Embark on High-Altitude Adventure in Breathtaking Japan

Uncover remarkable experiences and unforgettable vistas from Japan’s greatest heights.
Hokkaido / Shikoku / San'in

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Travel + Leisure

Japan’s mountainous landscape means it’s the land of many beautiful vistas. To truly see all Japan has to offer, visitors should aim high. Fill your travel itinerary with thrilling high-altitude adventures, scenic treks, historic mountain villages, and panoramic perspectives in some of the country’s most awe-inspiring natural landscapes.


In Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost region, visitors can gain a new perspective on one of the world’s largest and newest ziplines, the Hanazono Zipflight. Opened in 2022, the three ziplines total 8,500 feet in length — the longest in Japan — allowing visitors to fly over the beautiful Mount Yotei and the valley below at speeds that can reach over 68 miles per hour. The ziplines are in operation April through October, with a winter zipline experience opening in March. (Check the website for possible closure periods.)

Meanwhile, Rishiri Island, located in the north of Hokkaido, offers a captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and culture seekers alike. Accessible from Tokyo via a flight to Wakkanai followed by a ferry ride, this hidden gem boasts vast coastal views, craggy seascapes, and green hills adorned with wildflowers, resembling a natural fairytale.

A highlight of Rishiri Island is the rugged mountain hike on Mount Rishiri, part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. This challenging trek showcases the island's biodiversity, with wetlands and forests that form a beautiful ecosystem. The volcano's peak, standing over 5,646 feet high, rewards hikers with panoramic views of the island's lush forests, sparkling waters, and serene wetlands. Each July, Rishiri holds a festival to mark the official start of climbing season (but the treks are open annually from late June through early October).

Beyond its natural beauty, visitors can also indulge in relaxation at the island's natural hot springs, where therapeutic waters and stunning views create a serene atmosphere.

Seafood lovers will be delighted by the island's abundant marine resources. Rishiri Island is renowned for its fresh seafood, including delectable crabs, scallops, and sea urchins. Local restaurants and seafood markets provide an opportunity to savor these culinary delights, allowing visitors to truly taste the flavors of the sea.

Whether you seek adventure, cultural immersion, or a gastronomic journey, Rishiri Island promises an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of this enchanting destination and create memories to cherish forever.


Credit: ©Shikoku Camera Club

The Iya Valley in Shikoku is known for its rugged cliffs and deep gorges, as well as natural hot springs for soaking and taking in the stunning scenery. Some of the area’s most iconic structures are the historic vine bridges like the Kazura Bridge, made of plants and used by people in ancient times to cross the river, then cut down to keep enemies out. Vine bridges have their origins in the 12th century. In the old days, there were thirteen vine bridges. Today, only three are left, including Iya Kazurabashi which stretches nearly 50 yards across the Iya River in the middle of the valley. The Iya Vine Bridge can be found in Nishiiyayama Village in the west, and the Oku-Iya Double Vine Bridge is located in east Iya. While the bridges are safe, regularly maintained, and reinforced with steel cables, a walk across is not for the faint of heart.

For another experience, head to the island of Shodoshima. The Kankakei Gorge and Ropeway is one of the highest viewpoints on the island, and the only ropeway in Japan offering simultaneous views of sea, gorge, and sky — the beauty of the archipelago is distinctive. The cable car ride along the Kankakei Ropeway may only be five minutes, but it rises from 967 feet to 2007 feet above sea level. At the top, visitors can take in vast panoramic views of the surrounding islands that dot the Seto Inland Sea.

Kankakei Gorge, with its own collection of rare, unique plants that grow wild, is considered one of the country’s most beautiful valleys. There are three popular trails: Ropeway, and two hiking routes — the Kankakei Omote route and the Kankakei Ura route are both over one mile long and take an hour to 1.5 hours to complete, leading through strange rocks and monstrous stones created over a long period of time. The beauty of this archipelago is on display year-round, delighting visitors with a lush landscape of forests and volcanic rock formations in summer, stunning colorful foliage in autumn, and a snow-capped wonderland in winter.


