For many people Shinto gates, the Shinkansen bullet train and an overload of neon lights are the first things that come to mind when they think about Japan. But for me the magnificent and varied nature impressed me the most. Let me show you a different side of Japan, one of mountains, lakes and snowy trails. Of volcanos and sakura trees. And yes, some Shinto gates and Japanese castles as well…
1. Lake Shikotsu
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan is wild, untamed and gorgeous… Camping on Hokkaido = very cold + very quiet + very beautiful.
2. Hell Valley
Jigokudani, also called Hell Valley, is a spectacular place just near Noboribetsu Onsen, a little village on Hokkaido. Check out the vibrant colors, steams and vents, volcanic activity everywhere!
3. Oyunuma Thermal Lake
This is Oyunuma pond, a lake in the crater of Mt. Kuttara. The surface temperature is 50 degrees Celsius (at the bottom 130!), hence this spectacular sight of a steaming lake. Sometimes I had never seen in my life!
4. Matsumae Castle
Admiring Matsumae Castle during Sakura (a.k.a. cherry blossom season), it doesn’t get much better than that!
5. Matsumae Park
Such a pretty picnic spot, look at those wonderful colors?.
6. Mt. Komagatake
This is majestic Mount Komagatake, a dormant volcano in Onuma Quasi National Park. Quite an impressive looking mountain, isn’t it?.
7. Shiragane Blue Pond
Only once before had I seen such vivid blue water as at the mysterious Blue Pond near Furano (at Hokitika Gorge in New Zealand) and once again I failed to truly capture the depth of the color of the water. I wanted to share it with you nonetheless, it’s mesmerizing…
8. Farm Tomita, Furano
Farm Tomita is famous for its lavender fields. I was there too early to see the pretty purple fields but the surroundings were stunning nonetheless!
9. Daisetsuzan National Park
Hiking through the snow in Daisetsuzan National Park, in May?! Weather on Hokkaido is extreme?…
10. Lake Onneto
One of my favorite places on Hokkaido is Lake Onneto in Akan National Park. Onneto means ‘the aged, large lake’ in Ainu language but the pretty lake is also called ‘five color lake’ because it changes color depending the time of day, the weather and the wind.
11. Lake Akan
In my home country, the Netherlands, there are no mountain at all. Perhaps that’s the reason I love views like this, a beautiful lake with mountains in the backdrop?…
12. Lake Akan
A lake, a beautiful sky and a volcano. What an amazing view, what a Phenomenal Globe!
13. Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima castle has been completely reconstructed in 1958 after being destroyed by the atomic bomb, as was everything else in Hiroshima… The reconstruction has been done perfectly and inside the castle there is a museum. I learned a lot about Japanese castles and the interesting history of the country.
14. Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima island
This is the famous floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine on the island Miyajima. Need I say more?…
15. Mt. Misen, Miyajima island
Hiking to the top of Mount Misen on Miyajima island. It’s a 500 meter ascent but the views are worth it!
16. Daishoin Temple, Miyajima Island
At the Daishoin temple there were little statues wearing tiny hats. For months I didn’t know what this meant, but I was recently informed by reader Erin the hats on the statues commemorate babies who were still born or miscarried?.
17. Nara Park
Tree labyrinth in Nara park. Isn’t it beautiful?.
18. Nara Park
Typical Nara: tempels, lanterns and deer.
Hiking the Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail was special and one of the coolest things of my Japan trip. Fog drifted through the forest, creating a very mysterious atmosphere…
Another picture of the mysterious Koyasan Choishi Michi pilgrimage trail, it was a magical hike…
There are countless colorful temples and amazing building at Mount Koya, like the vibrant and vermillion Kongobu-ji.
More beautiful colors at Mt. Koya!
23. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
The atmosphere of the famous bamboo forest in Arashiyama is hard to capture in a picture. I tried it anyway?.
24. Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine, Kyoto
The amazing Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is something special. The 4km of Shinto gates and a nice mountain trail made this one of my favorite places in Japan…
25. Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji , the famous Golden Pavilion, is one of the highlights of Kyoto and very pretty indeed.
26. Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is one of the most well known gardens in Japan because it possesses the 6 attributes a ‘perfect’ garden should have according to Chinese landscape theory: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. It was a pretty perfect garden indeed and great for an afternoon stroll in the shade.
Shirakawa-go village is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old! The houses are designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that fall during the harsh winters. The houses are not just pretty to look at, more importantly: they are extremely functional!
One of the absolute highlights of my 1-month trip around Japan was Kamikochi! Amazing nature, beautiful hikes, a well managed camping, I don’t need anything else to be happy?.
While I was in Kamikochi I drove my husband mad by exclaiming how incredible the place was about 1000 times a day… But come on, look at the picture and tell me this isn’t one of the prettiest places in the world!
Enjoying the view from the halfway point at Dakesawa!
Camping in Kamikochi means waking up with this view every morning…
Mt. Yakedake means ‘Burnt Mountain’ in Japanese and it’s one of the 100 famous Japanese mountains. I climbed all the way to the 2455 meter tall top, a 900 meter ascent and not an easy hike. But the amazing views were worth it!
From the top of Mt. Yakedake I didn’t just have an amazing view over the valley, I could also look straight into the crater of this still active volcano.
One of the many ladders I came across on my way to the top of Mount Yakedake.
I’ll admit it was no walk in the park, climbing steep Mount Yakedake. Smelling the sulphur and feeling the heat from the stones my main thought was: wow, nature is impressive…
Saying goodbye to phenomenal Kamikochi… What a wonderful place!
38. Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s most famous castles and it’s a beautiful building! Both from the outside (with its impressive stone wall) as well as from the inside (with its hidden floor…): a really cool castle!
Want to read more about my trip to Japan? Which dishes to eat? How to make an epic road trip around Hokkaido? Or how much it costs to travel around Japan for a month? Or you are curious about the crazy things I came across in this fascinating country?