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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

SHIGA Koga & Shigaraki

Calling all pottery buffs, architecture addicts, and ninja fanatics

While the Koka area may be off the usual tourist trail, it offers surprises for ninja fans, architecture and art geeks and pottery lovers.

Don't Miss

  • An original 'ninja house' full of traps and tricks
  • An I.M. Pei-designed gem of an art museum
  • A village dedicated to pottery and ceramics

How to Get There

If you're coming from Kyoto, take the JR Tokaido line to Kusatsu, and then the Kusatsu Line to the Koka area. From Tokyo, take the shinkansen heading for Shin-Osaka and transfer at Maibara and then again at Kusatsu.

Note that there is also a Kusatsu in Gunma Prefecture, so make sure not to mix them up. Head towards the Kusatsu in Shiga Prefecture and take the 36 minute trip on the Kusatsu Line to Koka.

So you wanna be a ninja?

The Koka region became famous in the 15th century for its clans of shinobi ("sneaky") fighters. Training in the rugged hills, they lived outside the samurai code of honor. These spies and mercenaries became more commonly known as ninja and acquired a mythical place in popular culture.

Today, Koka retains an original Ninja House where a family of ninja lived and is also home to another ninja attractionーthe Ninja Village. Both spots offer your kids (okay, well, you too) a chance to learn how the ninja trained. You can even try your hand at some of the tricks of the trade.

Koga Ninja House (left) and Ninja Village (right)

A Shangri-La of art hidden in the hills

The Miho Museum was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei and bears many of his signature design elements. The museum, which is literally cut out of a mountainside, houses the private art collection of one of Japan's wealthiest women and the founder of a religious organization that emphasizes the appreciation of beauty. Pei himself called it Shangri-La, a heaven on earth among nature. Fans of Western classical art or treasures from the Middle East and the Silk Road will find the museum of particular interest.

A view from inside the Miho Museum

Centuries of clay

Any visitor to Japan will notice the extreme variety and quality of Japanese pottery and ceramics. The Shigaraki area has been recognized for centuries as one of Japan's six great pottery regions, and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park is its modern epicenter.

Pottery buffs will love its exhibits, hands-on experiences, and annual pottery sales. Those less aesthetically inclined can pick up a famous tanuki statue for good luck. The statue represents Japan's friendly raccoon dog who's always looking for someone to drink with and can often be found in the doorways of local drinking establishments.

Nobori-gama pottery kilns in Shigaraki

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