We have scoured the books and the Internet to come come up with a list of secret scenic spots in Japan! Do you know any of them or have been to any? Let us know!
[Last updated 7 Jan 2015]
- The Road of Laputa (ラピュタの道), Kumamoto
The Road of Laputa – this driving route earns its nickname from its similar landscape to the floating island of famous animation Laputa, Castle in the Sky.
Located in Kumamoto Prefecture, the scenic route winds around Mt Aso, giving panoramic views of the ridges of Aso area. Driving on the narrow road, it seems like you are driving in the sky! On cloudy days, a sea of clouds appear around the mountains, making it feel as though you are driving through the sky. Be sure to make this drive if you are doing a road-trip in Kyushu!
- Terraced Stonewalls of Takagai (高開), Tokushima
Driving through central Tokushima, you may come across a series of terraced stonewalls in the village of Takagai, one of the 100 Villages of Japan. The stonewalls were laid 400 years ago to optimize land space and build homesand fields on the mountainous slopes.
Today, the stone walls is the locals’ pride and is well-preserved by them. The best time to visit is in spring, when the locals plant shiba-sakura, a kind of bright pink moss on the rock walls, making it quite a spectacle on the mountain top!
- Kayabuki no Sato (かやぶきの里), Kyoto
A small village in northern Kyoto, Kayabuki no Sato is famous for its thatched-roof farmhouses, many of which are still in use by the villagers. Although there are not much tourist facilities in the area, visitors who take time to stroll around the village are rewarded with an authentic experience of rural Japan, complete with a beautiful landscape of the mountainous region and the Yura River.
- Fukuroda Falls (袋田の滝), Ibaraki
Fukuroda Falls of Ibaraki is one of the great waterfalls in Japan! It is nicknamed “四度の滝” (“The waterfall of four seasons”) by famous priest Seigyo because of the stunning scenery visitors can enjoy in the four different seasons.
That said, the Fukuroda Falls is the most beautiful in winter when it completely freezes over. There is an annual winter illumination and the brave-hearted can even try ice-climbing!
- Mt Zao (蔵王山), Yamagata
Come winter and the SNOW MONSTERS awaken. This is Mt Zao, in Yamagata Prefecture, one of the few places where you can see ice trees due to the heavy snowfall and strong winds.
Although it is a ski resort, non-skiers can also take the ropeway to the top, where you will be awarded with a spectacular view of the snowy landscape. Be warned though, it can get bitterly cold at the top. But not to worry as the outdoor hotsprings of Zao Onsen town awaits you at the bottom. What a way to enjoy the winter!
- Sukiji Beach(底地ビーチ), Okinawa
Sukuji beach , an image of paradise on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. Sukuji beach has very shallow and clear watersand white sandy shore, making it ideal for wading and snorkelling in the warm waters.
About 2km from Sukuji beach is the famous Kabira Bay, a beautiful scenery of white sand and emerald blue sea. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed due to the presence of jellyfish and strong current. However, you can take a glass-bottom boat to enjoy the beautiful coral reefs and to visit the cultivation sites of the black pearls.
- Lake Nozori (野反湖), Gunma
Photo from Tourist Guide of Gunma Prefecture
Lake Nozori in Gunma is situated at 1,514 m above sea level and surrounded by 2,000 m high mountains. In the summer, it is a favourite spot for many outdoors enthusiasts, especially when the fields of local alpine flowers are in bloom. Hiking, camping and fishing seem to be the popular activities but of course no one will stop you if you just want to kick back, soak in the hotspring and take in the beautiful scenery.
- Yamadera (山寺), Yamagata
Also known as Yamadera (literally mountain temple), Risshakuji Temple is situated in the mountians in Yamagata prefecture. The temple grounds covers a huge area and visitors have to climb 1,000 steps up the stone path to get to the higher parts of the temple grounds.
Along the way up, there are several small temples, stone statues and lanterns and places to rest, making it a pleasant hike. However, the best reward is at the top, where you can marvel at the scenic view of the valley and mountains. Its proximity to Sendai city makes it a great day-trip in the Tohoku region.
- Shimanto River (四万十川), Shikoku
Known as “Japan’s last pristine river”, the Shimanto River is the longest river in Shikoku. The vegetation of the area and the lack of dams has allowed pure water to flow the entire 196km of the river. It is a great place to escape from the city and enjoy the tranquility and calm waters of the river.
In fall, there is a traditional fishing technique where fisherman will wave torches of fire above the water to scare eels, prawns and other fish into the nets underwater.
