A spacious island located at Japan’s northern extremity with festivals throughout the seasons. A region with an abundance of natural beauty.
Hokkaido is an island at Japan’s northern extremity, surrounded by sea in all directions. It is an extensive land, accounting for 22% of Japan’s total land area. Low humidity makes the summers pleasant, while in winter you can enjoy winter sports. The island is gaining popularity as a tourist destination throughout the four seasons.
In Hokkaido you can enjoy the magnificence of nature to your heart’s content: Daisetsu-zan National Park, which forms the roof of Hokkaido; the secluded Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula; Kushiro Marsh, home to many precious living things such as Japanese cranes; Shikotsu-Toya National Park, which is full of volcanoes and lakes; and the ever-changing Shakotan-kaigan Coast. There are also numerous hot springs, like the Noboribetsu-onsen, Jozan-kei-onsen and Soun-kyo-onsen, where you can enjoy a leisurely bath to help you get over the fatigue of your journey.
The Sapporo Snow-matsuri Festival and Monbetsu Ice Floes-matsuri Festival are held in winter. In summer enjoy the Furano Lavender-matsuri Festival, as well as port festivals in every coastal town held to pray for a good catch and safe fishing. Hokkaido boasts of over 1,200 festivals and events held throughout the year. Ice floes arrive in Abashiri every year in late January. A tourist icebreaker departs from Wakkanai Port, enabling you to see the beautiful, rough blue ice floes.
“Navel town,” located in the center of Hokkaido. Its beautiful rich fields of lavender tempt tourists with their fragrance.
Furano is situated along the middle reaches of the Sorachi-gawa River in the central part of Hokkaido and it belongs to Furano-Ashibetsu Nature Park. Because of its geographical position, which is almost right in the middle of Hokkaido, Furano has a unique nickname – “the navel town.” Every summer, a humorous navel festival is held in Furano, during which about 3,000 participants draw funny faces on their bellies and dance around in the main street.
A beautiful lakeside spa resort. Enjoy watching the spirals of white smoke emanating from the Mt.Usu volcano.
Lake Toya, which is situated in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, belongs to Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This caldera lake lies 11km east and west, 9km south and north and measuring 43km around. The active volcano that stands proudly near the lake with white smoke rising above it is Mt.Usu. It is one of the most active volcanoes, with repeated eruptions on a cycle of between 30 and 50 years. Its most recent eruption was in 2000. Live craters and the remains produced by volcano eruption can be closely observed. It was registered in world Geopark for the first time in Japan in 2010. Lake Toya hot spring, which stretches out along the lake, is one of the best spa resorts in Hokkaido. Various events such as fireworks are held throughout the year. The G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit was held in 2008. Many people from around the world gathered at Lake Toya. Abundant in nature, it is an excellent place to exchange world view on the global environment and climate change. There are many places of interest around Lake Toya including the Volcano Science Museum where they show visual images of the eruption that occurred in 1977 and 2000, complete with a special sound system.
Lake Toya is an ice-free lake. It never freezes, even in winter when the temperature falls quite drastically. The beauty of the ice-free lake can therefore be admired anytime during the year. There are big and small four islands called Nakajima in the middle of the lake, and on it is the Toyako Forest Museum, which is a part of the sightseeing boat route. Trout and smelt fishing are very popular sports in and around the lake. There are also fully facilitated camping sites.
Furano’s natural beauty can be appreciated throughout the seasons of the year – beautiful stardust in the winter sky, charming ‘mizubasho,’ Japanese skunk cabbage flowers along the roadside in spring, the inviting fragrance of lavender in summer, and the gloriously red and yellow tinted leaves in fall. The name “Furano” actually originates from the Ainu (an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido) word ‘furanui’ – meaning fragrant flame. Furano created the Furano Lavender-no-Mori lavender field to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its municipal government. Many people visit the lavender field in summer when the lavender bloom is at its best. Taking a stroll along the path through the forest of sweetly scented lavender is really a must when you visit Furano in summer.
