Japan’s Most Picturesque National Parks

For those who love nature, Japan is a dazzling destination with natural splendor all too often overlooked. These parks are perfectly preserved proof of that.

When you think of Japan, forward-thinking innovators, mile-high skyscrapers, and futuristic fashion may be the first things that fly through your mind. But beyond the hustle and bustle of tech meccas like Tokyo, Japan is densely packed with natural wonder beyond your wildest imagination. You just have to know where to go.

Ready to broaden your East Asian horizons? Feast your eyes on the most amazing national parks in “The Land of the Rising Sun.”

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

Japan okishoreline of Okinawa ishigaki kabira bay

Perhaps most famous for the wild cats that call Iriomote home, these secluded islands are a tropical wonderland worth endless exploration. Covered in dreamy lagoons, limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters, and subtropical fauna and flora, you’ll feel fully at one with nature in this national park jungle.

If the swamplands and forest trails aren’t for you, you’ll never run out of stunning sights to see while wandering around the bountiful beach.

Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Jogakura Bridge in Aomori Prefecture with Autumn Leaves background. A wonderful view of Jyogakura-keiryu Stream, a famous place in the Towada-hachimantai National Park

There’s never a bad time to visit Towada-Hachimantai National Park. However, if you really want to see this mountainous region in its most striking splendor, visit in the fall for a foliage display like no other.

If you’re into hiking, take your pick from scenic trails and paths galore. With every seasonal change, the park comes to life in a new and vibrantly colored way. During winter, the snow-blanketed Juhyo forests are just as mesmerizing as the rich hues brought on by spring and summer. And the volcano-caused hot springs are not to be overlooked.

Aso-Kuju National Park

Waterfall and flowers. Japanese waterfall called Nabegataki. Shot in Aso-Kuju National Park, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan.

The dramatic landscapes of Aso-Kuju National Park are sculpted by mountain peaks that shoot up from their surrounding flatlands. Not to mention, Mount Aso is an active volcano. While you’ll need to keep a safe distance from its center, guests are welcome to soak in the nearby hot springs and pools it creates.

The paths and patterns created by centuries of flowing lava are practically made to be marveled at. If you take a nature walk through plains below the Kuju Mountains, you’ll find the 49 acres of three million plants of more than 500 different varieties blooming in the Kuju Flower Gardens.

Yoshino-Kumano National Park

A small bridge acts as a river crossing during the walk to Kuwanoki falls in Japan.

From fascinating geological formations to mysterious forests with winding rivers and waterfalls, there’s no shortage of natural wonders to uncover in Yoshino-Kumano National Park. Offering something for every earth enthusiast, this park also extends into the sea. So prepare for a day full of strolling and exploring.

If you’re going to Yoshino-Kumano, be sure to seek out Mount Omine if you can. This sacred ground is covered in lush greenery, shrouded in soft fog, and famed for its controversial three tests of courage.

Ogasawara National Park

Kominato Beach from Nakayamatoge Observatory, Ogasawara island, Japan

The Bonin Islands make up the subtropical archipelago of islands forming Ogasawara National Park. Secluded and serene, it’s only reachable by boat. But the necessary ferry ride to this remote park is completely worth it.

Visitors come to swim, snorkel, whale watch, and explore the lush surroundings of this azure, volcanic centric gem year-round. But those who know it best say you’ll get the most out of Ogasawara in spring.

Nikko National Park

Autumn leaves at Yudaki Falls, Nikko, Japan

Nikko National Park is not just revered as one of the most beautiful national parks in Japan, but the entire world. It’s brimming with both natural magnificence and deep, abounding history. Those on a spiritual quest annually make their way to the Buddhist temple of Rinno-ji. Once you’re there, you’ll learn why in the most meaningful of ways.

If you come to commune with nature, Kegon Falls is also a must-see. And look closely between the cascading waters. Behind the waterfalls, Lake Chuzenji hides between the foresty hilltops.

Kerama Shoto National Park

Kerama Shoto National Park sign

Perched on the cusp of Okinawa, you’ll reach this island dream. Adored for its turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, tropical wildlife, and rainbow reefs, you’ll want to stay in Kerama Shoto for way more than one day.

This national park is nothing short of paradise. The sea turtles and humpback whales you’ll likely see will all agree.

Akan Mashu National Park

Lake Mashu and Rime ice in winter, Hokkaido, Japan

Akan Mashu is one of the oldest, most magically preserved national parks in the country. Home to incredibly diverse ecosystems, you’ll discover a wide range of natural wonders at every turn.

Explore primeval forests, fish in the crystal rivers, canoe in a volcano-formed caldera lake, and learn about the local culture through the eyes of the indigenous Ainu of Japan. There’s plenty of fun to be had and when you’re done, soak in the healing hot springs.

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Ume plum tree blossom. Part of Fuji Five Lakes in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

If variety is what you’re after, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park’s contrasting landscapes offer something distinctive for all who enter. But perhaps this park’s most iconic selling point is the undeniably majestic and globally worshipped Mount Fuji.

This popular park also boasts over a thousand volcanic islands, ancient formations, and whimsical waterways that trickle along its mountains, hills, and scenic valleys. And the cherry blossom trees top it all off beautifully. Word to the wise: don’t forget your camera.

Read More: The 12 Most Scenic Train Rides on Earth

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