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Japan Tottori MitokuSan NageiredoIn a captivating episode of “Next Big Trip,” CNN’s Senior International Correspondent, Will Ripley, embarks on a remarkable journey to unveil the hidden treasures of Japan’s less-travelled destinations. Tottori and Shimane, two of Japan’s least populated prefectures, rarely make it onto tourists’ itineraries due to their lack of bullet train access. However, in this extraordinary exploration, CNN showcases the breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unexpected delights that await intrepid travellers.

Exploring Shimane: Where Gods and Sake Reside.

Matsue Castle Matsue Shimane

Matsue Castle Matsue Shimane

The journey commences in Shimane, a place known as an annual gathering spot for the gods. Will Ripley takes viewers on a spiritual voyage to Japan’s oldest shrine, the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. Here, pilgrims fervently pray for love, making it a sacred destination for many. Shimane is also celebrated as the birthplace of sake, and at the Saka Shrine, the gods themselves are believed to convene to relish this traditional Japanese rice wine. Ripley delves into the art of sake brewing with local brewmaster Toshiaki Imaoka, gaining insight into the meticulous processes involved. A tasting of the brew provides a delectable experience.

Not stopping at spiritual exploration, CNN indulges in relaxation at Kai Tamatsukuri, a luxurious ryokan managed by Hoshino Resort. The mineral-rich hot springs are renowned for their rejuvenating properties, believed to cleanse the skin and alleviate conditions like rheumatism.

Tottori: Conquering Mount Mitoku and Desert Paragliding.

The journey continues as Ripley and guide Toshi Mifune brave the treacherous ascent of Mount Mitoku, a cliff face so perilous that climbers must undergo footwear assessments for safety. At the summit lies Nageiredo Hall, Japan’s most dangerous National Treasure. This arduous climb has drawn pilgrims for over 1,300 years, inspired by the mountain’s spiritual aura.

Venturing further, CNN explores the unique 10-mile desert along Japan’s coast. Ripley embarks on an exhilarating paragliding adventure over dunes that reach astonishing heights of 150 feet. Yet, this awe-inspiring scenery is gradually diminishing. An ambitious tree-planting initiative to thwart sandstorm damage has led to the dunes shrinking to a mere 12% of their size a century ago.

Toyama: A Feast of Seafood and Scenic Beauty.

Toyama, Centre of Japan...

Toyama, Centre of Japan…

In Toyama, CNN takes viewers to Shinminato fisherman’s wharf for an animated auction of the bay’s prized red snow crab. Chef Ito seizes the opportunity to sample freshly caught white shrimp for his seasonal menu. He extends a warm invitation to Ripley at ‘Il Clima,’ his upscale restaurant nestled within a meticulously restored 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse, now an art gallery. Chef Ito, with roots in Osaka and European culinary training, masterfully crafts Italian cuisine with locally sourced ingredients.

The journey concludes with Sari Hayashiguchi from the local tourism association guiding CNN to a picturesque viewpoint overlooking the Tonami Plain. In this “scattered village,” traditional farmhouses dot the landscape next to vast rice fields cultivated by farmers since the 8th century.

Don’t Miss CNN’s Exclusive Exploration.

This captivating 30-minute special is scheduled to air on the following dates:

  • Sunday, 19th November at 4:00 am and 1:30 pm HKT
  • Monday, 20th November at 12:00 pm HKT

Embark on a journey of discovery with CNN as they reveal the enchanting beauty, cultural richness, and culinary delights of Tottori, Shimane, and Toyama, Japan’s hidden treasures.




Written by: Anne Keam