Into the wild
Beyond the futuristic imagery of its cities, much of Japan is rural or wilderness, especially outside the Kanto and Kansai areas. In the bush you may spot local fauna, such as Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) in the mountains of Nagano, deer in Hiroshima and Nara, wild boar in the hills of Miyagi, foxes in Yamagata, and serows in Aomori. Your best bet for seeing ussuri (AKA grizzly) bears is in Hokkaido at Shiretoko national park, a Unesco world heritage site.
During the summer, try camping: Kokusetsu Shiretoko Yaeijou is £3pp (no advance booking for tents), or rent a basic cabin (camping-in-japan.com). Bear-spotting boat cruises run from spring to autumn (£37, kamuiwakka.jp), and the area has plenty of cheap public hot springs (from £3pp). In winter, take a three-day/two-night sightseeing bus tour and drift-ice and white-tailed eagle birdwatching cruise on the Sea of Okhotsk before unwinding in a hot-spring bath at the end of the day (from £294pp for two nights’ hot-springs hotel plus four meals, japanican.com). Take the JR Hokkaido train to Shiretoko-Shari, then a Shari bus to Utoro.