Diving in the Waters of Japan

Japan has a lot of nice beaches to explore and see. It has a diverse set of species from land creatures to sea. The biodiversity and acosystem is just overwhelming with beauty. In Japan, the best place to dive would probably be the place of Okinawa, which is in close proximity of Tokyo. We all want to see what the water has in store for us. Lots of fishes of different colors, corals, and many more can be found in the sea. It is even very amusing to see a turtle and these live for hundreds of years. You would be surprised how many kinds of fishes you would see and how friendly they are.

Diving entails a lot of hard work and you need a diving license to be able to dive. Before you get your license, you are taught how to dive and how to stabilize because as you get lower under the sea, the pressure gets more and it gets harder to breathe. The lower you go though the more interesting things you see. It is like the movie Finding Nemo. You do not know what you will see in the water and the feeling is just so nice and relaxing to be surrounded by such beautiful creatures. There is even a chance to see sunken treasure and see sunken ships.

There’s always treasure out there that has yet to be discovered. Always make sure to be wearing the proper gear and to be certified before you go diving. You should buy yourself a scuba suit and protect yourself from creatures you are not familiar with and goggles to protect your eyes under water and so you can open them. Have an effort to know the different species under water and if they are dangerous or not so you know which to stay away from and which you can not touch. Some people really get into marine biology because they enjoy these adventures so much and you can say that this is a fun and adventurous outdoor sport. There is much to learn and maybe you are the next one to discover something new.

 

Kiso Valley

When you visit the Land of the Rising Sun, you better be prepared to learn a lot about culture and history – two of the most defining aspects that have shaped this nation to be its state today. Some of the most beautiful outdoor activities are the ones that manage to incorporate both – and there are a lot that do.

One of the best outdoor sights to experience, especially when interested in history, is the Kiso Valley. Should you find yourself in the Nagano Prefecture, you should definitely pay a visit to the valley. Japan has its own mountain range called the “Central Alps” – of course, not nearly as large as the real deal in Western Europe, but respectable nonetheless. The Kiso Valley runs along the side of this mountain range, which once upon a time used to be a very important commercial trade route in historic times, especially around the Edo Period when this valley was rather populated.

Along the Kiso Valley ran the Kisoji, around 70 kilometres long. The route was once part of the Nakasendo, which literally meant “path through mountains” and is the setting of many ancient travel logs and diaries. Being part of the Nakasendo means that the Kisoji was part of the crucial methods of communication and transportation between Edo and Kyoto.

Given the length of the valley and its road, and given that it used to only be travelled by foot, a large number of post towns popped up, which catered to those travelers – early forms of economy fuelled by tourism in Japan.

Nowadays, along this valley, a few post towns still exist and they are modeled after how they used to be. The most popular ones are Magome, Tsumago and Narai, all of which are preserved rather well from the old days. Visitors to these towns can experience some of the most interesting and detailed parts of Japanese cultural history that are often overlooked – many only think of the castles where battles were fought or temples were the holy were crowned. Stone paths and wooden structures litter the town with some people actually selling goods and souvenirs just how merchants once did hundreds of years ago.

Image by japantraelinfo.com

Visit the 33 Kannon Temples

Japan is a land of much natural diversity and a culture that has many aspects revolving around exactly that. An outdoor activity that one cannot simply engage in when in other countries is one that is somewhat culturally ingrained in Japan, given its long standing history with Buddhist religion.

Those so inclined can take upon themselves the challenge of retracing one of the old yet famous routes of pilgrimage, normally undertaken by the devout monks and followers of certain branches of Buddhism. Of course, one doesn’t have to actually be a believer to do so, and the entire experience can be very rewarding as one gets to experience the Land of the Rising Sun from a perspective that many tourists normally don’t get to see. In addition to that come plenty of sights to see, some which aren’t even considered general tourist attractions but can hold beauty in their own ways.

The Chugoku 33 Temple Pilgrimage is one such trip visitors could plan out and undergo. Being one of the more modern routes, the pilgrimage’s conception can be traced back to 1981. While not having a long and historically significant history behind it, this comes with the advantage for visitors that the pilgrimage takes modern circumstances into consideration as they lack the sheer distance one has to cover and mental stress one has to endure.

The theme of the forgiveness, as all 33 temples along this journey dedicate their purpose to the worship of  Kannon, the goddess of mercy according to the relevant beliefs. As the name implies, there are 33 temples along this pilgrimage to visit, scattered over a handful of prefectures. On top of that, there are a few additional stops which are considered special temples and aren’t counted among the regular 33.

The prefectures one gets to traverse through in this pilgrimage are the Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane and Tottori Prefectures. It is likely that one is to encounter special events being held or festivals being celebrated along the temples of the pilgrimage and all tourists are encouraged to participate. One that stands out is the Spring Kannon Matsuri held at the Ryuzoji temple, which is well known for its fire-walking tradition among others. The festival is held on the second Sunday of every February, so visitors planning to attend should schedule their trip accordingly. Aside from that, it is highly recommended that anyone planning on doing the pilgrimage to do adequate research first on travel routes and safety precautions.

