Ever since I worked in a bustling metro, I started dreaming of visiting breathtaking places far away from the stressful city life. I desire to visit places with mountains scraping the sky and not buildings and places full of natural sceneries and not cars.
Japan is one of the countries that I admire the most in Asia. It’s just loaded with things to do and discover. The people are polite, the technology is fantastic, and the culture is vibrantly shining! But, above all, Japan has got the places that I’ve always wanted to visit: Towns in the mountains.
Therefore, I decided to create a blog post about them. Of course, it is about the towns in Japan with beautiful mountain views. My dream destinations! Now, I just can’t wait to set my foot in one of these towns, really!
In this post, you will know why you should visit these scenic towns in Japan. I also added the best time you should visit and things to do in these towns, so you get more ideas right away. I hope that these inspire you and help you create an itinerary if you are working over it now.
I arranged the places from nearest to farthest to Tokyo. I did it that way because I just cannot rank what’s the best and least. For me, they are all fantastic. So, let’s begin!
Best Town in Japan #1: Hakone
One hour and forty-nine minutes away south of Tokyo, we will arrive at the cultural, historical, and natural attraction crossroads of Japan, the town called Hakone.
Hakone is located in Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture, blessed with beautiful sceneries from Lake Ashi. It is one of the few towns in Japan with a lake with a view of Mount Fuji and a renowned destination in Japan regardless of the season.
Why visit Hakone
Hakone is actually a mountain town on the westernmost side of the prefecture, near Mount Hakone and other mountains like Mount Mikuni, Mount Ashigara, and Mojingatake. With these peaks, Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji… Who in the world isn’t gonna love this place?
Besides, there are unlimited things to discover in Hakone! From natural sceneries, cultural experiences, outdoor activities, kimono & rickshaw, golf, and museums. You can check the list of the activities in the following section.
What to do in Hakone
Onsen. Because of Hakone’s geographical position, it became known as the region home to various hot springs. Hakone sits on top of an ancient volcano; that is why it has tons of hot springs. WE can find milky white onsens in the upper highlands that are beneficial to your skin. And if we want to heal our skin fast, we can try the onsen at the foot of the mountains have a high alkaline level, which aids in skin recovery.
Sengokuhara pampas Grass Fields. Check out the spot in Hakone that is hailed as the “Best 50 scenic spots in Kanagawa” and “Best 100 spots for sightseeing flowers in Kanagawa”. Seems that it’s gonna give me tons of stunning views and lots of fresh air!
Owakudani. Ride on a cable car and see the steaming thermal volcanic vents in the middle of the mountains. The cable car is also one of the ways we can see Mount Fuji from Hakone. For me, I really like seeing overlooking views of the towns and landscapes. This is one thing that I won’t miss in Hakone.
Lake Ashi. Perhaps the highlight of coming to Hakone. There is a beautiful pirate ship sailing here in Lake Ashi! And I think it’s a very Instagrammable moment when we spot this ship cruising with mount fuji in the background. There are also fishing activities and kayak rentals to try.
Komagate Ropeway. If you’re like me, who wants to go to high altitude places to give me an “on top of the world” feeling, you should not miss riding to Komagate Ropeway! This ropeway in Hakone will take you to the highest peak in Hakone, where you can see Mount Fuji and even the Pacific Ocean. That is so perfect.
Hakone Shrine. Japan is full of shrines and temples. One that’s over 1000 years old can be found here in Hakone. People come here to get blessings improving health, marriage, and other fulfilling moments.
Boat Cruise. Have pleasant sightseeing of the places around the lake. The boat ride lets us go around the lake, giving us a better opportunity to see Mount Fuji.
Visit Museums. There are lots of museums in Hakone. Here are the ones I find interesting:
- Venetian Glass Museum. Located in Sengokuhara, we can find a fine art museum specializing in Venetian glasses.
- POLA museum. It is an art gallery in the Gora, a village in Hakone, hidden in the forests showcasing impressionist and western art. The museum houses artistic “gems,” including artworks of Monet, Chagall, Manet, and Renoir.
- Narukawa Art Museum. It has a great collection of Nihonga, contemporary Japanese paintings with roots of classical Japanese art techniques from the Heian Era hundreds of years ago. It is also a great sightseeing spot of Lake Ashi and surrounding mountains.
- Hakone Geo Museum. If you are a fan of geology, and you want to know how the hot springs in Hakone came into existence, check out this museum. 🙂
Forest Adventure. Try this structured activity spot in the woods of Hakone, where you can ride on a zipline and climb on a rock climbing wall.
