Local Search Tips for Planning a Trip in Japan
By Matthew Coslett
On August 30, 2018
Holidays. As soon as your summer ones are over most of us are already thinking about our next trip. Whether it is traveling around Honshu to follow the foliage, experiencing the snow in the north or enjoying the almost permanent summer of the south, there’s no doubt that visitors to Japan spend a good deal of time thinking about where to go next.
Of course, while many will be seduced by Southeast Asia’s charms and proximity, others definitely want to get the most out of their time in Japan with a little 国内旅行 (domestic travel), exploring up and down the archipelago. While it’s easy to simply pick up a guide book and research somewhere to go, often the more interesting places are found on blogs or sites aimed at locals.
Luckily, you don’t need to know that much Japanese to research any trip here. First, you’ll need to know when you want to go: 冬 (winter), 春 (spring), 夏 (summer) or 秋 (autumn). Outside of that, when researching the best places to see, words like 見所 (notable places), 観光 スポット(tourist attractions) and the verb 見物 する (to sightsee) tend to come up a lot. You will also see these kinds of words attached to the adjective 主要 な (major) to describe the really important, must-see places.
For visitors who are more into natural attractions than man-made ones, you may instead want to search for the word 自然 (nature) or 自然のアトラクション (natural attractions) instead of 町並み (streets). Some useful adjectives associated with these areas are words such as のどかな (peaceful), ひっそりとする (quiet) and — to really deep dive — 穴場スポット (hidden gems) to find the best areas for great escapes.
… often the most interesting places are found on blogs or sites aimed at locals.
One of the advantages of visiting a natural area is that they tend to have some delicious local snacks or produce you can’t get anywhere else. You will often see these tasty treats marked with the kanji 産地 (production area). For example, the Aomori region of Japan is often referred to as a りんごの産地 (producer of apples). If the thing that is produced is that locale’s specialty, it is referred to as 特産 (special product). For example, Kanazawa’s excellent varieties of local sake are its 特産.
Of course, not all areas are known for their specialty foods and nature. Others are known for their people and local customs. Customs are typically referred to as 風習 and local customs as 地域のしきたり, especially if these things have a 本場の (authentic) feel or 歴史的な趣(historical interest). Also keep an eye out for the signal word 由緒 that denotes a place with a long and distinguished history, often found in the form 由緒正しい (ancient and venerable).
While these are all interesting to research, the real fun — if you are anything like me — is actually experiencing these 穴場スポット. These are every traveler’s dream, the little known places and hidden gems that are awesome to discover. Finding these types of locations not only scores you cool points in the future, but if you find somewhere really interesting, it may even net you a job as a writer with Gaijinpot!
Know any good Japanese terms for discovering hidden gems to visit in Japan? Let us know in the comments!