4 Stunning Japanese Cities You've Never Heard Of
If you’re researching a trip to Japan, then you’ve probably read plenty about the tranquil parks and shrines of Kyoto, and the neon exuberance of Tokyo, but there’s more to the beauty of Japan than its capital cities. This week, we explore the beauty of four lesser known cities and towns that you can visit using the Japan Rail Pass.
Ever since Emperor Akihito met his bride Empress Micihiko in 1957 on a Karuizawa tennis court, the town has been known as a lovers retreat.
Nestled beneath the snow capped Mt. Asama, Karuizawa lives up to it’s reputation as a scenic romantic escape with a kaleidoscopic display of leaves in Autumn, winding mountain hikes, hot springs, waterfalls and the Yacho-no-mori (wild bird park) which is home to rare butterflies, giant flying squirrels, and over 100 different species of birds.
How to reach Karuizawa by rail:
One of the fastest ways to reach Karuizawa from Tokyo and Nagano is via the JR Hokuriku Skinkansen.
Although it’s famous as a skiing hotspot during the winter months, Hakuba is equally as majestic during the green season, when you can pick and eat blueberries straight off the vine and swim in tranquil freshwater lakes.
Hakuba is also very popular with hikers in the warmer months. You can take a gondola to reach the upper areas of the ski fields and then continue on to hike the Northern Japanese Alps.
Whether you come to see the Japanese macaque monkeys steaming in the hot springs of Jigokudani during the snowy months, or wander amongst the thousands of vibrant lilies which blanket the Iwatake ski field during the summer months, Hakuba offers up a different scenic delight every month of the year.
How to reach Hakuba by rail:
You can take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano and then an express bus from Nagano to Hakuba. The Japan Rail Pass covers the shinkansen trip but not the bus journey.
Alternatively, you can take the JR Azusa limited express train from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto and transfer to a local train on the JR Oito Line to Hakuba. Some Azusa limited express trains run all the way to Hakuba. The journey is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
A quiet coastal town known for its many Buddhist Zen temples, Kamakura offers up a unique blend of laid back beach culture and rich spiritual history.
The town's most famous religious site is a serene 11.4 metre bronze statue of Amida Buddha known as a Daibutsu, but there are plenty of other beautiful sacred sites to stumble across whilst wandering the peaceful streets of Kamakura.
Other scenic attractions include hiking and several beaches including Shichirigahama, which offers spectacular clear views of Mt Fuji.
How to reach Kamakura by rail:
Kamakura can be accessed via the JR Yokosuka Line which connects Tokyo Station directly with Kamakura Station and the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line which connects Tokyo's Shinjuku Station and Kamakura Station.
Set on the tranquil shores of Kagoshima Bay and watched over by the active composite volcano Sakurajima, this peaceful seaside town offers scenic views from every angle. Key attractions in the ‘Hawaii of Japan’ include the historical Senganan Garden which sprawls along the coastline and the nightly bayside fireworks display between July and August.
How to reach Kagoshima by rail:
You can reach Kagoshima by taking the Hikari Shinkansen followed by a connecting train on the Sakura Shinkansen to Kagoshima-Chuo. From Kagoshima-Chuo you can then take the JR Nippo Line for Kokobu to Kagoshima.
The JR Pass is your key to unlocking all the hidden beauty of Japan. To learn more about travelling in Japan with the JR Pass, visit our Japan by Rail page.