Need A Unique Summer Getaway? Check Out These Fascinating Stargazing Spots in Japan
Take a quick break from life at home and catch shooting stars for a change.
Even though life is slowly going back to normal, we should still be cautious whenever we go out. So for this year’s summer break, we recommend the best stargazing spots all over the country where you can enjoy your time outside and still be able to avoid the three C’s (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings). Not in Japan but planning to visit the country for the next summer? Make sure to bookmark this page for future reference.
Hoshi no Furu Sato Ashibetsu, Hankei Shrine (Ashibetsu City, Hokkaido)
View of Ashibetsu, village of starry skies.
First on the list of best stargazing spots is Ashibetsu. A city that’s 90% mountains and forests, Ashibetsu’s clear skies paint the horizon during day time, while its twinkling stars fill the night sky during the evening without fail. Indeed, it’s filled with beautiful nature and it’s even declared by the Ministry of Environment in a nationwide contest as the city of starry skies! For the best views, go to Hankei Shrine in Tokiwacho which is surrounded by idyllic paddy fields and where the Milky Way can be visible to the naked eye every two days before and after the new moon. Trust us, it’s definitely an amazing experience to see the stars here up close.
Hankei Shrine is located at 564 Tokiwacho, Ashibetsu City, Hokkaido and is open 24 hours. It is around 1 and a half hours from Sapporo, and 1 hour from Asahikawa, by car.
Zao Bodaira Plateau (Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture)
See the Milky Way and witness shooting stars in this natural planetarium! © Sunalog
If you’re looking for more activities other than stargazing, visit Zao Bodaira Plateau. All it takes is a 40-minute drive from the city center to take you to Kaminoyama City where it is located. With the plateau extending from 1,000 to 1,200 meters above sea level, cross country courses, and ski areas, you can enjoy various activities here no matter the season. While in the summer, you can personally witness stars shooting from the sky and the Milky Way with your naked eyes.
Zao Bodaira Plateau is located in Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture. It is a 30-minute drive from JR Kaminoyama Onsen Station.
Norikura Plateau (Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture)
One of Japan’s largest panoramas © Matya1234
Located at the southeastern part of the Hida Mountains, Norikura Plateau is a popular tourist destination which turns into a resort during summer, a climbing trail from summer until fall, and a skier’s winter paradise during the snowy season. Although Nagano Prefecture is already known for stargazing spots such as Achi Village (also called the best place to see stars in Japan), Utsukushigahara, and Nobeyama Plateau, the view from Norikura Plateau has an indescribable charm to it compared to others. The best viewing spot to catch the stars here is at Zabouan Parking Lot where a large panorama of twinkling lights spread before you once you step out of your car. Another reason for its unique charm? Its 1,800 meters altitude where even if you are at its lowest point, you are still at 1,100 meters high.
Norikura Plateau is located in Azumi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. It is 40 kilometers from Nagano Expressway Matsumoto Exit.
Cape Irago (Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture)
Have a panoramic view of the lighthouse and the starry sky © Keisuketsubohi
Located at the southernmost point of Atsumi peninsula, this area is popular among surfers during the day and photographers after sunset. With the view of the night sky and the chalk lighthouse which is one of the 50 lighthouses in Japan, the most sought-after shooting location is around Cape Irago Lighthouse and it is only a 5-minute walk from the Cape Irago parking. While the twinkle of the stars is captivating on its own, the presence of the lighthouse is just as spectacular.
Cape Irago is located in Koyama Iragocho, Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture and is open 24 hours. You may contact them at +81-531-23-3516 (Atsumi Peninsula Visitors Bureau). It is a 90-minute drive from Tomei Expressway Toyokawa Exit.
Chirihama (Hakui City, Ishikawa Prefecture)
A sandy beach you can drive by © Keisuketsubohi
What’s a summer trip without the beach? Known during the summer for its 8-kilometer long sandy beach in Hakui City, Chirihama is also popular for its tea shops and other pop-up stores in spring and autumn. The Sea of Japan along its shoreline even won first place among local contenders in the beach ranking held by TripAdvisor back in 2016 because of the amazing view of the sunset from here. Since Kanazawa City is located at the south of it and lights from the fishing boats from the west affect the view, it is relatively dark in this sandy beach, but despite the dimness, you can still see the stars clearly at night.
What makes the place more special is the Chirihama Nagisa Driveway where you can drive along the sandy shore and simply marvel at the beautiful sunset over the horizon.
Chirihama is located in Aomachi, Hakui City, Ishikawa Prefecture and is open 24 hours. You may contact them at +81-767-29-3111 (Hodatsushimizu Agriculture and Forestry Division). It is a 10-minute drive from Noto Toll Road Imahama Exit.
