Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Explore During Japan's Shinryoku Season

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Explore During Japan's Shinryoku Season

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for natureMidori-no-Hi (みどりの日 Greenery Day). Observed annually on 4 May, this national holiday is a testament to Japan's profound connection with the environment, serving as a reminder to appreciate the lush landscapes that adorn the island nation, which is made of 70% mountains. 

 

Greenery Day: A Celebration of Nature

4 May is Greenery Day.4 May is Greenery Day. | Photo by photoAC

Greenery Day was originally Emperor Showa's Birthday, honouring the birthday of the emperor of the Showa Era (1926-1989), Hirohito, who was an avid nature enthusiast. After the ascension of the next emperor, Akihito, the holiday was changed from “Emperor’s Birthday” to “Greenery Day”, and became a day dedicated solely to nature appreciation.

Not just a token gesture towards conservation or another day to extend the Golden Week vacation, Greenery Day serves as a catalyst for environmental awareness and eco-consciousness, with many schools organising tree-planting activities, communities embarking on clean-up campaigns, and families flocking to parks and gardens to immerse themselves in the magnificence of nature.

 

Shinryoku: The Season of Verdant Splendour

Green bamboosShinryoku literally means “fresh green” or “new green”. | Photo by photoAC

Coinciding with Greenery Day is the onset of the shinryoku (新緑) season, a time when Japan's landscapes undergo a stunning transformation, being blanketed in vibrant hues of green, a colour teeming with life. Shinryoku translates to "fresh green," and represents the emergence of new life and vitality. 

Cherry blossoms and other flowers wilt to make way for fresh new leaves, with forests, parks, and countryside areas bursting forth with verdant greenery. With mild temperatures and stunning landscapes, the shinryoku season is the perfect time to explore Japan’s natural wonders and scenic beauty.

 

5 Places to Visit this Shinryoku Season

Japan's diverse topography offers a cornucopia of natural wonders, each boasting its own unique charm and allure. As Greenery Day approaches, let us embark on a journey to five enchanting destinations that epitomise the splendour of Japan's shinryoku season.

 

1. Yakushima: A Primeval Paradise

Moss-covered paths in YakushimaMoss-covered paths in Yakushima. | Photo by Carissa Loh

Tucked away in the southern Japan in Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県) lies Yakushima (屋久島), an island steeped in myth and mystique. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yakushima's ancient cedar forests are a testament to the enduring power of nature. Here, colossal yakusugi (屋久杉 Yakushima cedar trees) stand tall, with some dating back over a thousand years, their gnarled trunks hinting at the centuries of life they have endured.

 

Princess Mononoke? Moss-covered paths in YakushimaWalking through Yakushima is like being in the Studio Ghibli animated movie Princess Mononoke. | Photo by Carissa Loh

Embark on a pilgrimage through Yakushima's pristine wilderness and hike along moss-laden trails, and marvel at the sheer majesty of the Jomon Sugi (縄文杉), a massive cedar tree believed to be one of Japan's oldest. The ethereal greenery will make you feel like you are walking in a scene from Princess Mononoke. 

 

Yakushima (屋久島)
Access: Yakushima’s Miyanoura Port is a 2-hour jetfoil ferry ride from Kagoshima Port

 

2. Takachiho Gorge: Land of Legends

Takachiho GorgeGorgeous Takachiho Gorge from below. | Photo by photoAC

In the heart of Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県) lies Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡), an area steeped in Shinto mythology and mystique. According to legend, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu was upset with her brother Susano-o, so she hid herself in a cave, sealed herself behind a large rock, and the world was plunged into darkness. 

Without Amaterasu’s light, the world was filled with darkness and disaster. To lure Amaterasu out of hiding, the other gods started dancing hilariously and laughing merrily, and a curious Amaterasu moved the rock to sneak a peek at the merriment. Upon seeing this, the God of Strength threw the rock far away with all his might, so that Amaterasu couldn’t hide behind it anymore.

 

Takachiho GorgeGorgeous Takachiho Gorge from above. | Photo by photoAC

Takachiho is the area where the cave is, and the place where the large rock landed is Togakushi in Nagano Prefecture. Today, Takachiho Gorge's dramatic landscape continues to captivate visitors with its sheer cliffs, emerald forests, and cascading waterfalls.

