The National Parks of Japan Have It All

Map of Japan’s national parks from https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/

Japan has a total of 33 national parks, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spread out across its major islands, they showcase the vast variety of ecosystems and unique landscapes that characterize the natural world of Japan. These parks are also home to many important historic and cultural attractions, making them the perfect places to experience the multifaceted wonders of Nippon. I’ve only seen a small fraction of these special places, but they deserve a post highlighting how amazing they are.

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

As you may be able to tell from the name of this park, Fuji-Hakone-Izu has three distinct sections, one of which is home to Mt. Fuji (the highest mountain in the country), one is for Hakone, and one for the Izu islands south of Tokyo. Of these, I have visited Hakone and Mt. Fuji.

That’s boiling hot water running down those steps in the geothermal area of Hakone (c) ABR 2017.

When I went to Hakone, it was my first time in Japan, and I wanted to have the chance to see Mt. Fuji, since we wouldn’t be able to actually visit the mountain. We heard that the journey through this part of the park would give us the best chance for a glimpse of the crown of Japan (although we didn’t actually get to see it that time due to cloud cover), so we bought a transportation value pass (for details click here). This takes you from Toyko via multiple different modes of transportation (train, funicular, cable car, boat, and bus) through the Hakone area. This includes a stop in a geothermal area where you can see some hot springs and buy special black eggs cooked in the searing hot waters of the mountain. You will also get to ride an oddly pirate-esque boat across Lake Ashinoko. Not included in the pass, but well worth the extra cost, is the Old Hakone Check Point, which was used during the Edo period to monitor people moving through Japan.

Old Hakone Checkpoint on a cloudy day (c) ABR 2017.

On our second trip to Japan, I did summit Mt. Fuji, which was a just-as-memorable-as-you-would-think two-day experience that I will devote an entire post to later this month. I will say that this mountain is busy, but makes up for the crowds with unimaginably beautiful views and a uniquely spiritual experience.

Torii gate near the summit of Mt Fuji (c) ABR 2017.

Nikko National Park

Nikko National Park includes a huge complex of shrines among a wildly beautiful, mountainous countryside. This is one of the most spiritual places that I have ever been in my life, but it is also very popular. So, the real moments of still and introspection are those that you can steal in a crowd, or find on a quiet trail among the trees. This National Park is also home to Mt. Nantai, Kegon Falls, and Lake Chuzenji. After Mt. Fuji, Mt Nantai is one of the best places for a visitor to get a challenging hike in, but you will need to plan ahead if you are going to make it up the steep trails of this mountain to the summit.

The crowds in Nikko make it hard to find that spiritual moment, but you will find it in this national park (c) ABR 2017.

Setonaikai National Park

I visited this park while staying on Miyajima island of Hiroshima Bay, which is home to the ocean-side Itsukushima-jinga and Mt. Misan, in the western side of the park. For anyone like me, that isn’t super fond of snorkeling, the island is your best destination for this part of the national park, because the rest of Setonaikai is marine, complete with finless porpoises and beautiful forests of ocean plant-life.

Man-made, anti-erosion waterfalls on Miyajima (c) ABR 2017.

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31 Comments

  1. When I think of Japan, national parks isn’t what first comes to mind for me but wow those are stunning! Thank you for introducing me to it.

  2. WOW! I have national parks on my bucket list (but in the states) – the boiling water one looks amazing

  3. Wonderful post! I hope to one day travel to that part of the world and experience the great wonders of Japan! Thank you for giving me ideas for when that time comes!

  4. Wonderful post! We most look forward to Setonaikai National Park, it reminds us of AZ.

  5. I have never visited Japan, but the pictures I see have always intrigued me. It seems like such a surreal and peaceful place. I had no idea there were so many national parks. Another reason to visit Japan. Beautiful pictures.

  6. This place it seems really amazing!! What a lovely shots! You make me wanna travel there soon !!

  7. kaitielaw

    Japan is such a beautiful place with such a rich culture and history. I love these beautiful national parks, and would definitely be on my list to visit when I go!!

  8. Oh Gosh I cannot wait to step foot in Japan and visit some of these national parks.

  9. swtliving

    Japan’s parks look amazing from your photos! I feel like I’ll need to spend a ton of time in Japan to really see all its beauty.

  10. supermillennial

    I agree — never would’ve thought of national parks in Japan. These look amazing — you did a great job with the photos too!

  11. I can’t wait to visit Japan! The Nikko National Park looks like one I’d want to visit.

  12. tatumskipper

    Some amazing National Parks that I pretty much never heard of!! I have been dying to visit Japan so definitely on my list!

  13. Wow, this looks like an incredible journey. I have always wanted to travel to Japan just not a huge fan of the long flight. Wonderful photos:)

  14. Elizabeth O

    Your post brought back wonderful memories of my visits to those parks too. Japan has a lot to offer and the parks are an integral part of the experience.

  15. Anastasia Golovko

    Japan is definitely in my priority list. You are so fortunate to be able to travel there. You had me at ‘finless porpoises’. Thank you very mush for sharing with the rest of the world.

    • Definitely! I am so grateful to have gone. It is possible to travel cheaply there via hostels, and cooking for yourself. And the national parks are free! I hope you make it out there someday. 😀

  16. thenafranssen

    So cool. Much different than out state parks here in the US. Loved this!

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