When you think of Japan it is often the gigantic megacity of Tokyo that springs to mind along with its bustling technology fueled society that is so impressive for its ingenuity and innovation. Another well-known image and indeed symbol of Japan is the iconic Mount Fuji that beautifully rises gracefully towards the heavens.
Cherry blossom trees may also feature when you think of this lovely country that has such an array of amazing things to see and do. In any case, in comparison with the wide variety of attractions on show, Japan’s national parks often fall somewhat under the radar of visitors to its shores. Natural wonders abound however and the plethora of incredible sights will leave you astounded at the scenic beauty before your eyes.
Map of national parks in Japan
10. Ogasawara National Park
Fiercely contested during the Second World War, the Bonin Islands as they are sometimes known make up the archipelago of islands that form Ogasawara National Park. Only accessible by boat, the long ferry rides to this remote park are definitely worth it such is the incredible beauty on show.
Approaching the stunning coves and secluded beaches that dot its shores makes for an amazing and refreshing experience after the long journey. Unique in terms of its evolutionary heritage, Ogasawara is sometimes called the ‘Galapagos of the Orient’ and as such it is fascinating to explore.
The turquoise waters surrounding the islands beautifully frame the amazing scenery that contains many species of fauna, flora and mammal that are endemic to this unique environment. The stunning rock arch at Minamijima is just one of the highlights of the national park.
With amazing snorkeling, delightful hiking and an incredible variety of water sports for you to enjoy; what are you waiting for? The secluded beauty of Ogasawara is an unforgettable place to visit.
9. Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park
Famous for the Iriomote wild cat that resides within its boundaries, the secluded islands of this national park are simply marvelous to explore. Lagoons surround some of the islands and their crystal clear waters only add to the beauty of this untamed wilderness as does the subtropical fauna and flora that coat their low-lying interiors.
Stupendous views abound and a number of sweeping panoramas are to be found when wandering along the limestone cliffs that infrequently look out over the beaches below.
On top of all this, cascades illuminate the dense undergrowth with the delightful sounds they make as well as the lovely picture they paint amidst the trees. Birds circling overhead only add to the picturesque nature of the lovely Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.
8. Aso-Kuju National Park
Named after Mount Aso and the Kuju Mountains, this national park’s beautiful landscapes are dominated by their lofty peaks that rise dramatically from the flatlands surrounding them. Mount Aso, an active volcano, has a lovely caldera that visitors can stroll around and nearby are a number of hot springs that are delightful to bathe in.
The volcanic landscape is barren and scarred from lava flows and all the more impressive for it. On the plains beneath the Kuju Mountains are the Kuju Flower Gardens which explode with color and life. Relaxing and refreshing to visit; the gardens’ stunning backdrop of mountains makes it all the more lovely to behold.
7. Towada-Hachimantai National Park
This mountainous region has a number of lovely trails and paths that make for wonderful hiking through the wilderness. The park changes with the seasons and in winter the snow-covered Juhyo forests are a spectacular and unusual sight to behold.
In summer a myriad of colors spring forth and give life to the area through the rich array of fauna and flora that coats the mountains within the park. The volcanic nature of the area means that hot springs can be found within the confines of Towada-Hachimantai and lovely rivers and lakes are also interspersed amongst the never-ending mountains.
6. Yoshino-Kumano National Park
The unique appearance of the rock formations that rear impressively along the coastline of this national park are just one of the stunning natural wonders that you can find in Yoshino-Kumano.
Jutting out into the sea, these intriguing geological marvels are fascinating to behold as are the varying landscapes that mix and merge to create a beautiful patchwork of incredible scenes. Peaceful rivers wind their way through steep ravines that turn into mountains before your eyes, forests coat the hills and valleys and in between all this shrines and waterfalls can be found.