- 48 Waterfalls in Akame (赤目四十八滝), MiePhoto from http://www.akame48taki.com
The 48 waterfalls of Akame in Mie is a beautiful place to visit during all four seasons. There aren’t exactly 48 waterfalls, instead, “48” is chosen to indicate the large number of waterfalls in the area.
There is an easy hiking trail along the falls, but do not be shocked if you encounter the giant salamanders as this is one of their natural homes. If you are going in winter, it will be a good opportunity to view some frozen waterfalls!
- Okutama (奥多摩), Tokyo
In western end of Tokyo prefecture, there is a lovely getaway called Okutama. This mountainous region is a huge contrast to the bustling city and is a local secret. Over the weekends, you can often find young locals visiting and hiking at Mt Mitake, one of the more popular trails.
The natural landscape of the area is beautiful throughout all four seasons. In spring, the sakura along Lake Okutama are in full bloom, and in autumn, the bright autumn colours make a beautiful contrast against the green forest moss in Mt Mitake. In winter, the mountain will be covered with snow and visitors have a chance to view the frozen waterfalls.
- Yufugawa Valley (由布川峡谷), Oita
Next door to the quaint little onsen town Yufuin, Yufugawa Valley (由布川峡谷) is steeped in mystery and natural beauty. From the main road, visitors can take a short but steep walk down to the valley floor, entering a magical world of ravine and waterfalls.
From the Jakoshitouge (蛇越峠) observation deck, you can get a bird’s eye view of the onsen town and the valley. The best time is perhaps, autumn mornings, when the town is shrouded in the morning mist, enhancing the magical feel of the area.
- Akasoba no Sato, (赤そばの里), Nagano
Miles and miles of red carpet – this is what Akasoba-no-Sato in Nagano looks like. Nagano prefecture is famous for the soba (buckwheat) flowers which are usually white. However, this red species, called Takane Ruby, is native to the Himalayas and was introduced to Japan. Every September, the fields of Takane Ruby are in full bloom, creating a beautiful landscape against the backdrop of clear blue skies and green mountain ranges of Nagano. Isn’t it beautiful?
- Tanizen Suspension Bridge(谷瀬の吊り橋), Nara
Crossing the Tanizen Suspension Bridge in Nara may take more courage than your average tourist bridge. It’s one of Japan’s longest steel-wire suspension bridges, at almost 300m long, hanging 54m above the valley. If you could take your eyes off the bridge, you will be amazed by the vastness of the beautiful mountains around you.
Every year on 4 Aug, you can catch a thrilling Japanese drums performed on the bridge. The event is called Yuredaiko, literally “Drums on the shaking bridge”. Now, it can’t get more apt than that, can it?
- Lake Nishinoko, Shiga
Everyone knows about Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan. Lesser known, is Lake Nishinoko, one of the largest outlets of Lake Biwa. Surrounding Lake Nishinoko is a huge reed field. It is said that one of the most beautiful experiences in Japan is to stand amongst the maze of reeds, listening to the waterbirds and watching the sunset over the quiet Lake Nishinoko.
Nearby is the old castle town of Omihachiman, one of the eight most beautiful spots of Lake Biwa. You can enjoy cruising through the small canals in traditional houseboats, taking in the scenery of the quaint old town as well as the beautiful reed field of Lake Nishinoko.
- Mifuneyama Rakuen (御船山楽園), Saga
The Mifuneyama Rakuen in Saga prefecture, southern Japan, is an elaborated garden for flower-lovers. It is the most beautiful in spring, when the 20,000 azalea bushes bloom against the backdrop of Mt. Mifune. It reminds me of a cross between Hobbiton and the tea party at Alice-in-Wonderland.
In autumn, the view is just as stunning – the vibrant colours of the autumn leaves reflecting in the water. In November, there will also be a light-up. Don’t miss this breath-taking scenery if you are in Kyushu!
- Takeda Castle (竹田城), Hyogo
Castle in the Sky… No, it’s not Laputa. It’s Takeda Castle. Located on a hilltop in Hyogo, the ruins of Takeda Castle is often shrouded in the morning clouds, earning it its nickname, Castle in the Sky, or the Machu Picchu of Japan. The best season to catch this spectacular sight is in autumn, between September and December.
It is easily accessible from Kobe or Kyoto city. Why not make a day trip to this mysterious place during autumn?
- Ryusendo (龍泉洞), Iwate
Ryusendo is a beautiful limestone cave in Iwate and is a national monument! You can tour the cave and admire the emerald-green lakes in the caves. It is said the fourth lake is the deepest underground lake in Japan, and also one of the most transparent lakes in the world!