Chisuji Waterfalls. After 15 minutes of walking up the hill from Kowakien Station on the Hakone Tozan Train line, you will arrive at a refreshing Chisuji waterfall.
Hike Mount Kintoki. See Mount Fuji from another perspective. Here you can also see the geological pieces of evidence of the Volcanic origins of Hakone’s landscape.
Play golf. If you have time and money, you can play golf in Hakone. There are four golf course in Hakone: Sengoku, Daihakone, Hanone-en, and Yunohana Golf Course.
Zazen Meditation. Try something that monks do! Visit Jyosen-Ji Temple in Miyanoshita. There we can get the inner peace and relaxation that we might not have for years.
Best time to visit Hakone
According to this Hakone Travel Guide, Hakone is pleasant to visit all year round. Yet they suggest that we visit Hakone during autumn when fall foliage paints the whole town and surrounding mountains with vibrant golden colors. Take note Hakone is a popular tourist destination, and Hakone during weekends could be full of crowds.
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Best Town in Japan #2: Tateyama
I thought it was Europe or Canada when I first saw Tateyama. The mountain view from this town is incredible!
The town of Tateyama is situated at the Tateyama Mountain Range, which is composed of three peaks called Onanjiyama, Oyama, and Fuji-no-Oritateyama. Together they give Tateyama Town a magnificent view, especially during clear weather.
Tateyama town is located at Nakaniikawa District in Toyama Prefecture. We can reach Tateyama town about 2 hours and 45 minutes away from Tokyo if we take the fastest route.
Why visit Tateyama
Sightseeing the mountains from its foot is just the tip of the iceberg. The town itself is just the gateway to wonders that awaits us in the mountains. Actually, Tateyama Town itself has endless activities to do as well!
With all the activities we can try here, I think it could take us up to 2 weeks to try everything to finish them all! From hiking, chasing waterfalls, visiting shrines, learning how to create posts, getting an experience with Japanese rhinoceros beetles and fireflies, and so many more! I’ll mention most of the exciting activities in the “What to do in Tateyama” section.
Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route
What’s really compelling why we should visit Tateyama is the Alpine Route which starts from Tateyama Town. In this route, we can see the following attractions:
“Yuki-no-Otani” snow wall. From April 16 onwards, the route opens up to the public with snow removed from the road. Since Tateyama is one of the places in the world that receives the heaviest snowfall, the result of snow removal from the road is a snow wall that’s 15 to 20 meters in height. Visitors can stroll in the man-made snow canyon and wander around how it stands so firmly.
Murododaira. This place is located at 2450 meters, perfect to see the stunning mountain views. “Hell Valley” is another attraction on this site where we can see volcanic activities like steaming volcanic gas from the ground.
Mikuriga-Ike Pond. A picture-perfect volcanic lake where we can see a reflection of the peaks of the mountain ranges.
Mount Tsurugidake. It is also called Mountain Sword because of its shape. Looking at this mountain will let you see the last existing glaciers in Japan.
Summit of Mount Tatemaya. Along the route, we would be able to see and get close to the summit of Mount Tateyama. The peak has shrines and Toriis, which are visited by worshippers. Hiking the mountain will let us see Mount Fuji, especially during clear weather.
Tateyama ropeway. Get an unforgettable ride on the longest one-span ropeway in Japan. Here we can see stunning overlooking views of Kurobe-ko Lake and Ushiro Tateyama Mountain.
Kurobe Dam. Witness the “greatest” project of the 20th century. Kurobe Dam is the world’s “biggest” arch type dome and the highest in the world.
Midagahara Highlands. Come across the vast and stunning mountainous foresty hills, which turn into a colorful patch of lands every autumn.
Syomyo Falls and Hannoki Falls. Stand in awe seeing the two highest waterfalls in Japan. They are 350 meters and 500 meters in height, respectively.
Akushiro wall. Another sight to behold! Akushiro wall is the largest monolith in Japan, extending more than 8 kilometers in length. Looking between its top edge and foot matters 500 meters in length.
Since following the route will lead us to the other side of the mountain range in Nagano Prefecture, I think we should save this last when we visit Tateyama. Save the best for last, right?
What to do in Tateyama
The attractions I mentioned above could be the “largest” portion of the fun we can have in Tateyama. Yet, the town itself offers activities that are unforgettable as well:
- See the cherry blossoms in Jouganji-Gawa Park. If it’s spring season, don’t forget to check out the best cherry blossoms viewing spot in Tateyama!
- Learn the culture at Tateyama Town Buried Cultural Property Center. See the pictorial diagrams, artifacts, models of the relics, and excavated remains from Tateyama Town.
