10 Must-Visit Prefectures in Japan Waiting for You to Discover Them

10 Must-Visit Prefectures in Japan That Are Waiting for You to Discover Them 

Treat yourself to these hidden gems in Japan!

With eight regions and 47 prefectures, Japan is diverse enough to serve something different on every traveller’s plate. Tired of the same old itineraries in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka? Then maybe it’s time to give a chance to lesser-known prefectures in Japan. If anything, they can be just as spectacular as the ones you may already know about. From the northern to southernmost regions of Japan, we lay out our top picks for Japanese prefectures and the reasons we can’t wait to visit them. 

1. Hokkaido

Otaru Canal in Hokkaido Prefecture 

Located in the northernmost parts of Japan, Hokkaido Prefecture conjures images of frigid landscapes, hot spring baths, and delicious seafood feasts. The capital city of Sapporo, of course, is most known for its Snow Festival with towering sculptures of ice. For a winter holiday to remember, buckle on your ski boots and feel the chilly wind blow past as you descend the slopes of Niseko

Alternatively, you can hop on a snowmobile or fish for rainbow trout on a frozen lake at Rusutsu. Summertime brings its own set of outdoor activities as well. Come July, many tourists love to wander around the acres of lavender at Farm Tomita in Furano

Also read: 17 Unique Experiences to Add to Your Hokkaido Itinerary

2. Shizuoka

Green tea farm in Shizuoka Prefecture 

Famous for its green tea fields and sakura viewing sites, Shizuoka Prefecture boasts many activities for nature-loving travellers. You can take lovely photographs of the wisterias, azaleas, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and irises that appear at Hamamatsu Flower Park. Or head to Kawazu for their cherry blossom festival, where you can walk along a river lined with festive stalls and cherry trees in bloom — like a tunnel of pink! 

Taste the rare and tiny sakura shrimp from Suruga Bay, a local favourite that’s exclusive to Shizuoka. Then cap off your sightseeing at Miho Beach, where you can greet Mt. Fuji from a different angle, rising over a bay of black volcanic sand. 

3. Nagano

Must-Visit Prefectures Japan

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture 

For winter attractions that look straight out of a fairytale, Nagano Prefecture has dreamy castles, sleepy mountain villages, and alpine ranges in Japan. For this reason, it’s perfect for day-tripping adventures through the great outdoors! 

After sightseeing around Matsumoto Castle, you can set out for the hiking trails in Norikura Kogen or Kamikochi. Bask in nature’s soothing aura at Shiraito Waterfall and Kumoba Pond in Karuizawa, only an hour away from Tokyo. Better yet, meet the red-faced Japanese snow monkeys bathing in the onsen at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi. Just don’t touch or feed them! 

Also read: Winter in Japan: 10 Best Things to Do in Nagano & Niigata

4. Kanagawa

Must-Visit Prefectures Japan

Lake Ashinoko in Kanagawa Prefecture

If you’re familiar with Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print depicting a towering wave, then you must take a day trip to Kanagawa Prefecture — at least, to see what the hype is all about! Like many coastal prefectures in Japan, Kanagawa lets you witness plum festivals, nightly illuminations, scenic train rides, and postcard-worthy views by the sea. 

Try the hot spring baths in Hakone or experience the serene boat rides in Lake Ashinoko. Otherwise, go for a leisurely stroll through the waterfront of Yokohama, where the giant Ferris wheel will surely light up your evening!

5. Toyama

Must-Visit Prefectures Japan

Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture | Image credit: hans-johnson

It’s hard to list down all the highlights that make Toyama Prefecture worth the trip, but here’s one you shouldn’t miss: the annual tulip fair at Tonami Tulip Park! The millions of tulips blanketing the fields in Hanazono is this prefecture’s claim to fame. More than floral sights in this prefecture, you can also climb aboard the Kurobe-Tateyama Alpine Route, a train for spectacular views of the Tateyama Mountain Range

Depart for the town of Uchikawa, dubbed the “Venice of Japan” for its townhouses and picturesque bridges over the river. Make a stop in your itinerary at Amaharashi Beach, where you can glimpse the snow-capped peaks of Tateyama Mountains from the shore.

