Japan is known to be a country that values the environment. It can be seen in how they take care of the natural and historical places in its land. They always seem to find a way to make even the old places fit in the area despite their constant efforts to make great leaps and advancements in everything they do. If you want to see just how well they take care of the nature found on their land, you need not look further than the national parks you can find scattered all over Japan.
The First National Parks in Japan
Japan has always had majestic sceneries that could be considered world-class parks but it wasn’t until the year of 1931 that the Ministry of Environment established the first national parks in Japan. They started to recognize and establish these national parks to preserve the places in Japan that hold a certain natural beauty to it. With all the developments that were happening in Japan during those years, it was the right decision for the Japanese government to take action and do something to ensure the preservation of these gems.
There are a number of parks that are considered to be part of the first ones established as national parks but the ones that are most visited are the ones that are located in the area of Setonaikai, Kirishima, and Unzen Amakusa. Each of these parks utilizes a massive natural feature in Japan that makes it understandable why the Ministry of Environment would see it fit to be established as a national park.
The Setonaikai National Park is located beside the Seto Inland Sea. The park is actually made up of a large portion of this inland sea because it stretches nearly 400 km (kilometers) from Kitakyushu until Osaka. Since the park is made up of primarily the sea, a number of islands that surround the area are also considered to be part of the national park. Such islands are the likes of Shodoshima, Naoshima, Ogjima, Inujima, and the Megijima. Aside from the fact that it is one of the first national parks in Japan, this location is a great place to go because there are also other well known attractions in Japan like the Shimanami Kaido.
If the Setonaikai National Park makes use of the beautiful sea as the scenery, the Kirishima Kinkowan National Park is one that utilizes the volcanoes of Sakurajima and Kirishima along with the coastal views of the southern Kagoshima area. Because of its location, this park is considered to be great for hiking as well as for the hot springs that can be found surrounding it due to the volcanoes that exist nearby. If you are into Japanese mythology, this park would also interest you because it is supposedly where the grandson of the sun goddess named Ninigi no Mikoto was sent to rule. This area fits in with the myth so well because the Sakurajima used to be the most active volcano in Japan and seeing that the grandson of the sun goddess rules this area, it is only rightful that a powerful force of fire would be located there as well.
The Unzen Amakusa National Park is also a park that has a great view of an active volcano known as Mount Unzen. It utilizes the volcano as a beautiful feature for its scenery but this park also makes use of the mountains forest to give it its renowned beauty. During springtime, the slopes of the mountain are covered with the color pink due to the pink azaleas that bloom during that time. In the summer, this landscape shines a bright and healthy color of green due to all the trees that reside here as well. It is also a great park to go to during autumn because the green leaves turn orange and red and it is one of only a few mountains in Kyushu that is known to showcase those colors during autumn. Due to all these sceneries, the Unzen Amakusa National Park also falls under the category of great places to hike considering all the things you can bask at during different times of the year.
National Parks to Go to If You Like the Trees and Forest Scenery
It has been almost a century since the first national parks in Japan were established and during that time, you can already expect that more and more national parks were established as well. The only thing you have to worry about as a traveler is what kind of park scenery you want to enjoy on your adventure to these amazing parks. If you are into the wildlife scenery, here are some notable national parks that you will definitely want to check out.
The Shiretoko National Park is surely one of the first parks you should go if you are looking for the forest kind of scenery. This place is famous for the wildlife that it holds which is inclusive of brown bears and dears. Bears, in general, may be a concern for weary travelers but worry not because if you don’t want to stress yourself out with the presence of the bears there, you can opt to take one of the sightseeing boats offered in this park to view all the park’s beauty from a safe distance. This place is so beautiful that it was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is found in the Hokkaido Prefecture, specifically in the Menashi District.
Another park you will want to visit in Hokkaido is the Akan National Park. This park is found near a cluster of volcanoes as well as three lakes. One of the lakes the surround this park is the Lake Mashu, which is a lake that is well-known because of its beauty. It is found in Teshikaga which is in the Kawakami District of the Hokkaido Prefecture.
If you are looking for a park that is easily accessible from Tokyo and offers more than just the forest views, look no further than the Nikko National Park. It is located in the Kanto region, specifically in the Tochigi Prefecture, and as mentioned above, this place offers more than just trees and wildlife. This park is where you can find the Toshogu Shrine which is where the late and great Tokugawa Ieyasu rests. In addition to the history this place holds, you can also find a source of relaxation here in the form of the Kinugawa Onsen that is a hot spring town found along the Kinu River. Because of all the things that can be found here, it is no wonder that this park has also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
National Parks to Go to If You Like the Scenery of the Sea
It is only normal for travelers to look for other kinds of sceneries that involve bodies of water like the sea because it does offer a different feel compared to being in a park that looks like a forest. Everyone has their own preferences and if you are one that prefers the sea and the ocean, you will want to look up these national parks in Japan because that is exactly what you’ll get from them.
There is a national park that stretches along the Pacific Ocean and it is used to be called the Rikuchu Kaigan National Park. It was established in the year of 1955 but renamed to the Sanriku Recovery National Park in 2013 due to the damages brought about by the tsunami that hit Japan in the year of 2011. It was renamed Sanriku Fukko National Park or Sanriku Recovery National Park to encourage the recovery from the disaster that happened due to the tsunami. It is here that you can find views of beautiful beaches like the Jodogahama which is a beach that lies on the peninsula so if you like being surrounded by water, you should definitely see if the views and sceneries this park has is of your liking.
Other parks you should look into if you are looking for the beach-like national parks are the ones located in Okinawa. The first would be the Kerama National Park which is made up of a group of small islands that stretch out 40 kilometers west of the main island. This group of islands is known as the Kerama islands. Because of its location, the activities to be enjoyed in this park are snorkeling and diving. Of course, sunbathing is a given because it is, after all, a beach.
The second park in Okinawa is the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park. What the Kerama National Park and this park have in common is that they are made up of islands. The Iriomote Ishigaki National Park is made up of tropical islands that also happen to be surrounded by marine habitats. This makes snorkeling here very fun because you get to explore and see all the marine wildlife that live in these areas. In addition to the beach activities available here, visitors can also enjoy the kayaking alone the mangrove-lined rivers as well as the jungle interiors of this park.
There are much more national parks in Japan and all of them are surely worth the time and effort to see. Japan is blessed with beautiful sceneries and areas and for a certain area to receive the recognition of being a national park, it means that it stands out when compared to all the other beautiful things you can find in Japan. Most of these parks are free to go anyway so the only thing you have to worry about is how to get there and which season you want to enjoy.