If you’ve never been to Japan, or if you’ve only stuck to the big city while there, you’re missing out on some gorgeous areas that are easy to get to by car. And the best part is that the attractions themselves aren’t the only spots worth your time, as even the views from the road are nice to look at! So if you’re in search of a great way to get to know Japan by car, grab some friends who love to travel and check out these tips on the ultimate road trip around the country.
Marvel at local architecture in Kanazawa
Begin your Japanese road trip on the central eastern coast of Kanazawa. This city is known for having lots of historical attractions, including old restored homes and contemporary museums to check out. But its most popular attraction is Kenroku-en, which is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The other two gardens are called Kairaku-en and Koraku-en, and they’re located in other cities. Kenroku-en is said to be a garden that combines six traits the perfect garden should have: serenity, spaciousness, scenic views, coolness, subtle design, and venerability. So stop by here to take some pictures with your friends and figure out if this garden really has all six traits! As you leave Kanazawa, be sure to visit some of the neighboring rural villages to see how life is outside the bigger cities.
Go to Gokayama for scenic views
Your next stop should be in Gokayama, which is a little further inland. As you drive away from the coast toward Gokayama, you’ll see lots of peaceful trails within lush forests, surrounded by waterfalls and mountain peaks. Once you reach Gokayama, be prepared to take pictures of its unique housing style, called Gassho-style. These houses are built by villagers in such a way that they can withstand local weather conditions, such as ensuring the roof is sloped steeply enough to let snow fall off it quickly. So don’t expect all the houses in Japan to match this intriguing style!
Head to Ainokura to see more unique homes
Ainokura is a short drive away from Gokayama. Once you arrive, you’ll be met with a quaint, welcoming village that has its own collection of Gassho-style homes similar to Gokayama’s. But this area is surrounded by an even denser forest that often invites fog, making this village even more breathtaking and surreal.
Continue your Japanese road trip in Kamikochi
You’ll need to start driving closer to the center of Japan to get to Kamikochi. This trek will take you on some beautiful winding roads with amazing views of nature, complete with a nearby river to look at on the trip. When you arrive, you’ll instantly feel at peace as the quiet of nature envelops you. Whether you relax at a nice resort here or take a hike through the forest, you’ll enjoy your stay with friends in Kamikochi.
Enjoy all there is to do in Karuizawa
Another spot with some peaceful resorts is Karuizawa. Set in the center of Japan, the lodging here offers amazing views as well as plenty to do, such as taking peaceful walks, riding a bike, or golfing. There are also museums, stores, and restaurants galore, so you’ll always have something fun to do with friends. And if you come when there’s snow – typically anywhere from November to May – you can go skiing in Karuizawa!
Travel to Tokyo for your last stop in Japan
No road trip around Japan is complete without a stop in Tokyo! Just make your way to the Pacific coast of this country and get ready to have a blast. Here you’ll see a little of everything, from modern skyscrapers and educational museums, to historic temples and architectural marvels you can’t see anywhere else. So go to the top of the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree and take some pictures of the views. Then head to the historic Imperial Palace for a tour, or to Ueno Park to visit the lake, zoo, and museums within.
As you can see, there is a lot to do all around Japan. That means all you need is a car, some friends, a map, and these suggestions on where to go first!