Five Spots in Japan Where You Can Experience Being Above the Clouds in Early Summer
Unkai (sea of clouds) is popular because of the mystical scenery created by clouds. Although the best time of year to see unkai is during the cold months from fall to winter, there are some spots where you can enjoy them in early summer. So this time, we introduce five select places to enjoy unkai in the early summer.
This is a spot in Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU where you can see unkai. It is at an altitude of 1,088m and can be accessed on a gondola lift. If you go up early in the morning during the season, there is a 40% chance you'll see an unkai. The scenery you can see only in Tomamu, such as the Pacific Ocean-grown unkai, which is characterized by its dynamic movement, and the adverse-weather unkai that only occurs in bad weather, are definitely worth seeing.
Gondola Fare: 1,900 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/elementary school child, 500 JPY/pet
Period of Operation: May 12, 2018 - October 15, 2018
SORA terrace at Kitashiga Ryuoo Mountain Park has a high appearance rate of unkai, at 67%. It is a terrace at an altitude of 1,770m atop Mt. Ryuo. The clouds that spread out below look like waves, with the mountain tops that jut out appearing like small islands. The unkai are most likely to appear between 9:00 am and 10:30 am and 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The unkai in the evening creates a particularly mystic scenery together with the sunset.
Ropeway Round Trip Ticket: 2,300 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/child, 2,200 JPY/senior (65 and above)
Period of Operation: Saturday, June 9 2018 - late October
*Closed Monday, July 2 - Friday, July 6 and Monday, September 3 - Friday, September 7
Shibu Toge, which is at the border of Nagano Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture, is a national road at an altitude 2,172m, the highest in Japan. It is a popular spot for having fantastic views of the Yoshigadaira Wetlands, which has a different look each season, and the majestic mountains beyond. It is crowded with photographers from early in the morning during the unkai season of May and October. If you're lucky, you may even see Mt. Fuji floating above the clouds. There is a parking lot so you can park your car and enjoy the mystical scenery at your leisure.
*Note that roads are sometimes closed due to snow between late November and late April.
3. Shibu Toge (Gunma)
This is a recommended unkai spot in Chichibu Muse Park, a theme park in Saitama Prefecture, located next to Tokyo. There is a panoramic view of the area at the observatory that is at 363m in altitude, which is great for seeing the unkai. The unkai tend to appear between sunrise and 7:00 am. It is most common in November, but can be seen at other times of the year, and in April, there is more than a 20% chance of seeing it. The Tabidachi no Oka (Hill of Departure) viewing deck near the parking lot is also great for seeing the unkai.
This is a highland that stretches from 1,300m to 1,600m in altitude on the side of Mt. Akanagi in Tochigi Prefecture. There are more than 100 varieties of flowers that bloom here including a cluster of daylilies that flower in early summer. It is extremely foggy between June and July, making it a spot where beautiful unkai form. The highlight is the contrast between the fresh verdure and magnificent unkai. Looking at the unkai that seems to stretch for miles gives one the feeling of floating on top of the clouds. The sun rising out of the unkai is a particularly mystical scene.
Places where you can see unkai tend to be cold even in the summer, so be sure to bring warm clothes if you're checking out these spots!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.