Discover Western Japan's Hidden Gems

Of Japan’s four primary islands, Honshu is the largest and most populous and is often considered the nation’s mainland. There are a medley of destinations to visit on this island, but some of its most culture-rich locations are in its southern half, spanning from the Hokuriku region, through Kansai, and then down to Chugoku. A majority of the transportation in this part of the country is operated by JR West, and to optimally explore the area, they offer the JR West All Area Pass. This pass allows for unlimited access to a number of different railways, bus routes, and even ferry boats in the area for seven whole days.  

With the All Area Pass, there will be no stones left unturned in West Japan. With one whole week’s worth of sightseeing available at one price, it’s hard to find a better deal for an unforgettable trip to Japan! Take a look at some of our favorite destinations in the northern and southern parts of West Japan in the two articles below! Be it the high-speed Shinkansen bullet train, the more leisurely, but just as efficient local trains like the Thunderbird Express, JR local lines and buses to reach the spots more off the beaten path, and even the ferry out to Miyajima in Hiroshima for one of the most iconic spots in the entire country, rest assured your time exploring Japan with the JR West All Area Pass will be convenient, affordable, and filled with memories. 

JR West

The view is characterized by a long-reaching sandbar that serves as a land bridge that connects the two ends of the bay. It’s best seen by the number of different observation points that allow for an overhead view. The land bar itself is lined with over 7,000 pine trees, along with the Isozhimizu Freshwater Well, whose waters have been cherished since the Heian Period in Japan and are even cited as one of the best 100 freshwater springs in the country. 

Also on the coasts of Kyoto’s northern area is the quaint village of Ine. Ine is a fishing village about a two-hour direct bus ride away from Amanohashidate. Naturally, the town's primary industry is fish and seafood, and here, a bounty of deliciously fresh seafood can be found being prepared at the docks and on the plates of local restaurants.

Amanohashidate vue du ciel

Amanohashidate vue du ciel

©unknown

Ine Fishing Village

@Wikimedia

One of the best spots to see this is, naturally, the Nara National Museum, only a 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station. Artifacts illustrating Japan’s culture throughout the many centuries can be found here, including historic paintings, wooden Buddhist statues, arts depicting historic Japanese Shinto deities, and more!

Another great thing about the museum is that it’s located right in Nara Park, a location synonymous with the city of Nara as a whole! There is a ton to do in the park, the most famous being interacting with the wild-roaming deer! These deer are notable for their distinct behavior, as they are very used to human interaction, though it's best to practice proper caution and etiquette, as the deer are still wild animals who should be treated with respect, and their familiarity with visitors means they can be a bit aggressive at times.

Let's feed natural deers in Nara Park!

Grand Buddha de Nara

123RF_Surachet Shotivaranon.jpg

Of the most definitive places to visit, the Shinsekai district has one of the most distinct atmospheres. The name "Shinsekai" actually translates to “new world,” making it somewhat ironically named, as, in the modern day, it’s primarily known for its retro vibes, largely unchanged aesthetically from 1912 when it was first established. Simply taking a stroll through the area feels as if going back in time, with neon lights and narrow alleyways lined with restaurants and shops. Also to be found here is one of the most definitively urban views in Japan, where the silhouette of the cityscape perfectly frames Osaka Tower in the distance.

Shinsekai in Osaka

Shinsekai in Osaka

@flickr/ Domenico Convertini

Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamamoto in Osaka, Japan

Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamamoto in Osaka, Japan

@Wikimedia

In Okayama City, Koraku-en, one of the three great gardens of Japan, can be visited; the other two are Kenraku-en in Kanazawa and Kairaku-en in Mito City! Koraku-en Garden was founded around 300 years ago by the local Samurai authorities at the time. At the center of the garden is a structure called Enyo-tei House, originally erected as a living quarter. Within the garden, there is also a Noh theater and a tea plantation. A must-see event during the summer and fall is the limited illumination event known in English as the “Late Night Garden of Dreams,” where candles and other light fixtures light up the garden at night.

Koraku-en Garden in Okayama

Koraku-en Garden in Okayama

@Wikimedia

Canal boat ride in Kurashiki Bikan Historic District, Okayama

Canal boat ride in Kurashiki Bikan Historic District, Okayama

@Wikimedia

For those coming to Hiroshima, the sites erected to commemorate the attack in 1945 truly are must-visits. “The Atomic Bomb Dome” is likely the most iconic of attractions. This is a building that was present on the day of the attack and, as such, took damage that is actually visible today. While there was damage sustained, the core structure stood, and the building was left as it was on that day as a reminder of the events. The site of the building against the skyline of contemporary Hiroshima is both haunting and hopeful, a reminder of the city’s past juxtaposed with the lively urbanscape it is today. Also in the area is the memorial park, with its number of different attractions to see and a museum, all of which are also worth a visit.

