I studied in for a year (one of my best years so far!) and used the time to also explore the country as much as my curriculum allowed! Here are some tips na maybe beyond the usual Tokyo scenes or Kyoto 3-day itinerary:
Fukuoka: spring or autumn or even in winter
– have Hakata ramen (it is the birthplace of Hakata (tonkotsu) ramen or motsu nabe (ofal stew)
– go to Dazaifu (historic town with temples 30 mins from Fukuoka; temple ; Kyushu National Museum is also there and it’s worth a visit!)
– eat oden (different types of goodies in a dashi broth) at a yatai (quasi turo-turo tents which pop up in the evening around the city)
– there’s this green tea onsen near chikuzen maebaru which is a must-visit in my opinion but I forget the name!
Hokkaido! (ski in winter; drive around in summer)
– Sapporo, Otaru, Hakodate, Noboribetsu, or drive up to Furano and visit Biei, visit Daisetzusan, and just for the heck of it drive up to the northernmost point of Japan: Wakkanai—nothing much to see there but one can see Russia and also learn about the sad story of Sakhalin
– definitely eat sushi in Sapporo
Go on a road trip around Kyushu
– Yakushima is beautiful. You can spend 5 days biking around the island and hugging old trees, if you fancy that
– visit the hells (onsen) in Beppu; drop by Yufuin which is nearby
– go to the Takachiho Gorge and rent a small boat; eat soumen (flowing noodles — they serve it by dropping the noodles in halved bamboo poles with water flowing through the poles. So you "catch"or scoop out the flowing noodles with your chopsticks)
Yan muna for now.