Must-See Non-Tourist Attractions in Japan

Tourist in Japan

Photo by scion_cho on Flickr

Any time you visit another country, you’re going to find yourself out of your element. Because of that, you are somewhat at the mercy of others to give you the information you need to get around and have a good time. Whether you’re looking for food, lodgings, or entertainment, you’ll have to rely on guidebooks, tour guides, locals, the concierge, and more experienced travelers to tell you where to go and what to see. But what will likely end up happening is that you will get funneled to a slew of tourist traps that are crowded with foreigners like yourself and populated with vendors selling overpriced goods.

So when you journey to Japan, you might be okay with visiting some of the major attractions, but at some point you’ll probably want to get a more intimate portrait of the locale you’re visiting. So here are just a few must-sees you might want to check out when you’re sick of the tourist draws during your Japanese vacation.

Kurama Onsen

Kurama Onsen - Kyoto

Kurama Website

Located outside of the historic city of Kyoto, this relaxing locale will deliver a respite from the hustle and bustle of your normal touristy activities. Onsen is the term used for hot springs, and considering that hot, hot baths are a common form of relaxation in this island nation, the onsen are (ahem) hot spots for locals. Just so you know, though, many of these public baths require you to go in au naturel (and everyone else will be naked, too). And some may have no-tattoo policies.

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge Tokyo

Photo by danielfoster437 on Flickr

Everywhere you turn in the massive city of Tokyo you’ll find yourself bombarded by tourist attractions. And while there are a lot of ways to see the city virtually for free (visiting parks, historical sites, and so on), you’ll still find yourself in crowds just about everywhere, and the crush of human bodies gets old pretty quickly. But if you want to get a gander at the city without having to join a tour group, check out the view from centralized Rainbow Bridge. With stellar views of Mt. Fuji, the harbor, and the famous Tokyo skyline it will feel like you’ve seen the whole city in one fell swoop.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen

Photo by roybuloy on Flickr

Originally designed as a residence for the daimyo Naito and his family, this incredible park in the central Tokyo ward of Shinjuku was actually destroyed during WWII, and later rebuilt and opened to the public. With three different gardens to see (French, English, and Japanese) and an incredible 20,000 cherry blossom trees (which bloom in early spring), this free attraction is one that you won’t want to miss.

Local markets

Japanese market

Photo by pixelhut on Flickr

Natives don’t frequent the tourist markets when seeking foodstuffs, clothing, electronics, or used engines (for example). They hit up local malls and public marts that host a variety of vendors offering goods at reasonable prices. In most cases you can find just about anything you’re looking for (except for the tchotchkes that pander to tourists) and you may have an easier time haggling than you would at overpriced tourist traps. So ask around and find yourself a local mall or bazaar to spend a day engaging in the traditional Japanese art of selecting gifts to bring your family and friends.

Author Bio

Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for , where you can find a variety of motors and other car parts and accessories.

2 Responses to “Must-See Non-Tourist Attractions in Japan”

  1. Love & Adventure  on August 15th, 2012

    We loved visiting Shinjuku Gyoen and lots of onsen during our trip to Japan!

  2. Travis  on August 15th, 2012

    We missed Shinjuku Gyoen the last time we were in Tokyo. Just too many cool things to see in only a few short days :) Will have to hit it up next time.

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