Authored by Lotte Eschbach
Japan is a wonderful country known for it’s blend of traditional culture and modern dynamic cities. And while the buzz is all about it’s pop culture, neon-lit streetscapes and architectural wonders that redefine what a city should be, there is also an incredible outdoors and nature scene.
Over two-thirds of Japan is made up of mountains, perfect for hiking, and there are majestic volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and vast forests inhabited by monkeys, bears, deer, cranes and other wildlife. The tropical beaches of the south are popular for sunning, snorkelling, diving and surfing, and in fact, Japan’s coastline is one of the longest and most impressive in the world.
So to inspire you to make your visit to Japan a little different from the standard Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima itinerary, let me introduce you to 5 beautiful places you shouldn’t miss.
Beautiful Nature in Japan: 5 Amazing Places You Should Visit
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One of the coolest places in Japan (quite literally) is Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Not many people visit this island which is such a shame. Hokkaido is wild, untamed and gorgeous. It is the least developed of Japan’s islands, and being there will make you feel tiny when dwarfed by the massive volcanoes and vast lakes.
Summer is perfect for hikers and cyclists who want to explore the primeval forests, tropical-blue caldera lakes, fields of alpine wildflowers and bubbling, in-the-rough hot springs. Winter sees cold fronts from Siberia attract those pursuing winter sports.
I made a 10-day road trip around a Hokkaido, visiting beautiful national parks like Daisetzusan and the wonderful valley of Furano. Don’t miss this hidden gem when you are going to Japan, I can assure you won’t regret traveling to Hokkaido!
One of the highlights of my 1-month trip around Japan was Kamikochi. Located in the Japanese Alps, Kamikōchi is a remote mountainous highland valley within the Hida Mountains range, offering some of Japan’s most spectacular mountain scenery. It has been preserved in its natural state within Chūbu-Sangaku National Park as the main attraction.
Think amazing nature, beautiful hikes and well-managed campsites. One of the hikes I did took me to the top of Mt. Yakedake, which means ‘Burnt Mountain’ in Japanese. Climbing to reach a 2,455 meter tall summit, with a 900 meter ascent is no easy task, however the views are incredible and make it worth it.
From the top of Mt. Yakedake you will be greeted with amazing views over the valley, and can look straight into the crater of this still active volcano. The smell of sulphur was everywhere and I could feel the heat emanating from the stones.
Mount Koya is an 800 meter high mountain in the Wakayama Prefecture, south of Osaka. On the top of the mountain there are over 120 Buddhist temples and many beautiful monasteries.
This is also where you will find Okunoin, an ancient cemetery founded in 800 AD with over 200,000 tombstones. This is one of Japan’s most sacred sites, and you can follow some lovely walking paths through this beautiful wooded cemetery to Torodo Hall, which houses more than 10,000 eternally-lit lanterns.
There are many multi day trekking options, including the Kohechi route. This is “part of the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route – is a beautiful and steep 70 kilometer (43.5 mile) hike through the mountains, which ends at Mount Koya.”
Shirakawa-go in the Japanese Alps
The small village of Shirakawa-go is part of the Japanese Alps, and this is definitely one of my favourite areas in Japan.
Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old!
The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are some of the only examples of their kind in Japan, and an outstanding example of a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people’s social and economic circumstances.
Everybody knows Miyajima Island from the famous floating Torii gate. Which is definitely an amazing sight to behold, particularly during sunset. However if you’re willing to look a little beyond the main attraction of the island you’ll have the chance to enjoy wildlife and gorgeous views as well.
Take a hike to the top of 500 meter high Mount Misen and you’ll encounter monkeys and white tail deer. The hike will take you through a virgin forest, giant boulders, ancient temples, and of course, there are incredible views. There are numerous preserved shrines, temples and historical monuments too.
Staying on Miyajima island doesn’t have to be expensive, you can go camping for just €8/$9 a night (price for 2 people with own tent).
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