There are car rides that are so scenic that the trip to get to your end-point is nearly as good as the actual destination. Sometimes, driving a certain road is even a destination in itself. Japan doesn’t have a lack of amazing drives, being a mountainous country with plenty of unspoiled nature. Why not take a relaxing drive on one of these 10 best road trips in Japan? We are sure that once you get a taste, you will want to go again!
- Izu Skyline in Shizuoka
- Mount Aso in Kyushu
- Nikko National Park in Tochigi
- Shikoku Karst In Ehime (Kochi)
- Venus Line in Nagano
- Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge
- Bandai-Azuma Skyline in Fukushima
- Sapporo to Roller Coaster Road and Patchwork Road in Hokkaido
- Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge in Yamaguchi
- Hakone Hill Turnpike in Kanagawa
- Traveling in Japan
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Izu Skyline in Shizuoka
If you fancy great views of Mt Fuji on your road trip, the Izu Skyline in Shizuoka may be just what you are looking for. This 40.6 km long toll road leads from hot spring city Atami in the north of the Izu Peninsula to the highlands of Amagi Kogen in the middle of the peninsula. Besides Mt Fuji, you will have nice views of the ocean on the eastern side, and the route is especially nice in spring with the blossoms and during the fall foliage season.
Mount Aso in Kyushu
The best way to enjoy the fertile volcanic landscape surrounding Mt. Aso on the southern island Kyushu is to drive the Milk Road slowly while taking in the nice vistas. With grassy plains that stretch into the distance, there are multiple parking areas where you can stop to admire the views from up close. Make sure to go all the way up to the Daikanbo lookout, which is the highlight of the drive. Please note that the road may be closed due to icy conditions in the winter and that the crater of the volcano is only accessible when it is not too active.
Nikko National Park in Tochigi
Nikko is a very popular destination for local as well as international tourists. Only 1.5 hours away from the north of Tokyo, visitors go there to see the impressive Toshogu shrine and temples surrounding the shrine area. The nature around Nikko is also very beautiful boasting waterfalls, forests, and a large lake, and the road that you can’t miss on your trip is called the Irohazaka Winding Road. Named after the Japanese alphabet that consists of 48 syllables, this curvy road has 48 hairpin turns and offers amazing views on the way up and down. At the top, don’t forget to visit the scenic Kegon Falls that you can go down to with an elevator.
Shikoku Karst In Ehime (Kochi)
Prefecture Ehime on pilgrim’s island Shikoku is especially famous for Dogo Onsen, one of the most picturesque onsen towns in Japan. Driving in Shikoku is also a pleasure, as it is the least populated island of the 4 main islands of Japan, the roads tend to be fairly quiet. To get there you can either depart from Kochi or Matsuyama, and the drive will take around 2 hours. The karst is a geological formation with wide grasslands interspersed with white limestone mounds and sinkholes. The area is surrounded by mountains and is located at an elevation of around 1400 meters. There are various hiking trails, and every season there is something to enjoy. If you stick around until nightfall, you can see starry skies undisturbed by any artificial light.
Venus Line in Nagano
Nagano is one of Japan’s most mountainous regions, so it is no wonder that there are some scenic routes in this prefecture in the middle of Japan’s Honshu island. The Venus Line that runs between Chino and Ueda is a mountain road that leads you past highlands where various wildflowers bloom, two scenic lakes, and a plateau at a nearly 2 km altitude that offers sprawling views over the area including Mt Fuji. Many drivers like to stay the night in one of the onsen hotels in the environment, which is a perfect way to relax at the end of the day. Please note that parts of the road are closed when there is snow, so it is best to drive the Venus Line between the late spring and early autumn.
The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge that spans between Kobe and Awaji Island near Shikoku holds the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world at 4 km long. Besides driving over this bridge to enjoy the view, it is fun to stop at the Kobe side and walk the Maiko Marine Platform that offers you views from the inside and the ocean and the Bridge Information Center where you can learn more about suspension bridges. Goshiki Beach on Awaji Island is also worth a stop, especially around sunset time. If you continue on until Shikoku you can see the famous Naruto whirlpools, a rare natural phenomenon that is especially pronounced at this location.
Bandai-Azuma Skyline in Fukushima
If you are in the mood for a long road trip between late spring and late autumn, the Bandai-Azuma Skyline in Fukushima is a perfect destination. As the name Skyline already suggests, the road is located at a higher altitude of up to 1622 meters. You will sometimes drive through the clouds and will pass by various landscapes that include forests that are especially spectacular in autumn, as well as volcanic landscapes. The Fudosawa Bridge has amazing views, and if you want to hike near an active volcano you should make a stop at Mt. Issai Kyosan.
Sapporo to Roller Coaster Road and Patchwork Road in Hokkaido
The northern island Hokkaido is famous for its wild natural beauty, and is therefore a much-loved destination for nature photographers. One of the best and easiest ways to get around the island is by car, and if you are looking for cool road trip destinations from Sapporo, Roller Coast Road and Patchwork Road are some of the best. Rollercoaster Road in the famous Furano and Biei area is a 2.5 km stretch of straight road that goes up and down like a rollercoaster. The wide views with the Tokachi-dake mountain range in the distance make it a thrilling ride! The Patchwork Road between National Routes 237 and 452 is also located in Biei and features country roads divided by colorful fields.
Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge in Yamaguchi
On the southwestern coast of Honshu in Yamaguchi prefecture you can find the Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge that leads to the small but scenic island Tsunoshima. The views of the cobalt-blue and emerald green ocean are not unlike those in Okinawa, and on the other side of the bridge you can enjoy several white sandy beaches. The bridge is 1.5 km long so you will have plenty of time to admire the beautiful views.
Hakone Hill Turnpike in Kanagawa
Only a little over one hour away from Tokyo is hot spring resort town Hakone that is also famous for its lake views with Mt. Fuji in the background. The Hakone Hill Turnpike is a favorite among drivers of sports cars because of the many sharp turns and the very nice views of Mt. Fuji and Sagami Bay. You can even see marks on the road to show you what is the best line to take. The road ascends more than 1000 meters, and it will take you past forests, tunnels and bridges so there is plenty to take in while enjoying the drive.
Traveling in Japan
There is so much to experience in Japan that it is sometimes hard to know where to start when you are planning your trip. Especially if you only have a few precious weeks here, you will want to make the most of every day. In that case, we can definitely recommend one of our fun and educational private tours! We offer tours in many cities in Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe.
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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