- Chase waterfalls in Iwamuro-no-Taki Falls. Hear the roaring water crash to the rocky plunge pool while in the middle of the forest. It is one of the national treasures of Toyama, and perhaps it has something to be discovered from.
- See Tateyama’s landscape in Daikanbo Nature Park. Being located 325 meters above sea level, it serves as an excellent viewing point to observe the transitioning landscape of the Toyama Prefecture from Alpine mountains to plains and to shores.
- Get a 360 panoramic view of Tateyama from Toyama wide-area Clean Center Observation Deck. This is another place in Tateyama where you can see the transitioning landscape of Toyama Prefecture. The observatory rises 80 meters above the ground, giving visitors clear sights of the town’s sceneries.
- Get an Insect Friendship Class in Konchu Okoku (Insect Kingdom) Tateyama Tateyama Shizen Fureai Kan. This could be our unique experience apart from mountains and other national sceneries. Here we will learn about Japanese rhinoceros beetles, dragonflies, and fireflies. Check out Konchu Okoku website here.
- Tounoukan. Another unique activity to do in Tateyama. Here we will learn how Etchu Setoyaki (Etchu pottery) is done from art classes guided by a professional ceramicist. Learn more about this ceramic-making culture from the Tounoukan website.
- Explore and relax in Green park Yoshimine. Explore the forest and spot natural hot springs in the park. This is a two-in-one destination where we can commune with nature, enjoy it and relax all together. Discover more about this park from the Green Park Yoshimine site.
Best time to visit Tateyama
According to tiptoeingworld.com, the best time to visit Tateyama Town is during “Yuki-no-Otani,” when the snow walls are created. It is also the time when the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route opens. Usually, it is in Early spring, which is from mid-April to May. The Alpine Route closes again once winter came starting from mid-November.
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Best Town in Japan #3: Magome
In approximately three hours and fifty-two minutes, we can arrive in Magome from Tokyo. Magome was once known as a “post town,” essentially established to accommodate people traveling along major highways. The route that Magome served is called Nakasendo, a path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo.
Magome is one of the remaining post towns along Nakasendo and is one the last of the 11 stations in the Kiso Valley. Here, we can get a scenic view of Mount Ena, a mountain that is 2190 meters in height. Today, Magome belongs to the Nakatsugawa district in Gifu Prefecture.
Why visit Magome
Magome feels like a throwback of the past when you look at it. The cobblestones, the houses, and the wooden watchtower – they look soo beautiful! Magome simply gives a nostalgic vibe that seems to satisfy wanderlust.
Because of what it looks like, undeniably, Magome is a paradise for photographers. Photography enthusiasts probably would not be able to remove their fingers from the shutter. And if we are not a photographer, I’m sure we’ll flood our friends on social media with lots of photos and stories about this place.
Though Magome offers lesser activities and epic sceneries, unlike Tateyama and Hakone, it anyhow stands as a remarkable place for people looking for a relaxing journey. Conversely, people who want to go somewhere cozy to heal themselves and move on. Just my humble opinion, though.
What to do in Magome
Since Magome is just a tiny town, I could only find very few activities for us to do. Yet, I think these are still worthwhile activities, especially if we look at each thoughtfully.
Photograph Magome. Indeed it is a beautiful town, it is something our cameras should not miss capturing. Yet, we must be aware that houses in Magome are not exhibits. Some are private properties, and we should respect their privacy.
Visit Toson Memorial Museum and Tsuchimaya Shiryokan. Check out the famous works of the renowned writer who was born in Magome, Shimazaki Toson.
Learn the history of Magome in Wakihonjin Museum. Here, we will be able to see displays depicting the history of this old Nakasendo post town.
Check out Shimizuya Shiryokan. It is a small museum displaying the belongings of citizens of Magome like scrolls, items of clothing, and pottery.
Explore the old Nakasendo. Through the Magome-Tsumago Trail, a part of Nakasendo, we can see impressive sceneries like the scenic mountains and vistas in the valley. We can also find waterwheels, Otaki and Metaki Falls, as well as shrines along the way.
Best time to visit Magome
According to akisoto.com, the best time to visit Magome is during summer when dry and sunny weather. Winter is not very well recommended because some of the paths become inaccessible due to snow.
However, Magome can be filled with tourists like any other tourist attraction, especially on holidays and weekends. Tons of tourists coming make the place less “Instagrammable,” so you know what to do! 🙂
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Best Town in Japan #4: Shirakawa
Shirakawa feels like a town that came out straight from a movie. The first time I saw this town, I felt my wanderlust burst out of control! If it just wasn’t pandemic, I would be here already. Perhaps this is the “most interesting” town that’s included on this bucket list.