You can also enjoy outdoor activities in Furano all year round. Rafting trips down the Sorachi-gawa River and hot-air balloon flights are organized by the Alpine Visitor Center, and the nearby Kita-no-Mine is a popular ski resort in winter.
A large clock tower and trendy shopping center. Odori Avenue Park is the location of a magnificent snow festival.
Sapporo in western Hokkaido is divided up in a grid pattern, and is the largest city on the island. Odori Avenue Park stretches from east to west in the center of the city, and is a symbol of the city – full of art objects, fountains, lilac and acacia plants and lots of flowerbeds. To the north stand trading companies, financial institutions and local government offices, while to the south is a large underground shopping mall, which as the city’s main shopping center is always busy. It is connected directly to Sapporo Station, which is the transportation hub for all of Hokkaido and the place to board JR lines, the subway, and both local and tourist buses.
The city contains many essential sights: the Sapporo City Clock, which has been marking time for over a century; the old Hokkaido government building, a neo-baroque building known as “Red Brick” that is lit up after dark; and the poplars outside Hokkaido University (formerly Hokkaido Agricultural College).
Odori Avenue Park is more than 1,400 meters long. In summer it is full of beer gardens, while in winter it becomes the location for a snow festival. During the festival, this big park is lined with magnificent snow statues and beautiful ice statues.
The town’s nostalgic, old-fashioned mood is enhanced by its architecture and layout. A beautiful large canal flows through it.
Otaru is situated in the western part of Hokkaido, facing Ishikari Bay. It has developed and prospered as “the sea entrance of Hokkaido” over the last 100 years and it has gained the nickname “Wall Street of the North.” The glassworks shops, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls along the canal have been converted from stone-built or brick-built warehouses, which were used for storage in the days when commerce flourished and the canal was crowded with jostling barges. When night falls, oil lamps on the cobbled streets are lit, and the town evokes a gentle, nostalgic mood.
Otaru’s nickname is “the town of hills” as there are so many hills, including Jigoku-zaka (hell hill) – a very steep slope, and the long, winding Funami-zaka. Mt. Tengu-yama that towers behind Otaru is a popular ski resort in winter. There is an observation point on Mt. Tengu-yama, and the panoramic view including the whole of Otaru and its port area is absolutely wonderful. There are also cable cars to take you to the mountaintop.
A vibrant and active morning seafood market. A unique blend of Japanese and Western architecture exists in the city.
Located in the southwest of Hokkaido and facing the Tsugaru Strait, Hakodate developed as a port town for trade with foreign countries at the end of the 19th century, and is a gateway connecting Hokkaido with Honshu by the Seikan Tunnel.
A morning market is held at the bay area near the railway station, where more than 360 stalls packed tightly together attract shoppers with freshly caught squid, scallops, salmon eggs, Atka mackerel, and many other kinds of fresh fish and shellfish. A five-minute walk will take you to the moored Seikan Strait ferryboat, named the Mashu-maru Memorial Ship, which used to link Aomori in Honshu with Hokkaido. There is a restaurant and a coffee shop at its bow where you can spend a nice, relaxing time viewing the scenery around the port.
The area around Motomachi maintains a congenial blend of Japanese and Western cultures, being home to the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, an important cultural property, the old British Consulate with its tea lounge, Haristo Sei-kyokai, a Russian Orthodox church, as well as the Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple, a branch temple of the Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple in Kyoto. At the waterfront overlooking the Hakodate-ko Port, there is a shopping mall inside remodeled red brick warehouses, the Old Kanamori Haberdashery Museum and the Hakodate Beer Hall.
Plumes of volcanic gas and hot springs are huge attractions. Broadleaf trees sway boldly in Noboribetsu Primeval Forest.
Noboribetsu in southwestern Hokkaido is the location of the Noboribetsu-onsen, Karurusu-onsen, Shin-Noboritbetsu-onsen hot springs, and has a rich variety of scenery including forests, lakes and marshes. It has been designated a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
The Noboribetsu-onsen is one of Hokkaido’s best-known hot springs, and is surrounded by a virgin forest 200 meters above sea level. It has 9 different kinds of water, containing minerals such as hydrogen sulfide, salt, and iron. The quality of these minerals results in the spa being ranked among the world’s most exceptional hot springs.
