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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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Hokkaido

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!

Hokkaido

Kamikochi

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.

Kamikochi

Mount Koya

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.”

Mount Koya

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.

Shirakawa-go in the Japanese Alps

Miyajima Island

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).

OUR FAVORITE GUIDES TO JAPAN: CLICK PHOTO TO LOOK INSIDE↓

Japan travel guide

Lonely Planet Japan

Japan travel guide

DK Eyewitness Japan

Japan travel guide

National Geographic

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While born and raised in the Netherlands, Lotte is on a mission to explore as much of our Phenomenal Globe as possible! She has always loved travel, but it was a 5 month trip to Southeast Asia and NZ in 2015 which saw her wanderlust finally take over.

While she once juggled her passion for travel with a full time career, her unstoppable wanderlust led to a drastic decision… She and her husband both handed in their resignation in January, and decided to travel until their money runs out!

Follow her adventures via her blog, Phenomenal Globe, or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo credits: Pinterest image by Travel-LingOkunoin by Andrea Schaffer & peter-rabbit.

    28 Comments

  1. What a cool article! Mount Koya looks incredible, what an awesome place to visit. Definitely have to put some of these on the list.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Jim! She’s inspired me to make Japan happen a lot quicker too :D!

  2. I have been to Japan but I didn’t visit any of these great places. Especially nature around Kamicochi looks amazing. Thanks for the recommendations.

    • Glad we could introduce you to Japan’s natural side :) Tends to go under the radar as most people travel for the city life :)

  3. Totally saving this for a future trip. I haven’t been to Asia at all yet (barring Istanbul) and I’m dying to visit Japan…Hokkaido looks gorgeous!

    • Hope you have the chance to visit Japan soon!

  4. Love it! Love it! Love it! In every post about places to visit in Japan, I’m seeing the same places. Not that Tokyo and Kyoto are bad (I’m sure they not), but I love some off the beaten track ideas. Japan is very high on my bucket list. Bookmarking this for the future. Thank you for the great post!

    • In which case, so glad we could present some new ideas for Japan in Lotte’s guest post! Hope you have the chance to visit Japan soon :)

  5. I’m intrigued by the locations up north in Hokkaido, I only made it to the central and southern regions but there really is so much amazing nature to explore all around Japan.

    • I hope you have the chance to spend some time in the north too :) Japan really is one of those destinations which requires return travel – too much to cover for a short trip!

  6. This is a beautiful post. I’ll have to share it with Jenn when she gets home. We are seriously considering taking a foreign assignment and Japan is on the short list. (We were googling Kwajalein this morning). My daughter would love it if we moved to Japan in time for the Olympics but we are much more outdoors people than city folks. It looks like there is plenty of nature at the other end of that bullet train.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Ed! There’s definitely a lot of opportunity for spending time in the outdoors in Japan, it’s just not promoted as much as the city life. Which in a way is great if you’re looking to enjoy the incredible landscapes without too many crowds!

      Where-ever your assignment takes you I’m sure you’ll all have an incredible time! Wishing you all a happy & smooth move :)

  7. What a beautiful post about Japan! I’m totally inspired to visit sooner rather than later. While Tokyo looks fascinating, these ideas into the countryside look so peaceful and authentic. I’d love to visit Mount Koya and the surrounding area. Okunoin looks so serene. I’m going to read more about that Pilgrimage since I hadn’t heard about it before. Thanks for opening my eyes to a side of Japan not often highlighted.

    • So glad you enjoyed it Jackie! I’m glad that I could publish Lotte’s post and help to introduce people to the more natural side of Japan which they may not have been aware of :)

      Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  8. Oh, you are making me want to go back to Japan. I’ve only visited Tokyo, and while the hot springs and Mount Fuji have long been on my list, now I want to visit Hokkaido, too. Great article.

    • So glad we could inspire a return trip! Yes, so much nature to see!

  9. I normally like to comment on my favorite location in posts like this, but all of these seem really amazing, peaceful and rejuvenating. We’ve never been to Japan, but it’s been on our list for awhile. I love that these are definitely off the path

    • Absolutely – I don’t know how to pick a favorite either honestly lol!!

  10. Kamikochi looks beautiful! As a Vancouverite I am a little biased about scenery, but I would love to spend some time hiking in the Japanese Alps (I didn’t even know that “Japanese Alps” was a thing!) Japan is on our bucket list with the kids! Hopefully we can check it off before 2017 ends!

    • Ah, yes, Canada definitely sets a high bar on the scenery front! I think Japan might be able to compete though! Let us know what you think if you get there – hope you have the chance in 2017 :)

  11. What a great about Japan. On a layover to the US recently, we made a stop in Narita City (close to the airport) and got a taste of this magnificent country. That little exposure was enough to make us want to come back and explore the country. These are truly spectacular places, with Hokkaido being my favorite. Cheers!!

    • So glad to hear you had a great layover, hopefully you’ll have the chance to head back with Japan as your main destination soon!

  12. Mount Koya looks and sounds like a place I would enjoy. It would be wonderful to see the Buddhist temples and monasteries up in Japan’s high mountains. I am interested in learning more about the Kohechi route and will follow the link to read about it.

    • Let us know if you have any further questions – yes, the website I linked to for Mount Koya has some great information and comprehensive guides to the walking routes :)

      Happy travels!

  13. Great, I’m enjoying your blog. I learned a lot of travel knowledge, it is very useful for my life later, sure to come to Japan I will visit 5 places you have introduced, it is wonderful, feel Thank you very much

    • Glad to hear you’re enjoying our blog Win, we hope you do have the chance to visit Japan in the future :)

  14. Hi
    Very nice post
    keep posting the good stuff

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :) Happy travels!

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