Shirakawa is a town four hours and thirty minutes away from Tokyo. We can find it in the Ono district in Gifu Prefecture. Here, in this town, we behold the picture-perfect Gassho-Zuriki-styled Minka homes, unique to Japan and, of course, to Shirakawa.
The style of the houses in Shirakawa was developed from the villagers’ attempt to adapt to the environment. Primarily, the climate was the main factor why this town now has unique-looking shelters, apart from the rest of Japan. These shelters were designed to withstand heavy snowfall as they sit on a site that receives the highest snowfall among the places in the country.
According to Shirakawa Tourist Information, every year from December to March, the snowfall in Shirakawa accumulates snow in the ground up to two (6.5 feet) to three meters (9.8 feet) high. That’s absolutely unbelievable, right? It’s even taller than a person. Yet, the record was 4.5 meters (14.76 feet).
This climate, alongside the mountainous geographical location, has kept the Shirakawa settlement isolated and unexplored until recently. These factors hindered the interaction of these villagers to neighboring places, leading the people of Shirakawa to develop their own culture and lifestyle.
Interestingly, the culture they developed now becomes the “gem” that awaits us in Shirakawa.
Shirakawa is also one of the best countryside towns in Japan. You should check out the rest!
Why visit Shirakawa
In December 1995, Shirakawa was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That day, Shirakawa gained the title: “An irreplaceble treasure, either produced naturally by the the Earth, or through the history of mankind.” And this is enough why we should visit Shirakawa.
Shirakawa is a must-visit place because it is an exceptional example showing the capability of humans to adapt to environmental, social, and economic situations. Besides, the simple life in Shirakawago combined with the scenic mountains around it shall make anyone feel that they’re totally in a whole new world apart from the world’s chaos.
Shirakawa is divided into two areas, the Ogi-machi Gassho Style Village and the Southern Nature Area. This means the awe-filling scenery doesn’t stop in the town center but continues to the wilds surrounding it.
What to do in Shirakawa
Although sightseeing will kinda make your visit to Shirakawa complete, we should as well try the following activities to experience the best of this irreplaceable treasure:
Exploring the villages
- See Wada house. This is the “largest” gassho-style house in Shirakawa. It was constructed in the 1800s, and everything that we can see from it is preserved in its natural state. That includes the garden, fields, and waterways. The second floor of the structure is open to the public loads with artifacts and items used by Wada Family. Some of the artifacts in the Wada house are said to be 300 years old by now.
- Reflect in Myonzenji Temple. Check out a Monk’s residence in Shirakawa. This temple is known for the yew tree and its bell tower gate.
- See the magnificent interiors of a gassho-style house in Nagase House. Nagase house is 5 story house with a distinctive large roof. It has eleven-meter rafter beams that mainly hold its massive roof. The house was the residence of the Nagase family, whose members are doctors.
- Learn more about Shirakawa Village in Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum. Here we can relive the life in ancient Japan with the preserved structures, including the watermill, temple, and shrines, plus the zen pond. It is also an excellent spot to rest as there are soba restaurants and shops on the Museum grounds.
- Discover sericulture in Shirakawa in Tajima House. Get an idea of how Shirakawa people thrived with the silk culture as their key industries.
- See the panoramic Shirakawa from Tenshukaku Castle Keep Observatory. Behold the fairy tale sceneries of the Ogimachi settlement and the views of the mountains at the backdrop.
- Get a different sightseeing perspective of the village from the Ogimachi Castle Ruin Observation Area. Explore the medieval mountain fortress in the northwestern part of the Shirakawa. Some say this has better overlooking sights of the Ogimachi.
- Hirase Hot Springs. Soak your skin with mineral-rich warm waters, helping to make your skin more beautiful.
- Miboro Dam. Get a stunning view of the 131-meter tall and 405-meter wide dam, the largest in Asia when it was constructed in 1960.
- Lake Hakusui. Get a lakeside stay in Hakusan Lakeside Lodge to witness a Gatorade blue to emerald green waters of the lake in Hakusan National Park.
- Shiramizu Waterfall. See a spectacular thin waterfall nestled in the foresty cliffs of Shirakawa.
Best time to visit Shirakawa
According to willflyforfood.com, the best time to go to visit Shirakawa is during winter. This is the season when the village itself and the houses look stunning, covered with snow, making it look like gingerbreads.
If you want to learn more about Shirakawa, you may visit their official website: shirakawa-go.org.
