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6 off-the-beaten-path road trips to take in Japan

Get more uncommon sights by driving around Japan.

Familiarise yourself with Japan’s road rules and road signs and get started on one of these road trips! (Photo: Gettyimages)
Familiarise yourself with Japan’s road rules and road signs, get off the beaten path and embark on one of these road trips! (Photo: Gettyimages)

Japan is one of the countries with the best public transport. While you can rely on its efficient transport system to get around, you may get more uncommon sights if you drive around instead.

However, driving in a crowded city like Tokyo can prove to be intimidating for some. Moreover, you must drive on the left in Japan, which will feel strange when you’re used to driving on the right.

So, how about going on some off-the-beaten-path road trips in Japan to ease some nerves? These paths may be relatively less travelled on but they offer equally unique Japanese experiences. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with Japan’s road rules and road signs, get started on one of these road trips!

1. Noto Peninsula

Begin your journey in Kanazawa and drive along the rugged coastline of the Noto Peninsula located in Ishikawa Prefecture. Kanazawa is a four-hour drive from Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya. You can visit Wajima, known for its morning markets and Wajima-nuri lacquerware, and explore the secluded beaches, fishing villages, and the distinctive terraced rice fields of Senmaida.

Kanazawa City, Nomura Samurai Residence & Kenroku-en Afternoon Tour

From S$125.25

Kanazawa City, Nomura Samurai Residence & Kenroku-en Afternoon Tour. (Photo: Klook SG)
Kanazawa City, Nomura Samurai Residence & Kenroku-en Afternoon Tour. (Photo: Klook SG)

2. Shikoku Island Circuit

This is a road trip around Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Shikoku is about a three-hour drive from Hiroshima Airport. You can drive across the scenic Seto Bridge that connects Honshu (the biggest of Japan’s four main islands) with Shikoku. Some places of interest include the art islands of Naoshima, which has one of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic pumpkin sculptures, and Teshima, best known for Rei Naito’s art installation, Matrix.

Naoshima Island 1-Day Cycling Tour

From S$645.55

Naoshima Island 1-Day Cycling Tour. (Photo: Klook SG)
Naoshima Island 1-Day Cycling Tour. (Photo: Klook SG)

3. Shimane and Tottori Road Trip

Start in Matsue, which is a two-hour drive from Hiroshima Airport. Located on the northwest coast of Honshu, Matsue is known for the well-preserved 17th-century Matsue Castle and scenic Lake Shinji. You can head to the Oki Islands, a group of remote islands with unique landscapes, before ending your trip at Tottori Sand Dunes and the Kanon Temple in Tottori City.

Uratomi Coast Cruise, Tottori Sand Dunes & Sand Museum Day Tour from Osaka

S$115.95

Uratomi Coast Cruise, Tottori Sand Dunes & Sand Museum Day Tour from Osaka. (Photo: Klook SG)
Uratomi Coast Cruise, Tottori Sand Dunes & Sand Museum Day Tour from Osaka. (Photo: Klook SG)

Paragliding Experience in Tottori Sand Dunes

S$74.19

Paragliding Experience in Tottori Sand Dunes. (Photo: Klook SG)
Paragliding Experience in Tottori Sand Dunes. (Photo: Klook SG)

4. Kyushu Coastal Drive

Begin your journey in Fukuoka—the nearest international airport is Fukuoka Airport—and drive along the scenic coastal roads of Kyushu, the third largest of Japan’s main islands. You can explore the historic town of Karatsu in Saga Prefecture, known for the Karatsu Castle, Karatsu Shrine and pottery.

Before ending your trip in Nagasaki, the city where the atomic bomb Fat Man detonated over during World War II, you can take a break at the unique terraced hot spring town of Obama Onsen—and no, it’s not related to the former US president.

Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch Ticket

From S$46.39

Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch Ticket. (Photo: Klook SG)
Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch Ticket. (Photo: Klook SG)

Battleship Island Cruise Experience in Nagasaki

S$51.05

Battleship Island Cruise Experience in Nagasaki. (Photo: Klook SG)
Battleship Island Cruise Experience in Nagasaki. (Photo: Klook SG)

5. Kyoto to Kinosaki Onsen via Tango Peninsula

Start in Kyoto, which is about an hour’s drive from Osaka’s Itami Airport, and head north towards the Tango Peninsula. Along the way, you can explore Amanohashidate, a stunning sandbar often referred to as the “Bridge to Heaven.” As you drive along the scenic coastal roads, you can enjoy views of the Japan Sea, and conclude your trip in Kinosaki Onsen, a picturesque hot spring town with seven public baths.

Kinosaki Must-Visits 3-Day Pass

S$24.15 (was S$25.99)

Kinosaki Must-Visits 3-Day Pass. (Photo: Klook SG)
Kinosaki Must-Visits 3-Day Pass. (Photo: Klook SG)

Kinosaki Onsen Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei

Book your stay: Booking.com | Trip.com | Agoda | HotelsCombined | Luxury Escapes

Kinosaki Onsen Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. (Photo: Booking.com)
Kinosaki Onsen Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. (Photo: Booking.com)

6. Yakushima Island Expedition

Accessible by ferry from Kagoshima Port (about two to three hours) or by taking a domestic flight, Yakushima is an island known for its ancient cedar forests. A main road encircles the island, connecting the towns and attractions like beaches, hot springs, waterfalls and museums.

However, the cedar forests, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jomon Sugi, are located in the mountainous interior and are best accessed through various hiking trails and nature parks. Another must-visit is the mystical Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, home to several ancient cedar trees.

Sea Turtle Snorkelling Experience (Yakushima)

S$55.65

Sea Turtle Snorkelling Experience (Yakushima). (Photo: Klook SG)
Sea Turtle Snorkelling Experience (Yakushima). (Photo: Klook SG)

The Hotel Yakushima Ocean & Forest

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The Hotel Yakushima Ocean & Forest. (Photo: Booking.com)
The Hotel Yakushima Ocean & Forest. (Photo: Booking.com)

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