When people visit Japan, many are often kept occupied by the blissful islands, rare wildlife, picturesque nature parks, history, modernity, and watersports. Often, people forget to look up at the sky, yet the country is home to some of the most beautiful stargazing spots in Japan. When the sun takes its leave, it’s not time to head indoors; it’s time to set up camp at an observatory and marvel at the show put on by Mother Nature.
The Japan sky is full of astronomical treasures, offering sparkling gems and constellations to bewilder the mind and nourish the soul. It affords mesmerizing views of the Milky Way from various stargazing spots around Japan and even harbors snippets of our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, from strategic vantage points. In August, the country also enjoys the wondrous Perseid meteor shower, while Japan is also known for its vivid “blood moons” and famous constellations such as the Southern Cross. Distant planets like Jupiter can be observed on powerful Newtonian telescopes, as can Saturn’s four rings, among other celestial attractions.
If you do not know where to look, we offer great suggestions so that you do; there are many excellent stargazing spots around Japan! For a beautiful night among the stars, you need not look any further than our list!
1. Okinawa main island: Moonlight over the sea
Know for its untouched beauty; the Okinawa main island offers a starry night sky after a lovely sunset. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of a shooting star blazing across the darkness. Be sure to make a wish if you see one!
2. Ishigaki Island, Okinawa: The Southern Cross delight
Ishigaki island offers a refreshing break from city life, and also affords a front-row seat to breathtaking constellations such as the Southern Cross. It’s named as such because of four bright stars that take the shape of a cross!
3. A Milky Way night on Iriomote & Yaeyama Island
Home to the first International Dark Sky Place of Japan, which means a place of such high-quality starry skies and nocturnal life that it is protected, Iriomote & Yaeyama islands are lit up by the wonders of the Milky Way at nightfall!
4. Showers of stars at Miyakojima Island
A feast of stars awaits on Miyakojima island, made possible by a double delight of the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. Miyakojima Island is famous for its top-notch stargazing spots, and its sea also affords an excellent vantage point and night tours!
5. Tokyo: The city of a million stars
Away from the light pollution of Tokyo, Ogasawara ensures a magical night with stars as many as the grains of sands on a beach. Having won three titles of Japan’s best night sky view, namely in 2018, 2012, and 2011, visitors are assured of a wonderful night!
6. Nagano’s famous Perseid meteor shower
In mid-August, Nagano is the place to be for the Perseid meteor shower. Streaks of debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet race across the upper atmosphere giving viewers many opportunities for wishes!
7. Great stars and food at Toyooka, Hyogo
Hotel Albireo in Hyogo offers more beautiful angles of our galaxy and a star-studded night sky from a 600 mm aperture telescope. The experience includes pleasure for both sight and taste buds, as guests will be privy to a delicious French cuisine as well!
8. Watch Andromeda at Shiretoko, Hokkaido
Cape Puyuni in Shari, Shiretoko, ensures views of the Andromeda galaxy through the powerful lens of a Newtonian telescope. Weather and season permitting, you may also catch a glimpse of the Saturn rings, Jupiter, and the occasional meteorite or shooting star!
9. Aso, Kumamoto: Where it rains stars
Kumamoto is stargazing central for a romantic night in the flood of moonlight that consumes the meadows around Mount Aso. The planetarium and observatory at the mountain’s caldera ensure excellent shots of nebulae, distant planets, and glittering stars!
10. Rare stars and beef at Yamagata
What pairs well with the blanket of stars overlooking Iide-machi in Yamagata? One of the country’s top three beef varieties, a Yonezawa beef dinner! The moon seems to have a more immersive brilliance, and the stars look brighter, as if aware they’re the main act!
11. Beautiful starry skies at Kagoshima
Toward November, Kagoshima will be among the best spots for viewing the penumbral lunar eclipse, which paves the way for the total lunar eclipse of May 2021 (Otherwise known as the strawberry or blood moon). For now, the starry night sky and its constellations are excellent reasons to visit!
12. Kanagawa: A Ropeway across the galaxy
The Komagatake ropeway in Kanagawa bridges the scenic divide between Mount Hakone’s Komagatake peak and Lake Ashinoko. It’s a great way to cruise across the courses of stars of the night sky, guided by the hopeful glow of a moon on clear days!