Japan’s popularity has been on the rise for a while now and tops many travellers bucket list. But when a place becomes so popular, it can be difficult to veer away from the touristy crowds and know where to visit to get the full experience. Keen to get off the beaten track and explore the untouched parts of Japan? This is the guide for you.

Southern Kyushu

Japan is made up of four main islands as well as many other smaller islands. Kyushu is the southernmost of these main islands. Miyazaki, one prefecture in Kyushu, is on the opposite end of the spectrum of what you think about when you think about Japan and specifically Tokyo. It has an abundance of green spaces and untouched nature. The best part about it is that there are not many tourists and is mostly quite rustic, quiet and simple. This makes it both an incredible place to live and to visit.

The sub-tropical climate in Miyazaki makes it a popular surfer’s destination and Aoshima is known for its laid-back vibes. The area is kitted out with the usual beachy fare, including a beach park, various shops, yoga studios and surf shacks.

From the beach you can walk across a bridge to an island that boasts some amazing rock formations known as The Devil/Ogre/Giant’s washboard. Nestled in the dense palm forest of the island is the beautiful Aoshima Shrine.
Nichinan, on the South East coast of the Miyazaki prefecture, offers some great sites to visit, while still remaining relatively uncrowded. Obi is a small town that is filled with traditional homes, gardens and an impressive castle.  A short drive away is Udo shrine: a shrine located in a cave facing the ocean with a great backstory.Neighboring Miyazaki is the more historically rich prefecture of Kagoshima. The city itself is in a bay that looks out onto the impressive Sakura Jima, a volcano in the middle of the ocean. Kagoshima was once run by the powerful Shimazu clan and you can view their vast Senganen Gardens. Once a year you also have the opportunity to view Yabusame here, which is traditional horseback archery.
Situated roughly between Miyazaki and Kagoshima, Ebino has a collection of volcanoes, some of which are still active that are ideal for hiking. Due to all that volcanic activity, there are endless hot springs in the area. This is the perfect way to finish off a hike in any season. If getting naked in front of strangers isn’t your cup of tea, don’t fear, there are also many private baths. The outdoor variety is especially beautiful. Kirishima shrine is also in the area and well worth a visit.Miyakonojo is the perfect place for wanderers as it doesn’t have any huge draw cards for tourists but is surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterfalls. Nobeoka also has some amazing scenery, even when just on your way to work.
Tackachiho gorge and the nearby Takachiho shrine are supposed to be one the key spiritual places in Japan. Whether or not you believe in a higher power, they are both entirely magical places.
Elsewhere in Japan

Tokyo is not as overwhelming as you may think, especially when you consider it a conglomeration of neighbourhoods rather than one mega city.
Kyoto and Nara are the places to go to get your share of Japanese culture. Nara being the less famous –and therefore less crowded – option is still incredibly beautiful and charming.

Words and Photography: Jean Mathee
Shot on 35mm film.