First image by tokyo.hix05.com

Second image by japan-guide.com

 

Exploring Yukushima Island

Japan is a land of much folklore, legend and mystery – after all, there is the saying that every myth holds a grain of truth. In combination with this comes the nation’s abundance of locations that fit such tales and fables perfectly, either through historical events having passed that place, or through a sheer atmospheric vibe.

Yakushima Island is one of the places in the Land of the Rising Sun that could have been taken right out of a fairy tale. It is located just south of Kyushu, Japan’s main island, and is truly a sight to behold and should definitely be on any visitor’s agenda to visit – the island is generally considered as one of the most rewarding sights to experience in all of Japan.

The island is home to the ancient Jomon Sugi tree and is thus designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since the early 90s. In addition to the island’s lustrous forestry, one can partake in some truly scenic hiking spots around the more mountainous areas. Speaking of mountains, Yakushima’s mountain range is also home to the highly prolific yaku-sugi, a special type of tree. The trees have much history associated with them and tower very high into the sky, and are even said to have been a significant inspiration for the famous Japanese animated film, Princess Mononoke.

 

After a busy day of exploring the island and revelling in the atmosphere of the dense forest, visitors can go relax in the nearby sandy beaches or local hot springs, both easily found – not all that surprising given the island’s relatively small size, measuring in at only just under 550 square kilometers. An interesting fact to note is that the island is one of extreme internal contrast. The rocky mountains are the cause of some rather dry weather, whereas the innermost parts of the island is considered one of the wettest places throughout all of Japan, hence it is recommended for anyone visiting to pack appropriately. The mountains are often covered in snow during the winter months, while the other side of the island, the coast, will be pleasantly warm. Contrasting, indeed.

Given the island’s small size, it should also be noted that there is little public transport and getting lost could be disastrous as finding civilization could prove to be a challenge. Hiking is only recommended in a sizable group or with a guide, while equipped with appropriate gear and an updated map.

First image by tripideas.org

Second image by japan-guide.com

Visiting the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

Japan is often spoken of in the context of being one of the nations in Southeast Asia that has a problem with space, especially living space for its population. This creates the notion that Japan is lacking in terms of natural vastness due to nature having to make way for civilization – which may be true for the locates immediate to the big cities, such as Tokyo or Kyoto. Regardless, Japan does in fact have much to boast about in the outdoor department.

The Kushiro Shitsugen National Park is one of the areas that can be described as a vast expanse of nature – one of the locations in Japan that can be considered uniformly natural, home to much of the Land of the Rising Sun’s flora and fauna. The park is located on the island of Hokkaido, which forms the northern part of the country and is the second largest island. The park takes up a significant part of Hokkaido’s eastern part, founded mid 1987. Its size is impressive, measuring in at over 250 square kilometers (100 square miles).

What makes the park unique is that it is commonly known as Japan’s wetlands, swamp and marshland all rolled into one, home to a very specific kind of ecosystem. Here one can find the single largest collection of reedbeds located on the Kushiro Plain, in Japan. The national park is also the home of the Kushiro River which spans over a length of over 150 kilometers (90 miles), connected to the Kussharo Lake, two very impressive sights to see. The park actually serves as a national monument and is not easily accessed by anyone – visitors are normally restricted to viewing areas and tour-guided locations, often visited in order to see some of the famous local wildlife. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park hosts the famous Red-crowned Crane, or more commonly, the Japanese Cranes, a breed of cranes believed to have been extinct in Japan until a near miraculous discovery of a small herd of them living in the area in the early 20th century. Since then, the species has been heavily repopulated through breeding programmes and number in the thousands throughout the wetlands.

The more biologically inclined may also enjoy the view of over 600 different types of plants that populate the area. The lake and river are also the habitats for the Danube Salmon and if lucky one might spot the small Siberian salamanders that live in the dense forests.

First image by japanfinds.com

Second image by speakzeasy.wordpress.com

Norokko Train

Japan has gained a lot of international attention with its Shinkansen – the world’s busiest high speed train line. Aside from the feat of modern engineering that allows the bullet trains to function, the Land of the Rising Sun is home to one of the best public transportation systems on the planet.

However, one does not always have to be the fastest to experience the most. That seems to be the motto behind the Norokko Train. The Norokko Train is Japan’s slowest train and while that may seem to be negative, the way the train is used maximises its potential and turns its weakness into a strength that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅

One of the most grandiose natural sights to see when visiting Japan is its huge natural wetland and marsh habitat, encased by the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park. The park is home to the famously endangered, black and white colored Japanese Cranes. The cranes were thought to be extinct throughout all of Japan until a small group of about 20 were found living in the marshes around Kushiro. Since then, they have been taken care of exceptionally and have made a remarkable recovery, number in the 1000s now.

