Many visitors to Japan limit their sightseeing activities to the country's heavily urbanized areas between Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. As a result, many return home with a hardened misconception that Japan is one large, densely populated megacity. In fact, however, over two thirds of Japan are covered by forested mountains and hills, compared to less than ten percent residential and industrial land.

The Japanese archipelago stretches nearly 3000 kilometers from north to south, allowing visitors to experience a wide range of natural sights from the drift ice in the seas off Hokkaido to the mangrove jungles in Okinawa. In between, there are majestic volcanoes, breathtaking coastlines and vast forests inhabited by monkeys, bears, deer, cranes and other wildlife. Places of particular natural beauty are protected as national parks and world heritage sites.

The following is a short selection of some of the best natural sites in Japan:

Mountains and volcanoes

Japan has a mountainous interior which is mostly made up of volcanoes. These heights provide plenty of hiking opportunities and scenic viewpoints from which to see the surrounding areas.


Mount Aso

Capes, coasts and beaches

Japan's coastline is one of the world's longest, and many sections of it are quite impressive. Not only are there rugged cliffs, geological formations and hiking trails, but there are also plenty of beaches offering swimming and snorkeling opportunities.

Jogasaki Coast

Cape Oma


Many gorges with beautiful views of cliffs, forests and waterfalls can be found in Japan. Many of the gorges can be hiked, while others can be enjoyed from boat tours or sightseeing trains.


Large limestone caves can be found across Japan and offer natural formations like limestone pools, underground waterfalls and streams that were formed millions of years ago. Visitors can explore a portion of these caves via walking courses and marvel at their natural beauty.

Ryusendo Cave


Marshlands are popular hiking destinations found both up in the mountains and in lower elevations. Many marshlands are particularly beautiful during the autumn color season.


There are hundreds of waterfalls across Japan, and some of them, like the Nachi Waterfall, have been religious sites with long histories. Some waterfalls can only be accessed by hiking along nature trails, while others can be conveniently viewed from observation decks.

Nachi Waterfall••


There are many rivers in Japan, and some of them can be explored by river cruises. Other rivers are lined by hiking trails allowing visitors to enjoy the scenery at their own pace.

Hozugawa Cruise


There are a variety of lakes in Japan including caldera lakes, subterranean lakes and lagoons. Often surrounded by beautiful scenery, many lakes are popular hiking destinations, and some of them also offer sightseeing cruises.

Lake Mashu


Bays have been admired for their scenic beauty for centuries, and even hold the three top spots on the famed list of Japan's three most scenic places.

Ago Bay


Below are a few other unique natural attractions found in Japan:

Naruto Whirlpools