In 2009 I drove from Tokyo to Shikoku and stayed at Chiiori, a three hundred year old thatch roofed house in the Iya valley. It was a step back in time to an era when Japanese people mainly lived in rural villages and worked the land. Chiiori as the house is now named was bought by Alex Kerr, a well known author on Japan, in the 1970s. Over time the house has slowly evolved from a backpacker experience into more sophisticated accommodation. If you are looking for an alternative experience in Japan this is the place. You can find out more at this website, http://www.chiiori.org . Then if you really want to read a book that will help you understand Japan, by Kerr's book "The Lost Japan", it is one of the more insightful books on Japan.