Ask anyone who’s been to Japan and they’ll tell you that it’s one of the most enchanting places on earth. From the lavender fields in Hokkaido down to the crystal clear waters in Okinawa, Japan is home to a diverse range of nature, culture and climate. From mountainside temples, historic castles, futuristic skylines and natural wonders, here are some of the most beautiful places in Japan.
1. Mount Fuji
Japan’s crown jewel and one of three sacred mountains, Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most recognizable feature. A popular hiking destination for pilgrims and foreign travellers alike, there are also many spots to view the mountain from afar. Lake Kawaguchi offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji, especially during winter when the skies are clear and the mountain reflects in the water. That said, Mount Fuji is a beautiful sight all year round, regardless of where you see it from.
2. Farm Tomita, Hokkaido
Drawing in about a million visitors annually, many people would agree that Farm Tomita is one of the most beautiful places in Japan. There are many different flower fields here, but they are most famous for their three lavender fields. The Traditional Lavender Field is where the history of the farm began. In mid-July, the gentle slope is a sea of purple, and in the background is the impressive Tokachi Mountain range and the Furano Basin. Past the hill is the Lavender Forest Field where two types of lavenders bloom. In the center of Farm Tomita, Sakiwai Field has four types of lavender, creating a delicate gradation. Apart from lavender, there are also a variety of flower fields in Farm Tomita. Viola, hyacinth, poppies, marigold, baby’s breath and many more flowers take turns to bloom here from spring to autumn.
3. Nachi Falls, Wakayama
At 133 metres, Nachi Falls is the tallest single drop waterfall in Japan. Much more than just a scene of nature’s beauty, the falls are believed to be the home of a Shinto deity. It is overlooked by the Nachi Taisha Shinto shrine, which is said to be more than 1,400 years old. One of the highlights here is the Nachi Fire Festival held every July 14. In an ancient purification ritual, giant torches are set ablaze, and the stone staircase leading from the shrine to the falls is packed with male parishioners chanting as they carry the flaming torches. Each of these torches represent a deity, and they also purify the path and “burn away” the past year’s sins.
4. Maehama Beach, Okinawa
Okinawa is home to Japan’s best beaches, and one that consistently leads the rankings is Maehama Beach. A seven-kilometer stretch of pristine sandy shores and sparkling waters, it offers a world-class snorkelling experience. There are also sun umbrellas and deck chairs available for rent so you can simply idle the day away. For other beach fun, you can also rent jet skis and banana boats. Maehama Beach also hosts the swimming section of an annual Strongman triathlon every end of April!
5. Koya Pond, Niigata
Fall at Mount Hiuchi brings out spectacular colors on Koya Pond, making it one of the most beautiful places in Japan. The vegetation on the shallow marsh changes into hues of red, orange, yellow green, just like the forest around it. In spring, Hakusan Kozakura cherry blossoms bloom here. If you need a rest on your hike up the 2,462-meter tall mountain, Kouyaike Hutte at the edge of the pond provides beds and kitchen facilities.
6. Motonosumi-inari Shrine, Yamaguchi
123 torii gates stretch from the Motonosumi-Inari Shrine to the cliff overlooking the ocean. Built in 1955 at the behest of a fox spirit, it is one of the newer shrines around. And unlike other shrines where you simply put a coin into an offering box, here you’ll have to literally shoot your shot. The offering box is at the very top of the last torii gate. It is believed that if you manage to land your coin into the box, then your wish will come true. Along the cliff next to the shrine is a gorgeous view of the ocean and Ryugu no Shiofuki – a spout of sea spray produced by the rock formation of the cliffs when the waves crash against them.
7. Yakushima, Kagoshima
Yakushima is a true nature lover’s paradise. The small island inspired the setting of the Ghibli film ‘Princess Mononoke’. It is best experienced through multi-day treks, where you’ll leave behind urban life as you hike through moss-covered dirt tracks. The extensive cedar forest also contains some of Japan’s oldest living trees. The yakusugi are more than 1,000 years old. There are different trails for different fitness levels, from an easy one-hour hike to a 20-hour overnight adventure. There is also an overnight trek to see the ancient jomon sugi tree, estimated to be around 2,170 and 7,200 years old.
8. Tokyo Skyline
Tokyo has some of the best skyline views in the world. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji to the west, Tokyo Bay to the south, and plenty of buildings and towers. At night, the skyline dazzles with lights. There are many places where you can view the skyline from, such as Tokyo Skytree, the tallest landmark in the city. Or, check out one of the bars or restaurants in the high rise buildings of Shibuya and Shinjuku. There are also several places in Tokyo where you can view the skyline for free!