The most impressive scene at the hot spring is the Jigoku Valley (hell valley), where yellowy gray volcanic gas seeps from the surface of the rocks. This makes the whole place smell strongly of sulfur, and gives it an image like that of hell. The valley is a 450-meter-diameter mouth of a volcano, which produces 3,000 liters of hot water per minute.
In the northeastern part of the hot spring grow many sorts of broad-leafed trees, including oaks, and a bamboo grass called ‘kuma-zasa.’ The area is called Noboribetsu Primeval Forest, and has been designated as a natural monument. To the east is Shihorei-Peak , from which you can view Lake Kuttara-ko, with its clear water said to be the second most transparent in Japan.
A thriving world of art, filled with sculptures. Set against the magnificent background of Daisetsu-zan mountain range.
Asahikawa is located almost in the center of Hokkaido, and is the second largest city in the prefecture after Sapporo. The city is full of natural splendor, with the magnificent Mt. Daisetsu-zan in the background and 120 rivers flowing through it. It is also the gateway for tourism to Soun Gorge and the Furano area. Asahikawa’s thriving art world has led it to be called a town for art. Sculptures that made a famous sculptor dot the shopping park along Heiwa-dori Avenue, the road that leads straight from Asahikawa Station.
Situated on a hill overlooking the town, the Hokkaido Traditional Arts and Crafts Village is full of buildings resembling castles from the Middle Ages in Europe, and has the atmosphere of an amusement park. There is a gallery of works made using the world-famous Yukara-ori, the traditional textile fabric of Hokkaido, from which you can get a better understanding of traditional Japanese fabric.
Japan’s northernmost Zoo, Asahiyama Zoo is a one of the highlight of the city. The concept of the zoo is to provide an environment where each species can use their abilities and a space where each animal can relax. Visitors enjoy watching diving polar bear, a spotted seal swim in the narrow tunnel and more very close at hand.
Also, Asahikawa has a ramen-noodle area the equal to that found in Sapporo, and its countless ramen-noodle restaurants are always busy.
Beautiful flowers, trees, and snow are all what astonishes visitors. Biei is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Hokkaido, a prefecture that welcomes many tourists.
The town of Biei is located almost at the center of Hokkaido, in the hilly district at the foot of the Tokachi-dake Mountain Range (Daisetsu-zan National Park). It was only in the 1970s that the town became regarded as one of the best sightseeing spots in Hokkaido. Shinzo Maeda, a leading Japanese landscape photographer with a worldwide reputation, once visited Biei and was very moved by its beautiful scenery, as well as by the wonderful views of hills in the neighboring town of Kami-Furano. Since then, he visited Biei repeatedly over 10 years to take photographs, which were used for photo collections, post cards, posters, films, TV commercials, etc., making the views of town well known throughout Japan. On a hill in Biei, in a former elementary school building, the Takushinkan photo gallery is open to the public and exhibits Maeda’s excellent works, which greatly impress visitors.
The attractiveness of Biei, where as many as 1.2 million people visit every year, is represented by its spectacular views of flowers found in areas named “Road of Patchwork,” “Hills of Seasonal Colors (Shikisai-no-oka),” and “Hills of Zerubu,” as well as by the views from the hills overlooking the horizon.
You will be astonished by the magnificent views of colorful flowers such as lavenders, sunflowers, poppies, cosmoses, and purple salvias, blooming just like beautiful patchworks. You can walk through these flowers at some locations. One of the best viewpoints is where you can see poplars and oaks standing imposingly on a vast green field. By taking a sightseeing taxi, or by renting a bicycle, you can go to see around these special trees used in TV commercials and posters, such as “Tree of Ken and Mary,” “Tree of Seven Stars,” and “Tree of Parent and Child.”
If you like outdoor activities, you will love all nature has to offer in Biei. In summer, you can stroll in wild woods, climb trees, walk along the river, go canoeing or camping, or play golf. In winter, the town is transformed by snow, whose magnificent appearance will astonish you as you ride on a snow buggy or snowmobile
Abashiri boasts of the breathtakingly beautiful Koshimizu Gensei-kaen garden. The town becomes surrounded by ice floes in winter.
