Light and fog paint another side of Japan
Stretching north to south from Hokkaido to Kyushu and Okinawa, the country of Japan is known for its diversity of changes due to the seasons and also its abundance of water. This wealth of water changes into moisture, creating mysterious mists and fog which add an exquisite gradation to the beauty of the landscape. And this gently misty landscape not only helps define the sense of aesthetic held by the Japanese people living in it, but also their character. So let’s begin our journey to fantastic Japan with the kinds of scenes where you can experience this beautiful gradation of color.
Sunrise over Lake Biwa (Shiga)
Sunrise over Japan’s largest lake, Biwa-ko. Within the stillness, the rising morning sun shines through the remaining blue darkness in the sky, casting a silhouette of the mountain ranges on the water. The sunrise also reflects upon the surface of the full lake, dyeing it in vermillion. On the surface of the lake there are rows of poles on which nets are usually hung to catch fish. Another day begins for everyone today.
Yakushiji Temple dyed in gold (Nara city, Nara)
Located in Nara city, which in the 8th century served as the capital of Japan, the World Heritage listed Yakushiji temple with its surface colored in gold is seen over Katsumata-ike pond. The kondo (main hall) on the left contains three Buddhist statues designated as National Treasures which have gazed upon people praying for over 1,300 years.
The crimson approach of Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto city, Kyoto)
The Inari shrine which enshrines the god of food and number 30,000 across Japan is a familiar shrine to Japanese people. The main shrine for all of these is Fushimi Inari Taisha, located in Kyoto. The striking crimson torii gates, also known as “Senbontorii”, create a path through the holy grounds of the shrine.
A symphony of blue and purple (Yamaguchi city, Yamaguchi)
The rural areas alongside the streams where fireflies live make up Yamaguchi city’s Niho. Just after the beginning of May is the best time to see the large wisteria tree that is located in the Ikkanno area. The pale purple flowers in full bloom hang over the blue pools of water with a row of small waterfalls cascading into them. The wisteria flowers swaying in the wind and the sound of the waterfalls will make you feel as if you’re being pulled right in.
A Pure Land of blue and white rises up from the ground (Sai village, Shimokita district, Aomori)
Along the shore of the Shimokita-hanto peninsula at the northernmost tip of Honshu is a roughly 2 km stretch of coastline consisting of white green rocks. The name of this coastline is Hotokegaura. It seems that the name comes from a story that suggests this is “the beach where Buddha is”, and thus the area continues to be famous for being associated with Buddha. The white rock face carved out by the waves and snowstorms contrasts sharply with the shimmering blue of the ocean.
A grey battleship floating on the sea (Nagasaki city, Nagasaki)
You might be thinking “is it a battleship moving over the water?”, but in reality, these are steel reinforced concrete ruins lined around a deserted island. Located about 19 km south west of Nagasaki port is Hashima Island, colloquially known as “Gunkanjima” (Battleship Island). This island once flourished as a source of submarine coal. In 2009 it was tentatively listed for World Heritage as one of The Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyushu and Yamaguchi, and was reopened for tourism.
“Aoi-ike (Blue pond)” shrouded in white (Biei town, Kamikawa county, Hokkaido)
A blue pond right out of a fairy tale. And with snow covering both the shoreline and the larch trees in the middle of the pond. This mysterious landscape suddenly became famous when Apple Inc. used it as a wallpaper for the MacBook Pro in 2012. The town of Biei in Hokkaido where this “Blue pond” can be found is also famous for its green hills and flower fields that look like a patchwork quilt.
The ruins of Takeda castle floating on a sea of clouds (Asago city, Hyogo)
Also known by names such as the “Castle in the Sky” or “Japan’s Machu Picchu” are these castle ruins on a mountain in Hyogo’s Asago city. The remains of grand stone walls span 400m from north to south and 100m east to west, and also have been selected as one of 100 Fine Castles of Japan.
The emerald tunnel of Sagano (Kyoto city, Kyoto)
While being enveloped by the fresh fragrance of bamboo and bathing in the filtered sunlight, take a trip through this emerald tunnel. This is located in the northwest part of Kyoto city in Sagano. In this place which is dotted with famous temples and was loved by the nobility as an area for holiday homes, the green stillness awaits.
The great falls of Yonako in beautiful autumn (Suzaka city, Nagano)
Through the deep mountains and beyond the hazy mists, a brocade of yellow, orange and ivory-white unfolds. In the distance, the Fudo-daki waterfall drops approximately 85 meters into the valley below. This waterfall and Gongen waterfall on the left together are known as Yonako great falls, and have been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls.
Autumn colored leaves bathed in golden light over the pond (Hirosaki city, Aomori)
When it becomes autumn, the leaves of over 1,000 trees in Hirosaki Park spectacularly change color such as the maple trees turning ablaze in deep crimson and ginkgo trees shining in yellow. The image of the autumn leaves is reflected on the surface of the water, and it shines gold in the light of the sun. Also within the park is the remaining tower of Hirosaki castle, and over 2,600 cherry blossom trees that flower in spring.
Sekiyado castle shining in vermillion (Noda city, Chiba)
Chiba prefecture’s Noda city. From the light of the setting sun behind the Sekiyado-jo museum, the entire surrounding area is bathed in the glow of sunset. Many fierce battles were fought repeatedly over this area, positioned at the junction of the Tone River that flows into the Pacific Ocean and the Edogawa River that flows via Tokyo into Tokyo Bay, as it was vital for water transportation. The museum is presently a recreation of the destroyed Sekiyado castle tower.
Terraced rice paddies at twilight (Chihayaakasaka village, Minamikawachi county, Osaka)
Used to cultivate the steep slopes of mountain areas, terraced rice paddies are one of Japan’s quintessential landscape scenes. After rice planting, the green seedlings rustle in the field reflecting the blue of the twilight sky as it changes from pink to blue. This is Osaka’s Chiyahayaakasaka village. Despite its close proximity to a major city, this ancient Japanese landscape continues to live on.
The cherry blossoms of Chidorigafuchi at night (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo)
In Japan, when people think of flowers, they think of cherry blossoms. Planted as cover for the banks of the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace, the cherry blossom trees of Chidorigafuchi all flowering at once is one of Japan’s famous cherry blossom viewing spots. Illuminated by floodlights, the pale pink cherry blossoms float in the twilight, their image reflected on the surface of the water in the moat, thus creating a dream-like atmosphere.
Ginzan Onsen illuminated by the full moon (Obanazawa city, Yamagata)
The hot springs area of Ginzan onsen on a winter’s evening. The multi-storied wooden houses lined up along the river evoke feelings of nostalgia, with the full moon illuminating the snow on the streets. Famous for being a well-known hot springs area, this town was also used as a location for the TV drama series “Oshin”.
Shirakawa-go on a snowy evening (Shirakawa village, Ono county, Gifu)
Registered on the World Heritage list, Shirakawa-go is an area that features old wooden “Gassho-zukuri” thatched roof houses. The trademark steep sloped triangular roofs were originally designed as protection against heavy snowfall. The snow falls and collects on the roofs gently as if it were falling asleep upon them. The only people who can experience this tranquility are those who visit this area during winter.
Mt. Fuji at dawn (Yamanashi, Shizuoka prefectures)
The sacred Mt. Fuji at dawn as viewed from Mt. Kitadake which towers over Minami-Alps city in Yamanashi prefecture. Shrouded in morning fog, the morning sun is rising from beyond the bluish Minami Alps and Mt. Fuji. Together with the gentle orange light of dawn, another new day begins.