One of Japan’s charms is the beautiful scenery you can enjoy from season to season. From the mysterious ocean that is made by the tropical fish and coral reefs, to rare scenery that you won’t see anywhere else in the world, we've picked 10 out of the 32 national parks of Japan to introduce.
1. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Tokyo)
This national park contains the Japan’s tallest mountain “Mt. Fuji”. It’s close to the capital city and it receives the most visitors among all of Japan’s national parks. In addition to the “Mt. Fuji Area”, the “Hakone Area” is famous for its hot springs, the “Izu Peninsula Area” a place to enjoy fresh seafood and hot springs and the “Izu Islands” are a popular diving spot. It is mainly divided into these 4 large scale areas. Many aspects of nature like the mountains, lakes, islands etc. that is designated as a national park originating from volcanic activity. Each area has it’s own unique scenery that you can enjoy at your leisure.
2. Shikotsu-Toya National Park (Hokkaido)
Shikotsu-Toya National Park located in the south-west of Hokkaido, is a national park with many lakes and volcanoes that can be accessed easily from New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, making it a popular sightseeing spot. There are the 2 caldera lakes; Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya, as well as the volcanoes, Mt. Yotei and Mt. Usu. You can spot many volcanic terrains and signs of volcanic activity. You can enjoy hiking, mountain climbing, as well as the beautiful scenery formed through a volcanic eruption. After enjoying nature, how about relieving your tiredness in one of Japan’s most famous hot springs “Noboribetsu Onsen”?
3. Chubu-Sangaku National Park (Niigata, Toyama, Nagano, Gifu)
If you want to challenge yourself to mountain climbing in Japan, then we recommend “Chubu-Sangaku National Park”. With a range of mountains standing 3,000 m above sea level, it is Japan’s representative mountain park. There are various routes prepared with levels of difficulty ranging from hiking to full-blown mountain climbing. So by all means, please enjoy the gorgeous mountain scenery to the fullest. Also, inside the park in the eastern part of Toyama prefecture, there is the “Kurobe Dam”, the tallest in the country which stands at 186 m tall. It’s an extremely famous sightseeing spot and many people visit while enjoying trekking.
4. Aso Kuju National Park (Kumamoto, Oita)
Located in the center of Kyushu, “Aso Kuju National Park” is a national park centered on Mount Aso and the Kuju mountain range that includes Nakadake, Kyushu mainland’s highest peak. The highlight of the area, is “Mount Aso” which has the world’s largest caldera terrain. Tourists can go on foot or take the ropeway to view the mountain crater, one of the world’s rare active volcanoes.
*Volcanic gas is constantly emitted and the entrance is regulated based on the density of gases. People with weak respiratory systems should take caution.
5. Shiretoko National Park (Hokkaido)
Designated as a World Natural Heritage Site, this national park still has traces of untouched nature. The designated areas that comprise the national park, run along the ocean from the center of the Shiretoko Peninsula to the Shiretoko cape and the rich primeval forest and the north of the sea, is inhabited by rare, endangered animal species. Among other things, the primeval forest is dotted with 5 lakes known as the “Shiretoko Five Lakes” which are popular sightseeing spots that receive about 500,000 visitors a year. You can enjoy the scenery of abundant nature and lakes by foot using the 2 routes prepared for the visitors. The use of the routes change based on the seasons, so it would be good to check it out before you pay a visit.
6. Ogasawara National Park (Tokyo)
“Ogasawara National Park” is located in the south of Tokyo and belongs to the subtropics area. The Ogasawara archipelago is not simply land that borders the continent. Since it has built up a natural ecosystem that differs from the main continent, it is referred to as the “Oriental Galapagos”. Travelling by boat from Tokyo is the sole way to get there. It is approximately 1,000 km from Tokyo, so it takes more than a day to get there. However, you can participate in tours to see the many creatures that only inhabit the Ogasawara islands, enjoy water sports and have experiences that you will have nowhere else.
7. Nikko National Park (Tochigi, Gunma, Fukushima)
“Nikko National Park” is in the mountain area that belongs to the volcanic belt, and you can fully enjoy a variety of different sceneries such as waterfalls, lakes, Ryuokyo which is famous for viewing autumn colors, etc. that were created by the volcanic activity. It is also famous for its many hot springs. “Mt. Nantai” in Nikko National Park was one of the places of worship for Japan’s ancient mountain faith (where the mountain is worshipped as sacred). Also, you can’t miss the chance of sightseeing at Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine which is a designated World Heritage shrine. In the midst of the beautiful nature, the gorgeous yet solemn atmosphere of the temples and shrines nestled in the landscape is a must-see.
8. Ise-Shima National Park (Mie)
Comprising of the Shima Peninsula, the highlights of Ise-Shima National Park are its deep coves, complicated coastlines and numerous islands. We recommend the “Yokoyama Observatory” where you can see the entire landscape of Ago Bay in one sweep of the eye. Also, since Ago Bay is also known for cultivating pearls, how about taking home some pearl jewelry as a souvenir? This area has a history of 2000 years, and it contains the Grand Shrine of Ise which is referred to as Japan’s most prestigious shrines. If you have the chance, please pay a visit.
9. Seto Inland Sea National Park (near Seto Inland Sea)
In 1934, “Seto Inland Sea National Park” was designated as the first national park. Japan’s largest inland sea is located in this area and it spreads through 11 different prefectures: Osaka, Wakayama, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Aichi, Fukuoka and Oita. Including the land and sea area, it is Japan’s largest national park. The islands are dotted with nature, seaside, terraced fields, harbor towns and more. The view of the natural and human landscapes integrated together allows you to experience the uniqueness of the Inland Sea. It is endowed with 1,000 large and small islands and in particular, the large “Awaji Island” and “Shodo Island” are known as sightseeing areas. In recent years, the highly popular “Nao Island” has been attracting attention as an art spot.
10. Kerama Islands National Park (Okinawa)
If you want to enjoy the beautiful oceans and coral reefs, try to visit the “Kerama Islands National Park”. There are many people who sightsee in Okinawa, then go a little further to the national park and enjoy the two popular isolated islands, “Zamami Island” and “Tokashiki Island”. The national park is comprised of these "Kerama Islands" and also the surrounding coral reefs. The crystal clear ocean that extends out is known as the “Kerama Blue” and is a world leading diving spot. Based on the time of year, you can also take part in a whale watching tour and see whales up close.
The areas designated as national parks are extensive and the features span a wide range of interests. Be sure to carefully look into the things you would like to enjoy and which area of the park you would like to go to and try to include it in your sightseeing agenda.