The travelling mood can be experienced without going on a lengthy trip. Even while living in the city, Japan's advanced transportation network makes it easy to get to excellent tourist destinations quickly and without hassle. As travel within Japan is now becoming more popular than trips abroad, we've compiled a list of easy travel destinations that you can plan for 2- or 3-day weekend breaks. These are really convenient options, so perhaps you'll want to try some of them more than once. Developing a good relationship with particular inns or shops is a great way to discover the charms of new places.



    Reflect on local history from hot springs to spectacular views of Mt. Fuji

    What's the big appeal of Hakone? Some would say it's the hot springs that you can find throughout the area, while others think of museums or the scenery of Lake Ashi overlooking Mt. Fuji. Other highlights include the Hakone Ekiden race, golf, the Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint, and the Gotemba Premium Outlets shopping complex. So basically, Hakone has all kinds of appeal to different people, covering everything from nature to culture, history and sports. Right now, Miyanoshita, which was once a settlement for people from overseas, is proving to be hugely popular among young people tuned in to retro style. With unique shops, it's a fascinating part of the city to explore on foot.

    Location: Ashigarashimo-gun, Hakone-cho, Kanagawa Prefecture. Japan



    Enjoy a dream trip to Izu

    Izu is a dream destination for many thanks to its natural attractions such as the fish in Uchiura Bay, the primeval forest of Mt. Amagi, and Joren Falls. With its crystal-clear water, the area has become a magnet for divers in recent times, and the like of Hirizo Beach and Tanigawa Beach, which can only be accessed by ferry, are full of fish that novice and advanced snorkellers alike will be excited to see. Accommodations range from hot spring inns to highland resorts and luxury hotels with ocean views. Fresh seafood such as abalone and turban shells that can be obtained locally provide flavours that are unique to Izu.

    Location: Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan



    Take a trip back in time to Atami, where the mid-20th century lives on

    The symbols of Atami are the statues of Kanichi and Omiya, based on Koyo Ozaki's "Konjiki Yasha" story, which is set in Atami. This hot spring town could be seen as old-fashioned, a place for older generations only, but young people are also showing an interest in this unique destination. The retro cafes and restaurants are particularly popular for their hoardings and old-time atmosphere. The food and drink here seem to have jumped right out of old films and novels. Of course, this is something special for those who lived through the Showa era from which the area gets much of its inspiration. For the full effect, try discovering Atami with a stay at an old-fashioned hot spring inn and take a stroll down Atami Ginza Shopping Street.

    Location: Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan



    Explore the present and past of this classy area of decadent holiday villas

    Karuizawa is a bit exotic: it has romantic churches, museums, gardens, hotels, cafes, and restaurants. It's also widely renowned as a classy area full of luxurious holiday homes belonging to the rich and famous. In recent years, the Hoshino area where literary masters and artists from the Taisho era once gathered has been in the limelight. At Harunire Terrace, the shopping complex that serves as the gateway to the area, you can enjoy a gastronomic meal before taking a stroll along Old Karuizawa Ginza Street, which remains pretty much unchanged from times gone by.

    Location: Karuizawa Town, Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan



    A town of essential Japanese scenery that will mesmerise overseas visitors

    The side of Kamakura that's familiar to Japanese people is the area around the temples of Hase-dera and Meigetsuin, which look fantastic when wet with rain during the hydrangea season. Plus, there's the Great Buddha of Kamakura in the Kotoku-in temple. These symbols of Japanese culture are hugely popular with international tourists. The Enoshima Electric Railway, a popular setting for anime and films, is yet another hotspot. In particular, Kamakurakōkōmae Station attracts many visitors for its photogenic setting close to the sea. Elsewhere, the fashionable ambience at Zaimoku The Terrace and Yuigahama is perfect for trips and dates.

    Location: Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan



    Experience the hot springs that the locals love

    Kusatsu Onsen, one of Japan's leading hot springs, has a spacious outdoor public bath area. This was originally a bathhouse used by locals, but it's also open to travellers. A large enshrined source known as "Yubatake" sits in the middle of town and is lit up at night to entertain tourists. Gozanoyu, meanwhile, is a reproduction of a typical old public bath house where you can experience what it must have been like to bathe in the Edo and Meiji eras, and the facility has 2 different types of spring source to try. Before relaxing in a hot spring, make sure you fill up at one of the nearby old-fashioned restaurants. Rice bowl dishes, soba noodles, and Western-style foods can all be found here at reasonable prices.

    Location: Kusatsu, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma Prefecture, Japan



    Take a nostalgic hot spring tour with rural scenery and local art

    Yufuin is an old-fashioned hot spring town where you can see mountains and seemingly endless rice fields in the distance. Showa Retro Park Yufuin Showakan is a tourist facility that meticulously reproduces the Showa era. Travellers from the city can enjoy a cross-cultural experience simply by strolling along the riverside. Alternatively, take a walk around the Torikoshi area, with its many galleries, and you'll be struck by the synergy between nature and art. And what better way to relax than by soaking in the hot springs and tasting delicious local cuisine?

    Location: Kawakami, Yufuin Town, Yufu City, Oita Prefecture 879-5102, Japan



    Take a trip down memory lane in a world of traditional thatched roofs

    Hida Folk Village brings old-fashioned village life into the 21st century. There are houses with thatched roofs as well as interesting, restored buildings such as huts that were used for making charcoal and cultivating silkworms. The unusually shaped rice fields known as Kurumada are planted in late May. And then there's the exceptional scenery of Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site where you can learn about the origins and history of such villages. Shirakawa-go became a World Heritage Site not only for its impressive scenery, but also for the community spirit on show here.

    Location: Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan



    Enjoy a stroll with photogenic historical scenes at every turn

    Kenrokuen, a nationally-designated special scenic spot, is one of the 3 great gardens of Japan. Even outside the seasons when flowers are in full bloom, the distinctive look of the traditional protective ropes on the branches of the trees is quite famous, making this a must-see spot on any trip to Kanazawa. In fact, the whole city is really impressive. Start by walking from Higashi Chaya District, with its rows of historical buildings, to Kazuemachi Chaya District. The site of the Nagamachi Samurai Residence is a great place to reflect on the life of a samurai in this castle town. After that, you might want to visit Omicho Market and its surroundings, enjoy seafood straight from the Sea of Japan and local Kaga vegetables, and pick up some souvenirs such as traditional crafts made with Kanazawa gold leaf.

    Location: Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan



    A major tourist destination full of the charms of nature-rich Wakayama

    The beach of Shirarahama is the iconic image of the Shirahama resort. Most people think of visiting in the summer, but the beauty of Shirahama can also be enjoyed away from the beach. For example, there's the spectacular sunset on Engetsu Island (officially known as Takashima) that everyone wants for their social media profile. Get the angle just right and you'll be able to take an incredible shot of the sunset glaring through the hole in the rock. The 50-metre-high cliffs, 3-tiered wall and 3-tiered cave nearby are equally spectacular. Ohechi, which is part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail, also passes through here.

    Location: Shirahama-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan


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