The Top 10 National Parks in Japan

Japan National Parks

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As an island nation with a varied landscape and climate, Japan offers visitors an astonishing wealth of variety—from mountain ranges to coastlines to lakes and wetlands. A visit to Japan’s best national parks is what best showcases this variety. Across the country’s four main islands, here are the top ten national parks that best demonstrate the elaborate natural beauty of Japan.

01 of 10

Yakushima National Park

Yakushima forest
Address
Yakushima, Kumage District, Kagoshima 891-4408, Japan

A mysterious national park found a volcanic island covered in ancient cedar woodland off the southern coast of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island (most easily accessed from the town of Kagoshima). Yakushima National Park gained world heritage status for its natural beauty in 1993 and was the inspiration for many scenes in the Oscar-winning animated film Spirited Away.

This is truly a park for getting lost in with gentle, meandering walks to follow to more intense mountain hikes. Walking the coast or enjoying some of the water sports on offer is also a big part of life on the island—it’s also a prominent sea turtle hatching location with ethical ways to watch their first moments are available.

There’s no shortage of hot springs to sink into at the end of the day, with public onsen and private ones located in the ryokan inns around Anbo port or more remote locations around the park.

02 of 10

Daisetsuzan National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park
Address
Sounkyo, Kamikawa, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido 078-1701, Japan
Phone +81 1658-2-2574

Daisetsuzan is Hokkaido’s largest and most popular national park been nicknamed which has been nicknamed ‘the roof of Hokkaido. It’s a pristine paradise of fields, forests, ponds, and mountains that can be comfortably explored for days.

The challenge of hiking Mount Kurodake is on most visitor’s bucket lists; this five-hour trek begins at Sounkyo Onsen and takes you through fields of alpine flowers to the summit with views of the Daisetsuzan mountain range and fiery foliage in the fall as you go.

Asahidake Onsen is considered the best base for exploring the park, but there are numerous other hot spring resorts to choose from. The park is most conveniently located from Asahikawa Station, a 90-minute train ride from Sapporo Station.

03 of 10

Fuji Hakone Izu National Park

Mount Fuji with Cherry Blossoms

PRASIT CHANSAREEKORN / Getty

 

Address
Motohakone, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0522, Japan

With proximity to Tokyo, Fuji Hakone Izu National Park (also known as Hakone National Park) sees the most visitors of any park in Japan. It’s one of the most diverse parks in the country with the famous Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, and the volcanic Hakone area featuring the ‘boiling valley’ of Owakudani in the north of the park, which then extends down the Izu Peninsula.

As you venture south, you can enjoy the coastline, the cliffs of Jogasaki Coast, the volcanic Izu islands, and waterfalls like Shiraito Falls. From most areas of the park, you will also see the many diverse views of Fuji.

There is so much to see here with heritage sites to visit and unique foods local to this part of the country. The main station for this park are Mishima, Atami, and Odawara Stations and can be reached in less than an hour from Tokyo.

04 of 10

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park
Address
Japan, Hokkaido, 斜里郡斜里町 ・目梨郡羅臼町
Phone +81 152-24-2297

On the easternmost tip of Hokkaido, this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides ample rugged coastline to explore and mountains and hills to hike. Dolphin and whale watching is a staple activity here, and during the summer, you may be able to observe brown bears and their cubs.

Make sure to visit Shiretoko Goko (Shiretoko Five Lakes), which are nestled in an ancient forest at the base of Mount Rausu. Shiretoko has five visitor centers you can visit throughout the park. You can pick up trail and area maps and gather information about the resident flora and fauna and general tips.

The best time to visit is between April and November unless you want to see the drift ice phenomenon, in which case the winter is more suitable. It takes around seven hours to get to the park from Sapporo, and an ideal base for visiting the park is the town of Utoro.

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05 of 10

Ogasawara National Park

Ogasawara National Park

 

Getty/ Juergen Sack 

Address
Chichijima, Ogasawara, Tokyo 100-2101, Japan

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this park is special in that it’s made up of a chain of 30 subtropical islands (of which only two are inhabited) off the coast of southern Japan.

Divers and snorkellers will be thrilled here as well as anyone with a passing interest in marine life, as you can spot humpback whales, giant squids, turtles, and thousands of species of tropical fish. Snorkellers will be able to discover the remains of the sunken cargo ship Hinko Maru off Sakaiura Beach.

