For just one day
Noodles and nice walks
Nestled in the mountains near Kyoto is Kibune, a tiny village high up enough to keep the humidity at bay. Take a stroll along its only street, where you’ll find a cluster of traditional restaurants that have sheltered kawadoko dining platforms built over the river. Seek out Hirobun for wallet-friendly meals at about JPY1,300. The eatery also serves nagashi somen (flowing noodles) — grab bundles of noodles with your chopsticks as they float by in a bamboo flume filled with cool mountain water. The more you catch, the bigger your meal!
For two-day jaunts
Hikes and hot springs
Tenkawa village, deep in Nara prefecture, is a great place for short getaways. Hit the mostly shaded Mitarai Canyon hiking course to the nearby village of Dorogawa-onsen. Taking around three hours, the 7.5km hike rewards you with views of waterfalls and rocky ridges. Upon arrival, take a dip at the Dorogawa Hot Spring Center, then explore the village for eats that include botan nabe (wild boar meat in a miso-flavored broth) — or stay the night and spread the experience over two days.
For three-day trips
Train rides and chairlifts
Hakuba in Nagano prefecture takes several train rides to reach, but set off early from Osaka and you can enjoy the changing scenery from the comfort of your air-conditioned carriage. Spend the rest of the day exploring Hakuba village. On day two or three, rise early for a hike to Happo Pond, 2,100m above sea level. For a more easygoing experience, take the gondola, before taking the chairlift for as high as you can go — then walk the rest of the way. Along the way, soak in the views that stretch for miles.
Photos by Sakura Hiro JPN and Sinseeho / shutterstock.com
This story first appeared in the September 2017 issue of Smile magazine.