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If you’ve booked an upcoming trip to Japan, there’s no doubt Tokyo will be part of your experience. As Japan’s largest city, it’s also the country’s most popular tourist destination.

Once you arrive, there’s no doubt you’ll stay busy. With some of the best restaurants in the world, unique shopping and nightlife, and hundreds of curious streets to explore, you could spend an entire trip in this city and still feel like you’ve barely touched it.

However, you might be a traveler that’s looking for adventure outside Japan’s capital.  Not everyone gets a chance to leave Tokyo and explore Japan’s ancient temples and lesser-known cities, which all have just as much culture and adventure to share with you as Tokyo.   

Here are 3 must-do destinations outside of Tokyo that you might not have thought to explore:

  1. Kyoto

Although not quite as large and populated as Tokyo, Kyoto is still one of the country’s most popular places to visit.

  • First, travel to Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Temple of the Golden Pavillion. In Kyoto, you might hear some people refer to it as Rokuonji, its previous name. Regardless, it has charmed both visitors alike with three stories full of ancient Buddhist artifacts, and stunning architecture right on the water.
  • Perhaps you’re traveling to Japan with an interest in anime and manga. If so, the Kyoto International Manga Museum should be an essential part of your visit if it isn’t already! Inside a building that used to be an elementary school, this museum opened in 2006 with more manga than you could ever dream of.

Keep in mind that most copies will be in Japanese. But this is the perfect place to learn more about one of the country’s most popular art styles and take home a souvenir.

If you’re still looking for  what to do in Kyoto, there are many other temples, amazing restaurants, and coastal views. We didn’t even mention the House of the Geishas!

  1. Tohoku

Nothing is quite as charming in Japan as Tohoku, or Northeast Japan. Travelers looking for the country’s most stunning views will be missing out if they don’t travel through this enormous region filled with hidden gems.

No matter the time of year, the Tohoku region is famous for snug communities nestled between vast oceans and gorgeous mountains. It’s the perfect place to escape the city and get a breath of fresh air.

  • If you’re visiting in winter, spend a day at Nyuto Onsen Village. Step into a traditional onsen, and soak up the natural spring water as snow falls around you.
  • If visiting in early August, you won’t want to miss Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Festival. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of a regional tradition, and one of the world’s must mesmerizing spectacles. You can expect high-energy parades with enormous handcrafted electric float displays – it’s unlike any other tradition in the world.

While there are other Nebuta festivals in Japan, the Aomori festival is by far the most spectacular. You’ll never your trip to Aomori! Just keep in mind that hotel reservations sell far in advance.

  1. Kakamura

If you love history you can’t skip Kakamura, a seaside town famous as the military capital of Japan. This is where samurai culture blossomed, but it’s also celebrated as one of the birthplaces of Zen Buddhism. You can expect not only centuries of history, but also stunning landmarks and photo op’s.

  • Stand in front of Kotokuin, or “The Great Buddha,” a Buddhist landmark that looks down upon you from over 40 feet!
  • Head over to Enoshima, a small island you can reach by the bridge that’s famous for breathtaking coastal views!