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6 Select Spots Where You can Take Breathtaking Photos from a Hot Air Balloon

The 360 degree panoramic view from a hot air balloon is so beautiful it will take your breath away. Why not photograph the world where birds fly? This is an introduction to six select spots where you can experience riding on a hot air balloon.

About Hot Air Balloons

・There are two different types of hot air balloon rides - tethered ride where the hot air balloon is attached to the ground by a rope, and free flights that are operated by pilots. If you want a casual experience, try the tethered flight as it is short (about 5 minutes) and only goes up to a limited altitude.
・Balloon rides are usually offered on grassland, so be sure to wear comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting dirty and sneakers to help you balance when the balloon sways.
・Flights may be cancelled for rain or snow, or for wind even on a sunny day. Bear in mind that it is a mode of transport that is fully dependent on the weather.

1. Tokachi, Hokkaido

This is a refreshing early morning ride on a tethered balloon at a height of about 30m from which you can enjoy the scenery. On a clear day, you can see a grand panorama of the Tokachi Plains, Hidaka Mountain Range and the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group. Reservations are not necessary so go straight to the meeting point at Hanakku Square in Tokachigaoka Park. You may have to wait if it is crowded, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time. The park is close to Tokachi Onsen, where there are facilities with free footbaths.

Price: 2,100 JPY (, child rate available
Schedule: May 3 - September 30 (every day if the conditions are right) *Balloons are only flown for groups of 20 or more in the winter
Meeting time: 6:30 am - 7:30 am (6:00 am - 7:30 am in July and August)

1. Tokachi, Hokkaido

14 Tokachigawa Onsen-kita, Otofuke-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido

2. Niseko, Hokkaido

Niseko, which is famous for skiing, offers tethered balloon rides twice a day in the early morning and in the evening. The Niseko Annupuri area, which is said to have the most balloon rides in Hokkaido, offers a stunning view of the Niseko Mountain Range from approximately 20m - 30m up in the air. It may be hard to decide whether to take the early morning flight with the bright light of the morning, or the evening flight with beautiful sunsets. There is a door on the basket so it is easy to get on and off. The basket also has clear paneling on one side so that children can enjoy the panoramic view.
※The photo was taken from above Niseko Annupuri

Price: 2,700 JPY (, child rate available
Schedule: June - September *reservations required
Meeting time: 6:30 am - 7:00 am for early morning rides / 4:30 pm - 5:00 pm for sunset rides

2. Niseko, Hokkaido

485 Aza Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido

3. Nagara River, Gifu Prefecture

This is a tethered balloon ride from which you can see the beautiful nature-rich scenery around Nagara River. There is the option to experience the highest altitude offered in Japan realized by a new winch system. Enjoy the quiet world high above where the wind is gentle. If you become a special member of the HEAT BALLOON Club, for which there are no sign-up or annual fees, you can try a free flying flight as well (weekdays only).

Price: 2,500 JPY ( and up for ages 13 and above, child rate available
Schedule: Weekends and holidays *reservations required by 12:00 pm of the previous day
Meeting time: 25m 7:00 am - 9:30 am / 50m 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm *December - March 8:30 am - 10:00 am, Cancelled if snowing

3. Nagara River, Gifu Prefecture

757 Hachimancho-shima, Gujo-shi, Gifu

4. Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture

This is a tethered balloon ride with fantastic views of the Northern Japanese Alps, in Hakuba, which is crowded with many skiers from abroad in the winter. The ride takes off from a plaza where you can see the ski jumping hill used in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and rises amidst the mystic early morning atmosphere. If the weather is right, why not take a selfie with the three snow-capped peaks of Mt. Shirouma in the background? It can be chilly, so be sure to wear long sleeves. The official homepage is in Japanese only, but the reservation form can be filled out in English.

Price: 2,500 JPY ( for ages 13 and above, child rate available
Schedule: April - November *Reservations required by the previous day
Meeting time: 5:30 am (summer) or 6:00 am - 7:00 am

4. Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture

3812 Hokujo, Hakuba-mura, Kitaazumi-gun, Nagano

5. Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture

This is a tethered ride with a panoramic view of the early morning caldera of Mt. Aso from approximately 40m above ground. You can enjoy a view of the majestic scenery of Aso created by the volcano. If the conditions are right, you may even be able to see a sea of clouds. And if you ask the pilot, he will let you experience heating the air with a burner. Enjoy the powerful sound and heat.

Price: 2,160 JPY for ages 13 and above, child rate available
Schedule: All year *Reservations required by 5:00 pm the previous day
Meeting time: 5:30 am - 7:30 am *May change depending on season

5. Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture

1092-1 Uchinomaki, Aso-shi, Kumamoto

6. Watarase, Tochigi Prefecture

This is a 45-minute untethered piloted flight that gives you a panoramic view of the Kanto Plains. This is the only place where you can enjoy an untethered flight throughout the year. You will see Mt. Fuji, the Pacific Ocean, and even the skyscrapers of Tokyo in the distance. The entire process takes about three hours as you can participate in both the assembly and recovery. This is a great opportunity to fully enjoy the beauty of flying in the sky as one with the wind.

Price: 22,000 JPY ( cash only/adult, child rate available *2 to 6 people per ride
Schedule: All year *Reservations must be made at least one week in advance
Meeting time: At sunrise (4:30 am - 7:00 am)

6. Watarase, Tochigi Prefecture

1218-1 Fujioka, Fujioka-machi, Tochigi-shi, Tochigi

The feeling of floating in the air is an extraordinary sensation. Even if it is a five-minute tethered flight, the experience of floating and the fantastic views will create lifelong memories. Why not go out for a hot air balloon ride and become one with nature?

*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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