Jet off to Japan for a photo-tastic break
Instagrammable spots in Japan are pretty easy to come by – let's face it, the country is stunning. From enchanting bamboo forests to frothing whirlpools, there’s loads to capture for the ‘gram. Grab a JR Whole Japan Pass – a rail pass specially designed for foreign visitors – and zip around the entire country to snap sights as you go.
This handy rail pass grants you 7, 14 or 21 days of speedy Shinkansen travel, in either Ordinary Cars (standard comfy carriages) or Green Cars (a bit more like first class). Pick the right one to suit your trip and away you go!
1. Dramatic wilderness panoramas in Honshū
Hugging Honshū’s northeastern cape, the sulphur-rich Shimokita Peninsula feels almost other-worldly. Wander the rugged landscape and you might just find a wild Kandachime horse to photobomb your shot of emerald forests.
Travel by train and you’ll arrive at Shimokita Station in the town of Mutsu. From here, you can explore picture-perfect sights like the beech-dotted Shirakami Mountains and Hotokegaura sea cliffs.
2. Colour-changing waters at the Shirogane Blue Pond
You’ll find the aptly named Shirogane Blue Pond right in the heart of Hokkaidō, just a 20-minute bus ride from Biei Station. This man-made lake was created accidentally in 1988 in an effort to safeguard a town from mudflows – and what a happy accident it was!
Thanks to high levels of aluminium, the waters here shimmer in shades of blue that shift with the weather and the season. Fringed by forest, the pond’s colours can even alter with the breeze, making this place one of the most photogenic in Japan.
3. The swirling Naruto Strait of southern Japan
Between the islands of Shikoku and Awaji, there’s a strip of water with a noticeable quirk. Whipping up the Naruto Strait are a series of tidal whirlpools, said to be some of the greatest in the world.
This rare natural phenomenon is made even more fascinating by the fact that the Naruto whirlpools swirl in opposite directions, depending on which side of the strait they’re in and what time of day it is. Take a train from Osaka or Okayama to Naruto Station, or Klook yourself a guided tour from Kobe.
4. Volcanic landscapes at Takachiho Gorge
Originally formed by volcanic activity around nearby Mount Aso, Takachiho Gorge is a breathtaking chasm of basalt columns. Cut through by the winding Gokase River, the gorge is known for dense jade foliage and the tumbling Manai Falls – an ideal selfie backdrop.
To get here, you can take a train to Kumamoto Station or Nobeoka Station, then hop on a bus – it's a 3-hour or 2-hour journey, respectively. Alternatively, Klook a day tour and travel by boat along the river in a small group, led by an English-speaking guide.
5. Flowers to flood your feed at Ashikaga Flower Park
Now we don’t say this lightly – Ashikaga Flower Park is one of the prettiest places on earth. Located in Tochigi and around a 90-minute train ride from Tokyo (alight at the appropriately named Ashikaga Flower Park Station), this dreamy place is most famous for its heavily fragrant lavender wisteria.
Woven into a network of frames, the sweet-smelling blooms hang like stalactites above the heads of wandering visitors. Time your trip for early May to get the very best pictures. You might even add on a trip to Hitachi Seaside Park – another floral wonder where you can snap fields full of bright blue nemophila.
6. Statues and shrines along the sea in Kamakura
Jump on a train at Tokyo Station and you’ll reach the seaside Kamakura Station in less than an hour. Set along a sparkling stretch of coastline, Kamakura city is packed with diverse sights sure to make you shutter-happy.
Take a hillside hike to temples lined with elegant ginkgo trees, keeping your eyes peeled for the Great Buddha of Kamakura: a photogenic bronze statue that stretches over 11 metres into the sky.
Klook tip: If you’re short on time, join a half-day tour from Tokyo to see Kamakura’s best bits.
7. Arashiyama's Hollywood-famous bamboo gardens
For many, bamboo groves are synonymous with Japan and an absolute must-see for any self-respecting Instagrammer. Arashiyama is where you’ll find some of the country’s best. Plus, Arashiyama Station is easily reached in 30 minutes via direct train from Kyoto.
If these jade-coloured giants seem familiar, it’s because several films have been shot here over the years – like Memoirs of a Geisha, for one. Explore on foot and get some priceless shots of the gently swaying stalks. You can also Klook yourself a rickshaw tour to learn more about this peaceful place from a knowledgeable guide.
8. Vintage Japan in Kurashiki: a city where time stands still
Filled with historic buildings and a calming canal quarter that could fit into a fairytale, Kurashiki practically begs to be photographed. The area of Bikan has even been referred to as the ‘Venice of Japan’. This is thanks to its willow-lined shores and strong cultural heritage, plus charming boats that slip along the waterways throughout the day.
You can travel by train to Kurashiki Station in just 15 minutes from central Okayama. The city is also only 90 minutes from Osaka.
9. High-up reflections in the Japanese Alps
Don't underestimate this place based on its name – Happo Pond isn't your average pool of water. Located in Nagano’s majestic Japanese Alps, it's a breathtaking sight that you have to earn with a gondola ride and a mountainous hike.
You'll find the mirror-like pond against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, with reflections of the jagged Hakuba Range in the water making for a show-stopping photo. Reach the starting point – Hakuba Station – by rail from Tokyo in around three hours.
10. Centuries-old post towns in the Kiso Valley
Many describe the Kiso Valley as a trip back in time, thanks to lanes of feudal-era houses and flagstone paths. Ready your camera to snap everything from secluded villages dotted with wooden ryokan (traditional inns) to the Buddhist shrines that pepper the Nakasendo Highway.
The region can be accessed by train in around two hours from Nagoya – just jump off at ōkuwa Station. If time is tight, opt for a guided day trip to Magome, one of the valley’s most nostalgic post towns.
Keen to take the train to more picturesque places?
Take a look at Klook’s dedicated Japan page for further photography inspiration. You never know where you might be Instagramming next!