Its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire ensures that Japan’s rugged landscape is chock full of beautifully photogenic locations - all just itching to be visited. From the almost iridescent wonders of autumn in Tokyo’s nearby deciduous forests, to the sometimes surprising industrial cityscapes that light up with fascinating colour at night, there’s certainly plenty to get those creative juices flowing in the area around Tokyo. And whether it’s a carpet of flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park that intrigue you or the suspension bridge thrills of Yume no Tsuribashi, these are just some of the beautiful spots you may wish to consider during day trips from Tokyo.
1. Hitachi Seaside Park
A dazzling display of colours awaits at the magnificent Hitachi Seaside Park. This 190 hectare (470 acre) site, in Ibaraki province’s Hitachinaka, is famous for the millions of vibrant and colourful blooms which erupt from the ground in stunning displays every year. A particular standout is its baby blue-eyes flowers, 4.5 million of which bloom en masse every spring to carpet the landscape in mesmerising colour. But they are by no means the only floral display to leave visitors in raptures. More than 170 different varieties of tulip and one million daffodils also call the site home. And there are fewer finer ways to explore the surroundings than via a leisurely stroll or bike ride along its numerous trails and paths. Alternatively, why not try an aerial view from the Ferris wheel in the site’s small amusement park?
Hitachi Seaside Park
Address: 〒312-0012 Ibaraki Prefecture, Hitachinaka, Mawatari
Website: Hitachi Seaside Park
2. Oirase Gorge
This stunning 14 km (8.5 mile) gorge in northern Japan is home to a myriad of stunning waterfalls and brings visitors flocking to this corner of Aomori Prefecture every year. Draining out of Lake Towada, the Oirase River cuts its way through the rock and over a series of plunging waterfalls with such evocative names as Two Dragon (Soryu), Nine Stairs (Kudan) and Bead Curtain (Tamadare). The whole area is very popular with walkers and cyclists, eager to explore the numerous beauty spots along the gorge’s length. And the deciduous forests which blanket the area add to the spectacle every autumn when its leaves erupt in a riot of different colours. Other attractions in the area include museums at Yakeyama - the initial stopping off point for visitors heading along the gorge.
Address: Okuse, Towada, Aomori Prefecture 034-0301
Website: Oirase Gorge
3. Ashikaga Flower Park
Stepping into Ashikaga Flower Park is like setting foot in a dream landscape. Its wisteria - and their multitude of pink, blue, purple and white flowers - make for a mesmerising spectacle when they bloom in the spring. And it isn’t just the colours but the striking shapes of the various trees which add to the spectacle - from the 140-year-old Great Miracle Wisteria that is so iconic it is lit up at night, to the domes, arches and pyramids of the park’s 350 other trees. Indeed, so striking is the sight, that famous broadcaster CNN once declared it one of the world’s top ten ‘dream destinations’. The peak of this breathtaking display is from mid April to mid May but a host of other flowers can be enjoyed at other times of the year too. Tourists certainly cannot get enough of the site, flocking to the city of Ashikaga en masse to enjoy this floral beauty.
Ashikaga Flower Park
Address: 607 Hasama-cho, Ashikaga city, Tochigi Prefecture
Website: Ashikaga Flower Park
4. Asian Old Bazaar - Nasu Highway
Step into Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, India and Nepal - all on the one site! The Asian Old Bazaar in Nasu-maschi is a popular spot among visitors to this corner of Tochigi Prefecture. Walking through the striking ochre colour of the Bali Gate entrance is just the start of a shopping and food experience that will be a treat for the senses and tantalise those tastebuds. And plenty of past visitors agree, loving the rich mix of Asian goods available for purchase and likening the entrance through the gate to stepping into “a different world”. The gardens are also well worth a leisurely stroll, and include a fountain with straw-topped roof and plenty of space for the kids to enjoy. Just make sure to have your camera ready when you do visit, because this feast for the senses is sure to provide plenty of great photo opportunities during your time there.
Asian Old Bazaar
Address: 506-20 Yumoto, Nasu, Nasu District, Tochigi Prefecture 325-0301
Website: Asian Old Bazaar
5. Mosaic Tile Museum, Tajimi
A museum that is as much an artwork in itself as the fascinating displays it contains within, a visit to the Mosaic Tile Museum in Tajimi city will linger long in the memory and is sure to appeal to those who love their art and the chance to point their cameras at arresting shapes and striking designs. The exterior of the museum, which is shaped like a massive mound, will certainly provide plenty of camera inspiration before stepping foot inside. Spread across four floors, it features a wide array of colours and designs and hosts a number of special exhibitions that ensure there is always something new to see. It even offers hands-on activities where you can have a go at creating your own work of art. And it is child friendly too - so even your little ones will get the chance to create a memento of their visit.
