Vote for your Top 10 Japan Travel Destinations for 2021
It's up to you to choose the very best in Japan. Voting closes on Nov. 16!
Each year, GaijinPot Travel compiles a list of Japan’s best destinations for the upcoming year based on current Japan travel trends and what local governments, business owners, and communities are doing to attract visitors. The 2020 list included wild river rapids, elegant train rides, and more cup ramen than you can ever imagine, but it was sacred Wakayama that won tourists’ hearts.
Due to COVID-19, people have been cooped up for far too long. Thus, 2021 destinations are for anyone looking for an escape. Quiet towns, secluded woods, mammoth lakes, and lonely mountain tops, whether you want to seek out rural Japan or discover the ultimate social distancing location, these spots are some of the very best you can find.
We’ve put together a list of 15 nominees, but ultimately there can be only 10. We’re leaving that part up to you! Cast your vote below using the arrows (you can upvote all 10 places that you’d like to see on the list) to help us whittle it down.
We’ll publish the final list in December. Keep an eye on this space!
Asuke, Aichi Prefecture
A traditional town with lantern-lit streets, century-old mom and pop shops, and a relaxing atmosphere, Asuke Town in Aichi is the perfect spot for couples wanting somewhere nice and quiet to visit. Amateur photographers and Instagrammers alike won't want to miss Korankei Gorge, where one can marvel at breathtaking, vibrant colors in autumn or brilliant snow-covered leaves in winter.
Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture
A whimsy natural wonder, Kameiwa Cave looks like it was sent from the heavens to be on Instagram. It’s found in the Boso Peninsula, Chiba’s wild and beautiful region packed with beaches, caves, and luxury glamping sites. The coastline is especially beautiful, boasting emerald crystal clear waters with brilliant coral reefs.
You'll also find Japan's most massive stone Buddha in Mount Nokogiri, a popular retreat, carved in a mountainside and guarded by howling monkeys.
Choshi, Chiba Prefecture
Japan's best soy sauce comes straight from Chiba's Choshi City, but that's not all the charming city has to offer. The historic Choshi Dentetsu Railway features scenic views from cabbage fields, crashing sea capes, and even European architecture. Choshi is perfect for a day out sightseeing, shopping, or cycling.
Fuji Five Lakes, Yamanashi Prefecture
The iconic symbol of Japan doesn’t look much better than as a backdrop for Lake Kawaguchiko. But why limit yourself to one radiant lake? The Fuji Five Lakes are Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko. Each is beautiful, and each offers its unique view of Fujisan. Pick your favorite, and plan a day of climbing, hiking, camping, fishing, and even snow sports.
The surrounding towns and villages are known for the healing mineral waters of their onsen. If you find yourself getting bored, record-breaking roller coasters and terrifying haunted houses await you in Fuji Q Highland.
Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
You can never get enough of Hakone. Temples and shrines, natural wonders, volcano-cooked eggs, pirate ships, unusual museums, traditional onsen, and even onsen filled with green tea or coffee; it has everything you love about Japan and then some. Although more popular than ever, there is still loads more to discover in Hakone.
There is just so much of Kagawa that's great, it's difficult to pick just one place. It's the final stop for travelers on the grand Shikoku Pilgrimage, a spiritual journey through Shikoku to visit 88 different Shingon Buddhist temples.
Okubo-ji, the final temple, is found in quiet Sanuki, a small getaway town with coastal vistas, nature walks, and olive-infused cuisine. Other famous sights in Kagawa include Shodoshima's Angel Road, and Naoshima, "where nature and art coexist."
Obama, Fukui Prefecture
Take a temple hopping trip to Obama, aka "Nara By The Sea." The coastal town has hundreds of historically rich temples such as Mantoku-ji, Myotsu-ji, Jingu-ji, and Bukkoku-ji. Visitors can even participate in meditation along with monks, or join the firey Omizu Okuri Festival.
If the outdoors is more your speed, Obama's cycling, hiking, and fishing tours will be more than enough to keep you entertained.
Okutama, Tokyo Prefecture
Ditch the crowded and busy streets of Tokyo for...Tokyo! It's easy to forget that Okutama is within the capital's borders. Still, you'll soon forget once you're sport fishing, hiking, canyoning, or exploring one of the charming small towns of the region.
Of particular note is the magnificent Mount Mitake. The mountain is home to several historical temples where hikers can rest and even stay overnight.
Nakagawa and Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture
Tochigi's peaceful Nakagawa and Otawara are quaint fishing and farming towns producing several of your favorite foods in Japan, including mango, tea, kiwi fruit, and coffee. Popular with anglers and campers, but also increasingly popular for tourists seeking a rustic experience. In Otawara, you can stay with a real farming family, working with them in the fields, and learn what life is truly like in rural Japan.
Rental Mountain Yama, Miyazaki Prefecture
Ever wanted to own a mountain? Well, now you can! Glamping is all the rage, especially in Japan, but being trendy brings a lot of crowds. King Tourism Japan offers campers a whole mountain located in Miyazaki, complete with an enormous Western-style log cabin and even a pizza oven. Talk about social distancing!
Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture
Pristine white beaches, perfect water, friendly hospitality, Wakayama's Shirahama is ideal whether you're sunbathing, surfing, swimming, snorkeling, or just chilling. The atmosphere in the resort town is excellent. Food trucks and stalls line the roads, and lively outdoor bars light up the night.
Despite its popularity, Shirahama isn't very crowded most of the year. Even during summer, beaches are large and numerous enough to feel like you have one all to yourself.
Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
The mountainous city of Takayama has been producing high-quality timber from the surrounding Hide region for centuries. Home to carpenters and artisans of unparalleled skill, historical Takayama should be at the top of the list for anyone seeking a truly rural experience in Japan.
Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture
Sweeping mountains, forest, and refreshing hot springs; Toyooka has everything a nature lover could hope for and more. Such breathtaking natural wonders can be seen in the expansive San'in Kaigan National Park, home to Japan's only majestic oriental stork, and the unique honeycomb-shaped Genbudo Caves.
Whether you spend a night camping under the stars or lounging in an onsen, Toyooka is simply extraordinary.
Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture
Tsushima has sandy beaches perfect for sea kayaking or just lounging, but the island also has a treasure trove of secluded fishing spots and serene hiking trails. The island has strong relations with South Korea, and history buffs and gamers alike will enjoy touring the real-life locations featured in the game Ghost of Tsushima, such as Mount Shiratake and Komoda Beach.
Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa Prefecture
The beautiful Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa have been popping up on tourists' radars more and more. Each island is unique and offers a different experience. Snorkeling and watersports are plentiful, but you can also lounge on the beaches and gaze out at the emerald green and blue waters of Ishigaki or explore the exciting and secret jungles of Iriomote.
Take a boat ride to Kayama Island, where you can snorkel and camp on an uninhabited island. Well, uninhabited other than 500 wild rabbits.