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“It’s a crime to miss these!” 6 Hidden Gems in Japan That Should Be On Every M’sian’s Bucket List

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Source: @iamgimbo/IG & @prossimafermatagiappon/IG

We Malaysians really LOVE everything Japanese. From their high-quality food and products to eclectic anime and cultures, it’s no wonder so many of us have Japan on our travel bucket list. However, when we finally do get to travel there, there’s one thing we must never do: only visit tourist spots, which are far from the true Japan experience!

Instead, do as the locals do, and check out these off-the-beaten-path locales in Japan to get a taste of what a real Japanese holiday feels like!

 

1. Iya Valley: Home of the woven vine bridges

Jntomascots Iya Valley Bridge Drone Official

Japan is hardly short of natural escapades, but this secluded valley in the Tokushima Prefecture has a few highlights on its sleeves, most notably the three historical vine bridges of Iya Kazurabashi (as long as 45 meters! About 12 Myvi’s 😜) and the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi pair.

Legend has it that ancient locals used actual vines to create these bridges, so it’s easier to cut down in case of invaders – a true test for those with acrophobia a.k.a. fear of heights!

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That’s not all there is though, as Japan’s Grand Canyon has more to offer:

  • SIX majestic mountain ranges for nature lovers like you to explore, which can take either a few hours or days to finish, depending on how adventurous you feel.
  • To top it all off, finish your expedition with some onsen R&R at the Iya Onsen Hotel, boasting an open-air bath that lets you enjoy both the scenery, cool air and hot springs. Sounds so zen!

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Jntomascots Iya Valley Hotel

📌 Iya Valley, Tokushima Prefecture

 

2. Hozenji Yokocho Alley: The ultimate foodie lorong in Osaka

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You know what they say, if a lot of locals are queueing up to dine at Place A, then you’re in for a treat! Fortunately, there’s plenty of traditional eateries and classic izakayas (Japanese pubs) with that kind of reception along the narrow-ish cobbled walkway of Hozenji Yokocho Alley in Osaka Prefecture.

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With around 60 cafes, bars and restaurants, here’s a glimpse of what kind of feast you can expect at Hozenji Yokocho:

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Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M: Beer-fed cows that result in the best yakiniku (Japanese grilled meat) ever!

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After a few hearty meals, be sure to take a stroll through the lantern-lined alley and feel like you’re in an indie high art movie, as well as pay your respects at the titular Hozenji Temple to make your wish come true!

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📌 Hozenji Yokocho Alley, Osaka Prefecture

 

3. Kurashiki: Pamper yourself with history, art & beauty in Japan’s “Little Venice”

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From a tranquil boat ride through soothing waterways to discovering four centuries worth of history dating back to the Edo Period, history buffs who enjoy their holiday to be on the gentler side of life would LOVE Kurashiki (“town of storehouses”) in Okayama Prefecture.

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Jntomascots Kurashiki Canal Top

The storehouses of this former rice distribution centre have since been transformed into kissaten (tea-shops), boutiques, and – Kurashiki’s biggest highlight – museums.

  • Don’t miss the Ohara Museum of Art, the first Japanese museum to showcase European art alongside Chinese paintings and local folk artwork, before sipping hot tea along the canals of Bikan District.
  • Finally, tuck in for the night at a ryokan (traditional inn) for the quintessential Japanese experience.

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Ohara Museum of Art

Jntomascots Kurashiki Ryokan Kurashiki
Ryokan Kurashiki

📌 Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

 

4. Matsuyama: Home of the Spirited Away bathhouse!

Jntomascots Matsuyama Dogo Onsen

Not to worry, you won’t have to hold your breath to cross a bridge and enter Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture. It’s one of the oldest bathhouses in Japan (around 3,000 years old!), with ancient rumours saying that it’s a favourite imperial retreat due to its mythical healing properties.

