You will not hear about Japan’s countryside too often, as it is quite underrated. Most people fall for urban flamboyance in the likes of the city’s nightlife and skyscraper malls. But, if you are a typical nature lover who likes green grass fields, enchanting scenic views, rice fields, and stunning sunsets; you will experience the authentic countryside lifestyle in these Japanese Villages.
This list of the Top 10 Japanese Villages for you to have a lifetime experience. The granular explanation of these villages along with the specialities of them like places to visit in these villages, where to stay, where to eat and so on.
Top 10 Beautiful Japanese Villages
- Shirakawago Village
- Takayama Village
- Shiiba Village
- Shimoguri Village
- Oshika Village
- Otama Village
- Tsurui Village
- Ine Village
- Taketomi Village
- Takko Village
Shirakawago or Shirakawa as it is known in the region, is a small village deep in the Japanese Alps in Ono district, Gifu Prefecture. This is the place where Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (where the Cicadas Cry) anime takes place, which is very famous in this region. Here, you will experience a unique architecture and culture with (ghasso-zukuri) large farmhouses with steep roofs.
These farmhouses stood the test of time and frosty weather for 250 odd years. Shirakawago is also known as “The Lost Shangri La.” Stay in one of the copious old farmhouses which offer lodging facilities and some are open to all for admiring its architecture and beauty.
The three famous villages in this region are Ogimachi Village, Ainokura Village, and Suganuma Village.
Did you know: This village along with Gokayama forms one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan.
- Best time to visit: Summer season is the ideal time to visit this rural paradise. That’s when the green and the rice patties get alive, a visual you just cannot afford to miss out on. You can also visit here in fall, but it is pretty chilled at night in the fall season.
- How to reach: Driving to reach here is the best mode of transport as you will encounter tunnels dug into hills. Else you can also take a bus from Takayama that takes about an hour to reach Shirakawago
Also See: Top 14 Most Beautiful Temples of Japan
Takayama, meaning “High Mountains” is a very picturesque location in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture. It is a tiny town in the rural setting in central Japan’s larger than life countryside. It is a must-visit village for those who seek to experience an off the beaten rural path in their Japan holiday itinerary. Here, you will get a very rustic and retro vibe while walking on the street.
If you are lucky enough, you will get to witness the Takayama festival wherein they celebrate spring and fall with parades. This Japanese village is also famous for pottery, lacquerware, and furniture. All this makes Takayama one of the best Japanese Villages to explore on the next tour to Japan
Did you know: This place is famous for the biannual Takayama Festival that is prevalent from the mid-1600s.
- Best time to visit: Again, summertime is the best season to visit Takayama owing to the ever amazing summer weather. However, rainy season (early summers) is equally tempting and enjoyable.
- How to reach: From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to JR Nagoya Station and then from there change to JR Takayama Station. It will take around 4 hours.
3. Shiiba Village
Shiiba is yet another hidden gem located in Higashiusuki district in Miyazaki Prefecture. It is a small village in the mountain region situated at the centre of the southern island of Kyushu. Shiiba is regarded as one of the Top 3 secret lands in Japan. Ancient buildings and lush green forests are the top attractions in this village. Residents here live in a very natural way of their own with strong connectivity with nature.
This village is quintessential of what people call a “simple and peaceful village life.” Shiiba village is very rich linguistically as it has many dialects coexisting. To sum it all in one phrase, Shiiba Village is one of the amazing Japanese Villages in the country
Did you know: Shiba got its name from the famous story of Hachiko, a loyal Shiiba dog who waited for his owner every day after his owner’s death for ten years.
- How to reach: By bus, it will take more than 2 hours to reach the nearest station here which is Hyuga JR. Car is a convenient option and takes less than 2 hours to reach Shiiba from major cities.
- Best Time to visit: Winters are very cold with heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures if it gets you going then visit here in winter. Summers are humid, but mountains in the vicinity make it a good season to explore this vintage heaven.
