In the south of Japan's most northerly island, Hokkaido, is the 334 metre (1,096 ft) Mount Hakodate, renowned for it's highly acclaimed night view over the surrounding city and bay. Visitors can reach the viewpoint either by bicycle, hiking or directly from the city centre by cable car for what is considered to be one of the best city views anywhere.
West of the capital, Tokyo, in Shizuoka Prefecture, close to Mount Fuji within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is the Shiraito Falls. Made up of many smaller falls pouring through the surrounding forest into a single pool, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country.
On the northern island of Hokkaido is the city of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, and by population the fifth largest city of Japan. Surrounded by high mountains, famous for the Sapporo Snow Festival, it is a city that comes alive in winter when the ski season brings tourists from around the globe. The cities most notable feature is the huge Odori Park, a wonderful area of nature that splits the city in two, best observed from the viewing deck of the Sapporo Television Tower, standing at a height of 90 metres (295 ft) above ground level. Visitors should also take the Mount Moiwa Ropeway to the Mount Moiwa Observatory for what is regarded one of the top three panoramic night city views in the country.
Pictured from the Sapporo Television Tower.
East of the city of Sapporo, in the centre of Hokkaido island, surrounded by ski slopes in the Tomamu Mountains is the Unkai Terrace, meaning 'Sky Cloud Terrace'. From it's vantage point at an elevation of 1,088 metres (3,569 ft) above sea level it is possible, on early mornings under the right atmospheric conditions, to witness the clouds rolling over the surrounding mountains. Open from mid May to late October, gondolas run from 4:30am to 7am, and depending on the season visitors might have the chance to partake in some free yoga or a guided tour of Mount Tomamu.
22. Unkai Terrace
Directly north of the capital, Tokyo, in the city of Nikkō in Tochigi Prefecture are the two Shinto shrines of Futarasan Shrine and Tōshō-gū, as well as the Buddhist temple of Rinnō-ji. Dating from the 7th century through to the 16th century, nine of the structures are designated national treasures of Japan with ninety four regarded as important cultural properties. The 103 structures within the Shrines And Temples Of Nikkō including their natural surroundings have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pictured is the Tōshō-gū.
Built in 1936, to the north west of the capital, Tokyo, in the city of Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture is the 41.8 metre (137 ft) statue of Byakue Dai-Kannon, meaning 'Goddess Of Mercy'. Loved by it's citizens, regarded as the symbol of Takasaki, visitors can climb to the viewing platform within the statues shoulder for a lovely view over the surrounding gardens.
20. Byakue Dai-Kannon
Directly north of Nagoya, spanning the borders of Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures is the 477 square kilometre (184 square mile) Hakusan National Park. This rugged mountainous landscape is home to Mount Haku, meaning 'White Mountain', standing at 2,702 metres (8,865 ft) above sea level this giant stratovolcano, along with Mount Tate and Mount Fuji is one of Japan's Three Holy Mountains.
19. Hakusan Kokuritsu Kōen
In the far north west of Hanshu island, within the Tōhoku region, covering an area of some 1,300 square kilometres (500 square miles) is the Shirikami Sanchi, literally meaning 'White God Mountain Area'. The protected area covers around one third of the Shirakami mountain range, and holds the largest remaining virgin beech forest in Eastern Asia, a throwback some 12,000 years to when these forests covered most of northern Japan. With limited access and extremely rugged terrain, few visitors venture into the Shirakami Sanchi, and those that do require permission from Forest Management. This large untouched forest among high snowy peaks has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Between Tokyo and Kyoto, in Nakatsugawa in Gifu Prefecture is the Magome Juku, the forty third of the sixty nine stations of the Nakasendo, an ancient road that connected Kyoto and Edo during the Edo period. With restored houses along the former sloped post road, this quiet portion of the original highway has been preserved to it's former 18th century glory.
North of the capital, Tokyo, in Tochigi Prefecture is the Ashikaga Flower Park, one of the most renowned flower parks in the world. Open all year round, the park is home to a huge variety of flowers that change with the seasons. Famous for the four huge wisteria trees, visitors favour February and March for the tulips, and May for the wisteria and azalea.
16. Ashikaga Flower Park
First built in 1619 AD to the south of the city of Nagoya in the centre of the country, is the aptly named Nagoya Castle. Used as an army headquarters and prisoner of war camp during World War II, allied bombing by the United States Air Force destroyed more of the castle than in it's previous 300 year history. In 1959 reconstruction of the two donjons or tenchus, meaning towers, was completed and the buildings were opened to the public. The next few decades saw further renovation work, culminating in this beautiful castle being returned to it's former glory.
