11 Scenic National Parks in Japan You Wish You Could Teleport To Right Now

11 Scenic National Parks in Japan You Wish You Could Teleport To Right Now

Don't say we didn't warn you – you're going fall helplessly in love with these 11 beautiful national parks.

Japan’s 32 national parks span across the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to the southernmost Okinawan islands, and include a range of natural landscapes including coasts, volcanoes, marshlands and mountains. Each national park has its’ own unique charm and character – no two are the same!

In this list, I’ve handpicked 11 of the national parks that I think are the most scenic in Japan. If you’re a nature lover, I dare you to read through it and not feel pressurised by the inner voice in you to book a flight to Japan immediately! Yep, teleportation skills would have come in pretty handy right about now.

1. Ogasawara Islands

scenic national park japanImage credit: Anagounagi

Ogasawara Islands is a chain of islands situated in Tokyo. Expect to find pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and a multitude of flora and fauna. Yup you read it right – this beach paradise is actually situated within the Tokyo administrative region, except you probably haven’t heard of it because it’s a 25.5-hour ferry ride away from the central city! The long and costly journey into the islands is probably the reason the waters and beaches are so untainted by human touch, and remain so naturally beautiful and breath-taking.

2. Oze National Park

Oze National Park japanImage credit: 8ware

Oze National Park japanWalking through the wetlands and taking in the breathtaking view of Mount Shibutsu | Image credit: Σ64

Oze National Park is an excellent destination for day hikers! Ozenuma Pond and its surrounding Ozegahara Marshland are the park’s most beautiful and iconic features. The elevated wooden boardwalk guides the traveller into the thick forest and around the calm, scenic pond, allowing for multiple kinds of interactions with nature in just one visit. I recommend making a trip there in autumn for an absolutely stunning view of a vast sea of gold!

3. Daisetsuzan National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park japanHiking trail to Ashidake Onsen at the foot of Mount Ashidake | Image credit: Carolien Coenen

Daisetsuzan National Park japanImage credit: Carolien Coenen

With a size three times of Singapore, Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido is the largest national park in Japan. It is dubbed by the locals as “the playground of the Gods”, what more for us mere mortals! Boasting a rugged mountain range, the national park is also the place to see the first autumn colour and snow in the country. For multi-day explorations across the carefully conserved park, the natural hot spring resorts that dot the huge national park make excellent bases.

4. Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park japanOne of Shiretoko National Park’s five gorgeous lakes | Image credit: Sendai Blog

 

Shiretoko National Park japanImage credit: Yoshitomo Oda

Shiretoko National Park in eastern Hokkaido will blow your mind away with its magnificent waterfalls, mirror-like lakes and diverse wildlife. Apparently, the northern quarter of the park cannot be accessed by roads, and the northern-most tip can only be viewed from a boat and reached on multi-day professionally guided tours. Wow, talk about an adventure!

5. Sanriku Recovery National Park

Sanriku Recovery National Park japanKitayamazaki Coast | Image credit: Hiraoki Kaneko

Sanriku Recovery National Park japanImage credit: Sennin-G

If you’re looking for a breezy getaway and some salt in your hair, head no further than Sanriku Coast. There, natural cliffs and coves create a dramatic shoreline where you can paradoxically find calm in the rhythms of the crashing waves. The rocky coast spans a mind-boggling 200 kilometres across three prefectures!

Nature creates and destroys, both ironically at the same time. Unfortunately, portions of the coastline and their surrounding villages were severely affected by the 2011 tsunami and are currently still undergoing reconstructions.

6. Yakushima Island

Yakushima Island japanThe mystical Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine | Image credit: Carlos Donderis

Yakushima Island is a subtropical island off the shores of Kagoshima in the south of Japan. Its dense forest is home to some of the oldest trees in Japan and provides a cosy habitat for the island’s dominant population of deers. A 5-hour hike into Shiratani Unsuikyo will bring you to the ethereal moss forest that was the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s film “Princess Mononoke”. It’s a trek with spectacular sceneries that is not to be missed by all nature lovers and avid photographers!

7. Aso-Kuju National Park

Aso-Kuju National Park japanImage credit: St Stev

Aso-Kuju National Park japanImage credit: St Stev

At the core of Aso-Kuju National Park is Mount Aso – a dormant volcano – and the Kuju mountains. If you’re a Geography nerd who gets excited over striking volcanic landforms and the stinky smell of sulphur (like me), this is the place for you! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by the view of the massive crater from the top of Mount Aso. The park’s attractive network of trails is any avid backpacker’s heaven. Don’t fret if you get tired after a while – due to the dynamic volcanic terrain, there are many hot spring towns around that will rejuvenate the even most exhausted hikers.

8. Chubu Sangaku National Park

Chubu Sangaku National Park japanTateyama Kurobe alpine route | Image credit: skyseeker

Chubu Sangaku National Park japanA view from Kamikochi | Image credit: Chen Qu

For spectacular postcard-perfect shots, Chubu Sangaku National Park is a wonderful place to be. With a backdrop of the Northern Japanese Alps, winter season is hands-down the best time to visit the area. Kamikochi, in particular, offers a magnificent landscape for your eyes to feast on. The Tateyama Kurobe alpine route located within the premise of the national park opens only during the colder seasons, and is extremely popular with foreign tourists for good reasons. After all, where else in the world are you able to walk along a snow corridor?

9. Yoshino Kumano National Park

Yoshino Kumano National Park japanKumano pilgrimage trail | Image credit: Nao Iizuka

Yoshino Kumano National Park japanNachi Fall | Image credit: Lorena a.k.a. Loretahur

Yoshino Kumano National Park, as its name suggests, encompasses Mount Yoshino in Nara and the sacred pilgrimage trail in Kumano. The former has always been a popular choice for hiking, especially in spring when cherry blossoms bloom! The Kumano pilgrimage trail is a slightly less popular trekking route with a range of difficulty levels for its ardent pilgrims. Multi-day hikers are rewarded with stunning views of natural vistas along their journey, one of it being the magnificent Nachi Fall right behind a striking red pagoda!

10. Sanin Kaigan National Park

Sanin Kaigan National Park japanTottori sand dunes | Image credit: cotaro70s

Wait – there are sand dunes in Japan?! Yup, Tottori sand dunes are part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park, and are so surreal that they instantly make you wonder if you have actually been transported to one of the Middle East’s deserts. Indeed, with camel riding activities and horse-drawn cart rides, Tottori boasts a landscape unlike any other in Japan. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, paragliding and sandboarding are also up for grabs. Sign me up now!

11. Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park japanA view out of Ishigaki Island to where the sky meets the sea | Image credit: Cotaro70s

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park japanKabira Bay | Image credit: 663highland

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park is located in Japan’s southernmost region of Okinawa, and encompasses a wide range of islands. However, most would be familiar with Iriomote and Ishigaki Islands – the biggest and most popular of the lot! Both are heavens on earth for scuba divers, boasting rich underwater marine biodiversity. The sea’s beautiful hues of blue beckon even the most stubborn and angsty to let go of all worldly anxieties, and relax their minds and bodies with a tropical cocktail in hand. Cheers!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to none of these national parks and they are so going onto my Japan travel bucket list. Who’s with me!?

Also read: What to Eat in Japan: 23 Must-Try Foods Other Than Sushi

About Author

Lee Shu Shien

Shu Shien is a nature lover who would trek far and wide in search of the most breathtaking sunflower fields, river gorges, caves and beaches Mother Earth has to offer. With her trusty Minolta and preference for printout maps over Google Maps, she travels for chance encounters and to seek the Great Perhaps.

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