The "Genbaku Dome" in Hiroshima

The "Genbaku Dome" in Hiroshima

@Wikimedia

Miyajima

Le grand torii de l'île de Miyajima

Wikimedia Commons

For many, climbing an entire mountain may seem like a heavy task, but for residents of Toyama, climbing the fabled natural landmark is a rite of passage, often done in late elementary school to middle school. Ascending up to the mountain’s peak can be done in around 2 hours from the Murodo Terminal, which is accessed via bus. At the top of the holy mountain, Oyama Shrine is composed of three different structures, all in dedication to the gods of Mount Tateyama. And of course, the view from the top of the mountain is the perfect thing to refresh after the journey up.

Back more towards sea level, Toyama is also a prefecture with a lauded art culture, in particular its glass arts that are on best display at the Toyama Glass Art Museum, near the center of Toyama City. The building also actually doubles as the city’s main public library.

Toyama Glass Museum

Toyama Glass Museum

@Wikimedia

Mount Tateyama

Mount Tateyama

@Wikimedia

Take a visit to Kenroku-en, one of the other three great gardens of Japan, alongside the previously mentioned Koraeku-en in Okayama. This garden features a unique layout with varying elevations throughout and a number of beautiful ponds and fountains. There are also charming tea houses and cafes around, and at night during spring and fall, special illumination events are held to display the cherry blossoms and then the autumn leaves, respectively. These illuminations are often free of charge and allow visitors to leisurely stroll through the park with the cool transitional season breeze.

Head down one of the slopes leading from Kenroku-en and visit the lauded 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The building consists of a number of large glass panels and a circular-shaped structure. Inside, different hallways wind throughout, with different rooms displaying a number of exhibits.

Kenrokuen

Kenroku-en in early fall

@Wikimedia

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

@Wikimedia

Past Kanazawa, stops at Komatsu and Kaga Onsen in Ishikawa, and then Fukui City and Echizen Takefu will become available, along with even more! And at the terminus will be the city of Tsuruga! Tsuruga is actually the only port city that can be found in central Japan, and the nature of such a city can be found throughout the city. Take a look at its distinct red-bricked warehouse as a representation of such! But being a seaside port city means that beautiful beaches line the coast. Tanoura Beach, in particular, is a popular option for those both in Kansai and Hokuriku and is a great spot to relax and take in the sites of the Japan Sea! 

Another benefit of its coastal location is the abundance of quality seafood. Pay a visit to Nihonkai Sakai Machi, a market offering great local seafood, with the famous crabs of Fukui being a particular standout. Indulge in the delicacies of Fukui right at the market, direct from vendors or food stalls selling things such as sushi and kaisendon! 

Tsuruga

Tsuruga

@Wikimedia

Fukui Crabs

Fukui Crabs

@Wikimedia

One of the standout features of the onsens at Kinosaki is that all seven allow for tattoos, something that isn’t standard at more traditional bath houses. 

Aside from the calling-card hot springs, visitors can also make their way up the Kinosaki Ropeway that ascends Mount Daishi. Naturally, there is a great panoramic view to see from the cable car as well as from the top of the mountain, and hidden away in the mountain foliage is Onsenji Temple. The temple was initially built in 738 AD, and around that time, it served as a pilgrimage site for those wishing to visit the onsen town. There is also an option for hiking part way up the mountain for those with more time and who wish to spend some quality time with nature.

Onsenji Temple

Onsenji Temple

@Wikimedia

Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen

@Wikimedia

During winter, a distinct scene of golden sand mixed with stark white snow creates even more wonder. In the warmer months, visitors can even take a ride on camels, something most would never expect to do on a trip to Japan! 

But the sandy wonders of Tottori go beyond just the dunes. Nearby, the Tottori Sand Museum is like no other. Very impressive, grandiose sand sculptures are on display, utilizing sand taken from the dune area. The museum itself is closed from January to part of April, but there is a new thematic exhibit every year, often taking inspiration from world destinations. Examples of previous exhibitions include dedications to the scenery of China, the United States of America, and Ancient Egypt!

Tottori Sand Museum

Tottori Sand Museum

@Wikimedia

Tottori Sand Dunes

Tottori Sand Dunes

@Wikimedia

As one of the few standing feudal castles in Japan. It even has the wooden structure of its main keep intact, while other castles in Japan have been reconstructed with a concrete basis. While it is a smaller castle compared to other ones found in Japan, its significance to Japanese history makes it fully worthwhile. 

One of the most lauded art museums, not only in Japan but throughout the entire world, the Adachi Art Museum presents beauty in art and craft in multiple ways. The most prominent is, naturally, the artwork.

Garden at Adachi Art Museum

Garden at Adachi Art Museum

@Wikimedia

Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle

@Wikimedia

Explore the best of mainland Japan with the JR West All Area Pass!

  • Included :
Regional Japan Rail Pass

Latest Articles

The Shinkansen network

The Shinkansen Bullet Train Network

The first Shinkansen was issued for public use in 1964, right before the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo that same year.

Biwa lake - Shirahige shrine sunset

Kyoto off the beaten path: see the ancient capital in a whole new way!

Kyoto as a destination needs very little in terms of introduction.

Shinkansen

Can I ride the Nozomi & Mizuho Shinkansen with the Japan Rail Pass?

The Shinkansen bullet train is hailed as one of the most premium and efficient means of rail travel in the entire world, making it a popular choice for visitors to Japan who are engaging in

See All (400)