The lengthy haul flight to Japan is a breeze in Air NZ’s snug Company Leading seating. Movie / Air New Zealand

So lots of visuals arrive to mind when someone mentions Japan: from neon-saturated Ginza nights to Harajuku’s wild alternate fashion to the traditional tea properties and temples of Kyoto.

It’s regarded as a land of contrasts exactly where the impossibly ancient sits strangely comfortably alongside the extremely-modern day.

But on a modern pay a visit to to the Kansai region, I found out a slower facet of Japan – a full contrast to the dazzling lights and existence-at-a-million-miles of other trips. If you are heading to Kyoto or Osaka on your following vacation you may well want to look at one of these facet excursions.


Kyoto is a amazing vacation spot, steeped in society and historical past – and a ought to-go to for its majestic temples, tea residences and classic lifestyle. But if you are there in higher year you may well want a breather from the tourist crowds. Lake Biwa is Japan’s premier lake with 235km of shoreline and at its closest issue is only a 10-moment educate trip from Kyoto.

We delighted in selecting bikes and cruising its very well-manicured shores really confident I’ve hardly ever seen so numerous ducks in a person area – Siberian migrants, in accordance to our guideline. In summer months it would be a fantastic area to kayak, just take a boat journey, swim or camp. Even further up the west facet of the lake is Biwako Ropeway, a cable automobile that will whisk you upwards for a drink with a hell of a watch.

The shimmering sapphire pool – purely decorative – that surrounds all the terraces make this place following-amount instagrammable.

Keep: Lake Biwa Marriott

Hire a bike and cruise the shores of Lake Biwa. Photo / Alexia Santamaria
Employ a bike and cruise the shores of Lake Biwa. Image / Alexia Santamaria

If you head up the other side of the lake, Hikone Castle, household of feudal lords from 1622 to 1867, is a gorgeous historic composition well really worth going to. On the way there or back, Omi Hachiman is a charming prevent for a peek at historic service provider structures and meandering canals.

We took a ride on Hachiman-bori canal and I only wish I could have bottled that sense of serenity. It was all the rewards of the ideal meditation/yoga/float tank practical experience just by sitting down in a very low-slung vessel on tatami mats, drifting below bridges, soaking up the stillness of glass-like reflections and seeing a slower, more simple life float by.

This area is also perfectly known for Omi beef, a person of Japan’s favourite wagyus. Because of to the fatty marbling, it will actually melt in your mouth – if you do this side journey it would be prison not to make it a lunchtime precedence.

Take a boat ride on Hachiman-bori canal, sitting on tatami mats. Photo / Alexia Santamaria
Get a boat experience on Hachiman-bori canal, sitting on tatami mats. Photo / Alexia Santamaria


This one particular is a very little offbeat, but if you like to cook or are a heritage geek it’s really worth the 25-moment drive (45-moment educate journey) to Sakai. It flourished for many many years as a single of Japan’s main trade metropolitan areas and the knife sector below goes again 600 several years.

Sakai knives are sought immediately after by cooks all-around the planet and I am continue to in everyday speculate at the reducing capability of my own buy. The museum not only information the background of knife earning but quite a few other artisan crafts like cloth dying and carp-flag earning.

If you do go to Sakai, head up to the observation deck at City Corridor in which you will get a see out above the city. But do not permit the fairly patches of inexperienced fool you, what glimpse like pleasant hills lined in trees are essentially historical burial mounds. The biggest (you can see a several from up high) is the 5th-century tomb of the Emperor Nintoku – at 486m extensive it’s 1 of the premier tombs in the planet. Who knew?

Sakai knives are sought after by chefs all around the world. Photo / Alexia Santamaria
Sakai knives are sought after by chefs all around the entire world. Photograph / Alexia Santamaria


This side excursion is a minimal further out at just one and a 50 percent hrs from Osaka and an hour and a quarter from Kyoto but really worth the generate if you want a actually Japanese rural experience. We stayed at the cutely-named Futon & Breakfast in Miyama – a beautiful aged farmhouse, full with a classic sunken cooking pit.

The people today who personal it set us up with a number of artisan actions in the area – mastering to generate compost, rake and plant crops on an organic and natural farm, learning to thatch a roof (won’t be providing up my working day job) – and there’s also mochi generating and other fun functions obtainable.


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Thatching is an essential action in this location as Miyama is 1 of the several destinations that perform to maintain this distinct form of architecture – lots of of the properties date back to the mid-19th century. In simple fact, it’s been selected as an Vital Preservation District for Teams of Historic Buildings.

You can take a look at a residing village in which all the properties are thatched, it’s like stepping into a bygone era. As element of our continue to be we also experienced some pretty ladies arrive and instruct us to cook some Japanese dishes – a base dashi inventory, tai meshi, chawanmushi and even nearby potatoes (perhaps the creamiest I have at any time tasted).

The Aunty in cost spoke rudimentary English but it’s amazing how quick it is to connect in a kitchen with hand gestures and a ton of laughing. Being in the household by itself was a definitely distinctive expertise (even for men and women who have stayed in traditional Japanese ryokan before).

Stay: Futon & Breakfast

The Futon & Breakfast in Miyama boasts a beautiful traditional sunken cooking pit. 
Photo / Alexia Santamaria
The Futon & Breakfast in Miyama boasts a wonderful common sunken cooking pit.
Image / Alexia Santamaria

So if you are on your second journey to the Land of the Rising Sun, or even if you have time on your 1st, there’s a lot to check out in the wonderful Kansai region. Osaka and Kyoto definitely should not be missed but they are not the only appealing sites to discover in this component of Japan.

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