Must-Visit Cultural Sites Outside the City 

Exploring Traditional Japan: Must-Visit Cultural Sites Outside the City  When everyone thinks about Japan, big bustling cities like Tokyo and Osaka usually come to mind. These cities captivate people with skyscrapers and neon lights. Stepping away from the urban areas, there is the true essence of Japan's cultural heritage that often lies in beautiful countryside and historic towns. Here are some must-visit cultural sites outside the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka that promise an amazing trip into traditional Japan. 
  1. Takayama 
Located in the Japanese alps, Takayama is an old town that was a very lively hub town during the Edo period. It is in the Gifu prefecture. Popular spots that should be visited are: 
  • Hida Folk Village: An open-air museum with traditional roof farmhouses and rural buildings from the Hida region. 
  • Takayama Matsuri: When visiting in spring or autumn, Takayama's 
  • Sanmachi Suji District: Often called “Little Kyoto”, this district is a historic area with its traditional inns, sake breweries and merchant houses. 
  1. Hakone 
Famed for its hot springs, scenic beauty, and views of Mount Fuji, Hakone is perfect for relaxation and cultural exploration. 
  • Hakone Open-Air Museum: An expansive park with works by international and Japanese artists. 
  • Hakone Shrine: Located on the shores of Lake Ashi, this Shinto shrine is known for its iconic red gate standing in the water. 
  • Owakudani Valley: Known for its active sulfur vents and hot springs, offering unique volcanic landscapes. 
  1.  Kyoto: The Heart of Traditional Japan 
Although technically a city, Kyoto's timeless cultural charm makes it a must-visit place for any traditional Japan tour. Especially, because it is home to a lot of traditional shrines and temples. There are over 2,000 temples and shrines. Must-visit sites include: 
  • Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): This Zen Buddhist temple, covered in gold leaf, is surrounded by a beautiful pond. 
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine: Famous for its thousand gates, this Shinto shrine offers a spiritual hiking experience with various souvenir shops and food stops. 
  • Gion District: Historic geisha district with its traditional wooden Machiya houses and teahouses. 
  1. Kanazawa: The Samurai and Geisha Heritage
Located on the west coast, Kanazawa offers a well-preserved glimpse into the Edo period, known for its samurai and geisha culture. 
  • Kenroku-en Garden: Regarded as one of Japan's most beautiful landscape gardens, perfectly capturing natural beauty. 
  • Higashi Chaya District: Step back in time in this geisha district with its preserved teahouses and unique streets. 
  • Nagamachi Samurai District: Explore the narrow lanes, earthen walls, and restored samurai residences.