The New Golden Route is Nature

Discover the nature that sculpted Japanese culture

Featured    - 6 min read

The Hokuriku region of northwest Japan is home to a wealth of nature that includes alpine heights, secluded valleys, and picturesque islands waiting to be explored. Even the vast metropolises that form the start and endpoints for the Hokuriku Shinkansen route are home to sanctuaries of tranquil nature, where you can take a rest amid the bustle of the city. Join us as we voyage deep into the nature of Hokuriku!

Mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku in Osaka

Said to be the final resting place of Emperor Nintoku, Japan’s 16th ruler, this impressive burial mound is the third-largest in the world and features a distinctive keyhole-shaped design when viewed from above. A 2.8-km walking track takes visitors through lush forest areas and past the three moats that encircle the mausoleum. The area is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.

Megane Bridge (Usui 3rd Bridge) in Gunma

The Usui 3rd Bridge dates back to 1892 and is affectionately nicknamed the Megane Bashi or “Spectacles Bridge”. The red brick arches provide a splendid contrast against the backdrop of the area’s rich nature. Rail operations ceased in 1963, and the abandoned line has since become a popular walking trail. The views from the bridge are stunning anytime, but particularly lovely in spring and autumn.

Myoko Kogen Ski Resort in Niigata

With the longest ski run in Japan at more than five miles, Myoko is one of Japan’s best skiing destinations for quantity and quality of piste and snow. The resort provides a ski school for children, a family lodge, and, of course, a number of relaxing hot springs to end your day of fun. There are guided cross-country ski courses, and the area provides excellent off-season hiking in the green season.

Kamikochi Highland Valley in Nagano

Enjoy a walk along the Azusa River and pause at several bridges for fantastic photo opportunities. This valley boasts 9.3 miles of trails, from easy to moderate, with breathtaking views of Mount Hotaka and Mount Yakedake. Heading south from Hotaka Shrine is a large wetlands area with crystal-clear water. As you stroll along the trails, keep on the lookout for the many wild monkeys.

Kurobe Gorge Railway in Toyama

Starting at Unazuki Station and ending at Keyakidaira Station, with multiple stops in between, this open-air electric train takes you along the beautiful Kurobe River gorge. Every curve along the trip brings breathtaking views. Before boarding the train, you can walk over to Yamabiko observation deck to take some pictures of the bright-red Shin-Yamabiko Bridge, or try to snap it from the train as you zoom past!

Meiji Jingu in Tokyo

Founded in 1920 as a memorial to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, this shrine is located in the center of a 72-acre forest, isolating you from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. You can attend prayers daily at 08:00 and 14:00 at the Honden Main Shrine, but a visit at any time of day is a spiritual experience.

Amanohashidate Sandbar in Kyoto

Forming a bridge that stretches three kilometers across Miyazu Bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture, the sandbar’s name translates as Bridge in Heaven and was thus named because of its resemblance to a pathway connecting heaven and earth when viewed from above. Adding to the beauty are the 8,000 Japanese pine trees growing there. You can traverse the sandbar on foot or by rental bicycle.

Shirahige Jinja Shrine in Shiga

The torii gate of the shrine appears to be floating on Lake Biwa. The vermillion of the gate creates a splendid contrast against the ever-changing waters any time of day, but the view at sunset is breathtaking! Visitors to Shirahige Jinja Shrine offer prayers for longevity, fertility, and romance at this beautiful and sacred spot.

Ranzan Valley in Saitama

Part of a nature reserve in Saitama Prefecture, the Ranzan Valley’s proximity to Tokyo makes it is a popular day-trip destination. It is a well-known spot for cherry blossom viewing but really comes into its own during autumn, when a vivid array of foliage blankets the park. Activities include hiking through the valley or enjoying a BBQ lunch on the banks of the river.

Shinhotaka Ropeway in Gifu

Ride a double-decker aerial tramway as it climbs up to the Nishihotakaguchi Station, located at an elevation of about 2,200 meters (7,073 feet). Then walk up to the rooftop observation deck for a 360-degree panoramic view of the mountain range, which includes Mount Okuhotaka, the third-highest in Japan. The ropeway is open year-round, allowing you to enjoy different scenery during each of the four seasons.

Tojinbo Cliffs in Fukui

A rare geological feature that stretches for one kilometer along the northern coast of Fukui Prefecture, Tonjinbo Cliffs were formed by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Over time, the waves and weather have created towering pillar-like rock formations, the likes of which can only be found in three places. These dynamic cliffs can be viewed up close on foot from above, or from beneath from a sightseeing boat.

Chirihama Nagisa Beach Driveway in Ishikawa

If you’ve ever fancied the idea of driving along the beach, here’s your chance! The driveway is a beautiful route that runs for eight kilometers along the Sea of Japan in Ishikawa Prefecture. Cars and bicycles are welcome, so take your chosen mode of transport and enjoy a leisurely spin along the edge of the ocean. Driving at sunset is particularly recommended.

For more information on rail passes, routes, and everything you need to plan your Hokuriku adventure, please visit the Explore Japan website below.

Explore Japan Official Website

Visit the official Hokuriku Arch Pass website here:

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Elena Lisina a year ago
Wonderful route!