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HIS Hawaii Japan Tips 05/25/2024

Four Out-of-this-World Scenic Landscapes in Japan!

Written by Nichole Bowen

These four unique scenic landscapes in Japan are seemingly from another planet! Check out these beautiful, otherworldly scenic areas on your next trip to Japan!

Tateyama Snow Walls

Fist on the list are the Tateyama Snow Walls! These monstrous sheets of snow are known in Japanese as the “Yuki no Otani”. They can reach up to 20 meters (about 65 feet tall!) — that’s about 10 refrigerators!

You can find this incredible scene on the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, the snowiest region of Japan, which goes between Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture and Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture. This is one of the best scenic landscapes in Japan, and the sheer size of these walls is a testament to how much snow this mountainous area really gets.

Over winter, snow blankets the road in layers upon layers, rendering it unusable. Then, every year when spring comes along (usually beginning in about April), officials will meticulously reforge their way along the highway, resulting in these colossal walls of snow.

Visitors can see the snow from the road or from cable cars up above.

If you’d like to visit the Tateyama Snow Walls, the best time to visit is between mid-April and June. For the best views, the walls being at their highest in April and May. There is a path of about 500 meters on which visitors can walk between the gargantuan walls of snow, an experience that feels as if it could only be accomplished in one’s dreams or on another planet entirely.

Tottori Desert

Did you know that Japan has a desert, complete with it’s own camels?!

Also known as the Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori Sakyu, in Japanese), this incredible Japanese landscape is right outside the city of Tottori. It stretches over 10 miles east to west and 1.5 miles north to south. If you thought the Tateyama Snow Walls were tall, these sand dunes can sometimes reach over 160 feet!

Tottori Desert was formed over millennia, as the sediment from the Chugoku Mountains was carried over by the strong currents of the Sea of Japan to the coast of Tottori. Today, the tides and winds continue to shift the everchanging landscape. That’s right, no visit is the same!

The best place to view this scenery is from Sakyu Hill. This is the tallest point of Tottori Sand Dunes, and offers stunning views of the dunes. You can visit Tottori year-round, but the best time to go is during Spring and Autumn, when whether is the mildest. If you visit during the summer, definitely avoid midday to skip the heat. For a truly otherwordly experience, try visiting during winter when the dunes can be topped with fresh snow!

Can you believe this is in Japan?

When you visit, try out some of the many unique activities Tottori dessert has to offer. Aside from hiking around the area, you can also get a view from above by paragliding. Another popular activity is the Tottori Sand Museum, which has beautiful sculptures from around the world. If you like snowboarding, but can’t take the cold, try out sandboarding! And, of course, you can’t miss the camel rides!

Matsushima Bay

Known as one of the “Top Three Picturesque Views of Japan”, Matsushima Bay has inspired poets, artists, and writers throughout history. It is truly a sight to behold!

One famous haiku writer, Matsuo Basho, was enamored with Matsushima and had several poems inspired by the stunning bay. He was once so lost for words at the beauty of Matsushima that he famously published a haiku that simply went as follows:

Matsushima ya
aa Matsushima ya
Matsushima ya

Oh, Matsushima!

Matsushima Bay is located in Miyagi Prefecture, just north of Sendai City (about a 30 minute drive). It is made up of over 260 islands, all covered in pine trees, hence it’s name, which literally translates to “pine tree island bay”. Each island is unique in shape and size, and you can get the best views on a pleasant cruise through the bay. These cruises operate year-round, so you can delight in Matsushima’s seasonal beauty any time of year!

If boats aren’t for you (hello, dramamine!), you can also get gorgeous views from various walking trails and temples scattered throughout the Matsushima Bay. Plus, don’t forget to try a famous Matsushima oyster during your visit!

Noboribetsu Jigokudani

This place may as well be Mars! Welcome to Noboribetsu Jigokudani, which literally translates to “Hell Valley”. With its strange and colorful rock formations, bubbling sulfur springs, and billowing steam vents, you can certainly see why!

Noboribetsu Jigokudani is located about an hour and a half southwest of Hokkaido, just past Lake Toya. It spans about 24 acres, allowing visitors lots of space to explore this surreal Japanese landscape. There are several walking trails throughout the valley which offer incredible viewpoints to witness its otherworldly geothermal activity.

One popular “hot spot” is called Oyunuma Pond. It’s steaming sulfuric water gets to temperatures of about 50°C (122°F), and appears as a milky-blue color due to the minerals boiling beneath the surface. If your feet are feeling a little wary from the hike, try dipping your feet in the nearby Tessen Ike Oyunuma Foot Bath Area!

Need a little more than just a foot soak? Jigokudani is actually part of the greater Noboribetsu Onsen, which is one of Japan’s famous hot spring areas. Try staying at one of the many ryokan (Japanese inn) in the area to access the wonderful benefits of the Noboribetsu Onsen.

Want to learn more? Check out this blog post we wrote on the area!

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If you’d like to visit one of these amazing scenic landscapes in Japan (or just want more information), contact HIS Hawaii today!