Hikers have a choice of mountains to conquer, including Mount Asahi, Mt. Chuozan, Mount Kofuji, Mount Chibusa, which provide views over the respective islands and the ocean and surrounding islands. Nagasaki Observatory and the Weather Station Observatory are great options for seeing the views and wildlife watching without exertion. At night, you can also join night tours to see the endemic Bonin fruit bat.

The Ogasawara Islands are accessible by overnight ferry from central Tokyo.

06 of 10

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Shikotsu-Toya National Park
Address
Minami Ward, ニセコ町 Abuta District, Hokkaido 048-1541, Japan
Phone +81 11-299-1950

Named after the park's two famous lakes Toya and Shikotsu, the dramatic volcanic mountain scenery at this steaming national park in Hokkaido draws thousands of visitors every year. Hiking and relaxing in the hot springs are the main activities here. You’ll find popular onsen towns like Noboribetsu and Jozankei and caldera lakes and waterfalls dotted around throughout the park.

The park has three visitor centers available, one within a few minutes’ walk of the bus station. Popular at any time of year, visiting during the winter rewards you with icy views from the onsen and snowy walks through the woods, and during the summer, enjoy luscious green mountain hikes.

As it's convenient to both Sapporo and New Chitose Airport and can be reached in under two hours, Shikotsu-Toya National Park is often at the top of visitor’s itineraries.

07 of 10

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
Address
2-2101 Hokuto, Kushiro, Kawakami District, Hokkaido 084-0922, Japan
Phone +81 154-56-2345

A park for people who love to spot rare flora and fauna, this is the largest spanning area of wetlands in Japan. There you can see the Ezo red fox, the rare Siberian salamander, and the protected species of tanchō-zuru (red-crowned white crane), a symbol of Japan; the park includes the Kushiro Japanese Crane Reserve and the International Crane Centre. Rare flowers bloom throughout the park, particularly during the summer.

Hiking to the numerous lakes in the park is a popular activity, and most can be access by the network of boardwalks. Canoeing is also a popular way to enjoy the scenery from the water.

A day is usually enough to explore Kushiro Shitsugen, which is ideal if you're hoping to see some of the other Hokkaido national parks on your trip.

08 of 10

Nikko National Park

Nikko Landscape
Address
Yumoto, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1662, Japan

Nikko provides gentle walks and moderate hikes in absolutely serene beauty. Each trail within the park is punctuated by Shinto and Buddhist shrines, Jizo statues, examples of Edo architecture, and temples. It’s the ideal park for culture lovers who want to enjoy some forest bathing, vegan temple food, sake from local breweries, and a relaxing onsen experience.

Some key sightseeing spots in the park include Shinkyo Bridge and the Keyon and Ryuzu waterfalls. Take some time to hike around Lake Chuzenjiko, enjoy the tranquillity of Rinnoji Temple, Toshogu Shrine, and the Edo architecture of Tamozawa Villa. Nikko National Park is easily accessed on the bullet train from Tokyo.

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09 of 10

Amami Gunto National Park

Amami Gunto National Park

 

Getty/ Ippei Naoi

Address
Amami, Oshima District, Kagoshima 894-1203, Japan

Located in Kagoshima Prefecture and officially designated a national park in 2017, Amami Gunto National Park comprises eight small subtropical islands. Coral reefs, mangrove forests, and tidal flats make up this national park's most spectacular natural elements.

This is a part of Japan known for its blue skies and seas, immaculate coastline, and dense forests, which teem with life. In these wilds and waters, nature is thriving. Snakes, frogs, geckos, and all manner of wild birds exist here, making for an incredibly diverse ecosystem that matches the diversity of the park’s landscape.

10 of 10

Aso-Kuju National Park

Aso Kuju National Park

  Getty/Atlantide Phototravel

Address
Ichinomiyamachi Miyaji, Aso, Kumamoto 869-2612, Japan
Phone +81 967-34-0254

Aso Caldera is the highlight of this park, with numerous ways to enjoy the view of this active volcano from above, including paragliding, balloon rides, and even by helicopter.

Of course, hiking Mount Aso is always an option, and the surrounding Kuju mountains with numerous trails to enjoy the views. Other diverse activities you can do here include kayaking through the flooded rice fields, wetland walks, taking morning yoga classes with a mountainous backdrop, enjoying the many hot springs as the waters of this area feed some of Japan's most famous onsen towns, including Yufuin, Beppu, and Kurokawa.

Taking a car is ideal as you can navigate the park easily and enjoy the exciting mountain drives.

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The Top 10 National Parks in Japan