20 of Japan’s most stunning places
Apart from the culture and traditions, Japan also offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes. This is your Japan bucket list.
It’s not a secret that Japan has an incredible amount of beauty. From the fields of lavender in Furano located in Hokkaido and down to crystal-clear beaches of Okinawa. This tiny country is brimming with beautiful natural beauty and contemporary museums along with mountainside temples and, of course, the beautiful cherry blooms in the spring.
While there are at present traveling restrictions for non-citizens who want to travel to Japan, The country is working to ease its borders. However, here’s some ideas for travel to consider adding to your next Japan excursion.
Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
Also known as The Golden Temple, Kinkakuji is known as a Zen Buddhist temple covered in gold. It’s a beautiful and glistening site located situated in traditional Kyoto. The temple is so gorgeous that a young monk tried to torch it down in 1950, triggering Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. You first take a walk to view it and the reflection, before you finally see it in close-up view and be ready for multiple photo opportunities. Visit in the morning or later in the afternoon for lesser crowds and less sparkle due to the silver leaf.
Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel, Niigata prefecture
Niigata Prefecture’s Kiyotsu Gorge is a massive natural wonder that is surrounded by columns of volcanic rock, referred to as columnar jointing, that overlook the river in a stunning view. The walking trails were declared unsafe and shut down from public access in 1988. Ma Yansong along with MAD Architects and the MAD Architects team built the Tunnel of Light which is a 750m long tunnel that leads to the gorge to allow visitors to view the gorge’s stunning views.
Mt Fuji, Yamanashi
Japan’s most coveted jewel and the most beautiful spot in the world, Mt Fuji is a must-see for anyone visiting. There are a myriad of spots to view the majestic mountain however, it is the view from Arakurayama Sengen Park with the magnificent Chureito Pagoda, and from Lake Kawaguchi best capture its beautiful beauty.
Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, has stunning panoramas of Mount Fuji particularly during winter, when the skies are mostly clear and one can see the reflection of the volcano in the lake. But the almost perfect appearance in the symmetry of Mt Fuji is a stunning view all year round, no matter the location from which it is seen.
Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
Every flower lover must add the Ibaraki’s Hitachi Seaside Park to their bucket lists. The park is known for its blue ocean that is home to 5.3 million nemophilas in spring, and the bright red kochia, also known as summer cypress in the autumn (pictured), Hitachi Seaside Park also has California poppies as well as roses, daffodils, and daffod even has a tulip garden that is inspired by Holland. garden. It’s not just about the flowers. There’s amusement parks as well as a kid’s adventure area and 11km of cycle paths within the park’s 350-hectare area.
Mt Haguro, Yamagata
The easiest mountain to access of the three mountains that comprise the Dewa Sanzan pilgrimage route Mt Haguro appears to be a real living representation of an enchanting forest. The climb to the top of the shrine and includes climbing nearly 2500 steps, is sure to make you think twice about your strength and determination. However, at the bottom appearing out of out of the blue, is an impressive five-storey wooden pagoda built in 937 , and is located in a dense cedar forest, whose trees are between 300-600 years old. It’s an amazing and bizarre sight that’ll remain in your mind long after you’ve finished the trek, time feeling humble and small by the majestic cedar trees that surround the way to the top.
Motonosumi Inari Shrine, Yamaguchi
Vermilion tunnels and and torii gates can be a regular scene in Japan. It is possible to see Fushimi Inari located in Kyoto as well as Nezu Shrine in Tokyo, however, Motonosumi Shrine in the seaside town of Nagato is the most stunning. It’s a relatively new shrine built in 1955, the shrine is comprised of the 123 torii gates that go down the cliffs with dramatic views of the ocean. In contrast to other shrines, which you simply throw coins into an offering box here you’ll need to put your contribution into a box on high up on the last gate, a torii gate that is 6 meters tall. If you succeed your goal, it could be fulfilled.
Off the coast of the Kanagawa prefecture, which lies the area between Okayama as well as Shikoku Island, the Seto Inland Sea is the home of a row of tiny islands that are dedicated to modern art. The six “art islands” include Teshima, Naoshima, Inujima, Megijima, Ogijima and Shodoshima However, if you’re running short on time, Naoshima is the pick out of the bunch.
