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What to See and Do in Japan When You Visit in 2020

Here are five adventures to inspire every type of traveller

Two women dressed in kimonos walking on street in Kyoto, Japan, lined with traditional buildings at dusk

Tokyo is a great first stop in Japan—especially if you’re visiting for the 2020 Olympics—but there’s more to the country than this ultra-modern metropolis. From taking in natural wonders to experiencing Japanese traditions, there’s serious adventure in store for travellers. Get inspired by these five outside-the-box Japan travel ideas.

Cycle the islands on the Shimanami Kaido

Cyclist riding across bridge over sea on the Shimanami Kaido cycle route in Japan

The Shimanami Kaido bike route leaves Japan’s main island of Honshu and crosses six smaller islands to end on the island of Shikoku. This is a route designed with cyclists in mind, and along the way, travellers will find bike rental facilities, repair and supply shops, and even a cyclists-only hotel: Hotel Cycle in Onomichi.

Soak up Japanese spa culture in Kinosaki

Weathered bronze Buddha statue in the Japanese spa town of Kinosaki

Onsen, or public Japanese baths, are an experience every traveller to Japan should try. And while onsen etiquette can be tricky, the community in the scenic spa town of Kinosaki, just under a three-hour train ride northwest of Kyoto, welcomes soak-seekers. Local hotel staff are happy to outfit them with the proper onsen equipment (think robes and sandals) and a crash course in how to enjoy the traditional baths located throughout the town.

Walk the Nakasendo Way

Street lined with traditional wooden buildings and background of green mountains along Japan's Nakasendo Way

Walk Japan leads all-season walking tours across the country. One of the most scenic walks is the Nakasendo Way, the ancient trade route that extends from Kyoto to Tokyo. Travellers on the Nakasendo will pass through alpine forests with mountain views and be hosted each night in traditional Japanese inns called ryokans.

Sample all the street food in Nishiki Market

Woman eating tiny octopus off a skewer in the covered Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is heaven for street-food lovers. Go on an empty stomach and you could spend hours wandering the warren-like alleyways, sampling everything from grilled skewers of Kobe beef to baby octopus stuffed with quail eggs. Nearly everything is served on a stick, so it’s easy to eat on the go, and cuisine from every part of Japan is on offer.

Have a homestay experience in Hagi

Weathered wooden gate with path leading into garden in Hagi, Japan

Hagi is a centuries-old castle town on the southern part of Honshu where the local population is aging because of the migration of young people to larger cities. In an effort to create tourism jobs, Canadian foundation Planeterra has partnered with Hagi’s Homestay Association to bring travellers to this beautiful seaside town. Local seniors host visitors and provide guided tours and home-cooked meals.

Ready to head to Japan?

Discover bustling, beautiful Tokyo in the winter 2019 issue of CAA Magazine.

Find out whether you should use cash or credit while you’re travelling and learn what you need to know before booking your Japanese hotel. Plus, take our fun quiz to see if you’re polite when you travel.

Image credit: Photo by Sorasak/Unsplash, iStock.com/thanyarat07, iStock.com/the_Mangus, iStock.com/Daniel Andis, iStock.com/PRImageFactory and iStock.com/MasaoTaira