The Japanese islands are large ranges of endless mountains emerging from the water. For this reason, Japanese national parks do not resemble the familiar views from Polish flat plain reserves like Białowieża Forest, the Tuchola Forest, or Kampinos National Park. Japan has a remarkable natural landscape, but continuous progress and development of the country lead to environmental degradation. That is why many protection programs are established to preserve the most important works of mother nature.

National parks and quasi parks in Japan

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has given the title of national park to as many as 34 areas. The last extension took place in 2017. The area of national parks in the Land of the Rising Sun is constantly growing. The Japanese are aware of the importance of care for nature and its values. That is why additional protection was introduced in the form of quasi parks. Another 56 areas were secured in this way.

Every year, 650 million tourists come to Japanese national parks and quasi parks. Such high exploitation of the Japanese nature requires a developed system of environmental protection. For this reason, apart from the division into national and quasi national parks, there is a distinction between the 4 categories of special zones. In addition, there are additional protection fields, the so-called Marine Park Zone (marine fauna and flora) and the regular zone in which buildings and other artificial structures are prohibited.

The most popular national park is Fuji-Hakone-Izu

Fuji-Hakone-Izu national park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園) is the most popular protected nature reserve in Japan. Its landscape values have been often used in film productions and served as inspiration for artists. It consists of three prefectures with Tokyo Metropolis. It is divided into three characteristic regions.

1. The Fuji region is the most sought-after area in the park, thanks to the volcano and the sacred Mount Fuji entered into the renowned UNESCO World Heritage List. The territory of the reserve also includes Fuji Five Lakes, shaped by volcanic lava. They offer not only a beautiful landscape, but also baths in hot springs and a wide tourist base.

2. The Hakone region gained its fame through one of the best hot water springs in Japan. The town is very popular among tourists. However, it is also a perfect place for the people living near Tokyo to retreat from the city hustle and bustle. In addition, you can enjoy the benefits of the water tourism at the nearby crater Lake Ashi.

3. The Izu region was subjected to the national park protection in the mid-1950s, when the Izu Peninsula was incorporated, followed by the archipelago of 7 Izu Islands in the 1960s. In this part of the reserve there is also the well-known resort town of Atami with numerous onsens and beaches. It is also a great area for diving enthusiasts.

The largest national park in Daisetsuzan

The largest national park in Japan, Daisetsuzan(大雪山国立公園)is 10 times larger than the Polish Tatra National Park, and its area is 2.2 thousand km2. This means that the Great Snowy Mountains, which is the name of this Japanese reserve in translation, is a range of 3 volcanic mountain groups. There are as many as 16 peaks there, and the highest of them is Mount Asahi (2,291 m above sea level). You can use the cable car to move around the mountains, which makes it easier to enjoy the incredible snowy landscape, especially in winter. It is also filled with numerous hot springs, lakes and waterfalls.

The park is also known for many rare species of animals and plants. This place is especially a natural habitat for brown bears, Ezo red foxes and Ili pika (a mammal similar to mice, in the family Ochotonidae).

The so-called Mikuni Pass (三国峠), the highest pass in the region, is also popular in the area. At an altitude of up to 1139 m, a red viaduct with an asphalt road runs through the thicket of trees. It is located on Nukabira National Route (糠 平 国 道). This is a common destination of many Japanese drivers who want to experience travel in a sea of trees, admiring their peaks from a close distance.

In the Daisetsuzan Park you can also visit Shikaribetsu Kotan (然別湖コタン) – an igloo ice village. In addition to the charming snow houses, the village has an ice bar, labyrinth and theatre. However, when the temperatures rise, tourists come to see the “melting” houses.

Bandai-Asahi – Japanese park of ascetics

Bandai-Asahi (磐梯朝日国立公園) is the second largest national park in Japan after Daisetsuzan. It is characterised by its wide variety of terrain. Therefore, it is a good place for beginner climbers, as well as for more advanced ones, who reach the highest peaks in the world. A very primitive and natural environment has been preserved in the area. You can admire the enchanting mountain massifs, dense forests as well as numerous lakes, swamps and wetlands. The highest elevation in the park is the volcanic Mount Bandai. The area also offers hot spring baths, hiking and climbing routes, and ski slopes.

The ascetics are particularly fond of Bandai-Asahi. Dewa Sanzan is the common name of 3 mountains: Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono. On these peaks there are temples, which are mainly destinations of Aztec climbing. There are shrines, monuments and historical locations along the routes. The ascetics consider Dewasazan a place of mountain worship. At Mt. Haguro there is the Dewa-jinja temple, accessed by 2446 stairs surrounded by pine cedars.

The Alpine character of Chubu Sangaku

The Chūbu-Sangaku Park(中部山岳国立公園)is mainly known for its alpine landscape. It covers the area of the Northern Japan Alps. It is the name of the three mountain ranges of Hida, Kiso and Akaishi. The reason for this is their similarity to the European range. The area of Chūbu-Sangaku is the Hida Mountains. There are many mountains above 3000 m there. One of them is the Japanese Matterhorn: Yari-ga-take. It is the second highest peak of the Northern Japan Alps with an altitude of 3180 m above sea level. The name Yari (槍) means the spear aimed at the sky. This peak shape resembles the Matterhorn in the European Alps.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート); it can be travelled on foot, by trolleybus, cable car or bus. The corridor from Bijodaira to Murodo is often visited in spring and summer, with its snow walls of up to 20 m marking the asphalt route. The trail panorama can be admired from Tateyama Ropeway. It is the longest one-step line in Japan. It is 1.7 km long and one-way trip takes about 7 minutes. The highest Japanese dam, Kurobe Dam (186 m), can be reached by a cable car that goes through the tunnel over the entire route. This spectacular dam catches as much as 15 tonnes of water per second and supports the local hydroelectric plant. The area also includes the highest waterfall in Japan, Shōmyōdaki (称名滝), which is 350 m high.

World heritage in Japan

After the war Japan faced irrational management of natural resources and continuing expansion of the metropolis. The Japanese corporations have an enormous potential for degradation of nature, so it requires the residents to double the environmental protection. National protection is no longer sufficient. They need support from transnational organisations, such as UNESCO. The Land of the Rising Sun is ranked 4th among 46 Asian countries in terms of the number of objects entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List (22). In addition, it is in the top ten globally, on a par with the US. In the meantime, many internal institutions and legal acts were established to ensure environmental protection. A very famous document supporting nature is the “Kyoto Protocol” on gas emissions. Over the past decades, Japan has become very sensitive to environmental issues and, despite growing unfavourable trends for nature, it tries to care for and promote respect for nature.

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