Three places amidst this convoluted topography are considered the most scenic in the country: Rikuzen no Matsushima, Tango no Amanohashidate, and Aki no Miyajima. They've had a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people since ancient times, often instilling a desire to visit. Their beauty blends landscapes unique to an island nation with the grandeur of the sea, amplifying the work of Mother Nature as uniquely graceful coastlines.
Think of your time traveling in Japan as a journey through varied topography to make your journey more interesting and meaningful. This is true whether you soak in a hot spring by the sea, or enjoy nature and animals that can be seen only beside the sea. Splendid vistas by the sea, the beauty of a setting sun... These and more are yours to experience.
More than 260 islands dot the waters inside and outside Matsushima Bay in Miyagi Prefecture. They, together with the surrounding hills, have been designated by the national government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The scenery here is so beautiful that since the Heian Period (794- 1185) it has been extolled in paintings, poetry and literature (Oku no Hosomichi, by the master of haikai poetry, Matsuo Basho).
In four places, one each in the north, south, east and west, lookouts provide a vantage point for memorable views, each special in its own way.
The Rausu Coast (Hokkaido)
Rausu is located at the far end of the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, and every year from January to mid-March, pack ice on the Sea of Okhotsk presses down toward the peninsula, creating vistas that can only be experienced in Hokkaido. Two attractions very popular even among tourists from abroad are Steller's sea eagles that can only be seen in a cold environment, and a ride in a boat through the ice floes.
Furo Fushi Onsen (Aomori)
The Shirakami Mountains host a World Heritage Site that celebrates nature. Near the site on a headland in Aomori Prefecture is this hot spring spa, called Furo Fushi Onsen, or "Eternal Youth Hot Spring." The outdoor seaside bath blends with the coastline, its curved lines beautiful in their own right. Before you lies a panorama starring the Sea of Japan as an actor who brings a feeling of limitless freedom. The sky, from when the sun rises until it sets, keeps making awesome changes.
The Seto Inland Sea
The islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu cradle the Seto Inland Sea. 11 prefectures share the shores, and dotted around the sea are more than 3,000 islands, some large, some very small. The climate is mild throughout the year, and this has become a major attraction. Another drawing card is Art Setouchi, a celebration of contemporary art, architecture and traditional performing arts, all featured in exhibits on the islands, attracting interest in Japan and abroad.
Travel about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north from Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture to be wowed by a collection of islands more crowded together than anywhere else in Japan. There are perhaps 208 of them, mostly arranged closely together. The bays and coves are part of an ever-curving ria coastline, ideal for kayaking, yachting and other water sports.
Dolphin Watching (Kumamoto)
About 200 wild dolphins romp in the sea near Tsuji Island in Amakusa, and a 10-minute boat ride from the port will take you to them. The opportunity is unique in the world, and there is an approximately 95 percent probability of seeing them from the boat.
Ibusuki Sunamushi Onsen (Kagoshima)
Put on a kimono-like yukata and lie covered in sand heated by steam rising up from below. This type of natural sand steam spa is unique in Japan, and rare in the world. The heat spreads slowly and pleasantly to the center of your body. The experience has been medically verified to improve blood circulation, promote detoxification, and beautify the skin. Lie wrapped in the heat of the earth to bring comfort to both body and soul.
Yoron-jima Island (Kagoshima)
Far in the south of Kagoshima Prefecture is a small island that is part of the Amami island chain. The sea, noted for its emerald green hues, its coral reefs and its transparent waters, certainly deserves the nickname "Pearl of the East China Sea." When the tide goes out, a white sandy beach called Yurigahama appears, complete with fanciful wind patterns on the sand, making a visually appealing paradise to complement the beauty of the sea.