However, much of the wetlands and marshes are not traversable on foot – one, due to their size and two due to the danger of wandering around in wetlands. This is where the Norokko train comes in – a solution for those wishing to experience the natural beauty of the area. One of the Japan Rail’s routes does traverse through it, Hokkaido’s Senma line to be specific. During the months of April to late September, visitors can take the Norokko Train to slowly cruise through the wetlands at 20 km/h and see the sights of the area. An added benefit is that the Norokko Train is fully covered by the Rail Pass, making it very convenient for visitors to climb aboard and take the slow tour.

The train also hosts an open-air observation deck, making a ride through the Kushiro wetlands a true outdoor experience. The crew on-board is more than happy to provide visitors with information about the wetlands, and point out the most scenic spots or places the famous Japanese Cranes can be viewed from regularly. It should be noted that the train operates from very specific stops at rather specific times and dates, which should be taken into consideration by anyone wishing to explore the wetlands by the means of the Norokko Train.

First image by jprail.com

Second image by panoramio.com

Miyajima-Tsutsumigaura Beach

Off the coast of Hiroshima in Japan, Miyajima Island can be found.  It is considered as one of the treasures of the country due to its rich history. The island has always been considered a sacred place and this can be traced back to 806 AD when a monk named Kobo Daishi climbed Mt. Misen and has established it as a place for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. As years passed, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have been built and have risen to turn this island into a place of serenity.

The Floating Torii Gate

Fun fact: The island’s real name is Itsukushima and Miyajima is just a popular nickname meaning “Shrine Island”.

Miyajima is not only popular for its shrines and temples but it is also known for its beautiful beach, the Tsutsumigaura Beach. Located inside the Tsutsumigaura Nature Park, the beach is its main attraction. With a 700 meter long shoreline bordered by pine trees, white sand, mild and calm waves, and shallow water, the beach is perfect for families who would want to take time, relax, and enjoy a day. The facility is packed with various amenities such as multi-purpose cabins, exercise areas such as tennis courts and an athletic field, campsites where people can gather around, barbeque areas where people can grill some food and beach houses where people can stay in.

Traveling going to this beach can be long and tiring but for sure it will be worth the wait once you get there. First of all, you must get to Miyajima by ferry. From the Miyajima Pier, you can get there by car, by public transportation, or by simply taking a long walk. Having your own vehicle or taking a cab from the pier will only take you more or less 10 minutes from the pier. On the other hand, it will take an estimate of around forty minutes to walk going to the beach from the pier. For visitors with private vehicles, there is no need to worry where to park since there is enough space for at least 800 cars. Whether you are on a budget, you have enough money, or you want to splurge on everything, Tsutsumigaura Beach is the place for you and your loved ones.

Tsutsumigaura Beach

Tsutsumigaura Beach is a great place to visit whether whatever season it is. Whether you want to relax in peace or engage in various fun-filled activities, the versatility of the beach will satisfy all of your needs.

Images by My Travel Photos and Japan travel

 

Hiking in Japan

Japan, despite being well-known for its traditional and modern structures located in places like Osaka and Tokyo, is also an underrated hiking centre. Japan, being a mountainous country, holds various peaks that are waiting to be conquered by hikers. The beautiful peaks and lush forests of Japan are virtually opposite of what can be seen in their ultra-modern cities. Looking for a nature filled adventure, there are a couple of peaks that comes, recommended below.

The Daisetsuzan National Park located in Hokkaido literally means big snow mountain. So those looking for a climb in freezing cold weather, this is perfect. It is Japan’s largest national park and holds vast areas of wilderness to explore. At the foot of the mountains, there are various onsens where one can stay, which is perfect after a long day of hiking. Exploring the natural wonders of the area by day and relaxing at the onsen by night. This is a lifestyle that anyone who loves nature should experience.

Mt. Fuji the country’s highest peak and also an active volcano should definitely be on the list for enthusiasts. Mt. Fuji does not only boastsa symmetrical cone shape but a great hiking trail. The allure of this mountain is the view of the sacred volcano around Fuji’s five lakes. This is definitely a trip worth making and is great bragging rights for anyone who climbs to the peak.

The Famous Mt. Fuji

Mt. Takao is a perfect hiking trip for beginners due to its relatively easy climb. It is also located near Tokyo, so you can still be near the city while enjoying the wild nature of Japan. This mountain also boasts a lot of Japanese history; this is where the hermits, called yamabushi in Japanese, used to practice their traditional ways. It is also popular for the Tengu sculpture which is a mythical figure in Japan. The mountain during modern times also has local eateries nearby, so there is always a place to stop and relax while having a good meal.

Hiking in Japan is not limited to these mountains but these could be good ways to start exploring the rich history and nature of Japan. It is important to remember that Japan is a lot more than ultra-modern cities and hiking is just one of the ways to enjoy the nature side of Japan. There are always guides available to majority of these mountains, so it is important to hire a local before you begin your journey into the countryside.

Image by Wikimedia