From majestic landscapes to rustic townscapes, Japan is the perfect spot to stop and smell the flowers.

Travelers pack their trips with busy agendas, trying to fit as many activities as possible into each day. But sometimes, with our already fast-paced lives, we forget to slow down, take a deep breath, and take in our surroundings. That is what Japan is all about. It’s only when we stop and take the time to observe that we notice the beauty of nature.

Shosenkyo Gorge

Japan

If you want to take “the scenic route” to a whole new level, stop and admire the views of Shosenkyo Gorge. Located in the Yamanashi Prefecture, the gorge features a hiking trail that takes you through vibrant plants and rock formations that resemble Mt. Fuji and other figures. Speaking of the mountain, you can get a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji and the Southern Japan Alps should you take the ropeway.

To get there, you can go to Kofu Station, a 90-minute ride from Shinjuku Station. From Kofu Station, the rest of the trip is a 40-minute bus ride.

Lake Ashinoko

Japan

Lake Ashinoko, in Kanagawa Prefecture, is a walk not to be missed. Mt. Fuji towers over the surrounding view and its reflection fills the caldera lake. Coupled with the Hakone Shrine, the scenery is staggering. Few sights in the world are as breathtaking. You can also go for a ride on one of the pirate ships run by Hakone Sightseeing Boats or on swan paddle boats that are available for hire.

From Tokyo, Lake Ashinoko can be reached via the Romancecar train from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station. From there, take a 35-minute bus ride to Motohakone-ko station.

Nagatoro

Japan

This small town in Saitama Prefecture is a gem waiting to be discovered. Its rich history is nestled in between mountains and trees. Taking a boat ride down the Arakawa River and riding down through the Nagatoro Gorge can soothe any soul, but there are also more intense river rafting rides for those looking for a thrill. Nagatoro is a town designed for outdoor activities and has something for everyone!

Nagatoro can be reached by car through the Kan-Etsu Expressway, or by train through the Chichibu Railway to Nagatoro station, both ways taking around an hour and a half.

Mt. Horaiji

Japan

If you are in the mood for soul-searching, look for the towering Mt. Horaiji. It envelops a forest and lets you experience colors that seem hand-picked by a landscape artist. Found in the Aichi Prefecture, this mountain mixes nature and spirituality, perfect for an introspective walk filled with facts about history and Japanese religion. Only a mountain this majestic can remind us that life is bigger than the things we do and that the beauty of the natural world is unmatched. Horaiji Temple located on the mountain was built in 703 and is believed to have curative powers.

Get to Mt. Horaiji by local bus from Hon-Nagashino Station, or by shinkansen from Nagoya Station to Toyohashi Station, transferring to the JR Iida Line to Hon-Nagashino Station.

Nunobiki Falls

Follow a winding path behind Shin-Kobe Station, pass a few houses and a local or two and you will find Nunobiki Falls. One of Japan’s most famous waterfalls, the view from the top makes the hike worth it.  It is a peaceful place with a herb garden and a few English informational signs. You may take the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway to the top of the waterfall for an unrivaled view of the surrounding flora.  The area is far away from the usual hustle and bustle of Japan and is a unique way to experience harmony with nature.

To get here from Osaka, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to reach Shin-Kobe Station in just 12 minutes. From there, the falls are a 20-minute hike away. While vacations spent rushing through urban jungles are fun, sometimes stopping and taking in the scenery is all we need to enjoy the moment. Japan is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders for those who take the time to look — with some planning, a knack for exploration, and a sense of adventure, anyone can make excellent memories and take awesome pictures. To appreciate nature is to seek it out, and in Japan, there’s always more to see in the land of endless discovery.

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