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Every month, our Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist Amy Tadehara brings us insider knowledge on how to access semi-impenetrable experiences, avoid crowds, and find hidden delights well away from those tourist-worn pathways. Here are her thoughts on the most romantic destinations in Japan…
Whether you’re going on your honeymoon or just looking for a romantic getaway, we’ve got the inside scoop on the most romantic destinations in Japan. And they will charm your socks off.
Where else could you experience ancient traditions and world-leading hospitality, topped off with accommodation ranging from ryokan with private hot spring baths to deluxe hotels atop skyscrapers? Whisper sweet nothings to one another as you stroll through quaint rural villages or whisk your loved one through electric streets; whatever your style, Japan is bursting with potential for romance.
First of all, I’d recommend visiting Japan’s traditional heart in Kaga Onsen, a famous hot spring area. Far from the bright lights of Japan’s bigger cities, I love the four onsen villages (of which Kaga Onsen is one) that sit snugly in the countryside surrounding the base of Mt. Hakusan. Nearby you’ll find local crafts such as lacquerware, gold leaf and ceramics: perfect for recreating the pottery scene from Ghost.
To add to the experience while you’re in the area, with the below tour you can also ride the famous bullet train’s luxury ‘Gran Class’, visit the iconic alpine village of Shirakawago, and stop–over in Kanazawa to discover the secrets of Japanese garden design at Kenrokuen.
Check out our Hokuriku Highlights tour!
For a cosmopolitan city with a romantic vibe, head to Nagasaki. This port city is steeped in ancient cultural roots, a history of international trade and natural treasures, and the view from the observatory at Mt. Inasa in the evening has been named one of the most beautiful in the world. Sitting above the glittering skyline makes for a cinematic, timeless date.
Nagasaki also makes a great base for discovering the region too. Head to the nearby Kujukushima Islands for spectacular natural vistas and delicious oysters (a natural aphrodisiac!). Over two hundred beautiful islands dot the azure sea, ranging from thickly forested islets to rocky outcrops. Take a pirate boat sightseeing cruise or, for something truly romantic, hire a private boat. Another great day trip from Nagasaki is Okawachiyama Village, also known as the “Village of the Secret Kilns”. This small, isolated village in the mountains consists mostly of pottery workshops and their store fronts. Buy a piece of pottery as a souvenir or simply ramble through the mountainside village and enjoy the views.
Curious? View our Kyushu Adventure tour in more detail.
A picturesque village on the Japanese coast, Kinosaki Onsen retains its olde-worlde romantic charm, with traditional wooden buildings running alongside a beautiful canal all the way through the town. Take a stroll through the cherry blossom and weeping willow lined streets wearing a traditional Yukata provided by your hotel. Visitors are welcomed to try all seven public onsens in town. Stop along the way for matcha-flavored ice cream, Japanese tea or souvenirs.
Kinosaki Onsen is just 2.5 hours from Kyoto by direct train, making it a great escape from the hustle and bustle. While here visit the nearby castle town of Izushi with its beautifully preserved Edo era attractions and a traditional Kabuki theater.
Take a peep at our Hot Springs and Countryside Honeymoon Tour!
In Tokyo, you can take your romantic escape to the next level: stay in world-class hotels, relax with in-room shiatsu and enjoy exclusive introductions to Michelin-starred chefs. But my favorite experience to arrange for couples is our sake tasting with a sake sommelier from France. In addition to the tasting experience, travelers enjoy a two to three-hour exchange about sake’s history, tradition, production process and future.
For a romantic stroll, check out the East Garden and the Fukiage Garden of the Imperial Palace to find ponds, moats, bridges and bamboo forests; their peace and elegance is inspiring. Then take to the streets in the evening; Tokyo’s streets look beautiful once the sun goes down – under all that neon it’s hard not to feel a little starry-eyed. For a truly magical time, take a leisurely walk along the Meguro’s sleepy river banks. The Meguro River meanders through several chic neighbourhoods, past green spaces, funky museums and waterside dining before emptying into Tokyo Bay. The gingko tree lined street Icho Namiko make for a picturesque couple’s stroll – especially in autumn when the trees turn brilliant yellow. Top off the night with a nightcap at a swanky roof-top bar, some of the most stunning views can be found at the Peninsula Tokyo, the Park Hyatt Tokyo, and the Conrad Tokyo.
Feeling wanderlusty? Check out the tour here.
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