At the extreme north eastern tip of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, covering most of the Shiretoko Peninsula is the 386 square kilometre (149 square mile) Shiretoko National Park. One of the most remote regions in the country, only accessible by boat or on foot, the landscape is made up of steep rugged mountains, sub alpine forests and large tranquil lakes. Visitors to the area should go in search of the Kamuiwakka Falls, meaning 'Water Of The Gods', a refreshing hot spring waterfall. The entire Shiretoko National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
14. Shiretoko Kokuritsu Kōen
First constructed in 1504 AD in the city of Matsumoto, to the north west of the capital, Tokyo, is the hugely wonderful structure of Matsumoto Castle. From it's first construction up until the abolition of the feudal system, the castle was ruled by 23 lords of Matsumoto, who used it to control the large Matsumoto Domain. In 1872 following the Meiji Restoration, the castle like many others around the country was sold for redevelopment. With news of it's potential demolition imminent, influential figures stepped in and the castle was spared. With it's original wooden interiors and external stonework, Matsumoto Castle is one of the twelve original castles of Japan, relatively untouched since the 16th century. Listed as a national treasure of Japan, it is considered one of the three premier castles in the country.
In the mountainous centre of the northern island of Hokkaido is the 2,267 square kilometre (875 square mile) Daisetsuzan Kokuritsu Kōen literally meaning 'Great Snow Mountains National Park', the largest area of protected land in Japan. Home to Mount Asahi, at 2,290 metres (7,510 ft) above sea level it is the highest peak of Hokkaido, surrounded by equally high volcanic peaks. Visitor friendly, with trails leading through the mountains, the park remains some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery in the country.
12. Daisetsuzan Kokuritsu Kōen
South of the capital, Tokyo, in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is the Jōdo-shū Buddhist temple of Kōtoku-in. The temple is renowned for it's Daibatsu, or Great Buddha, a monumental bronze statue that dates back to the 13th century. Originally an indoor statue, the hall within which it stood was destroyed by a storm in 1334 AD, was rebuilt and damaged by another storm 35 years later. Rebuilt again, that building was washed away by a tsunami in 1498 AD, from which time it has remained outside. Having sat for nearly 700 years, standing nearly 13.5 metres (44 ft) high, weighing approximately 121 tons, this bronze statue of Buddha is one of the most famous icons of Japan, designated a national treasure.
Built in 1963, to the north of Mount Fuji, in Yamanashi Prefecture is the five storey Chureito Pagoda. Part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, 400 steps up the mountainside from the shrines main buildings, the pagoda has become one of the most photographed sites in Japan. Overlooking the city of Fujiyoshida, it's location is renowned in offering one of the best views of Mount Fuji. From mid April during the cherry blossom season, the site is filled with tourists and photographers from around the world attempting to get one of the most iconic shots in the country. The Chureito Pagoda surrounded by cherry blossom trees back-dropped by the snow capped Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque sights of Japan.
10. Chureito Pagoda
In the city of Ushiku, in Ibaraki Prefecture to the north east of the capital, Tokyo, is the 100 metre (330 ft) tall Ushiku Daibatsu, a statue depicting Amitabha Buddha. Built in 1993 to commemorate the birth of Shinran, founder of the Jōdo Shinshū, or 'True Pure Land School Of Buddhism', this amazing construction is as of 2018 the equal 3rd tallest statue on the planet. Inside the statue is a four storey building that operates as a museum. On the 3rd floor are 3,000 golden Buddha statues, while the 4th floor observation deck, from 85 metres (279 ft) high offers visitors a view through the Buddha's chest across the adjacent flower garden.
9. Ushiku Daibatsu
North of the city of Nagoya, within the Gifu and Toyama Prefectures in the Shogawa River Valley are three historic mountain villages surrounded by steep forested peaks. The Shirakawa-go, meaning 'White River Old District', and Gokayama, meaning 'Five Mountains', hold within them the preserved historic villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma, situated within deep valleys surrounded by steep mountains. Due to the remoteness and isolation from the outside world, the development of it's unique culture and traditions, including the architectural tradition of gassho zukuri style farmhouses was able to continue unhindered until modern times. To preserve the natural environment and the cultural landscape within one of the last unexplored areas of Japan, the area covering the Historic Villages Of Shirakawa-gō And Gokayama have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In the east of the northern mountainous island of Hokkaido is the 904 square kilometre (349 square mile) Akan National Park, which along with the nearby Daisetsuzan National Park are the two longest established parks of Hokkaido. This volcanic area is famous for it's hot springs, sulphur vents, rugged mountains and crystal clear lakes. One of the parks highlights is the crater lake of Lake Mashu, one of the clearest bodies of water in the world.