6. Gifu

Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture | Image credit: Colin Tsoi 

Anyone looking through photos of snow-dusted villages and pine forests of Gifu Prefecture might easily mistake them for Swiss chalets. But the thatched roofs of these traditional homes set the scene firmly in Shirakawa-go, a Japanese folk village that was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Within the same prefecture, you can gaze in awe at the 800-year-old Gifu Castle, a majestic fortress looming over the capital city. Check out the artisanal crafts at the morning markets of Takayama, a merchant town that will make you feel like no time has passed since the Edo period! 

7. Ishikawa

Higashi Chaya District in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture | Image credit: Benh LIEU SONG

Boasting historic towns and castles in the age of the samurai, Ishikawa Prefecture provides a walkthrough of Japan’s feudal history. Most of these preserved buildings can be found in the capital city of Kanazawa, often called a “little Kyoto.” 

Highly recommended attractions include the fountains and sprawling flowers at Kenrokuen Garden, the regal Kanazawa Castle Park, and the streets of Kanazawa itself. Make a beeline for the teahouses and museums that line the Higashi Chaya District, which has kept its old-world charms to this day. 

8. Fukuoka

Kawachi Fuji Garden in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture

Whether you’re exploring Japanese parks or bouncing through the buzzing nightlife of Canal City, it’s safe to say that Fukuoka Prefecture has a little bit of everything thrown in. For natural scenery, there are the seasonal flowers at Nokonoshima Island Park and the wisterias at Kawachi Fuji Garden in Kitakyushu

Meanwhile, art lovers can spend hours at the Fukuoka Art Museum gawking at Yayoi Kusama’s polka-dotted pumpkins. Cat people, of course, are more than welcome to frolic in the purr-fect paradise in Ainoshima Island, otherwise known as “Cat Heaven Island,” where you can hang out and befriend the stray cats roaming the island! 

9. Saga

Must-Visit Prefectures Japan

Mifuneyama Rakuen in Takeo, Saga Prefecture | Image credit: Mifuneyama Rakuen Official Facebook Page

Joining a hot air balloon festival, admiring Japanese handicrafts, and eating the finest beef in the land are only some of the exciting activities you can do in Saga Prefecture. Saga is one of the most underrated prefectures in Japan, yet it holds countless visual delights! 

Drop by the flower gardens in Mifuneyama Rakuen, covering over 500,000sqm in Takeo. Take a boat across the Ariake Sea to admire the red torii gates of Ouo Shrine, submerged in the water near the town of Tara. Watch rainbow-coloured balloons float into the skies during the Saga International Balloon Fiesta, held from late October to early November. 

10. Okinawa

Must-Visit Prefectures Japan

Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture 

Not to be outshone by the wintry prefectures of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture is an archipelago that enjoys a sub-tropical climate. It comprises more than 160 islands, which are loved for their white-sand beaches, coral reefs, mangrove forests, turquoise waters, and impressive rock formations. 

Embark on glass-bottomed boat tours across Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island, or chill out in the pristine sands and gentle waves at Emerald Beach and Manza Beach. As you soak up the sun in this southern prefecture, don’t forget to dig your fork into Okinawan soba, too! 

Also read: First Time in Japan: I Travelled to Okinawa and Didn’t Regret It

If it weren’t for the ongoing global health crisis, we’d be just about ready to pack our bags and move into these wonderful prefectures in Japan! But while these places may look tempting — and boy, are they tempting us right now — let’s wait until everything smoothens out, and we can travel to Japan with full confidence and assurance of our safety. 


Featured image credit: Mizrak | Flickr. 

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary.

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