What Lovers Do in Nikko
Nikko is a common side trip for first-time visitors to Japan using Tokyo for their base of operations. With the JR Wide Pass, it's really not costly to make this happen, since cheap business hotels, some for about ¥4,000 (US$36) a night, stand almost right across from Nikko Station. You can listen to Maroon 5 and discover "What Lovers Do" as you take the bus to Kegon Falls, which was formed when the Daiya River was re-routed by the lava flows of a major volcanic eruption of Mount Nantai. These same falls are infamous as a former suicide spot for torn souls and starstruck lovers. Today, you can enjoy a cuppa with your lover in one of the local homegrown cafés.
There are several reasons to head to Nikko: UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Kegon Falls; Tobu World Square (which has replicas of famous landmarks from around the world); the dreamy red bridge; and Lake Chuzenji, which is gorgeous surrounded by autumn leaves and dazzling in the winter snow.
For California Dreamin', it's gotta be Izu
Bring The Mamas and the Papas to Izu for Californian feels. If you like the beach vibe, from Izu Station, head to Shimoda. By simply staying in hotels near the beach, you already have the perfect itinerary. Shimoda and most of Shizuoka is teeming with beaches, perhaps the most pristine in Japan (excluding Okinawa). One of them is Shirahama Beach, which boasts of white sand and perfect sunsets. If you want some adventure, head to Mount Nezugatayama for a breathtaking view from the top.
An alternative is to head toward the Shimaroiwa area from Izu Station. Here, you can explore the historical Perry Road before heading out to explore the Nakaizu Winery for an educational distillery tour, the opportunity to go horseback riding on the wine field trails, wine sampling, bathing in an onsen, and indulging in wonderful food with Mount Fuji as your backdrop.
Buy Some Love in Lennon's Second Hometown, Karuizawa
Sure, John Lennon said that you can't buy him love, but it's truly difficult not to fall in love with this charming town in Nagano. Karuizawa is a place where many people have built log houses and vacation homes, and it's not just a rumor that John Lennon spent a lot of his days here; he even had a favorite bakery.
You go to Karuizawa for many reasons: outlet shopping in Prince Plaza (way better than crowded Gotemba!); nature-trekking and autumn-biking leading to Nagano's favorite wedding spot, the Stone Church; glorious food (Karuizawa meat, cheese and pudding); Shiraito Falls; a hike to Kumoba Pond; a stopover at Mikasa Hotel; and museum- and gallery-hopping all over town.
Find Some Fairy Tale Bliss in Saitama
Chainsmokers and Coldplay should be on your perfect soundtrack as you relax in the inaka area of Japan in Saitama. Saitama is a huge prefecture and taking three days to leisurely explore it is the best way to go. People go to Saitama for different reasons, with the Edo Period neighborhood in Kawagoe being the most common.
To maximize your three-day JR Wide Pass however, head to the Hitachi-ota area for an unforgettable bungy jump from Japan's longest pedestrian suspension bridge; a hike or a wind concert on Mount Tatsuware; or a lazy day at the huge seasonal flower park Hitachi Seaside Park (in nearby Ibaraki Prefecture). Saitama also has several shrines, notable natural sites, museums and repurposed historical structures like the Old Inada Brickhouse.
Say 'Today Was a Fairy Tale' in Lake Kawaguchiko
You may not be a fan of Tay-tay, but you will surely feel like you're in a surreal fairy tale once you've found a good spot to relax by Lake Kawaguchi. You will feel like a million bucks with Japan's most majestic icon as your backdrop, and cherry blossoms or red autumn leaves as additional elements of your Instagram-worthy shot. You'll probably sense no trace of "scrimping," (given that you've used a ¥10,000, three-day JR Wide Pass), once you arrive at this destination.