The land of the rising sun has no shortage of beautiful places to visit. Unfortunately, many travelers aren’t privy to the best spots to snap gorgeous, iconic photos or find a place that takes their breath away. If you’re reading this article, it probably means that you want to find out the best places in Japan to take in true, natural, Japanese beauty.
Whether you want to take that perfect photo to showcase your trip, or you just want to see the sights and make lasting memories, included in this article are 10 beautiful places that will satisfy any traveler’s need for gorgeous views. Included in this list are natural rock formations and bodies of water, manmade structures, a bamboo forest, and a spectacular landscape garden. There’s sure to be at least one scenic spot on this list that peaks your interest!
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto
If you’re a fan of tall, natural structures that are perfect in either the foreground or background of any picture, then the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is the perfect place for you! Not only will you be pleased with the quality of any pictures taken in the forest, but you’ll also enjoy fresh air and a relaxing atmosphere that will make you want to never leave. Visitors say that you’ll need about two hours depending on your love of nature to get the full experience of the bamboo forest!
Although the forest itself takes the spotlight for this destination, visitors can also rent a kimono to wear while they walk through the bamboo path. You can include yourself in traditional Japanese attire in your photos of the forest, or just enjoy looking as beautiful as your surrounding area! If you get tired or need a rest in between walking and photos, there are several eateries around, as well as a few temples and gardens.
For more tips about about Kyoto, you can also read these articles: Kyoto Travel Blog.
2. Lake Ashi in Hakone
This gorgeous body of water, which is also referred to as Hakone Lake or Ashinoko Lake, was created nearly 3,000 years ago after Mt. Hakone last erupted. It’s the number one spot to visit in all of Hakone, and the image of Lake Ashi with Mt. Fuji in the background is actually the main symbol of Hakone. If you want to view this spectacular area as much as possible, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few lakeside resorts and small towns to the east and north of the lake!
Don’t miss the great torii in the lake which is part of Hakone shrine!
For those that want to get the best views and photo spots, it’s best to include Mt. Fuji in the background of your pictures – a two for one combination of earth and water! The perfect places to get such views are from Moto Hakone, Hakone Detached Palace Garden, and one of the many sightseeing boats that travel across the lake daily. Timing is everything when trying to get the best views or picture; early morning in the winter has the greatest chance of perfect visibility. Even if the forecast isn’t in your favor to see both mountain and lake together, you’re still in for quite a treat!
By the way, if you want to sleep in a Japanese style, you can find amazing Ryokan in Hakone. Check out our recommended list here: Best Ryokan in Hakone.
3. Lake Kawaguchi in Kawaguchiko
The first place everyone wants to visit when they travel to Mt. Fuji – other than Mt. Fuji itself, of course! – is Lake Kawaguchi! There are numerous onsen resorts and ryokans on the east side of the lake, though the majority of the surrounding areas are natural paradises with little to no interference by humans. If you want to get a Birdseye view of the lake and surrounding areas, you can hop onto the Kachi Kachi Ropeway that ascends up to Mt. Tenjo. Regardless of where you stand, the views are always beautiful to behold!
If you want to add Japan’s signature cherry blossoms to your viewing, it’s best to hit up the lake around the spring season in Japan. The flowers are in full bloom around mid April, and the best spot to view them, the lake, and Mt. Fuji all in one shot is from the seaside promenade near the Kawaguchiko Music Forest. If you’re less about flowers and more about stunning, red leaves, then head over to the lake during the autumn season when the shores are covered in red, orange, and yellow foliage! Head over to the Momiji Tunnel and immerse yourself in the colorful leaves of autumn in Japan!
4. Geibikei Gorge near Ichinoseki
Hop on a boat, pull out your camera, and lose yourself in the gorgeous scenery found in Geikikei Gorge! The 2km long gorge was carved out by the Satetsu River, creating cliffs that are over 50 meters tall. The gorge got its name, Geibikei, which means ‘lion’s nose’, by the peculiar rock formation that looks like a – you guessed it! – lion’s nose near the end of the gorge! The boat ride through the gorge takes an hour and a half, though there is a spot in the middle of the tour to get off the boat and stretch your legs.
The sights to be had in the gorge include waterfall, limestone caves, unique rock formations, natural foliage, local wildlife, and more! One of the most fun aspects of the boat tour is during the halfway point; a small hole in a large cliff gives visitors an opportunity to purchase ‘lucky stones’ that they then try to throw through the hole. Those who make their mark get a boost of extra good luck! You can even feed local fish in the river to get them to swim closer to the boat, giving you the perfect photo opportunity of authentic Japanese sea life.
5. The O-torii of Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island is said to be a place where people and gods live together, so it’s no surprise that there’s a plethora of spiritual sites around the island. The best known symbol of Miyajima Island is the great Torii, or O-Torri, which looks like it’s floating on the sea during high tide.
