Translated by Shinji Takaramura
See Japan In Videos - Picturesque Sightseeing Spots
When asked about Japan, people may think of cities such as Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, but this article focuses on more little-known picturesque sightseeing spots.
Written by MATCHA-PR
When asked about Japan, most people may think of big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, or Kyoto, which are filled with beautiful shrines and temples. But there is more to Japan besides these famous cities.
This article is about various sightseeing spots all over Japan, all of them picturesque, and worth visiting.
1. Niigata - Sado Island
Sado Island is the largest island in the Japan Sea, located west of Niigata Prefecture. With a rich natural environment, the island has flourished in agriculture and fishing industries. It also prospered as a base in a sea trade route, and has a rich cultural history.
Sado is filled with beautiful scenery. There is a 300 years old tree, and the coastal fishermen still employ the traditional method of using a washbasin as a boat.
If you're lucky, you might see toki (Japanese crested ibis) here as well. The island scenery looks like it came out of old-time Japan.
There are various traditional performing arts on this island. For example, Ondeko is performed by a masked dancer who also plays the drum, Takigi Noh is a Noh performance, illuminated by a bonfire at night, and Aikawa Yoi-no-mai is a dance festival held at the Aikawa district.
Historic sites such as the Sado Kinzan (gold mine) and the Kitazawa Flotation Plant, and the tanada, where rice is grown on terraced fields by the sea, are all also places worthy of a visit.
Address: Niigata, Sado
2. The Great Snow Wall: Toyama-Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Tateyama, one of the three most-noted mountains in Japan, is a famous sightseeing spot in Toyama Prefecture. The snow-covered mountain range can be seen as a backdrop of Toyama Bay, and the view is breathtaking.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route connects Toyama and Nagano prefectures, running through the mountain range at the altitude of 3,000 meters. At the beginning of the spring season, visitors can enjoy the world-famous "great snow wall" with the opening of the route. The road, buried in snow during the long winter, is excavated with machines, creating a 20 meter high snow wall.
Every year from mid-April to mid-June, the road is opened to the pedestrians, and visitors from all over the world gather to enjoy the walk. The beauty and power of the vast, snowy scene should charm everyone.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Website: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
3. A Castle of Beauty: Nagano Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle, built in the Sengoku Period, is a castle for war. Along with Himeji Castle, Hikone Castle and Inuyama Castle, it is designated as a national treasure.
The castle tower is known for the beauty of the contrast between the white plaster and black-lacquered boards, the two materials used on its walls. Visitors can enjoy the view of the Northern Alps as the backdrop of the castle, and the reflection of the mountain and the castle on the moat is truly an impressive sight.
The scenery changes with the seasons: cherry blossoms in spring, autumnal leaves in fall and the snow-clad castle in winter. Visitors can also enjoy the sight of carp, swans and ducks in the moat.
If you have the chance to visit, be sure to enjoy a walk around the castle as well.
Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Marunouchi 4‐1
Website: Matsumoto Castle
4. Yamanashi - Five Lakes of Mt. Fuji
From spring to summer, visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery and various activities at the five lakes near Mt. Fuji, in Yamanashi Prefecture.
The Arakurayama Chureito Pagoda, located at Fujiyoshida City, is a popular spot to view Mt. Fuji. In spring visitors can enjoy the magnificent ensemble of the cherry blossoms, pagoda tower and the snow-capped Mt. Fuji.
Near Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi), the Fuji Shibazakura Festival is held from April to May, where the visitors can enjoy the shibazakura (pink moss phlox) against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji. More than 800 thousand shibazakura are laid out like a carpet, decorating the foothills.
To view Mt. Fuji from Yamanakako (Lake Yamanaka), take the amphibious bus KABA. It drives through the forest and dives into the lake, so the passengers can enjoy both the ride and the great view.
In late August, the Yoshida Fire Festival, which marks the end of the climbing season at Mt. Fuji, is held. The sight of more than 70 torches being lit is breathtaking, and it should make a great memory of your trip.
Five Lakes of Mt. Fuji
Website: Yamanashi Prefecture
5. A Symbol of Resurgence: Kumamoto Aso Shrine
Kumamoto Castle may be famous as a sightseeing spot in Kumamoto Prefecture, but if you're going to Kumamoto, visit the Aso Shrine, located at Ichinomiya-cho in Aso City.
Takeiwatatsu-No-Mikoto, who is said to have broken the fresh grounds of Aso, is one of the deities enshrined at this shrine, which has a history spanning 2,300 years.
Aso Shrine hosts various rituals related to agriculture, such as the Otaue-shinko-shiki in July, and the Hifuri-shinji in March. These rituals also play an important part in the local community.
The Kumamoto Earthquake on April 16, 2016, caused great damage to Aso Shrine, as the tower gate and the worship hall, both important cultural assets, collapsed. The restoration will take time, but in January of 2017, many people paid visit to the shrine, to pray for the rebuilding.
Although there are still many scars from the earthquake in Kumamoto, a visit to the area is one way to support the reconstruction.
Address: Kumamoto, Aso, Ichinomiya-cho, Miyaji 3083-1
Website: Aso Shrine
6. A Journey into the Past: Nagasaki Gunkanjima
The Hashima Island, located off the coast of Nagasaki City in Nagasaki Prefecture, is also known as Gunkanjima. Recently, it has become a prominent sightseeing spot. The island is surrounded by quay walls, and it is said that the nickname was created as the sight of the high-rise apartments resemble a gunkan (battleship).
Hashima prospered as a coal-mining town, and in its heyday, the population density was the highest in Japan. The island was deserted after the mine closed in 1974, but the remains are a precious part of history, a witness of how Japan became modernized.
Since 2009, visitors have been allowed to go ashore the island (*1), and cruise tours have started. (*2) In July, 2015, it was designated as a World Heritage Site (Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining), and people from all over the world have visited the island.
*1: The landing area is limited.
*2: The cruise may be cancelled in case of bad weather, and the visitors will not be allowed to go ashore.
Address: Nagasaki, Nagasaki, Takashima-cho, Hashima
Telephone: +81-95-825-5175 (exclusive number for visitors from abroad)
Website: Nagasaki City Tourism Site
There are still many wonderful, not-so-well-known spots in this country. If you have the chance to visit, try to extend your trip to those spots, and enjoy the view that can be experienced only in Japan.
Sponsored by TBS Holdings, INC.