The three most scenic spots in Japan   日本三景

Date of publication :

The floating torii of Miyajima

The view over Amanohashidate from Kasamatsu Park

Visitors trying the 'matanozoki', a pose recommended when viewing Amanohashidate!

The islands of Matsushima

Sunset in Matsushima Bay

Picturesque Japan

The torii gate of Miyajima Island, in Hiroshima Bay, is one of the most iconic images of Japan. Used frequently in articles on Japan and its heritage, this view belongs to the very exclusive group of "The three most scenic spots in Japan", three superb locations identified for several hundred years as offering the most beautiful views of the archipelago.

"The three most scenic spots in Japan", or Nihon Sankei in Japanese, is a list established in the seventeenth century by the philosopher Razan Hayashi of the three most beautiful views in the country. From Tohoku to Chugoku, they represent the great diversity of landscapes that Japan offers.


Matsushima

This is the most northerly sight, the name of which means "pine island". To the northeast of Sendai, in Matsushima Bay, there are about 260 small islands where pine trees perch as if in the sea, giving this cove the appearance of a forest flooded by the calm ocean.

While the overall view is indeed particularly beautiful, the islands explored up close also offer travellers many interesting things to see. Matsushima is home to many small islets that the incessant waves have eroded over time, leaving the hand of chance to carve the rock and offer islands here and there where tunnels and caves have formed at the base, while other islands have been naturally sculpted into what look like faces.

Access: From Tokyo Station, take the Shinkansen to Sendai. From Sendai, get on the JR Senseki Line and get off at Matsushima Kaigan Station (38 min).

Matsushima

Amanohashidate

This is the most geographically central view, north of Kyoto Prefecture. In Japanese, this name means "sky bridge". Amanohashidate is famous for its tombolo, a narrow 3.6 km sandbar that stretches through Miyazu Bay to connect two pieces of land.

More than 7,000 pine trees grow on this "bridge" which, seen from a height, appears a graceful piece of fragile earth, gently placed on the water of the bay. To see the "floating" aspect of this view head to Kasamatsu Park and try a tradition more than 1,000 years old which recommends turning your back on the landscape, bending forwards and looking through your legs, a pose known as matanozoki.

Access: from Kyoto, there is a direct train that departs every morning at 10:25am (journey time 2 hours), a change is also possible in Fukuchiyama.

Amanohashidate

Miyajima

The most famous view of the three, and also the furthest south. The huge torii of Miyajima, its feet planted in the water, stands in front of the shrine of Itsukushima, with Mount Misen in the background, and is a sight that absolutely charms all travelers.

The island being considered sacred in the Shinto religion, visitors traditionally passed through the 16-meter-high lacquered red torii before docking on the island. The last hour before sunset offers an incredible panorama behind the unforgettable torii!

Access: a 10 minute walk from the Miyajima ferry terminal, south along the beach.

Read Torii gates

The red gate of Miyajima

Comments Read comments from our travellers