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Japan’s Most Beautiful National Parks

For such a small archipelago, Japan has unparalleled natural beauty, ranging from ocean views to snowy mountain peaks. The national park service started in 1931 to preserve the country’s natural wonders for the public. Since then, 33 national parks have been established, protecting vast areas of land covering marshland, volcanoes, jungles, and more.

  • Bandai Asahi

    Bandai Asahi

    Bandai Asahi

    Covering three prefectures, Fukushima, Yamagata, and Niigata, Bandai Asahi is the third largest national park in the country. There is plenty to do in the park, with over 1,800 square kilometers of land covering flower fields, mountain ranges, and freshwater lakes. The park is best known for its mountain ranges, including Mount O-Asahi, one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. Mountain worship is common throughout the park and both pilgrims and climbers can be found sleeping on the trails weaving up the mountain ranges. There are also shorter trails surrounding the mountains, which are great for enjoying the many lakes and wildlife Bandai Asahi has to offer. The park is beautiful year round but is especially pristine in winter. The snow contrasts with the sapphire lakes and colossal mountain ranges, creating a winter wonderland straight out of a storybook. Just be sure to wear plenty of layers.

  • Iriomote Ishigaki

    Iriomote Ishigaki

    Iriomote Ishigaki

    The southernmost national park is Iriomote Ishigaki, located in Okinawa. The park covers five islands: Iriomote, Kohama, Kuro, Taketomi, and Ishigaki. Visitors can take part in marine activities and appreciate the protected wildlife found only in Okinawa, such as the iriomote wildcat and coral reefs. Taketomi island has a circumference of a little over 5 kilometers and is a great place to experience Okinawa’s island nature and to get a taste of small village life. Bicycle rentals are aplenty and a convenient way to travel from the village to the local beach. The island has a population of only a little over 300 and is a great place to experience a vacation off the grid.

    Iriomote Ishigaki

    Iriomote Ishigaki

    Iriomote island is primarily covered in jungle greenery, mountains, and waterfalls and has plenty of local wildlife. Mangrove kayaking is a popular activity for navigating the jungles and safely journeying deep into the wilderness.

  • San’in Kaigan Geopark

    San’in Kaigan Geopark

    San’in Kaigan Geopark

    More than just a national park, the San’in Kaigan is a geopark, a certified UNESCO site that preserves the diverse geology of the region. The park is huge, covering over 2,400 square kilometers, and encompasses three different prefectures, Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tottori. One part of the park can look drastically different from the other, as the topography ranges from onsen villages and rice paddies to cerulean beaches. The Tottori sand dunes are the most famous feature of the park. The dunes create an image of a desert but are in fact, right next to the ocean.

  • Towada Hachimantai

    Towada Hachimantai

    Towada Hachimantai

    Towada Hachimantai covers Aomori, Akita, and Iwate and is filled with some of Tohoku’s natural wonders. One of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains, Mount Hakkoda covers the Aomori side of the park. It is best known for its fall foliage, which arrives early in the season. The mountain is also picturesque in the winter with some of the highest levels of snowfall found in the region.

    Towada Hachimantai

    Towada Hachimantai

    Mount Nyoto is home to a secluded onsen village. With over ten types of hot springs, these villages have lots of different accommodation options with a variety of baths to choose from. The onsens can be chosen by their nature spot, their health benefits, or just their convenient location. Most of the baths are open air, so bathers can experience the crisp mountain air while relaxing in the steaming water.

  • Setonaikai on Shodoshima Island

    Setonaikai on Shodoshima Island

    Setonaikai on Shodoshima Island

    Setonaikai National Park is on Shodoshima, one of the many art islands in the Seto Inland Sea that participates in the modern art Setouchi Triennale. More off the beaten path and filled with nature than its more famous neighbors Naoshima and Teshima, Shodoshima is ideal for relaxing alongside nature and chancing upon the sculptures still standing from years past. Angel Road is the highlight of Setonaikai, a strip of sand accessible only when the tide is low. The sandbar is synonymous with romance, as the walk is said to give good luck to couples.

    Bandai-Asahi National Park
    Address
    Fukushima, Yamagata, Niigata
    Phone
    Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park
    Address
    Ishigaki-shi, Okinawa Prefecture, Taketomi-cho Yaeyama-gun
    Phone
    Saninkaigan Geopark
    Address
    Hyogo Pref. Toyokashi Nakakage 376-14 (Sanin Coast Geopark Promotion Council Secretariat)
    Phone
    0796263783
    Towada-Hachimantai National Park
    Address
    Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Akita Prefecture
    Phone
  • Setonaikai National Park
    Address
    Hyogo prefecture, Wakayama prefecture, Okayama prefecture, Hiroshima prefecture, Yamaguchi prefecture, Tokushima prefecture, Kagawa prefecture, Ehime prefecture, Fukuoka prefecture, Oita prefecture
    Phone
    Angel Road
    Address
    Kagawa Pref. Shouzuguntonoshouchou Ginpura
    Phone
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