Abashiri, the largest town on the Okhotsk Coast of northeastern Hokkaido, is a product of fishing and tourism. In addition to an abundance of seasonal seafood available throughout the year, it is also blessed with natural beauty, such as primeval flower gardens, lakes and ice floes.
Abashiri has lots of places to enjoy: Koshimizu Gensei-kaen (wild flower preserve), where about 40 kinds of flowers bloom in spring and summer; Lake Notori-ko, where coral weed makes the surface red as if a carpet had been laid over it; Lake Saroma-ko, which is separated from the sea by a long, thin sandbar; and Lake Tofutsu-ko, famous for its swans.
Mt. Tento-zan in the suburbs is a great place from which to view Abashiri. In the Okhotsk Ryuhyo-kan (ice floe museum) you can see real ice floes even in the middle of summer, and experience a temperature of minus 15 degrees Celsius. You can also see a type of conch there called a clione, whose back is plumed like a fairy tale angel, and is known as the “angel of the ice floes.”
Ice floes arrive in Abashiri every year in late January. A tourist icebreaker departs from Wakkanai Port, enabling you to see the beautiful, rough blue ice floes.
Various activites and attractions to enjoy, including canoeing, hot-air ballooning, and the hot spring baths around the Lake Shikaribetsu-ko area.
Obihiro occupies the central part of the Tokachi Plain along the middle reaches of the Tokachi-gawa River in the southeastern part of Hokkaido, and it is the region’s center of politics, economics and logistics. The city center is divided into sections like a checkerboard, which imitates the layout of Washington, D.C. in the United States, so it is therefore very easy to get around even if you are very new to the city.
The magnificent Midori-ga-oka-koen Park and Suiko-en Garden, which are located one kilometer from the city center, are proud of their 50 hectares of green area. The Obihiro Centennial Memorial Hall in the park was built in 1982 and contains many references to and much information about Obihiro’s history. Wildlife habitats that symbolize the nature of Tokachi are also on display there. There is also a memorial museum near the park dedicated to Naomi Uemura – the great mountaineer. In summer, an idyllic view is created when some 1,500 cows are put out to pasture at the Yachiyo Public Farm.
Lake Shikaribetsu-ko is another place for you to visit. This beautiful lake is situated at the southeastern tip of Taisetsu-zan National Park and is surrounded by a primeval forest of white fir and spruce trees. Canoeing and hot-air ballooning can be enjoyed on the southwestern side of Lake Shikaribetsu-ko.
The Tokachi-onsen Hot Spring is an ideal place for you to relax. It is famous for its high quality spring water – very smooth to the skin, which bubbles out of the center of Tokachi Plain. It is a very popular spa resort that links the scenic Taisetsu and Akan areas.
A misty port town that exudes an aura of illusion. Kushiro Marsh, Japan’s largest marshland.
Kushiro, which is well known as “the town of mist,” is situated in the southeastern part of Hokkaido, facing the Pacific Ocean. Kushiro plays a leading role in the politics, economics and culture of eastern Hokkaido. The marine products industry of Kushiro has flourished since the early 20th century, and the long and narrow city centering on Kushiro Port still retains many features of the streets of the early 20th century port town. Takuboku Ishikawa, a famous poet and novelist, lived in Kushiro during those days, so there is also a literary atmosphere to the city.
A monument to Takuboku Ishikawa can be found in Yonemachi Park, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of Kushiro Port from an observation point. If you would like to treat yourself to a gourmet meal or enjoy shopping, Kushiro Fishermen’s Wharf MOO is the place to go. This is a very popular place for both the local people and visitors, and there is always a lively, cheerful and welcoming atmosphere.
In the north of Kushiro is Japan’s largest marshland, Kushiro Marsh, which stretches out over the majority of the Kushiro Plain. Kushiro Marsh is listed as a national park. Kushiro Tancho Nature Park is known as the site of the first successful artificial breeding of tancho cranes (Japanese cranes), which are designated as special natural monuments. There are currently about 20 tancho cranes residing in the park. They can be seen all year round.
