Unforgettable star-lit nights in Japan
Since ancient times, stars have helped humankind navigate and find the right course on our journeys, served as a method of telling time, and been a key element in legends and fairytales. The twinkling lights above have always fascinated us, and gazing up at them can give us a feeling of being connected to something bigger. With its serene nature and many remote areas far from big cities and light pollution, Japan is home to an array of amazing locations where the starry sky can be observed. It has everything from isolated island beaches to public observatories to mountainous forest filled regions with unobstructed views of the horizon.
IDA-designated night skies
IDSP（International Dark Sky Places）(IDSP) is an award-winning program run by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) that aims to preserve and protect dark sites around the world. As of 2022, three places in Japan have been designated as International Dark Sky Places: Bisei Town in Ibara City of Okayama, Kozushima Island in Tokyo, and Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park in Okinawa. They all make an effort to educate locals about the importance of dark skies and responsible lighting policies.
Majestic mountain stargazing
In the crisp mountain air, stars shine so brightly that you'd be forgiven for thinking that you could just stretch out your hand to touch them. A night outside surrounded by Japan's dramatic peaks under a blanket of stars is truly an unforgettable experience.
Kamikochi ,in Nagano, is one of Japan's most celebrated hiking spots, and it is as stunning at night as it is during the day. A guide will lead you through the valley's deep forest from which you will emerge and take in the breathtaking sight of the Japanese Alps against the backdrop of a million glittering stars.
To fully immerse yourself in the stargazing experience, try glamping at Mount Tanigawa , which is located on the border of Gunma and Niigata. You can fall asleep under a starlit sky to the sound of the gushing river after a sumptuous barbeque dinner. You're also able to trek deep into the mountains with an experienced guide for a magical overnight camping experience in a remote location.
If capturing the spectacle above in a more tangible way is on your agenda, a star-filled night tour with a professional photographer will be right up your alley. With clear skies and low light pollution, Mount Daisen in Tottori offers ideal conditions for stargazing. The photographer will use advanced equipment and lighting techniques to capture a picture perfect memory of you against the starry backdrop.
For a truly unique and luxurious experience, head to the mountainous Chubusangaku National Park to indulge in a dinner feast under the Milky Way . The meal is prepared by a private chef and includes local specialties such as Shinshu beef, seasonal vegetables, and local sake.
Stargazing by the ocean
There's something special about watching the twinkling stars with the vast ocean in front of you stretching all the way to the horizon.
Tokashiki Island in Okinawa is a remote island that boasts stunning beaches and minimal tall buildings, providing ideal conditions for seaside stargazing with unobstructed panoramic views. Lay down on the soft sand and enjoy the Milky Way and its many well-lit constellations.
Another great spot to enjoy the stars next to the sea is Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park in Kochi, an area known for its great natural beauty and long, remarkable coastlines. With the help of a guide, you will be able to easily identify individual stars and constellations as well as talk about the myths and zodiacs associated with them while listening to the sound of the waves.
Peaceful forest and lake stargazing
The mountaintop observatory in Yambaru National Park of Okinawa boasts a 350 mm telescope that lets visitors observe even the faintest stars in the vast sky. There is another great observatory at Lake Mashu in Hokkaido that offers amazing 360-degree views. On a clear night, the view of the moon perfectly reflected on the still surface of the lake is truly a breathtaking sight.
In Kyushu's Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park , you can enjoy the unique experience of sleeping in a tree tent stretched out between two trees under a pitch black sky dotted with glistening stars.
Other great stargazing locations in Japan
The Jododaira Astronomical Observatory in Fukushima boasts the highest elevation of any Japanese public observatory. Due to the fact that it's usually above the cloud cover, this is the ultimate spot for observing meteor showers and shooting stars through the powerful telescopes.
The tiny village of Achi in Nagano is a haven for nature lovers and home to an array of seasonal flowers, but the stargazing here is also second to none. In 2006, Achi was appointed by the Ministry of the Environment as one of the best spots in all of Japan to enjoy the sparkling night sky. You can even go for a nighttime gondola ride to take in the spectacular starry vistas from an altitude of 1,400 meters.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.