Explore Takachiho's natural wonders from below by rowing a boat through the gorge's tranquil waters, paddling under a 17m-high refreshing waterfall, or from above, strolling along a paved path that overlooks the enchanting scenery below.

 

Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡)
Access: 30-minute walk from Takachiho Bus Center, which is a 1.5-hour bus ride from JR Nobeoka Station (延岡駅)

 

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3. Kamikochi: The Jewel of the Northern Alps

Kamikochi in the Japanese Northern AlpsKamikochi in the Northern Alps. | Photo by photoAC

Nestled amidst the soaring peaks of Japan’s Northern Alps lies Kamikochi (上高地), a picturesque highland region revered for its crystalline rivers and pristine alpine scenery. As spring breathes new life into the landscape, Kamikochi emerges from its winter slumber, with vibrant green foliage shining against a background of snow-covered peaks that reach 3,000m high.

 

Kappabashi, the symbol of KamikochiKappa Bridge, a symbol of Kamikochi. | Photo by photoAC

Explore Kamikochi's varied network of hiking trails, which offering panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks and mirror-like ponds, and enjoy the scenery from the iconic Kappa Bridge (河童橋), where the Azusa River (梓川) glistens like liquid jade, with the snow-capped majestic Hotaka Mountain Range in the distance.

 

Kamikochi (上高地)
Access: 60-minute bus ride from Shinshimashima Station (新島々駅)

 

4. Kameiwa Cave: Japan’s Most Instagrammable Cave

Heart-shaped light reflection at Kameiwa CaveThe magical heart-shaped light reflection. | Photo by photoAC

Hidden away in the heart of Chiba Prefecture (千葉県) lies Kameiwa Cave (亀岩の洞窟), a place that has gained popularity all over social for the beautiful heart-shaped light reflection formed on the surface of the water. A rock arching over the Nomizo Waterfall (濃溝の滝), when the light shines through the cave at the right angle, the reflected scenery in the water results in a lovely heart-shape.

While the heart-shape light reflection is best seen during early mornings of the equinox months of March and September, the shinryoku season lends lush greenery to the park, where you can on wooden boardwalks and take in the refreshing air.

 

Kameiwa Cave (亀岩の洞窟)
Access: 30-minute walk or 10-minute taxi ride from JR Kazusa-Kameyama Station (上総亀山駅)

 

5. Oirase Stream: A Picture-perfect Stream

Lush greenery brimming with life at Oirase Stream.Lush greenery brimming with life at Oirase Stream. | Photo by photoAC

Located in mainland Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Aomori (青森県), the 14km-long Oirase Stream (奥入瀬渓流) meanders through a verdant ravine, casting a spell of tranquillity upon all who behold its beauty. Lush forests line its banks, their verdant canopies shading the cool, flowing waters below, creating an otherworldly scene of natural splendour.

Go on leisurely stroll along Oirase Stream's easy-to-walk walking trail, passing by scenic waterfalls and picturesque rapids, and inhaling the fresh air and scent of the forest.

 

Oirase Stream (奥入瀬渓流)
Access: 2-hour bus ride from JR Hachinohe Station (八戸駅) or JR Aomori Station (青森駅)

 

Appreciate Nature and Bask in its Wondrous Greenery

Shinryoku means new green!
Goodbye sakura, hello new greens! | Photo by photoAC

This May 4th, may the force and beauty of nature be on your mind as Japan's Greenery Day approaches and the shinryoku season unfurls its vibrant tapestry. Embrace nature’s timeless splendour and embark on a journey of discovery and appreciation by visiting some of Japan’s most scenic landscapes―from the flowing waters of Oirase Stream to the mythical landscapes of Takachiho Gorge, and the ancient beauty of Yakushima, Japan's natural wonders are beckoning! 

 

Go Green with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Matcha-Themed Snack Box

So Much Matcha is a green tea-themed Japanese snack box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB!So Much Matcha is a green tea-themed Japanese snack box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB! 

