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Mar 11, 2011 08:21 AM


Hello Japan Hounds!

I'm visiting this board for the first time in about ten years on the site, and so excited to be going to Japan for the first time!

Mr Gooseberry and I will be in Tokyo and Kyoto in April, but we'd like to add one or two nights in a third location. Usually when we travel to a new country (well, new to us!) we like to spend a little quiet time in a place off the beaten track, seeing how locals live, just hanging out. And obviously eating amazing food!

For a chowhound, where would you recommend we go to get a little lost and soak up the atmosphere? And any special food reccs while we're there?


And we're thinking of you all in Japan right now, and sending good wishes your way...

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  1. My favorite places to visit for fun and food are Fukuoka and Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a lot easier to get to (I think it's a two-hour express train from Kyoto) so that might be better for a short trip, and there's also more obvious sightseeing destinations. On the other hand Fukuoka will be warmer. There have been multiple threads on both cities regarding restaurants.

    1. I once visited Hakone (2 nights) and had a most wonderful time. Stayed at the Taiseikan Ryokan and enjoyed both the food (served in your room) and that baths there.
      During the intervening day we had lots of fun taking trains up and ski lifts down and the pirate ship across the lake... a full and wonderful day.

      5 Replies
      1. re: pauliface

        Hakone is certainly a relaxing weekend trip, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it as somewhere to see how the locals live - it's pretty much a tourist destination.

        1. re: Robb S

          you are definitely correct.

          Perhaps someone can recommend an onsen town more frequented by locals? With perhaps communual dining to boost that aspect?

          That said, most of the tourists we saw in hakone were also japanese, so it still felt off the beaten path to us (though this was shortly after 9/11 and no Americans were traveling, so maybe that was not the norm),

          1. re: pauliface

            My wife and I prefer the onsen resorts along the shoreline on the Izu peninsula.
            Its been a few years and cant remember the names of them. But they were much more expensive than the ones we have stayed at in Hakone-nicer rooms, private soaking pools, and exquisite kaiseki. Izu is also a place where a lot of wasabi is grown, so they sell wasabi products everywhere-try the wasabi ice cream!

            1. re: AdamD

              Wow! sounds nice -- I'll have to look into Izu for my next trip to Japan!

              Tell me.... do you know whether it's particularly nice in the fall?

              1. re: pauliface

                Fall is fine. Might be a bit chilly by the shore in the evenings.
                Fall would be an ideal time to head north and see Nikko national park. Some very nice onsen resorts up there as well.

      2. Without question an overnight stay at an onsen resort. They typically include a kaiseki style meal served in your room. They usually charge per person. They can get expensive. A four star place place might run you $300 a person.

        You will want one that has an en-suite hot spring if you want to spend time soaking with your SO. Unless you have a car you will need to chose a destination reachable by train. Hakone is nice, and you can do a mount fuji tour. I like the izu peninsula. Sitting in a hot spring with a view of the ocean followed by an exquisite meal.

        Not really a place to rub elbows with the locals, unless you go to a a place where the meals are served in a dining room, but even the most touristy onsens are a true Japanese experience and you will be served local dishes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AdamD

          Mt. Fuji climbing season does not start until May. Before then, in spring, it can be hazy and they will only take you as far as station 5- which is pretty much charmless. Autumn and winter are best times for viewing Mt.Fuji.

          Atami is the popular onsen town on the east coast of Izu. It was once a major honeymoon destination, until Japan's economy hit the big time and people started holidaying overseas. Atami still has a lot of resorts and supposed to be nice ryokan nearby. Ito and Shimoda are other east Izu desination spots. I think they are all better in the winter when the food will be enjoyable- especially kinmedai, which are caught off of the Izu hanto. Shirasu, tai, and dried fish are also good around those parts.

          If you want to rub elbows with locals, better to consider a minshuku, which are inns that are sort of a notch down from ryokan. They are more inexpensive and do large fixed mealtimes in a communal room- sometimes with local entertainment. Minshuku come in a lot of flavors, so you have to do some research to find a good one.

        2. I money is no object, fly from Haneda airport to Hokkaido. Hire a driver and stay at an onsen near the shore. Mountains to the right, ocean to the left (or vice versa), and some of the best food in all of Japan IMHO.

          2 Replies
          1. re: AdamD

            That was going to be my answer, too! I'd go to Hokkaido and eat a lot of seafood and dairy product. Keep in mind with some airlines, tourists can get cheaper add-on domestic flights--something like Y10 000 per flight. So you could do Tokyo-Kyoto-Hokkaido-Tokyo, and only pay about Y20 000 for the Kyoto-Hokkaido-Tokyo tickets, so it can be affordable

            1. re: prasantrin

              Kanazawa and Fukuoka are infinitely better food destinations than Hokkaido. Both those cities have unique local cuisines, along with rich culinary and cultural histories.

          2. Suggestions have been great, but as l did last year, added Okinawa. Markedly different. Much 'native' presence that has been maintained by the indigenous population.