Tajimishi Mosaic Tile Museum
Address: 2082-5 笠原町 Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture
Website: Tajimishi Mosaic Tile Museum
With its dramatic stone formations and mysterious caves, the coastline around Dōgashima is a geologist’s dream and a photographer’s paradise. Its rugged cliffs, which were formed by a mix of volcanic eruptions and coastal erosion, are popular among sightseers. This means there are plenty of ways to see them - including a number of seashore cruises that give you the chance to get up close. One memorable spot visited during some of these cruises is a cave lit by a skylight hole in the roof - illuminating the deep blue waters beneath.
7. Yume no Tsuribashi in Shizuoka
Adventurers wishing to channel their inner Indiana Jones will love the numerous suspension foot bridges to be found in Shizuoka. Their seemingly rickety structures dare to defy gravity as they cross chasms and azure waters - and offer up some truly lovely views. One particular highlight among these delicate-looking structures is the Yume no Tsuribashi. It is proving increasingly popular among visitors, and it’s easy to see why - as it passes across the cobalt blue waters of a picturesque reservoir. And the thrill seekers among you will likely experience a little added frisson of excitement when reading the sign warning that no more than 11 people should cross the bridge at any one time.
Yume no Tsuribashi
Address: 〒428-0411 Shizuoka Prefecture, Haibara District
Website: Yume no Tsuribashi
8. Dark Trench Falls
Punching their way through a sheer rock face to leave an impressive natural tunnel behind them, the stunning spectacle of the Nomizo Falls - Dark Trench Falls - in Kimitsu is one that will linger long in the memory of any visitor. And the amateur photographers among you are likely to be even more excited at the prospect - employing slow exposure times to produce images that make the sight even more dreamy and magical. The forest walks to reach this beauty spot will also make for a pleasant trip. And, if it has whetted the appetite, there are some 170 other waterfalls - both big and small - to be found elsewhere in Chiba Prefecture.
9. La Vita - Italy in Tokyo
How about mixing your Japan trip up a bit by throwing in a little splash of Italian flair? La Vita, in Tokyo’s trendy Jiyugaoka neighbourhood, brings the sights of Venice to the streets of the Japanese capital. Featuring a small canal with real gondola, and even a stylish Venetian bridge, it is the closest you’ll get to experiencing the streets of the romantic Italian city without actually setting foot in Europe. The Italian theme also runs to the neighbouring architecture and clock tower. And, when not snapping quick-fire shots of these fascinating sights, there are plenty of shops in which to do a little souvenir hunting.
Address: 2 Chome-8-3 Jiyugaoka, 目黒区 Tokyo 152-0035
10. Johnson Town, Saitama
And if it’s not European culture you crave, but a little slice of small town Americana, then Johnson Town in Saitama will be right up your street. This collection of wooden-clad US-style buildings owes its existence to nearby Iruma Air Base, which was used as a major American military installation - dubbed Johnson Air Base - in the aftermath of World War II. Today the US air force personnel are long gone, but their 1950s legacy lives on in the vintage theme of this community, which boasts a number of restaurants and US-themed antique shops.
Address: 1 Chome-4-13 Azumacho, Iruma, Saitama Prefecture
Website: Johnson Town
11. Zushi Marina
This popular resort complex is the perfect spot for those beautiful sunset and nautical-themed photos. Boasting a lovely harbour and palm tree-lined waters overlooking Sagami Bay, it has a real touch of the exotic about it. The marina, which is just one hour from downtown Tokyo by car, is also home to a wide array of eateries, apartments and sports facilities - should the temptation rise to base yourself in the area during your travels. The nearby Ohsaki Koen Park, on the cape, will also be a lovely spot to stretch the legs for a leisurely walk while watching the sun go down.
Riviera Zushi Marina
Address: 5 Chome-23-9 Kotsubo, Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture 249-0007
Website: Riviera Zushi Marina
12. Kojo Moe tours
Industrial landscapes may not immediately cry out as being obviously picturesque, but with the growing popularity of urban exploring and interest in pictures of active or decaying factories on the rise, you’d be surprised at the unexpected treasures that await. Kojo Moe - or ‘factory passion’ - is a growing movement of people eager to check out these imposing structures. And that interest has fuelled a number of sightseeing boat cruises, many of which operate at night when the bright lights and sharp angles are especially photo-friendly. Kawasaki is one such popular spot, and is well worth checking out.
13. Yushin Valley
Jaw-dropping natural vistas await those who opt for a hike in the Yushin Valley, which has been dubbed Yushin Blue as a result of the stunning colours of the Kurokura River as it passes through. Depending on the lighting and location the translucent waters can appear everything from cobalt blue to a vibrant emerald green, and are sure to linger long in the memory. The hike to view these beauty spots is rugged in places, but rewarding, and passes through a number of tunnels en route - providing their own photo possibilities. Just be aware that not all of them are lit, so will be awkward to traverse without a torch.
Address: Kurokura, Yamakita, Ashigarakami District, Kanagawa Prefecture 258-0202
Website: Yushin Valley
Jaw-dropping inspirationWhether you’re an avid photographer hunting for that next picturesque snapshot, or simply a sightseer eager to experience a mix of stunning, surprising and exotic locations, there are certainly plenty of wonders awaiting the discerning traveller in Japan. Where will you visit next?
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