Three Tadao Ando-designed museums in Naoshima The three museums – Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum and Lee Ufan Museum – were constructed in an industrial design that creates surreal images amid the natural beauty. In addition there is the Art House Project, which displays Japanese and international art in restored traditional houses and preserves the rural and traditional feel on the island.
A visit towards Naoshima cannot be complete without taking a photograph in the vicinity of Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin” that stands in front of a blue sky and blue sea. This stunningly photographed scene is now a beloved picture of the ‘art islands’.
Along the historical Nakasendo, the mountainous path that linked the old Edo (present-day Tokyo) with Kyoto It is Narai Post Town, which lies situated in the beautiful Kiso Valley. It is among the most ideal places to get an insight into the Edo-era (1603-1868) living, since the majority of the town’s prosperity is preserved to the point that the wooden structures stretch over one kilometer. A lot of the historic houses have been converted to restaurants and minshuku (Japanese breakfast and bed) and even stores, and two former residences which include Nakamura Residence as well as Kamidonya Shiryokan – have been preserved in the same way as they were when they were in the early days. Narai is stunningly attractive in autumn with its bright, vibrant foliage that illuminates the surrounding Kiso mountains.
Kumano Kodo, Wakayama prefecture
The pilgrimage trails of Unesco are part of this section of Kumano Kodo on the Kii Peninsula located in Wakayama prefecture. The 70km trail winds through lush, dense forests and passes by a variety of old temples and shrines. The most well-known spots are Kumano Nachi Taisha, which is Kumano Nachi Taisha that boasts a three-storey vermillion sagoda, as well as Nachi no Taki, which is 133m high, making it the highest waterfall found in Japan.
Shirakawa-go, Gifu prefecture
Deep within Gifu prefecture is Shirakawa-go which is a well-preserved Japanese village that is a Unesco World Heritage Site, full of traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses that are famous for their triangular thatched roofs that resemble prayer hands. Today, the majority of the farmhouses have been turned into restaurants, museums and even hotels. However, tourists can still wander around the interiors of the homes to marvel at the distinctive design, which is held together by timber beams. The homes are particularly beautiful when it is winter. They are all covered with snow, they look like gingerbread homes.
Takachiho Gorge, Miyazaki
The stunning Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki is best enjoyed from the water. You can hire a tiny rowing vessel and take an unforgettable cruise along the tranquil Gokase River. It’s no paddling in the park, however the gorge is brimming with natural beauty and you’ll be enveloped by thick maple trees, as well as the stunning Minai-notaki waterfall which stands 17m tall. Do you prefer to remain in dry terrain? The gorge is beautiful from above . Hikers can stroll through this 1km Takachiho Promenade for a landscape views, which are most enjoyable during the lighting of the summer and the vermillion autumn leaves.
Himeji Castle, Hyogo prefecture
Himeji is perhaps Japan’s most famous castle. It was even the foundation for this emoji . Also called The Heron in White. Heron, Himeji Castle is an enormous and stark blue structure which has endured natural disasters as well as wars. The castle dates in the 16th century, but it was restored in the year 2015 and visitors are able to marvel at the newly renovated structure. If you’re planning to visit make sure to save the official site for the latest queue times.
The beaches of Ishigaki, Okinawa
Imagine a beach of white sand with crystal clear water that you don’t require snorkeling equipment to spot the fish. It’s not necessary to stretch your imagination when you are in the lush tropical paradise of Okinawa the string of islands that lie between Japan to Taiwan. Of the 49 islands that are inhabited, Ishigaki is easily one of the most picturesque and offers a variety of forests, mountains and sandy beaches to please those who are active and adventurous, as well as people who enjoy relaxing at the shore. You can spend the day sunbathing while swimming in Yonehara Beach or have a take a look at sea creatures in the clear waters of Kabira Bay, where you can enjoy a glass-bottomed cruise tour.
