I have lived in Japan for almost one year and I love it here. The big cities are fun but living in the countryside in a small village has given me the opportunity to see the truly beautiful hidden gems of Eastern Nara and Nabari. This is a list of my top five places in Eastern Nara and Nabari.
1. Mitsue Village
My home for almost a year, Mitsue is a small village in the country that unknown to much of the world. That being said, it is my favorite place in all of Japan. Visitors to the village can enjoy numerous things to enjoy in Mitsue including a charming onsen, local shrine and of course Mt. Miune. I recently had the pleasure of going firefly viewing here and it was spectacular. All of this is made better by the locals who are simply the friendliest people I’ve met and are very welcoming to all visitors to their town. (Scroll down for map)
2. Akame 48 Waterfalls
I have been to Akame 48 Waterfalls twice since coming to Japan and both times I marveled at its beauty. The winding hiking path follows the water up the ravine providing visitors with plenty of opportunities for incredible photos. On clear days the sun shines through the tree tops into the shaded ravine creating almost magical views of the numerous waterfalls along the way.
3. Soni Highlands
Located in the beautiful village of Soni, I think the Soni Highlands are one of the most beautiful places in Japan. I was lucky to be able to visit this place in the fall and witnessed the stunning silver pampas grass. The short hike to the top of the plateau rewards hikers with sweeping vistas of the plateau and surround mountains. I have been back once since last fall and intend to go back again this coming October.
4. Ryuketsu Shrine and Kissho Ryuketsu
Ryuketsu Shrine is a small but wonderful shrine with a large moss-covered gate. The shrine is located amongst many massive old trees that lend that mysterious and ancient feeling. On top of that, just up a nearby mountain road is Kissho Ryuketsu, the cave dwelling of the Dragon Deity of Ryuketsu Shrine. A waterfall passes in front of the dark cave mouth whose dark depths make it easy to feel why the locals believe it to be the home of the dragon.
5. Muro-ji Temple
Not far from Ryuketsu Shrine and easily one of my favorite temples in Japan, Muro-ji Temple is just beautiful. The architecture of the gate and inner buildings is spectacular, including the famous five-story pagoda. Like Ryuketsu Shrine, However, my favorite thing about this temple is the number of huge old trees surrounding it. For me, their presence gave this place an ancient beauty that most other shrines I’ve been to seem to lack. Be warned the steps up to the last building are very steep and uneven but the view is worth it!