Magnificent natural beauty and an awe-inspiring landscape. Spherical shaped moss enhances the mystery of this natural wonder.
Akan National Park is a mountainous park that stretches across the eastern part of Hokkaido. The park includes a group of volcanoes, such as Mt. Meakan-dake, Mt. Oakan-dake and Mt. Akan-Fuji, which are situated around three famous volcanic lakes: Akan-ko; Kussharo-ko; and Mashu-ko. Akan National Park is a very popular destination offering magnificent panoramic views and hot spring baths. Since the park is situated inland, the temperature fluctuates rather sharply – it may rise as high as 30 degrees Celsius on a hot summer’s day, but it can also fall to as low as 10 degrees Celsius during the early morning hours and at night due to the radiative cooling phenomenon. This phenomenon often produces a sea of beautiful clouds that can be viewed from high elevations. Glittery stardust that completely fills the night sky and spectacular soft rime provide further delights for the eyes in winter.
Lake Akan-ko is a lake of mystery and beauty. It is well known for ‘marimo’ – a curious looking species of moss that grows into large green balls, a natural monument that is unique to the lake. The elegant Mt. Oakan-dake overlooks the eastern shore of Lake Akan-ko. Lake Mashu-ko is internationally famous for having the highest level of clarity in the world. There is also a primeval forest of spruce and white fir trees located nearby. Akan National Park attracts many visitors throughout the year with its magnificent scenic wonderland.
Those who visit Akan National Park can also see traditional Ainu (an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido) dances at their ‘kotan’ (village), and enjoy outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain bike tours and camping. The hot spring baths on the lakeside will surely help you to unwind and relax at the end of an exciting day.
Niseko, its all here! from romantic getaways in the resort hotels of the area, to back country camping, a wealth of outdoor activities for everyone in the family, this is one part of Japan that you can truly say is an area of endless discovery, every time you visit it will be different and something fresh will certainly catch your eyes.
Niseko is located in the Southwestern part of Hokkaido, in an alpine region that is dominated by Mt. Yotei (Yotei National Park) to the east and Mt Annupuri to the west. Niseko is conveniently located 100 kms from Sapporo which is Hokkaido’s largest city. The Niseko district has earned a reputation as one of the best ski area’s in the world, home to the Annupuri Ski Resort and the Niseko Village Ski Resort the resort is gaining momentum on the world stage.
However it is not just winter that is popular in Niseko, the summer’s are also very special and the district stands out as a all year round outdoor activity destination. The name Niseko is derived from the ethnic Ainu language of Hokkaido. Niseko Annupuri translates to “Mountain with a river, which runs around the bottom of a sheer cliff” The weather is typical inland weather, with an annual average temperature of 6.3 degrees Celsius, the deepest snow in winter is 200cm in depth.
Niseko is beautiful throughout every season of the year. The summer brings with it a variety of outdoor pursuits like climbing, canoeing, rafting and other outdoor activities. Winter brings with it not only beautiful scenery but also a variety of extreme winter sports. The area has a vast variety of Hot Springs on offer throughout the year however these are best enjoyed after skiing and really add value to your Niseko experience.
In Spring through to Summer (July to late August) the area is carpeted in colorful flowers, one of the most photographed scenes in Niseko is the ‘Famous Twin Cherry Blossom’ scene, it is 2 Large Cherry Blossom trees in the middle of a green field on the top of a small mound with Mt. Yotei in the background.
The walkways and treks around the district are world class. The views of Mt Yotei from the observation deck at the 1000 metre level on Mt Annupuri are absolutely out of this world, take a gondola up the mountain in the morning and enjoy the sensation of floating on clouds as the entire valley below is covered in cloud with Mt. Yotei the regions famous landmark majestically standing out above the clouds. From the viewpoint it is a very short 1.3 km walk to the Summit of Mt Annupuri, to get the feeling of truly being on top of the world. This is a great trek for everyone.