Also See: 25 Most Beautiful Islands of the World
4. Shimoguri Village
Shimoguri-no-Sato also knwon as Shimoguri Village is situated in Nagano Prefecture. Surrounded by the breathtaking views of beautiful mountains of the Minami Alps This village is often referred to as “Japan’s Tyrol”. Imagine a village setting, where people live on a 30-degree mountain slope in the Nagano Prefecture. Interspersed with arable land, houses are at 900-1200 metre above sea level, what a sight it must be from those village houses.
Well, nature’s most essential resources, sun and water are available in abundance here. The sunshine provides a conducive environment to grow potatoes, buckwheat, and other vegetables. There are only 48 households here with 93 residents and no shops in the village. So, if you are looking for some solitude during your vacation, then include Shimoguri village in your itinerary. This is one of the finest and classic secluded Japanese Villages in the country.
- Best time to visit: August-September is the best time to visit this village when the buckwheat flowers shine in the village’s sloping fields. In December, people celebrate the Shimotsuki festival, which is one unique experience in itself.
- How to reach: Take a highway bus to JR Lida station from JR Nagoya Station which will take 2 hours, then a local bus from Lida Station to Kamimachi which will take another hour, and finally a taxi to Shimogura-no-sato which will take 15 minutes
Fun Fact: There is only one eating establishment here, which is Hanbatei to satiate your starvation. Here women of the village take turns for cooking.
5. Oshika Village
Oshika is a village located in Nagano Prefecture and it carries the honour of featuring in the list of The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan. When the alliance of most beautiful village was formed in 2005, Oshika Village was comfortably sitting in that list. It has expanded since then and now features several attractions. This village is surrounded by majestic natural vistas of the Ina Mountain and Akaishi Mountain of the Southern Alps.
Despite having a population of just 1200 people, Oshika is known to host some of the highly contented and vivacious people of Japan. The village hosts events such as fireworks and craft markets on certain occasions.
The best part is its longstanding accommodative culture that stood the test of modernization phenomenon. The culture got a new life with modern traditions, but it retained past ones as well. You ought to get nostalgic after coming here, no matter from where you belong to. August here has highest temperature of the year (22-23 degrees Celsius) and January has the lowest (-1.5 degrees).
Did you know: Oshika village has a flag and an emblem of its own. The village emblem was adopted in April 1974. This village emblem forms the central portion of the blue village flag
- Heads-up: The village does not have any national railway system connectivity. You have to juggle between some buses and taxis
- Best time to visit: Oshika changes its colours as per the seasons. Spring welcomes the cherry blossoms, lush green scenery is what you will witness in summers. Snow covers the mountain in winters and fall, the trees embellish with autumn foliage. Choose your season
6. Otama Village
Otama is a picturesque village in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan. It sits at the central point of the prefecture with Japan National Route and Tohoku Expressway running through it. The surrounding is covered with copious rice and paddy fields, fruits, vegetables, and livestock. This little village with a big heart serves delectable local cuisine to urban travellers from around the world. This village is home to many hot springs (Onsen as they call it here).
Machu Picchu chose Otama village and inked a pact to be its sister city, adding another accolade to it, giving it yet another reason to boast of its scenic charms. This was made possible because of Yokichi, a Otama native who migrated to Peru and constructed the railway system there in 1917. Yokichi also built a hydraulic power plant and a hotel in Peru and worked as a chef there. Summers are pretty pleasant here and winters are very cold.
Did you know: Machu Picchu, a world heritage site in Peru out of several offers, chose Otama village of Fukushima and signed a friendship pact with them
7. Tsurui Village
Another rural diamond in the crown of Japanese Villages, this small village is located in Kushiro Subprefecture in Hokkaido city. Tsurui was founded in 1937 and is a breeding ground for red-crowned cranes, one of the 100 soundscapes of Japan. The point of difference with this village vis-a-vis its counterparts are its accessibility to Kushiro airport, which is a beautiful 30 minutes journey by car. This village is remotely located, yet thousands of visitors travel down here to experience the rural flamboyance of this amazing village setting. World’s rarest birds can be found here and breeding grounds close to the village.
