Iyakei Valley is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long. This remote area in the western part of Tokushima is an unspoiled natural paradise. Not for the faint of heart, the rocky gorges were traditionally, and continue to be, crossed by way of vine-made bridges, such as Iya no Kazurabashi, a 45 metre-long, two metre-wide overpass, suspended 15 metres above the Iya River.
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Photo: Phurinee Chinakathum/Shutterstock
A short trip south from Oita Airport, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, is Beppu, a spa oasis teeming with more than 2,000 hot springs. This resort town doesn’t just offer an impressive quantity but also an unparalleled range of baths and facilities. Relax in the healing waters at Kankaiji or Takegawara Onsen, reap the beautifying benefits of mineral-rich mud at Beppu Onsen Hoyo Land, bury yourself in geothermal sand at Beppu Kaihin Sunayu, or try a traditional steam (older than sauna) at Kannawa Mushiyu.
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Naha is the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, an archipelago south of mainland Japan, renowned for its ancient Ryukyu culture and history. The top tourist attraction is the UNESCO-listed Shuri Castle, the royal palace of the prosperous Ryukyu Kingdom (in use 1429 to 1879), which was restored to its former glory in 1992. In the Tsuboya district, you’ll find many traditional pottery shops as well as the Tsuboya Pottery Museum. Its white-sand beaches, subtropical climate, scuba diving, and laid-back pace are also a major draw.
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