During low tide, the ocean recedes and allows visitors to stand under the large gate near the six pillars that hold it up. The beautiful coloring of the gate, its location on the island, and the gorgeous foliage around it all combine to make it a beautiful sight to behold!
Though it make look like it must be anchored deep into the seabed to stay aloft, the gate actually stands on its own weight with the aid of six pillars. A connected box under the torii is filled with seven tons of stones that are all the size of a fist. Due to its amazing construction, the gate can even survive earthquakes and typhoons! Rest assured that this gorgeous gate will definitely still be standing when you come to visit Japan!
And if you are looking for lovely Japanese traditional inns in Miyajima Island, feel free to check this blog post: Miyajima Ryokan.
6. Kegon Falls in Nikko
Ranked as one of the top three waterfalls in all of Japan, Kegon Falls in Nikko sports a 100 meter tall waterfall surrounded by colorful foliage to accent its own unique beauty. The water from the falls comes from Lake Chuzenji, and observation decks around the base and above the foliage can be used to better view this wonder of the world.
Though Kegon Falls is beautiful year round, this waterfall looks absolutely stunning during the autumn season in Japan, surrounded by yellow, orange, and red leaves. You can also visit in winter in Japan when the waters freeze completely solid!
To better see the fall and surrounding foliage, there are observation decks at various locations. A free platform is available and accessible by foot, while a paid platform at the base of the falls offers an interesting vertical view of the falling water. If you wish to view Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji all in one sight, head over to the Akechidaira Observatory by using the ropeway from Akechidaira Plateua – you won’t regret it!
7. Nachi Falls in Wakayama
Also in the top three of Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls is Nachi Falls in Wakayama. It’s located right next to Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the three Kumano shrines. Nachi Falls is actually the tallest waterfall in Japan at 133 meters from top to base. There are other waterfalls that may look taller, but Nachi Falls holds the record for having the longest uninterrupted drops of water. Before the shrine had been erected, the waterfall was the main spiritual and religious site.
Dropping one ton of water down the cliff every second, standing anywhere near Nachi Falls will give anyone a sense of the raw power this natural wonder holds. Due to the fact that the waterfall is said to hold a god named Hiryu Gongen, the waterfall is part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. You should definitely check out this important, sacred, and absolutely awe-inspiring location.
If you are in this area, don’t miss out Koyasan and its lovely buddhist temples.
8. Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu
The most visited place in Takamatsu (Shikoku Island), Ritsurin Garden is perfect for those who like to see the best an area can offer. Hailed as the best landscape garden in all of Japan, the Ritsurin Garden is split into a Japanese style garden in the southern area and a Western style garden in the northern area.
There are beautiful ponds with clear water, rolling hills that make strolls more enjoyable, ancient trees that have stood the test of time, and gorgeous pavilions that visitors can rest and relax in.
If you’re planning on spending a bit of time at the garden, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of other activities to do in between snapping photos and taking in the scenery. There are shops, rest houses, tea houses, and even a folk museum. The best place to rest with the best view of the gardens is the Kikugetsutei teahouse, which allows patrons to enjoy their tea on a balcony overlooking the ponds!
9. Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki
Though it’s not exactly the most accessible place to get to, making the trip to see the Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki is something you won’t regret! Usually after visiting nearby Mt. Aso, travelers are hard-pressed to find a valid reason for not taking in the beauty of Takachiho Gorge. Those that have enjoyed the gorge say that, for once in their lives, they’ve found a place that actually looks better in person than it does in photographs!
Even if pictures can’t do the beauty of this gorge justice, feel free to snap as many pics as you like! Along with taking pictures, you can also enjoy a pleasant stroll throughout the area, rent a rowboat to get closer to the waterfall, and try the delicious bamboo float noodles! There’s lots of beautiful sights to take in, but also plenty of fun and enjoyable activities to create lasting memories!
10. Shirakawago village near Takayama
Comprised of 114 thatched roofed gassho style houses, Shirakawago village is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site because of the rich history behind its development. The houses are still used in real life, and were built to withstand heavy snowfall and provide a large attic space to cultivate silkworms.
It takes less than an hour to reach the village by bus, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to snap pictures of the surrounding areas in Takayama before you get to the main attraction! The small Gasshozukuri Minkaen Museum features 26 gassho style houses that you can walk around in to view the insides of these architectural beauties. Even for those who aren’t into traditional housing unit in Japan, these structurally sound living spaces are still quite the sight to see!
Even if you aren’t able to visit every place listed above, rest assured knowing that Japan is full of hidden and well-known beautiful places that are worthy of creating lasting memories of your time abroad. This list is a great place to start your journey for gorgeous locations, but it doesn’t have to be a check-list for your vacation. Sometimes blazing your own trail can lead you to treasures you never would have found otherwise, and beauty can be found in even the most unexpected places!