure to take a look at the related article that gives a detailed explanation of what to do.
When actually visiting the shrine, stop by at Okage Yokocho near the Ise Jingu Inner Shrine, or "Naiku". This area is a recreation of a townscape from more than 100 years ago, so it's great for taking pictures! Here you can try local foods such as akafuku dumplings topped with red bean paste, and my particular favorite, Ise udon noodles, which are characterized by their rich soy sauce flavor. You'll also find a variety of fun shops here, including a trendy juice stand and souvenir shops.
How to get to Ise Jingu (Naiku): Around 1 hour 40 minutes by train from JR Nagoya Station to Ujiyamada Station. An additional 10 minutes by bus or taxi from the station.
Mie Prefecture was the first to successfully farm pearls and is still home to a thriving pearl farming industry. If you like pearl jewelry, why not try making a piece with pearls that you harvest yourself from an Akoya pearl oyster? There are many places around Shima City in Mie Prefecture where you can experience jewelry making.
Mie Prefecture is also the producer of the renowned Matsusaka beef, sometimes described as a "work of art" for its outstanding marbled fat and deep umami flavor. There are many famous restaurants serving Matsusaka beef, so be sure to try it when you travel there.
4. Kyoto (Kyoto): Preview the Fall Foliage
This video shows historic Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines together with colorful foliage and music.
Shuon-an Ikkyuji Temple in the video has beautiful Japanese maple trees growing along a cobblestone path. Kyoto is particularly popular during the fall foliage season, but this temple is a little outside of the city, so it's a great place to avoid the crowds. Make reservations and you can even enjoy authentic vegetarian Buddhist cuisine (shojin ryori).
How to get to Kyoto: Around 2 hours 15 minutes via bullet train from Tokyo.
If you are going to see the fall foliage in Kyoto, you can't miss the lights in the evenings! Gardens with ponds are particularly beautiful when the illuminated red and yellow maples are reflected in the dark water.
Photo: Top: World Heritage Site and Shingon sect headquarter, Kyo-o-Gokokuji Temple (Toji); Bottom: Jubuzan Kodaiji Temple
5. Okayama (Okayama): Enjoy a Calm, Pastoral Jouney
If you're not one for the hustle and bustle of the city, why not visit Okayama with its relaxing rural landscapes? Among the beautiful views in the video, I personally was captivated by the Ohaganishi Rice Terraces. The sight of approximately 850 rice terraces painted gold in the sunset is breathtaking.
The national park, Hiruzen, where people were shown cycling, is situated in a highland at an altitude of 500-600 m. This resort area also has a thriving dairy industry. It has facilities for a range of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, and in the winter, skiing.
How to get to Okayama: Around 3 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo via bullet train.
Kurashiki is also a recommended tourist destination in Okayama. In the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, with buildings built in the first half of the 19th century, you can enjoy the white-walled townscape from a boat on Kurashiki River. Kurashiki is also the home of Japanese denim, and the banks of Kurashiki River are known for jeans shops nestled within renovated historical houses. I'm a great fan of jeans, so I'd love to purchase Japanese jeans that have been skillfully woven and sewn in Okayama!
Have you found any spots you'd like to visit for yourself? These videos are great to enjoy at home and useful for when you start to plan your next trip to Japan!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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