Rokuroshi Plateau (Ono City, Fukui Prefecture)
View of the starry sky from the plateau 600 meters above sea level © Keisuketsubohi
Recognized as “Japan’s most beautiful starry sky” for two consecutive years according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Environment, Rokuroshi Plateau is the stargazing spot that you shouldn’t miss. It’s also the only place in the prefecture where you can experience a breathtaking view of a star studded night sky--a picturesque view that spreads across Rokuroshi Plateau.
Aside from the fact that there are only a few people in the area and the road is easy to drive on, Rokuroshi Plateau is also only one-hour away from the city of Ono, which makes it accessible to convenience stores and gasoline stands. Even better, this city in Fukui Prefecture is known for the sea of clouds above Echizen Ono Castle. Also, if you want to see Japan’s top class starry sky through a huge telescope, there’s the Fukui Nature Conservation Center.
Rokuroshi Plateau is located at 169-11-2 Minamirokuroshi, Ono City, Fukui Prefecture (Fukui Nature Conservation Center) and is open 24 hours. You may contact them at +81-779-67-1655. It is a 20-minute drive from Chubu Jukan Expressway Ono Exit.
Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture)
Mystical view from Tottori Sand Dunes © Tottori Prefecture
The Milky Way is visible from any town in Tottori Prefecture that even when there is no meteor shower, you can still witness shooting stars here. To promote their beautiful night sky, the prefecture started calling itself Hoshitori (touch the star) Prefecture in 2017, which makes sense because looking up at their starry sky, it almost feels like you can reach out to the stars and touch them with your own hands.
When speaking of Tottori, Tottori Sand Dunes also comes to mind where the starry sky looks more mystical. The added bonus about this beautiful place is that you can have a better view of the Milky Way when there is no moonlight.
Tottori Sand Dunes is located at 2164-661 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture and is open 24 hours. You may contact them at +81-857-39-2111 (Tottori Prefecture Tourism and Exchange Bureau). It is 15 minutes from Tottori City center and 20 minutes from Tottori Expressway Tottori Exit by car.
Bisei Astronomical Observatory, Ibarashi Hoshizora Park (Oda District, Okayama Prefecture)
One of Japan’s top 3 star-studded attractions, Bisei Observatory © Y.Hirosan
Recognized as one of the country’s top three star attractions by a commercial TV station, Ibara City Hoshizora Park sits on a hill more than 500 meters above sea level where there is little atmospheric turbulence--letting you enjoy the perfect view in peace. It was also chosen by 27 astronomers as the best place to see the stars in Japan back in 2011.
For the best viewing spot to see the stars, try Biseicho since it does not have a lot of light pollution to block the view. Mt. Oyama is also visible up north on a sunny day, while the archipelago of Seto Inland Sea can be seen in the south.
Ibarashi Hoshizora Park is located at 1165-54 Biseicho Uto, Ibara City, Oda District, Okayama Prefecture and is open 24 hours. You may contact them at +81-866-87-4222 (Bisei Astronomical Observatory). It is a 50-minute drive north of San-in Expressway Kasaoka Exit.
Tengu Highlands, Shikoku Karst (Takaoka District, Kochi Prefecture)
Natural planetarium with a 360 degree view of the star filled sky © Koji Fujimura
Want an unobstructed 360 degree view of the stars? Tengu Highlands offers this and more for free from Thursdays to Saturdays from 8 p.m onwards even if you are not a guest at the facility. You can even ask the staff about the stars and see through a telescope to catch a closer look at 1,400 meters above sea level. But to really capture the moment and make the memory last, nothing beats looking up the countless shooting stars with your own eyes and immersing yourself in the natural planetarium.
Tengusou is located at 4921-22 Yoshiunootsu, Tsunocho, Takaoka District, Kochi Prefecture and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. You may contact them at +81-889-62-3188. It is an 80-minute drive from the Susakihigashi Exit.
Kihoku Astronomical Observatory (Kanoya City, Kagoshima Prefecture)
The city with the most beautiful view of the stars
Another spot which has been chosen many times as the city with the most beautiful view of stars in Japan is Kagoshima. Living up to its reputation, the city’s sky will definitely amaze and render you speechless by how it’s filled with shining stars. For the perfect spot for astronomical observation, we recommend the Kihoku Astronomical Observatory which is found on a small hill 90 minutes from Kagoshima City by car. It is located opposite of Mt. Sakurajima so you can also enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the island under the twinkling night sky.
Kihoku Astronomical Observatory is located at 1660-3 Kihokucho Ichinari, Kanoya City, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (schedule may vary). You may contact them at +81-99-485-1818. It is a 90-minute drive from Kagoshima City through Makinohara via Japan National Route 10 or through Takatoge via Tarumizu Ferry.
※Please go out while keeping in mind the preventive practices of COVID-19 infection. Wear a mask, avoid the Three C’s, practice social distancing, and adhere to cough etiquette.
Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Tokyo Walker™ (29 June 2020)