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Best Town in Japan #5: Furano
Last but not least is Furano, a town in Hokkaido which is approximately 11 hours and 13 minutes train ride away from Tokyo. The most captivating sight that I discovered about Furano is the colorful flower fields. I literally said WOW the time I saw its picture.
Furano is also known for its fantastic ski resorts, where the Snowboarding World Cup usually occurs. The city is located in the Furano Valley between Yuubari and Tokachi Volcanic mountain ranges. These mountains give the town a photogenic trait, especially during clear weather.
Why visit Furano
Aside from the Ski Resorts and the lovely lavender fields, Furano is an excellent place to see scenic views, TV drama locations, fruit farms, and museums.
The proximity of Furano to the mountains allows the visitors to quickly access the mountains and do hiking and other sports. It is also a great place to start looking for wildlife. Just around Furano, we can find unique animals like Ezo Brown Bear, Ezo Deer, Northern Fox, and Ezo Flying Squirrels.
Furano also offers tons of adventurous activities, which are really fun to do! From harvesting and cooking to rafting and ultimately to riding hot air balloons! Check them out in the next section.
What to do in Furano
According to the official website of Furano, there are activities to do in their town the whole year round! Regardless of whether it is a steamingly hot summer or freezing winter. Here are the most “interesting” activities that we can do in Furano:
- Hop on Furano Cable Car. With this, we don’t need to visit Switzerland for a cable car ride to see beautiful ice-capped mountain ranges.
- Visit Rokugo Viewing Platform. Feed your eyes with a stunning panorama of the great outdoors of Furano.
- Relax in Asahigaoka Park. One of the best destinations to go to Furano during cherry blossoms. The park gives spots to photograph Mt. Tokachidake framed with blooming cherries.
- Furano Winery & Furano Wine House. This winery is located on a hilltop with fields covered with flower farms. It is also an excellent spot to catch a view of Mount Tokachidake.
- See the Stone House of Goro. Unleash beautiful countryside photos of Japan to your social media feed with the super Instagrammable sceneries from Goro’s Stone House.
- Visit Farm Tomita. Bless the eyes of your social media friends with the vibrant colors of the flowers in Farm Tomita.
- Gaze on Choei Lavender Farm & Nakafurano Flower Park. Here you can drop your jaw while staring at the rainbow-colored fields. You can take the ski lift to get an overlooking view of the farm.
- Warm your body in Fukiage Onsen. The gem in the middle of the forest in Mount Tokachidake. It is open 24 hours a day. Thus you can go anytime you feel cold.
- Ride the hot air balloon. Get a once in a lifetime experience of floating in the air; seeing the views of the iced capped mountains of Hokkaido.
- Raft with Flying Dolphins Adventure Service. A perfect way to maximize the stay in Furan. Do not just sightsee; let’s move our bodies and get wet! 😀
- Trek with horse or Dogsled. This is another fantastic and adventurous activity awaiting us in Furano. I’m really looking forward to the experience soon.
- Fly and embrace the wind with paragliding. Let a qualified paragliding instructor fly you above the heart of Hokkaido. Be filled with awe and thrill at the same time!
- You may see the list of all the activities in Furano from their official site.
Best time to visit Furano
According to hokkaido-labo.com, if we plan to go to Furano or Hokkaido to see the flower fields, the best visiting time is in the early morning of mid to late July. It is the time when the flowers are in full bloom.
However, Furano is beautiful and has tons of activities all year round. Visiting should be at least okay during other seasons.
It is hard to compare each town to determine which is the best. Each just has its own sides that shine.
If you will ask me, my heart goes to Shirakawa since it was the town that I was looking for to visit in the first place. But yeah, they all do. I’m more attracted to Sharikawa because my personality fits in the vibes that the village has. Peaceful, simple, and tranquil.
I think I can spend a whole week in Shirakawa just walking around appreciating houses, inhaling the freshest air in the world, and communing with nature.
Nevertheless, the thing that surely I won’t forget to do is to admire the characteristics of Shirakawa and of its people. That town reminds me that, as humans, we are always capable of adapting and adjusting. Despite the harsh climate that they experience every year, they still managed to thrive splendidly.
Besides, I’m more than happy to get so much peace than be thrilled. But, if I am given a chance, of course, I’ll come to every town I mentioned here.
For me, Hakone is also so special because of the lake and mountains.
Tateyama is so great because of the stunning Japanese alps.
Magome is so lovely because of the cozy streets.
Furano is so appealing because of the colorful flowers that cover the hills.
They are all beautiful, really! Now, all that matters is: “which of these towns will make us happy the most?”
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