Japan’s most dramatic landscapes

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In a country that’s subarctic in the north and subtropical in the south with different conditions between the Pacific and the Sea of Japan, there’s bound to be a spectacular array of landscapes. So, if you thought Japan’s countryside was all rolling rice fields, prepare to be surprised.

Itoigawa Global Geopark, Niigata

“Itoigawa is a sleepy small town on the West Coast of Japan. You’d never notice it. But here is where two forces that shaped the very geography of the nation come together: the Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic line that splits Japan in two. You can stand astride the divide and ponder on the primaeval forces that caused Japan to rise up out of the ocean millions of years ago. The mountains of the Japan Alps sore skywards to the east, plunging into the ocean to the west. Itoigawa enjoys the culinary bounties of both the ocean and the mountains and produces award-winning sake from abundant fresh mountain spring waters. And of course, if you want to take a hot spring bath, options are plentiful.”

Alastair Donnelly

“Picture a vast expanse of rolling green hills, dotted by thousands upon thousands of limestone rocks, all reaching towards the heavens. It’s as if giant hands sprinkled countless grains of rice upon the earth, each landing on its end. The site is the largest karst plateaus in Japan which, believe it or not, used to be a beautiful coral reef over 350 million years ago. Literally underneath the fields of Akiyoshidai awaits Akiyoshido, the largest underground caves in Asia, designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government”.

Brett Plotz


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Norikura Highlands, Nagano

“Ice fields and alpine flowers, incredible views and Japan’s highest bus stop!

“Beautiful year-round but I love my summer visits as this 2,700m plateau provides respite from the heat and humidity down below. The views of the Japanese Alps are stunning and the walks and hikes offer something for everyone, easy strolls through the alpine flower field, 25 minutes’ walk each way to two peaks or a more challenging 3 hour round trip hike to the top of Mt. Kengamine”.

Simon King


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Onioshidashi, Gunma

“A lava field in Gunma Prefecture but close to Karuizawa

“The moonscape of volcanic rock is the remnant of a “recent” eruption (in the late 1700s) of smouldering Mt. Asama, the most active volcano on the main island of Honshu. It looms over the field of broken volcanic rocks, right in the middle of the desolation is a bright red temple dedicated to Kannon. On a clear day you can have epic, 360-degree visas while at your feet is verdant vegetation slowly recolonised the lava flows.”

Grant Ekelund


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Abashiri, Hokkaido

“The furthest south that the Pack Ice goes in winter- the whole bay freezes solid! Desolate, but with a surprising number of interesting museums and things to do, the perfect place to “get away from it all” in either summer or winter.

“You feel like you are on the edge of the world looking out over the ice floe filled bay. Even in summer, you can visit the Pack Ice museum to get a sense of the views, and the chill winter weather”!

Grant Ekelund

Sakurajima, Kagoshima

“Plumes of smoke greet you as you exit the Shinkansen gates and the volcanic giant responsible comes quickly into view as you head toward the bay. It feels like Hawaii with palm trees lining the roads, but then the sharply dressed office workers brushing off ash as they line up neatly for the commuter ferry remind you that this is indeed Japan.

Sakurajima is a pivotal existence for everything in Kagoshima, physically and culturally. Since it erupts slightly every day, everyone bases their day around how Sakurajima is acting. The daily weather forecast includes what direction the ash is falling so people on each side of the volcano can know to hang their laundry inside or outside, people wake up earlier to sweep ash off their cars in the morning, others may change plans to do something indoors so their hair doesn’t get mussed. The major eruptions are a bit more dramatic, shaking the whole city with a loud roaring sound. However, instead of running for the hills, people send each other messages of “Can you see it from your place? Want to go take pictures?”.

Instead of fear in being at the foot of a lava monster, there’s trust in Sakurajima only erupting just what is necessary, no more. The local foods and souvenirs incorporate the ash/rich nutrients/shape of Sakurajima and you can really feel the love and respect they have toward it and the surrounding nature”.

Halley Trujillo


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Oki Islands

“The Oki Islands are a Japan you didn’t think still existed. Devoid of the hustle and bustle of the mainland, achingly green with sleepy fishing villages nestled into the spectacular, rugged coastline (dotted with wild horses), it’s living proof that Japan never stops surprising”.

Mat Eccles


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Yakushima, Kyushu

“A mythical, fairy-tale island usually shrouded in mist, with lush green forests, spectacular waterfalls and an abundance of nature – wild deer, giant turtles and monkeys

“I love that it is relatively untouched – no resorts or crowded beaches. You go there knowing it will probably rain for most of your stay. Where else can you watch giant loggerhead turtles lay eggs on the beach at night, see one of Japan’s oldest cedar trees deep in the forest and sit in a mixed-sex hot spring bath carved into the rocks on the beach talking to locals?”

Mark Johnson & Kester Wright


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Miyazaki Takechiho gorge and waterfalls

Miyazaki Takechiho gorge stretches for 7km. The view is simply awesome especially in autumn when the 17-meter high Minainotaki waterfall cascades down to the river below against the backdrop of foliage and the surrounding grey cliffs.

Japan tour leading team


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