Japan may be known for its many priceless cultural and natural heritage, but few are familiar with Japan’s amazing natural heritage, all of which is home to valuable ecosystems and rare endemic flora and fauna. In 2021, other sites such as Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, the Yamahara area in northern Iriomote, and Okinawa, Island will be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Yakushima City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Yakushima, the first island to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is house to antique and majestic Yakusugi, the oldest of which is estimated to be 7,000 years old. The humid climate of the island turns it into a true tropical jungle, covered with moss and waterfalls, with many hiking and trekking routes. The island’s endemic deer and monkey species are not only Japan’s largest turtle nesting site but also a great destination for nature lovers and photographers. Amazingly, the island oscillates between subarctic and subtropical climates, creating additional biodiversity that makes its natural ecosystems rare and valuable. So be careful when visiting and leave only footprints.
Travelers looking for a truly secluded destination should check out the Shiretoko Peninsula, with its rugged wilderness and stunning natural beauty. Delightful year-round, Shiretoko National Park boasts magnificent mountains, coastlines, and pristine forests that are home to rare native species of deer, bears, and birds of prey.
In winter, you can explore the massive ice on a guided ice walk or even dive under the ice with the help of an experienced guide. Visitors looking to bring up near to wildlife can take a coastal cruise to see resident grizzly bears and Ezo deer, or birdwatch to see a variety of raptors and other seabirds. The five lakes of Shiretoko offer plenty of hiking opportunities and hidden waterfalls to explore, while the long sandbar known as the Nosuke Peninsula offers an exploration of the Nem Strait.
Shirakami Mountains, Aomori Prefecture, Akita Prefecture
The vast mountain range that borders Aomori and Akita prefectures is home to the Shirakami Sanzan, a wilderness area with the largest pristine beech forest in East Asia. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including Japanese turtles, black bears, and more than 80 different bird species. Hikers can hike the trails around Lake Juniko, while more avid hikers can climb the 1,235m Mount Shirakami. To protect the fragile ecosystem, visitors to the Shirakamisan area are prohibited from picking plants, bringing pets, or littering.
Tokyo Ogasawara Islands
Tokyo is certainly not the first place to look for unspoiled natural heritage but it is home to the magnificent Ogasawara Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its gorgeous beaches and rare flora and fauna. The main island of Chindo has beautiful swimming beaches such as Miyahama, as well as fun marine activities such as snorkeling, diving, and sea kayaking. Near the uninhabited South Island are Japan’s Galapagos Islands, a breeding ground for sea turtles. The island is meticulously protected by the locals, with only 100 people allowed to visit a day, with their shoes sanitized, of course, so as not to disturb the fragile ecosystem. The only method to access these islands is by taking the Ogasawara Maru overnight ferry from Tokyo, but the views are worth it.
Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, Yamahara, Iriomote Island – Kagoshima, Okinawa Prefecture
Located between mainland Kyushu and Okinawa, Amami Oshima is part of the Amami Capital National Park. With the clearest waters and the most exquisite white sand beaches, it is a great way to explore the beauty and marine life of the island. The island is home to a variety of native fauna such as Amami rabbits and Amami Ishikawa frogs, and many sea turtles come to the island to lay their eggs. Mangrove visitors can also learn about the culture and history of the Aboriginal Ryukyu people in the folklore of Amami Park. museum. The nearby city of Tokunoshima is also house to some rare and unique wildlife, as well as epic green spaces such as the 300-year-old Chinese banyan tree with branches stretching up to 40m. Tokunoshima is also marked by many impressive geological formations, such as the famous Ryukyu. Limestone cliffs.
The island’s mangroves are rich in flora and fauna and can be accessed via kayak access for an unforgettable nature experience. The Iriomote is an extremely rare species on the island, and sustainable night walks allow you to spot this native predator. Pinaisara Falls, the most towering cascade in Okinawa at 55 meters high, is another must-see when visiting the Yamahara region in northern Okinawa, with a total length of 136 kilometers, and the rain keeps the forest strikingly green all year round. Conservation for the area was accepted and designed to be declared a national park for the area in 2016.