The sacred Mount Omine that is covered in lush fauna and flora and shrouded in mist is delightful to visit as is Yoshino Mountain which offers up beautiful panoramas of the surrounding area from its summit. Old cobbled paths weave their way through the mysterious forests and following these trails makes for a memorable experience.
5. Kerama Shoto National Park
This idyllic archipelago of islands lying off of Okinawa are bedazzling such is their dreamlike appearance. Tropical in nature, the pristine turquoise waters that surround the islands give way to the creamy white beaches that are so delightful to lounge upon.
Lush fauna and flora coat the low-lying interiors of the islands and staying overnight in one of the minshuku on offer is well worth the expense. Offshore, the eclectic colors of the coral reefs attract scuba divers and snorkelers who revel in the beautiful underwater realm that paints such a pretty picture.
Sea turtles lazily float by and lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of humpback whales that sometimes pass through its waters. Kerama Shoto National Park is an earthly paradise just beckoning you to come and enjoy it.
4. Nikko National Park
Home to the stunning Toshogu Shrine, Nikko is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country and as such is definitely worth visiting. History abounds in the park and the aforementioned shrine is a must-see as is the Buddhist temple of Rinno-ji. Breathtaking scenery is common in Nikko and visitors are guaranteed to adore all of its amazing sights on offer.
The waters of Kegon Falls, for instance, delightfully plunge into the pools below and are strikingly visible amidst the thick forests on either side of it. Just behind the waterfalls is the enormous Lake Chuzenji which so beautifully lies between the mountains and hills that surround it. Of these, Mount Nantai is the most impressive and it mesmerizingly looks out over the lake, picturesque in its splendour.
Mount Nikko-Shirane is another amazing feature of the park and its snow-capped peak is distinctive and regal, standing out against the bright blue skies. Unending are the wonders on display in Nikko National Park.
3. Shiretoko National Park
Located right in the north-eastern tip of Hokkaido, the remote and secluded location of Shiretoko National Park has helped to keep its beautiful landscapes untouched and untamed. The main draw to the park are the Five Lakes that are so resplendent to behold; radiant in their beauty the lakes are charming to wander around and the mountains and forests surrounding them only add to their splendor.
A delightful attraction within the park is Kamuiwakka Falls which is well worth the effort to visit. Clambering over the rocks that dot the river, the water gradually warms up as you near the source of the hot springs and bathing in their warm waters makes for a lovely experience with the pristine nature all around you.
For a lovely view in Shiretoko National Park, head to Shiretoko Pass and gaze out over the beautiful scenery before you.
2. Akan Mashu National Park
One of the oldest national parks in the country, the environment of Akan Mashu has long been protected and preserved for all to enjoy. The stunning scenery on show makes the park wonderful to explore and its diverse ecosystems and wide range of attractions only add to its splendor.
Visitors could spend weeks amidst all the natural wonders of Akan Mashu and still not have seen everything. With incredible volcanic craters, sprawling forests and crystal clear lakes; immersing yourself in the pristine environment will fill you with peace and a constant sense of amazement at the breathtaking beauty around you.
From the lovely lakes of Onneto and Akan to the mountains of Me-Akan and Nishibetsu and the hot springs of Kawayu; Akan Mashu needs to be seen to be believed such is the wealth of beautiful things to see and do.
1. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Comprising a vast array of natural wonders, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park has it all and the contrasting landscapes are awe-inspiring to explore. The main draw is the iconic Mount Fuji that is so distinctive in its appearance and, while it is not the sole reason that it is Japan’s most popular national park, it certainly does help.
The park has over a thousand volcanic islands dispersed along its shores and beautiful waterways brilliantly caress their way amongst the mountains, hills and valleys of the area. Lakes and hot springs proliferate as do cherry blossom trees that characterize its landscapes.
Waterfalls also abound as do ancient forests that grow in the old lava fields that once blazed their way down the slopes of the volcanoes. Bring your camera; you’re going to need it for all the amazing sights on offer. Simply unbelievable to visit.