The Winter months bring with them a world of excitement with vast Ski Slopes and Powder Snow, You can enjoy world class skiing, a vast variety of Restaurants and Ski lessons. Ski Lessons are available for everyone from beginners to professionals.
One of the most populous cities in the world. A thriving center of economy, culture and industry.
Tokyo consists of the southwestern part of the Kanto region, the Izu Islands, and the Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and the place where over 13 million people live, making it one of the most populous cities in the world. When the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu established a government there in the early 17th century, the area started to develop, spreading out around his residence, Edo Castle. Most of the city was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and then again by the bombing in the WWII, however, Tokyo was able to achieve a remarkably rapid recovery both times.
Tokyo is not only the political and economical center of Japan, it has also emerged as a center of the world economy and culture. There are a number of attractions in Tokyo that should not be missed. There are large-scale downtown areas, including Ginza where famous shops from around the world stand side by side, the sleepless Shinjuku that has become the “new city center of Tokyo,” Asakusa which is reminiscent of the traditional Edo (the former name of Tokyo), and Shibuya that starts the trends for the young people. Other unique areas include the computer town Akihabara, a dense retail area where numerous electronic shops compete against each other, attracting many shoppers from Japan and overseas, and Tsukiji, an open-air wholesale food market catering to shops and consumers everywhere in Japan.
Osaka Castle with its huge lawn park. The bustling Umeda Underground Mall and Namba are also main attractions.
Osaka prefecture located in the center of Kinki region in the Midwest Japan covers the smallest prefecture land area in Japan, but boasts of largest population and highest population density second only after the capital, Tokyo. Mountains surround three sides of the prefecture and the west faces the arc-shaped Osaka Bay. Since it is close to former capitals of Japan Kyoto and Nara, it prospered as an important point for land and water transportation as well as a commercial city.
In the Osaka City is the Osaka Castle with a five-layer donjon as its core, on a lawn park that stretches for about 60,000 square meters. During the cherry blossom season in the spring, this park is especially crowded with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) crowd. Osaka’s north gate, Umeda, has a gigantic stretch of underground mall that houses many restaurants, fashion and sundry goods stores.
In contrast to Kita with Umeda as its core, Minami is an area with core cities Namba, a popular business and shopping district, and Dotonbori with many restaurants on both sides of Dotonbori-gawa River. Minami is known as a town of public entertainment and has many theaters and cinemas.
Tenpo-zan Harbor Village, which has a 112 meter-high Ferris wheel, shopping mall and Kaiyukan Aquarium, one of the biggest aquarium in the world, and ATC(Asia Pacific Trade Center), Japan’s largest outlet mall, are also popular. Suntory Museum Tempozan will close thier doors on Dec. 2010.
The former capital of Japan, famous worldwide for its temples and shrines. Kyoto was the center of politics and culture for 1,100 years.
Kyoto Prefecture stretches out from the southeast to the northwest in the central and northern parts of the Kansai region. It has four geographical features, the saw-toothed coastal area around Maizuru Bay in the northeast, the Tanba Mountains around its center, the Kyoto Basin in the southeast, and the Yamashiro Basin.
Kyoto became the capital of Japan in the 8th century. It flourished as the center for Japanese politics, economy and culture for some 1,100 years, until the capital functions were transferred to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. There remain many temples and shrines in Kyoto that were built during this long period. Seventeen historic sites including, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle, are inscribed as World Cultural Heritage Sites.
You may meet some ‘maiko,’ young dancing entertainers, who walk in long hanging-sleeved kimono in the Gion district, see the townscape characterized with popular 19th century style latticework, and visit the Nishijin where they weave traditional ‘Nishijin-ori’ textiles with vividly colored threads. The festivals in Kyoto are famous not only in Japan, but are also known worldwide. The three major festivals of Kyoto are the Aoi-matsuri Festival in early summer, the Gion-matsuri Festival in mid-summer and the Jidai-matsuri Festival in fall. There is also the Gozan-no-Okuribi, more commonly known as Daimonji-yaki, held on the night of Urabon (August 16th). During this festival numerous torches are ignited on the five mountains surrounding Kyoto, with the flames laid out to form a letter or figure. It is a summer event known both at home and abroad.
