Full of Fantastic Photo Opportunities! Seven Must Visit Geoparks in Japan
Geoparks are places where you can learn about geographical and geological features created by the earth's movement and the history of the people who are closely connected to them. They have fantastic scenery and are popular as photo spots. This time, we introduce seven geoparks where you can see stunning views.
1. San'in Kaigan UNESCO Global Geopark (Kyoto, Hyogo, Tottori)
This is a vast geopark that spans the three prefectures of Kyoto, Hyogo and Tottori. It is distinguished by the igneous rocks and geological strata that are related to the formation of the Sea of Japan about 25 million years ago, and diverse coastal terrains, such as shorelines and dunes formed by the sea-level change and tectonic movement in the Sea of Japan. A representative site is the Tottori Sand Dunes, the largest sand dune in Japan, where you can enjoy a magical scenery of patterns and pillars that have been created in the sands by the wind. The huge Tateiwa andesite rocks at the mouth of Takeno River that runs north-south on Tango Peninsula in Kyoto are also very impressive.
2. Toya Caldera and Usu Volcano UNESCO Global Geopark (Hokkaido)
This is a geopark where you can savor the beautiful scenery and onsen (hot springs) created by ancient volcanic activities, as well as wonderful food. The highlight of this park is the Toya Caldera that was created by a huge eruption approximately 110,000 years ago. Water filled this caldera that measures about 10km in diameter to create the current Lake Toya. Mt. Showa-shinzan (a natural monument of the country), a volcanic mountain that was created about 70 years ago, can be seen from the rope-way on Mt. Usu (round trip 1,500 JPY (incl. tax)/adult).
3. Unzen Volcanic Area Global Geopark (Nagasaki)
Shimabara Peninsula is the location of Mt. Unzen, which is one of Japan's most famous active volcanoes. At this geopark, which is centered on volcanoes, you can learn about the development of the peninsula and its people. You can also touch the rocks and stratum that were formed by the influences of the volcano, ocean and wind. A must visit area is the Unzen Jigoku where you can see the high temperature onsen and fumes created by volcanic activity spurting out. The Heisei Shinzan (a national monument of the country), which is a lava dome and Japan's newest mountain created by the eruption of Fugen-dake on Mt. Unzen, is also a must see.
4. Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark (Kochi)
Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark is a place where the ocean meets land and creates new ground. At this park, you can see dynamic changes in the earth's crust resulting from continual upheaval of the earth since approximately 100 million years ago. For example, on the Gyodo-Kuromi Coastline, you can see stratum created by alternating layers of sand and mud that piled up on the seabed 35 - 40 million years ago. Cape Muroto has the most geospots in the park and is full of things to see such as traces of magma on the coast that are a result of a huge earthquake erupting.
5. Aso UNESCO Global Geopark (Kumamoto)
The theme of Aso UNESCO Global Geopark is the natural environment of the volcanic mountain of Aso, and the lives of people around it. At this park, you can observe traces of eruptions etched in the Aso Caldera and unique volcanic scenery such as the steam that still comes out of Mt. Nakadake* today. Daikanbo, which is the highest peak among the outer rim of the Aso Caldera, is known as a fantastic view spot. In the park, you can also experience the benefits the volcano brought to people in the area, such as spring water and onsen.
*As of December 2017, access is limited to 1km outside of the rim of the caldea.
6. Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark (Shimane)
The Oki Islands are located in the Sea of Japan to the north of Shimane Peninsula. Their form has changed over the ages, being a part of the continent at one time, at the bottom of the sea at another, and rising as a result of volcanic activity at yet another time. During the Ice Age, the islands were connected to Shimane Peninsula due to a decrease in sea levels, but separated into today's form when sea levels rose around 10,000 years ago due to global warming. The highlight of Dogo Island, which is the largest of the islands, is the view of a tiny island called Rosoku-jima (Candle Island). If the conditions are right, the island looks like a candle with a light. The dynamic natural views on the Kuniga Coast of Nishinoshima Island are also a must see.
7. Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark (Niigata)
This is a geopark where you can enjoy valuable geological features that represent the formation of the isles of Japan and a beautiful scenery. Its highlights are the rocks and stratum that were formed over a period of 500 million years; Fossa Magna, a tectonic line that splits Japan; and a variegated ecosystem. At Takanami Pond, you can enjoy fantastic views created by the pond and the large rock walls of Mt. Myojo that were coral reefs approximately 300 million years ago. Itoigawa is also the origin of the world's oldest jade culture. Jadeite and large limestone walls can be seen at the Kotakigawa Jadeite Deposit (a natural monument of the country), known as the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge.
The appeals of geoparks include not just the beautiful scenery, but also the variegated ecosystems and tasty food. If any of these spots pique your interest, go and experience the wonders for yourself.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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