Japan is well known as a country of nature and wonder. What better way to enjoy the seasons in Japan than being completely surrounded by leaves, flowers, and nature on a walk?
Whatever season it is that you travel to Japan, there is something for you. Whether you want to see the fleeting beauty of the sakura in spring or the blazing colours of autumn, you can. All year round Japan offers its nature to view in some amazing ways, and walking through a colourful tunnel has got to be one of the best. Let me tell you about the 5 best tunnels all across Japan!
My personal favourite of the places featured here is the wisteria tunnel. Wisteria has been featured in Japanese art for hundreds of years, and their dangling jewelled blooms really are a sight to behold. You may be familiar with the sight of wisteria, the bold purple blooms hanging from the gnarly branches. You may not know that wisteria actually comes in a variety of shades, from pale white, to lilac and black purples.
In Kawachi Fuji Garden, Kitakyushu the variety of wisteria is staggering. Kitakyushu is a city on Japan’s southern island Kyushu, which is also home to Nagasaki. The garden is a private garden, but you can enter for a small fee ranging from 500 yen to 1,500 yen, depending on the current state of the flowers. Here you don’t just get the sights, but the sounds and scent too. The wisteria is very attractive to bumble bees, who fill the air with their lazy movements. Also, wisteria smells beautiful, so imagine walking through a tunnel of over 150 plants in bloom! I would recommend travelling here by taxi or car, there is a bus but it can get very, very crowded during the blooming period, especially when it coincides with Golden Week (late April-early May).
Sakura season in Japan is famous and a must-see in my opinion, if visiting Japan in spring. Depending on when you arrive, you can catch the cherry blossoms at different places across the country. In the larger cities, Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, cherry blossom festivals can be rather crowded, but they do have a great festival atmosphere.
If you prefer some quiet contemplation as you view the delicate petals, going slightly further afield might be a good idea. In Miyagi prefecture, north of Fukushima, there is a small town called Ogawara. Ogawara is a small town of only 23,000 people and their main business is agriculture. You can easily get to Ogawara on the JR East Tohoku main line from Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka or follow the route of the train up the Tohoku highway.
Seeing the smaller towns of Japan can be a great experience, especially when you have the chance to experience the cherry blossom tunnel in Ogawara. A path of over half a mile runs along covered by the sloped branches of cherry trees. In spring these branches explode into pale pink and white blossoms, coating the path with their petals. It is really beautiful here, especially for a secluded spot away from the hustle and bustle to engage in ‘hanami’ (flower watching). Even if you miss the blooms in early spring, do visit in summer or even autumn. In autumn, the cherry leaves turn colours and in summer the river walk is gorgeous.
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Bamboo is almost synonymous with travelling to the far east, and Japan is no exception. If you’ve visited before, you’ve probably already caught a look at some of the natural bamboo forests that grow across the country from the window of a train.
Kyoto is well known for Arashiyama and the bamboo forest there. With beautifully manicured paths you can walk amongst towering stems of bamboo in the dappled light of day. This is a stunning activity for any time of year. In winter, the ground can be dusted with snow and the crisp air makes the green bamboo almost glow. In spring, new bamboo shoots emerge and grow at a staggering rate towards the sun. In summer, the sound of the plum rains on the bamboo is magical, and in autumn, the cool breeze rustles the bamboo creating a wonderful soundtrack.
Take a trip to the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, easily accessed from Arashiyama station in the west of Kyoto, enjoy the restaurants and cafes and take your time walking through the bamboo tunnels.
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Fall colours are big business in Japan, second only to the sakura season in spring. In the autumn months, from the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Kyushu, the trees turn from vibrant green to blazing oranges, reds, and yellows. One thing that is better about the fall leaves over sakura, is that the fall colours last for a couple of weeks, so you are much more likely to catch them on a short trip.
Kawaguchi Lake in the Mount Fuji area is a known tourist hot spot, and this is even more so during fall. Many maple trees have been planted over the year around the lake to create a stunning view on Mount Fuji’s snow-capped peak surrounded by red leaves. You can walk through a tunnel of blazing leaves and be surrounded by the beauty of autumn. If you miss the autumn colours, this walk is still stunning in spring and summer when the green leaves dapple the sunlight.
In autumn, alongside the blazing red maples the ginkgo trees in Japan turn to a dazzling yellow. Most of the ginkgo trees in Japan have been strategically placed, rather than grown wild, so the views are brilliant. Yellow is mainly associated with summer flowers, but in Japan, the trees are carpeted in yellow leaves for a few weeks in a year.
There are many places across Japan to see the ginkgo trees turn golden, and one great place to go is the western edge of Tokyo in the Meiji Jingu Gaien. Dedicated to the late emperor Meiji, this walk was designed in his memory. You may be confused about the walk’s whereabouts, as it isn’t at the Meiji Jingu shrine (also dedicated to emperor Meiji), but it is around a mile away. Here, in this tranquil oasis, you can crunch your way across a golden carpet of ginkgo leaves and savour the cooler airs of autumn.
Whatever the season is, surround yourself with the vibrant colours of Japanese nature. Take your pick from white, green, purple, pink, yellow or red. Japan is truly amazing, so go and visit a nature tunnel soon!