The Mitokusan Sanbutsuji Temple is situated on the sacred mountain called Mount Mitokusan, in the small town of Misasa in the central region of Tottori Prefecture. There exists a rare and fascinating structure, famous for its unique architecture: the Nageiredo Hall, a temple recognized as a Japan Heritage site. It was built into the precipitous cliffs of Mount Mitokusan at an altitude of 2,953 feet.

Reaching the Nageiredo Hall from the main temple, Sanbutsuji Temple, is not easy. It requires a steep hike up a mountain path that winds through ancient old-growth forests and temples, providing an opportunity for visitors to experience the Shugendo, or “Way of the Ascetics,” an ancient form of training. Originally, this same 1300-year-old path was used by Shugendo ascetics. While the journey is narrow and precarious in parts, chains have been installed at various points to assist hikers. To preserve the natural environment, hikers are required to wear hiking shoes or traditional straw sandals called waraji, once worn for long journeys and prolonged labor; today, they are worn primarily by Buddhist monks and stream fishermen.

Those who brave this hike are rewarded with the chance to view a truly one-of-a-kind cultural and architectural treasure, designated a national treasure. The most extraordinary and impressive temple on Mount Mitokusan is the Nageiredo Hall, also known as the Oku No In (inner temple). This wooden structure, perched on the edge of a sheer cliff, holds an air of mystery, as the origins of this awesome architecture remain unknown.

Another famous mountain attraction in San'in is Mount Daisen, a volcano offering endless beauty to explore: ancient beech forests, alpine meadows, craggy peaks, and tranquil woodlands that are perfect for getting reacquainted with nature. More experienced hikers can attempt to climb the mountain’s 5,607-foot summit, where a jaw-dropping panoramic view over the Sea of Japan awaits.

There are also plenty of easier strolls to choose from, winding along ancient stone paths that lead to sacred temples and shrines, and multiple routes to climb. The popular three-mile Jakujouzan trail begins at the 1300-year-old Daisen Temple and follows stone paths through the woods to Ogamiyama Shrine. Centuries ago, soldier-monks practiced martial arts in this area, now lined with monuments and religious statues.
In Daisen, “green walks” through lush forests in summer and “white walks” and snowshoeing activities in winter are popular. A guide will point out plants, animal tracks, and some of the area’s ancient trees. With approximately five miles of powdery slopes, Mount Daisen is also one of the most popular ski destinations in western Japan.

Shikoku in the News

  • Japan on and off the trail

    Japan on and off the trail

    National Geographic

    Visitors to Japan have likely heard about the cherry blossoms, hot springs, and Mount Fuji—maybe even the snowy slopes of Niseko and sun-kissed islands of Okinawa—yet much of Japan's great outdoors remains unknown. Take the relatively under-visited regions of Shikoku and Tohoku, one a short flight west of Tokyo, the other an easy train trip north, which reward travelers who veer off the beaten path with scenic coastal trails, hikes to sacred peaks, and a host of other experiences in nature.

  • Shikoku: Where nature meets tradition

    Shikoku: Where nature meets tradition


    Blessed with majestic peaks, pristine waterways and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Seto Inland Sea, the island of Shikoku provides a myriad opportunities to explore nature. It is also the home of Japan’s most famous pilgrimage, the Shikoku Henro, a journey covering 88 temples with connections to the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai).

  • Discover Japan: Forest Bathing and Spiritual Connections

    Discover Japan: Forest Bathing and Spiritual Connections


    Embark on a short leg of the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage, a historic route dating back over 1,200 years that connects 88 Buddhist temples on the island of Shikoku. Each of these temples is connected to Kobo Daishi, a revered monk who trained and traveled in the region.

Wonder aroundJapan


Shikoku is brimming with natural beauty and rich cultural traditions. At the island's heart, vast mountains and crystal-clear streams make for an impressive scene, while encircling the entire island is an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route complete with no less than 88 temples.



Greater Tokyo

Central Japan