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But, that’s not all Matsuyama City has to offer:

  • A wide array of shopping opportunities that’ll make any shopaholic weak in the knees, including the Okaido Shopping Arcade and Matsuyama Ropeway Shopping Street.
  • Decadent desserts and hearty local food, especially local favourites:
    • Botchan dango (skewered sweet mochi dumplings)
    • Taimeshi (sea bream rice dish, either slow-cooked with rice or served as sashimi)
  • Known for their mikan (mandarin oranges) like the rest of Ehime Prefecture, with more than 20 varieties that range from sweet to tangy and even bitter.

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Jntomascots Matsuyama Okaido Shopping Arcade

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Taimeshi

Fun fact: The capital of Ehime Prefecture is so famous for oranges, that there’s a bar in Matsuyama Airport which sells everything orange-related: juice from tap, gelato, jelly and more!

Jntomascots Matsuyama Orange Bar Shop

📌 Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture

 

5. Izu Peninsula: Beach vacay, here we come!

Jntomascots Izu Peninsula

Finally, somewhere that beach lovers can rejoice at, though there’s plenty more to enjoy at Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. It is known for its white sandy beaches and hot springs, in addition to breathtaking nature walks to waterfalls and majestic mountain ranges.

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  • Get your beach fix on at as many as seven beaches, with Iritahama Beach as the underrated beauty.
  • There are SO MANY hot spring resorts to savour, though these are pretty interesting:
    • Inatori Onsen: Sulfate hot springs that are good for skin and pain issues.
    • Amagiso Onsen: Thunderous waterfalls as the background.
    • Izu Nagaoka Onsen: Alkaline water that whitens skin and cures aches.

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📌 Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture

 

6. Yakushima Island: A magical ancient forest await in this hidden getaway

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Yakushima Island at Kagoshima Prefecture isn’t exactly unknown – it’s a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, after all – but because it’s not as accessible as the rest of Japan, you’ll experience solitude like never before.

Hiking through the vast ancient moss-covered cedar forest is as other-worldly as they come, with 7,000-year-old trees (affectionately called yakusugi by the locals) that contain so much history and daily rainfall that’s usually light and pleasant to freshen up your senses.

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End your day by watching the mesmerising sunset dip into the ocean, and snooze at Yakushima Island’s plethora of seaside lodges. If you’re lucky, you might even have the rare chance to witness sea turtles laying eggs along the shoreline.

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Lodge Yaedake Sanso

Jntomascots Yakushima South Village Airbnb
AirBnB in Yakushima South Village

📌 Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture

 

No wonder lah everyone wants to go Japan! Everything is so beautiful

Japan is truly one of the best destinations in the world, rich in culture, amazing food, unique experiences and gorgeous sightseeing that’ll guarantee a memorable holiday. If you want to travel to Japan on your next holiday, especially once the pandemic is over, we recommend familiarizing yourself with its prefectures so you can plan your dream holiday.

In fact, here’s a fun way that the Japan National Tourism Organization Kuala Lumpur (JNTO) came up with to help you learn more about Japan’s prefectures and win prizes at the same time:

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Introducing the Ready Go JAPAN! contest, where you can play minigames to win awesome goodies like the Sony Cyber Short camera, Apple Watch Series 7, and more!

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All you have to do is follow the below steps:

  1. Play three levels of a minigame to unlock and discover different prefectures in Japan.
  2. Finish the contest by completing the final challenge. (Tip: check out the prefecture after each game to get hints and win the last round.)
  3. Fill in your details and share them with your friends and family after the final challenge.
  4. Players with the shortest completion time will be in the running to win these prizes!

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Jnto Slide Banner 2

 

Win expensive goodies AND learn more about our favourite country? Count us in!

Hell Yeah Thats What Im Talking About

Hop on board and join the Ready Go JAPAN! contest today by clicking here. If you love Japan as much as we do, then it’ll definitely be worth your while. Contest ends 20th February.

 

Have you visited any of Japan’s prefectures before? Share them with us in the comments section!

Source: @iamgimbo/IG
Source: @mii6387/IG
Source: Japan Cheapo
Source: @nobu4901/IG
Source: Kyodo News
Source: Tokyo Cheapo
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Source: TripAdvisor
Source: AirBnB
Source: JNTO
Source: JNTO
Source: JNTO
Source: JNTO
Source: JNTO
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