Have you ever wanted to enter a naturally rich environment during weekends or extended vacations? There are numerous spots where you can fully enjoy nature, but Japan’s national parks hold a special allure. Let’s explore together what makes these national parks so unique and why you might want to consider adding them to your next holiday destination.

What Exactly Are National Parks?

Akan Mashu National Park (Photo by Nature Service)

Generally, national parks refer to areas within a country that embody representative natural landscapes, biodiversity, or cultural values. These are managed under specific regulations and laws set by respective governments. The purpose is to allow visitors to experience the beauty of nature, understand its significance, and ensure the preservation of vital natural environments for future generations.

National parks contribute significantly not only to travel and recreational activities but also to biodiversity, environmental education, and regional development.

Japan’s National Parks

Towada-Hachimantai National Park (Photo by Nature Service)

Japan’s national parks are directly managed by the government and must fulfill the following criteria:

– Must constitute a landscape that is representative of Japan relative to the places with the same type of landscape as well as constitute a prominent natural landscape that can be introduced to the world with pride.

(Source: Ministry of the Environment,History and Organization)

In other words, among vast natural landscapes of the same type, Japan proudly presents outstanding locations attracting worldwide attention. Hearing about places with landscapes worth boasting about makes you want to visit them, doesn’t it?

National Parks Around the World

Like Japan, national parks worldwide are managed and operated to conserve unique natural environments and landscapes characteristic of each country. The first national park system was established with Yellowstone National Park in the United States designated in 1872.

There are over 2,000 national parks globally, including Plitvice Lakes National Park, the United States Grand Canyon National Park, and Finland’s Koli National Park, each featuring diverse mountainous and maritime areas.

List of Japan’s National Parks

Here is a list of Japan’s national parks. How many of these names do you recognize?

Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National ParkHokkaido
Shiretoko National ParkHokkaido
Akan-Mashu National ParkHokkaido
Kushiroshitsugen National ParkHokkaido
Daisetsuzan National ParkHokkaido
Shikotsu-Toya National ParkHokkaido
Towada-Hachimantai National ParkAomori, Iwate, Akita
Sanriku Fukko (reconstruction) National ParkAomori, Iwate, Miyagi
Bandai-Asahi National ParkYamagata, Fukushima, Niigata
Nikko National ParkFukushima, Tochigi, Gunma
Oze National ParkFukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata
Chichibu-Tama-Kai National ParkSaitama, Tokyo, Yamanashi, Nagano
Ogasawara National ParkTokyo
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National ParkTokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Shizuoka
Minami Alps National ParkYamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka
Joshin’etsukogen National ParkGunma, Niigata, Nagano
Myoko-Togakushi renzan National ParkNiigata, Nagano
Chubusangaku National ParkNiigata, Toyama, Nagano, Gifu
Hakusan National ParkToyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu
Ise-Shima National ParkMie
Yoshino-Kumano National ParkMie, Nara, Wakayama
San’inkaigan National ParkKyoto, Hyogo, Tottori
Setonaikai National ParkHyogo, Wakayama, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Fukuoka, Oita
Daisen-Oki National ParkOkayama, Tottori, Shimane
Ashizuri-Uwakai National ParkEhime, Kochi
Saikai National ParkNagasaki
Unzen-Amakusa National ParkNagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima
Aso-Kuju National ParkKumamoto, Oita
Kirishima-Kinkowan National ParkMiyazaki, KagoshimaListening by Podcast(Japanese)
Yakushima (Island) National ParkKagoshima
Amamigunto National ParkKagoshima
Yanbaru National ParkOkinawa
Keramashoto National ParkOkinawa
Iriomote-Ishigaki National ParkOkinawa
Reference: Ministry of the Environment

Even if you think you’ve never been to a national park, just by looking at the place names, you may realize that you’ve actually set foot in one!

What Makes Japan’s National Parks Charming?

Akan Mashu National Park (Photo by Nature Service)

Charm of National Parks

What makes Japan’s national parks so charming? At first glance, they may seem like just natural spots. However, their allure deepens with knowledge, revealing profound elements beyond words. Beautiful landscapes and invaluable experiences will become unforgettable memories filled with surprises and emotions that you’ll want to share with others.

For instance, Shiretoko National Park is known for drift ice and whale watching, offering experiences that will become treasures in your memory. On the other hand, Nikko National Park provides a different kind of excitement with its historical buildings, such as shrines and temples, blending with nature. Even among sea creatures, you can experience entirely different ecosystems, like seeing Japanese horseshoe crabs in Seto Inland Sea National Park or loggerhead turtles in Yakushima National Park. It’s also interesting to note that some national parks include privately owned lands; for instance, 96% of Ise-Shima National Park is privately owned.

Even if you visit one out of the 34 locations, the remaining 33 national parks offer entirely different atmospheres, each with unique charms waiting to be experienced.

Finding the Charm of National Parks

If you’re looking for information about national parks, the Ministry of the Environment’s website is highly recommended. Once you find a national park that interests you, check out the Characteristics page. 

Here, you’ll find a summary of attractions such as landscapes, plants, and animals, making it easy to understand what you can enjoy and what makes each park attractive. Don’t miss the “Culture & Lifestyle” section, where you’ll discover local cultures and lifestyles born out of practical wisdom. Examples include terraced fields in Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park, fields of rakkyo (Japanese scallions) in San’inkaigan National Park, and dried squid in Daisen-Oki National Park

By seeing and understanding the “reason for their existence,” you can not only enjoy beautiful landscapes but also grasp the history, background, and livelihoods of the area.

What to Do in National Parks?

Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park (Photo by Nature Service)

Now that you understand the charm of national parks, what would you like to do?

The first thing that comes to mind is probably “sightseeing.” You might be curious about what activities you can do and what kind of experiences are available. The Ministry of the Environment’s “Experience Unique to National Parks!” page (Japanese) is a valuable reference. Various experiences are categorized, making it easy to find nature experience content that matches your interests. Whether you enjoy camping or diving actively or want to enrich your knowledge through food, tradition, or culture, there are plenty of options.

Of particular interest is the “Workation” category, which suggests national parks as a work venue. Working amidst nature offers many benefits; it enhances work performance while allowing relaxation and easy access to recreational activities. The benefits of “Workation in National Parks” (Japanese) are highlighted with case studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Be sure to check it out!

Visiting national parks can be extremely effective, not just from the perspectives of relaxation and health. The article “What Are the Health Benefits of National Parks According to Data?” provides detailed explanations about the benefits of forest bathing, hot springs, and stress alleviation, as well as the positive impacts on children’s development. Whether you’re feeling exhausted, irritated, or down, inviting family or friends who might also be feeling worn out for a trip to a national park could be a great idea.


When you hear “national park,” you might think of famous ones overseas and desire to visit them. However, before that, try visiting one or two national parks in Japan. While international national parks are indeed attractive, we recommend first experiencing the beauty of Japan’s nature. 

Japan’s national parks are easily accessible and well-equipped with accommodation facilities, allowing you to enjoy not just day trips but also longer stays. Stimulate your senses and refresh both your mind and body in Japan’s national parks. Why not embark on a journey to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Japan fully?