On the shores of Kagoshima prefecture lies Yakushima is a naturalist’s paradise. It is the most effective way view the tiny island, which is the basis for”Princess Mononoke,” the Ghibli film ‘Princess of Mononoke which was released in 2009, is to take multiple-day hikes. You’ll be able to forget the nonsense of contemporary life when you trek along the dirt paths covered in moss and marvel at yakusugi, which is one of the oldest trees that remain in Japan that are more than 1,000 years old. There are a variety of trails that cater to different levels of experience starting from a quick 1-hour hike to an exciting 20-hour, overnight trip. Highlights include an overnight hike to visit the ancient Jomonsugi cedar treethat is estimated to be between the ages of 2,000-7200 years.
Zao Snow Monsters, Yamagata
Zao is not just one of the top ski resorts to hit the slopes, but it’s also a beautiful place straight from the winter fairy tale or from a horror movie. There are a lot of trees encased in snow and bent by the wind, making them appear like giant snowmen, transformed. The monsters are honored with their own celebration in January, with illuminations and fireworks.
Korakuen in Okayama Along with Kenrokuen at Kanazawa along with Kairakuen in Mito is among the Three Great Gardens of Japan It is a title it has been a part of since the 19th century. The sprawling landscape, which covers around 144,000 square meters is an excellent representation of the Edo period’s traditional (1603-1868) splendour. Although Korakuen was damaged through natural and war damage throughout its history, the garden has always been restored using historical illustrations of maps. Being one of the biggest garden landscapes in Japan, Korakuen is sprawling enough to include huge lawns, ponds, cherry and plum trees, as well as Japanese cranes. The garden is breathtaking throughout the year with a carefully curated collection of plants that ensure there’s always flowers throughout the year. And that stunning perspective from Okayama Castle in the background is the cherry of the cake.
Hill of the Buddha at Makomanai Takino Cemetery, Hokkaido
It’s up to architect star Tadao Ando to make beauty from grieving and loss. Ando created Sapporo’s circular Makomanai Takino Cemetery around a massive 13.5m-tall sculpture of the Buddha and let his head rise at the top of a fake hill. Concrete, a concrete-like material that is Ando’s trademark material, is contrasted with flowers that line the perimeter of the cemetery and also covers the Buddha’s torso. Only way for visitors to view the whole sculpture is walking up the 40-metre hollow “hill” via an underground tunnel that is dark. Once you’ve reached the (natural) illumination at the bottom in the tunnel you’ll be able to see the graceful Buddha standing in front of you. Jaw, dropped.
Ogasawara Islands, Tokyo
Just a hop, skip and 24-hour ferry ride away from Tokyo, you’ll discover the Ogasawara islands, an island group that boasts the best snorkelling as well as hiking as well as sandy beach in Japan. Chichijima is among the major islands is a favorite location for whale and dolphin watching. The islands are extremely isolated, so you’ll have the chance to take a break, unwind and take in the subtropical weather away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Minamijima is located just off Chichijima’s coast Chichijima is accessible only through a tour guide. However, the unique rock formations as well as the beaches of white sands are worth the effort.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto
Sure, Arashiyama could be popular however there’s nothing more relaxing as the sounds of bamboo moving in the breeze. Visit the bamboo grove in the early morning (it’s accessible all hours of the day) to get away from the crowds. Don’t forget to check out Tenryuji Temple, a Zen temple with a serene landscaping garden, as well as Nonomiya Shrine, which appeared in the film ‘The Tale of Genji’. Both are within the bamboo grove.
Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto
There are numerous cities with hot springs in Kyushu however, only Kurokawa Onsen will make it feel like you’ve gone back in the past. There aren’t many hotels or shabby advertising signs in this town; it retains its old-fashioned atmosphere with a wooden ryokans within the valley that surrounds Mt Aso.
Contrary to the flashy towns of onsen stuffed with tour buses, tourist attractions, the primary focus at Kurokawa Onsen is the baths. You can relax in the nature while you relax in the hot water of the outdoor baths, also known as the rotenburo. You can also go through three open and closed onsen using the wooden ‘Rotemburo Meguri’ pass that costs 1300 Y. It is recommended to explore the town with the yukata at sunset, after all day bathers are gone, particularly in the winter time of the bamboo illumination between December and April.
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