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Local Search Tips for Planning a Trip in Japan

Whether it’s a month-long vacation or quick weekend getaway, instead of jetting off abroad, how about traveling within Japan? GaijinPot gives you advice on how to research your trip and get the best out of it.

By 3 min read

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 国内旅行こくないりょこう (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: ふゆ (winter), はる (spring), なつ (summer) or あき (autumn). Outside of that, when researching the best places to see, words like 見所みどころ  (notable places), 観光かんこう スポット(tourist attractions) and the verb 見物けんぶつ する (to sightsee) tend to come up a lot. You will also see these kinds of words attached to the adjective 主要しゅよう 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 自然しぜん (nature) or 自然のアトラクション (natural attractions) instead of 町並まちなみ (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 — 穴場あなばスポット (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 産地さんち (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 特産とくさん (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 風習ふうしゅう and local customs as 地域ちいきのしきたり, especially if these things have a 本場ほんばの (authentic) feel or 歴史的れきしてきおもむき(historical interest). Also keep an eye out for the signal word 由緒ゆいしょ that denotes a place with a long and distinguished history, often found in the form 由緒ただしい (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!

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