Alastair Donnelly, the famous director described this village in his own words, “As the sun went down against a backdrop of pure white snow, the cranes started their graceful dance- It was an out of this world experience.” In the region nearby, there are two hills (capes), which are Kirakotan Cape and Miyajima Cape (sacred regions of wetland) which provides amazing scenes of meandering Kushiro river. The visuals here in the spring season are serene with blossoming cherry trees along with flora and fauna.
The winter provides visuals of thick snow covering the territory. In the fall season, mountains display different shades of autumn leaves in red and yellow colour. This gives you an impression as if you are in Swiss Alps and not in a Japanese village. These breathtaking visuals and romantic weather make it one of the must-visit villages in Japan.
8. Ine Village
Ine is a beautiful village setting that lies in Yosa District of Kyoto Prefecture. It is an ancient fishing village popular for famous funaya houses (boat Houses). Funaya houses are situated at the water’s edge and provide a breathtaking view from a traveller’s eye. The ground floor of these houses are used as garages for houseboats and the first floor is used as residential space. Some of these funaya houses are have been commercialized and you also can book your spot for a night.
If you want to take a break from life and try some fishing, then do pay a visit to Ine Village. To concisely sum up Ine village in a phrase, “Village of boat houses around a bay.” You should take the 25 minutes boat tour around the bay to enjoy the lovely surroundings. The shops and restaurants are not much in number here, but they serve some really amazing Japanese cuisine and seafood. Besides, Funaya no Sato Park, a roadside station provides all the necessary information to a tourist, and it is the hub of restaurants and shops. Needless to say, this is one of the rare gems in the Japanese villages category.
Did you know: Ine Village joined the list of Most Beautiful Villages in Japan in October 2008, adding another feather to its cap.
- Tip: To book a funaya house, you need to be there since it is not available on any international travel booking websites.
9. Taketomi Village
Taketomi is another amazing Japanese village in the Yaeyama District of Okinawa Prefecture. It is a much more reclusive and secluded village of Japan than its Japanese counterparts with a similar Japanese landscape. Taketomi has small paths that are lined with dry stone walls and low houses covered with tiles. A typical village atmosphere with unpaved lanes on roads, where you can only commute either on foot or by buffalo led cart. There are Yaeyama islands in the proximity of this village, which is another reason to visit this place as those islands will flabbergast you with its scenic charm. The houses in the village have red coloured tiles or red clay on their roof with shisa lions, which is quite attractive to many tourists. The best part is despite having low population and not so well off infrastructure, the village has around 30 Utaki (Holy places for worshipping).
10. Takko Village
Finally, last but not at all the least, Takko village which is situated in Aomori Prefecture in Japan. There are many schools of thought behind the origin and story behind the name of this village. The followed legacy is that it is originated from indigenous Ainu people’s word tapukopu which translates to “Low Hill.” The region is renowned for its garlic, the Takko Garlic. In fact, it is the largest producer of Garlic in Japan that too of premium quality. It takes ten months including winter season for the garlic to take the final shape.
The farming, forestry and livestock domains are also pretty prevalent here in this village adding significantly to its economy. There are watermills here as well which the residents praise a lot, they think of it as a symbol of their village. But unfortunately, with passage and test of time, only one watermill is alive. This sole watermill gives a priceless view of this hidden watermill village. These amazing features and attributes make Takko village one of the best Japanese villages to check out on your next visit to Japan.
This was the description of the best villages in Japan for our readers to get a perfect bird’s eye view of these exotic not so traditional villages. Hope you got some insights about these places and will now be in a better position to take a judicious call. This goes with a caveat that this is merely an exhaustive list of beautiful villages in Japan and there are many more, but we have tried and handpicked the best out of that amazing lot for you. Likewise, you will literally feel that you belong to these villages, once you reach here. Hope you find your inner self, if you’ve been searching for it everywhere. We at Lastminute hope you have a blissful experience on your village voyage in Japan.
Do let us know in the comment section below about your experiences of these villages in Japan. We would be happy to hear from the horse’s own mouth.