The highest mountain in Japan with a beautiful cone shape. The center of mountain worship since ancient days.
Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters high and is the highest mountain in Japan, situated at the border of two prefectures, Shizuoka and Yamanashi. With unrivaled magnificence and a beautiful cone shape, Mt. Fuji has often been selected as the subject of paintings and literature. It is the world-famous as a symbol of Japan.
At the foot of Mt. Fuji are Fuji-Goko (Fuji’s Five Lakes), Aoki-ga-hara-jukai (a sea of trees that is dark even during the day), and Kitaguchi-Hongu Fuji-Sengen-jinja Shrine (which was constructed to calm the eruption of Mt. Fuji). The Fire Festival of Yoshida, held at the end of the summer as a ritual for closing the climbing season for Mt. Fuji, is one of the three most peculiar festivals in Japan.
Mt. Fuji has long been the center of mountain worship of ancient Japan. Today, it is a popular mountain to climb, and many people climb Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise called Goraiko from the top. Access to the 5th station is well maintained, so you can go up to this point and thoroughly enjoy the magnificence of Mt. Fuji by just looking at the beautiful sight and its surrounding environment close at hand in all seasons without having to climb all the way to the top.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Historic towns, hot springs, cormorant fishing, local dancing, and the gorgeous Takayama Festival.
Located in the center of Honshu, with more than 80% of its total area occupied by forests, the Prefecture spreads out from the mountainous Hida region to the flat Nobi Plains downstream from the Kiso-sansen (Three Kiso Rivers). The Hida Mountain Range, rising to a height of 3,000 meters above sea level, is part of Chubu-Sangaku National Park. The Ryohaku Mountains, with a vast forest of Japanese beech and alpine plants, are part of Haku-san National Park. The rows of traditional thatched roof houses at the World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go, located at the foot of Mt. Haku-san, are a must-see!
Gifu Prefecture abounds with places of natural beauty, such as Ena Valley, which is dotted with interesting rock formations and Gero hot spring, a popular spa resort that dates back to about the 10th century.
Visitors to Gifu shouldn’t miss the traditional cormorant fishing, which has a history of about 1,300 years in the area and takes place on the Nagara River between May 11th and October 15th.
Takayama, with its historic streets and alleyways, is known for the gorgeous Takayama Festival. Every summer, Gujo Hachiman becomes the stage for the Gujo-odori dance, which continues for 32 nights. Visitors can relax in Gifu’s tranquil scenery and be fascinated by its traditional festivals.
Aso, one of the world’s largest calderas. Amakusa-Gokyo bridges and a saw-toothed coast add to the splendor.
Kumamoto is situated in the center of Kyushu at the western end of Japan. Mt. Aso-san stands in the east and the Chikuhi Mountains lie to the north, while the Shira-kawa River, the Kuma-gawa River, and other rivers flow from the mountains to the western part of the lower current area, forming the Kumamoto Plain and Yashiro Plain. The Uto-hanto Peninsula juts out to the southwest from the Kyushu mainland, and the Amakusa Islands lie beyond the peninsula.
Kumamoto has two national parks, namely Aso-Kuju and Unzen-Amakusa, and two quasi-national parks, namely Mt. Yabahita-hiko-san and the Kyushu Central Mountains. The total area of these natural parks occupies 20 percent of the prefecture. The Aso district has an active volcano, Mt. Aso-san, with one of the largest calderas in the world and many hot springs. The Amakusa district has the Amakusa-Gokyo (five bridges), historic sites with tragic stories of Christian martyrs, and scenic sites of the islands and a saw-toothed coast. The central mountainous area attracts people with its valleys, virgin forests, and beautiful mountain sights.
Other must-sees in Kumamoto include Kumamoto City with Kumamoto Castle noted for its stonewalls with ‘musha-gaeshi,’ a special defense designed to prevent enemy attacks, and the Suizenji-joju-en Garden, hot spring villages and valleys in the basin of the Kikuchi-gawa River, which empties into Shimabara Bay, and the Hitoyoshi and Kuma area with abundant historical sites from the 12th to 14th centuries.