Tokyo? Amazing. Kyoto? Incredible. Osaka? Well worth a visit. But if you’re planning a trip to Japan (or just dreaming of one), why limit yourself to only the best-known spots? Here’s the lowdown on 5 emerging cities in the Land of the Rising Sun, all beloved by TripAdvisor travelers:
Highlights: Kanazawa Castle, one of the largest relics of the Samurai age, is located right in the heart of the city. The castle is adjacent to the famous Kenrokuen Garden, celebrated for its beautiful ponds and streams – especially beautiful when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Stroll through the Higashichaya Old Town to enjoy a cup of tea, traditional arts and crafts, and the overall nostalgia of this old Geisha district. And make sure to check out Myoryuji Ninja Temple, which was built to protect the Emperor in dangerous times – its hidden staircases, secret passages, escape routes and pinholes make it an intriguing place to visit.
Where to Stay: Toyoko Inn Kanazawa Kenrokuen Korinbo (recommended by travelers for its location, value and cleanliness) and Ryokan Yamamuro (recommended for its great hosts, warm service and central location) are both bookable right on TripAdvisor.
Insider Tip: Fans of jazz (and music in general) should check out Kanazawa Jazz Street 2016 – this mid-September downtown festival features more than 200 performances over four days.
Highlights: This island hub is known for its beaches and great dive sites, where you can find rare corals. The jewel of Ishigaki is Kabira Bay, on the north coast – with its turquoise waters and white sand, it’s an ideal location for a dreamy tropical getaway. Not far from the bay stands Mount Omotodake, offering hikers magnificent views of the island and surrounding reefs.
Where to Stay: You can book your Ishigaki trip right on TripAdvisor. Our travelers recommend Hotel Patina Ishigakijima (great location and value) and Club Med Kabira Beach (top-notch service and easy beach access).
Insider Tip: Foodies should check out the unique island cuisine, featuring dishes like Ishigaki beef and Yaeyama soba noodles. If you visit an izakaya, make sure to sip on Awamori, a local alcoholic beverage distilled from long-grain indica rice.
Highlights: Tucked away in the mountains of Hida in the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is a beautiful castle town known for its well-preserved merchant districts from the Edo period (1603-1868). Sannomachi Street, in the old town, is lined with ancient wooden houses, museums, coffee houses and shops selling traditional crafts and food specialties. To fully experience the picturesque Hida countryside, try the locally-flavored Satoyama Experience tour.
Where to Stay: Travelers recommend Ryokan Tanabe for its authentic ryokan experience, service and location – and you can book it right on TripAdvisor.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Takayama Matsuri Autumn Festival, a traditional October harvest celebration featuring large ornate floats, or yatai, that roam the city streets after dark.
Highlights: Surrounded by scenic mountains and the ocean vistas, Nagasaki is best known for its somber history – the city was devastated by an atomic bomb during World War II. This important moment is memorialized at the Nagasaki Bomb Museum. For a 360-degree view of today’s Nagasaki, ride a cable car to the summit of Mount Inasa. You can also take a boat tour to Hashima Island, an abandoned island also known as “Battleship Island” that doubled as a Bond villain’s lair in the film Skyfall.
Where to Stay: Try Richmond Hotel Nagasaki Shianbashi (recommended for its location and cleanliness) and Fujiwara Ryokan (recommended by travelers for its location, value and warm service), both bookable on TripAdvisor.
Insider Tip: Dine at restaurants like Shirairo to sample local specialty Champon (pronounced ‘Chan-pon’), Nagasaki’s regional noodle dish made with fried pork, seafood, vegetables and chicken.
Highlights: This resort town perched on the northern part of Mount Fuji surrounds Lake Kawaguchi, one of the famous Fuji Five Lakes, and is home to many hot springs, bathhouses and scenic golf courses. Many hikers use Fujikawaguchiko as a starting point for climbing the volcano along the Yoshida Trail. And check out the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, which features exquisite music boxes and traditional instruments.
Insider Tip: Bring your camera and capture stunning views of red maple leaves – with Mount Fuji as a backdrop – during the Fuji Kawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival (Oct 31 – Nov 23).