Hitachinaka, Japan

Get a glimpse of bygone Japan in the port city of Hitachinaka, located around 100 miles northeast of Tokyo on Honshu. Hitachi Seaside Park is considered one of the most beautiful places in the entire country, blanketed in millions of flowering plants; during late spring, the park is awash in a sea of vibrant blue nemophila blossoms. Follow the coast down to the 9th-century Oarai Isosaki Shrine; its revered Kamiiso-no-Torii gate is believed to be where the gods descended to earth. Ushiku Daibutsu, a 390-foot-high figure of Buddha, stands among the world’s tallest statues; step inside to view some 3,000 golden buddha statuettes. For a fabulous hike, head to the remote hill town of Daigo and Fukuroda Falls, a dramatic, four-step waterfall that plunges nearly 400 feet. Be sure to try Hitachinaka-style takoyaki (grilled octopus), then wash it down with some rice wine at one of more than 40 sake breweries in the Ibaraki Prefecture.