Pictured is Lake Mashu.
7. Akan Kokuritsu Kōen
North west of the capital, Tokyo, encompassing the Hida Mountains, Japan's northern Alps, is the Chubu-Sangaku National Park, covering some 1,743 square kilometres (673 square miles) of protected land. Home to high mountains, deep gorges, alpine forests and clear lakes, the park is also home to the 3,015 metre (9,892 ft) Mount Tateyama, more commonly referred to as Mount Tate, which along with Mount Haku and Mount Fuji is one of Japan's Three Holy Mountains.
One of the most highly rated locations within the park is Kamikochi, meaning Upper Highlands, a remote mountainous valley preserved in it's natural state. Designated one of the countries national cultural assets, it makes the list of special natural monuments and special locations of scenic beauty.
6. Chūbu-Sangaku Kokuritsu Kōen
Directly north of the capital, Tokyo, spreading across Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata Prefectures is the 1,147 square kilometre (443 square mile) Nikkō National Park. This mountainous park of lush forests is most well known for it's view of the Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, considered one of the finest and most iconic natural views of Japan. In autumn, tourists and locals flock to the 97 metre (318 ft) Kegon Falls to witness the changing colours of the season. Beyond it's striking scenery, the park also holds within it the historical Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines of Nikkō, which along with the natural setting is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pictured is the Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji.
5. Nikkō Kokuritsu Kōen
In the south east of the main island of Honshu is the countries capital, Tokyo, literally meaning 'Eastern Capital'. Formerly named Edo, it officially became the capital when Emperor Meiji moved his seat from the old capital of Kyoto, and renamed it in 1868. Today Japan's capital city mixes ultra modern with traditional, from neon skyscrapers to historic temples. One of the planets alpha cities, the metropolitan area of Tokyo is home to over 38 million people, making it one of the most populated urban areas on the planet.
North west of the capital, Tokyo, in Nagano Prefecture is the Jōshin'etsu-kōgen National Park, which holds within it the famous Jigokudano Monkey Park. Jigukudano which means, ' Hell's Valley', is so named due to the hot springs that bubble among the frozen ground. In a landscape of steep cliffs and dense forest, the large population of wild Japanese macaques, sometimes referred to as snow monkeys, descend into the valley during the winter where they bathe in the warm waters of the hot springs. Though snow only covers the ground for 4 months of the year, because the monkeys are now fed by park attendants, visitors can be sure to see them all year round. Due to the area only being accessible via a narrow two kilometre (1.2 mile) walkway through the forests, the site remains relatively uncrowded.
3. Jigokudani Yaen Kōen
Directly south of the capital, Tokyo, some 358 kilometres (222 miles) from the main island of Honshu in the Philippine Sea is the volcanic Japanese island of Aogashima, the southernmost and most isolated inhabited island of the Izu Archipelago. Home to a meager 170 people, the volcanic island has been formed by at least four overlapping submerged calderas. Surrounded by steep cliffs formed by volcanic layered deposits, the southern coastal ridge rises to 423 metres (1,388 ft) above sea level. Aogashima is without doubt one of the most incredibly picturesque islands anywhere in the world.
South west of the capital, Tokyo, standing at 3,776 metres (12,389 ft) above sea level is the highest mountain in Japan, the 7th highest island peak in the world, the infamous Mount Fuji. Snow capped for around 5 months of the year, the exceptionally symmetrical cone has earned it the reputation of being one of the most picturesque volcanic mountains on the planet, having inspired artists, poets and pilgrimages for centuries. Over a quarter of a million people climb the mountain every year. The most popular months to climb are July to August, whilst climbing from October to May is strongly discouraged. Most Japanese climbers begin during the night in order to get a glimpse of the 'Goraiko', meaning 'Arrival of Light'. One of Japan's Three Holy Mountains along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku, it has also been deemed a Japanese historic site and a location of exceptional scenic beauty. Undoubtedly the most famous instantly recognisable natural landmark of Japan, a symbol of the country, the holy mountain of Fujisan has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.