Think of Japan and you’ll picture the buzzing city of Tokyo, ancient temples, and a fun-loving culture built around anime. You might even think of their infamous, high tech, music-playing toilets.
As far as the more natural attractions go, you may recall the annual cherry blossom festival that takes place throughout the nation in the spring. But would you think to visit the mountains in Japan? Tied into a city-hopping trip, step into nature, even just for a few days, and you’ll be glad you did. Here are four reasons why.
Your first leg of the journey will likely be by bullet train from Tokyo, otherwise known as the Shinkansen – a high speed, high tech, high comfort environment. But as you near the mountains in Japan, it’s not just the train that you’ll change.
After sweeping through the country at speeds of up to 200mph, you’ll get onto an older model instead, with rows of seats along each window and room to stand in the middle if it’s busy. The railway won’t be so smooth or anywhere near as fast either. Instead, you’ll be zig-zagging up ever steeper hillsides, climbing up into the clouds ever so slowly.
Don’t be deterred by the slower progress though. You’ll have all the more opportunity to take in the incredible landscapes from the windows. Expect to see some areas covered in dense vegetation, some more open, and some pretty, traditional mountain villages en route.
If you head to the mountains in Japan, you’ll almost definitely be above cloud level at least once. For the luckiest travellers, you’ll step straight off the train into the wispy clouds. When they’re thin enough not to obscure your view, they’ll create an almost other-wordly feel. Paired with your sublime mountainous location, it’s pure magic.
While many visit Japan in the spring for the cherry blossom, don’t dismiss the chance to visit in autumn too, when the views from the mountains are an exquisite spectrum of russet, copper and golden leaves.
Be warned, though, with the higher altitudes often comes cooler temperatures, so while you might have been okay in Tokyo in a T shirt and jeans, keep a few layers handy to pull on if you need them when you visit the mountains in Japan.
Being a volcanic island, Japan has multiple regions that are home to hot springs, known as onsen. Visit the onsen in Hakone, situated in the mountains in Japan, for the chance to experience this for yourself – it’s the ultimate in relaxation. These naturally heated pools are the traditional Japanese take on the spa. Look out for hotels that have been built around these pools to indulge without even needing to leave the building.
A trip on the cable cars is a must with the Hakone Ropeway when the weather is relatively clear. As you gently rumble along in your transparent pod, you’ll pass over smoking vents in the still active volcano. You’ll also have a bird’s eye view of the rocky, volcanic landscape and, if it’s clear, you’ll even catch sight of Mount Fuji itself.
At the end of the ropeway, you’ll reach Lake Ashi, another stunningly scenic spot to explore. There are several tourist boat trips across the lake. Many include stops for you to disembark, explore and find the iconic Hakone shrine.
Plan your visit for spring or autumn to make the most of the seasonal changes as well as the year-round attractions. If you’re serious about seeing as much of Japan as you can, then combine a few days in the mountains with city hopping, temple spotting and even a trip to the beach – Japan is an island after all!
Inspired to visit Japan? Find out why Kyoto in Japan made it onto my bucket list for romantic getaways. You might just be surprised!