Greenery Day is a day for appreciating nature, and there’s no greener snack from Japan than matcha (抹茶) made from green tea leaves! Did you know? The tea leaves used for the production of matcha are typically harvested in early May—coinciding with the beginning of shinryoku season? Dive into the green world of matcha this May 2024 with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s “So Much Matcha” Omiyage Snack Box, a tea-themed snack box filled with green goodies from Japan! 

 

Ready to indulge in matcha? We gotcha! Here’s an exclusive promo code “MATCHA15” that you can use to enjoy a 15% discount when you subscribe to our 12-month Snack Subcription Plan by 31 May 2024. Happy Greenery Day!

Meet the author

Carissa Loh

Having visited all 47 prefectures of Japan, Carissa's next goal in life is to ride all of Japan's sightseeing trains and climb all its 100 Famous Mountains. Sounds like a dream? Check back in 50 years.

Hungry for more?

Get on track with our monthly offerings of exclusive snacks from all over Japan!

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Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers from Akita by Kanaeya
Sue Lynn

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as an example, a prefecture where lush landscapes meet premium rice fields. Renowned for its exceptional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as...

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from Takachiho (Winner of JR East Omiyage Grand Prix 2023 - Koshin’etsu Area Prize)
Sue Lynn

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the perfect souvenir or omiyage (お土産) to bring home for your loved ones and colleagues. While...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the...

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival Celebrating Girls’ Day
Sue Lynn

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the Hina Matsuri | ©photoAC Have you ever heard of Japan’s Hina Matsuri (雛祭)? Otherwise known...

Dawn Sim Culture

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the...

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Through The Eyes of Japanese Writers
Sue Lynn

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of literary giants and look no further than Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島), which lies just about 1-2...

Dawn Sim Travel

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of...

Mount Fuji with tea plantation in the foreground
Sue Lynn

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is Japan’s highest mountain, and has become a symbol of the country, recognised worldwide for its...

Carissa Loh Travel

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is...

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in Japan to Meet Feline Friends
Sue Lynn

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have noticed how beloved cats are over there. Think maneki-neko (招き猫) cat figurines that beckon luck,...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have...

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan
Sue Lynn

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated across the globe where presents like chocolates, candies, and flowers are gifted...

Wendy Ng Culture

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day...

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the Izu Peninsula
Sue Lynn

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your loved one, but where to start? Here are our top five picks for romantic dating...

Carissa Loh Travel

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your...

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo”, Cafes, and the Railway Museum
Sue Lynn

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is the gateway to the neighbouring Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県). It is also a stop on more...

JAPANKURU Travel

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is...

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi by Kameya Foods
Sue Lynn

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the Japanese horseradish is a unique spice native to Japan and is a staple in Japanese...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the...

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan and Must-do Activities
Sue Lynn

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in regions lying alongside the Sea of Japan (日本海), otherwise known as Yukiguni (雪国), or Snow...

Dawn Sim Festival

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in...

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to Enjoy in Japan
Sue Lynn

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to ...

Winter in Japan is not just a season to enjoy snow activities and festivals; it’s also a time to indulge in winter cuisine as Japan is blessed with bountiful harvest...

Wendy Ng Food

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to ...

Winter in Japan is not just a season to enjoy snow activities and festivals; it’s...

Nuts About Chiba! Exploring Chiba, Peanuts, and Setsubun Culture
Sue Lynn

Nuts About Chiba! Exploring Chiba, Peanuts, and...

Have you been to Chiba Prefecture (千葉県)? Located in the Kanto Region and neighbouring Tokyo on its east, perhaps, unknowingly, you have already stepped foot into Chiba Prefecture. If you...

Carissa Loh Culture

Nuts About Chiba! Exploring Chiba, Peanuts, and...

Have you been to Chiba Prefecture (千葉県)? Located in the Kanto Region and neighbouring Tokyo...

More Than Just Disneyland! Exploring Hidden Gems in Every Corner of Chiba
Sue Lynn

More Than Just Disneyland! Exploring Hidden Gem...

Looking for a short getaway from the bustling crowds of Tokyo? Look no further than the prefecture of Chiba (千葉県). Contrary to the popular belief that “There is nothing much...

Dawn Sim Travel

More Than Just Disneyland! Exploring Hidden Gem...

Looking for a short getaway from the bustling crowds of Tokyo? Look no further than...