There's a lot of buzz surrounding Japan's unique natural environment thanks to world heritage sites, power spots, and scenic spots. Here in Japan you'll find life-affirming natural works of art created by the clear air and water, together with lush greenery and geological formations sculpted by the passing of time. The mountains, forests, seas, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes all take on different appearances depending on the season. Just standing and taking a deep breath in such magnificent places will set your pulse racing. Incredible scenery awaits.

    1

    Takachiho Gorge

    Kyushu's leading mystical energy site, retaining the legend of Takachiho

    Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture, which is closely connected to Japanese mythology, is surrounded by cliffs of up to 100 meters formed by a pyroclastic flow after Mt. Aso erupted, and the scenery is truly majestic. In fact, it's rumored to be the most powerful mystical spot in Takachiho, which is famous for the myths of "Tenson Korin" where the grandson of Amaterasu Omikami landed on the ground and "Iwato Kakure" in which Amaterasu Omikami hid in Amanoiwato. Take a rental boat and look up at Manai Falls from below to get an up-close sense of the beautiful canyon. There's also an observation promenade that has some neighborhoods with universal accessibility.

    Location: Mukoyama, Takachiho Town, Nishiusuki District, Miyazaki Prefecture 882-1103, Japan

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    2

    Tottori Sand Dunes

    Sand dunes providing a special views of the sunset over the Sea of Japan

    This special nature reserve is located inside Saninkaigan National Park. The Tottori Sand Dunes almost seem to be alive as they show various changes depending on the season and climate. From May to August, before and after the summer solstice, you can watch the sunset over the Sea of Japan from the top of a sand dune that's about 50 meters high, the spectacular sunset combining with the rippling wind patterns on the sand dune. And when night falls you can observe the starry sky in all its glory. While you're here, make sure you also stop by the Tottori Sand Dunes Geopark Center. This is a great way to learn more about the nature of the Tottori Sand Dunes, from the mechanism of wind pattern generation to the surrounding flora and fauna.

    Location: 2164-661 Yuyama, Fukube-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture 689-0105, Japan

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    3

    Naruto Strait

    Experience the whirlpools of Naruto, reputedly the largest in the world

    The Naruto Whirlpools are as large as 20 meters in diameter during the spring and autumn spring tides. This natural phenomenon is caused by the violent tide of the Naruto Strait, which is famous as one of the three major tides in the world. The impact is even great if you approach by ship. Kanchosen is a ship designed specifically for viewing the whirlpools, which can be seen from both the windows and the observation deck. You can also see the whirlpools from the nearby promenade and observatory. The best time to see the whirlpools is with the new moon and the full moon, so it's a good idea to check the moon's peaks before planning your trip.

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    4

    Shiretoko

    A world of precious natural heritage of drift ice, diverse flora and fauna

    The Shiretoko Peninsula area in eastern Hokkaido is a World Heritage Site. Start from the hot spring town of Utoro and enjoy the great outdoors. There's no shortage of sightseeing options, from trekking to drift ice experiences. This untouched environment is home to brown bears, Blakiston's fish owls, Steller's sea eagles and other rare species that you can view living in their wild habitats. Many visitors also head to sites such as Shiretokogo Lake, which has a 3-kilometre hiking trail, Shiretoko Pass looking out at Kunashiri Island in the Northern Territories, and Furepe Falls, also known as "The Maiden's Tears".

    Location: Onnebetsumura, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido 099-4356, Japan

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    5

    Mount Fuji

    A mountain recognized around the world for its history of art and faith

    Mt. Fuji, which has been registered as a World Heritage Site, is known all over the world. Its fame is partly because it's often featured in classical literature and ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and that it's used as a faith site for worship of the rising sun. As well as climbing to the summit (if you can make it!), be sure to visit somewhere from which you can see Mt. Fuji in its entirety. Summits such as Gangaharasuriyama and Nakattosan are particularly famous. But we recommend visiting the surrounding neighborhoods such as Fuji Five Lakes and Shiraito Falls as well. There are also many convenient campgrounds nearby.

    Location: Kitayama, Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture 418-0112, Japan

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    6

    Kabira Bay

    Enjoy spectacular views of blue sea and islands from Ishigaki in Okinawa

    This beauty spot is one of the standouts of Okinawa, with 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide. It's also one of the most popular tourist destinations on Ishigaki Island. There's a wonderful contrast between the small green islands in the bay, the blue sea, and the white sandy beach. The evening views are stunning, too. As you approach the islands by snorkeling or kayaking, you'll be able to clearly see schools of tropical fish and coral reefs in the transparent waters. The islands are well worth visiting, so make sure you book yourself in for a tour. At the Manta point, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of a manta ray bathing along gracefully.

    Location: 1054 Kabira, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0453, Japan

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    7

    Yakushima Island

    Enjoy a vacation surrounded by Yakushima cedar trees in a mysterious forest

    Located at the southernmost tip of mainland Japan, 60 kilometers south of Cape Sata in Kagoshima Prefecture, Yakushima has been registered as a World Heritage Site thanks to its rich ecosystem. Here you can enjoy the magical scenery of moss-covered cedar tress in the forest. The giant Jomon cedar tree is the symbol of the island and is an absolute must-see. Also check out the waterfalls, rivers, and the sea, which are home to diverse flora and fauna. In Shiratani Unsuikyo, head to the Taikoiwa observation point for some stunning views. Along the way, you'll find Moss Forest, which is like something straight out of a movie. You can also enjoy hot springs in this area.

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    8

    Izu Peninsula

    A warm climate and unique ecosystem stretching from mountains to the sea

    Izu is synonymous with the sea. The reef-building coral in Uchiura Bay and the algae that cover the rocks attract a wide variety of fish and living things. There's also virgin forest covering Mt. Amagi, with huge natural trees such as Japanese beech trees towering high above the canopy. Lakes and waterfalls and such as Joren Falls can be seen everywhere, while other highlights include Ryugu Cave and the wonderful views of Ebisu Island. Kadowakitsuri Bridge is unique. Cross the bridge overlooking the cliffs and the rough sea for a thrill like no other. This is also a popular hot spring resort, with hot springs that you can visit even on a day trip.

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    9

    Mount Aso

    A trip to see the 1-time scenery unique to an active volcano

    Mt. Aso is the reason why Kumamoto is called "the land of fire". Craters such as Kusachiri and Yonezuka clearly show the past activities of the volcano. Nakadake, one of the largest craters in the world, is the only such crater still active today. The beautiful emerald green lake water is the main attraction for most visitors to Mt. Aso. If you want a panoramic view of Aso, head to Daikanbo. This popular viewing point offers a 360-degree panorama from Aso Godake to the caldera basin. The surrounding area is also dotted with hot springs and fresh water springs.

    Location: Japan, Takehara, Aso City, Kumamoto Prefecture 869-2223, Japan

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    10

    Amami Oshima

    Canoe with endangered species in this primeval mangrove forest

    If you come to Amami Oshima, take a canoe to see the primeval mangrove forest and the endangered Ryukyu sweetfish in the estuary. Tours are operated at Kuroshio no Mori Mangrove Park. Amami Oshima is full of natural spectacles such as mountains, sea and waterfalls, but the biggest sensation is the distinctive Heart Rock. This is a tide pool that appears only at low tide on the east coast and is known as a being a site of mystical energy. It's also famous as a habitat for Amami rabbits, and there are guided tours available. If you go snorkeling or diving, you'll see sea turtles in addition to tropical fish in the beautiful waters.

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