Travel Highlights 2017

Below are my highlights of visiting 29 of Japan's 47 prefectures in 2017:

#10: Spending a night at a Kuma Kengo

On a special occasion, I had the pleasure of spending a night at the Atami Kaihoro ryokan in the seaside onsen resort of Atami. The ryokan's building was designed by star architect Kuma Kengo in the 1990s and is glass and water themed.

Our breakfast venue

#9: Goto Islands

1200 years ago, the Goto Islands were the final stop for travelers making the hazardous sea journey from Japan to China. After the decline of that sea route, they became some of the more remote islands in the country, attracting religious refugees during the Edo Period.

Oso Church

#8: The Southern Links, Okinawa

The highlight of this year's golf research work, The Southern Links golf course in southern Okinawa was highly enjoyable not only for its outstanding scenic beauty but also because it was considerably easier to play than the PGM Resort Okinawa whose punishing rough crushed my confidence on the previous day.

Hole No. 1

#7: Traditional Tokyo in Shibamata

After a decade of delaying a visit, I finally made it to Shibamata, a wonderful district in the outskirts of Tokyo that competes for best place to experience old-fashioned Tokyo.

Shibamata's lively shopping street

#6: Riding the Rokumon

The Rokumon is one of many special sightseeing trains that have emerged in recent years all over Japan. The train runs between Nagano and Karuizawa, and passengers can enjoy an outstanding meal on board while enjoying the friendly board service and nice scenery from the train's special interior.

Inside the Rokumon

#5: Hachinohe's Beautiful Coastline

The Michinoku Coastal Trail is a wonderful project with the almost completed goal to create a 700 km long walking trail along the Tohoku Region's Pacific coast. On our most recent recovery report trip to the tsunami-hit areas, we explored the northernmost 10 kilometers of the trail in Hachinohe City, which surprised us with its beauty.

Tanesashi Coast

#4: Staying overnight in Ainokura

As part of shooting our Toyama Video, we spent a night at a farmhouse in Ainokura. I particularly enjoyed the rural village's silence at night and the friendly company during the communal meals.

Ainokura Village

#3: Amazing Colors at Daisetsu Kogen Onsen

The Daisetsu Kogen Onsen hiking trail in Daisetsuzan National Park offered some of the best autumn colors I have ever seen in my ten years of reporting the season.

One of the many ponds along the Daisetsu Kogen Onsen hiking trail

#2: Rustic onsen in Okuhida

Alongside Kurokawa Onsen in Kyushu, Okuhida in the Japanese Alps is the best place to enjoy a stay at a rustic ryokan and large outdoor onsen baths. Among the multiple onsen towns in Okuhida, Fukuchi Onsen has particularly many, atmospheric onsen ryokan.

Room entrance at the Yamazatonoiori Soene ryokan

#1: Tomonoura in the Fog

For the third time in nine years of compiling my annual highlights, fog has helped a trip to make it to the top of the list: the natural phenomena added an additional layer to a very pleasant visit to the small fishing town of Tomonoura in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The port of Tomonoura